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By Emily Diekelmann

Post-grad finances are the big elephant in the room that nobody talks to you about before graduation.

After you receive your diploma and start your new job, all of a sudden you’re in the ocean with a life jacket but no boat, struggling to stay afloat while those big financial waves keep hitting. Here are the top five money mistakes that all post-grads need to avoid.

1. Credit Card Debt

It may seem like a very attractive alternative to having the money in hand, but it is a slippery slope that most people go down and can’t recover from for years (if ever).

Between the interest and how it affects your credit, too much debt can put you in a worse financial state than when you started or even prevent you from being able to buy a car or house in the future. Unless a person has enough self control to pay off their card whenever they spend, steer clear of getting one right out of school.

2. Not Budgeting Wisely

You are just out of college with your first full-time job that actually pays you more than minimum wage. The first paycheck hits your bank account and you can’t believe how much is in there, so you go out and spend it without properly thinking about rent being due or that you have a loan payment that will come out in a few weeks.

Depending on how much you are paid and when you are paid (bi-weekly or monthly), creating a schedule of when the bills, rent and all essential items come out can help you plan for any special events or occasions that may come later in the month or before you know another paycheck with be gracing your bank account. If you know ahead of time what you will be using your money for, then you won’t be scraping to get by paycheck to paycheck.

3. No Savings Account or Retirement Funds

Most people don’t think they can afford taking any money of their paychecks throughout the month to place in savings, but it is crucial to have some money saved up in case of emergency such as unemployment, disaster or illness.

That may mean cutting back on Starbucks on your way to work or buying one less thing when you are out shopping. Those expenses add up quickly when they can be going toward your future.

Many banks have a savings program that you can enroll in where it will automatically be taken from your account each month and you never even see it. Also as the money sits there (and hopefully isn’t touched), the interest accrues on it and will become more and more over the years. Depending on your job, they will have a system in place to help you begin to use part of your paycheck to save for retirement. Although you don’t get to reap the benefits right away, you will be grateful in the future to know that you have saved up and will have that money if need be.

4. Spending Money on Unnecessary Expenses

This one is especially hard because you want to stay close to those you went to school with and still have a good time, which may mean going out to a bar or club on Friday night, but what you don’t realize is that those Happy Hour drinks add up.

It isn’t expected that you completely ignore your social life once you graduate from college, but try to plan events or a get-together that isn’t as strenuous on the pocketbook instead. If you know there is a special event coming up, make sure you set aside the money you will need for it.

5. Letting your College Debt Default

You went to the school of your dreams because your parents went there or your friends did, but it is now time to face the music and pay up for that expensive education you just received. While most loan companies allow you to defer for a few months after graduation, once you find a full-time job that pays enough, the loan companies will begin calling for their money back.

To avoid having your entire paycheck go toward loans, set up a payment plan with them within the means of what you get paid currently. Most groups would be happy to receive some money instead of nothing.

Ignoring the loans is the worst thing to do because it will be reflected on your credit, and it is a hard thing to build back up quickly. If you are deferring on your loans because of unemployment or financial hardship, try to keep up with the interest on the loans so that when you are able to pay, it won’t add on to your final total.

What are your favorite money-saving tips? Share with us in the comments below! Want more inspiration? Visit UChic on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest and TUMBLR

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