Sharree - Staff WriterGraduation season is a great time of year. All the inspirational commencement speeches and excitement for the future makes it the perfect time to reflect on what I’ve learned since graduating three years ago (and post awesome #tbt photos!).


In retrospect, one of the key lessons I learned from college was that clear expectations make it easier to plan ahead – when there is a goal, it is easier to make a plan.


You go to class, study, take exams and write essays. The results of these activities might not always have had the outcome that you wanted but your responsibilities and the goal were clear. No studying + no passing grade = no graduation.


The much discussed ‘REAL WORLD’ you’ve recently been tossed into is unfortunately…completely different than what I expected.

After college, success is what you make it. So as you start out, the best way to build a foundation for success is to earn enough money to support yourself and start training yourself to use that money wisely. And here are a few tips to help you do just that!


  1. Don’t Toss That Bus Pass

Living in a city with great public transportation is a gift, so if you don’t already have a car, keep it that way. But let’s say your city or town has awful public transportation, think about low cost car options like buying or leasing a car or mixing public transportation with Uber/Lyft to fill in the gaps. Purchasing obviously makes getting around town faster but you’ll be paying for more than just the car note.  Add up car note (including interest), insurance, parking and gas and that car starts to leave a dent in your wallet.

Pro tip: Be sure to use the cheaper Pool option with Uber or Lyft and remember to set a monthly budget for rides


  1. Learn to Cook

Seriously, the price of food is on the rise, and eating out will quickly eat through your budget, particularly lunch! You just got that new job and it is so easy to eat out for lunch every day but that not so amazing $10 lunch adds up to about $200 a month.  Let’s not even get started about happy hour drinks!  A simple strategy is to make your lunch for work and eat at home when you’re home.

Pro tip: If you make dinner, make a little extra, and take the left overs for lunch!


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  1. Turn up! (with a set amount of cash in hand)

You can be responsible with your money and still go out! It’s all about limits and how much you spend when you go out.  When you go out, leave the cards at home and carry the amount of cash you’re willing to spend for the night.  Plus, with cash you don’t have to worry about splitting that check 5 ways at brunch!

Pro tip: If you carry cash, remember to make a note in your budget so you know how to account for the cash withdrawal.


  1. Earn Those Points

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there whether recent grads should get credit cards and understandably so given the credit debt horror stories but there actually benefits to establishing a long and solid credit history. Learning to manage your credit early is important because you will be using it most of your life.  Credit cards aren’t carte blanche to a shopping spree or to buy things you can’t afford but they are away to pay for big ticket items, like plane tickets, so you might as well earn points.


  1. Pay Yourself First

No matter how much you’re making, you have to build an emergency savings fund.  Emergencies come up and everyone needs at least $1000 for life’s unexpected costs. We get that most people have a hard time paying just the necessities, but even $30 a week can get you to $120 a month or $1440 a year. Remember that after you use your emergency fund, you will need to build it back up.


See Related Post: 5 Signs You’re Afraid of Your Finances