Everyone knows that after graduation, there’s a lot you need to do. One of the most important things you can do is learn to be smart with your money. Whether you already have a job, or you’re looking for one after school is out, here are some money tips to help you stay ahead.

1. Pay Yourself First


Image via Flickr by Molly DG

It’s hard to put money into savings. However, once you’ve started a savings account, it becomes easier to continue. You know you have to pay your bills, but it’s also important to pay yourself. Open a savings account and make sure to put some money in it each paycheck. Set an amount that you can reasonably do without for each pay period, and put it aside. Remember, even that $20 you would have spent on a restaurant helps grow your wealth if you save it.

2. Match Your 401(k)

If you already have a job, find out if they offer a 401(k). Many companies not only have these available for employees, but also will match your contribution. It’s a good idea to contribute the full amount that they will match. So, if they’re willing to match up to $500 per paycheck, contribute $500 each pay period. This will double your savings for retirement. Think of it as free money for the future. Plus, one of the great things about a 401(k) is that it is pretax money, which means you won’t get taxes taken out of your paycheck until after this, and other pretax items, have been deducted.

3. Create an Investment Portfolio

Whether you want to have some extra money in five years or twenty, you need to do something about it today. When you start investing, you’re making your money work for you. Whether you put together your own investment portfolio or you work with an advisor, consider having one or more annuity. With a diverse investment portfolio, you’re planning for your future, and ensuring that it is more secure than your financial situation today. There are plenty of tools available like the annuity calculator by Fisher Investments that can help you keep track of your money, so you can always have that sense of security.

4. Build a Plan to Pay Off Debt

When you’re first out of school, most students start thinking about how they’re going to have to pay their student loans. However, while many worry about this, most don’t actually do anything about it. Student loan payments can be a few hundred dollars up to nearly a thousand dollars a month, depending on where you went to school, and how long it took. Because of this, it’s extremely important to put together a plan for how you will repay this loan.

Figure out exactly what you can afford to pay on your student loans each month. If you don’t have a job yet, or are otherwise unable to pay your loan, don’t just let it be. You can set up a hardship deferment or other payment arrangements with your creditors. Remember, if you let your loans go without making other arrangements, it will hurt your credit and your ability to get loans in the future.

5. Learn to Create and Live by a Budget


Image via Flickr by Keith Ramsey

Do you know how to make a budget? There are several sites that can help you with this task. However, you need to understand your budget before you can live by it. Make sure that when you are creating a budget, you create it in a way that allows you to pay your bills and still live as comfortable as possible. If you realize after making the budget that there isn’t enough money to go around, figure out where you can cut corners.

The most important thing with creating a budget is actually sticking to it. Many people have trouble living by their budgets after they have made them. In the first few months, you may find yourself tweaking the budget to better fit your life. However, try not to go over budget on activities all the time, or you’ll quickly find yourself without any money.

6. Take Care of Your Health

What does your health have to do with your finances? Well, if you’re unhealthy and continue supporting your unhealthy habits, you’re going to end up with tons of medical bills. Even if you have great insurance, medical bills can pile up. If you don’t have insurance at all, it’s even more difficult. Get regular checkups, so that you can catch any possible problems before they get too big.

One of the most difficult things about being an adult is dealing with finances. However, with a few tricks you can ensure that your financial future is bright.