The irony in higher education is that although we gain the ever-exclusive privilege of receiving a bachelor’s degree, we acquire very little insight as to what the real world will look like. Life in college is about as far from reality as it gets — any place you can drink beer… in excess… on a Monday afternoon is not a place to look for advice regarding the adult world.
Only when we are freed from our collegiate bassinets will we begin to see the startling differences — especially when it comes to spending money. These differences are not always bad, so long as we have the necessary knowhow to adjust from College Park to coupons and pinching pennies.
Learning to manage your finances wisely after college will not only benefit future investments, loan paybacks and career choices, but it will also help with maintaining an overall positive quality of life when facing those post-collegiate blues.
College nightlife is, in many ways, a glorified high school party. The booze is cheap and the worries are small. Most nights, you’ll spend anywhere between $5 and $20 to indulge in a variety of cheap, light beers and vodka that can double as a nail polish remover. Even upon upgrading from house parties to college bars, the costs stay reasonable. Many campus bars go out of their ways to offer dollar beer specials and unlimited cocktail hours to appease the masses in adventures in binge drinking.
Enjoy this while you can because although prohibition was overturned in the 1930s, us newly graduated folk are still paying a steep price. To avoid the curse of the overpriced Manhattan cocktail, there’s always the option to pregame heavily. Drinking before going out to drink is not only encouraged, it’s fiscally responsible. There’s also nothing wrong with throwing a dinner party (how grown up!) and indulging in drinks at home. The party doesn’t have to end after college — you just need to adjust!
The average college student lives off whatever the dining hall situation a university may offer. This means that all one must do to indulge in an assortment of overpriced delicacies is swipe a card. There are a rare few students who go grocery shopping and appear as though they’ve assimilated into adulthood, but generally, the groceries are either microwaveable or go sour from being neglected in favor of eating out and ordering in.
The necessity to cook isn’t a necessity and the concept of three meals a day is highly suggestible. When college ends, it’s time to learn how to eat again — like a normal human. Three solid meals a day will eliminate those late-night cravings to the point that ordering Chinese food or pizza is not only the status quo, but also an unnecessary expense.
When going grocery shopping, try to have an idea of actual meals to prepare in mind. Buying potato chips, Nutella and whole wheat bread may seem like a good idea in theory, but even Rachael Ray couldn’t iron chef a 30-minute meal out of that. Limit eating out to special occasions — and no, “because you feel like it” is not a special occasion.
In college, it’s very easy to justify the weekly manicures, tanning sessions and gym memberships — it’s not like we have any real expenses to worry about, right? Well when college comes to an end, it’s important to pick and choose life necessities. Of course, some indulgences will make you feel good about yourself, but it’s important to be limited.
Tan in the summer, paint your own nails, join a reasonably priced gym — or jog outside. Looking good on a budget will not only keep your pockets full but will allow you to appreciate those spa days you can have in the future after reaching your financial goals.
There are two types of living situations in college — on campus and off campus. On-campus living generally includes some sort of dormitory situation in which the fee is factored into your tuition. Off-campus living is often out of pocket (your parent's pockets) whereupon you live in a house with anything between 5 and 15 other people. The great part about off-campus living in many places is that the rent is generally dirt-cheap. Colleges have a tendency to be in undesirable locations such that only those who attend or work at the university would want to live there.
After graduation, it’s a whole new ball game. If you want to live in any kind of metropolitan area, your finances must be in check. It’s not plausible to live in a studio apartment in Manhattan for $2,000 a month just so you can feel independent. Moving back home until you’re ready to afford rent is not the worst idea in the world — in fact, it’s really quite a responsible move because it’s important to live within your means.
No matter your age, the conventional “holiday season” will always put a dent in your wallet. However, in college that “‘tis the season” sprit extends much further than Christmas. In fact, college students will use any holiday as an excuse to dress up and spread merry cheer. Halloween, in particular, is draining on the wallet because while the real-world Halloween falls on a single day, in college, it can last between three and five days — meaning three-to-five costumes.
St. Patrick’s Day is also an unofficial collegiate holiday — and not just for those who are a quarter Irish. All college students relish in the opportunity to get decked out in green and spend copious amounts of cash on Guinness. No one is asking you to abandon that holiday spirit, but moderation is the key.
You don’t have to go balls-to-the-walls on every holiday — I’d recommend two holidays (excluding Christmas and New Years, which are a given) for you entitle yourself to some serious playtime — how about President’s Day? How expensive can a Lincoln costume be?
Unlike the movie reports, sprang break ain’t forever. In college, it’s totally acceptable to pick up and head out to an exotic location for sun, sand, and shots in March, but when college ends, it’s likely that the vacations will, too. For newly graduated members of society, it’s time to find a job and it’s not likely that an employer will to cough up vacation time before you put in some serious hours (maybe months, even years). In a sense, this is a good thing. Vacations are wonderful, but they generally cost a pretty penny.
Rather than dreaming about exotic locations, save your bills and travel to someplace that’s more accessible. The Jersey Shore might not be Cabo San Lucas, but it’s still a beach. Allowing yourself to become financially stable eliminates a great deal of stress and worry — when you’re set in your career, the time to travel will present itself. Delayed gratification is the foundation of adulthood — at least that’s what I’ve heard.
College and dating go together like pickle juice and whiskey — it’s not for everyone. After graduation, the dating scene may become a more integral part of everyday life. Whether you’re a serial dater or strictly the monogamous type, significant others cost money. Back in the ‘50s, it was the man’s job to buy all the meals and spoil and the lady — nowadays, us women like to keep things on an even playing field, which means we’re all paying the bill. Similar to the dining advice, cook for each other!
Not only is it more romantic, but it’s cheaper, too. First dates don’t need to be at five-star restaurants. There are so many ways to have a great time on a budget — going on a stroll in the park with some ice cream may seem like a cop out, but it’s better than forced conversation over an $80 steak. When it comes to dating, your personality will sell itself and is not related to the amount of dough you spend.
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