For a lot of graduates, managing their money typically involves opening their banking app once a month, wincing, and doing a quick back-of-an-envelope calculation. The problem is, while university is great for career development, most graduates enter the world of financial responsibility a little unprepared.
Getting a grip on your finances doesn’t need to be difficult though. Whether your bank balance is in the black or the red, we’ve got you covered with our guide on the best ways to manage your money after graduation.
The road to a happy bank balance starts with a budget. Establishing exactly how much you've got coming and out each month might be a little daunting, especially if you've not landed a job after university yet. Nevertheless, having a plan and sticking to it lets you know what you can and can't afford in a month without guesswork.
Begin with writing down your monthly income. If you've already got a job or you've got one lined up, this will be your monthly salary minus tax, national insurance, and your student loan repayments. You can figure out your take-home pay with an online calculator.
If you're not yet working and are on government benefits, use this as your income for now. And don't forget to add any income from your side hustle. While it's tempting to treat this as "play" money, your future self will thank you for factoring it in.
Next, list your monthly expenses. Be honest and overestimate here as anything left over will simply build your bank balance and help you avoid the dreaded overdraft.
University life will have already prepared you somewhat for the kinds of outgoings you can expect but these will include:
● Rent/mortgage: whether it's a mortgage, rent, or Mom and Dad's board, this will likely be your biggest single outgoing.
● Utility bills: electricity, gas, water, council tax, your phone bill and anything else essential should go here.
● Food: you'll want to budget around 10% of your monthly income for food, which, for some, will mean getting creative or maybe opening the takeaway app a little less often.
● Transport: unless you're working from home, you're likely going to need to budget for transport costs. This includes public transport, taxis, or car costs, as well as parking.
● Debt: payday loans, credit cards, that tenner you owe your mate, factor it all in and figure out how much your debt will cost a month.
● Savings: Having a bit of money behind you is not only useful in life but also takes a lot of the stress out of situations. Starting to save right after graduation takes the sting out of unexpected expenses or gives you a headstart on a house down payment.
● Fun (important): life isn't all work and no play, try to budget around 20% of your income for holidays, going out with friends, and treating yourself once in a while.
How you track your budget will depend largely on the technology you’re familiar with and how much fine-grained control you want.
For the Excel fans, a spreadsheet is a good way to go, giving you the freedom to SUM, pivot, and sort to your hearts content. A spreadsheet is a little more manual than other methods but is also the most customisable, giving you the ability to micro-track everything should you so wish. There are plenty of great free budget spreadsheets for graduatesand others online should you not want to make your own.
Budget apps typically connect to both your phone and your bank account, tracking your spending and sorting expenses into categories. This is useful to give an overview of your spending habits and make sure your bullet allocations are on point.
It might not be for everyone but some people swear by manually figuring out your incomings and outgoings with a pen and paper. Despite not automatically sorting or categorising, this method does help focus your attention on your spending, especially useful when on a tight budget.
While graduation might symbolise the start of a career for most graduates, there’s no better time to think about retirement. As well as your state and workplace pension, you can also look into placing some money into a private pension. Apps such as PensionBee and PenFold now make it easy to boost your retirement fund with regular, monthly contributions that can be managed easily in a way you’re used to.
Don’t forget about your emergency fund either. While your laptop might be fine now, it’s one spilt cup of tea away from disaster. Setting money aside for essentials now does yourself a favour down the line.
Everyone's financial situation is different so the advice in this guide is something that will need to be personalised to your own situation. Despite that, the broad strokes of budgeting for graduates remains the same: pay the essentials, shrink your debt, grow your savings, and don’t forget to enjoy life a little while you’re here.
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