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Many recent graduates rarely find themselves prepared for the realities of starting a financial career after college. Oftentimes in college, there’s a relatively clear path students are told to follow — attend classes, get good grades, and graduate. It’s after graduation paths tend to twist and diverge into a road of all new unknowns. With the added financial stressors of student loan debt and trying to secure a higher-paying job, your wallet may feel as though it’s constantly shrinking. However, you’re not alone; odds are thousands of recent graduates are trying to learn and meet the same financial goals as you — and quickly. So, snatch that shiny new degree and become a pro in the professional world by following our five financial tips for new graduates.

Begin Budgeting 

Understanding where your money is not only coming from but going to is crucial in taking the first step to managing your budget. Do yourself a favor and create smart money-saving habits by establishing at least a beginner’s budgeting system to create long-term financial health. A quick, and simple way to track your spending is through budgeting apps like PocketGuard, Mint, and Goodbudget so access to your budget is always at your fingertips. After tracking your budget for a little while, take some time to see if there is anything you can cut out and allocate your money accordingly. 

Learn to Leverage Your Finances 

Continuing to expand your knowledge of basic finances is an excellent way to better prepare for the financial world you’re entering. Doing so doesn’t have to be expensive either, in fact, if you do it right, you might not spend a dime. There are plenty of free financial lessons, classes, and books from the local library available. 

Another fantastic way to expand your skills and knowledge of the financial world is by joining a credit union! Look into your local credit unions to discover how their financial benefits and resources cater to you and check to see your eligibility for membership

Invest in Yourself 

It’s never too early to start thinking about your financial health long-term. If you’re currently working for a company or about to begin a new job, check to see if they offer a 401(k) and if they do take advantage of the offer. Then, automate your savings so a portion of each paycheck goes directly toward your 401(k) investment each pay period. 

Along with investing in your retirement, further, secure your finances by creating an emergency fund. Start with a couple of hundred dollars and continue contributing extra pocket change as you build up reliable savings that may one day help you out of a difficult situation. From car breakdowns and technological malfunctions to injuries and job losses, an emergency fund takes away the giant stressor often looming over these what if’s.    

Become Credit Card Savvy 

There is often a negative stigma attached to credit cards, especially for young adults who may be less experienced with their usage. However, when managed responsibly, these little hunks of plastic are excellent tools for helping you construct your finances. 

When opening a credit card, find one with great sign-up bonuses and ongoing perks so your spending produces added value. Responsible spending and payments create good credit scores as well, an essential part of renting an apartment, buying a car, and in some cases landing a job.

Enjoy Entertainment at an Affordable Cost

While this entire article has practically been screaming “don’t blow your money,” it’s ok to splurge on a couple of big things every once in a while. Just remember not to do this all the time on everything, and to treat the majority of your purchases mindfully and responsibly. 
When going out or enjoying an entertainment event, first check out certain apps like Groupon, Ticketmaster, and LivingSocial to potentially save some money. Along with checking out these apps, consider following your local event sources on social media as they often post the trendiest happenings in your area. Keep an eye out for promotional content, coupon codes, and free entertainment pertaining to these events.