Help, I Have No Money; Cash Management for New College Grads

By in Debt, Money Management, Personal Finance, Saving

“Aura would like you to know she is having a very hard time.” Tiny Furniture the movie. 

Life is particularly challenging for new college graduates. Take a few positive steps and you can make it better. By practicing how to live within your income from the beginning of your working life, you increase your chances for financial success and wealth.

The Pros & Cons of Graduating College

College Graduation ushers in a new era filled with excitement and abject terror. First, the good; you made it! Your papers and exams are over. Next, reality hits, it’s time to FACE ADULTHOOD. Yikes!

Aura, the protagonist in the classic Lena Dunham movie Tiny Furniture is smacked with this harsh reality. After a week of mind-numbing work as a “day hostess” at a dinner-only NYC restaurant, she opens her paycheck and finds a check for $176.00. Quitting the menial job is Aura’s solution. Her next coping strategy is smoking pot and promiscuity. You probably shouldn’t continue in her footsteps

New College Grad: Get Your Money Strategies Straight

Here are some solid coping strategies which improve on those of Aura. Regardless of whether you garnered a great post graduation job or not, there are some short term financial necessities:

  • Income
  • Housing
  • Debt Repayment
  • Transportation

Income First

  • If you have a job, great. If not, get a job because you need money! Try for a career job, which usually takes some time. Meanwhile do anything to pay the bills; fast food is always hiring and pays more than minimum wage.
  • After you get paid, DO NOT CASH YOUR CHECK.
  • Have your employer directly deposit it in a bank account. No matter the size of the check, you must have part of your pay directly deposited in a savings account immediately.
  • Save part of your paycheck and transfer directly into a savings account. Try The College Investor’s Burst Savings strategy.

cash management-income, expenses, debt, housing


  • Live cheaply! 
  • Fight the tendency towards extravagance and do not use a credit card. The temptation to overspend is too great.
  • I reapeat: Don’t use a credit card! (unless you are positive you will pay off the entire bill in full at the end of the month)
  • Cut back on eating at restaurants for now. Order according to price (eat cheaply). If you head out to a club, have one drink only!
  • Buy a few career clothing items, on sale. That’s it. Do you really need the latest trendy fashions right now?
  • Cell phones can break the budget. Check out cell phone offers online and consider prepaid options.
  • You have your whole life to splurge, commit now to living simply.

Debt Repayment

  • Prioritize debt repayment. It’s extremely difficult to build up savings for now and the future, if you are paying part of your earnings towards debt repayment.
  • Understand the interest rate you are paying on the debt. Credit card debt is the worst, with interest rates in the high double digits. When you carry debt, you are mortgaging your future. What does that mean? Debt is a tax on spending. The higher the interest rate on the debt, the greater the “tax” on the debt.
  • Pay off debt at all costs. Amanda, from Frugal offers some great Debt Resources


  • Consider a “low cost of living” area. Your money will go much further in Cincinnati than in New York City. Think Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Worcester, Fresno, or Tampa. Not New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Miami. You can always trade up to a big city after you garner some job skills and experience.
  • Stay with mom and dad for a while while you get your financial feet on the ground.
  • If you can’t live rent free with the folks, share a house or apartment, and make sure the rules are clear. That will keep the insanity to a minimum.
  • Obviously, there is more to starting out than these few suggestions. As with any life change, take things one step at a time and before you know it, your life will be moving in the direction of YOUR CHOICE.

Action Steps

  • Email this article to all college seniors you know.
  • If you are graduating, open a checking and savings account immediately. Commit to putting part of every paycheck into the savings account. This habit will serve you well. 

image credit: Photogeek 133

A version of this article was previously published (comments remain intact)

Readers, what are your recommendations for the new college graduate?