Hello! My name is Jonathan and I am the founder of CentsToShare.com. I have recently entered the workforce, but am essentially debt free and working toward a life of self-employment through blogging and other related areas. I enjoy saving money, being self-reliant and learning new things.
College and post-college years can be some of the most difficult times of your life when it comes to finances. Having just graduated back in the spring of 2010, I can tell you this from personal experience. Going to college was a decision that I actually made completely on my own, with no prodding from my parents, so I had to do all the legwork of getting accepted and finding scholarships. Needless to say, it was quite difficult.
I honestly believe that the years surrounding college and the time right after are some of the most important, defining years of anyone’s life. You can always make changes down the road, but if you make good financial decisions right from the get go, you will be that much better off in the long run.
1. Take Charge Of Student Loan Debt
Staying out of debt in college is extremely difficult, with tuition prices continually on the rise and I’ll tell you, I did not succeed in this area. This doesn’t mean that I had to let this completely ruin my life though!
All through college, I held a job, working around 20 hours a week, sometimes as many as 40 hours a week. This allowed me to save up a bunch of money, even while living in an apartment. With the money I saved, I was able to pay off a $1300 loan the day that they held the exit counseling for that particular loan. Needless to say, they were quite surprised when I handed them a check! Holding a job, and saving money, is the most important thing you can do while still in college. It doesn’t matter the job, just as long as you are putting something away.
I also had a second, much larger loan after graduating, that totaled just shy of $15,000. It would have been much harder to pay this off while in college, but fortunately I got a great job right out of graduation and was able to pay it off soon after. How you ask? By following step number 2.
2. Live Like You Are Still In College
For anyone just coming out of college and getting a job, one of the best decisions you can make is to live like you are still in college for several more years. Why on earth would you want to do this with so much new income!? Following this path will let you live on the same budget that you had in college, while using the rest of your earnings to pay off debt or put into savings! Now, you obviously know that you were able to live on a mere $200 a week, since you were able to do it in college. Perhaps even less, I don’t know your situation. Doing this for a few more years will put into a position to have that $200, plus whatever other amount you make, while not having any debt. Bingo!
This is exactly how I was able to pay off my $15,000 dollar loan. I decided to live like I was still in college, and am still doing that to a point. I was able to pay $1,000 a month on that loan when they only wanted $165 and then applied a chunk payment out of savings toward the end, to pay the loan off in just about 1 year. For a loan that’s supposed to last 30 years, I would say it turned out pretty well.
3. Save Like All Get Out!
Once you have your debt paid off, or maybe even before you pay it off, the best thing to do is to start saving for specific, large ticket items that you may want to purchase. While I was in college, I mentioned that I put money into savings. What I didn’t say is that I was able to save around $10,000 for the purchase of a house once I knew where my job would be. I hate the idea of renting, so I wanted to get a house ASAP.
Once my wife and I got married after graduating, we waited until my job transferred and bought a house about 9 months after the wedding. This was a mere 1 year after graduating! Also, I should note that we didn’t go for a big fancy 3,000 square foot home in the middle of nice neighborhood that cost $250,000. This was way out of our price range. We bought a house that was listed for $89,000 after talking them down to $84,000 and paying $12,000 down. Our entire mortgage was $72,000 and is sitting at about $69,000 right now…after only 8 months of payments. Keep in mind we also paid for a wedding at the same time, and paid cash for everything. Talk about some tight living!
As far as cars go, there is absolutely no harm in waiting to purchase a car and using savings to do it. This is exactly what I’m doing. I have been working full time for nearly 2 years, and I am still driving the car I drove in high school! In the mean time, I’m saving up the money to pay for a truck. It will take several years, but it will totally be worth not having the debt.
Planned Lifestyle Inflation
I mentioned above that I am still living like I am in college, but I have loosened myself a little bit, as the only debt I have is a mortgage. I have plans underway to have this paid off in less than 5 years, and after that I will be able to live an amazing debt and mortgage-free life…all before I turn 28 years old! Living the good life is entirely possible, but you have got to make sacrifices during the most important years of your financial life.
Had I not gotten a job during college, I couldn’t have paid off my first loan or purchased a home right out of college. If I had made minimum payments on my second loan, and purchased a brand new car out of college, I would be sitting with two loan payments, a car payment and a house payment! Now I just have a house payment that is going away in a few short years. Pretty snazzy, huh? For more information on how I have and am paying off my debts, check out the related posts at my website. I look forward to hearing from each and everyone one of you.
Crystal’s Comments: I love the idea of continue living like you are broke since it helps pay off debt and build up an emergency fund so quickly when you are first starting out…that is just a great start!