Now that college seniors are looking ahead to the next big step when it comes the wonderful world of professional life, I thought I’d do a little list of all the things I wish I knew when I was wide-eyed and thought that my $30,000 salary was the end of the rainbow finance-wise. I did SO many financially stupid things in my 20s, and wish I could go back and wring my non-wrinkled neck. Here I share my tips of what I wish I knew about both budgeting and work ethic! Start early, little ones! You got this, and it’s SO worth it!
Since I have to TON to tell my 22-year-old self (and those around me who were making mistakes), I broke this in to a 2-part series. Keep a look out for my post next week! It’ll have some great tips too!
Build Your Emergency Fund. Like, Seriously. I cannot even begin to tell you how many of my classmates got laid off their first year of work. I hate to tell you, baby girl, if you’re the last one to be hired, you’re also the easiest to lay off. Try your hardest to put enough in your savings account to cover your expenses for three months, ideally more like six. Hopefully this won’t happen to you, and you won’t ever touch this emergency fund, but you need to be prepared in case the worst happens! Also, use this fund (NOT a credit card) for any emergency that comes your way.
Things that are NOT emergencies include things like:
Make yourself irreplaceable at work. You’re less likely to get laid off if you have amazing work ethic. Frankly, you’re young and green, and really need to prove yourself in the professional world. Boss needs you to stay late, which means you’ll need to cancel on the girls’ happy hour? Deal with it. Sow your seeds now so you can pick your flowers later! Once you’re more established, you can certainly start to have better work/life balance, but for the first few years in the professional world, your main priority should be to establish yourself as the hard working, amazingly educated lady that you are. Always bring a notepad with you when your boss calls a meeting. Go the extra mile. You got this.
Save for Retirement. That’s right.. The one that’s not for another 45 years. You need to start contributing a little bit now, so you don’t have to aggressively save later. Does your job offer 401(K) matching? That’s free money! I would say save around 5-6% to your 401(K) AND try to put as much as you can annually in a Roth IRA (current maximum is $5,500), which will grow exponentially by the time you retire. The 401(K) money comes straight out of your paycheck, so you won’t even have to miss it! I know it’s difficult to start thinking about retirement when you’re just starting off, but I know so many people who waited too long to start savings, and will have to work until they’re well in their 70s. No one wants to do that!
Drink at home. That sounds bad. Drink at home with friends. There are a ton of great drink recipes on Pinterest (like these: Strawberry Citrus Vodka Cocktail.. AmIRight??) Boozey nights out at the bars get veryyyy expensive (the markup is sometimes 1000% or more), so channel your inner college days (which can’t be that distant of a memory!) and drink at home before heading out. Which brings me to my next point..
College is over. Only party on the weekends. Thirsty Thursday is over. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is tackier and more stereotypical than showing up to work with a hangover. I’m not saying that you can’t have fun. Just save it for when you don’t have to be at work the next day. These are the kinds of things employers will take in to consideration when certain positions are on the chopping block. Be thankful that you have a job, and own it. Trust me when I say, there are plenty of other people out there who would gladly take your position. You are not yet irreplaceable.
Learn to cook. Or don’t. Just don’t eat out all the time. An idiot-proof Annie’s Mac and Cheese with roasted broccoli makes a tasty and very inexpensive dinner at home. Roasted chick peas make a great and healthy snack… Pack your lunch for work too. Those $9 Chop’t salads for lunch really add up. More ideas? Take to Pinterest.
There are plenty more coming in my tips next week, but please pass this on to any college grad you know. I hate seeing so many people living in a manner that is above their means and completely regretting it later, when the time comes to buy a house or a car. This is not the economy our parents grew up in, so preparedness is of the utmost importance. I hope this information is helpful!