You did it — you graduated from school. You are officially a bonafide member of society, and now, you are ready to show the world your worth... you just need to find a job, first. Figuring out how to find a job after graduation can be a struggle for even the best prepared, and not everyone lands one immediately. That's not a reflection on you or your abilities, of course — the job market is stiff, y'all — but it can make you feel stressed, especially when it comes to managing your finances. Saving money after graduation if you don't have a job just yet may seem daunting, but it's not impossible.
Just because you're an adult now with adult responsibilities doesn't mean your bank account has completely caught up yet. So how do you financially support yourself during that nebulous time period between graduation and finding an actual job? It's not as scary as you think. In fact, according to Coupons.com savings expert Jeanette Pavini, keeping your wallet in working order isn't hard — it just requires a little bit of creativity. "We don't do a great job at educating grads about budgeting money," Pavini tells Bustle, but with a few tips at your disposal, it's easy to continue living your daily life — meeting your friends at the bar for happy hour, included — and cut way back on how much you are spending.
You don't have to totally give up on the things you like for the sake of saving money. Here are six money-saving tips to help you survive after graduation, so you can spend more of your time focused on job searching, and less time worrying about where all your dollars may have disappeared to.
1. Write down everything you are spending money on
I don't want to throw out the word "budget" here, because even though I am almost a 30-year-old woman, that word personally terrifies me. But, Pavini says it's helpful to see exactly where your money is going on a weekly or monthly basis. "Write down every single possible thing you are spending money on, from coffee to rent," she says. "Literally go line by line and see how you can cut those items."
Of course, some costs are more flexible than others. For example, you probably aren't going to be able to shave pennies off your rent, unless you move someplace cheaper. But other line items like groceries and food are easy to adjust. In fact, Pavini says groceries are “probably the number one thing we waste the most money on.” Instead of just buying the first thing you see at the store, take some time to scope out what's actually on sale. Pick up a physical ad (they usually have them as you're walking into the grocery store), or check it out online. Pavini says you can save hundreds of dollars a month off your grocery bill — seriously, hundreds — just by shopping for food that's on sale.
2. Make your own lunches
Sometimes the lure of eating out is too strong to resist — I totally get it. But the simple act of brown bagging it (remember all those groceries you just bought?) can be a miracle for your budget. "You could pay $11 on a turkey sandwich and chips, or you could make it yourself and give yourself a $3,500-a-year raise," Pavini says. No need to tell me twice.
3. Investigate happy hour, and be smart about entertainment
You're already a happy hour wiz, so use this to your advantage. Drinks can be expensive, so find spots that offer a significant after-work discount, or two-for-one deals. It's unrealistic (and not really fair) to expect that your social life will suddenly come to a halt just because you are trying to save money, so be creative when it comes to finding corners you can cut financially. Want to see a show? Find out when certain theaters do dress rehearsals, and see if you can sit in for free. Many theaters also have special day-of ticket discounts too, so do your research.
4. Embrace coupons
"People assume coupons are just for things like cereal," Pavini says. "They’re for absolutely everything." Sites like Coupon.com offer up deals and coupon codes for everything you could possibly imagine, from shampoos and beauty products to things you don't want to spend money on but have to, like toothpaste and toilet paper. "Coupons are like cash, and you’ll save tremendously," Pavini says. Don't forget to sign up for loyalty programs at your favorite stores, too. There are riches to be gleaned here, people.
5. Don't pay full-price for things like haircuts
You're going to want to look your best for all those job interviews you are inevitably going to rack up, so don't feel like haircuts and manis are completely off limits. Instead, check out local beauty schools that offer these same services from professionals-in-training, but at a discount. You get a sweet and cheap haircut, they get a little extra practice. Everyone wins.
6. Use cash
Debit cards are convenient, but it can be easy to forget that you're spending money when you can't actually see it. "We charge a cup of coffee for $3.50 and don’t think about it," Pavini says. "Cash is huge." Figure out how much money you need for the week to spend on things like food and entertainment, and then take out that exact amount in cash. Use this to fund your week instead of your debit card. That way, you'll know exactly how much money you have left to indulge in more frivolous items, and you will be less likely to overspend.
Setting a budget for yourself may feel like a bummer at first, but it's a good practice to get into, especially when funds are low. And, when you finally do snag yourself that dream job, you'll already be well equipped to make that hard-earned and well-deserved money stretch even farther. Sounds like a good deal to me.
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