If you recently graduated from college then you’ve been hit with the task of managing your own finances.  You may now have a job with a decent paycheck and along with that comes bills, unplanned expenses and learning to balance your checking account.  During this time you may also be experiencing some confusion, doubt and you can’t shake the feeling that nothing is wrong, but something just doesn’t feel quite right.

Welcome to your Quarter Life Crisis.

It is often around this time that Quarter Lifers can let their finances lapse leaving a trail of bad credit and unpaid bills due to overwhelming feelings around student loans and disillusionment around maintaining a desired lifestyle.

So how does a Quarter Lifer get through this extremely confusing period of life without letting their finances lapse?

1.   Get Organized

This is indeed a difficult time but it is no reason to let you finances lapse in the midst of it all.  Take inventory of your financial obligations and set them on auto pay through your bank or other online bill pay systems.  This way you can let the bills take care of themselves so long as you keep the funds in your bank account.  This includes saving at least 10% of your take home pay as well.  Remember, above all, pay yourself first!

2.  Create a Budget

You may be asking how do I do that?  It’s pretty simple, For the next month, track your expenses down to the penny.  You can do this by using all cash, only your debit card or just tallying up all purchases, bill payments and receipts at the end of the month.   After reviewing your information, decide which areas need improvement and go on a trial run for the next 30-60 days.  This way you gain a better understanding around which areas need closer oversight.

In my case, when I first moved to DC after college, I really needed to watch how much I ate out each week.  Of course I wasn’t the Martha Stewart wannabe I am today and ate out for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which got really expensive after a while.  So take stock of what areas need closer watch then tally up the totals.  Once you have an idea, you set the limits and voila, you now have a monthly budget!

Here’s a copy of a budget spreadsheet you may find useful:

3.  Communicate With Your Student Loan Lender

If you haven’t already done so, call your student loan lender and find out when you first payment is due.  Get information around due dates, grace periods, payment terms, forbearance and in school status.  Depending on your personal/financial sitution you may be eligible to ask your lender for a forbearance just in case you aren’t able to manage payments at this point in time.  Some of you (like yours truly) may owe over 100k in student loans which is like a mortgage payment for most.  Still, Sallie, Citi, AES, KeyBank etc etc want their money.  It is in your best interest to make sure you are on track with this debt.  Like death and taxes, student loan repayment is another certainty in life.  Talk to your local bank for chaps payment advice and help.

4.  Curb The Shopping!

This includes lattes, the cute empire dress you could get for the after work party on Friday, the heels you don’t need and anything else not deemed a necessity right now.  If you must, give yourself a monthly shopping allowance and make it your duty not to go above it.  This way you’re able to shop and not feel guitly about it.

5.  Talk to Mom and Dad About Your Finances

Quarter Lifers are often caught up in wanting to seem responsible that they forget that it is still OK to ask for help even if they are on their own.  I can admit to calling my mom 8 months after moving here and telling her that my CC debt was unmanageable and I needed help.  She promptly called the credit card company and paid the balance for me and made me promise not to run it back up again.  Sometimes we need help and mom and/or dad are more than willing to help us out.  Of course, not without a stern talking to but it may be the help you need to get you back on the right path and giving you a fresh start.

Of course I do not advocate parents enabling their adult children, however, I am of the mindset that if they can still help out while you’re still getting your feet wet in adulthood, why not?

This is just one aspect of learning how to manage a quarter life crisis, keep in mind that issues around career, identity and relationships  are best handled by a life coach or therapist depending on the severity of the issues.  Your first step is realizing there’s a problem but that it’s totally OK to feel the way you do.  Just try to maintain control in the area of your personal finance so that you’re not paying for it years down the line when you’ve moved past this period in your life.