Congrats, Graduate — you did it! But now that school’s out, you’ve got some big decisions to make, the least of which is what you’re going to do with all that graduation money.
Whether you’re fresh out of high school or a newly-degreed college grad, here are seven smart ways to handle that influx of cash:
Offset College Costs
It may not make a huge dent, but high-school grads may want to consider using their newfound cash to help offset the cost of their college education. It may not seem sexy, but it’s super smart.
You probably have dollar signs in your eyes right now staring at that Scrooge McDuck-worthy pile of cash, but this isn’t the time to go on a free-for-all spending spree. You’ve got real-life expenses coming up — so it’s important to budget even your gift money.
“It’s so common to ignore the fact that your spike in income after graduation is maybe and probably temporary,” reminds Nicole Laoutaris of RateHub, a financial service provider. “Gifts from family and friends only go so far, and if you have a new job, you’ll find soon that you have new financial responsibilities that go along with that: moving, higher rent, new clothes for work, travel.”
Spend It — Frugally
OK, so you don’t have to budget all your grad money toward the rent. If you’ve paid your bills this month, treat yourself. Just make sure your stay conscious of how much you’re spending.
“If you’re going to spend a little extra money on that post-graduation trip, be frugal,” Laoutaris says. “Make breakfast at home, bicycle around your city, and continue to socialize with friends at someone’s house instead of overspending at bars and restaurants.”
Pay Off Your Credit Cards
Credit card companies had me pegged from the moment I turned 18. I started receiving phone calls and offers for credit cards, and of course I signed up for all of them — because freeeee mooooneeeeey! That went down like a lead balloon, which is why I’m a personal finance expert today telling you how to manage your money. Live and learn, folks.
If you’re a college grad, consider using that cash influx to pay off your student credit card balance.
Pay Down Your Student Loans
While you should probably put some of your graduation money toward your student loans, just how much is a matter of consideration.
“Be careful about paying a large amount of your student loans back,” says financial planner and investment adviser Jaycob Arbogast. “If you drop below $30,000 in federal loans you’ll no longer be eligible for extended repayment plans. So make sure to choose your payment plan first.”
If you were a business major in college, you probably don’t need me telling you how to invest your graduation money. But for all you other majors out there that don’t know the first thing about investing, listen up: Investing is critical to personal wealth building, and there’s no better time to start than the present. There are myriad ways you can invest — stocks, starting a new business, in yourself by furthering your education — but what’s most important is that you’re actively pursuing it.
Put It In the Bank
If you’re at a crossroads in life and unsure of how to manage your graduation money in a positive way, then send it to the bank. Out of sight, out of mind, can be a good thing if all that cash is likely to start burning a hole in your pocket — especially if you don’t have a good-paying job after you graduate.
“Figure out what your major life goals are,” Laoutaris advises. “Then put that extra money into the right type of savings account so you can start accumulating interest right away. You’ll thank yourself later.”
Photo Credit: Mark Ramsay
You missed a few: Gambling, Donations, Personal Loans. Just a few other ideas for the new grads.
Len Penzo says
Some people would say investing and gambling are one in the same.
Millennial Moola says
I’m incredibly happy I took my grad money and invested it instead of buying a new car like my friends did.
Len Penzo says
Wow. That’s a lot of graduation cash! Back when I graduated I think I got enough to buy a new set of tires.
great tips here! thanks
My graduation money became my emergency fund. While it wasn’t much, it did help me out in a pinch. Holding on to that money will pay off in the long run. Thanks for sharing the tips!
Len Penzo says
Thank you, Rachel. You can’t go wrong converting your grad money into an emergency fund!
Amy King says
Thanks for your post. I am looking forward to reading another post like this one soon.