How to Create a Post-Grad BudgetPosted on
You’ve finally reached the moment you have dreamed of ever since you stepped foot into your first lecture hall: college graduation. Take time to celebrate your hard-earned achievement and reflect back on the years that helped you grow into the person you are today. Once you’ve given yourself a pat on the back, it’s time to prepare for post-college life and the financial responsibilities that come with it—but don’t be scared. We’re here to help you create a post-grad budget and get a handle on your finances.
Step 1: List your income sources
The first step to creating your post-grad budget is evaluating your current financial situation. How much money do you currently have and how much are you bringing in each month? Combine your salary—or hourly wage—with any side hustles to get a holistic view of your income. This can include tips, freelance work, and stock investments.
(Don’t forget that a percentage of each paycheck will go toward taxes.) Use this Federal Paycheck Calculator to figure out what your take-home pay per paycheck is.
Step 2: List your fixed expenses
Next, identify your fixed expenses—these typically stay the same month to month. Fixed expenses can include rent, utilities, phone bills, and car payments. Basically, fixed expenses are anything that you have to pay for each month. Make sure you keep track of your fixed expenses since they’ll occur on a regular basis.
Step 3: List your new expenses
Whether you’re moving back home with family or you’re moving into an apartment with friends, post-grad life is sure to toss some new expenses your way. Fear not! Simply make a list of your new expenses. This can include student loans, car insurance, transportation, and groceries.
Step 4: List your variable expenses
You typically have control over variable expenses. These can include entertainment, clothing, dining out, gym memberships, travel, etc. Prioritize what’s most important to you after your fixed and new expenses. Maybe buying clothes for your new job or saving up for a small weekend trip is at the top of your priority list—however you prioritize is up to you. Just remember: you can’t prioritize everything.
Step 5: List your savings expenses
Ever hear that saying Pay yourself first? Well, it’s an important one and needs to be a priority. Allocate a portion of your monthly income toward a savings account. This may sound intimidating at first, but if you think of your savings as a fixed expense, it’ll make things easier.
Most financial experts recommend putting 20% of each paycheck into a savings account. If you can allot more, go for it. If your new job allows you to invest in a 401K, take advantage. Your savings could grow faster in these types of accounts because it is invested in the marketplace. If you start investing with just $3,600 per year at age 22, assuming an 8% average annual return, you’ll have $1 million at age 62. But it can be tough to save 20% when you have bills to pay and loans you owe. In fact, millennials’ (born between 1981-1998) median savings in America is $2,430. Whether this number intimidates or relieves you, it’s important to find ways to cut back and save money. Why? Two words: emergency fund.
Setting aside three to six months of living expenses should be a top priority as it can prepare you for unexpected expenses. Emergencies can occur out of the blue, so it’s better to be prepared and save a certain amount on a steady basis.
Use helpful resources
There are tons of free tools to help you with your finances. Download the Mint app to manage your money; from tracking bills to easy budgeting, Mint keeps your financial life in one place. PocketGuard is another all-in-one app that allows you to see credit cards, checking accounts, and loans in one simple view. Prism tracks your bills and sends you reminders and due dates so you never miss a payment. Find an app (or two) that works best for you and your financial needs.
Post-grad life and “budgeting” don’t have to be scary or carry negative connotations. Sure, a chapter in your life is ending, but a new one is beginning. Developing a budget and sticking to it will get you closer to the life you want—whether it’s paying off your student loans, saving up for a new car, or hitting $5,000 in your savings by the end of the year. Stay consistent and make smart adjustments where necessary.