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Key Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Financial Outlook After College



When you head off to college after your senior year of high school, you embark on your first journey as an adult. The familiar environs of your teenage years are replaced with new adventures, more challenging courses and the freedom to manage your own time and life. You make new friends, decide on your major and start planning for your upcoming career. Then, after four years of intensely hard work and late-night studies, the moment of achievement arrives and you make the triumphant walk across the university's graduation stage.


Earning your four-year degree is an incredible milestone in life. Like christening a new vessel with a bottle of champagne as it embarks upon the sea, once you complete your graduation ceremony you throw your cap into the air and are launched into the world. You now have to chart your own course in life and make smart moves that will help set you up for success. One of the most important things you'll have to quickly learn is how to take care of your money and manage your finances.


Setting Up a Monthly Budget

One of the first steps you should take is to create a monthly budget. With a budget, you'll be able to quickly see how your income and projected expenses pencil out over the month. You could install money management software to help with budgeting, but it's easy to create a simple spreadsheet you can use to track everything. You'll want to make sure you track your recurring expenses and also ones that occur occasionally, such as car registration. On your budget spreadsheet, you'll want to sort the expenses by date so you can see how the timing of your payments will match up with your paychecks. Once you have completed your budget, you'll easily be able to see if there are gaps where you'll need to bring in more income. From there, you should take a careful look at each expense line item and see if there are ways you can trim your costs and save money each month.


Saving Money on Your Student Loans

Recent college graduates are all too familiar with the high cost of undergraduate education. Most students take out different student loans each year to pay for their tuition, room and board, books and fees. As a result, when you complete your degree program you typically emerge from school with a variety of existing loans, each with different terms and rates. Even keeping up with the loan payments can be confusing at times. One of the best ways you can simplify your life and save money at the same time is to refinance and consolidate your existing student loans. If you work with a private lender, they can combine your outstanding loans into a single new loan with one easy payment each month. Fortunately, today's interest rates are at near historic lows. With the right private lender, you should be able to cut your monthly student loan payments and potentially save thousands over the course of the loan.


Keep Spending to a Minimum

After years of living in a dorm or a student apartment, it's really tempting to go all out when you get your first new place. You might want the biggest TV, a great home theater and sound system and so much more. You'll have to furnish a living room, create a fully stocked kitchen and get your bedroom all set up. If you follow the traditional path of impulse buying, you'll rack up thousands of dollars in high-interest credit card debt that could take you years to pay off. If you would like to furnish your space and save lots of money too, consider becoming part of the Buy Nothing movement. In almost every town there are buy nothing groups and online forums where you can find what you need for free. It's like a treasure hunt as you discover great items that would be perfect for your place. While you might want to spend money for some personal items, such as your bed, you can get almost everything else you need at no cost to you. 


Be Creative and Save on Monthly Housing Costs

If you are a typical consumer, you'll find that your housing costs can take a third of the income you earn. Watching your paycheck begin to disappear when you make your rent or mortgage payment at the start of the month is not a pleasant experience. Since housing may be your biggest expense, it's wise to come up with some creative ways to cut your costs. In some cases, you may even be able to turn housing into a revenue generating item. First, you could look at sharing your home or apartment with a couple of roommates. Then, your rent and utility expenses could be split among everyone who is living there. While this works in many locations, in some high-cost areas of the country landlords tend to price their properties almost on a per room basis since they expect the dwelling to be shared. If you want to turn your housing expense into revenue, consider buying a home and renting out rooms via an online B&B service. You may be able to pay your whole mortgage payment this way and you can then live rent free.


Lower You Grocery and Food Expenses

Another item that can take a big bite out of your budget each month is the cost of groceries and restaurant meals. After a busy day at work, it's so very easy to pick up takeout from a local place or swing by the grocery store for a prepared deli or frozen meal. The former option is way too expensive over time and the latter choice is rarely satisfying. Instead of taking this approach to eating, it's far better to sign up for some amazing online cooking classes and learn how to make your own gourmet food at home. There are so many great recipe and cooking sites online now. If you sign up for the food newsletters from the major national newspapers or cooking channels, you'll receive amazing recipe ideas that will literally have your mouth watering as you read them. If you are a fan of ethnic food, you could dedicate each month to a new international cuisine and immerse yourself in the tantalizing food culture and ingredients of a new region of the world. Over time, you'll develop your skills and be eating gourmet feasts that cost a fraction of high-priced restaurant meals.