Linda Geist

MARSHALL, Mo. – You’ve got your diploma in hand. Hopefully, you’ll have a paycheck in hand soon.

Whether you’re graduating from high school or finishing college and heading into the workforce for the first time, good financial decisions early on can pave the road to success, says Trish Savage, personal finance specialist for University of Missouri Extension.

“Our finances overflow into every aspect of our lives,” Savage says. “So it’s important to develop positive habits as you become financially independent and on your own for the first time.”

It can be stressful if you don’t have a job immediately upon graduation, but during this interim period there are simple things you can do to help yourself financially.

Savage offers 10 tips for graduates:

– It pays to pay attention to your finances. Take a personal finance course or get advice if you’re not sure where to start or what to do.

– Get organized. Identify a space for your bills, receipts and important documents.

– Set goals – short, intermediate and long-term.

– Create a spending plan based on your goals and how much money you have to live on. What are your needs (vs. wants)? Provide for basic needs first and pay your bills on time. If you are graduating from college, know your student debt amount, arrange for the payment plan that fits your income and include the payments in your spending plan. Spend less than you make in order to save at least a little.

– Care about your credit. Know what is on your credit report. A free credit report is available at Look for inaccuracies or possible fraudulent activity. Your credit report generates your credit score and influences loan rates, the cost of insurance and much more.

– Be a savvy shopper. Use loyalty programs to reduce gasoline costs. Comparison shop for food and consider non-brand foods. Stay away from predatory loans and rent-to-own businesses. Do without or ask a trusted friend or relative for help first.

– Limit extravagances but don’t completely deny yourself. You may want a pizza from the local pizzeria, but while you are unemployed, treat yourself to a less expensive frozen or homemade pizza instead.

– Barter for services. Exchange your skills with a friend or neighbor.

– Students with loans might consider saving back part of their loan money for the interim period between graduation and employment. This could help pay for transportation, rent, work clothing, food and emergencies.

– Consider buying interview and work clothes from thrift shops or consignment stores. Don’t invest in just one expensive outfit as you may be called back for a second or third interview. Buy multiple basic pieces that you can interchange to make it look like your wardrobe is bigger than it actually is.

For more resources from MU Extension on personal and family finance, including feature articles, answers to frequently asked questions and learning opportunities, go to

More information is also available from the MU Office for Financial Success.