Personal Finance Cheat Sheet For New Grads

POPSUGAR Photography | Matthew Barnes
POPSUGAR Photography | Matthew Barnes

When you're trying to get your bearings as a new graduate, it's hard to know how to manage your personal finances. Here are some quick tips to get newly minted graduates started on a journey to better finances:

  • Read a book. Get your feet wet in the world of personal finance by picking up a book. Ramit Sethi's I Will Teach You to Be Rich is the perfect book for those in their early 20s. You'll be surprised at how entertaining (yet useful!) a personal finance book can be.
  • Make sure your health is covered. Health is wealth, and good insurance will protect you from unexpected medical charges. Under the Affordable Care Act, you get to stay on your parents' plan until you turn 26. However, if that's not an option and you don't have a job yet, then look at your school's insurance plan to see when it ends. Sometimes you can extend your student coverage. Here are other ways to shop for your own insurance.
  • Tackle your debt. Many new grads struggle through the question of whether to tackle their debt or save. It really depends on each situation and what you feel comfortable with, as well as what makes sense for you. However, prioritizing debt now can save you a lot of interest down the road. There are many different strategies to paying down debt — you can tackle debts with the highest interest rates first (avalanche method) or the ones that are easily paid off (snowball method) — so pick one that works best for you.
  • Track your money. Start managing and tracking your spending in the method you prefer. You can use sites like Mint, start recording expenses in an Excel sheet, or download the free app iXpense Lite. You'll become more aware of how much you're spending, which will help make you more mindful when you're spending money.
  • Live within your means. Living within your means doesn't have to mean eating beans and rice and staying in on the weekends. There are plenty of ways you can live frugally and still enjoy life. Save in some areas so you can indulge in others, but be smart about what you're spending your money on.
  • Save for the future. Think ahead, and start saving for retirement. The younger you start, the more compounding interest — the interest that accrues on both your initial deposit and the accumulated interest — will work to your advantage. Max out your 401k (or, at the very least, match what your company is willing to contribute), set up an IRA, and start setting aside money for emergencies.