Hello, World! 8 Tips For ‘Adulting’ After College

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My last six months of college passed in a blur. I spent most days filling out graduation paperwork, meeting with professors, trying to find a job while working at my current one, not to mention making sure to call my parents at least once every two weeks. I wanted life to slow down for a minute, but alas, it never did.

It seemed only to get faster and faster, and I—well, I worried. I knew I should feel excited about graduating from college, and I did, but I still felt a bit of dread. But I beat that fear back and successfully moved on from my college life by using a straightforward process: I addressed each of my concerns point by point, then used the following tips to make the transition much smoother.

1. Start Your Job Search Before You Actually Graduate

Most college seniors and grads eventually ask, “How am I going to pay for everything?” I know that I raised the question many, many times. So I addressed it by starting my job search early—nine to ten months before graduation. This is when it pays to have a close relationship with your advisor. But don’t freak out if you haven’t been keeping up with them, since it’s never too late to go to them and ask for leads on careers.

Sure, I wish jobs fell off trees like apples in the spring, but they don’t. Jobs have to be plucked, usually with a lot of ladders and a lot of climbing, so it’s best to start the hunt early.

2. Networking Isn’t Just a Buzzword, It’s a Real Thing You Have to Do

I used to scoff at the whole “it’s who you know” thing, but the idea holds merit. I got my first job because hands shaken and conversations held in person, as well as through online connections. To start, make sure you start a LinkedIn account and add your professors and people you’ve worked with. Then go to every job-oriented event that your college offers. 

I looked at my wardrobe, too. It sufficed for casual events, job fairs, and my job at a boutique, but it needed some polish so I could present myself more professionally in front of potential employers. Just make sure you’re always presentable and presenting.

3. Figure out How Exactly to Adopt Finances for the Real World (There’s an App for That)

I also looked at my finances, something I hadn’t had to think about much during college. I earned enough money from a part-time job to buy a new pair of shoes or go out to dinner with friends. I realized, though, that I needed a better sense of how I spent my money before heading into the real world.

To accomplish that, I researched some financial apps like Mint and Venmo and chose the one that worked best for me. It helped me balance my checkbook, pay freinds easier, instantly figure out a budget by connecting to my bank, and find places to save money. I can’t believe I wasn’t already using some of these!

4. Adopt a New Schedule (AKA Start Waking Up Earlier)

As a kid, I always hated the end of summer because it meant my mom would reinstitute morning alarms and bedtimes. But the routine helped me slip into school mode once my college courses started. Yep, the same is true with life after college. By adopting a schedule before I officially graduated, I woke ready for the day and whatever it held, even that 6 a.m. spinning class.

5. Start Going to “Next Stage of Life” Stores

I love, love, love Pier One, but I couldn’t buy most of their home décor as a college student. I still can’t afford a lot of it on an entry-level salary, although I’ve recently entered the store’s hallowed halls during clearance sales to pick up dishes and throw pillows. The same can be true of any “adult stuff” stores.

But for the must-have furniture for my post-college apartment—things like a kitchen table or living room couch—I searched Ikea, garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, and Goodwill. The four require patience, but they’ve rewarded me with some of my most beloved furniture. However you do it, the key is to switch gears to where you’re actively looking for household necessities, wherever they may be.

6. No Meal Plan, No Problem

I used my college’s meal plan for the first three years, and it was great. The cafeteria boasted at least five different types of food, plus a dessert bar and waffle maker. When I moved off-campus my senior year, I learned quickly how much food costs, not to mention how much time it takes to make.

Those lessons prepped me for post-college life. I immediately started budgeting for weekly or bi-weekly trips to the store, because, hey – I’m not a kid anymore. I even took things a step further with some online cooking classes and nutrition apps to stay healthy and fit, which also helped me learn how to cook better. Don’t take food for granted, be prepared for life without the cafeteria! 

7. Don’t Be Boring, Develop a Hobby

Speaking of online cooking classes, I discovered something unexpected while watching them: I actually really enjoy cooking! It relaxes and recharges me, and the fare always delights friends I’ve invited over for brunch or dinner. Something about graduating college is the perfect opportunity for becoming a more well-rounded person – a person who is ready to make even more friends and dive into a career!

Protip: Watching other people cook refreshes my spirit, too—but I refused to watch my favorite chefs on Netflix or Hulu with anything less than a pristine stream, so consider upping your internet speed to join the ranks of non-dorm room internet speeds.

8. Ask for (and Accept) Help

Another thing I recognized is that I needed help. It was actually a freeing thought. I still remember asking my manager for help with a difficult customer and watching in awe as she remained kind yet firm. I also visited with my college’s counseling center. I felt so overwhelmed the last few months of college that it was sometimes hard to get out of bed. I didn’t know how to talk with my family or best friend about it, so I scheduled an appointment with a counselor. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and something I plan to continue doing. Everyone needs help sometimes, myself included.

Since I took those eight steps, I’m “adulting” fairly well. No, I don’t have everything figured out, but that’s part of being a grown-up. Nobody has life all figured out, and I for one am glad. Life would be boring if we all solved its challenges in the exact same way. But as you use these and similar tips as you move from college life to work life, you can feel more confident in yourself and in your transition.


Cassie Tolhurst is a recent grad, digital journalist, and tech enthusiast. When she isn’t stalking Twitter she is spending time with her loving family and dog. Her passions include the newest mobile gadgets and what’s streaming on Netflix.

Married and Moving In: What Does That Mean for My Money?

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Getting married and moving in with your partner is a significant turning point in both your lives. But in the process of packing up and combining all your worldly goods, things can get a little bit hectic. You may have found your dream home, but this is just the beginning – in the midst of all this excitement, you shouldn’t forget to keep a critical eye on your personal finances.

Things can get a little weird, so with that in mind, here are a few money protips to help you navigate life as a newlywed.

Clear the Air and Tell Eachother Your Debts

First things first: communication isn’t just crucial for your feelings! Openly communicating about finances is a massive step towards keeping tension out of your marriage.

Make no mistake: money is (perhaps unsurprisingly) one of the biggest causes of stress in relationships. So be honest and forthcoming with each other about your finances prior to moving in, so you can work on a plan to move forward together. That means laying all your cards out on the table. Make sure to discuss:

  • Your spending habits and priorities
  • What you each carry in terms of debt
  • Your credit standing
  • Current investments and income
  • Your goals are for the future

The more you communicate, the better you’ll be able to negotiate your financial landscape as a team.

Knowing What’s Mine and What’s Yours: What’s Separate in the Eyes of the Law

The distinction between separate and shared marital assets differs from state to state. In general, assets acquired before marriage, as well as gifts, inheritance and personal injury awards are considered separate.

Most other assets, specifically those acquired during a marriage, are seen as shared. This includes retirement accounts (like IRAs or 401(k)s), businesses, properties, income and investments. However, remember that some of these assets will be assessed differently depending on whether you live in one of these common law or community property states:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

This can totally affect how you handle those assets, so read the links and be prepared!

Do You Share Debts Too?

In common law states, assets owned by only one spouse are legally considered separate, which can provide what’s sometimes called an asset protection advantage.

Those community property/common law states I talked about earlier, on the other hand, treat both spouses as equal contributors to the family unit, regardless of individual income level, which means they divide all assets 50/50. This includes everything earned or purchased during the marriage years, no matter if the deed, title or account registration is only in one person’s name. This also means that here, debt or liabilities acquired by one spouse are shared equally by both.

Yep, that means in the event that you want to override your state’s property laws, you’ll need to hire a lawyer to draft a prenuptial agreement. This will stand in court even if you move between states that apply different property laws.

‘Till Death (and Taxes) Do Us Part

Tax laws can be complicated, so make sure to do some research to determine whether you should file jointly or separately as a married couple. It will highly depend on factors such as children, rate of income and even nationality.

Filing jointly means your tax liability will likely change, pushing you into a lower or higher bracket. However, even with a higher tax rate, there are benefits. Married-filing-jointly couples receive exemptions, deductions and credits not available under other statuses. Adjusting your W-4 to the married rate or claiming the additional allowance also reduces the taxes withheld from your paycheck. Plus, spouses are also allowed unlimited tax free gifts to each other, which can affect how you handle larger assets.

Add it All Up – Together

One of the most proactive steps you’ll need to take is to – for real – sit down and make a mutual budget. This will keep both of you accountable to the shared responsibilities you’ll now have, so you don’t fall into debt.

Even if you decide to put one of you in charge of the finances, it’s still important to create a plan together. List all of your expenses, most of all including:

  • Rent or mortgage payments
  • Utilities
  • Food and entertainment
  • Car expenses
  • Loan and credit card payments
  • Savings and retirement contributions

Discuss individual needs or preferences and make sure you come to a compromise in areas where you disagree. You’ll also need to decide whether you’ll split everything equally, or have each person contribute a percentage to the household based on their earnings.

Save for a Rainy Day

Finally, build an emergency fund! This is critical in keeping your marriage stable when life gets rocky, and is severely lacking on most people’s ledger. It is guaranteed to come in handy when the car breaks down, the basement floods or a family emergency occurs. It will also protect you during job losses, serious accidents and extended illnesses.

There’s no way to predict what or when these events will crop up, but one thing is for sure: something always does. Make this a priority so an unexpected life event doesn’t end up driving your marriage into the ground.

Moving into a new home together as newlyweds can get a bit daunting as you’ll have to do things a bit differently. Make sure you take the previous tips into consideration when planning out your finances for your new life together – it’ll make many of your future issues a lot easier to deal with so that you can focus on each other and your marriage.


Beth Kotz is a contributing writer to Credit.com. She specializes in covering financial advice for female entrepreneurs, college students and recent graduates. She earned a BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, where she continues to live and work.
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