Make a Post-College Budget

You may have mastered broke college kid budgeting while you were in school, but after you graduate it’s a whole new ball game.

For those of you who didn’t have much help from your parents financially during school, you’re probably used to making, and sticking to, a budget. For those who are just now being cut off, welcome to the real world.

Whether or not you have serious budgeting experience from school, it’s still hard and now’s the time to become an expert. Follow these tips to stay on top of all the expenses adult life throws your way.

1. Rent

If you thought you were paying a lot for student housing, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’re about to dish out about the same, if not more, on your next place. To save on housing, find some roommates! If you want to live alone, it’s doable but you’ll likely need to look farther outside of the city where you end up working to find more affordable housing.

Wherever you end up, you will be expected to pay your deposit (usually equivalent to monthly rent payment) and your first month’s rent upon signing. Depending on your credit score, you may be asked to pay an additional liability fee. If you have the ability to have someone cosign, this can help cut those initial costs.

2. Furniture

Now that you’ve found the perfect, affordable place, you’ll need some furniture! You probably have a few random pieces from your old room, but if you are coming from a fully-furnished dorm or apartment, you may be starting from scratch. Don’t panic! There are lots of low-cost options and sales to stock your space.

Buy your furniture during Labor Day or Memorial Day weekend. There are SO many sales going on and you’ll end up paying a fraction of what you normally would. Also look to buy in between seasons, places usually have massive clearout sales when they are changing inventory!

HomeGoods, Target, World Market, IKEA, and Wayfair have great products for great prices. The key to furnishing a new place is to buy a few things at a time. You likely won’t have the disposable income to finish every room right away. Start with the essentials (mattress, bed, couch, table and chairs) and slowly add more pieces as your paychecks come in.

3. Moving

Moving to a new place is also an added cost. You may have to rent a moving truck or pay a moving company to help pack up and relocate your things. To save money, try to find boxes for free from the liquor store or use space bags to shrink down your large sweaters or bedding.

If you know friends with pickup trucks, ask if they’ll help move your large items so you don’t have to spend the extra cash on a Uhaul!

Depending on how far the move is, your company may help pay for relocation. This is something to consider during the negotiation phase of your job offer.

4. Cable/Internet

I’m sure you enjoyed having cable and internet included in your rent in college. Unfortunately, you will be responsible for these payments in your new place. In today’s age, internet at home is an absolute necessity. However, you may consider skipping out on the cable package and sticking with Netflix or Hulu for a while.

Cable is ridiculously expensive, and let’s be honest, you might watch MAYBE 5 channels overall. Save the money and mooch off of your parents cable subscription to watch sports online. Adding cable may double, or even triple, your monthly bill and it’s really not worth it. You can check the news and weather from your phone, so save the money for furniture or the other many expenses you will incur now that you’re in the adult world.

5. Utilities

Utility payments vary from place to place, but typically once you’re out of student housing, all of the things that were once included in a nicely packaged monthly payment are now all coming out of your pocket. That means water, power, and trash are now tacked on to that lovely base fee.

Water and power will usually charge for what you use and Trash may or may not be an additional fee. If your apartment complex offers valet trash, it’s usually anywhere between $10-$25 a month for them to pick up the trash outside your door every night. This is not an optional service. These will all be indicated in your lease and are non-negotiable.

6. Pet expenses

If you had a pet in college, your expenses will be about the same. Different apartment complexes (or houses is you’re renting) charge different pet fees. There may be a one-time deposit or you may have to pay monthly pet rent (per animal) to keep your furry friend with you. Do your research before moving into a new apartment because some locations are more lenient than others.

Consider utilizing 1-800 Pet Meds to save on your pets’ prescriptions. PetSmart and PetCo can deliver your pets’ food to your door and will discount if you set up auto-purchase! If you love to spoil your pet and were previously purchasing monthly subscription boxes with toys and treats, you may want to consider taking a break from this unnecessary expense until your new place is furnished, your student loans are paid, and you know you can afford your rent and utilities.

7. Car payment

Chances are you’re probably hanging on to the car you had all through college and there’s nothing wrong with that! You may already have that car paid off and now you can just focus on your insurance payments and keeping up with your registration tags every year.

If you’re in the market for a new vehicle, new or used, consider what your new monthly payments/down payment will be and whether or not your insurance will go up if you buy or lease a new car. Look at Car Max or consider shopping at a dealership during the holidays to find the best savings.

You may be moving to a new city and starting a job that doesn’t require you to have a car. You may want to look into selling your car and using that money towards daily transportation costs if you will be taking the subway or riding the bus.

8. Insurance

If you’re renting an apartment or a house, you’ll need renters insurance. It’s required and you’ll need to show proof that you have it before signing a lease. Insurance SUCKS. I can tell you that right now. But it’s 100% necessary and if something were to ever go wrong, you’ll be thankful you have it.

Car insurance is also required, and let me tell you, this one you will be SO glad you have. Take it from the person who bought a brand new car after graduation only to have it totaled 3 months later after getting rear-ended. Insurance covered all the bills and I actually ended up with some money leftover after the whole thing. Insurance exists to PROTECT you from these unexpected events. You may even be able to continue your discounted insurance or receive a lower payment if you graduated with certain honors!

9. Credit card bills

Nope, we’re not done yet, sorry. I know it’s a lot but bare with us.

Credit cards are a really helpful way to build up your credit if you don’t have any or if you took a hit in college. As long as you’re keeping up with your monthly payments, you should be okay! If you don’t have a credit card or don’t want one right away, that’s okay, but don’t wait too long because the sooner you start building your credit, the better. You’ll need a strong credit score to buy a house one day, get a new car, or even to rent an apartment or house.

Don’t stress, we have tons of tips and tricks when it comes to credit cards. Check out our helpful advice here.

10. Student loans

Student loans may be the most daunting of all of your post-grad expenses. Other than rent, your loan payments will likely be your biggest expense. You have lots of options when it comes to paying off your student debt, so do your research and know all of your options!

If you need to hold off on buying furniture one month or eat in instead of getting takeout, it won’t be the end of the world! The key is to be sure you’re keeping up with your monthly payments. Missing a payment will hurt your credit and you don’t want that!

11. Business attire

Now that you’re in the working world, you’ll need more than just one business casual outfit. Chances are your company will have a dress code that doesn’t include your favorite pair of ripped jeans or your coziest hoodie from school. Unfortunately, your days of rolling out of bed and going about your day are over.

TJMaxx, Steinmart, and Express have everything you could possibly need to start your working wardrobe at an affordable price. You’ll need several pairs of work pants, tops, ladies will need dresses and skirts, guys will need ties and button downs, and everyone needs a nice blazer.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to get everything at once. Your professional closet will grow over time! You can always ask your family for gift cards on birthdays and holidays to help build your wardrobe.

12. Food/Groceries

If you were lucky enough to have a meal plan in college, you’ve had the luxury of eating pretty much whatever you wanted for the last few years. Now that you’re out of school and on your own, you’ll need to start budgeting for groceries.

Eating out gets expensive, fast. If you’re inexperienced with cooking, that’s okay! You don’t have to be Gordon Ramsay to be able to survive. There are tons of easy meals to get you by. After you’ve stocked up on the essentials, there’s no reason to need to spend more than $100 on groceries a month. You may spend more or less in given months depending on what you keep in stock or run out of faster.

A helpful tip when it comes to buying groceries: don’t over buy. You’ll end up sad and frustrated as you throw away moldy and expired food that went to waste. Meal planning can help you buy only what you need every few weeks to make meals and waste less.

13. Taxes

Ah, the dreaded taxes. Tax season falls between January 1-April 15. Adulting basically means getting taxed for everything you do. Not really, but you will notice a few more taxes to pay now that you’re out of school and your parents no longer claim you as a dependent.

Keep track of anything that may qualify as a deductible, like using public transit or donating to a charity. Even out-of-pocket costs like commuting for a job interview can be written off as a deduction.

If you can manage the extra expense, you can always hire someone to handle your taxes for you. However, this can get pricey, and services like TurboTax or H&R Block can make it a little easier (and cheaper). Always do your research. Taxes are tricky for everyone, so use all of your available resources to make sure you will get the most return on your taxes!

14. Entertainment

Just because you’ve entered the adult-world doesn’t mean the fun has to stop! There’s bar crawls, beer fests, new restaurants to try, or maybe you’ll finally take that vacation you’ve always wanted with all of your saved PTO!

As long as you’re able to make your necessary payments like rent, student loan payments, and insurance bills, there’s no reason you can’t set a little money aside for the fun stuff. Maybe you eat pasta for a few nights one week so you can save up for a fun night out. With larger expenses like a vacation, you may want to set a few dollars aside each week or take a little out of each month’s paycheck to afford a fun trip.

It’s all about that work-life balance in the real world! Don’t forget to treat yo’ self.

15. Rainy day fund

Not to sound grim, but you really never know what’s going to happen. Whether it’s an illness, an injury, or a car accident, you can’t plan for these types of things. It’s always safe to have some money saved up in case an unfortunate event such as this occurs.

Depending on your company’s benefits plan, you may be eligible for short or long-term disability. While this is helpful, you don’t want to rely on that coverage. Be prepared! Set aside some money each month for a rainy day fund. Hopefully you won’t ever have to use it, but it’s always a good idea to have it just in case.

If you happen to be in-between jobs or moving towns, your rainy day fund would be a great source to make your credit card or student loan payments.

Whatever money is left untouched can be saved for retirement, a future college fund, or even to help pay off your student debt for future months.

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