First of all, congrats on completing your college education! Second, we understand that being a recent grad is intimidating. Although you’re now free from final exams and 20 page essays, you’re also going to have to land a job and start managing your money on your own.

If you’re new to being in charge of your own finances, take a look at these tips to help get you started on the right foot!

Tip #1: Treat Your Credit Card Like a Debit Card

Now that you’re a full-fledged adult, you probably have credit card offers rolling in on a consistent basis. Although securing a line of credit is a great way to create a safeguard against unexpected expenses, you shouldn’t go overboard.

Unless it’s an emergency, pay off all your credit card purchases immediately, and don’t spend more than you have in your account. You don’t want insurance to accrue.

Which brings us to our next tip…

Tip #2: Start Making Money When You Spend It

You might be wondering: why use a credit card if you’re going to treat it like a debit card? We have one particularly important money management principle for you—rewards.

Making purchases on a credit card—as opposed to a debit card—allows you to start racking up benefits like cashback and travel points. School might be out, but you still need to do your homework in terms of which rewards program is best for you.

Tip #3: Identify Where Your Money Goes

As a recent college grad, your days of carelessly spending money on White Claws and spring break trips are over. For that, we are sorry. Now that you’re out in the real world, you’re going to need a budget.

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Use an app, a spreadsheet, or even pen and paper to track all your expenses. Take a look at a few key things your budget should always include:

  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Groceries
  • Fun Money
  • Savings (do not skip this)
  • Transportation
  • Student Loans

Tip #4: Adulthood = Taxes

Having to do your taxes probably makes you wish you were back in your 8:00 AM lecture.

If you’ve been bouncing around between part-time gigs while searching for your dream job, or you’ve decided to forgo the 9-5 schedule for the freelancer life, your taxes are going to be even more complicated.

Unless you were an accounting major, you’re probably going to need IRS help.

Tip #5: Ask for Help

You’re new to this, so don’t be afraid to reach out when you need to. Everyone has to learn to manage their money at some point, and by doing so as a recent grad, you’re already ahead of the curve.

Try turning to these great financial resources:

Your parents – Sometimes mom and dad still know best.

  • The HR department at your job – They can help you understand your benefits package, which likely includes important financial info like your 401k.

  • Professional financial advisors – This might be a resource for down the line, but it’s good to know experts are there to help you when you decide you want to start investing or ramping up your savings.

  • Online finance courses – Just because you’re out of college doesn’t mean it’s time to stop learning. You might discover you want to go back to business school after all.

  • Your bank – Meeting with a teller at your bank is a great way to learn about what kinds of credit cards your bank offers, how to start a savings account, and how to avoid unnecessary bank fees.

Tip #6: Have a Little Fun (Money)

You might have noticed we added a “fun money” category to our list of must-have budgeting items. That’s because as a recent college graduate, you deserve to have fun and your independence.

Leave room in your budget to treat yourself to dinner or splurge on that new pair of shoes. You need to have moments where you reward yourself, or else what’s the point?

Wrapping Up: It Gets Easier

When you started college, you probably felt overwhelmed. By the end of your senior year, deadlines, class schedules, and managing your day-to-day came naturally. The same thing is true when it comes to managing your money as a recent grad. It takes time, but you’ll get the hang of it.

Stay calm and take a deep breath. A whole new journey awaits.