I graduated. Congratulations are in order, am I right? Life is a breeze now: there is no more studying to worry about, there are no more due dates and no more roommates. You are going to find a job right away and life is going to be easier and breezier and you are going to be that fabulous adult that you always dreamed you would be.
Not so fast. Have you looked at your student debt? I am going to give you some friendly advice: if you are like most college graduates, when you log into your federal student loan portal you are in for an ugly surprise. Realizing that you owe thousands of dollars will be stunning and stressful. It will be overwhelming, but there will be help. You will establish a repayment plan and everything will be okay.
I have been out of college for about a year now. My senior year was kind of a blur: I can not even count how many jobs I applied to and how many phone interviews followed. What is even harder to keep track of is how many rejections I received from all of the companies I applied to. By the end of my senior year, I still did not have anything lined up. I had a degree in my hand and no career to apply it to. I felt so hopeless: I had paid thousands of dollars for an education that now seemed like a complete and utter waste.
I have taken a retail job to hold me over while I continue to search for a career that I love. Once I was made aware of the amount of student debt I was facing (and recovered from the panic attack that ensued), I promptly set up a student loan repayment plan and paid the minimum every month. It was a start- I strategically chose to pay the minimum so that I could continue to enjoy myself socially and spend money on other luxuries like clothing and a new pair of shoes every now and then. I thought to myself, “I am still young. It is okay to live paycheck to paycheck at this age. It is normal, is it not?” I lived this way for about six months. I would get a paycheck twice a month. The first took care of the bills and the second I called my “fun paycheck”, which I would use for the so-called luxuries and nights out with my friends.
One day, I logged into my financial portal and made an astonishing recognition: my bill eight months into my payments was exactly what it had started out as. I was putting money into paying off my student debt, but my student debt was keeping up. Interest continues to accumulate, people. IT CONTINUES TO ACCUMULATE.
I quickly realized that things needed to change. There could no longer be “fun” paychecks. If I continued to live in the moment, I would likely face the consequences in the future. I began to pay back my student loans in amounts greater than the minimum to try and catch up with the interest quicker. Dinners out with friends were limited to once every two weeks: not nearly as often as I necessarily wanted but enough to keep me from going crazy. I began grocery shopping once every two weeks as well. My biggest financial advice to anybody grocery shopping is this: make a list beforehand and stick to it. I began limiting myself to $25 a week for groceries and took out $30 of cash as additional spending money. That totaled about $220 per month, and the rest I obviously allocated to necessities such as car insurance, utility, internet and rent bills. I put what remained of my paychecks into a savings account.
This became a new way of life and even though it was and is still challenging, I have learned to love it. I am my own biggest competition, and having a cushion of money makes me feel so much more at ease. I am currently looking into investing part of my savings into a an annuity or mutual fund so that my money will earn some interest rather than sit in my bank account and fail to keep up with inflation. Struggling post-graduation has taught me how to be smart with my money and even though I am still struggling, I find comfort in the fact that I know how to be smart with my assets. I know that not everybody will find my approach suitable in relation to their lifestyle or given situation. However, it is important to learn not be the person who spends their money as they make it. I have been made aware of the cold, hard truth that is this: starting your life is not easy. We all have our financial difficulties, especially right out of college. Try your best to get ahead of the game! Remember how important it is to learn how to manage your money while you are still young. I wish all my fellow graduates the best of luck. Cheers.