April 1st, 2010
Perhaps the biggest perk of entering the real world is finally having a steady stream of income. No longer do you have to depend on that ten-hour per week student job that barely puts food on your table. But with more money comes more responsibility. You'll have to account for payments related to rent, utilities, cable, student loans, your credit card and your cell phone. Because you're probably starting your career with a modest salary, you'll need to adopt healthy saving and spending habits so that you can live independently and comfortably.
As soon as you receive your first hard-earned paycheck, compose a monthly budget after determining your monthly income with taxes. It might surprise you to see how much of your money will be gone after you've paid your slew of bills. If possible, utilize auto-pay systems so you won't have to worry about keeping track of every bill that you need to pay each month. You also won't have to worry about missing payments and the additional fees that come along with it. Consider how much you'll spend per month on food, gasoline and miscellaneous fees like bar tabs, movie tickets, clothing and other luxuries. It helps to make a spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel that lists each major expense; you'll know who you're paying and how much. If you discover that you're paying more than you earn, get rid of the expenses that you need the least before begging for an allowance from mom and dad. You don’t have to drink $400 worth of the finest beer each month, nor do you need to drive the nicest car on the block.
Eventually you'll be earning enough to buy the finer things. In the meantime, value what you have. Get the most out of your dollars by maintaining conservative spending habits. The best way to save money is to live at home. Although it might be inconvenient – nobody wants to feel as though they've reverted to their childhood – you won't have to pay rent or utilities unless your parents make you. Just be sure to establish boundaries and give your parents the respect they deserve. In addition to not buying expensive items you don't need, don't buy the most expensive versions of things you do need. It won't kill you to eat store brand food and drink lite beer for just a couple more years after college. With a little foresight, you won't have to deal with the financial problems that many new graduates encounter as they enter full-fledged adulthood.