Post Grad Finances 101
Let’s face it… life is tough when you’re a recent college grad, but it can feel even more challenging when it comes to managing your money. You’re ecstatic to finally be making cash, but you quickly realize what comes with adulting – student loans, bills and more bills. You’re only making an entry level salary, yet you still want to have a social life on the weekends, and god forbid, go out for a steak dinner without having a panic attack as the check arrives. How is a recent grad to focus themselves on finances right out of school?
Here are some key pieces of advice from someone I interviewed that had $29k in student loans (national average) and was able to pay it off in less than 3 years.
Fun fact: He didn’t obtain a full time job until 6 months out of school. He had “bullshit odd jobs,” as he so elegantly puts it, in the meantime, like shoveling holes and pizza delivery…and when he finally landed a full-time gig he had a meager $33k starting salary…
What’s your biggest financial piece of advice for someone that just graduated college?
“Actually figuring out what kind of money you’re bringing in and what is going out. You need to write it all down for 2-3 months and get an average on everything. Food, rent, going out to bars with friends, car loan, student loans..everything. You need to figure out exactly what you’re spending, how much you’re bringing in, and then come up with a plan on where you can cut back. Financial discipline is so big.”
How did you create your budget?
I used the free trial of www.youneedabudget.com.
Also, I used this Flo Chart: https://i.imgur.com/CcEVQAV.jpg.
What’s the right mindset for someone to have that wants to pay off their student loans ASAP, but also wants to enjoy themselves on the weekends and have a social life?
“Most people would be really surprised how much happier they would be knowing they are financially secure as opposed to giving into spending money on instant gratification. It feels good to know that if I get fired tomorrow, I will be alright since I’ve saved an emergency fund. Financial security is so much nicer than buying that extra round at the bar, or going to that fancy restaurant. You also feel better about it the next day. Some people think you aren't “living life” if you aren't spending money – you need to change that way of thinking.
A lot of people right out of school live up to this high standard of living because they’ve been living with their parents their whole life, but they don’t understand that it took their parents 20-25 years to get up to their current standard of living. They were living below their means at your age, and now your dad doesn’t have student debt like you do.
It’s a lifestyle change and a different way of looking at things. Enjoy the free stuff and the cheaper stuff. Spending money doesn't equal happiness.”
What is something that you learned about being smart with your money that you wish you knew 4 years ago when you just graduated?
“The little things add up. Going out to eat or buying chips at Wawa as opposed to the grocery store. Going to the movies instead of watching Netflix, or watching a football game at the bar instead of at home with home cooked food and store bought beer. Once you start improving your quality of life money-wise it’s tough to scale that down. It’s tough to go back down on your quality of life after you’re used to consistently eating out or spending $100 bucks on snack – that’s money you could have invested in stocks for your future. You need to think that $25 bucks you just spent could have been $40 down the road if saved/invested.”
What are some things you became more frugal of a spender on and realized you were spending too much on this right out of school?
“Food and going out to the bar for drinks – talking to friends in a loud, dark bar and paying way too much on bud lights. Things like cooking dinner, having drinks and playing some games at your house is cheaper and more personable. If you don’t want to buy a round for your friends, don’t. Don’t cave to peer pressure. If they’re really your friends, they’ll be okay with you insisting they don’t need to buy you drinks with an understanding that you’re not going to buy a round for the 6 of them”
How should you weigh paying off your student loans vs. investing in a 401k?
“There is no better investment than paying off your student debt. There is also some sort of risk associated with investing, but paying off your student debt is a guarantee. Also, paying off your debt affects your mood more positively too. You see that number get lower, and you get more excited as opposed to the stock market going up 5% because you’re not going to see that money until 40 years anyway. Definitely invest in your company’s 401k up to their match (free money), but worry about paying off your loans before throwing extra money towards retirement.”
It’s ultimately up to you how to spend your money. I never like when people tell me how to spend my money, but I hope this at least offers some insight and a perspective on saving if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have more questions on finances! Happy to help :)