Dear Carrie, I just graduated from college and I’m a total novice at money. How can I get a handle on things?
First, congratulations on your big achievement. No doubt about it, being on your own for the first time can be stressful. Trying to manage everyday expenses like rent, groceries, student loan payments, on top of other expenses is challenging. I know all this might be intimidating, but this is an exciting time in your life. And the good news is you can get a handle on your finances. Here are my top three tips to get you there. Live within your means. This is critical. Many people go into debt because they’re living like rock stars. The best way to live within your means is by creating a budget and tracking your spending. Once you know how much you need for essentials, like food, rent, savings, you can direct what’s left toward the fun stuff and decide if you’re willing to make the tradeoffs. Spend mindfully. You’re probably thinking what does that even mean? It means be aware of where your money is going and where you want it to go by setting goals, writing them down, and making sure that you spend accordingly. Save, save… and have I said save? Make saving a line item in your budget. It’s okay if you start by setting aside a few extra dollars each month. Just be sure you’re working toward saving for really important things, like building an emergency fund to prepare you for anything unexpected. Helping build a lifestyle you want, especially as you get older. Retirement may seem far off, but as a young person you have the advantage of growing money over time. And have fun. Go on a well-deserved vacation. You may feel like you’re a money novice now, but I promise you, if you dig in, it won’t be as tough as you think. It’s a life-long pursuit and you’re in the driver’s seat. You got this. For more suggestions, check out my Ask Carrie column.