New College Grads: 6 Financial Tips

Congratulations! You made it through college successfully! And that’s no small feat with ADHD!

Maybe you are living at home for a while as you look for that first job, or maybe you are trying to “make it” somewhere else. You might be considering grad school, or possibly you have decided you’ll never set foot in school again. Whatever profile fits you, you are in good company if you feel confused or concerned about your finances moving forward.

Young graduates have many questions and uncertainties when embarking on their new careers. They may find it difficult to make choices about their budgets, spending patterns and general money management when they don’t know how much money they will be earning. So, many questions arise:

  •  How can I arrange my spending with so much income uncertainty?
  • What is a good job to accept?
  • Am I being offered a fair salary? 
  •  Should I refuse part-time work when I need full-time work?
  • Should I accept a temporary job when I want a permanent one?

Guest blogger and financial consultant Dr. Joel Lang ( offers six no-nonsense tips for new grads wondering how to manage their money while searching for that first job. 

1. Spending

When your income is uncertain or non-existent, spending has to be severely limited. Housing is the most expensive part of most budgets, so it’s best to live at home or with a relative. Frugality is the rule – eliminate all discretionary spending. Make clear distinctions between ‘wants’ and ‘needs.’ Here are some specific recommendations:

  • Do not sign a lease
  • Do not buy a car – an old used one is best, but only if absolutely necessary
  • Absolutely do not lease a car – no one should do this
  • Do not eat out – pack a lunch
  • Eliminate alcohol and tobacco use – too expensive
  • Socialize by visiting, not spending
  • Do not use credit cards or student loan money to live – use cash only
  • Be critical of every spending item

Once you have obtained employment, you can revisit some of the recommendations above and make some changes, but slowly and very gradually. 

2. A good job

The definition of a good job is the one you have when you don’t have another. While you may have career ambitions and goals, you have to pay the bills today before you can plan for tomorrow. The best time to be looking for a job is when you already have one. Statistically, in a lifetime, the average person will change jobs 10 times and change careers 3 times. Where you start out often has little correlation with where you will wind up. Life is full of surprises.    

3. Fair Salary

If you are lucky enough to get a job in your field, then you should have some idea what a fair “starting” salary should be. If it is less than you expected, you might take the job anyway – you gain the experience, expand your resume and can move up or on when the opportunity presents. If the job you find is not in your field, but it pays a salary, then accept it and look for alternatives while your bills are getting paid.

4. Temporary or Part Time?

In a job market where full-time work in your field of study is herd to find, temporary work can be the entry to permanent employment. Part-time work can transform to full time. If not, you can use your spare time to seek additional or alternative employment.

5. Income and Budgeting

As you can see, income is primary. Budgeting comes after you have something to budget. In this uncertain job market, having a job, any job, is a valuable, even precious thing.Then, you base your budget on your income.

6. Family Responsibilities

Relationships are naturally important. Yet, having people dependent upon you is an additional burden to career building and limits your choices and freedoms. Some family obligations are imposed upon us and are beyond our choosing: we may have to care for parents or siblings which we do because it is necessary. However, where the choice exists, personal relationships, such as marriage and children, should sensibly be postponed until some stability has been achieved in your life. That is not to say that doing otherwise has not been successful for some, it is just a matter of probability.
These guidelines are general recommendations based on the author’s experience, and of course there have been many who have taken the “road less traveled” and yet achieved financial success. Ultimately, we all have to make our own choices and thereby enjoy the journey and accept its burdens.

Despite the financial, and other, uncertainties, of young adulthood, it is likely that later on, when you look back at this time, you will find it was the most exciting in your life!

photo credit: anankkml,

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