Congratulations! If you’re one of the many who have graduated or will be graduating in the coming weeks, your transition to adulthood is just beginning. Now that you’re on your own (or will be soon), you’ll have to find a job, figure out where you want to live, find roommates — the list goes on and on. But you know what’s typically missing from that ever-growing list? Taking your money seriously.
Making your finances part of your adulting routine may seem daunting, but with the right tools and tips, you’ll be a pro in no time. See below for five easy and helpful things you can do starting now.
1. Know where you stand, so you can know where you want to go. You have the job and are living on your own — now what? Understanding your financial profile and figuring out where you want to be is a great start. Graduating school comes with a great amount of responsibility as well as new and exciting financial steps for you to take to reach your financial goals. Everyone should have the power in knowing where they stand in order to make well-informed decisions with their money today, tomorrow, and even a few years down the road. Start small and take the first step of writing down your recurring monthly expenses, including rent, car payments, and groceries. Road mapping your monthly expenses will help you track against your financial goals, identify ways to save and, in turn, pave a clear path to having control of your money in the future.
2. Turn to technology for help. Money apps can help you take complete and total control of your finances and give you a clear and holistic view of your financial health. You can download tools like Turbo and Mint, two money management apps that provide you with a complete picture of your financial life and help you manage your day-to-day spending (and even show you how you stack up against similar people). Whether it’s utilizing the savings feature with Mint or using Turbo to calculate your debt-to-income ratio to determine if you’re living within your means, both help you understand where your money is going.
3. Start thinking about (and managing) your debt-to-income ratio. Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is an important number not only to potential lenders but also to you because it can impact future financial purchases. This number shows how much money you owe, what your net worth is, and if you can afford to take on more debt. DTI is your total monthly financial obligations, or debt, divided by your total take-home pay. It is a key financial health indicator that shows if you’re living within your means. The lower your DTI, the stronger your financial health. Here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind: With a ratio of 35 percent or less, your debt is at a manageable level and lenders will find you an attractive applicant. With a ratio of 36-49 percent, your debt is being managed adequately but you have room for improvement. Lenders may require more information to determine if they approve your application. With a ratio of 50 percent or more, you need to take action. This number indicates that you do not have much leftover money after paying your monthly bills, and lenders may not be willing to approve you to take on any more debt.
4. Track all of your $$ (even that side hustle) for tax time. Now that we live in the on-demand economy, making supplemental income is easier than ever. Whether you decide to drive for a ridesharing service or offer professional expertise through websites like Thumbtack or Taskrabbit, it’s important to keep tabs on all of your money coming in. While most budgeting apps can help you with this, it’s tough to track down all of the right forms come tax time. New apps, such as Turbo, can help automatically import all of your income streams — e.g., a full-time job with a W-2, a side gig with a 1099, or non-taxable military income — for both yourself and your spouse or partner directly from TurboTax. If you manage finances for your family, you can also add in any additional self-reported income for your family members to see a complete picture of your financial situation. For newly married (or engaged!) couples, understanding your true household income can help determine where you stand on qualifying for a loan for your first house or help you file your taxes as a married couple for the first time.
5. Cancel those unnecessary subscriptions and memberships. Now it’s time to think about all of the subscription services you belong to, such as streaming networks, magazines, music services, meal prep, gym memberships, and personalized boxes. How can you cut out the redundant services and keep what’s necessary? With services like Hulu, Netflix, HBONow, Showtime, Amazon Prime, and more, you’re paying for different types of content but likely have some overlap. Take a moment to review your bank account monthly statements and take note of all the different monthly subscriptions and memberships you pay for (that can range from $6 to $45 per month). Do you use all of them? There is probably at least one you can cancel or think about taking a break from.
What are your best money tips? Share them with us @BritandCo.
(Photo via Getty)