How to be financially savvy after leaving university

Grads Corner
08 July 2019 | Grads Corner | Guest Author

The weeks and months after graduation can be among the most bewildering of your life. Without the steady flow of a student loan keeping things afloat, you might find yourself making a special effort to avoid the ‘display balance’ button at every cash machine. But if you keep an eye on your money while you’re firing off job applications, settling into a new place or longing to be a fresher again, smart decisions can mean big savings.


Where to live

Moving back into your childhood bedroom after the heady days of student living is unthinkable for some and unavoidable for others. Either way, it’s increasingly common - according to a 2019 survey by Guarantor Loan Comparison, 26% of 21-24 year olds live in their parents’ house. Of those, there are more than twice as many living rent free as paying reduced rent.

Don’t dismiss it as a backwards step - it’s worth considering, especially if you’re figuring out your next move or if your parents live close to where you’re pursuing your career. Whatever the arrangement, you’re likely to save money on rent, not to mention bills and food costs.

Others choose to stay close to their university. After three years as a student you’re bound to know your way around local transport, discount shops and even the rental market. This can make for handy savings, especially when combined with the money you’re no longer spending on bar crawls and late-night kebabs.

It’s harder if your career is taking you to a brand new town, so make sure you know what prices are like and what hidden costs you might face. In some cities like London, you may well need a month’s rent upfront as well as a deposit to secure a room. Not to mention the endless travelcard options that can save you big money on commuting - find out what’s best for you and get to know the place inside out.


Where to keep your money...

Leaving university means graduating to a new bank account too (and saying a teary goodbye to that interest-free overdraft). If you’ve yet to pay it off, most graduate accounts with high street banks will reduce your overdraft incrementally year-on-year to make it easier. Don’t feel you have to stick around - some banks will pay you for switching, and others will offer perks and discounts to entice you, so shop around and see what’s useful.

It’s also a good time to start saving, whether in the short or long term. A regular savings account will shield your money from impulsive spending or help you save for that big trip you’ve always talked about, while a lifetime ISA allows you to start piling up the pennies for your first home.


… and how to spend it

Whether you’ve gone straight into a job, had a graduation present or slowed down your social life, you might find graduating means you’ve got more disposable income than before - but try and maintain that savvy student mindset. The discounts are still there, you’ve just got to dig a little more.

It’s worth buying a 16-25 railcard if you’re travelling back and forth a lot, and start thinking twice when a self-service checkout asks you if you’ve got a points card. Sign up for one and you’ll reap the rewards on your grocery shop.

Get into the habit of using voucher sites for meals out and experiences, and price comparison sites for phones, insurance, household utilities and even holidays. Those extra minutes trawling online will pay off in spades.


Where to start earning (or not)

You might come across the ideal position or still be deciding on the right career - either way, think carefully before accepting a job. If it’s paid, does the salary seem competitive and fair for both the industry and the town? Find out what your monthly incomings will be after tax (and, eventually, student loan repayments) and figure out what you’ll need to spend or save.

If it’s an unpaid internship or work experience, you need to consider the necessary financial support - from additional paid work, using savings or support from your parents. It might be at your dream company, but don’t get carried away with excitement - consider the experience you’ll get out of it and if the arrangement is really benefiting you or your employer. 

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