5 Financial Tips for College Grads
I’m sure we’ve all seen those memes about college students who are broke and can’t afford a cheeseburger at McDonald’s. I don’t know how many times my friends and I have joked about not being able to doing things because we’re “broke college students.” Unfortunately, once we’re out of school, we’re not college students anymore. We’re just plain broke.
Money. Who thought I’d ever be the one talking about that as if I were an expert? I do work at a credit union and have gotten a lot of training, but that’s not why I decided to write about it. I’ve been graduated for five months now and have lived “on my own” for over a year, so I just wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned that I believe apply to most everyone who’s just starting to live in the adult world.
1. You’ll think you have a lot of money without school bills. You don’t.
Now that you don’t have school bills to pay, it’s easy to think you have all that extra money to spend on more entertaining stuff, like going out or traveling the world. The thing is, most likely, you have new bills that you didn’t have before, like rent, utilities, car bills, etc. And if you don’t yet, you probably will. So why spend all your money on food and entertainment?
For me, this was the hardest thing financially. I didn’t have as many friends close by to hang out with, and I didn’t have a free campus to hang out on. So instead, I’d go places that cost money every night. It was a lot of fun, but $5-10 a night really adds up, and that’s not even counting gas money. I realized that I can’t afford to go out every night just because I didn’t work late hours anymore or have a bunch of homework taking up my time. Having fun isn’t a bad thing, but there are things you can do that don’t cost money. Maybe save some cash to spend on the weekends as a treat.
2. Most likely, you won’t immediately get your dream job that pays you a ton of money for your degree.
I imagined getting out of school and going straight into a career that will take care of all my financial needs and desires. Unfortunately, since writing books isn’t the best paying job, nor is it considered a career, I ended up working part time at a credit union, spending a couple hours on my days off trying to write. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s life. But you can’t get discouraged if you don’t find a career right out of college. Very few people do. Sometimes you have to work somewhere that isn’t your favorite to pay the bills. Thankfully, I enjoy this job that I’ve never really wanted to do. You can learn a lot and find good things in every job, whether it’s prestigious or not very glamourous.
It's also good to keep in mind that you’re not stuck to one job for the rest of your life. God will probably bring something along that is better in your stage of life than a well-paying career would be. Money isn’t everything. It’s a means, not an end.
3. Budgeting is important.
So many times, I don’t know where my money’s going. I spend on little things here and there, and before I know it, it’s all gone, and there are five more days until I get paid. That’s why it’s so important to know what you’re spending on. There are all kinds of apps out there that take no time to set up that help you track your spending and save for different things. Part of being an adult is taking control of your finances, because you won’t have your parents around anymore to bail you out, (or if you do, they won’t be very happy about it). Decide how much you’ll spend on eating out every month. How much you’ll give yourself for coffee, or whatever it is you like to spend money on. Then break it down into weeks, then days. It sounds complicated, but it’ll make your life so much easier in the long run when you’re not scrambling to pay for utilities or have to live on ramen and dry cereal for a week.
4. Save. Save. Save.
I’ve been taught to save money my whole life, and even though I really like to spend money on frivolous things, my parents’ example has stuck with me. But I know a lot of people didn’t get that kind of teaching. I see this, working at the credit union, and it surprises me how many people think they can’t save; they just can’t afford it. Saving doesn’t have to be a lot. It could be $20/paycheck (which, when you think about it is as much as getting dinner twice or four coffee trips). But when you put that money aside right when you get paid, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to live without it. When I have money in my checking account, I think I can spend it, and I make my calculations that way. But if that money is already put aside, it’s as if I didn’t have it, and I make due without. And I really don’t notice the difference at all. But I’m always surprised by how fast my savings grow without my even noticing.
Some day, you’re going to want to move out, or get a new car, or get married. And all those things cost a lot of money. Instead of taking out loans when the time comes, saving a little bit at a time will help so much to keep you out of debt. So maybe you can only go out twice a week instead of three times. It really won’t matter in the long run, whereas saving for a big expenditure will help so much.
5. God provides more than you could ask for.
I have stressed so much about money since I moved off campus for my senior year. Everything in life costs money, it seems. But what I’ve experienced is that when I trust God with my money, I’m always provided for.
I’m not trying to boast with the following story; I’m trying to highlight how good God has been to me. At the beginning of this year, I recognized that I’ve been stressed about money to the point of it becoming an idol in my life. So I decided that besides tithing, I want to give God another 5% of my income, no matter how broke I was, kind of forcing myself to trust God a little more than I wanted to. Since that time, I’ve lost a job, graduated out of another, and have been left with a bunch of job applications and no idea where to go. But every time I thought I was going to have to use all my savings to pay for rent and food (shameless plug for my 4th point), God would provide in a different way. My tax return came in, people gave me money for graduation, I got a side job, and I could go on and on. Every time I was worried, the next day or week, I’d have the solution. A couple of times, I’ve thought about going back to simply tithing, since “I don’t have problems with money anymore,” but I’ve kept giving. And I keep getting blessed.
Maybe this isn’t the stage you’re in. Maybe you don’t even feel like you can tithe. Maybe you don’t even know what tithing is. But I just want to tell you one thing: God always provides when his children rely on him and don’t hold on too tightly to what isn’t even theirs in the first place. When you surrender your money to God, He won’t let you go hungry. Maybe things will still be tight, but He’ll provide for you. You can live with the burden being lifted from you that you have to be in control of circumstances you can’t control.
Have you learned anything else about money? What’s a financial rule you live by? I’d love to read any of your money advice!