Budgeting After College

life after collegeGraduating from college is a major milestone in a person’s life. It is a time for congratulations and celebrations. New adventures await!  So do real-world responsibilities.

Whether you’re headed to graduate school or a full-time job, personal finances will play a key role in your life. Money doesn’t guarantee happiness, but proper money management can prevent a lot of unhappiness.

Start your post-college life on the right financial footing. Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions offers tips for college graduates seeking to make the most of their finances.

  • Develop a budget. Budgets aren’t just for people your parents’ age. An organized budget plan will help you to stay within your spending limits. Track regular monthly expenses, such as rent, utilities, car payments, insurance and credit card bills. This is particularly easy to do if you bank online or use personal finance software. Set up automatic payments for regular monthly expenses, like your rent or car loan, and automatic contributions to a savings account. The money that’s left has to last you until your next paycheck. If you need a professional’s help, Clearpoint offers budget counseling sessions to help you organize all of your finances and plan accordingly.
  • Share the burden. The first few years out of college can be tough. First jobs rarely pay big bucks. If you’re finding it hard to make ends meet, consider splitting housing costs with a roommate. That will reduce your rent and utility expenses, leaving more money for discretionary spending and savings.
  • Pay off your debt. It’s time to face up to the credit card debt you incurred while in college. Determine how much money you owe in total, when payments are due, and what your finance charges are. Commit to making all payments on time, and pay more than the minimum payment due, whenever possible. That will help prevent costly late fees, higher interest rates and negative marks on your credit report. Also, Clearpoint offers consumer debt counseling if you find yourself in debt, and don’t know how to go about paying it down.
  • Protect your financial information. Keep a close watch on your personal financial information. Protect against identity thieves by shredding your account statements, receipts, bills and other personal financial information before discarding. Protect your Social Security number, PINs and passwords from the eyes of strangers, roommates and anyone else who may have entry to your home or wallet. It’s a good idea to check your credit report periodically to detect any errors. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year from the three major credit bureaus (for more information, go to www.annualcreditreport.com).
  • Hold off on major purchases. Refrain from making any major purchases until you spend a few months living on your paycheck. Know how much money you need for rent, utilities, food and other necessities, before adding the expense of a new car, furniture or laptop computer. If you must make a major expenditure, determine what your budget can afford, research where to find the best price and consider purchasing the item used.
  • Save for a rainy day. Contribute to a savings account every month and make it part of your budget plan. A solid savings plan will help you handle future emergency expenses without having to use a credit card. It will also help you save for longer-term goals like buying a house or car, or going to graduate school.
  • Take advantage of employee benefit plans. Even young adults can face medical crises. Your company may offer a affordable health insurance or a health care spending account that carries over from year to year. If your employer sponsors a 401(k) retirement savings plan, consider participating, particularly if the company matches employee contributions.
  • Don’t hesitate to consult a professional. It’s not unusual for recent graduates to need help with creating a budget, reviewing their credit report or developing strategies to pay down debt. Don’t hesitate to contact a credible, nonprofit consumer credit counseling agency, such as Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions. Our certified credit counselors can objectively assess your personal situation and work with you to develop an effective budget plan. For a free credit counseling session, call 800.750.2227 (CCCS).