Nothing says adulting quite like hunting for your first post college job. Taking steps to embark on what should, by all indications, be an epic career journey, is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. While there are a litany of resources available that can help you search, apply, and get hired for your dream job, there is less information out there that addresses the financial vulnerability of being a recent graduate who is also currently unemployed.
It’s understandable that job hunting will be your first priority, but that’s no reason to let your grip on your finances loosen. Here are 10 ways to manage your finances while you’re looking for that dream job:
1. Figure out your current financial situation
Understanding your financial situation is paramount to getting through a bout of unemployment unscatched. If you don’t know how much you have and how much you’re spending, review bank statements, utility bills and any other record of financial transactions until you have a clear picture of how much money you’re shelling out each month and on what. This will help give you an idea of how long you can go on without income.
2. Create a budget
Using the information garnered from your deep dive into your personal finances, create a realistic, but firm, budget. Budgets should include all the monthly expenses you can count on, i.e. rent, utility bills, groceries, and a little money for play too –– because even without a job, you don’t want to go totally insane.
3. Stick to your budget!
No matter how hard it is, you have to stick to the budget. These are times when every dollar counts. So, buy the cheap beer, don’t get dessert, and ask your friends if they wouldn’t mind just hanging out at home and binging Netflix. Don’t get sucked into the cycle of spending what you don’t have. This is a new financial reality, and while it won’t last forever, the habits you develop during this period will.
4. Separate your wants from your needs
In the spirit of sticking to your budget, figuring out what you don’t need to spend your money on is as important as figuring out what you do need. Maybe you’ve been getting your hair trimmed every 8 weeks. Well, how about waiting 10, or even 12 weeks between appointments? Or, maybe you always get your clothes dry cleaned. Stick to the laundromat and save the professional press job for your next interview outfit.
5. Shop cheap
There’s no shame in being frugal. Look for online sales and coupons to reduce the cost of groceries, and take a break from name-brand products in favor of generics. Now is also the time to discover the magic of big box retail warehouses like Costco and Sam’s Club. Buying bulk-packaged essentials –– laundry detergent and shampoo, for instance –– will give your budget some much needed breathing room. You get more value for your dollar, and your products will last longer, too.
6. Use credit cards with caution
You may be tempted to put all your unemployment purchases on your credit card, but doing so without a job offer on the table is a huge risk. Though you’re trying your best to get hired, there’s no way of telling when that consistent paycheck will start rolling in. Getting yourself too deep into credit card debt –– and subsequently damaging your credit score –– will have consequences.
7. Find things to do that are fun and free
It might seem like not having a job is preventing you from living your best life, but you’d be surprised to find out how many low-budget activities there are in your city. Many libraries and park districts hold free events, like movie nights, that are open to the public. Museums often offer free admission once a month. With a little creativity and some research, you’ll see that having a good time doesn’t have to cost a lot.
8. Consider rent free living
If you aren’t already locked into a lease, consider crashing on a friend’s couch or with your parents until you lock down employment. Living rent free will do wonders for your savings account, and allow you to sign a lease as a confident, stress-free new employee when the time is right.
9. Explore freelance work opportunities
Two words: side hustle. If you’re harboring a secret talent –– or a car –– use it to your advantage and do some freelance work to rake in some income. Graphic design, jewelry making, dog walking, ride sharing: it’s all good if it’s feeding back into your budget.
10. Don’t get desperate
Being without income is stressful, but it’s important to remain level headed. When a job offer does come, don’t let the panic of your financial situation be the sole input on whether or not you accept. Be pragmatic in your evaluation, which will help you determine if you actually want the job, if it’s a good offer, and if it makes the most sense for you.
If you’re concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated every 14 days.