Congrats, grad! Now that college is over, you’re starting an exciting new chapter full of possibilities and unknowns—many of which could impact you financially. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to help protect yourself as you navigate the transition to adulthood.

  1. Know where you stand financially. Your living and working situations have probably changed since graduating, and this can have a big impact on budget. Determine your current budget by subtracting your monthly expenses from your income. Make sure you take care to factor in any student loan payments
  2. Stick to your budget. Staying on budget—or even better, under budget—can ensure your financial goals stay achievable. Avoid unnecessary debt and build an emergency fund into your budget. Check if you’re staying on target by viewing your credit or debit card balances often. For more budgeting tips, visit our MakingCents site.
  3. Be wise with living expenses. Instead of blowing your budget on the nicest place you can find, consider a more balanced approach. Open your mind to more affordable communities and don’t rule out living with roommates either. To round things out, limit new purchases and, if possible, take public transit.
  4. Take full advantage of employee benefits. Benefits can be your best friend. They offset insurance costs and help you save for retirement, among other things. On the retirement front, many employers offer matching contributions to a tax-advantaged retirement account. If your employer offers this perk, try to contribute as much as you can to earn the full match. You may also be offered health insurance, short- and/or long-term disability insurance or life insurance at attractive group rates.
  5. Invest in your career. If you want to land a better job or bigger paycheck, you’ll want to keep investing in yourself. Network with others by joining a professional organization and attending development and training events. You can also take classes to enhance your skills. Free or inexpensive courses are available online or via community education.
  6. Build credit. Having a good credit history can help you qualify for loans, credit cards and even apartments. You can build credit by paying bills on time, every time. To keep your score strong, avoid opening too many loan or credit accounts within a short period, aim to use only 30 to 50 percent of your credit limit, and think twice about closing old credit card accounts, since the length of your credit history affects score, too.
  7. Pay off higher-interest debt first. Student loans make up the largest debt for most recent grads. If you also have credit card debt, it’s likely at a much higher interest rate. Putting as much as possible toward the higher-interest debt first will save you money and allow you to pay it off quicker, giving you more money to put toward student loans.
  8. Consider student loan consolidation. You may be able to stop juggling multiple loan payments and reduce your interest by consolidating. However, if your loans are from the federal government, you could risk giving up special benefits. Weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. Navy Federal Credit Union can help you consolidate and refinance private student loans.

Navy Federal is here to help navigate and grow with you on your financial journey. As you make your big leap into the real world, build on this knowledge with expert, step-by-step guidance on building and managing a budget from MakingCents.