Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

May 13, 2013

TIDBITS: Practical advice for new grads

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — Another graduation season is upon us, and soon a new crop of young adults will head out into the world, full of hopes and dreams for the future.

Graduates, I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is, this is a great adventure you're about to begin. The bad news is, it won't always be easy.

Right now, you're getting lots of advice from family, teachers, mentors and others and setting your course. I've got a little advice to throw in there, as well.

• Never turn down free food. Whether you're starting work or going off to school, someone somewhere is likely to offer a free meal from time to time. Don't pass it up. That free food replaces one you'll have to pay for.

• If there is no free food to be had, it can be cheaper to cook your own food than it is to eat out. Especially if you eat something like Ramen noodles. It's a very versatile food, and it cooks right in your microwave. Eventually you'll want to learn how to use that big stove and oven, but a microwave can easily handle most meals. You can even scramble eggs in there, another cheap dish.

• Car repairs are expensive but a little preventative maintenance can go a long way. At the top of that list is making sure the oil is at least checked regularly. Trust me when I tell you, an engine replacement is not a fun, inexpensive or easy repair. And you can bet it will come along at the worst possible time.

• Also, watch those speed limit signs. Traffic fines can really eat into your disposable income.

• When you start working, you'll find that there's not as much money in that paycheck as you thought there would be. That's because the federal government likes to get its share of your earnings before you start spending. Take a cue from the government and remember to pay yourself first. Treat that savings like a bill you pay with each paycheck and before long you'll have a nice emergency stash available should you have a car problem or have a fun opportunity come up that you want to take part in. Or, hide small amounts of money from yourself, rounding up purchases to the nearest dollar, or similar method. That extra cash can help you enjoy a splurge here and there.

• That emergency fund will also help you avoid racking up credit card debt before you're finished with your school work. According to Sallie Mae, undergraduate students are carrying record-high balances on their plastic, with an average balance of $3,173. Add that to student loans, and college graduates are leaving school with about $20,000 in debt.

• One of the greatest things about being young is you have a lot more freedom and aren't as tied down to a 9 to 5 job that gives you two weeks of paid vacation a year. You might be able to work out a little more time off, though it would be unpaid, and go on that awesome road trip your friends are planning. Or maybe you can take the summer and work on a cruise ship and see some of the world on another's dime for a few months.

• You're going to be making lots of memories over the next few years, and thanks to cell phones with great cameras, you will almost always have a camera nearby to snap some pictures. Don't let those photographic moments just sit on your camera roll. Get a few made into actual prints so you can have those reminders of the amazing memories you're about to make nearby in frames on your shelf or tacked to your wall. They'll make you smile on the gloomy days.

Congratulations, Class of 2013! We're all proud of you and we can't wait to see what you'll do next.

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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.