After four or five years of living as an impoverished college student, you’ve finally got the diploma and the job. No more instant noodles for you, right? While it’s true that some better money will finally be coming into your bank account, it’s also true that a long line of bills will need to be paid. You’re past the point of getting housing on the cheap, and remember those student loans that got you through?
Yep, deferments are over and it’s time to pay the piper. You need to have goals for your financial future, like eliminating those student loans and budgeting for a home of your own.
That doesn’t mean you’re going back to instant noodles or leaving the heat shut off at night. It just means that you’ll have to budget wisely in order to make reality out of the dreams that have motivated you since you got out of high school. If you do things right, you’ll live just exactly as large as you had hoped. You’ll just have to use some good sense in several areas of budgeting.
Well, the four-year party is over and you’re staring down 40 hours or more of work every week. Your need to unwind will be amplified. What’s wrong with a big meal out and a nice dinner on Friday night?
Nothing, really, except for the issue of paying for it. Going off the deep end on your fun and games is a sure-fire way to wreck your financial plans. It’s completely understandable that the pressure of the rat race calls for some relaxation, but you just have to do it in a money-wise way.
Think about ways to spin your existing expenses into entertainment without adding to the cost. Deals with DIRECTV can get you all kinds of sports and movies for your weekend without the extra money–or the lines, or the overpriced popcorn, or the soda residue on your shoes.
A lot of people make the mistake of bounding out of employee orientation and heading straight to the car dealership. And you do need something more reliable than that beater you drove in college, because you do need to make sure you can get to work.
But there’s no need to go off the deep end. Although it may feel like a huge compromise to shop used vehicles, buying new is often a big mistake. Car lots today are loaded with one- and two-year-old models with 30,000 miles or so, most of which are lease returns.
The person who turned it in got the joy of the new car smell, but you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing they also ate the new car depreciation–and of getting to eat a nicer dinner on the way home. And speaking of eating, here’s our final point.
Now that you’re out of the dorm, you need to rediscover an interesting room. It’s called the kitchen, and your apartment has one. It’s more than just a place to chill your beer or nuke last night’s leftover Kung Pao. It’s a place where you can prepare a meal from scratch.
Restaurants are a huge budget buster. Popping off nine or ten restaurant meals a week is a huge waste. Many people feel they have to eat out for lunch during the work week, and certainly you deserve better than cold bologna in a brown bag.
But split the difference and whip up a week’s worth of microwave delicacies. You’ll eat healthier, eat cheaper, and as an added bonus, get more free time over lunch because you won’t have to leave work.
Getting out of college and getting a job may feel like the culmination of all your financial aspirations, but the truth is that things are just getting started. Heading in the right direction at this point in your life can get you on track to achieve your loftiest goals.