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Creating a Budget After College

So you’ve just graduated… now what? Time to start adulting! Becoming an adult means learning how to manage your money. Once I committed to a job after graduation, I decided it was time grow up and make a budget. After skimming through dozens of websites (and using my business minor background!) I came up with a budget that looks a little something like this:

I broke my budget up into three parts:

  1. Gross and Net Income

  2. Main Expenses

  3. What’s Left Over (Slush Fund)

When I first started I had no idea what all these financial terms meant. So let’s start by defining them.

Gross Income: The total amount of incoming money from all sources such as salary, wages, tips, capital gains, dividends, or interests on investments. Bonuses are not included in your gross income.


Taxes: Under my taxes category I used a tax estimator based on my assets and zip code. This included Federal, FICA (Federal Insurance Contribution Act), State, and Local taxes.

After-tax Income: It’s basically what the name says, Gross Income – Taxes.

Payroll Withholdings: This is the amount of money you will withdraw from your paycheck before you can take it home. Under my payroll withholdings I included healthcare, dental, life insurance, accidental death & dismemberment, short & long term disability, 401k (Rothman contribution), Roth IRA.


401(k): If you got an offer letter where your company is offering you a 401(k) plan I recommend participating in it. In case you’re unsure what a 401(k) plan is, it is a retirement savings plan endorsed by your employer. It allows you to deduct a percentage of your paycheck on a post-tax and/or pre-tax basis. There are two types of 401(k) plans: Traditional or Roth.


IRA (Individual Retirement Account): This is another retirement account usually set up with a financial institution. There are several types of IRAs. Make sure you understand, which one is right for you before doing anything.


If you want to know more about 401(k) plans and IRAs check out my post that goes in-depth with the topic.


Net Income: Income after deducting taxes and payroll withholdings.

Bonus: I listed any end-of-the-year bonuses or performance based bonuses I may encounter in the next year. I wouldn’t count these in your budget just because it’s variable income, but it’s nice to keep track of from year-to-year!


After developing my budget in a table, I’ll use the percentage column to generate a pie chart. The pie chart will allow you to easily view where your money is going. I used Microsoft Excel to build my budget, but if you don’t have the Microsoft Office Suite then Google Sheets also works well! Both allow you to utilize formulas. The formulas make it easy to change numbers in your budget as they become more realistic.

As a reminder your budget is a rough estimate. It’s going to change and that’s ok! A good rule to go by is the 80/20 rule. 20% of your income should be going towards savings, which leaves 80% for expenses. Another good rule of thumb is to limit your rent to 30% or less of your gross income.


I am in no means a financial advisor, but these are just what I’ve learned while creating my own budget for after graduation. I hope this helps! What was the hardest part of creating your budget? Let me know in the comments 🙂


Featured Photo from Kelly School of Business

#budgeting #College #finance #graduation

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I'm a 20-something gal living in Philly working a 9-to-5 by day and blogging by night. I enjoy exploring new places, finding sustainable swaps, and learning to live a more intentional lifestyle.

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