Picture this: you just finished college. You worked hard, played even harder, and walked across that stage with a huge and well-deserved smile on your face. Now, you head home to Mom and Dad’s house/apartment/real life and it hits you: you’re broke.
If you’re like me, you might have accidentally ended college with more debt than paychecks and not a lot to live on. But fear not, you can keep the bill collectors away and even pay your student loans on time with these five tips:
1. Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Open a Separate Savings Account
Take my word for it, this is the Holy Grail of saving money. I started my post-grad job almost immediately after moving home and, even after months of working hard, my savings were still pretty much nonexistent thanks to the (too) convenient banking app on my iPhone. My paychecks would get deposited and I would mindlessly transfer money over and over – Chipotle here, a new shirt there – until my earnings had dwindled down too low for my liking.
The solution? Open a new, second savings account at a different bank. My “real” savings account is at a local bank that I don’t have an app or debit card for (thank God) and it’s successfully kept my money away from my shopaholic hands. Every paycheck, I withdraw whatever amount I can afford and hand it over. You wouldn’t believe how quickly those numbers go up when you’re not dipping in for your daily coffee.
2. Take Advantage of Your Mom’s Cooking
Look at your next bank statement: besides filling up your gas tank, your biggest expense is probably the most avoidable: food. While eating out can be fun and tasty, it can also be expensive. I love sushi and broccoli cheddar soup from Panera as much as the next girl, but my bank account definitely doesn’t. Try to limit yourself every week; schedule a night out, complete with drinks and dessert even, but keep it to once a week. Instead of picking up takeout on your way home, listen to your parents’ advice over a home-cooked meal, fill each other in about your days. Skip meeting a friend for dinner and see what your family is having. Chances are your mom is cooking something delicious and, even better, free.
3. It’s Finally Time To Be Responsible: Pay Your Bills FIRST
Getting a “real world” job is awesome and empowering. You’re earning more than minimum wage for maybe the first time ever, and you deserve a reward once and a while. That being said, don’t get carried away with the extra cash. When your check gets dropped in your account on pay day, pay any and all bills for the month before you do anything else. After those are out of the way, put a portion of what’s left in that savings account. Once all that adult-ing is out of the way, go shopping, girl! You’ll have taken care of all your responsibilities and feel a weight lifted off of your shoulders – the perfect mood time to drop a little cash on something you’ve had your eye on.
4. Don’t Get Caught in the Credit Card Trap
Building credit is a really important thing, especially as the days of buying cars and houses loom closer and closer. That being said, proceed with caution. You do not need more than one credit card, and you certainly don’t need to use it all the time. Credit card companies target post grads; they know we’re in debt and desperate for some funds. It might seem like you have endless money but trust me, you don’t. If you have to swipe, try to swipe your debit – at least you know that money is already in your account. Credit card bills can pile up before you know it, and if you don’t have the savings to pay it off, interest and late fees can be a bitch.
5. Live at Home…At Least For a While
Moving back in with your parents after four years of independence can be tough. Their rules can be annoying and you’ve gotten used to having privacy and your own space, but living at home can be a huge money saver. Rent is expensive, even with roommates, and unless there’s a good reason, what’s the rush? Living at home allows you to clock some quality family time while building up a foundation of money for later. Student loans, car payments, and your tab at Starbucks can be enough of a financial burden without rent on top of it all. Saving yourself hundreds of dollars a month will make a big difference, stress and money-wise. Plus, you’ll have more dollars to donate to your vacation fund – a different way to get a break from mom and dad when you need it.
Post-grad life can be stressful enough without financial problems added to the mix. If you can get your bank account under control, other areas of your newfound “adult” life will fall into place, too. Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to your savings, so next time you find yourself on the way to the Dunkin’ drive through for your third latte, consider saving the three bucks. It adds up, and you’ll be glad when you have that extra cash lying around later.
Featured image via screengrab of Confessions of a Shopaholic.