If you've already folded up your gown and stepped into your first entry-level job, and you're struggling to balance your meager salary against the monthly interest payments on your student loans, you're not alone. But that doesn't make your situation any less serious. Here are a few ways to keep your career on track to "success"…but also to financial freedom.
1. Spend nothing.
Note that we didn't say "spend less." That's a given. In order to free yourself from debt as quickly as possible, you'll need to accept that your circumstances are not those of your parent's generation. In other times and places, young people could afford to take orders from advertisers and buy frivolous things based on momentary whims. But you can't. Take pride in restraint. Cultivate independence from marketers and corporations that want to separate you from your money as quickly as possible.
2. Invest what you save.
This month, you could have purchased a new electronic gadget, an expensive camera, or a better car…but you didn't. Congratulations! By going without or making your current one last a little longer, you saved some money that you can now place into a savings account, a mutual fund, or a retirement account like a 401k. If you don't have any of these things yet, talk to your HR department or your bank and set one up.
3. Be aggressive about yearly raises.
Every year, you should be making more than the year before. If you're carrying school debt, you owe it to yourself to make your education pay off—don't wait for someone else to do this for you. If your boss doesn't offer the annual increase you need, hone your negotiating skills. And if you make your best case and your boss just shrugs and says no, it's time to start looking for a new job.
4. Don't make things worse.
If you're carrying undergraduate debt, don't take on more debt to go to graduate school. At least not until you've explored every possible alternative. Ideally, you shouldn't be paying for your own graduate education; scholarships, assistantships, grants, and employer sponsorships are widely available if you're willing to search for them.
5. Choose your home strategically.
Don't accept the first available apartment you find in the city just because you're intimidated or exhausted by the search. A little patience and relentlessness can cut hundreds of dollars from your monthly rent, which can help you dig out of debt much faster. And if you have to choose between renting and buying, do the research, put in the time, get smart advice, and make a thoughtful, deliberate decision based on your own unique circumstances. Don't shoot from the hip.
Start with a Strong Resume
Like every long journey, the path out of debt begins with a single step: your first job. And your first job begins with a great resume. Visit MyPerfectResume to launch your career—and your financial life—in the right direction.