2 Years in the Real World: 6 Financial Lessons Learned

2 Years in the Real World: 6 Financial Lessons Learned

Looking back to high school and college, any money I made seemed to go towards makeup, clothes, eating out and drinks at the bar. I wasn’t worried about college loans, rent money, insurance and the whole laundry list of what it costs to be an independent adult. Then again, I was fortunate to have understanding parents that paid my college rent, let me drop my job for an unpaid internship (because I was going crazy) and would send me grocery money each week…can I get an amen?

Then the real world happened – I graduated college, was jobless for three months and then landed a digital marketing position in a city two hours from home. I signed the lease to my first “big girl” apartment and embarked on the journey of being financially independent from my parents. No doubt it was stressful, especially making entry-level salary. It’s been somewhat of a roller coaster, but if you’re just starting out, I hope these tips will help you keep your head on straight!

  1. Don’t make big purchases unless you KNOW you have the money for it. I made the mistake of purchasing a new MacBook last Christmas because the one I’ve had for five years is slow. Not even a week later, I had to put $500 into my car. Thankfully, I was able to return it and get my money back.
  2. If it’s functional, don’t replace it. I’ve learned to be fairly selective when it comes to spending my money on items. One of my roommates once complained about my small T.V., the ugly lamp in our living room (that my parents gave me for free) and the awful noise of the cutting board I bought, but I was in no position to make new arrangements for them. Why throw money out the window when you don’t need to? 
  3. Always be aware of your budget. If you need help putting one together, look no further than Lauren Greutman (check out her blog here!). I have a spreadsheet of what my expenses are for each month so that I know how much extra “spending money” I have. I also set up calendar alerts for when automatic payments are taken out for things like car insurance and college loans. That way, I won’t forget to check my bank account for sufficient funds.
  4. If you can’t build up your savings account, get a second job. I went about eight months in my job without a savings. Talk about scary! With making entry-level money, all my extra money went towards drinking with coworkers and stocking money away for my European backpacking trip. For two months, I contemplated whether or not getting a second job would be better. I didn’t want to give up my free time with an already busy schedule, but I didn’t see how I was going to get through the next few months without one. Within three months of working at the local YMCA, I was able to build up my savings to $1,000. I felt much better knowing that I had emergency money in case anything happened, and hey, it wasn’t so bad for the short term.
  5. Credit cards — be smart, not careless. When you graduate college, you can expect to be bombarded with different credit card offers in the mail. It’s important to not only limit your use of credit cards, but also the amount because it can get out-of-hand keeping track of it all. The more cards you have, the easier it is to want to put money on them. Personally, I love the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card and Citi Simplicity credit card. My mom recommended both to me and I love them because you not only earn cash back, but you have the first 15 months on Chase and 18 months on Citi to pay everything off without interest. This was extremely helpful when purchasing items to prep my apartment for move-in. Just make sure you don’t overload them and set up a plan to pay them off in time.
  6. Write down your limitations for eating out (and coffee). I don’t know about you, but where I work, I’m a walk away from amazing food. Not to mention the Starbucks I have to walk by every day to get to the office. It’s SO tempting to stop there each morning. But I found that writing down the maximum amount I can purchase every week helps. For example, my goals are to eat out only once a week for lunch and dinner and limit coffee to two times a week. By writing it down and keeping a mental note of it, I’ve found that I’m much more conscience and have been sticking to it fairly well.

Let’s face it. Being almost broke in your 20’s is not fun. Don’t forget to live a little fun and splurge on experiences, because in the end that’s what really matters. I hope you found these tips to be useful!

How do you cut back on spending? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!



Author: Lauren Taylar

Lauren Taylar is a digital marketer and blogger. She is a graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations. When she’s not volunteering her time with Make-A-Wish, you can find her reading a travel magazine and sipping a glass of hard cider or wine.


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