Note: this is a guest post from George Gallagher
Moving from college into the “real world” can be an eye-opening experience for many post- grads. While it is exciting to enter the work force and be out of the class room, there are still many lessons to be learned – especially as they relate to the financial side of life.
Some of these tips may sound more like common sense than actual lessons. Yet because most schools don’t teach classes in managing personal finances – including those at the higher education level – it is imperative to both learn and live by these rules.
Stay Away From Bad Debt
Although getting your first full-time job may be exciting, the fact that a regular income is now a reality does not mean that it’s okay to rack up bad debt such as on credit cards and other consumer loans.
College campuses are havens for credit card companies to place advertisements as well as applications for their cards. Because of this, oftentimes those who are just completing college start out with a large amount of high interest debt.
Not only does this debt obligation make it difficult on your personal finances, but it can also play havoc with your credit score – something that you definitely want to keep as high as possible both now and in the future.
Don’t Buy On Impulse
Even though you may have a “real” job now, it is still important to stick to a budget when buying food, clothing, and household items. Therefore, be patient with buying some of the bigger ticket items such as televisions and furniture. An extra month of waiting for that big item might make you realize that it isn’t really as affordable as you thought.
And, while grocery shopping and running other errands, be sure not to allow yourself to purchase items on impulse. Even small and inexpensive items can really add up.
In addition to keeping your wallet closed for impulse purchases, you must also have a strategy for the items that you truly need. While it may not sound very exciting, the savings that you can obtain from using coupons and shopping for sale items can be amazing. Plus, with online sources such as Groupon and LivingSocial, it is possible to save a considerable amount of money on everyday items all year long.
Although earning money may sound simple, not everyone will start out in the career – or with the paycheck – that they desire. Therefore, the key here is to do what needs to be done in order to earn a living while at the same time continuing to network and build good solid relationships with people in your chosen field.
Some ways to do this include attending Chamber of Commerce meetings and other types of local business events. You can also succeed in networking online via websites such as LinkedIn. Here you can really expand your circle of professionals, as the Internet will allow you to access individuals from all over the world.
Pay Yourself First
As you begin to take on more responsibility, it is likely that you will start having additional financial obligations as well. These may include payments for rent or mortgage, an automobile, utilities, and insurance.
While it is important to make all of your payments to creditors and other lenders, there is one payment that must always be made first – the one to yourself. It is essential to start a savings plan immediately. In most cases, this is easily accomplished by simply budgeting an amount to go into your savings account just as you would for any other type of payment that is due each month.
Ideally, you should aim to save at least 10 to 15 percent of your income. But even if this is not possible, any amount is better than none. It is amazing how even small amounts of money can reap the rewards of compound interest over time.
One of the best ways to ensure that you will pay yourself first each and every month is to automatically have an amount deducted from your checking account that will go into some type of savings vehicle. This way, you never even see the money and will therefore not be tempted to spend it on something else.
George Gallagher is a finance and education writer. When not writing his job allows him to help students make better financial decision, whether through credit card applications, student loan consolidation, or simply balancing their checkbook.