The transition period between college life and the professional world can be a formative time. It’s an opportunity to build a foundation for a healthy lifestyle during the next phase of your life. This includes your personal finances.
To start, you need to be in the financial mindset of saving. It’s easy to think that you won’t have enough money to save for goals or invest for retirement. Sometimes that is the case. But many people just need an honest assessment of their financial situation and spending habits to realize that they can afford to set aside some money every pay period.
To help you get into that mindset, define the things you need and build your finances around these expenses. Your needs should include: housing, food, utilities, insurance, savings, and debt repayment. And while charitable giving isn’t a necessity, once you start earning an income, consider giving to those in need. It doesn’t have to be much; any gift given from a grateful heart can have an impact. Whether it’s a church, ministry, or any other charitable organization, there are plenty of people in need and many causes that you can support.
The point isn’t to abstain from the things you want; the point is to make sure you have enough money for the things you need, to save money regularly, and to stay current with all debt repayments. Once you’ve set aside money for these things, you can spend money on the things you want without worry.
Once you have defined your needs, avoid adding regular expenses that you either don’t need or can’t cancel without penalty. For example, try finding free ways to exercise instead of joining a gym. Cable TV is fine if you can afford it — but find a service that doesn’t charge a penalty for canceling your subscription before the end of the agreement. This way, if you should need extra money in the short or long-term, you can cancel your subscription and divert the money you save to something else.
Avoiding new regular expenses also means avoiding more debt. The first big purchase many people make after graduation is a car. If you really need one, save until you can buy one with cash. It may take a while and you may not be able to afford as nice of a car as you would like, but taking on new debt adds an additional expense every month. Or, think of it this way: taking on more debt effectively decreases your income. The same is true of credit cards. The interest rates on those things can be financially crippling so be sure to pay off your balance after the end of each billing period.
These are just a few ideas that can help you get into the right financial mindset as you prepare to start your career and venture out into the professional world. A healthy financial lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a smart, personalized plan and dedication to see it through until you reach your goals.
Covenant Trust Company is a financial services company owned by the Evangelical Covenant Church and its affiliates. Our services are available to anyone in need of asset management, retirement planning, legacy planning, gift planning, or trust services. In addition, we seek opportunities to encourage and promote healthy financial habits, and keep a personal finance blog at www.covtrustblog.com.