Graduation: High School & College
By Bernard Freeman
High School | Ready for The Next Steps?
Diploma in hand, it’s now the first day of the rest of your life. Some students may have the summer to prepare before heading into college or technical school while other new grads may be going straight into their new careers.
Here are some things you should have in order once the ink on your paper is dry.
Whether you’re off for more education or starting a new job — or both — you need to set up a budget before leaving the nest. Have your parents help; it’s likely they’ve been doing it for years. Don’t forget to set aside some for savings, too, in case of emergencies. And also make sure to define emergency. Late-night chicken nuggets is a no, ER visits are a yes.
You’ll need to set up a checking account and a savings account and, if you’re going right into the workforce, a retirement account, too. Make sure you understand what each of these accounts does and is for, and how much you’ll be putting there every paycheck.
Also understand how taxes work and how much will be taken out of each check.
Setting Up Housekeeping
Hopefully during your time in your parents’ house you’ve picked up some skills like laundry, cleaning and cooking. If not, now’s the time before you find yourself on your own. Before you get your first apartment or dorm room, make sure you understand the basics of living on your own, including how to clean your clothes, how to clean the bathroom and other life skills. Start prepping some basic recipes now so you can have a good handle on how to feed yourself once you’re out of the nest.
Some other skills you may want to learn are basic car care — especially if you’re taking a vehicle with you — how your health insurance will work and how to do your banking.
As you transition from high school to whatever’s next, you’ll find that, suddenly, you’re the master of your own time. There are no bells to make sure you go where you’re needed next. Start practicing time management before you leave your parents’ watchful eyes. Make sure you leave plenty of time to get to class or to work, to get home, to make meals, to go grocery shopping. Also understand how your cash flow will work so that you can manage your money and your time effectively.
College | Finding Your First Apartment
Now that you’ve got your degree and snagged your first job, it’s time to set up your first apartment. This is going to be different, in a lot of ways, than your student housing, whether it was on-campus or off.
Your new neighborhood is likely to be more diverse, with a variety of people in different stages of life, and it may even be in a whole new town or region.
What to Consider
The focal point of your new town is likely going to be where you work. Choose a first apartment in an area where it’s easy to get to work or, if you work remotely, in an area with lots of different places to work from, such as co-working spaces, coffee shops and cafes.
Start with your paycheck, then subtract your other monthly expenses, such as a car note, insurance and student loans. You may also need to get a letter from your new company’s HR department stating your pay for your new landlord.
Also check your credit. Most landlords want to see a score above 670, but it may be even higher in some places. Many recent college graduates have a lower score simply because they haven’t had credit for as long as others, so you may have to have a parent or guardian cosign for you. Be prepared for this before you fall in love with a place.
Start Looking at Rentals
Speaking of falling in love, never look at rentals above your budget and don’t settle on the first place you find. Look at a variety of different apartments with a wide range of amenities. Consider what’s included in the rent and what’s extra. Also ask for examples of their contracts so you can read them over, keeping an eye out for hidden fees or any rules and regulations that may result in you paying more.
Check out the area at different times of day and, if you can, in different weather conditions. What may seem like a quiet area during the day may turn into party central at night or the parking lot, high and dry when you visited in the sunshine, may turn into a lake when it rains.
Look at Reviews
Check online reviews, keeping in mind that it’s usually the disgruntled tenants that take the time to post. Check a variety of sites and hold on to a hefty grain of salt. Visit in person and, if you can, talk to residents there now to get a better of idea of what life is really like. Ask questions about the neighbors, about crime, about cell service. There really isn’t any dumb question when considering where you’re going to call home for the next little while.