You graduated college. YAY! You graduated high school, and got into a college -- where you'll be spending the best four years of your life -- YAY! After the graduation parties, job hunting, and teary goodbyes are over, it's time to figure out the heavy stuff: finances. How much debt are you going to be in? Do you need a cosigner on your loan? Is there an app for this!?!? (Yes, there is -- stay tuned.)
During my research on this ever-so-daunting topic, I spoke with Brendan Coughlin, President of Education Finance at Citizens Bank, to help clarify some of the most confusing parts of these topics. Here are all of the tips I got from him, a real professional on student loans.
- Create a budget. This is your time to really look in the mirror, take a deep breath, and realize how much money you should be spending on food truck drunchies at 3 a.m. You should be writing down everything you spend, and keeping track of how you spend. Then, create a spending diet for yourself, to "trim the fat", or cut down on your expendable income. You're about to be on your own -- this goes for grads going in and out of college; either way, you'll need a different budget -- and being realistic about your spending is important.
- Create a savings plan. The most important lesson for students to learn. according to Coughlin, is to only use credit for necessity. If you build up on your credit the smart way, it will make everything in your life easier for the future. The next 10 to 15 years are full of growth spurts and growing pains -- Hello Adulthood, I see you've brought your good friend, Rent -- which requires a couple of pennies saved in the bank.
- If you have a job, save it. Save at least 10 to 20 percent of every paycheck from your job. I was working a minimum-wage job at school as a work study student, and earned about $320 a month. If I saved at least $60 every month, I would've had some nice spring break memories to reflect on.
- When it comes to loans, do your homework. If you have to take out student loans -- believe me, you are not alone, and everyone has questions -- do you homework and prepare before you go off to school. Plenty of banks have affordable interest rates that you can adjust. And make sure you get a cosigner for your loans! This will get you a lower interest rate, and will make for easier and cheaper loan payments once you get out of school.
- Get an app! Here is the fun part, finally: get an app for your smartphone to keep track of your spending! First off get the basics: almost every bank has an app for its customers nowadays. Find that app and keep track of your accounts on the go. Then get the free version of the following three: Mint, Budgee, and Visual Budget. All three of these apps break down financials easily and clearly, and aren't too complicated.