‘Tis the season a new batch of college grads join us here in the real world. It can be a scary place for anyone, but especially for a brand new graduate who has been nestled in the relative safety and comfort of college life. I asked readers to share their favorite life tips for new college grads to help them navigate the terrain of life post-college, and their advice is seriously awesome (no surprise there). Keep reading for 50 awesome life tips from DW readers as well as yours truly and share, share, share with anyone you think could use them!!
1. “If you can’t find a decent job right away, do SOMETHING to get out of the house. Work at Starbucks (like I did) till something comes along. After the extreme social nature of college it’s a wakeup call to be stuck back in your childhood bedroom with not much to do.” [Elizabeth]
2. Before you move in with a significant other, make sure you do these 15 things.
3. “Use birth control if you aren’t actively trying to get pregnant.” [honeybeenicki]
4. As a recent college grad, you may be hired not for what you studied in school but for your computer skills and social media expertise (so play those skills up in cover letters and in interviews).
5. Before you sign a lease with someone, make sure you know the answers to these 15 questions.
6. TRAVEL! It’s easier and often cheaper when you’re young (while you’re still used to and satisfied with staying in hole-in-the-wall hostels and eating street meat for dinner).
7. Avoid garlic on a first date.
8. “You don’t need to love your job or have your ‘dream job.’ If you never find your work passion, you can still have a deeply fulfilling life – mine is filled with family, friends, books, hiking. Work is often a means to an end, and that’s okay.” [LANY]
9. Don’t commit “premature relationship status change” on Facebook.
10. “Be responsible about your healthcare. Go to the dentist, get your eyes checked, schedule a skin check at the dermatologist. If you have Humana or another major health insurance plan, look at the ‘freebie’ reward programs they have. Humana has one called HumanaVitality and it rewards you with points for all the ‘healthy’ stuff you do AND IT’S FREE! Last year, I had enough points for a new Canon camera. This year, I’ll cash in all my points for either an Amazon card or save up for new golf clubs.” [MaterialsGirl]
11. People are flawed. People disappoint those they care about. People make mistakes. If you want a happy, successful relationship, you need to work towards more compassionate acceptance of those mistakes and flaws. You need to learn to forgive and move on.
12. “Everyone can use a little extra money, so sign up for paid market research and working promotions. I made extra cash one summer by working promos for naked juice company. AND I GOT TONS OF FREE JUICE!” Check the “etc” category on Craiglist to find similar gigs. [MaterialsGirl]
13. Avoid trash-talking exes on a first date (or talking about them at all, really).
14. “Don’t go to grad school unless you know exactly what you want to do and absolutely need the advanced degree to get the job/career you are sure you want. Don’t put yourself in outrageous grad school debt if you aren’t fairly certain the career path you’ve chosen is stable and profitable… and that you really want to go into it and you’ve got a great chance at doing well.” [Everyone]
15. “Don’t buy things that need to be dry cleaned or ironed if you can at all avoid it. Dry cleaning eats your paycheck, ironing eats your time (and your paycheck if you keep buying new stuff because you have no time to iron).” [Elizabeth]
16. “Lots of people graduate with loans, and the best advice I have is to live far below your means so that paying off those loans and getting adjusted to real life isn’t so hard.” [mylaray]
17. “Put away 5-10% of your paycheck, even when it hurts.” [Amanda]
18. “I know retirement seems like it’s forever from now, but contribute to your 401K as soon as you can – max it out if possible. Max out your Roth IRA every year. If you make too much to contribute to your Roth IRA, use the loophole that allows you to contribute $5K to a traditional IRA, and then convert (google it). That loophole will likely be closed by Congress in a couple years, so do it while you can.” [LANY]
19. d2 explains: “Employers in the USA often offer 401K retirement plans. You can contribute a portion of your pay pre-tax, which means that your current taxable income is lowered (although you pay the tax when you withdraw later in life). Typically, you have a selection of mutual funds from which to choose to invest your retirement contributions. You own the portfolio and control all investment options. Many employers offer a contribution match-up to a limited percentage to encourage employees to contribute. For example, if you contribute nothing, they contribute nothing. If you contribute 2 percent, they contribute 2 percent. If you contribute 3 percent, they contribute 3 percent. They stop at 3 percent; so even if you contribute 10 percent, they still only contribute 3 percent. It’s always best to contribute at least the minimum, so you get the maximum employer match (hence, the reference to the “free” money).”
20. “Get a low-limit credit card that you pay off monthly to help build your credit score (it’s also great in case of an emergency).” [honeybeenicki]
21. “Pack your damn lunch. It’s healthier and cheaper.” [MaterialsGirl]
22. FWB relationships can only work as long as both parties are on the same page. As soon as one person wants more — or much less — from the relationship than the other, things are doomed.
23. “Call your parents often. Tell them you love them. Ask them questions about their choices, their favorite memories. Get to know them as an adult. They won’t be around forever.” [LANY]
24. When you go out drinking, line your stomach with bread, drink one glass of water for every glass of alcohol, and don’t drink more than three glasses of red wine or you will curse yourself the next morning.
25. To start a conversation with people at a social event, ask them questions like where they grew up, how they met their significant other, what their weekend plans are, or how they know the host (don’t start a conversation with “What do you do?” which is boring and can be a sensitive topic in this shaky economy).
26. “Regarding social media and blogs, don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want your boss, the boss at your dream job, your grandmother, and your future mother-in-law to see. That stuff is not as private as you think it is, and anything scandalous has a way of getting passed around to the people you least want to see it. In that vein, don’t gossip about work stuff at work. It gets around, and it will bite you in the ass. If you must vent or say something catty, tell your dog about it.” [Turtledove]
27. Learn to cook!! [Everyone]
28. “I second everyone who says “learn to cook.” I feel like it’s the easiest way toward savings and paying off your existing debts. Because seriously:
A. You learn to cook
B. You cook on a regular basis
C. You pack your lunch
D. Now you’re saving money on restaurant and packaged food, plus you’re eating more healthy things. [Miel]
29. If you’ve only been dating someone for six months and there’s been an unresolved issue that has relentlessly bothered you the whole time, MOA.
30. “Get more hobbies and engage in several changing activities if you can. Money came easy for me. The weirdest and hardest thing about being out of school for me is that I know my days are going to look the exact same the whole year. It’s depressing as hell, and it’s hard to cope with. Do something to bring some change in your life. I’m trying yoga for the first time soon, and I’m trying to make things more interesting in the kitchen. Mix it up, but not at the expense of your wallet. Use groupons, coupons, etc.” [theattack]
31. “Sign up for adult intermurals! They’re awesome and will keep you active (read: stop you from gaining weight as your metabolism goes to shit), and help you make new friends since a bunch of yours from college will scatter.” [iwannatalktosampson]
32. To dry out a wet cell phone, turn it off and let it sit in a bowl or bag of rice overnight.
33. “There’s no shame in living with your folks for a little while if that option is available to you. It’s a great way to save! But, eventually you do need to figure out how to live your life on what you make.” [Copa]
34. Shannon adds: “Before you move back home, have a real conversation with your parents about everyone’s expectations for the situation – money, how long you plan to stay, “house rules”, etc – so nobody is surprised or resentful when conflicts arise. And they will. Also, don’t take the first shitty roommate situation you can find just to get out of your parents’ house – it’ll suck more if you don’t have a plan and end up having to go back home again.”
35. “Work on your interview skills! Seriously, recent grads really aren’t qualified for much, but a good interview can give you a leg up on the competition.” [Grilledcheesecalliope]
36. Always write a thank you note to the people who interviewed you for a job, even if it’s a job you don’t necessarily think you want. A. It may be your only option; B. The interviewer may be in a position one day to help you get a job you DO want; C. It’s just a good thing to do.
37. “Networking is awesome because, even if nothing comes out of it right away, you still get to get out and meet a lot of new people and potentially get free food and drinks!” [Caroline]
38. Before you get married, absolutely discuss these 15 issues — they are a MUST for any couple!
39. “People will frustrate you. Your boss will suck, your co-workers will be annoying, the guy who can barely spell his own name will be promoted over you. These things will happen and it’s not always a reflection on you. Learn to relax and roll with this stuff because life is long and awful otherwise.” [Turtledove]
40. To dump someone gracefully, do it in person, if possible; get to the point quickly, choose a time when the other person isn’t expected somewhere any time soon (like work…or a wedding); give a reasonable explanation; answer whatever questions he or she may ask.
41. To find someone’s bridal/wedding/baby shower registry online, go to WeddingChannel.com and type in honoree’s name. You’ll find registries for a variety of stores. Do a “find a registry” search on Amazon, too. Always bring gifts to events you’re going to attend, unless you’re broke and already spending a lot on travel, in which case, at least send a nice, hand-written card. If you can’t attend an event of a close friend or family member, it’s a nice gesture to still send a small gift and your regrets. Check out Dear Wendy’s gift guides for great suggestions on a variety of special occasions.
42. If it takes a potential date more than three days to return an email, text, or phone call, MOA. Someone who is truly interested will move fast so as not to lose a chance with you.
43. When you ask someone out on a date, don’t use ambiguous language like “hang out.” Have a specific activity and/or place in mind, even if it’s just coffee.
44. If you want to maintain college friendships, you need to work at it, especially if you’ve scattered across the country or globe. Schedule a phone date a couple times a month with your best girl friend, share interesting articles or funny websites via Facebook and e-mail, keep that Gchat window open while you’re at work to have some back-and-forth banter. At the same time, work on making new friends. Invite that girl in the cubicle next to you who seems pretty cool out for a drink. Join a Meetup group. Take a class in something you’ve been interested in and then ask the other people in the class to grab a coffee afterward. Call up that girl you knew from high school you weren’t super close with but you know lives around the corner from you and invite her for a burger. Friendships are different after college, but in many ways they can be more meaningful and based on a true common interest rather than convenience.[vizslalvr]
45. If you don’t want to piss off friends and family and former classmates you sort of keep up with through social media — and you don’t — always, always return an RSVP promptly, even if your response is, “No thanks.”
46. “home ownership is not the be-all / end-all. It’s not always the right choice for your circumstances, and it’s not for everyone. It doesn’t make sense to buy a home if: you’re not buying in a neighborhood that will appreciate in value; you don’t have 20% to put down so you have enough equity to refinance and such; you’re not going to be able to stay put for several years; you don’t have a solid savings fund for maintenance, repairs, and costs you don’t anticipate; you don’t have the time or desire to do regular maintenance and upkeep, etc. And renting is not “throwing money away.” There’s value in living in a great place in a great location, with flexibility to relocate if you need to. [Kate]
47. Online dating is a wonderful way to meet people you may not otherwise be exposed to. Here are 15 tips to make your online dating experience more successful.
48. If you can’t afford to be a bridesmaid in your friend’s wedding, graciously say no from the get-go; don’t wait until a few weeks before the big day to back out.
49. If someone has to change — even if it’s just one little thing — in order to be right for you, he’s not right for you.
50. If he won’t share his address with you, MOA.