How To Budget The First 3 Years Out of College.

I wish a college graduate didn’t have to budget every penny. I wish as soon as I walked across the stage, I was guaranteed a position where I was making six figures. But alas, the real world doesn’t care so much about your education. Employers are looking for one thing: experience. So even though you just spent a ton of money on school to prepare you for that specific job, you won’t get it because you don’t have enough work experience. Instead, you will get some tiny job that barely pays the bills and you will begin kicking yourself for majoring in something like English. I can say this because that’s my major. Shout out to all you English majors out there, we are in this together. So here’s a quick guide to how to budget your money for all you college graduates out there that can’t get a real job yet. Trust me, it’s possible even if you make very, very little.


Calculate your monthly earnings.

Step one, figure out how much money you make a month. Step two, try not to cry. It’s important to take into account days off for holidays and sick days if you are paid hourly. If you are paid a yearly salary, I have one thing to say to you: must be nice.

Calculate your monthly costs.

This includes everything. From rent, to gas, to groceries, to prescriptions, to dog or cat food. Everything that you need should go into this price. No, you don’t need those super cute boots. Put them down and step away from the shoe store. Subtract the monthly necessities amount from your monthly earnings.

Calculate your extra spending money.

Now, you can start to add up the extras. This is the hard part. Because after you see how much money you have left over for “extras,” it’s really not a lot. But there will always be extras in your life. A beer with friends. A birthday present for your dad. A trip to the vet because your dog got a splinter in its paw. (Yes, it happens. And yes, it’s expensive.) Add up what you think you have to spend on extras and subtract it from the already small amount of money you have left over from your monthly necessities. Now, here’s the tricky part: don’t go over this amount! When it comes to extras, they are all fun and games until you max out your credit card and get into even more debt. Practice self-control. Like I said, you don’t need those super cute boots and if they don’t make it to the extras category, then it just wasn’t meant to be.

Calculate your savings.

My dad is so big on saving money. Like so, so big. He is always hounding me about putting 20% away and blah blah blah. I’m all, Dad, I can barely afford rent let alone put 20% of my funds away. Instead, after you have subtracted the monthly and extra costs from your monthly earnings, you will put any leftover money away into savings. I don’t care if you have 40% or 4% of your monthly earnings away into savings. Savings are savings. It’s good to start somewhere.




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12 thoughts on “How To Budget The First 3 Years Out of College.

  • What a great post you have written here and I am going to bookmark it and show all the new grads in our family. I have had 4 daughters graduate, 2 that have followed your guidelines and 2 that had to learn the hard way. All is well now, but many challenging times could have been avoided early on if they had followed these guidelines you write. Yes, mom and dad did tell them pretty much the same thing, but it is sometimes better for college students to hear it from their peers, from a friend or mentor, or find it in their research 🙂 Thanks.

  • I am on a limited income, and I have done all these steps, except the savings part. I think I will try, even if it is only $5/mo. Thank you. Vicki

  • These are good tips! I think they should be used at all stages of life, not just after college.

  • sometimes it is so hard getting a start after college.Your tips are helpful but remember being on a budget is something that most established people have to do.

  • We are a one income family of four so we have to budget and the steps you listed here is really close to way we do it too.
    It is bad that families spend so much on college or someone graduates and then has 10 years worth of debt but can’t find a job to pay off the college education. Really sad.

  • Lots of good tips! Need to share with my niece!

  • I agree with your dad too, but I can’t do it and I am not fresh out of college! My best advice is to try and live beneath your means. It is hard, I am an impulse buyer. So I just cannot watch shopping networks and such. But your tips are great and I have printed them out for my son who is now a junior!

  • When I was in college I received a job offer before I graduated, so that upon graduation I was employed. Yes, it was in my field and I was lucky. I also had parents who were both in the accounting field so I learned why I should save and how to save money. For those who didn’t have this in their lives, this article may be helpful. 🙂

  • Wow, I remember how hard this time was. I will pass this advice to my daughter so she can have an easier time than me!

  • What a great post. Definitely going to show this to my recent graduate!

  • This is so important to do when leaving college, and not overextending yourself by using credit cards and going in debt. With everything costing so much, it is important to stick to a budget. Great tips on this post for anyone with kids.


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