College graduation is a landmark, a time for family and friends to rejoice a major achievement and wish you well as you truly set out into the world for the first time. For half of graduates this year, though, penny pinching will need to be one of the basic priorities.
A study by The Associated Press showed that 53 percent of graduates under 25 with baccalaureates were underemployed or unemployed completely. Simultaneously, being unemployed doesn't mean college loan payments aren't due; a recent report by Equifax showed almost 15 percent of loans were more than 3 months behind in 2011, and while rates may have dropped since 2007, finding the cash flow to pay for living expenses may take precedence over repayment of a loan.
"Whether the priority is paying down debt or saving for a house…establishing financial independence is a marathon not a sprint," said Melissa Jarman, a student banking director with the Royal Bank of Canada. She recommended grads try to save money, even if it's just a little bit at a time, as there's no way to know when an emergency will come along.
When you start to think that way, it's easy to see where you can cut costs. Make meals at home instead of eating out. Walk or use public transit, but don't drive if you don't have to. Cut services you don't need, like an extra home phone, cable that you almost never watch, or a magazine you don't really read anymore. Use mobile banking or online banking to keep track of where money is going and evaluate how much you want it to continue going there.
If you are part of the 50 percent that lands a job this spring, don't overwork yourself thinking it will help you pay back your debts faster and get ahead. Even though, according to FLSA regulations, anything more than 40 hours a week constitutes overtime pay, working too much will wear you out; it's called burnout, and it not only wears you down but makes it harder to do your job in the first place. If you save smart and work smart, you'll still come out on top in the end.