As graduation nears, the number 1 question you will likely hear is, “Have you gotten a job yet?” And for good reason. Graduating and getting a full time job is one of the graduation rites of passage. With a full-time job and steady income, most begin to save for a large purchase like a home or a car. Learning to manage your money properly is similar to having a financial graduation. Since there is no formal education, you will have to learn through trial and error. But what can you do now? Here are three steps to help you prepare for your financial graduation.

What Should You Have at a Minimum

It’s time for a budget. A budget can help you when it’s time to get control of your finances. But what happens when you don’t feel like you have finances to control yet? Here’s what you need as a start.

At a minimum you should have experience with a checking account and a savings account. For your checking account, get into the habit of tracking each transaction against your balance. For your savings account, cultivate a habit of adding funds and leaving them in your account.

To take this a step further, set up an automatic transfer from your checking to savings on a regular basis. Every two weeks or at least once a month make an automatic transfer. Getting into the habit of saving on a regular basis will help you when it’s time to set up your first budget.

Try not to treat yourself with your entire first paycheck, although I know it’s tempting, it will put you one paycheck further from your new habits.

Looking for a Full-Time Job

What if you have not been able to secure a full time job? It might seem frustrating when you’re ready to graduate but your finances are not quite ready. Here’s what you can do.

Start with the on campus career counseling center. There, you will find help to create a resume. You may also find workshops that teach networking skills. Many colleges have an exclusive job site with postings just for students and alumni.

Beyond that, you should begin networking in your field. Not only is it a great way to find a job, but you may also meet key connections that could help throughout your career. Contact your college professors to see if they have contacts in your desired career field. Attend industry events and chat with the people that you meet there. You may find internship opportunities that could lead to a full paid position.

Be sure that your resume is updated and tailored to each position for which you apply. Taking a few extra moments could be the difference between hearing nothing from the hiring manager and getting a call back for a phone interview.

Getting Your Own Place

The final step to prepare for your financial graduation is finding a place of your own. This is a big decision and if you are living with your parents right now and you don't have to pay rent, then it will be a significant change. If you already had an apartment during college then this will be an easier transition. However, if you were living on campus or in a temporary home on campus, then it might be time to find your own place. Living on your own or with roommates has its own set of financial responsibilities. Here’s what you should consider.

But before you start searching for an apartment, it’s a good idea to have a few hundred dollars saved. It is possible, especially if you have no rental history, that you will have to put down a deposit before you can rent. That deposit could be 1 to 2 months rent and then you will have to pay the first month’s rent as well as handle turning on utilities, cable, water, etc.

To budget for an apartment, start with your current income. As a rule of thumb, your monthly rent expense should be no more than 25-28% of your income. So if you are bringing home $2,000 per month, that is about $560 for an apartment. Depending on where you live, that number might seem out of reach. However, if you cannot make the numbers fit to your income, then you may want to consider finding a roommate or two.

Once you have your apartment, it’s time to start furnishing your new place. Furniture can be a large expense and it is easy to visit a home goods store and purchase multiple room furnishings on credit. However, as you are stabilizing your income, it might be better to furnish one room at a time using a cash based budget. Then, you can purchase only the specific items that you need and avoid a monthly bill.

Getting closer to graduation can be exciting but it can also make you anxious if you do not feel prepared. There is no need to feel stress surrounding graduation and even less of a reason for your financial graduation. Preparation is the key. Use these simple steps to prepare your finances before you graduate.