Budgeting Tips for High School Graduates

High Schoolers at Graduation - Xact Loans


Graduating from high school is a huge accomplishment because it opens so many doors for the future. Regardless of the path after graduation, it’s important to save and budget to protect that future.

Whether you’re helping your own child prepare for the future or helping a family friend, the tips below can help when it comes to saving and budgeting after high school.


For kids going to college, this is their first experience living independently and a great way to learn how to budget in the real world. Here are some money-saving tips.

Keep a budget.  Help your kids stay accountable by encouraging them to set and keep a budget. Show them how to track what they’re spending and plan for expenses.

Keep it simple.  Dorm rooms are small, and they’ll need less than you think. Many freshmen make the mistake of over-purchasing and end up draining their wallets – and overflowing their rooms.

Use your meal plan.  College is a great time to learn budget-friendly dining. Purchase a meal plan (it’s cheaper than eating out) and talk to your kids about dining expectations.

Invest in a filtered water bottle.  Ditching plastic water bottles for a filtered water bottle will not only save them money, but it will also help the Earth.

Beat the bookstore.  When possible, search for textbooks outside of the campus bookstore. Amazon is a great resource. Also, many schools offer rentals or used books at a discount price.

Microsoft Office.  A lot of colleges include Microsoft in their dues, so make sure to take advantage of this.

Get student discounts.  Many restaurants, stores, gyms and businesses offer student discounts. Always ask and take advantage of what’s available.


For kids diving into the workforce, this is a great time to make the most of each paycheck with money-saving tips and tricks. Here are a few ideas.

Keep a budget.  Help keep your kids accountable by encouraging them to set and keep a budget. Show them how to make the most of each paycheck by tracking and planning expenses.

Live at home.  This isn’t always an option, but if they have friends or family who are willing to take them in, it can save a lot of money.

Open a savings account.  There might not be a lot of money to save now, but it’s a good idea to start building this great habit sooner rather than later.

Save coupons.  Whether it’s for food, clothes or accessories; make sure to take advantage of coupons. This can help save money (and can be a lot of fun).

Consider a credit card.  Starting to build good credit early is helpful, but it only works when you pay on time. Talk to your graduate about the potential risks and rewards.  The best financial strategy is to use credit like cash: only spend money you already have, and pay off the entire balance every month. 

Meal prep.  Putting together a weekly list of meals can save money (and improve health). This healthy habit can help create a healthy budget and avoid food waste.

Buy off-brand.  When possible, purchase private-label or off-brand items. Generally, they work (or taste) the same, but cost significantly less.  With clothes, consider used clothing options like ThredUp, Poshmark, Clothes Mentor and local consignment stores.  This can be especially helpful if you need a work wardrobe.

Budgeting is the first step to living independently and making sure graduates are financially stable both now and in the future. For more tips on spending and budgeting, check out our other blog posts.