5 frugality tips for college grads

So the real world is turning out to be a cold, cruel place after all. Don’t have a personal post-graduate financial meltdown — if times are tight, here are five quick frugality tips to keep your income within hailing distance of your outgo.

Sock away some cash.

Having a small emergency fund can take a lot of the stress out of your financial life. That way if your job search takes longer than expected or your car needs a major repair, you know you’ll be covered. Having three to six months’ living expenses in a savings account or money market would be ideal. Do the best you can. Why not tuck away the £500 you got at graduation?

Be thrifty.

Dressing for a first job can be pricey. Be sure to check out the career-wear bargains available at thrift stores. “Especially in urban areas, top-notch thrift shops can cut your costs by 75 percent,” says Nancy Dunnan, author of How to Invest $50-$5,000.

Watch those cell phone bills.

Talking the talk with a cell phone can get awfully expensive. Using a pre-paid phone card can take a big bite out of your bill. “It makes you very aware of what you’re paying for phone calls, and it’s often cheaper,” Dunnan says.

Learn to cook.

“The money that twentysomethings spend on food and eating out is mind-boggling,” says Jason Anthony, co-author of Debt-free by 30: Practical Advice for the Young, Broke, & Upwardly Mobile. Eating in can save you a bundle. So be sure to pack a lunch a couple times a week and cut back on some evening meals at restaurants. Why not have a casual dinner party at home and then head out for an evening? “Cooking is really cheap,” Anthony says. “It just takes some planning.”

Join your company’s 401(k) plan.

Once you enter the working world, be sure to take advantage of an employer’s 401(k) plan. Many companies fully or partially match their employees’ contributions. Most employers let you sign on as soon as an initial probationary period ends. You can request that as much as 15 percent be deducted from each paycheck toward the retirement plan. If 15 percent is too much, start with 5 percent and gradually work your way up. At the very least, contribute enough to qualify for your company’s matching contribution. “That’s like free money,” says Beth Kobliner, author of Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties. “It’s really a no-brainer and something you should do.”