Home > Lifestyle > 6 Money Tips for College Graduates

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. What I wish I would have done in college (and buy default as soon as I graduated) was to track my expenses and start a budget. It took me way too long to figure that one out.

    After that I wish I would have understood the power of savings rate earlier. The more that you save now, the easier everything becomes down the road.

    And finally, I wish I would have learned about investing a lot earlier than I did.

    • I really didn’t start doing those things in earnest until very recently. While I try not to regret, it does make me wish I had been more focused in the beginning.

  2. I would give myself the tips you mentioned above. Once you get in the mindset of buying new things, you go down the slippery slope of lifestyle creep. Try your hardest to keep living like you are in college for as long as you can. It may sound strange, but in 10 years when your finances are 20 years ahead of your peers, you’ll thank yourself.

    • Very good point. The longer you can live like a broke student, the longer you get to be free from the grind later on.

  3. Great tips Kim! I would suggest all of these myself, especially the avoiding payments point. I think some graduates may not realize how quickly those payments will add up, I know I certainly didn’t. I would also add that having fun can include things that are not expensive. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have fun, and I was so guilty of that.

  4. Getting health insurance should be priority number one. Of course, in our current health care system most college grads can just piggyback on their parents until they get a full-time job with benefits. I think getting a handle on your student loans and at minimum realizing how much they will be each month is a big first step to take with getting your finances in order after graduation.

  5. Spot on tips Kim. Wish I would have followed some of these when I was getting out of college, but can’t change the past. I would say my mistakes were great life lessons though.

  6. I think the biggest thing that hits college grads the most is student loans. While in school, kids know about the loans and they know that they’ll have to start repaying them, but the true reality of that doesn’t really hit home until that first statement arrives. That can be pretty harsh. Doing advance planning for that is numero uno in terms of importance.

    • I agree, students don’t get the reality until the first bill shows up. I’m not sure if it’s because they’ve never really had bills or what, but it was a bit shocking for me.

  7. Great post! Luckily I have lived on my own since the day after I graduated from high school, so graduating from college wasn’t that different for me since I still had the same bills to pay. Make a budget and don’t live off of the salary amount. Taxes are a lot higher than you think!

    • That would certainly make you more responsible. My parents still paid for things like insurance and car repairs for me until I was done with school. That was certainly an eye opener how expensive those things were.

  8. I wish I had seen this post when I graduated from college 🙂 Could’ve saved me some money! Great tips Kim!

    • Even if I’d seen it, there is no reason to believe I would have followed it. I thought I knew more than most people back then. I realize I’m actually pretty dumb, but I’m getting smarter by the day.

  9. My first priority is to start a 401K! Once started I can always raise my contribution. I would rank my student loans by interest rates and make an effort to pay off the highest interest first. I would keep a very low lifestyle as if I were broke until I saw how I handles my expenses.

  10. Great tips, Kim. Such an important point to make about health insurance that is too often neglected. Thanks for this!

  11. Excellent advice, Kim. When we graduate from college we feel on top of the world and invincible, but if we don’t manage our money properly, we’re actually pretty vulnerable. I wish all graduates and their parents had these tips to help guide them.

    • I certainly felt that way. I wish I’d know or thought to figure some of this out before buying lots of stuff and getting into debt.

  12. I’d tell myself to hold out for a better job!

  13. Mostly, I needed to learn in college not to buy stupid stuff, like the $200 computer case.

  14. Invest! buy a house if you can afford it, something small, just to stop paying rent. Invest in your retirement fund, and in the stock market. Time will work in your favor.

  15. I was surprised when I graduated that many of my classmates (myself included) really lacked direction. Our parents, friends and advisers told all of us to do what we love. We didn’t work hard enough to figure out whether or not that and the degree we received would actually translate into a real job. I got lucky but, many of my friends are still unemployed.

    Perhaps more important than getting the right loans, finding a preferred interest rate, cutting spending, saving, and taking part time work at school is figuring out what you want to do and making sure you can actually do it.

    Not to poke fun at anyone but, the university I went to had a pop culture major. Aside from the highly dedicated members of that group, how many actually received job offers? I am incredibly impressed by my colleagues in the history major but, who’s hiring history majors right now?

    It’s all about finding that balance between something you love, like or find you’ll probably grow to love and what will actually translate to a career. I’m not talking about what’s the hot market now but, something that actually is a career and will be a career. The minor, extra curricular, study abroad, clubs and volunteer work will allow for that exciting, outside the box experience.

    • I agree there are some pretty stupid majors and classes for that matter. They actually offer a class at the local university called “The Psychology of Pornography.” Really, unless you are going into smut mag publishing or adult film production, is that something that is going to help your career?

  16. Really good tips! I’d say learn to cook! You can save so much money over eating out and be healthier too. Freeze leftovers for night’s you don’t feel like cooking. Yes, live like a broke college student as long as you can. Get an emergency fund going for when, not if, you are between jobs–it happens. Pay a low amount of rent, sharing a place if at all possible. Take public transportation if you can or share a ride. Take your lunch to work and skip the Starbucks. Make your own coffee!!!

  17. I`ll be graduating next year, so these are great advice. I do already have a decent savings account for a mortgage downpayment that I`ve been saving in for 4 years already!

  18. You hit the nail on the head with “Start Saving for Retirement” NOW! When we graduate college we don’t think of retirement since we are “starting” our life. But, studies show the earlier you start the better off you are (time value of money). Anyhow, it is easier to get into the habit of stashing a larger percentage of your salary in 401k, stock options, additional savings, etc. The first step I suggest all college grads who get a job to do is sign up for 401K immediately and start at 10% of your salary. Each year move it up a percentage or equal to the merit base raise you get.

    Most college grads will leave their first job onto a second but starting to save for retirement with your first employer will follow you to the 2nd, 3rd, etc.

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