When you’re fresh out of college, it FEELS like you have every option at your fingertips, however, this feeling wont do you any good if you simply don’t know all of your options, and aren’t ready to say YES to new opportunities.
My Adulting Adventure
Fully adulting seemed so out of reach and when I was 22. I was determined to make my own way in the world without falling for the status quo. I moved 3,000 miles from home to a city that I had never heard of, and knew no one. I got an internship in a subject completely irrelevant to my college major, started a business in video production the same year YouTube was invented, and became a wildland firefighter. I did these things because these opportunities were put in front of me and I said YES.
But it would have been just as easy to seek different opportunities, and say YES to those instead. This could have been a completely different experience, landing myself in a totally different career path. I accepted these opportunities because I simply didn’t take the time to realize I had other options.
Mindset + Action = Success
So what are your options? Truthfully, you can do anything, live anywhere, be anyone you want to be. You just have to set your mind to it and think ahead. Yes, you can plan to be a millionaire by the age of 25 – you just need to set you mind to it, make a detailed game plan, and execute it! So take a minute to think about this:
- Who is your ideal self?
- How will you become that person?
- What opportunities do you need to say YES to, to fully realize this goal?
- What might stand in the way of you accepting a life-changing opportunity?
- How will you set yourself up now, so you are ready to say YES opportunities?
Be ready when you’re presented with Opportunity
Before you can accept any truly fun, life-changing opportunities, you need to take care of a few very important things straight our of college. These are decisions I am VERY glad I’d made early on in my path to adulting.
1.Get out of Debt As Fast As Possible
This might seem impossible when your college loans are five or six figures. But in truth, it is very achievable with the right mindset. I paid off my college loans in 2 years. So did my younger brother. We had been raised with plenty of financial sense that made paying off debt the obvious first step toward whatever we wanted to do in the future.
The longer your loans sit with your provider, the more money they are taking from you in the form of interest. By paying off debt quicker, (always starting with the highest interest loan first) your loans will ultimately cost hundreds or thousands of dollars less.
So how do you get out of Debt? You need a combination of a few things: (1) Prioritize your debt over everything except the vey basics (2) Live frugally to save more to pay down debts (3) If you’re overwhelmed seek help through debt relief programs or through your lender. Often you are overpaying for your loans and a few simple adjustments can mean the difference of thousands of dollars.(4) Seek scholarships and debt forgiveness programs that can be applies to your student loans. Did you think scholarships stopped once you ended your college career? Nope. Seek those out and take thousands of dollars off your debt. Americorps is good place to start.
2. Stick to a Budget + Become a Money-Saving-Machine
Budgets are a MUST for anyone just starting out. Often, you don’t have much income, and will need to cut corners just to make ends meet. By sticking to a budget you ensure you have enough money for everything – even paying off your student debt. You can even predict WHEN you will pay off your loans! With a date in hand, it makes you see the light at the end of the tunnel.
To create a budget you need to take account of how much you spend on necessities, how much you spend on non-necessities, and how much extra you’re left with. You can do this by looking over your card and bank statements or using tracking apps like Mint.
Once you figure out where you are currently, it’s time to find ways to eliminate non-essential spending, and reduce what you spend on necessities. You can do this by being smarter with your grocery shopping and cooking all your meals at home (yes, even your work lunches!). If you don’t know how to cook, wrangle up a coupon or a discount on a few meal kit boxes to follow some easy recipes, learn how to cook with healthy ingredients, and learn the basic concepts of cooking. Meal kits don’t have to be pricy, and you can actually use credit card points to help pay for them, and you can find coupons for free boxes all over the place!
You can also cut costs by only buying clothes and shoes from thrift stores (the ULTIMATE bargain hunter experience!), avoiding eating out (and drinking out), and cancelling unnecessary bills.
You’ll be surprised how quickly all those adjustments add up. All the money you save can be used to pay off your student loans, build a travel-fund, and cushion your savings account. The key is not to spend it on anything that doesn’t contribute to your bigger goals. Things will only momentarily gratify you, but experiences and being debt-free will pay dividends for the rest of your life.
3. Travel Everywhere
This might seem to go against what I just said in number two: If you’re saving all your money, how will you afford to travel. Saving for your dream holiday is perfectly doable on a tight budget. It might involve getting a side hustle, or allocating a certain amount from your paycheck into a designated vacation-fund-account (that you don’t access until you have enough to cover your travel plans!).
I outline exactly how to save an extra $1000 for travel every two months in this blog post.
Travel is an extremely important part of your early-20-something experience. DO NOT let yourself turn 30 without having traveled extensively in your 20’s. This time of your life is unique, and while it might feel like society is telling you to get a job and settle down, you can do all of that ofter you turn 28.
It’s much easier to travel when you have your debts paid off and you have a healthy savings in the bank. So get out there and get to know the word you live in! You’ll inevitably discover countless priceless opportunities along the way.
What do you wish you knew in your early 20’s? Let us know in the comments!
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