To be honest, I think J-schools should offer personal finance seminars on this subject. You are warned that money will be tight at first, but it doesn’t prepare you for the grim reality. Even with a roommate, I struggled badly. I had student loans and a car payment. (My car engine blew up on the way home from the interview for my first job… got stranded on the interstate… fun story!) Dealing with that and the stress of figuring out the job entailed was tough. From what I’m hearing from some of you, this hasn’t changed. Sometimes even after the first job!
Recently I asked for input on ways to help save money during that first gig. Many savings pro’s sent great ideas. Here they are.
There are great websites that spell out how to do this (Southernsavers.com is a great example). The key: match up coupons with items that are also on sale at a store.
As in buy clothes at a consignment shop. Speaking of clothes, remember you can get great clothes without spending a bundle. If you plan to splurge, do it to have the clothes you buy fitted (see Dress for success). I actually was surprised at the deals some of you mentioned finding.
Drive an old car
As I mentioned earlier, my engine blew up on the way home from the interview. Having to lease a car was debilitating for me. It frankly forced me to move to another job more quickly because I needed money desperately. If you have an older car that still runs and the repairs cost less than a car payment, run that baby into the ground. The savings truly is worth the trouble.
This may sound silly, but it makes a huge difference. Huge! The other great part, you probably will eat healthier and take fewer sick days and that will be a great reason to ask for a raise in a year or so.
Many people mentioned this as a great way to blow off steam without spending a bundle. Cheap drinks are often paired with cheap or free food. Bottom line, you are young and need/deserve to have some fun. Why not go for it when you can spend less?
Now a few more ideas that may take a little more research, but could really pay off.
Save up for first job
Yes, this is for interns, college students. If at all possible work summer jobs or a part time gig and save the money while you are in school. Use it to supplement once you get that first gig. This is where I wish J-schools provided an elective course on personal finance. By the time many realize how little you truly make, you are a summer away from working. So please, tell any underclassmen you know who want to work in news: Save now.
See if you can defer student loans
Check this idea out. Some people have had luck at this. Call Sallie Mae and see if you qualify. Just know it can take 10 years to pay loans off, so don’t hold off too long.
Avoid credit cards
This may seem obvious to great journalistic minds, but I know many who are still desperately trying to pay off the debts from those first few years working. Credit card debt is a beast! You write stories about it. Remember them.
Go in with a financial plan
How do you plan with no money? There are ways. If your family has a great financial planner, go in and ask what you can do with your earnings. If you don’t have a planner you trust, start by reading “Automatic Millionaire.” Don’t chuckle. Some of the examples in there are from people who likely never earned what you will. They were smart with their money from day one, and ended up very secure. If you can take a financial planning course of some sort, do it. Because starting salaries are low, we have less of a chance to make it right. So start off on a smart path if you possibly can.
Finally, remember it does get better. The sacrifices should pay off, even nowadays with salaries on the down side.