Graduation is an awesome celebration of your hard work, and brings with it exciting life changes and career opportunities. But it also means more responsibility. You’re not worrying about making it to class on time anymore. Rather, how to consolidate your student loan debt is on your mind. And unless you’re moving to a state that repays student loans, you’re gonna need all the financial planning advice you can get. Here are four things every new grad should have on their financial checklist. Cross these suckers off, and you’ll be on your way to surviving and thriving in the real world (financially, of course — you’re killin’ it otherwise).

Budgeting at home money

Start budgeting

Once you’re out on your own, the cost of living can skyrocket. Use a free personal finance app like Mint or You Need a Budget that connect to your bank accounts to track your money and give you a great overview of your spending habits. Ignoring the app because it’s too automatic? Download this budget template to stay on top of every single purchase. A good guideline for how much money should be going towards what is the 50/20/30 rule: 50 percent of your income towards essentials like rent, 20 percent towards savings and 30 percent towards non-essentials (the fun stuff). If you’re spending more than your paycheck, start by looking at your non-essential spending. Eating out, entertainment and shopping are the easiest categories to cut back on.

Chip away at those student loans

If you have student loan debt, be prepared. Your loans will enter the repayment period six to nine months after graduation, and you’ll need to pay at least the minimum payment (more than the minimum if possible!) on a set schedule. If you’re unable to make payments, talk to your lenders about forbearance or deferment, which are good ways to help you postpone payments until you have a steady income. Also use resources like the Federal Student Aid website for additional tips and tricks to keeping student loans in check.

Online shopping credit card

Credit Card Debt

The average college graduate leaves school with a $2,000 credit card balance, according to a Nellie Mae study. It’s important to stay on top of these payments and pay your bills on time, since even one late payment can increase your interest rates and damage your credit score. See if you can make that easier immediately (hooray) by calling your credit card company to see if you can reduce your interest rate.

Career planning

During these tough economic times, you may find that the only work you can land is temporary, but don’t despair: Suze Orman worked as a waitress for seven years before becoming a renowned financial management guru. If you do get full-time work, take advantage of company benefits, including healthcare and retirement plans, especially if your company offers 401K matching, as soon as you start. If your company doesn’t offer a 401(k), then open up an IRA as soon as you have a little extra change to contribute. It’s never too early to start saving for your future!

Following this checklist will help you enjoy your post-grad life more (independence! happy hours!) and avoid getting weighed down by money stress. Even if you can’t implement everything today, make a plan and get started on as many financial goals as possible. Trust us, you won’t regret it.

Are you a new graduate? Tell us about your own money checklist @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)