A Budget Template for New Grads: 10 Steps to Master Your Money

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This sample budget for college grads simplifies money management. The template gives 10 ways to use money as a tool to grow wealth.

When you’re a new college graduate, money missteps can make or break your financial success. Following a budget template specifically designed for new grads is a great way to get and stay on the right track.

Having a budget can help you predict upcoming expenses. You can also avoid living paycheck-to-paycheck, or worse, in debt.

It may be difficult to anticipate what expenses you should budget for if you’ve never lived on your own. Thankfully, a budget template for new grads can be easy to use. You can even make changes as your money skills improve.

How to Make a Post-College Budget


Learning how to manage your money can help you avoid financial mistakes. You can follow these steps to create a budget for college grads:

  • Know your monthly income
  • Determine your monthly expenses
  • Look for ways to make more money
  • Find ways to cut spending

In addition to spending less than you earn, knowing the recommended budget percentages by category can help you build a better budget.

Here are some common expense categories to include in your first budget after graduating from college.

1. Rent and Utilities


Any budget template for new grads should include rent. Try to have rent consume no more than 30 percent of your monthly income.

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Your rental expenses can include these costs:

  • Rent
  • Pet fees
  • Parking fees
  • Electric, gas, trash, and water utility payments
  • Laundry hookups
  • Internet and cable
  • Renter’s insurance

Some rental complexes include utilities and amenities in the monthly rent. If you need help making rent, look for ways to increase your income.

DoorDash is an excellent choice if you need a side hustle to help pay rent. It requires minimum skill and offers flexibility to fit with your day job. You can create your own schedule and earn up to $20 per hour.

2. Student Loan Payments


Most student loans give you a six-month grace period upon graduation before repayments start. As a result, it’s vital to come up with a plan to repay them as soon as possible.

It’s typically best to automate payments because most lenders will offer a .25 percent discount on your interest rate. This interest rate reduction is an effortless way to reduce expenses.

Refinancing your student loans for a lower interest rate is another way to save money. Most lenders don’t charge any fees to refinance or pay off your loans early.

Check rates at Credible to see how much you can save on payments. Credible lets you compare up to ten lenders at once and has rates as low as 2.25 percent on a variable loan if you use autopay.

The average person saves almost $19,000 when they refinance with Credible, so it pays to check your rate.

In addition to student loans, you might have these monthly loans:

  • Credit card debt
  • Auto loan
  • Personal loan

Since these consumer loans can have higher interest rates than student loans, you should pay them off first. Like student loans, refinancing your other debt can lower your total interest charges.

3. Groceries


Groceries are another large expense that should be included in every budget for college graduates. The USDA Food Plans projects the monthly grocery cost is between $200 and $250 for one adult.

Here are some simple tips to save money on grocery shopping:

  • Shop sales
  • Buy store brands instead of name brands
  • Stick to your grocery list
  • Use meal planning to arrange shopping trips
  • Limit your trips to the store to help reduce the opportunity to spend

You can also use a grocery rebate app like Ibotta to save money. With Ibotta you can earn cash back from items you buy at the grocery store. After each shopping trip, scan your receipt to earn rebates.

Once you hit $10 in rebates, you can cash out. You also receive a $20 bonus when signing up.

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4. Phone Bill


A monthly cell phone bill can easily exceed $100 per month. Your bill can include these recurring costs:

  • Basic voice and text plan
  • Monthly data plan
  • Mobile hotspot
  • Add-on streaming subscriptions (i.e., Hulu and Apple Music)
  • Cell phone insurance
  • Fees and taxes

Switching to a cheap cell phone plan lets you save money every month without sacrificing coverage quality. It is possible to save at least $50 per month. You are also less likely to pay hidden fees.

Ting Wireless is a perfect option, with plans averaging $23 per month. Frugal Rules readers can receive a $50 credit when signing up.

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5. Insurance


This might be a “boring” category, but it is a vital part of any budget template for new grads.

Some of the most common insurance premiums include:

  • Auto insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Pet insurance
  • Renter’s insurance

Increasing your deductible and having small coverage limits can reduce your monthly premium. However, make sure you’re not underinsured. Paying a few extra dollars for better coverage can give you added peace of mind if you ever need to file a claim.

PolicyGenius is a great option for most insurance needs. They offer coverage in several areas, including:

  • Health insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Renters insurance

If you’re new to auto insurance, Gabi lets you compare quotes from up to 40 providers with one search.

6. Savings


When you make a budget after college, it’s important to start setting aside some cash for savings. Even if it’s only a few dollars, being able to save money every month helps you pay for future expenses.

Give yourself a goal when you start saving. You can work towards saving $500 and then aim for $1,000. Also, try to contribute to a 401(k) plan to save for retirement.

Saving for specific money goals can make it easier to budget. Some of those goals can include:

  • A replacement vehicle
  • Your upcoming vacation
  • A house downpayment

Select an online bank like CIT Bank where you can house your savings and earn a decent interest rate. A CIT Bank Money Market Account earns a competitive interest rate with no monthly service fees.

You can open an account with a minimum $100 initial deposit. Your first $250,000 is FDIC-insured, just like a savings account.

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7. Transportation


Commuting costs can vary from month to month because gas prices and public transit costs change. Balancing your monthly rent and transit expenses can reduce expenses.

Here are some common transportation expenses:

  • Gas
  • Vehicle repairs and maintenance (i.e. oil changes and new tires)
  • Tolls and parking
  • Public transit monthly passes

Calculating your daily commute distance and the miles you drive for errands can help you determine your monthly driving distance. From there, you can estimate your monthly gas expenses and how often you will need to perform maintenance on your car.

Depending on where you live, Uber or Lyft might be cheaper than owning a car. If so, using these companies could be a potential way to save money every month.

8. Entertainment


Contrary to what some might think, it is possible to enjoy life while living on a budget. Saving money on essential bills can ensure you have money for entertainment.

Depending on how detailed you want your budget to be, you can break entertainment down into these subcategories:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Concerts/Festivals
  • Sports games
  • Movies
  • Streaming plans
  • Books

Since entertainment is optional, it’s a good idea to leave this category for last. You might also use sites like Groupon to save money when you go out.

9. Pet Expenses


If you’re the proud owner of a furry family member, you should budget for any pet-related expenses. These can include costs like:

  • Behavioral classes
  • Daycare
  • Food
  • Insurance
  • Litter
  • Medicine
  • Toys

Consider saving money in a dedicated pet savings fund. Finding cheap vet care can also save you money on inevitable trips to the veterinarian.

10. One-Time Expenses


Regardless of your age, there are oddball expenses you’ll encounter when you create a budget.

One-time expenses can include things like:

  • Annual memberships
  • Birthdays
  • Car registration
  • Charity donations
  • Clothing
  • Furniture or technology purchases
  • Taxes
  • Travel

Plan for expenses like travel and special events when possible. In other situations, you might need to adjust your spending elsewhere for a month to make room for these expenditures.

Additional Budgeting Tips for New Graduates


Knowing how you spend your money is important when you make a post-college budget. A few other practices can help you create a budget and save money.

Monitor Your Credit


Increasing your credit score can help you qualify for lower interest rates and insurance premiums. A credit score drop may increase your monthly costs when you need to get a new loan or renew your car insurance policy.

You can monitor your credit score for free with Credit Karma. In addition to tracking your score, you can receive tips to boost your score.

Grow Your Savings


Spending less and saving your salary increases lets you plan for upcoming bills. To avoid accidentally spending your cash, consider scheduling an automatic transfer into an interest-bearing savings account.

Remember, CIT Bank is a terrific choice to grow your savings and avoid bank fees. You also have instant access to your cash for surprise bills.

For money you don’t need in the next few years, consider investing some of your spare cash to build long-term wealth.

Supplement Your Income


Two ways to achieve your budget goals are to lower your monthly expenses and make more money. Since you can only reduce spending by so much, using your free time to pursue a side hustle is an easy way to earn extra money.

You can use your side hustle income to pay your critical expenses, make extra debt payments, and grow your savings account.



Managing your money after graduating from college does not have to be difficult. Following this budget template for new grads is a great way to set yourself up for success and use money as a tool to get what you want in life.


How did you approach budgeting when you were a new grad? Do you have any advice on how to manage money right out of college? What’s one fun category you like to include in your budget?

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Erin M. is a personal finance freelance writer passionate about helping others take control over their financial situation. She shares her thoughts on money on her blog Journey to Saving.