When you're a new college graduate beginning your graduate degree, it can be hard to feel in control of all of the changes you're experiencing. You might be in a new city, have a new apartment, or may have taken over bills and responsibilities you didn't have before. Although it can be tempting to pretend these new responsibilities don't exist, it can really pay to be in-the-know about your banking, savings, loans or other debts, and taxes.
My husband and I recently experienced this first-hand. After I graduated from my undergraduate university last May, we got married just three weeks later and then moved to Boston a few months later for my graduate school. Although he had been out of college for a while, it was our first time being responsible for ALL of the bills that came our way. Moving from a small city in the south to Boston was a big increase in cost-of-living. To top it all off, we had all of my undergraduate debt hanging over our heads and my graduate loans were already adding up. Our financial situation was getting overwhelming, and we needed to figure things out quickly.
We began reading personal finance books, talking to our bank representative, and learning more about our tax options. From our research we learned that budgeting and thoroughly understanding your cash flow is the biggest way to control your financial situation. Although we cannot stop the bills from coming in, we now have a solid understanding of where our money is going each month and can make informed decisions about how much we need to save each month. After speaking with the company that manages my student loans, we were able to learn about interest payments. Although I knew that the interest was already accruing, I had no idea that we could start paying towards interest without affecting my ability to get loans in the future. We automatically began paying for that and keep up with it every month. When you receive new loans or return any excess loan money, always check on what your new daily rate you should be paying for interest. This will keep the accrued interest at bay, meaning you won't have to pay even more once you graduate. Additionally, you can receive a tax break for paying on student loan interest. In fact, we learned many things during tax season that helped us maximize our tax refund. By filing jointly as a married couple, we were in different tax brackets that helped us save a ton compared to filing separately. Additionally, in Massachusetts you can receive money back for paying rent and for purchasing your public transportation pass. Details can be found on tax refunds in each state, but we could write off 1/2 of our rent up to a certain amount, and all of our public transportation passes up to a certain amount. Every dollar really counts, and whoever is preparing your taxes probably won't take the time to tell you about these things. In fact, some of our friends had been living in Massachusetts for almost a decade and didn't realize these tax write-offs were available to them.
Bottom line, asking questions and researching personal finance, loans, and taxes can really save you money in the long run. You can budget, use appropriate banking for your situation, stay on top of interest to prevent it from accruing, and maximize your tax refund. A few hours of research can pay off big and can set you up to be in control of your finances.