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Budgeting After College

College. Some call it the greatest four years of their life. And why wouldn’t it be? You’re away from your parents, you get to eat whatever you want, as much as you want, whenever you want (though be careful about that, it can come back to bite you!), and if you have a meal plan you can do this all without having to clean a single dish. Your friends were usually within a few hundred feet of you at all times, whether you were in class or your dorm. You could stay up as late as you wanted and hang out with whoever you wanted. But the best part for me was I didn’t have to pay a dime for it… yet. But when college ends, that’s when the fun begins (dun… dun… Dunnn!). Time to start budgeting to repay student loan debt and all your other bills.

Paying off debt starts with creating a budget.

Paying off debt starts with creating a budget.

Tips to Budgeting After College

Life after college is a lot different. Now that your student loans are about to kick in, on top of the rest of the bills you pay, you have to create a strict budget and stick to it. You do not want to default on a student loan because it can have severe consequences that can damage your credit report. The damage that will not go away for 7 years! It is also important to not be late with your payments. If you payoff debts on time and consistently, your lender may offer you some great benefits like a lower interest rate. So it’s important to set your priority towards paying off the student loans. This is where budgeting comes to play.

Why Is Budgeting Important?

Budgeting is an important skill that everyone should have. If you can budget your finances well, you will avoid a lot of stress from having to pay off overdue bills. A solid budget will also help you avoid carrying a balance on your credit card and accumulating any credit card debt. This way, you can save money for something you want in the future, such as a vehicle or a vacation. But budgeting is not always easy to do. If you are in a situation like mine, (while at school I had no bills to pay, so I really didn’t have to budget a lot in college) obviously I couldn’t be going out and buying dinner out every weekend but, if I lived within my reasonable means, then I would be ok. Even though I didn’t have stick to a strict budget, I still had to be cautious on what I purchased. I made sure not to go out to eat all the time because eating out can be quite costly. Instead, I would have cheap dinners like chicken soup and snacks around the apartment to keep me from going out. Another way I kept to a budget at school was by finding activities around the school that were free to join. My school always had activities to join like bingo, whiffle ball, and video game tournaments.

Tips to Cutting Back

After graduating from college, it can be extremely hard to find a job right away. If you are lucky enough to get one, I’m sure you’re not making 100K a year to start. Because of this, you need to start thinking about what you really NEED rather than WANT. Depending on what expenses you’re already paying for, you might want to think about cutting back. For example, if you have a really expensive cell phone bill every month you might think to switch to a cheaper plan. (One that doesn’t include the internet on the phone because you have a computer at home that can do that, so you really don’t need it.)

Another way you can cut down on expenses and stick to a budget is to cut down on driving. If you really don’t need to go somewhere then don’t waste the gas. Do you really need to go out to buy that hat or DVD? If you have to buy it, try finding it online. You’ll save on gas and sometimes you can even find the item for less than at the retail store. Also, try to carpool with someone. Gas is an expensive and recurring bill that adds up quick. ($2.75 a gallon is the national average according to The Energy Information Administration).

Another tip for budgeting would be to learn how to cook. It’s far less expensive than ordering out all the time. I work two jobs, so when I am heading home from my second job and I see those big yellow arches (McDonalds) I am tempted to pull right in and order my usual. If I knew how to cook, then I would have saved myself some money and not gained 4 pounds (or 6 pounds if you got the double quarter pounder with cheese).

Additionally, for those couples that are trying to stay on a budget, there are other ways you can stick to that budget. One idea would be to not buy cards by Hallmark and American Greetings etc. Those little cards written by someone else can cost you up to 7 dollars a piece! Show your significant other how you really feel about them and make your own card. Believe me; they will enjoy it more than any premade Hallmark card.

Going out places for a date can be really expensive as well. Going to the movies, bowling, the mall, a bar, a sporting event… all things that cost a lot, especially if you go out all the time. A few things you can do to stick to the budget could be to go for a walk in a nearby park. Walking doesn’t cost a thing…. unless of course you’re on someone else’s property and they fine you, but that’s a whole different story. You could play a board game or cards, surf the web together, play a sport, or watch television. All things you can substitute for a night out.

If you set your priorities straight to budget properly by living within your means, you WILL avoid the stress of being in debt. Do you have any ideas on ways that you can stick to a budget? Let me know because I have to stick to one as well.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today.


Andi is a Marketing Assistant at ACCC. He is passionate about supporting financial literacy efforts and helping to educate people on the Talking Cents blog!

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