How To Spend Your Money After Graduation


This was another google search term that led to my site. It’s an even better question than the first one, What should your net worth be at 30? And I have a better answer!

After graduation you should spend your money on…

Your immediate needs. This means food & shelter. Make sure you have a roof over your head and more than left-over pizza in your fridge. Don’t go out every weekend to eat at restaurants and call it a “need” because it’s food — that’s entertainment. I suggest lots of fresh veggies & fruits, but you can live on mac & cheese if it’s your thing.

A small emergency fund. Work on building up a buffer of about $1,000 to see you through any immediate catastrophes, like reduced pay due to taking a sick day or an unexpected dental bill. If you own a car, I would suggest a slightly larger emergency fund of $2,000 or even $3,000.

Interview clothes. When I graduated, I found that I owned practically nothing that could pass for business dress. This was a mistake. Go ahead and make the investment in a few quality pieces to see you through multiple interviews and one week of work at a new job. Once you land said higher-paying, new job you can get wardrobe to see you through more than a week of work.

Resume help. I went to the career centre at my university to get help with my resume. It was only $20, but the return was tens of thousands in increased income when my resume got me the job I wanted. I know burgers & beer sounds like a better way to spend $20, but I swear you’ll be able to buy way more burgers & beer if you spend $20 on your resume first.

A library card. As a student you probably had access to a library for free, but now that you’re a graduate you’re going to have the shell out the whopping $12 or whatever to take out books. I think this is a really important place to spend your money because like the two points I listed above, it’s an investment in yourself. After graduation, I visited my local library to take out books like What Color Is Your Parachute? and Life After College to help me get the job I wanted. I also hung around to read the latest copy of MoneySense and Elle (hey, can’t be serious all the time). Your library is way better than spending money buying books new or subscribing to magazines.

Your student loan debt. To quote my favourite financial hero Lesley Scorgie: “Congratulations, you’ve graduated and here is your bill”. If you don’t need to take advantage of the grace period, don’t. Start making payments on your student loans as soon as you can, and make those payments as big as you can. The faster you become debt free, the sooner you can get on with the awesome adult life ahead of you!

Your retirement. You have an income, start saving it. If you’re in your 20’s, you only need to set aside about 6% of your income for retirement. If your income is small, a TFSA is a better vehicle than an RRSP, but I would suggest researching all your options before making any decisions, since what’s best depends a lot on your income and student debt situation!

Your long and short term goals. Think retirement sounds boring and far away? Me too. That’s why it shouldn’t be the only thing you save for. Want a car? Set up a car fund. Want to put a down-payment on a home? Set up a house fund. Want to travel Europe? Set up a travel fund. Put money aside to pursue a graduate degree. Start contributing a little bit of every paycheque towards your long and short term goals in a high-interest savings account.

Spending money in these places ensures you are self-sufficient, financially secure, prepared, and have a plan. You’re also supporting your local library!


  1. Great list. But you forgot awesome-international-vacation-of-your-dreams. 😉 I guess that should come after food, shelter, and student loans…

    • Bridget (Author)

      should it though? lol vacation of your dreams is definitely a must on the post-graduation list

  2. Great list – except that securing a job should happen BEFORE graduation. 😉 Definitely agree on the recommendation of What Color Is Your Parachute? I’ve done lots of the exercises in the book.

    I definitely overlooked saving an emergency fund for a year or so after I graduated. Thankfully nothing happened, but if it I had I would have been up a creek!

    • Bridget (Author)

      good idea! I definitely didn’t think to look for a job before graduation, but that’s an excellent idea.

  3. Love this list. With my internships, I had to invest in a good suit for interviews, etc, and it’s served me well!

  4. Joe

    “The faster you become debt free, the sooner you can get on with the awesome adult life ahead of you!”

    After you do get a job, don’t be afraid to invest in a few more outfits. Do it frugally. In my experience, the saying “Dress for the job that you want, not the one that you have,” is true.

    • Bridget (Author)

      AMEN. I always try to dress nicer than I have to, even at my current job. I find it conveys more authority.

  5. Funny that you should mention resume help, I just shelled out money for that, and feel that it is worth every penny.

    • Bridget (Author)

      it’s probably the biggest return you’ll ever see. I paid $20 for resume help and got a job that paid over $20,000 more than my one previously. 1000% return? Yes please.

  6. I would also add you need to start building your go-to-hell fund 🙂

  7. This list is so true. I was lucky to get my resume checked by my college’s career services before I graduated. Also the library in my town is still free provided that my address on my driver’s license is in this city. Woohoo!!!

    Also I managed not to buy any interview clothes. I think I wore my mom’s black dressy pants (which were actually pretty cute) and I bought a white button-up from H&M for $15 and a black blazer from Forever 21 for $28. Oh also payless pumps for $20! I ended up getting the job and we dress super casual (jeans/leggings) here:)

  8. This reminds me I need to go out and get some interview clothes. I don’t have any. When I purge my closet I got rid of all the old ones with the intent to buy new ones in the future. Because my work environment doesn’t require them, I totally forgot about it. It’s an expense I would rather put off for as long as possible. Now that I am applying for jobs again, I just realized I have absolutely nothing to wear if I was asked to an interview tomorrow. I have to rectify this asap. Thanks for the reminder.

    This is a great guide to follow after graduation. If I had to add anything, I would say put it all into a budget.

  9. nice list. Better than what you will find on yahoo or any other crazy places. Well done.

  10. I liked the list but what about a little of travel. A nice and short vacation to relax and celebrate? 🙂 No graduation is complete without a vacation.

  11. Donna

    Great list, but I have a question:

    Say you are 29 and are just about to graduate after an absurd pile of education and degrees.Say, against all odds you actually found an academic job in exactly what you want to be doing. Say that job is in, well, Scotland. Would you recommend contributing to the British retirement/pension/whatever scheme?

    I don’t really see myself in the UK for my entire life (and, who knows, Scotland might become independent in two years!), but who knows? As retirement is a good 3 or 4 decades away for me and I know no one else in this situation, I have no idea what the implications of having a foreign retirement fund floating around might be. Would it be best to just hoard my money?