Making the jump from dependent to independent on your tax forms might be the scariest leap into adult life a young person can take.
Recent college graduates often find themselves in this tricky situation of learning how to truly budget their money. Sure you can still count on their health insurance until you’re 26 years old, but reality is, you’re on your own now.
Many college students forget what real money looks like – those handy campus cards pay for everything without you ever seeing cash leave your wallet. But those don’t exist in the real world. No longer can you rely on Mom and Dad to pay for every little trip to the mall, and you might not even have them as a safety net to fall back on.
Now, everyone’s situation is different. If you’re like me, your rent and college tuition is paid for now, but those student loans are looming in the (very near) distance. It’s time to be saving for post-grad life.
First, get a job. This seems obvious, but with the busy life of being student, sometimes college kids forget to make time to make money. Whether it’s a work-study position on campus or a part-time deal off-campus, every little bit helps. There are tons of ways to make a few extra bucks. Try freelancing your services or babysitting on the weekend to pick up an extra income.
Second, keep track of your spending. I recommend downloading the popular personal finance app Mint. After linking your bank account(s) to Mint, it keeps track of every purchase you put on your credit and debit cards. It compares your income and cash flow, as well as sorts it all into neat categories.
So you can be cognizant of if you’re spending too much on eating out at restaurants or other frivolous expenditures. It also lets you set a budget for certain expenses. For example, I have a budget set for groceries, gas and other monthly expenses like utilities or dues.
Third, start saving. Stop buying rounds for everyone at the bar every Thursday. Cut down on eating out each weekend. These activities, while fun, add up quickly. My recommendation is to relocate half your paycheck every week into your savings account. This will build your safety net, little by little.
Lastly, be informed. Be realistic about what you’re going to need after graduation. Will you be moving to a new city and need to furnish a new apartment? Can you afford rent, utilities and monthly loan payments all at once? The Project on Student Debt is a wonderful resource for students to educate themselves on the realities of graduating college with student loans.
While you might be lucky enough to be able to depend on Mom and Dad for a few more years, the earlier you start earning and saving money, the better you will be in the long run.
Annie Johnson is a senior at Wake Forest University from Topsfield, Mass. She is a communications major with minors in journalism and film studies. She aspires to be a writer and editor at a niche media outlet, particularly in pop culture or entertainment. When she’s not writing or watching movies, she enjoys traveling, running and taking long naps.