After college graduation, life lessons abound. And one of the most important is learning how to manage your money well. Some individuals learn this skill through trial and error, but it’s a better idea to get informed and set up smart financial habits early. Follow our tips below to help you keep your finances on track.

  • Establish and follow a budget. It doesn’t sound fun, but sticking to a budget is the best way to stay on top of your money. Track your finances for three months to determine how much you spend in different categories, including housing, clothes, food, entertainment, debt payments, transportation, savings, and miscellaneous. Then prescribe a set amount to spend in each category monthly. Most important: Your income needs to exceed your total monthly planned expenses.
  • Use a credit care with benefits. Plenty of credit cards offer benefits. Find one that fits your needs best, whether it provides airline miles or cash rewards. Just remember to pay off your balance in full each month.
  • Pay your debt payments on time. All of them. If you’re repaying any type of loan, make sure to pay on time. Missing a loan payment can severely impact your credit score, which can affect your ability to make important purchases later on, like a home or car. You can learn more about your student loan repayment here.
  • Review your expenses regularly. Look through your credit or debt card statement periodically to see what you can eliminate from your spending habits. You may realize that you’re paying for a monthly subscription that you barely use, or visiting a certain coffee shop or store more than you want to be.
  • Secure additional income if needed. If you need additional funds to meet your monthly expenses, consider a part-time job to keep your budget in check. You can find something that fits within your schedule, such as evening or weeknight work, or explore non-traditional ways to gain some extra money, including secret shopper apps such as Field Agent and Rewardable and online job assignment sites like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.
  • Ask for a deal. If you’re paying too much for a service, such as cable or your cell phone, call the company and ask for a discount or less expensive package. It’s surprising what providers will offer to keep customers happy.
  • Make smart moving decisions. If you’re thinking of a long distance move, find out the cost of living in your new city, and learn how far your salary will stretch. Use a cost of living calculator such as this one as a guide.
  • Save for retirement. You can’t borrow money to pay for retirement, so you need to set funds aside now. If your employer offers a matching contribution, make sure you put enough into your plan to receive the full matching amount.