The Best Budgeting Tools for College Seniors & Recent Graduates
This spring marks FOUR years since my graduation from the University of Oklahoma. I can’t believe it! The first year out, I lived in Nashville and time seemed to fly by. But in the years since, I feel like life has gone by even faster – a move back to Oklahoma, buying my first house, and growing my business have been a few of the “mountain top” moments since!
One of the things I’ve tried to commit to since joining the real world is budgeting. I attempted to budget in some way, shape, or form since I turned 18, but in all honesty, nothing has ever really stuck or been all that helpful. I know as a college senior, it can be intimidating to have to figure out and plan your finances when it’s your first time making a full-time salary, paying for everything (don’t even get me started on insurance…), and having to keep track of it all. I know I still have a lot to learn about all of this, but I figured I would share three tools I’ve found helpful in my own journey!
The Best Budgeting Tools for College Seniors
Mint has been LIFE CHANGING for me when it comes to budgeting tools. 2018 was the first year I used Mint for all 12 months and I am so glad to have that information as a foundation for my 2019 goals. Moment of truth here – I don’t think I was ever able to actually stay under budget last year. But now that I have a full 12 months of spending tracked and labeled, I am able to set more realistic goals for myself, see patterns and where I could practically cut back, and start making wiser choices moving forward, knowing what my habits are. For 2019, I also implemented rollover budgets for a few of my spending categories within Mint. For example, if I go over one month in my food budget, I have to spend less than what I originally planned for the next month, knowing that I need to scale back in order to stay on track for the year. This helps me with more of a long-term budgeting mindset.
One of the great things about Mint is that I can also attach my Digit account (keep reading to know more about this one!), my investment accounts, and my bills to see everything in one place!
Mint Tip – I check my account almost daily (at the very least, every 2-3 days) and make sure I’m up-to-date on all the labels of my spending. Since I pay for almost everything with a card, this works well and is less cumbersome than paying with cash. Sorry Dave Ramsey. A few of the labels I use (I keep things pretty general) are: bills & utilities, food & dining (I separate within this category for eating out vs. groceries), gifts & donations, gas & fuel, shopping, etc.
Digit is an automatic savings service that uses an algorithm to take a look at your spending habits and set aside small amounts of money from your checking account every few days. I also like that it sends me a daily text with my checking account balance AND I am not actually seeing this money in my regular bank accounts after it’s saved. I can save for very specific goals (currently have one set for my future wedding photographer! Yeah, I’m that girl.), pause savings, add more to the balance, etc. It’s an effortless and mindless way to save money over time, plus, you can earn savings bonuses.
Get $5 for free when you sign up and connect your account!
Online Finance Bloggers & Resources like Natalie Bacon & Career Contessa
These are my go-to’s for quick and understandable budgeting and finance advice. Of course, you can’t go wrong with Dave Ramsey too, but I found that I resonated a lot with Natalie and Career Contessa, especially since their advice is geared towards millennials. They also have a lot of specific advice for entrepreneurs and creatives.
A few other tips, if you haven’t already considered them:
- Ask people who are older than you what they use to budget, how they’ve saved money over time, and any advice they have about investing.
- Buy off-brand items. And DITCH Target (GASP – I know.) I recently switched over to Walmart for groceries & am utilizing the Walmart App for grocery pick-up – I save time, I don’t ever have to go in the store, I’m not tempted to buy things I don’t need, and I get to compare prices a lot more efficiently. They’re also just cheaper in general. Sorry not sorry, Target!
- Don’t spend what you don’t have (!!!!!!)
- Find new ways to hang out with friends that don’t involve having to take out your wallet. Go for a walk if the weather is nice, play a game, or sit on a patio and chat! If you’re not ready to give up your coffee or lunch dates, set a limit for yourself each week for how many times you’ll eat out. I try to keep it to under 3x a week.
One of my mantras in life is micro-changes lead to macro results, and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to my experience with budgeting and saving money! What budgeting tips or advice do you have for college seniors, or friends who are just a few years out of school?
While you’re here, be sure to check out more resources for college seniors here!
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