So you’re getting started on a new job – congratulations! You’ll be faced with a learning curve at work as well as at home as you get used to living independently. With the receipt of your first paycheck, you’ll need to decide what you’re going to do with that newfound money!
There’s a lot you can do with your first paycheck besides spending it. How about checking out these few suggestions for putting your new income to good use?
Sign up for direct deposit.
By getting your paycheck automatically deposited into your checking account, you’ll be less tempted to spend it than if you had a check in hand. And why not take it a step further and divert a portion of your income to savings and retirement accounts? This is the easiest way to get started with investing.
Create a personal budget.
Now that you’ll have money coming in, you should work on controlling where your funds will be going. A great way to keep tabs on your income is by using free personal money management software such as Mint.com to track your spending and set up an easy to use personal budget for future expenses. Think of it as a tool to help you purchase the things you want, and not as a restriction on your wallet.
Set up an emergency fund.
Stuff happens – health problems, a broken water heater, a stalled car. To make sure you have the money to cover any unexpected costs, you’ll need to set aside an emergency fund that amounts to at least 3 to 6 months’ worth of living expenses. You don’t need to build it up all at once – make it easy on yourself by putting away a small amount each month into a high yield savings or money market account until you have enough saved.
Call your bank, your bank’s biggest competitor and a leading online bank (or two) to see if there’s a higher interest option for your liquid accounts. Here are a few options for your short-term funds:
Focus on reducing your debt.
With a steady income, you can now handle some of your financial management issues with confidence, and you can start tackling any debt you have head on. Always pay your bills on time and, if possible, pay more than the minimum — you’ll reduce your debt faster this way. If you’re committed to paying the balance in full each month, you should look into using reward cards for their benefits. It’s also important that you control your spending so that you avoid racking up additional debt. Some great ways to avoid overspending? Wait 24 hours before making any decisions that involve major purchases. Compare your typical monthly expenses over time, or versus your neighbors using online tools like those offered by Mint.com.
Establish a 401K or IRA.
Retirement seems far away, but the more you save now, the more you’ll have when you retire. If you’ve got a healthy savings habit, the power of compound interest will ensure that you also get a healthy retirement. Some retirement financial management advice to consider:
- if your 401K has an employer match, contribute the maximum pre-tax amount
- And invest enough to your 401K to get the full match.
- if you don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, or if you’ve got the extra money after maxing out your 401K, set up a traditional or Roth IRA. Find out which type of IRA you’re eligible for here.
Get sufficient health care coverage.
If your employer doesn’t offer coverage, see if you can be covered under your spouse or significant other’s health insurance. If not, pick up your own health insurance. If you’re in a low income bracket, visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (www.cms.hhs.gov) for information on programs that may help you, such as SCHIP (a program for children) and Medicaid (a program for individuals and families). For free and low-cost prescription programs, visit TheMedicineProgram.com (http://www.themedicineprogram.com/) and Partnership for Prescription Assistance (https://www.pparx.org/Intro.php).
Get the other coverage you’ll need.
At a minimum, you’ll need auto, renters’ or homeowners insurance, and disability insurance. But the good news is that most insurance companies will give you a discount if you have multiple policies with them. Also, don’t worry about life insurance for now unless you’ve got dependents.
Plan for long-term goals.
It’s never too early to set the stage for fulfilling your long-term goals. Here are a few ideas to help you keep your focus on the future:
- Visualize your goal: think about how fulfilling it would be to own a car or home, to embark on a trip around the world, to start a business or even to retire early! Then commit to making it happen.
- Plan your budget carefully and watch your spending. Look into using personal money management software such as Mint.com, which can make it much easier for you to manage your personal budget and find ways to save. Any savings you achieve should be applied to your long-term goals and plans.
- Commit to putting away a certain amount of your paycheck monthly.
- For longer-term goals, consider investing your money in the stock market.
Develop sound tax strategies.
The biggest chunk you’ll be paying out of your paycheck will be going to the tax man, so why not check out these tips to maximize your take home pay?
- By using the IRS’ withholding calculator, you’ll be able to determine the right number of tax deductions to claim. This will prevent you from overpaying or underpaying your taxes.
- Visit PaycheckCity.com to review their paycheck, 401K, 403 (b), and savings calculators. Figure out what it will take to pay just enough so you break even every year.
- If you have business-related expenses, save those receipts. You may be able to write them off during tax time.
By heeding these suggestions, you’ll be well on your way to successfully managing your finances. Keep in mind that tools like Mint can make your financial management tasks easier by providing you with simple budget tools and alerts. Do you have a new job and are you using Mint to track your spending? If so, we’d love to hear how Mint has helped you find and save money!
Related Mint Tips: