After a bittersweet graduation and an extensive job search, budgeting may be the last thing on your mind. But despite what your college lifestyle may have led you to believe, the dance floor is not the last place you’ll be hearing about dolla dolla bills — in fact, you’re more responsible for your finances now than ever. Your post-college expenditures won’t just consist of late-night library vending machine raids and beach week martinis, but also rent, utilities, insurance, and, well, everything else. It may sound scary, but have no fear — Her Campus has tips on how to create and perfect your very own post-collegiette budget.
Count your money. The first step to creating a budget for the future is to evaluate your current financial standing. First, figure out how much you have and if you’re in any debt at this instant by calling or checking online to view the numbers in your checking and savings accounts, and pulling out loan statements and deadlines. Then factor in how much money you’re bringing in, which means combining your salary with the money you receive from any part-time jobs, internship stipends, tips, and any other supplementary income. “It is vitally important to take a holistic view of both your personal ‘balance sheet’ [a spreadsheet of] assets and liabilities, otherwise known as ‘what you own and what you owe,’ as well as your personal income statement — income and expenses — when creating a budget,” says Chris Bumcrot, a financial researcher and a partner at Applied Research & Consulting in New York City. Bumcrot credits the importance of being conscious of your financial standing to avoiding debt, but it’s essential to structuring your budget, too — even if you’re in the clear!
Do your homework. As independent and free-spirited as you thought you were at 18, Mom and Dad still took the brunt of worrying about expenses. And while you can easily calculate your savings and spending, it’s impossible to know how much certain necessities cost without asking around or looking it up. Once you move in to your apartment, your bills will show you how much you’re spending, but there are a few things you can do between graduation and move-in day to make sure you’re in for no surprises: call up your utility companies — the guys who supply stuff like your water and electricity (they don’t arrive by magic) — and the landlord of your apartment complex. If you’re using a broker to find your new apartment — someone who helps with the apartment in exchange for a certain cut of a year’s rent — find out what percent he or she charges and calculate your expenses based on your rent. Even if you’ve been moved in for a while, be smart about the way you estimate your costs. Look over credit card statements from previous months and calculate the average amount you spend on an item monthly. Factor in important details, like how much of your salary is eaten up by taxes each month, so that your estimates are as accurate as possible.
Don’t just research your costs — read up on ways you can pay them, too. Consult your parents to figure out just how much they are willing to support you, if at all. Search for alternative ways of paying off significant costs like student loans. “One of the things that the federal government has done is offered different options for paying student loans; they recognize that students have bills to pay and may be in transition,” says Craig Daugherty, director of financial aid at Kenyon College. “There are certainly some loan repayment options: if you go to graduate school, for example, or if you serve in the military. My advice to any student would be to stay in contact with your lender and to see what options may be available.”