As a recent graduate, it’s a good idea to determine what you can afford in the most common budget categories before you strike out on your own. Here’s how.

Congratulations graduate, you did it! You put in the hard work and kept your eye on the prize until it was yours. As you strike out on your own it’s important to learn how to plan financially.

Knowing what to expect helps minimize costs, so it’s a good idea to think about the regular expenses you’ll encounter as a recent graduate. Here are seven categories to consider while trying to get ahead of your finances when you’ve just finished school.

1. Housing

For many young adults, moving out is the number one priority, and rent will likely be your greatest monthly cost as a new grad. There are a two main choices for housing: Move into a less glamorous, less expensive pad or sign on for the sweet digs and take on the extra cost. Keep in mind, one option leaves you with more freedom to grow your personal wealth. The other leaves you what has lovingly been dubbed house poor. Can you guess which is which?

2. Utilities

About ten percent of your income should be allotted to paying utilities—every month, on time, and in full. Some number-crunching up front can help you stay on top of this regular cost. If your starting paycheck is small, then skimp on electricity usage at home: Use hot water during non-peak times of day and layer up instead of cranking the heat. While jobs and roommates come and go, utilities will stay a regular expense, so the sooner you achieve the skill of staying atop of the charges, the better positioned you’ll be for financial success.

3. Food

This line item is responsible for many financial regrets for young professionals. Why? An eight-dollar lunch doesn’t seem like much at the time, but it’ll add up by the end of the month. The solution? Avoid it in the first place. Learn how to cook at home and bring a brown-bag lunch to work. You’ll be glad you did.

4. The Job Search

Looking for a job may cost you more than you think. While you’re on the hunt, set aside a percentage every month for fuel to attend interviews, office supplies for your snazzy resume, and food, since you’ll be away from home networking. Over time, these costs can add up. According to the New York Federal Reserve, graduating workers can’t blame the delay on the Great Recession anymore. Landing that first gig has always taken a bit of time and it will continue to do so.

5. The New Gig

It’s great news to hear that you’ve been hired for a new job, but keep in mind some costs are involved. The aforementioned lunches, as well as office attire, and funds for commuting are a necessary part of every professional’s life. Get used to some of these new expenses and work them into the greater plan.

6. Student Loans

Before you sign a lease for an apartment or purchase a car, calculate the monthly payment on your school debt. The sooner you pay it off, the sooner your education can start working to help you prosper.

7. Savings

As a recent graduate, being strapped for cash is no reason not to save. Start saving now so that you develop a habit of doing it. You have the time to start today, and that puts you at a greater advantage than you know.

You may want to hit the ground running—and that’s a great idea for a recent grad—but make sure to take some time to determine what you can afford in each of the most common budget categories.

Bethany Johnson

About the AuthorBethany Johnson, Contributor

Meet Bethany Johnson, pop-culture and modern corporate reporter. Before the days of SEO, Bethany was immersed in the professional snowboarding industry. Through sponsorships, interviews, press releases, and public conduct, she promoted gear, brands and concepts. In 2007, Bethany went to the National Championships and won a bronze medal (3rd place) in the SnowboardCross event.  Coming out of the world of professional snowboarding, she chose the office of a private investigator on Capitol Hill.  There, she says her hunger for a good story only grew.   Like many milennials, Bethany is industry certified in (seemingly) random things: Oracle 11g SQL, snowboarding movement analysis, Microsoft Access database systems, and pet therapy.  For years, corporate clients like Tom's of Maine and Purina have relied on her to generate buzz on their sites.  Media consumption for media consumption's sake is finally history. So get to clicking, and enjoy.