The Basics for Starting Out on Your Own

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

As colleges prepare for graduation, thousands of people prepare to enter the workforce. There's a promise of paychecks and prosperity, but there's also the threat of dangerous levels of debt.


Leaving college with the weight of student loans on their shoulders, new grads need to know that it takes time to build up the financial security that allows for the perks of adulthood. Without savings and without accrued material objects, it becomes important to establish an understanding of crucial needs versus extravagances.

Avoid Debt

Avoid the lure of credit. It's time to face the real world fact that debt adds up quickly and disappears slowly. No one is there to bail you out anymore, and you don't want to pay the price of poor financial choices for the next ten years. If you must purchase something on your credit card, put the card away until the original purchase is paid off.

The Essentials

As you prepare to enter the workforce, there are some essentials that are worth the money. They'll pay for themselves in no time.

Money is well spent on a suit. Whether you're male or female, a good suit is crucial for interviews and meetings. When you land the job, the money you spent on the suit will come flying back to you. It doesn't have to be a designer suit, just something classic and well fitted. Have it tailored to fit you, and look for options that it offers for various occasions. If you're called back for a second interview, you'll need to wear your suit again.


For instance, men can purchase the suit with additional shirts and ties. For the first interview, wear a basic white shirt and tie. Then, for the call back add a colorful green shirt and patterned tie. Later, you can wear the pants without the jacket. If the store is offering a sale on multiple pieces, consider buying two pairs of pants that match the jacket.

A black blazer paired with olive pants looks a little more casual, but a black pair of matching pants makes a full suit. You'll get a lot of wear out of a few items. Women can take the same approach to their suits and change it up with fresh jewelry and blouses or pants and a skirt paired with the same jacket.

Another investment that you won't regret is a good pair of shoes. You'll wear them to interviews, you'll wear them to work, you can wear them to church, and you can wear them out to dinner. Make sure they're versatile and comfortable as well as supportive. These aren't going to come cheaply. Cost does not make the shoe, but a good leather shoe from a reputable company won't appear on a "buy one/get one free" sale.


Women should look for a good pair of loafers or pumps that can pair with both skirts and pants. Men need a pair of shoes with a good sole but a dress look. Avoid patent leather looks as they wear quickly and require a dressier outfit choice.

Another more pricey investment is your car. Look for reliable and affordable cars. Many great trade-ins are guaranteed by the dealer and have low miles and little wear. New cars are expensive, though they also offer the peace of mind of a warranty. If you can purchase an additional warranty on your used car, consider it seriously.

While you're paying monthly payments, you don't want to incur repair bills as well. Commit to a good used car and save the splendor of the new car for a few years into your career.

The Pitfalls

There are many temptations in the world, and quite a few of them approach the new members of the working world. As you watch your co-workers spend their money on family vacations, new cars, and fancy phones, remember that they're earned the right to spend their money on those items. They've, hopefully, accumulated savings and retirement plans; they've built equity on their homes, and they've established personal goals. You'll get there as well, but you're not there now.


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April 8, 20110 found this helpful

Remember, you can shop for the basics; shoes/suits/shirts etc., at an Outlet mall. That way, you can get great value for less money. (Ditto shopping on sales.) You can also consider re-sale shops (mostly female). Suits are conservative & don't go out of style. my husband has never been better dressed than since I have introduced him to thriftshops! You can find great suits, both male & female there, too & chains like JC Penney & Kohl's have nice men's wear for a reasonable price (even more so on sale!) Welcome to our world, graduates!

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