So, you’ve made it through college. Congratulations! Now what?

Graduating from college is an exciting and scary time. For most of your life, all you have known is the structured environment of the educational system. Get up, go to class, come home, study, go to sleep. You’ve likely never had to spend much time in the real world, working for a paycheck in order to pay your bills. Even if you had a part-time job, you probably still used some student loan money to help support your college lifestyle. Now that it is over, where do you go from here?

Transitioning from the college life can be hard, both emotionally and financially. Besides navigating the new social circles of the real world, you’ll also need to learn some new money skills that few academic institutions are willing to teach you. If you don’t learn them quickly, you could find yourself under mountains of debt in no time at all. Here are a few money tips to help you get your feet planted firmly on the right financial path.

Learn to Budget

Lord knows, I had no idea what a budget was until I reached my 30’s. Sure, I had heard of a budget. I even thought I was using a budget of my own. As long as I was getting my bills paid on time, everything was just grand. But, paying your bills and budgeting your money are two totally separate things.

If you can learn how to budget your money, you are going to be way ahead of most of your peers. Budgeting your money means that you tell your money what you want it to do. Personally, I like to use a zero-based budget. That means that I take each and every dollar that I am going to make in the month, and I give it a job. I give it a purpose. I put it to work. If you can learn how to use a budget, you’ll be in a great position to succeed.

Get out of Debt

Debt sucks. I hate it. It ties you down. It makes you its prisoner. It requires you to pay it back. Debt means that you are going to end up working longer and harder in order to give a big chunk of your money to somebody else. BOOOOO to that!

Chances are good that you have a few debts already. Hopefully, you aren’t buried under a mountain of student loan debt and/or credit card debt. Regardless of whether it is $1,000 or $100,000, get rid of that debt as quickly as you can. It is hard to save and build wealth if you are consistently having to payback loans. Get out of debt…and stay out of debt. The faster you can get out, the better off you’ll be.

Related:Β Student Loan Refinancing: Comparing the Best Rates

Live Within Your Means

Did I say live within your means? Let me change that to “Live Below Your Means.”

Yes, I was a starving college kid once too. Yes, earning those first real paychecks is amazing. You’re probably making more money that you’ve ever seen in your life. I know it is tempting to eat out every day, go out every weekend, and buy a brand new car. But, your money may not go as far as you think.

Resist the urge to overspend – especially when you first get out of college. Stick to your budget. Learn what your expenses are going to be. Get your feet on the ground and put a solid financial plan in place. If you can learn to live below your means and not take on any new debt, you are going to set yourself up for a great deal of financial success in the future. If not, you’re just going to join the throngs of others who jump on the earn and spend hamster wheel.

I hope that you can use these money tips to get a great jump-start on your post-college financial life. If you can learn to do these 3 things, you are going to be far ahead of your peers…and you’ll be the person they look and wonder how you did it.

What money tips do you have for recent college graduates? Join the discussion below!

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