How to Spend Your College Graduation Money

Posted on Jun 11th, 2015 | Career, College, Home life

You studied for more hours than you can count. You combed through countless textbooks, wrote dozens upon dozens of papers and survived finals week many times over. And thankfully, all that hard work has finally paid off, because here you are, celebrating your college graduation.

Making it through college is a major accomplishment, and if you’re lucky, family members and friends will acknowledge your achievement by showering you with heaps of congratulatory cash. Figuring out how to spend all that graduation money is a good problem to have, and here are some tips to get you started.

First, the Responsible Stuff
Sure, you’ll be entering the working world soon enough, and with that will (ideally) come a steady paycheck. But unless you’ve already secured a job, it’s hard to say how long it’ll take you to find work. And if you’re planning to live on your own once employed, you may find most of your money eaten up by rent and other monthly expenses. So if you’ve got a decent chunk of graduation money at your disposal, make the following smart moves:

  • Start or add to your savings account. Even if you’re planning to live at home for the time being, you still need money on hand in case you encounter an emergency. And if you’re planning to move out, you should have at least three months of expenses saved up before you take the plunge.
  • Put aside money for move-in expenses. Once you sign a lease, there’s a good chance you’ll be looking at first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit all up front. Throw in the cost of movers and new furniture and you’ll need a pretty decent amount of money just to get yourself situated.
  • Pay off a chunk of your student loans. Even if you’ve resigned yourself to making monthly payments for the foreseeable future, you may be able to shorten that payback period by six months, a year, or even longer.
  • Pay off your credit cards. If you racked up debt during college (and you wouldn’t be the first), you now have a great opportunity to rid yourself of the looming dark cloud that is your credit card balance.
  • Put a down payment on a car. If you don’t have a car but need one to commute, this one’s a no-brainer. Similarly, if your current vehicle needs major repairs, better to tackle them now while you’ve got the cash.

And Now the Fun Stuff
You’ve worked hard to get through college, and you deserve to use at least some of your gift money for things that are just plain fun. So you may want to:

  • Take a big trip. Once you start working, you may find it difficult to get away, so now’s the time to check one or two items off your travel bucket list.
  • Update your wardrobe. Dressing professionally doesn’t have to mean wearing the same boring attire day in, day out. Treat yourself to some clothing that’s as fashionable as it is functional.
  • Buy a new gadget. Tired of dealing with a phone battery that won’t last? Need a new tablet or laptop? Here’s the perfect opportunity to upgrade.
  • Give back. It’s hard to put a price tag on that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from helping others. Consider making a donation to your favorite charity while you’ve got the money to do so.

No matter what you decide to do with your graduation money, just remember: It may be a gift, but you earned it. And that’s reason enough to celebrate.

 Photo by 401(K) 2013 via cc