Out of College & Dead Broke– What Do I Do?

“I just graduated from college, am completely broke and don’t know what to do. Help!”

I’ve had many college graduates reach out to me to tell me about how they expected more out of life. They’re done college and broke. They’re confused. They don’t know what to do next.

I hear you. I want to help you figure out what to do when you’re dead broke after college.

What to do after college

Figuring out what to do after college isn’t easy. As a student, you have life figured out for you. You know when to hand in your assignments, your parents are on your case about getting good grades, and you don’t have to worry about money since you don’t have any.

I get this plea for help through email, comments, and tweets fairly often. It’s the harsh reality of life after college. Being dead broke and feeling stuck is all too common among college grads. This is also a topic that I’ve seen covered on many personal finance blogs in the last little while. I thought I would jump in with my thoughts.

Here’s what I suggest you try doing if you’re dead broke and looking for what to do after college…

Get a job. Anything that will bring you money for now.

We all dream of finding the dream job after college. That may not happen when you don’t have the experience. You have to find any job that comes your way.

You need to find a job because you need a source of income.

Any job essentially. You might have to swallow your pride and take a job that’s beneath you. All that matters is that you find a steady flow of money. This can be on a part-time or a full-time basis. The goal should be for this to be temporary and only to be used as a backup plan. If you can find the right job in your field then go for it right away. If not then take any job you can for the time being.

Of course you can try something entrepreneurial to bring money in. The only caveat is that you can’t be investing $10,000 into some business idea when you’re dead broke. If you can find a way to make money with very little overhead (blogging) then try it out. You’ve got plenty of time and hopefully are loaded with energy.

If you don’t enjoy the work then please don’t get too stressed as you’re just doing this for the cash flow. Just try to turn your brain off and preserve your creativity for your other projects.

Defer your student loan payments.

If you can’t afford to make your payments due to a lack of work, then you need to defer them. Most programs that I’m aware of don’t start charging you until 6 months after college is completed. Every student loan program is different. The general theme from readers is that student loan companies are willing to work with you if you inform them of your situation.

Long time reader Edward informed me of the following on student loan companies:

“If you’re having financial problems, student loan companies WILL work with you. Mortgage and credit card companies are notorious for working against you, but student loan companies will do whatever it takes to keep you in good standing. During my unemployment, they’ve reduced my payments to more or less just the interest. I may not be paying down that debt, but I have an extra $100 per month to buy groceries with.”

Join a related professional group.

Are there any groups or associations that you can join? Can you try to meet people in your field?

There’s likely a group of professionals in your field that network together on a consistent basis. Don’t be intimated or feel that you don’t have anything to offer. Everyone has been there at one point or another in life. Every journey begins with a single step. Show up, ask lots of questions and read Edward’s post on mastering the networking event.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Look for groups to join.
  • Get involved in your community.
  • Volunteer where possible to get your foot in the door.
  • Be helpful.
  • Learn from those who are further ahead of you.

Stay at home for a bit.

After college you really don’t want to live with your parents because it interferes with your social life, but sometimes you just have to suck it up. When you have no or very little money, staying at home a bit longer becomes a mandatory sacrifice.

This time that you stay at home is where you save up and work on your finances. Take advantage of this unique opportunity in your life. Times will never be this easy again.

Consider more education.

In some fields an undergraduate degree is not enough. You might need to go to Graduate School or take some certificate courses on the side. The only issue here is that you need to decide and research if getting into even more debt for education is the right decision for you.

Live cheap.

You should strive to not rack up any debt at all. Living cheap is pretty self-explanatory. This basically means that you should live like a college student while out of college. The bottle service and Armani suits are going to have to wait until you got a bank roll.

Avoid the drama.

I don’t want to sound like a parent. It’s just important that you try to avoid any trouble by staying focused on trying to improve your situation. Life’s so much better when you eventually have money saved in the bank as you get older.

This isn’t the Jersey Shore and you don’t want a crazy girlfriend or a weekend of binge drinking to mess you up in any way. Sure you need to get out there and have a great time with friends. You just don’t want to get side-tracked with nonsense. I’ve seen too many friends get caught up with toxic relationships and stupid habits due to too much free time.

Get creative with how you make money.

Have you tried to use social media or the Internet to bring some money in?

It’s easier than ever to try to make money. You have so many options. You can use that part-time job to fund your side hustle. You can make money through some unique sources.

The following articles will show you exactly how you can start making money:

  1. The exact steps to getting paid as a writer.
  2. How to start an online business in 6 easy steps.
  3. How to make money off social media.
  4. How you can make money online.

Those are my thoughts on steps to take after graduating from college broke with very little money. What would you recommend? What would you do after college?

5 thoughts on “Out of College & Dead Broke– What Do I Do?”

  1. You know what’s interesting? I have a post on my site that asks whether Unemployment Is Really That High b/c my local KFC hasn’t been able to hire someone for $10/hour for 7 weeks already.

    This goes back to your point about just getting a job to start. Or, living at home with Mom & Dad is a good idea too!

  2. The biggest mistake I made out of college was a) I bought a car and had a car payment every month and just paid the minimum. b) I had a few K in credit card debt that racked up c) I didn’t start tackling my student loan debt during the 6 month grace period.

    My minimum payment for my student loan back in January of 2007 when it kicked in was about $365 and that’s exactly what I paid. I wish I started over paying my loans back then the way I have been for the past few years, I would be in a better situation now, but hindsight is always 20/20.

    The best advice I would give is have a plan and try and save a little bit right when you graduate. I lived at home, had a high paying job, and even started grad school that my work paid for, but I didn’t attack the loans or save like I should have.

  3. I just want to emphasize that “Living Cheap” point. My husband and I were broke but had no college debt, so we lived super cheap ($399 efficiency apartment) for 3 years and then were able to put 20% down on our house. Most of our aquaintances were in similar situations, but lived it up when they got nicer jobs than us. Those same people are struggling to make the payments on their apartments and cars now or have mortgages that they’ll be paying off for the next 28 years (we’re 6 years or less away from complete debt freedom). LIVE CHEAP.

  4. @ 20 and engaged- I definitily agree about getting an internship. Internships will get your foot in the door and maybe you’ll be offered a full time job from that internship.
    My advice-Be a caddy and get a job. Caddying will help you get a real job if you form a strong bond with the people you work for.
    Networking is the key!

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