Have you ever heard the saying, “Adulting is hard?” Well, to be completely honest, it’s as hard as you make it. There was a point in my life when if someone said this to me I would think, “Wow, this lady is lame. What does she know?” Ten years later and I wish I would have paid more attention to my finances when I first started working after I graduated high school. Here are a few of the things you need to keep in mind as you join the real world.

Where are you spending your money?
Let’s not have a diet of ramen noodles after you graduate high school. Yes, they’re delicious and cheap, but your body will thank you in the long run for avoiding them. So how do you eat well without breaking the bank? Start paying attention to where your money is going today!

You know all of those really cool trips you and your friends have talked about taking after high school? Save for them now. Plan for things that you really want instead of buying yet another pair of the same jeans! (Maybe that’s just me.) Money can disappear in the blink of an eye if you’re not careful.

Once you have a paycheck, keep track of how you’re using it. There are some really cool tools out there including Money Management for Arizona Federal members and the Mint® app. Find a system that works for you. And remember, it’s okay to indulge once in a while if you can cut back somewhere else to afford it.

Credit cards do not equal free money
Sure, many credit card companies offer a zero percent APR promotional period, but remember that ends at some point and regular interest charges begin! Those little trips to the movies or mall start to add up to debt quickly if you’re not paying them off monthly. Here’s the thing, credit cards are not bad. Impulse buying and spending beyond what you can truly afford is the culprit. If you get a credit card, start with a low limit and see if you can train yourself to pay it off every month. Only use it for small, necessary purchases. Since using your credit cards properly can help build your credit score, I promise you will thank yourself in the future for taking your time with this one.

What is this credit you speak of?
By definition credit is the ability of a customer to obtain goods or services before payment, based on the trust that payment will be made in the future. Think of this as a “your-word-is-your-bond” kind of thing. Decisions you make now can follow you for life! The good thing is that you have control over it.

Making your payments on time for a car, rent or even on credit cards can help increase your credit score. Keep in mind that one late payment can negatively impact your credit for up to seven years. Wanting to get a new cell phone? Most companies now finance the phones over two years on approved credit. So, having a poor credit score means you may have to pay a large deposit or even the full cost of the phone up front. This can also apply to renting an apartment and setting up utilities.

Credit is something that will be a big contributor to any large purchases you may want to make in the future, including home buying, car buying and more. On top of that, some employers are now taking your credit score into consideration when hiring. The big takeaway here: make your payments on time and use credit cards wisely.

Take care of your well-being
Yup, this is usually the one that gets overlooked. In case you haven’t heard, health-related expenses are on the rise. Once you have aged out of your parents’ health insurance, you’ll want to find your own coverage or risk paying for doctors and medicine solely out of your pocket. You can make sure you’re taking care of your body by doing all the things that professionals recommend, such as eating healthy, exercising and visiting the dentist and your doctor for regular check-ups. Yes, insurance can be expensive, but not having it can really burn a hole in your pocket.

Adulting comes with a lot more responsibility, but if you make smart life choices now, your future can be all that you dreamed of! Don’t forget: Arizona Federal Credit Union is here to guide you throughout your financial journey.