25 Free Financial Resources for Recent Graduates

As a new graduate, you may have loans to pay back, and you probably aren’t earning a lot (if you have any income at all).  You may also be adjusting to a new city and starting a new job. How do you begin to save for the future, pay off debt, and establish your career when faced with so many challenges and few financial resources?  Try these free online resources to help you save, spend, and invest wisely:

Find a Job and a Good Salary

  • Find out what you’re really worth at Salary.com.  Enter your job title, location, experience, and education to get detailed wage and benefits information.
  • Salary negotiation isn’t easy, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience.  Read Monster’s negotiationg tips for entry-level candidates.

Pay Back Your Loans

  • Paying back student loans can be a challenge on an entry-level salary.  The calculators at FinAid.org will help you find the best payment schedule based on your income.
  • Read The Smart Way to Pay Off Student Loans at US News Money.
  • About.com’s article, Should I Pay Off My Student Loans Early?, offers the advantages to paying off loans early.  One big advantage: saving on interest.

Budget and Track Expenses

  • Lesson 2 of Money 101 at CNN Money covers budgeting basics such as listing expenses, setting goals and cutting costs.  Easy to read, simple budgeting guide for anyone that’s new to budgeting.
  • YoungMoney.com has personal finance calculators for budgeting, loans, savings and retirements.  The site also has sections on entrepreneurship, careers, and investing.
  • Download free budgeting worksheets My Money.gov.  The site also offers many other free financial tools and resources, including information about debt, investing, insurance and loans.
  • Track your spending for free online using Thrive.  You can also set financial goals and chart your progress.  By connecting all of your accounts, you can get an overall picture of your financial health.
  • Mint, a free online personal finance software, also offers free expense tracking and personal finance tools.  As with Thrive, you can set goals and connect your accounts.
  • Learn the basics of money management at Kiplinger.com.  The guide offers tips on saving, budgeting, and how to cut spending.  Explore other sections on Kiplinger, including investing, retirement, taxes, and insurance.

Get the Best Rates

  • Search nationally or locally for the best interest rates on savings accounts, CD’s at BankRate.com.  Use one of Bankrate’s debt management calculators to figure the cost of paying minimum on your debt or your credit risk.
  • Find the best rates on auto loans, savings accounts and CD’s at MoneyAisle.com.
  • Choose the best cell phone plan, credit cards, cable service and gas stations by using BillShrink to search for the best prices in your area.

Find the Lowest Prices

  • Shop at your favorite retail stores and save with discounts found at RetailMeNot.com.  Participating stores include Amazon.com, Old Navy, and Barnes and Noble.
  • Before you shop, compare prices on your favorite items at PriceGrabber.com. From groceries to electronics, you’ll find the lowest prices available.
  • Discover what others are paying for goods and services at CostHelper.com.
  • Rent can take a huge bite out of your paycheck, especially in a large city.  Find the best rent rates in your area at Rentomenter.com.
  • Search for the lowest rental rates at Rent.com.  Enter the maximum you can afford to spend, and view results for your area.
  • If you just graduated and haven’t found a job, or if your employer doesn’t offer health insurance, you can find individual policies, including short-term insurance, at ehealthinsurance.com.  Enter basic information (zip code, age, gender, tobacco use) and see monthly prices for plans offered in your area.

Build Credit

  • Credit Karma offers free credit score estimates along with simulations based on potential changes (closing an account, paying off debt, etc.).  You’ll also find educational articles that teach you about credit scores and reports.

Save for Retirement

  • It’s never to early to start saving for retirement.  Use the retirement calculator at CNN Money to see how much you need to save to reach your retirement goals.
  • Should you save for retirement or pay off debt?  Your money priorities, first to last from MSN Money will help you prioritize your spending.

Give Wisely

  • Before you give to a charity, do your research on where exactly your money goes.  Charity Navigator allows you to search for charities based on category, rating, or location.  You’ll also find resources to help you become a better donor, including question you should ask before donating and tips to avoid scams.

More Financial Resources

For more financial advice, read  Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties and Thirties by Beth Kobliner. You may not have learned about personal finance in college, but it may be the most important skill you can gain.

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