Adulting 101: A How-To Guide for a Bright Financial Future

Graduating from high school, college, or vocational school is an exciting time; one in which it feels like the world is your oyster. After years of hard work and dedication, a variety of opportunities and experiences are now available to you. Regardless of your plans after graduation, the next step in your journey can be a bit confusing – especially in regards to your finances. These budgeting tips for new grads of any kind can help assure a bright financial future, so get to studying!

  • Make sure your banking affairs are in order. Before heading off to college or moving to a different city for your first professional job, be sure you have everything you’re looking for in a bank – specifically a checking account and savings account. Take advantage of all of the tools and resources your bank has, including secured debit cards, online tools, mobile banking apps, like First Bank On The Go, and other banking tools to conveniently manage your money and accounts at any time. Also, save yourself some hassle, and consider keeping your checking and savings accounts with one bank. Outside of simplicity and convenience, there are other great benefits to banking with one single financial institution. A banking relationship goes beyond graduation as a banker can get to know you and your financial goals and offer a more unique, personalized service based on your financial needs.
  • Understand the importance of personal finance. Any time is a good time to learn the basic principles of personal finance. Learn how credit cards work (and how to use them wisely), the features of your debit card beyond swiping at the store, how to balance your accounts, how to bank online, and how to avoid costly fees during this exciting, new time in your life. Understand the difference between your credit card and debit card as well as how to handle your finances responsibly. Factors of personal finance may differ between a high school graduate and a college graduate, but whether you’re understanding the differences between your cards and accounts, considering health or renter’s (or even home) insurance, or even establishing your credit, it’s important to gain valuable insights into your personal habits and what’s needed to maintain financial responsibilities.
  • Set a budget. Perhaps one of the most important elements of personal finance is setting up a budget. Are you a high school graduate planning on going to college? Not only will you need to add your school expenses into your budget, but consider the costs of books, housing, food, and more when creating your budget. Still need help figuring out how to pay for college? Consider helpful tips here that include information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), work-study programs, and more. Or maybe you’ve just graduated college and are preparing to take on your first post-grad, professional job. While you may have budgeted for utilities, rent, and the like during college, things could change and your budget will need to adjust accordingly. Now is also the time you’ll start paying back any student loans you had taken out to pay for school. As you draft your post-grad budget to scrutinize your spending beyond rent/utilities/groceries, keep in mind other categories including transportation, student loans, insurance, savings, and even the fun things like clothing and entertainment.
  • Prioritize spending to coincide with your future financial goals and plans. There are generally four basic financial goals people work toward; retirement, an emergency fund, a major expense (like a home or car), and paying off debt(s). Just as everyone’s goals and dreams are different, timelines may differ as well. Saving for those major expenses is typically more of a long-term goal and comes after paying down some debt and having an adequate emergency fund. As you reach your goals, shift your priorities to focus on the next goal.
  • Have some frugal fun! College campuses have plenty of free and inexpensive activities and events for students. College and vocational school graduates can find cheap activities throughout their communities; use resources like the local library, local chambers of commerce or industry groups, and more. When creating your budget, leave a little room to allow yourself some funds to have some fun. Get creative and have fun without breaking the bank or overspending on a credit card.