April arrives this Friday - which means college graduations are not far behind.
Whether you're a recent grad, doing a summer internship, getting that diploma this spring or starting a freelance business - now is the time to start laying a foundation for your financial future. It doesn't have to be complicated. These six basic tips will help get your new life off to a solid financial start:
#1 - Live Below Your Means
That means you will have a roommate - or two or three or more. My first post-graduation job was answering constituent mail for a congressman in Washington, DC. I initially shared a house with four roommates - there is no way I could have afforded my own place in such a high-rent city.
#2 - Start Saving Now
Don’t wait until you "make enough money" to start saving. Not only will saving quickly become habit, but you need a small stash of cash (financial peace guru Dave Ramsey recommends starting with a $1,000 emergency fund), so you won't reach for the plastic in emergencies.
#3 - Pay Off Debt
Get rid of it like it is the plague - it is just as infectious. Have student loans? Knock those out as fast as possible. Still paying off credit card debt from your sophomore year? You can't get ahead financially when you're paying for things from long ago.
#4 - Avoid New Debt
I graduated from college with no debt. But then I started using credit cards to go out with friends, buy stuff for my apartment and fill my closet with clothes that I really couldn't afford. Debt kept me from saving as early as I should have - and it took several years to pay off once I finally realized it was holding me back from pursuing new career opportunities.
#5 - Pay With Cash, Not Plastic
Studies show that you spend up to 30 percent more when you pay with plastic or with a smartphone app. Dropping $4 for a coffee doesn't sound like much when you scan your phone - but if you only have $10 in your purse, it feels like a much bigger bite.
#6 - Don't Try to "Keep Up With the Parents"
It took your parents 20 years or more to reach the standard of living they enjoy today. Unless your starting salary is higher than most, it will take you awhile to get there.
What are you doing to prepare financially for life after graduation? If you've been out of school for awhile, what advice worked for you?