I thought I knew it all when I graduated from college. I could do no wrong and the world was my oyster. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening, especially when it came to money and finances.

The idea behind this post is to spotlight the 5 pieces of advice that I wish someone had given me when I graduated. It sure would have saved me a lot of heartache.

1. Get ANY job in a field you have a passion for.

I realize that sounds obvious. But I have known plenty of high school and college seniors who had grandiose ideas of a 6 figure income right out of school and anything less was unsatisfactory.

Heck, I was one of them. The example I like to use is the graduate who wants to be on the radio and has a real passion for it, and expects to be on the air immediately. Typically not going to happen.

Instead, just get your foot in the door anyway you can, even if that means being the janitor or the errand boy at your local radio station. Work hard, listen and learn, and you will move up the ladder to one day fulfilling your passion of being on the air. If you want to be a radio DJ, get ANY job at a radio station.

2. Find affordable housing.

A good rule of thumb is to not let your housing expenses be more than 30% of your monthly take home pay. Stay within this range and you should not feel a pinch at the beginning of every month when rent comes due. This may mean you need to live with roommates, or find a studio apartment that fits this 30% rule.

3. Make saving automatic.

Never too early to start saving for retirement or for your emergency fund. If your employer has a 401k program, start investing in it immediately.

Especially if they have any kind of a matching program. Start with whatever you can afford, hopefully you can save at least 5-10% of your take home pay.

When I started earning my first “real” paycheck at 22 years old, I wish I had started saving. Especially when you consider the power of compound interest over time. Heck, if I had saved 10% of the money I spent on beer and junk food I would now be sitting on a small nest egg.

The key is to just start saving, no matter how small. As you see the dollar bills start to pile up, saving money will become very habit forming and give you financial peace of mind.

4. Start networking.

The saying, “It is not what you know, but who you know”, is one to live by. Almost every job I have gotten was because somebody put a good word in for me before my interview.

This happens by networking with as many people in your field of interest as possible. This should start way before you graduate by attending career fairs, taking internships during the summer, and using online networking websites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

5. Drive your car into the ground.

I am not suggesting you stop maintaining your old car. You definitely want to keep it safe to drive and get the best mileage possible out of it. What I am suggesting is that you avoid the impulse to go into debt over a new car when that first paycheck arrives in your bank account.

If you don’t have wheels, consider using public transportation, or if you are going to buy a car, buy used. Let someone else take the initial depreciation hit when they drive the car off the lot.

Do you have any tips to add when it comes to financial advice for graduates? I look forward to your comments.

I would also add that graduates should shop smart, and a big aspect of that is using money saving coupons when you do make a purchase. With that in mind, here are some of the better online coupons on my website right now.

About The Author: Kyle James owns and operate a website called Rather-Be-Shopping.com which specializes in online coupons for over 700 stores, organized in 25 shopping categories. He also has a blog, where he writes about frugal living tips, creative ways to save money, and other musings about the adventures and mis-adventures of raising 3 active kids.

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2 Comments on Life After College: 5 Finance Tips for Graduates

  1. This is a great article. When I first graduated (and still) I was amazed by expenses I didn’t foresee. One thing I love are the daily coupons and deals that more companies are offering. There’s one that I’ve tried that goes straight to your phone – no printing necessary! It’s called Qponomics and it’ll locate the partners with deals around you and you’ll get the coupons directly to your phone.
    Hopefully this can help!

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