If you’re a recent graduate, you’re likely starting to become more financially independent. While each student’s story is different, whether you’re heading into the workforce or continuing your education, it’s important to build a solid financial foundation. Here are five ways you can start to do just that.

  1. Set Up a Budget

You’ve probably heard the term budgeting quite a bit, but that’s only because putting one together is so important. By organizing your finances, you’ll be able to accurately look at how much money you are making, spending, and saving, rather than simply guessing each month.

Quick Tip: If you want some help putting together your budget, we’re here for you. Use our budgeting worksheet to easily track your spending.

  1. Build Your Credit

Some people are more wary of credit cards than others. That caution is well understood as credit card debt can be one of the nastiest kinds of debt to eliminate. Still, good credit is necessary when buying a home or car, and can even affect what kind of apartments you’re able to rent. As much as possible, try treating your credit card like a debit card – only spend what you can afford to pay out of pocket each month and make sure that your bill is paid on .

When looking for a credit card, do some research and take into account perks like cash back advantages so that you can earn money just for making everyday purchases on items like gas and groceries.

  1. Cut Costs Where You Can

Go through your budget and see if there’s anywhere that you can trim back or eliminate how much you’re spending. Could you shave your expenses by choosing to cook more and dine out less? Do you actually use all of those subscription boxes? Small changes like this can make a big difference when you’re trying to be financially responsible.

Quick Tip: Can’t remember all of the subscriptions you signed up for? Try using online tools like Trim or Truebill to organize them all and cut the ones you don’t use anymore.

  1. Pay Off Your Student Loans

As a student loan servicer, can you blame us for this one? Typically, student loans benefit from having reasonably low interest rates, but it’s still a good idea to pay these down as soon as possible. By doing so, your loans will accrue less interest and you’ll save money in the long run. If you find that you have a little extra money in your budget, putting it toward your monthly student loan payments can help make a dent in your debt and can lead to a more financially stable future.

  1. Start Saving Now

According to Bankrate.com, about one-quarter of Americans don’t have an emergency fund. It can be uncomfortable to think about, but it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected. Start putting money toward an emergency fund to make sure that you’re covered in case you need to make a last-minute car repair or pay for a medical emergency.

A good rule of thumb is to have at least three to six months’ worth of income saved up. If you can afford to save more, you’ll give yourself even more of a cushion. Building up this amount may take some time, so don’t feel pressure to make a huge change overnight. Start small and save an amount that fits with your budget.

When you’re applying for jobs, check with employers to see whether savings assistance is part of their benefits package. Some organizations, like Nelnet, help you save for school, health, and retirement.

Did you know that Nelnet matches up to 5 percent of your 401(k) contributions and associates can earn up to $1,200 each year with a Health Savings Account? Learn more about the perks of being a Nelnet associate.

As with many things, becoming a budgeting and financial whiz takes time and discipline. Don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed by the big picture and focus on taking things month by month. Your future self – and future wallet – will thank you.