Now that you’ve finished your course requirements, graduated, and have set off on your first post-college job search, it’s time to consider your finances while living on your own. In the midst of the graduation excitement and ideas of absolute freedom as you set off to chart your own course in life, it’s easy to lose sight of the necessity to keep your finances in check. This is especially true if your peers are gallivanting around on their own spending sprees.
While it’s tempting to go out and purchase a brand-new car, fully furnish your first apartment, and even update your wardrobe, now is the time to continue living the college student lifestyle as much as possible despite your fat new paycheck. Your future self will thank you if you follow these tips for living well on a dime.
- Harness the power of the hand-me-down. Yes, it’s not exactly the sexiest thing to admit that your furniture came from your grandmother’s basement while admiring your friend’s new $5,000 leather sectional. But consider that your friend may have put the couch on credit (which means he’ll pay far more than sticker price if interest is accumulating) and it will be clear that your bank account benefited from your fiscal restraint. If the furniture is beat up or out of style, invoke your inner DIY diva and refinish or re-upholster the pieces to your liking. You’ll save a boatload and that money will come in handy when it’s time to pay off your student loans or save for your first home purchase.
- Don’t knock the ramen. OK, perhaps this is a bit too extreme for some (although I still pride myself on keeping my grocery budget as low as possible, just like my college budget). You now have the income to afford food that’s a bit higher quality than ramen noodles. As long as you’re not buying designer ketchup and letting food waste away before you eat it, it’s alright to indulge a bit with your fruits and veggies. But you shouldn’t use this as an excuse to go buck-wild with your dining budget. By cooking more nutritious meals at home, you’ll save money, be healthier, and ultimately be happier when you’re not living paycheck to paycheck because you’ve kept your expenses in-check. If you’re worried about the potential impact on your social life, invite friends over for dinner. You’ll strengthen your friendships AND be able to meet your financial goals.
- Consider a roommate. Unless you had a truly horrendous college roommate experience, there’s no reason you should have to foot the entire bill for your living expenses alone. Keep in mind that if you lived in on-campus housing, you’ll now be responsible for paying utilities and renter’s insurance on top of the monthly rent. Why not split that with someone to help alleviate the burden? Make sure to seek out a roommate who has stable employment, sign a lease, and set living expectations before handing over the keys. Bonus points if you can get your landlord to write up a co-leasing agreement so you won’t have to worry about taking care of the logistics.
- Save the High Life for the beer distributor. Out of control entertainment expenses are one of the quickest ways to bust a budget. Just as you should limit your meals out, you should try to save on bar tabs, cable, vacations, and social activities as much as possible. This isn’t a suggestion that you become a recluse, but more that you budget for entertainment expenses and be creative to find cheap (or free!) ways to keep yourself busy, networked, and socially content. By not keeping up with the Jones’ today, you’ll ensure you’ll have a financially stable foundation tomorrow.
What advice do you have for those moving into their first apartment? How did you cut costs when you were in your own first apartment?