6 Tips for Spending Less as a Bridesmaid

$1,695.

“What’s that the price of?” you might be wondering. A fabulous vacation to an exotic island? A down-payment on a new car? The price of heating your home for the winter?

Think again! That’s the amount, according to a 2010 study done by WeddingChannel.com, that the average American woman spends on being a bridesmaid. And that’s per wedding. So if you’re a really good friend or have a lot of sisters, you’re in big trouble.

help me i'm poor

A couple of weeks ago I blogged some tips on how the bride and groom can save a few bucks on their big day. I realized after writing it, however, that those tips didn’t really help me out much because I personally have never been a bride. What I have been a lot recently is a bridesmaid. And while I am genuinely always flattered and excited to be one, I am starting to feel the strain it puts on my wallet a little bit. So here are 6 tips for how you can shine in your chiffon and nude heels without breaking the bank.

  1. It’s okay to say no. You might feel guilty declining, but $1,695 is a hefty price tag. As much as you want to be there for the bride on her big day, sometimes it’s not economically feasible. And no one wants to be that party-pooper bridesmaid who complains about how expensive everything is all the time. Before you say yes, be sure you can commit financially to your duties. If not, tell the the bride you’re flattered she wants to include you in her special day, but you’ll need to do it as a regular guest instead of as a member of the wedding party.
  2. Rent a dress. You’re not going to wear it again. Just accept that before you buy it. I’m not sure whether it’s the chiffon or the color or what, but bridesmaid dresses just have a distinct look that makes them unwearable at any event where you will not be standing next to a girl in white while holding a bouquet. Before you start shopping, recommend that the bride check out sites that let you rent dresses for cheaper than you purchase them. There are quite a few out there like Rent the Dress, Vow to be Chic, and Union Station that let you rent a dress for the day for a fraction of the cost of purchasing one. And they have the same designer, styles, and color options of a traditional bridal shop. Plus once you wear it you can return it, so it doesn’t take up space in your closet.
  3. Reign in the pre-wedding celebrations. We all want to be remembered as the bridesmaid that threw the bachelorette of the century, but it’s also important to keep money in mind when planning these pre-wedding events. You don’t have to travel somewhere far away for the bachelorette to be exciting. A girls night out in your hometown or an old-fashioned slumber party could be just as fun, but more budget-friendly. Likewise the bridal shower venue and decorations don’t have to be extravagant. Go on Pinterest, DIY some personalized decorations, and make an at-home shower look spectacular. If some bridesmaids or important guests are coming from far away, consider having both events on the same day or weekend to limit travel costs. And last but not least, keep the bridal “do-dads” to a minimum. You don’t need “Team Bride” t-shirts, buttons, hats, sashes, and shot glasses. Pick one item and wear it proudly.

    My mom and I threw a Downton Abbey themed tea for my sister's bridal shower in our front yard. Lots of DIY savings involved.

    My mom and I threw a Downton Abbey themed tea for my sister’s bridal shower in our front yard. Lots of DIY savings involved.

  4. Be gift savvy. Before you start shopping determine a realistic amount to spend on gifts that fits your budget. Remember that you’ll probably have to get more than one (shower, wedding, maybe even engagement part and bachelorette). Then, hit the registry early. If you wait too long, your options are more limited and there might not be anything left in your price range. Or if you’re crafty, consider DIYing something for the happy couple. Another way to combat cost is to give a group gift from all the bridesmaids. If everyone chips in, you might be able to purchase something nice and meaningful without breaking the bank. Or you can do something creative like a wedding day survival kit for the bride from all her girls.
  5. The more the merrier. Travel and accommodations are another wedding expense that can start to burst your budget. Keep the cost down by sharing it with friends. Driving to the wedding? Carpool and have everyone pitch in for gas. Staying in a hotel room? Cram as many people in there as you can! You can even ask if the hotel has a cot or bring sleeping bags. And remember, the earlier you book flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, etc., the lower the price is. So as soon as you know the details of the wedding, start the hunt for the best travel prices.
  6. DIY hair and make-up. If possible, do your own hair and make up on the day. Or have all the bridesmaids do hair and make-up for each other. You want to look good in the pictures, but professional hair and make-up can cost anywhere from $50 to $200. Not cheap! YouTube has no shortage of tutorials to help you out if, like me, your beauty regime normally consists of putting on mascara and (maybe) brushing your hair. If the bride is hesitant about DIY beauty, do a test-run at the bridal shower or bachelorette to make sure she likes your look.

Hope these tips help you walk down the aisle confident that you are on your A-game, both as a bridesmaid and a financial wizard. Happy Wedding Season!

8 Wedding Things You Don’t Need

Summer 2015 is the summer of weddings for me. And as a frequent wedding-goer, there are really only three things I care about as a guest. They are, in order from least to most important: a good dance floor, an open bar, and a few minutes with the happy couple. That’s it. And I think most wedding guests are on the same page. Unless you are one of the women on the TLC show “Four Weddings.” Those girls are leaving the reception all, “The center pieces were tacky and the cupcakes didn’t have the exact icing I prefer. I give it a 4 out of 10.” But everyone else is is just happy to be there with you, enjoying your special day.

Weddings are expensive. That’s just a fact. You need food, booze, a venue . . . the list goes on. But what can increase the price of your wedding even more is all of the extra details that go into it that your guests don’t even notice. Cutting out just a few things can really help keep your budget smaller. So in the name of saving money, I have compiled this list of wedding things you shouldn’t spend money on.

Here are 8 Things You Do NOT Need for Your Wedding:

  • An Engagement Party – I love a good party, but often there are so many that lead up to the wedding that it sort of makes the actual event seem less special. An engagement party, a bachelor/bachelorette party, a bridal shower, a rehearsal dinner, a brunch the day after . . . the list goes on and on. Be selective and only have a few pre/post-wedding events. Cutting down on all these extra celebrations will not only save you money but it will also make your ceremony and reception more memorable.

    Unless you are the girl from "Revenge" and it's the setting for one of your dramatic schemes, Engagement Parties are not necessary.

    Unless you are the girl from “Revenge” and it’s the setting for one of your dramatic schemes, Engagement Parties are not necessary.

  • Save-the-Dates – If you send out your invitations on time (6 to 8 weeks before the wedding), then you don’t really need Save-the-Dates. They’re just extra paper and postage that jack up your budget. If your wedding is during peak season or at a far-away destination for many of your guests, consider sending invitations on the earlier side (maybe 10 to 12 weeks in advance) to give people more time to plan. Or send Save-the-Dates via e-mail – it’s free and environmentally friendly.
  • Guests You Don’t Know – Creating a guest list is often the most difficult wedding prep task. It can quickly grow from 75 to 150 to 300 once you start adding in coworkers, plus-ones, and second cousins once removed. You don’t want to leave anyone out, but it’s also important to remember that the wedding is about the bride and groom, not their extended social circle. Try sticking to guests that are in your life now. My friend had a great rule-of-thumb for deciding which friends made her guest list – if she didn’t text you to tell you she got engaged, she didn’t invite you. It was an easy way to eliminate friends she still cared about but didn’t really talk to or see any more. You can also try putting your guests into categories such as: young children, coworkers, family friends. Then see if you can agree to eliminate an entire category. Exceptions might pop up to any of these rules, but they’ll help keep the numbers down.
  • Ceremony Programs and Menus – More paper! Most of your guests have been to a wedding before and they know the drill. All of those thoughtfully created programs tend to end up crumpled up on reception tables by the end of the night. Plus your guests don’t need to see a menu because already picked chicken or fish back when they sent their RSVP card and they’re stuck with whatever they chose back then. So save a few bucks by not printing these extra items. Instead, try writing the same info out on chalkboards. They’re inexpensive, fun to personalize, and an easy way to add decoration to your venue.
  • DIY Pinterest Crafts – Pinterest can be a great resource for ideas on DIY decorations, favors, centerpieces, etc. But it can also be very dangerous, because there are so many ideas out there that it can be hard to narrow them down to ones that are within your budget, time constraints, and abilities. You don’t need a cake, and cupcakes, and a candy bar. You don’t need a butterfly release, a balloon arch, and personalized napkins with your initials (all things I legit found on Pinterest). The point is, it’s easy to get caught up in the little details of the wedding and go overboard. It’s not good for your budget or your stress-level. Pick a few wedding details that are important to you, like centerpieces and the guestbook, and focus on those.

    Where would one even get that many old cowboy boots?

    Where would one even get that many old cowboy boots?

  • A Minister – If you’re not particularly religious, cut the cost of hiring an officiant and have a family member or friend marry you instead. Becoming an officiant online is easy and inexpensive. And having someone who knows you both well will make the ceremony more personal.
  • A DJ or Band – Entertainment can be one of the most costly expenses for a wedding reception. Cut it out completely by bringing your own music! Everyone has an iPod or phone that can be hooked up to the sound system. You can create a custom playlist beforehand so you get exactly the songs you want. You can even ask for song requests from guests on the RSVP cards. Or ask a friend to DJ for you.
  • Favors – Your guests came to your wedding to see you get married, not for the party favor. Similar to the programs, favors are an item that often gets left behind at a wedding. Favors are a gesture intended to thank your guests for coming to the event. Scrap them altogether and instead be sure to spend a few minutes talking to each guest during the reception. Or have an old-fashioned receiving line. Follow up by acknowledging your guest’s presence on your special day in their thank you card. Both of those steps are more personal than a party favor and much cheaper!

Do you have any tips for saving money on your wedding? Feel free to share!

Tips for Furnishing Your Home on the Cheap

Recently my roommate of two years moved out of my apartment. Mostly I am suffering from separation anxiety. I have to watch the Real Housewives alone?! Who will listen to my angry feminist rants?! Who will order an unnecessarily large amount of Chinese food take out with me?!

But I also had this frightening moment a few weeks ago when she started packing where I suddenly realized that all of the things in the apartment are hers. The couch, the coffee table, the dining room table, the TV, the plates, silverware, pots, pans . . . ALL THE THINGS. I looked around and was like, “What do I even actually own in here?!” The answer is a large, framed One Direction poster and a microwave. What else do you need in life, though? I’ll be fine.

Maybe I will just give up my apartment and start living under my desk at work.

Maybe I will just give up my apartment and start living under my desk at work. It’s comfortable there. 

Luckily my new roommate is a real adult who owns stuff like a couch and spoons so I won’t be living alone in a completely empty apartment. But the change in living arrangements did make me realize how expensive it is to live on your own. Besides being able to afford your rent or mortgage payment, you also have to pay for all of the stuff that goes inside your living space. If I had needed to start from scratch on my own here’s an estimate of the things I would have to purchase and their cost:

  • Couch – $299.00
  • Chair – $109.00
  • Coffee Table –  $49.99
  • Area Rug – $300.00
  • TV – $139.99
  • Dining Room Table & Chairs – $500.00
  • Pots/Pans – $29.99
  • Cups, Plates, Bowls – $9.99
  • Silverware – $19.99
  • Toaster – $19.99

Total Cost = $1,477.94

That’s a lot of money! I don’t know about you, but I don’t have $1,500 just laying around. Here’s a few tips to help make the cost of filling your living space more manageable:

  • Ask family and friends – People are always moving, redecorating, and reorganizing. You never know who might be looking to get rid of just the item you need. And they most likely will be willing to sell it to you for much cheaper than you could buy it new. Or maybe they’ll even just give to you for free. The only household items I do own are all things that were donated to me by friends and family. That microwave was given to me by a coworker. My bed I “borrowed” from the spare room at my parent’s house. But the One Direction poster, I will have you know, I bought with my own hard-earned money.
  • Buy used – If no one you know has the household item you’re looking for, try a consignment store or website. They often have gently used items for a reasonable price. People tend to think places like Goodwill or the Salvation Army only have clothes, but they often get larger items donated too. And online sites like Craigslist make it easy to shop for what you want. Even yard sales can have the items you’re looking for. It doesn’t have to be brand new, just functional and clean!
  • Shop bargain stores – My best tip for buying household items is the Christmas Tree Shop. If you’ve never been there you are missing out. They have a ton of kitchenware, furniture, decorations, etc. for super cheap. That’s where I found the pricing for the stuff on my list like plates and silverware. They had an entire 21-piece set of plates, bowls, cups, and mugs for $9.99. It was plastic and bright red but hey, it’ll do the job just fine!
  • Prioritize – Furnishing an apartment or home can be costly. Like I said, I certainly don’t have the extra cash in my budget to buy all the stuff I listed above in big big shopping spree. So the solution might be to prioritize what stuff you can’t live without and buy those things first. I need plates and forks so I don’t have to eat with my hands. But a rug can probably wait until I can save up the money to purchase one. You don’t have to buy it all in one day. Pace your purchases so they are affordable.

Hopefully one day soon I will have my own furniture and kitchenware. But until then, I have my poster of One Direction to keep me company while I eat my microwaved meals with my fingers. :)

DIY Wedding Gifts

Summer is wedding season which, if you’re 26 like me, means it’s mandatory for at least 87 of your friends to get married. That’s an exaggeration of course, but I am starting to feel like someone new gets engaged every time I log onto Facebook. This is somewhat disconcerting for me because I only go on Facebook to post Buzzfeeds about boy bands on my roommate’s wall and to force people to read this blog. All kidding aside, I love wedding season because you get to dress up, dance, drink, and see two people you love celebrate their love. But wedding season also mean gifts. Engagement Party gifts. Bridal Shower gifts. Wedding gifts. Lots and lots of gifts

The key to gift-giving is finding that perfect balance between cost and creativity. Buying of the registry is always a safe move because it’s convenient and you know you’re giving the couple a gift they want. But buying off the registry has always felt a little impersonal to me, because I don’t feel like I put any thought into the purchase. I just found it on a list. Plus, gifts on the registry can be expensive. For example, who wants to spend $60 on a pizza stone? I’m not really even sure what a pizza stone is. And I’m confused about why you would bother to figure out how to use one when you could just order delivery pizza . . .

Rather than get a gift from the registry, I like to put my craftiness to good use bu making a wedding gift. There are so many cool DIY wedding crafts out there on Pinterest. And a lot of them are easy, budget-friendly, and turn out to be great keepsakes for the happy couple. Here are two examples of gifts I made:

Love Story Map
B&M Sign

So romantic. So easy to make. Here’s what I did – I bought a large poster board, a map of Maine (yes they still sell those), and a frame. I cut out 3 places on the map that were important to them – the place they met, the place he proposed, and their wedding location. Then I used sharpie to add the wording along with their initials and wedding date. And viola, a fun, personalized wedding gift.

Established Sign

Hohwald

One of the many perks of having a carpenter for a dad is that I do have access to a lot of free wood. To make this fun sign for my sister and her husband, I picked out this nice piece of scrap wood from my dad’s garage and he kindly sanded it for me. If you don’t have a dad with a garage full of 2x4s, you can also buy a piece of ready-to-paint wood at the craft store (bonus – you won’t have to sand it). The next step was to use acrylic paint to paint the whole piece white. Then I used light pencil to trace to outline of the letters of their last name which I then painted over with the dark blue. Once that was dry the last step was to freehand their wedding date over the name. If you’re nervous about free-handing you can also buy stencils at the craft store. Note: be sure to check beforehand that the bride is taking the groom’s last name. Because if she;s not and you make this it’s awkward.

This might be the cheesiest thing I’ve ever said on this blog, but DIY wedding gifts are great because they’re made with thought and love. I’m way more excited to give a gift I made myself than I am if I bought towels off the registry. Plus if you have a lot of weddings to attend in a short period of time, crafting your own gifts can help you wedding gift budget stay affordable. Happy Wedding Season, Everyone!

No More Renting! A Q&A with a First-Time Home-Owner

I might be 26, but I’m pretty sure I’m not a real adult. I think to achieve adulthood status you might need to know how to cook something other than grilled cheese for dinner. And you probably can’t do your laundry at your parents house. Or watch Pretty Little Liars . . .

My friend Meg is also 26, but I’m fairly confident that she is a real adult. I have evidence to prove it. In the last couple of months she has done these three majorly impressive things:

1. She graduated from med school. So she’s a doctor. A real, medical doctor.

2. She got married. In a beautiful ceremony on the water. No eloping to Vegas here.

3. She bought her first home.

To say I am proud of her is an understatement. You go, girl! Doing any one of these things on their own would be an achievement but Meg is a rock star of the adult world and did all three in like six weeks. Almost two years ago, Meg and her then fiance were just starting to think about getting their own place. So to help her out, I wrote three posts about first-time home buying (you can read them here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).

Flash forward to today – Meg and her now husband are now the proud owners of their very own home and I have decided to swoop in to take all the credit. Just kidding. But I did bribe Meg with free brunch so that I could ask her some questions about her experience buying her first place. She had some super smart advice to share with other twenty-somethings considering purchasing a home of their own.

She owns this home. Can you feel the excitement?!

She owns this home. Can you feel the excitement?!

Q. Did any tips from my blog posts help you during the home-buying process?

A. The answer to this, surprisingly, is yes! Maybe I have this adult thing down after all. There were two key things Meg learned from my blog that were really helpful to her: what earnest money is and that she should get a home inspection. Earnest Money is basically money you pledge to put down on a home to show the seller that you’re interested. Meg said it can be the difference between getting a place or not because the larger your earnest deposit, the more serious they know you are about the purchase. Meg also used my tip of getting a home inspection before they bought. It only cost them $325, but they found out about $1,500 of upgrades that need to be done to the fireplace. The home inspector was a neutral third-party who advised Meg on potential issues with the home that they could use when negotiating the purchase.

Q. What were you looking for in your first home? What were your must-haves? Did you and your husband agree on what you were looking for in a new place?

A. It is important to note early on in this blog that Meg is an incredibly organized individual. So it did not surprise me to hear that Meg and her husband started their home-buying process by making three lists: a “Must Have” list, a “Would Like to Have” list, and a “Couldn’t Care Less” list. Their Must-Haves included: location, 2 bedrooms, off-street parking, a tucked-away space for a litterbox, and a good kitchen (they cook a lot, because they are adults). They agreed that these were the 5 most important things to them and that they wouldn’t seriously consider anywhere that didn’t check all of those items off their list. Their Would-Like-to-Haves were things that they might consider paying extra for or things that they would be excited to have in addition to their Must-Haves. If a potential home had outdoor space, a second bathroom, or a dining room, those things might make them pick that place over another viable option. Then the “Couldn’t Care Less” list was stuff they agreed wouldn’t influence their decision at all, like crown-molding or stainless steel appliances. Getting on the same page before they even started looking at listings made the search process a lot smoother. Even if you’re a single-purchaser, give yourself some solid guidelines for what you want to help you differentiate a potential home from just another listing.

Q. Did you use a realtor?

A. Yes! And you should too! Meg and her husband specifically looked for a realtor who was their age, which they would recommend to any other first-timers. She said it helped to have someone who they could easily relate to, who had a similar work/ living situation, and who was at the same phase in his life. And even though Meg did a lot of research on her own looking for potential places online, she said it was super helpful to have a professional also helping with the search.

Q. How was financing with a small, local FI different from working with a mega-bank?

A. Because of the convenience factor, Meg has had her checking account at a mega-bank that shall remain nameless since college. She’s moved around a lot from undergrad to med school to residency, so it seemed like her best option. But when it came time to finance her first home, she went with a small, local financial institution. The biggest reason for the switch? The personal service. She was able to build a relationship with her mortgage officer that she wouldn’t get at a bigger bank. She had one person working on her mortgage from start to finish, she had his office and cell number, and she knew any time she had a question he was just a phone call away. If she had financed her home at the big bank she had been using, she would have called a mortgage hotline with her questions, would have talked to a different rep every time she called, and probably would have waited on hold a lot. Meg had such a good experience banking small that she switched all of her accounts over from the mega-bank. Yay for local banking!

Q. What was the best advice you got?

A. This advice came from me! And probably everyone else she talked to because it’s super important. Once you get pre-approved for a mortgage, leave your credit alone. Don’t apply for any other loans, credit cards, etc. Your pre-approval is an estimate of what your mortgage rate be and how much you can spend that’s based on your credit when it was created. If you do anything to change your credit, your pre-approval can change too. You don’t want to find your dream place only to find out that you are no longer able to finance it.

Q. Was there anything that surprised you about the home-buying process?

A. Meg definitely knew what she was getting into before she bought a home. She spent over a year researching and prepping before she even started looking. But even for someone as well researched as her, she was surprised at how different the cost of things in Maine were from what generic articles online suggested they might be. This is because the cost of everything, from housing to materials to labor, all varies depending on where you live. You might read online that it will cost about $1,000 to fix that leaky shower head, but your shower has unique parts or faulty plumbing so it ends up costing you $3,000. On the flip side, she was prepared to pay as much as $1,500 for a home inspection that only ended up costing her $325. Be aware that even the best planned budget can get thrown off a little during this process, so give yourself a little leeway if you can.

Q. What advice do you have for other twenty-somethings looking to buy their first home?

A. Do your homework. You can’t be too prepared (believe Meg, because she tried). The first step to this whole process should be doing research. Look into everything, from what you’ll need to do to finance the home to what the housing market is like in your area. There’s a ton of online resources out there, as well as professionals like mortgage officers and realtors who can help you along the way. Doing research beforehand helps you set realistic expectations for what kind of home you can afford, how long the process will take, and what you will need to do.

It took them a year or so of prep and several months of searching, but Meg and her husband just recently purchased a condo in the West End of Portland. It meets all of their Must-Have requirements and it even has a fireplace. #fancy. Looks like all of their hard work has finally paid off. Congrats!

Always Read the Fine Print*

*No seriously. Read it! It’s important.

fine-print

The other day I got this postcard in the mail from a financial institution that shall remain anonymous. Like any good American consumer, I read the “$500 cash back” and thought, “Ooooo I want $500! Forget the credit union that pays my salary, I could refi there and get some cash!” Because seriously, who doesn’t want $500? That’s a pretty sweet deal.

You might have noticed that asterisk at the end of this enticing statement, however. If you flip this postcard over, that little star directs you to some information that might make that $500 a lot less exciting. The fine print to this advertisement let me know that if I bought or refinanced a car through this financial institution, I would get 1% cash back on the amount financed at a branch or via their online channel, not to exceed $500. What? In simpler terms, in order to get $500 I would have to buy a $50,000 car. If I were to refinance my vehicle I have now, I would only get $120. Whoomp whoomp.

Plus, the disclaimer goes on to say that if I were to finance my car through an indirect lender, I am only eligible for 0.5% cashback up to $250. So if the dealership helped me complete the financing process through this credit union or bank, I definitely can’t get the $500.

Don’t get me wrong, this still might be a great deal. I wouldn’t say no to $120. And potentially, the interest rate on this auto loan might be lower than the one I’m getting now. So it could save me money to look into refinancing with this financial institution. BUT, it is important to always read the disclaimer information. It might be in small, hard to find, and probably will be full of legal-ese, but it would be a let down to go to a branch thinking you’ll walk away with $500 cash and come out with a lot less.

Advertisements are designed to make what they’re selling as appealing as possible. The headlines, like this one, are designed to get your attention and make you buy the product. But reading the whole ad, including that disclaimer, will give you a better picture of what you’re really buying. It might make you say, “Nah this auto loan isn’t for me” or it could just give you enough info to say, “That still sounds good! I’ll do it!” So always take a look at that fine print.

I can’t finish this blog without also mentioning that if you also got this flier in the mail and are now getting an auto loan through this wonderful financial institution, you should use that cash back money towards your first payment! You spent $50,000. Don’t make it $50,500. Instead of cash you can use on pizza or clothes, think of that cash back as a $500 discount on your car.*

*Unless you use the $500 to buy me front row seats to One Direction. Then that would be money well-spent.

The Real World is Expensive: Advice for Recent Grads

Last weekend one of my best friends graduated from the University of New Hampshire. This made me feel both incredibly proud and incredibly old. Over the past four years she has been my connection to my alma mater. I am occasionally able to pretend to be a college student thanks to her, which I think makes my obsession with boy bands somewhat more acceptable. But she graduated and so I am now forced to accept my life as an aging fangirl. **Sigh**

Since I am officially old now, I thought I should pass on some wisdom about life post-graduation. Just call me Dumbledore. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you too are a recent grad and are entering the real world for the first time:

1. Keep your post-grad plans financially realistic. Graduation can be a confusingly competitive time. On the one hand you’re all, “WOOHOO! I graduated! I’m so smart!” But on the other it’s super intimidating to have to compete with everyone else’s answer to, “What’s next?” When I was graduating I remember thinking that everyone’s plans sounded much cooler than mine. People were moving to NYC or backpacking around Europe or going to grad school. And I was moving back to my parent’s house in Maine. Whoomp, whoomp. Glamorous post-grad plans sound great to all the inquiring adults, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the best plans. The majority of recent graduates are attempting financial independence for the first time after college. The real world is an expensive place and the older you get, the less acceptable it is to ask your parents for money. So make plans that fit your budget. Live within your paycheck. You should look forward to life after college, but just remember that it’s probably going to be more Girls than Sex and the City.  

My freshman year roommate and I at our graduation. Bang game strong.

My freshman year roommate and I at our graduation. Bang game strong.

2. It’s Okay If It’s Not Your Forever Job. I was an English Literature Major in college. There was a lot of Jane Austen and feminist rants (which I loved), but not a lot of career planning. When people asked me what my plans after college were I would say, “I’ll read! They pay you for that, right?” and then laugh awkwardly until the other person felt uncomfortable enough to change the subject. I honestly had no clue what I wanted to do when I graduated. And in the first few years post-graduation I bumped around from job-to-job a little bit. But ultimately I think I might be the better for it. I’ve had experience in a lot of different fields, doing a lot of different tasks. I’ve learned a ton. Did I ever think during college that I would get a job as a Marketing Coordinator? No way. Will I stay at my current job until I retire? My boss says yes, but realistically I probably won’t. I might move on in a few years, but for right now I’m having fun with the job I have and I know I am acquiring skills that will help me do a different job in the future. Most people don’t do the same job their entire lives. So if you don’t land your dream position right after graduation, don’t sweat it. You have your whole life ahead of you to find it.

3. Brace Yourself – Student Loan Payments Are Coming. In sixth months, to be exact, when the grace period ends and you have to start paying them back. You could try going off the grid to avoid them, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have Netflix or take-out there. All kidding aside, I was a little overwhelmed when I realized for the first time exactly how much my monthly student loan payment would be. If I remember correctly I actually cried. At the time I was working as a bank teller. One month’s payment exactly equaled my two-week paycheck. I literally had to work for 80 hours to make one payment. That’s insane. But if you’re smart and you plan ahead, that payment won’t take you by surprise. Maybe you’ll even save some money in that 6 month grace period to help make your payments. Have a plan for how you’re going to handle that payment so it doesn’t throw you for a loop.

4. You is kind. You is smart. You is important. But seriously, you’re doing great. Don’t sweat it. I remember stressing a lot the summer after graduation. I didn’t have the job I wanted. I missed being with my friends 24/7. I was living in the boonies sharing a car with my mom. It was a weird time. And I remember not feeling like my normal, confident, sarcastic, quirky self. Don’t let those feelings overwhelm you. You’re smart, you graduated from college, and you’ll figure out where you want to go from here. Things are going to change, but doesn’t mean they’re going to get worse. It’s just going to be different. Know that whatever happens, you’ve got this!

If all this sage advice fails you, it’s totally okay to put on your PJs, listen to T Swift, and cry. Even adults with real people jobs need to let it out some times. Congratulations to all of the recent grads out there! You guys are going to kill it in the real world! Good luck!