5 Expenses I Didn’t Expect After Graduating

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Graduating is even harder than it looks.

I am one of the lucky ones who found my first job right out of school. But that secretly meant my living expenses suddenly skyrocketed after I had to buy a used car, move away from home and find and furnish an apartment.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew those purchases would be way more expensive than the usual trip to the grocery store. But there were so many details I didn’t even realize existed. It was a crash course.

Now I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Here are the random expenses that hit me after graduation, plus how I survived a rocky first few months so that I remained intact before my first adult paychecks could make an impact.

1. Moving Costs More Than You’d Think (But There’s a Hack for That)

Moving101 Container Price Comparison

When I graduated I lived on campus, but I still somehow had a lot to move into my first apartment. The first thing I did was figure out if anyone could help me move. In return for snacks, my friends and family were happy to offer some manual labor. I got lucky!

But when I got a job, it ended up being located out of state. So to save money, I figured out I could rent a truck and tow my car behind it, and only hire movers to do the lifting. Getting your own vehicle and hiring labor separately for either end of your move (Hybrid Moving) costs less than Full Service moving and varies dramatically in price, but the average cost is around $660. It’s an added cost, but plenty of critical time saved, which I needed.

HireAHelper lets you compare the price of movers and customize everything, from how many people help you move to what arrival time window you’ll need. The more options you can compare for a moving process the better, as every move is going to be a little bit different.

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How can someone so young take on that expense? Well, I barely had enough to cover the move, but here’s another thing I learned — many employers offer reimbursement for moving expenses! Make a note to talk with your new employer and ask if they make a similar offer. It was a lifesaver when my company helped me out so that I could put my money toward the next round of expenses!

2. Crossing State Lines Can Mean More Fees

When you move to a new state, you’re going to have to get a new state license and plate for your car. The steps will be different depending on your move, but you can check out the process for your specific state online to know what prices you’re in for.

I had to fill out paperwork and pay fees for the process of:

  • Getting an updated title for my car
  • Printing a new plate
  • Creating a new license

All of it cost about $200! Plus, there was the time it took to go to the DMV, get my new emissions test and talk with my car insurance company about my new address and license information.

Call the DMV where you’ll be moving to ahead of time for clarification because it really is a lot to deal with when you’ve never done it before. It definitely was for me.

3. Even My Used Car Had a Major Price Tag

An approximation of how getting your first used car looks.

When I was in school, I used my parents’ old car to get around to my part-time jobs and the grocery store. But after college, I knew I had to get my own ride. I’d been saving up for a while and figured I could negotiate the price of the car down to what I had in my savings account, but it turns out there’s so much more to it than that.

The only thing I knew about buying a car before I walked into the first dealership was that you have to negotiate your final price, but fees and taxes can’t be worked down. The dealer had to explain things like document fees and dealer fees, plus the sales tax. (Again, every state will be a bit different, though some fees are the same across the board.)

It’s smart to save up some extra cash to cover these fees since they’re non-negotiable. While you’re getting your down payment together, take steps to research what these expenses will be so you can better plan for the total cost of a car.

Lastly, make sure you can handle the monthly payment. While I saved enough for a hefty down payment, I did have to take out a small loan to cover the rest. I automated my car payments through my bank once my regular paychecks started rolling in so I would never risk jeopardizing my credit score with late payments.

4. My First Student Loan Payment Shocked Me

The amount I had to take out in student loans wasn’t nearly as drastic as what some of my friends had to sign for—proud state school grad here—but there are ways those loans can pull you into paying more than you originally borrowed. For starters, I had no idea what capitalizing interest was. Basically, it’s interest that’s triggered by specific events and causes your monthly payment to not even make a dent in your overall debt. The debt increases while your payments stay the same.

I also began to panic when the loan bills came in. I hadn’t even earned my first paycheck with my new job yet, so how was I supposed to pay $350 a month after already paying for moving and buying a car?

That’s when I started to research how to consolidate my loans, and it really saved me. The Department of Education can consolidate multiple federal loans with one fixed interest rate, which streamlines the process and extends your repayment period. Rather than juggling multiple payments, I just had to worry about one.

You may also consider private refinancing if you’ve landed a steady job and worked to build a credit score of at least 690. This can both consolidate your loans and lower your interest rate — but isn’t necessarily always the best choice for recent grads. Do your research! 

(So I Learned a Budgeting Trick)

Sure, I’d managed my own bills in college, but between forthcoming loan payments and the costs of moving and a higher rent, I saw my expenses skyrocket. 

So I did some research online and began militantly tracking all of my income and expenses with a Google spreadsheet. I vowed to follow the 50/30/20 budget, which stipulates that half of my earnings pay fixed expenses, 20 percent goes to debts and savings, and 30 percent is reserved for variable expenses like groceries and light spending.

TheBalance.com

It’s tempting to have your paychecks come in and put all your extra cash toward one big thing like a savings account or credit card debt, but metering it out will help you tackle everything at once. Building my savings while decreasing my debt has helped me more in the long run than just choosing one over the other.

Now, my healthy savings account means a minor emergency like a car repair doesn’t trigger any anxiety. After upending my meager college savings to move, a steady and dependable tracking system soothed my nerves and helped me navigate this whole new world.

5. Filling Up a New Apartment Drains Your Wallet

The process of finding my apartment was easy since everything is online now. I could map out how far each apartment complex was from my work and not have to worry about it being too far away. Actually getting settled was a whole different story.

I had to buy all my own furniture, and you can bet that I didn’t have the money to do it all at once! For a little bit, my apartment décor consisted of a mattress on the floor and the most basic kitchen supplies. A good list of basic apartment supplies you’ll need will consist of:

  • Plates and bowls
  • At least two or three of each type of silverware
  • A trashcan
  • Dish soap and a sponge
  • Toilet paper
  • Basic cleaning supplies (e.g., broom, cleaning solution)

Don’t panic if your apartment doesn’t feel like home for a little while. Getting more than the basics will take time, but eventually, your new fancy budget will help you get everything on your list, and your apartment will gradually feel more like a home and less like a living space. 

Plus, if you have a roommate, that makes your quest to fill the space of essentials even easier! Me? I bought myself a couch from a killer Amazon Prime Day deal—and I’ve been treating myself with one apartment item a month since.


Some of the above surprise costs were never mentioned to me because I didn’t know to ask about them.

Give your post-college world about six to eight months to settle down. Now, I’m much more financially secure and living in a home that feels cozy and welcoming. I’m finally ready to put some money into my travel fund and I don’t sweat the occasional sushi dinner. For now, you just have to buckle in and prepare for a crazy ride after that diploma lands in your hand.


Holly Welles is a millennial-focused real estate writer and the editor behind The Estate Update. For more home tips and financial advice, subscribe to her blog for even more financial advice.

DIY Tricks to Make Sure You Have the Best Dorm Room

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We recently shared a list of the essentials (and not so essential items) to bring with you to college. Today, we’re taking things up a notch with dorm room ideas that really personalize your room and make it one-of-a-kind.  When every dorm room looks almost identical, it may seem impossible to really put your personal touch on this space. But these DIY room decor ideas will make your dorm the best one in your hall!

Make a Bulletin Board Out of an Old Shutter

Dorm Room Ideas: DIY Room Decor - Shutter Bulletin Board

Why buy a generic magnet or bulletin board from a big box store when you can create a unique piece instead? We found an old shutter from Habitat for Humanity Restore and spray painted half of it white, then the other half teal. Then we bought some clothes pins to tack up cute photographs and notes.

Hang this on your dorm room wall or simply lean it on top of a dresser for a one-of-a-kind picture board that is bound to stand out to anyone who walks by your door.

Cover the Ugly Beige Walls With a Tapestry
Dorm Room Ideas: DIY Room Decor - Cover those Dorm Walls

So many dorm room walls are a yucky beigey-yellow color. Not the most flattering color in the world, and it’s certainly not something you can change (no painting allowed!). We suggest covering those lackluster walls with a giant wall tapestry. You can find some great ones online (we love this one!) and you can use command hooks to hang it from the ceiling. The best part is a large chunk of your wall will be covered and you won’t have to stare at anything boring all year-long.

Use Washi Tape to Jazz up Your Door

Washi Tape is the stuff of legend. The fact that it leaves minimal residue means it’s perfect for designs, lettering or anything else creative you can put your mind to. Geometric shapes like the one pictured are always attention grabbers, but sideways lettering or origami shapes look great too. For best results, grab a few different colors from the store.

You might have to ask your RA first before you start, or if you’re like us, ask for forgiveness instead – door designs are so cool and memorable once you see them that it’s hard to say no!

Marker Up a Personal Doormat for the HallwayDorm Room Ideas: DIY Room Decor - DIY Personalized Doormat

This is a project we love for homes, apartments and yes.. .even dorm rooms! Take a plain doormat and carefully add a personalized message using a sharpie marker. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing: Write “Dorm Sweet Dorm”, write your room number or even write the initials for you and your roomie. Get creative with this simple DIY project and you’ll be proud to put this doormat in the hallway for all of your guests to marvel over!
Here’s the full tutorial for this one.

Play Scrabble on Your Mini FridgeDorm Room Ideas: DIY Room Decor - Scrabble on the Mini Fridge

This DIY room decor project is one of our favorite dorm room ideas because it’s so budget-friendly. Simply take some small ceramic tiles (you can find them at a Habitat for Humanity Restore or your local home improvement store) and turn them into Scrabble tiles. Use a ceramic paint pen to write the letters and numbers directly onto the tile, and then glue a magnet on the back. Create a bunch of these for your mini fridge and you’ll have fun all semester playing large games of Scrabble right in your dorm room. Here’s the full tutorial for this easy DIY project.

Fake It Til You Make It with a Succulent PlanterDorm Room Ideas: DIY Room Decor - Succulent Planter

We truly believe every room looks better with a little greenery in it. But we get it… there’s probably no way you can keep any real plants alive and thriving in your tiny dorm room. Instead, use the ultimate “plant-hack”: faux succulent planter! Pick up some fake succulents (which look pretty real these days), a clear vase and some pebbles so you can create this succulent planter in minutes! Check out the full, simple tutorial for this one.
Dorm Room Ideas: DIY Room Decor
It’s the personal touches that make a space extra special. Stand out at college this year with some of these DIY projects and crafty dorm room ideas!

What You Should Bring, Could Bring and DON’T Bring When Moving Into a Dorm

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‘Tis the season for college dorm room shopping! If you’ve been to any of the big box stores lately, we’re confident you have seen all the colorful storage things just screaming “take me to college!”.

Some college students are eager to start prepping for their new “home away from home”, while others aren’t too interested in putting in much extra time. Whichever you are, we aren’t judging. We’re just here to make sure everyone is prepared for the excitement!

With that in mind, here’s an in depth synopsis about what you should bring, what you could bring, and what you don’t bring to college come fall. Be independent and avoid having mom and dad come visit (with the essentials you forgot) less than a week after moving into your new digs.

What You Should Bring

Towel, Toiletries and Laundry Detergent

Whether your dorm is equipped with private bathrooms or community bathrooms, this is the number one must: multiple towels, toiletries and shower shoes. Most college students opt for a shower caddy, which is a handy way to corral all of their shower essentials when traveling to and from the shower. Be sure to choose a shower caddy that can drain any water from the shower, because you don’t want it to become moldy from sitting water.

Unfortunately, college life also comes with learning to do your own laundry, and usually, the laundry facilities aren’t anything to get excited about. Stock up on plenty of laundry detergent, softener and dryer sheets to keep your clothing looking its best (and your parents at bay) all semester long.

A Microwave and Mini Fridge with Snacks

Tried and true for a reason: make sure you pack a microwave with some snacks! Healthy or unhealthy, we’re definitely not judging, just reminding you that having your own stash of food is important. You don’t want to find yourself starving and the cafeteria is closed, nor do you want to pay cafeteria prices. You probably don’t want to buy food in bulk because you won’t have a ton of places to store it, but having some snacks stashed away to hold you over until the cafe opens is essential.

Speaking of snacks, most dorms also allow you to bring your own microwave and mini fridge. You can always cut down on the costs of these items by arranging with your roommate to each bring one of the two, that way you only have to invest in one, not both.

Plenty of Power Strips and Extension Cords

Laptop, printer, phone charger, microwave, mini fridge, blow dryer, iron, string lights, coffee maker…. all these things hog outlets. Dorms only have a few outlets though, and you’ll likely be sharing them with your roomie on top of it. What can we say, the struggle is real! Along with all of these everyday essentials, be sure to pack at least one power strip and possible extension cord so you never get caught with a dead cell phone or no coffee! That could be bad.

A Secure Box for Very Important Papers

Focusing on the basic must-have stuff makes it easy to forget about this essential. Make sure you bring your driver’s license, insurance card, social security number (or card as long as you can keep it safe), emergency contact and medical info, paperwork for refillable prescriptions, and any other documents you may need while you’re away. We hope you never have to use some of these, but having them with you just in case is necessary.

What You Could Bring

Carpet Squares or a Cool Rug

Some dorm rooms come with commercial grade carpets, but most of these carpets have seen high traffic for several years (at least!). Packing an additional rug or carpet squares to add to your dorm will not only make your room look a lot cuter, but it will make the whole space feel a lot more warm and cozy. Consider a cool rug because this tiny upgrade will make such a difference… and may even keep your room a bit warmer in the winter if it experiences any kind of drafts like our dorms rooms did.

A Bunch of Cleaning Supplies

No matter your lifestyle, living in these cramped quarters all day every day means that your dorm room is bound to get a little messy! And since mom or dad isn’t tagging along to clean up after you, it’s important to pack some cleaning supplies so you can keep the place clean… especially during flu season.

Here’s a list of some basic items you should consider buying a few or all of, especially if you have a closet space:

  • Vaccum
  • Disinfectant
  • Duster
  • Swiffer mop
  • Windex
  • Bleach wipes
  • Dish soap

A Printer

Before going out and splurging on a new printer or lugging your large printer into your dorm room, be sure you actually need this piece.

Although having a personal printer is a huge perk when it comes time to last second papers, most schools offer a free printing lab that can do the same job. Plus printers are large and take up some valuable space in your room. Not to mention they can be costly with ink refills and necessary repairs, so be sure it’s a definite must (or a fancy luxury) before you add it to your shopping list!

What You Don’t Bring

Twin Bed Sheets

Although it may appear as though you will have a twin bed in your dorm room, most dorms actually have XL twins instead of the traditional twin sized bed. So packing twin-sized bedding will be a big mistake since you’ll find out pretty quickly that these new sheets won’t fit on your new bed! We speak from experience. If you want to double check, try social media to get some inside intel.

An Office Chair

Almost every dorm these days provides their own chairs. Coupled with how much space these things take up in a car, you absolutely do not want to make the mistake of doubling up. And if you’re really attached to your chair at home? Considering how big dorm rooms are, now’s the perfect time to start learning to love other seats!

Your Pet

Do we even have to say this? Apparently, we do. We know, we know… it’s hard to leave home, and even harder to leave home when you’re leaving your beloved pet at home. But unfortunately, dorm rooms do not allow pets of any kind. So sadly you can’t sneak in your pooch, kitty or even turtle into the halls of your new home.

Any Luggage at All

We urge you to skip the bulky luggage. Unless you need it for frequent flights back home, luggage is an item that will take up so much valuable space in your tiny new digs. Instead, try packing everything you have in oversized duffle bags (or even trash bags) that can be broken down and stored under your bed or somewhere else less invasive. The duffle bag will still allow you to pack up and travel, yet won’t waste valuable space like large luggage would.

Communicate and Consolidate! Whatever Your Roommate Is Bringing

It’s important to touch base with your roommate before the move-in day so you can coordinate what you are both bringing so you don’t double up! Space is very limited and sometimes so are funds, so splitting these items up will not only ensure your room isn’t overflowing with doubles of everything, but will also help cut down on costs for both of you.

The countdown to college is officially on. Hopefully, now you are fully prepared for what you should bring, could bring, and should NEVER bring to move-in day!

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