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Congratulations and welcome t oyour after-college years!  As the saying goes, your future is ahead of you.  To make the most of this world of opportunity, and to get closer to achieving the dream of homeownership, it helps to have control over your spending and to start saving early.

Like most things in life, it is easier to accomplish this if you start small, develop sound money habits early, and then practice them often.  For instance, here are some time-tested strategies for getting your financial life up and running in the direction of meeting both your near-term goals - saving for a down payment on your first home - and longer-term needs like retirement.

  • Spend less than you make.  It's easier said than done, though banking products and apps now make this more routine - even fun - by providing instant feedback and real-time balances each time you spend or deposit money.  Many can be set up to help you meet financial goals, including saving for a down payment.
  • Never pay more than you have to.  Comparison shop, sign up for rewards programs, and use discount codes online and coupons in stores.  Spending less means having more to add to your savings.
  • Be on time.  It's been said that 80 percent of success is showing up.  That applies to being present in your life so you are aware when opportunity arises, but it's also true when it comes to paying bills.  Paying on time saves you more than the cost of late fees - it helps boost your credit score.  That number helps determine how much you pay in interest on your future car loans, mortgages, and insurance rates.  It can even influence your job prospects.
  • Manage your student loans.  When you have loans, it's a sign that you invested in your future.  You can get the best return on that investment by makin gsure you choose the most appropriate repayment options for your current situation.  Then, revisit that choice as your circumstances change to ensure you're in the best loan for meeting more of your other financial goals.
  • Take free money.  Some companies offer to match 401(k) contributions, so contribute at least up to the maximum amount your employer matches, even while you save for other nearer term goals like your down payment.  That few hundred to few thousand dollars a year will add up to a nice retirement cushion by the time you are ready to access it.

Establishing good money habits early will provide you with more options later.  This is especially true when you are ready to step into homeownership.  With your budget under control, money put away for a down payment, and a good credit score, you'll be financially prepared to make your move on your terms.