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Working Wildcat: Financial tips for graduating seniors

Ariel Hernandez

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Graduation is a time of celebration. You passed all your classes, you made some great friends and now you get to head out into the world and make the big bucks.

In 2013, the average college graduate
made a starting salary of $45,000, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

While you may be tempted to run out and buy a new car, new wardrobe and sign a lease for an expensive new condo overlooking the city, it’s important to keep in mind how fast your money can dwindle.

So before you splurge, here are five financial tips to help you manage your money and stay out of debt.

1. Draft a budget

It seems like a basic idea, but it’s often an overlooked step. Sit down and actually write out your expenses. Ask yourself what an apartment, utilities and food will cost without splitting it among four people. Consider any debt you have accrued during college and aim to pay more than just your monthly minimum. If your parents were paying for insurance or your phone bill during your time in school, then you might need to factor those costs in as well.

A good rule of thumb is to overestimate what life after college will cost. It’s better to have extra money in the bank at the end of the month than having to pick up a second job at McDonald’s.

2. Steer away from credit cards

If you haven’t built any credit in college, then a credit card can be a good way to do that. However, if you know that you overspend or have little self-control, a credit card can be a dangerous thing to have lingering in your wallet. If you feel you need a credit card, Bankrate is a good website to compare cards and interest rates.

A smart tip is to ask yourself if you can pay off whatever you’re charging in the next month. If not, maybe wait and save the cash, and buy it at a later time.

3. Start saving

It’s difficult to save in college when you are making barely enough to cover the basics, but life after college will hopefully provide an opportunity to build a savings account. Once you have written out a budget and know what your monthly costs are, start putting money into savings. Ideally, you should have between three to six months worth of expenses saved up so that you have an emergency fund.

4. Cut down any debt

College is expensive, and for some that means that by the end of four or five years there is a hefty amount of student loan debt waiting after commencement. Depending on where you borrowed money from, figure out your monthly payment plan and try to add an additional $25 or $50 to that payment each month. You would be surprised just how fast that small add-on can help dwindle down a mountain of debt. Investopedia has great tips on how to calculate the fastest and most manageable way to become debt-free.

5. Start investing

It’s never too early to start planning your financial future. Depending on your financial status after graduation, your options for investing might vary. Mutual funds or exchange-traded funds offer a relatively simple and low-cost way to start investing. according to USNews. Make sure you build up your emergency fund before you begin to invest.

 

It’s hard not to go out and blow a ton of money simply because you have the freedom to do so, but it’s important to think about long-term financial security. It’s an exciting world after college, but it can also be a world full of harsh financial consequences.

Ariel Hernandez can be reached at [email protected] or @Aj7uriel on Twitter.

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Working Wildcat: Financial tips for graduating seniors