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Sherry Burnett

While it’s important to have a budget at any point in your life, it’s especially vital to have one after college. Graduates nowadays walk out of school with climbable debt in credit cards and student loans. Creating and sticking to a budget can help upcoming adults manage their debt, make a dent sooner, and finally begin the homebuying process.

Create a budget and stick to it!

1. How are you currently spending your money?

Always pay close attention to the funds you’re spending and where. If you find you’re spending too much in one area, and lacking in another, such as food and rent, it could be time to make some adjustments. Be timely on your bills. Paying late, having an account sent to a collection agency or declaring bankruptcy, will all have a negative impact on your credit score and pack on the debt you’re already trying to peel off.

2. Set some financial goals.

Do you want to create an emergency fund, eliminate your debt or save for a down payment on a house -- or all of the above? Examine your situation critically and follow that thought with the right momentum. Is your ambition long term, short term or yet to be identified? Checking up on your credit score and income tax, budget and net worth will help determine those goals and prioritize the next steps.

  • Think SMART
    • Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.
    • One classic example is saving for a vacation. Lay out the play before the action: pick a destination, decide when’s a good time to jet off and estimate the cost.

Determine whether the goal is doable given your income, savings and expenses. Once that’s covered, set your goals in stone with a worksheet, spreadsheet or notepad. Give some satisfaction to your ambitions and make a list to cross off and track your spending and saving progress.

  • QuickTips: Push deadlines back to a year, six months, or a week if you have to. Automate your savings or open a new savings account with a higher interest rate and a sign-up bonus to speed things up.

3. Use an app or software to take the headache out of budgeting.

Apps and personal finance software can make it easy to set goals, track your money on the go and can even connect to your bank account.

Goal setting: QAPITAL

  • Transfers funds into your account when you spend less than budgeted for a certain expense.

  • Rounds spare change up to the nearest dollar, moves it into a savings account insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Budgeting, bills and credit score: MINT

  • See bills and money together, so you know what’s due, when it’s due and what you can pay.

  • Receive alerts for unusual account charges, and get custom tips for reducing fees and saving money.

  • Get your free credit score and learn how to improve it.

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