NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — As recent graduates find their sea-legs when it comes to navigating the real world , there are some essential tips they need to keep in mind.


It's not that you haven't been budgeting before: it's just that you haven't been doing so consciously. According to Brady Murray, a general agent with MassMutual, "The reality of the budget is that it's the gorilla in the room." Murray further likens it to "keeping score."

"Recent grads and people, who have 20 years on the job -- a lot of times they don't know where their money is going," he says, adding that "if you don't know where your money is going, it's easy to get overextended."

One way you can budget if you're new to it: the envelope system, which Murray and his wife used during the tail end of their college years. Put simply, you put the money you've budgeted for a specific envelope into an envelope in cash. When the envelope is empty, your budget is gone.

Even while doing that, Casey Mervine, a senior financial consultant with Charles Schwab, recommends that you track your budget for at least a month. "When you get your first real check it can be very tempting to spend it all," he says. "Look at what you're spending your money on and match your spending to what your budget dictates."

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"Whether you make $10 an hour or $100 an hour, you'd be surprised how many people have trouble spending less than they make," says Murray.

Paying Down and Avoiding Debt

"We need to differentiate different kinds of debt," says Murray. While not going so far as to call college debt "good debt," he does say that it's "appropriate debt" and likens it more to an investment in one's self than consumer spending. "You should feel comfortable about your student debt," he said. "You just made a major investment in time and money in yourself. It will pay dividends over time."

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But Murray quickly points out that if you have consumer debt -- credit card debt, which often has much higher interest rates -- "you need to get very aggressive at paying that off."

Mervine states that you should only put on a credit card what you can pay off every month, another aspect of proper budgeting. When it comes to your student loans, Mervine recommends that you look into consolidating multiple loans . Further, you should always make at least the minimum payment. "Not only are there late fees, but missed payments can effect your credit score for years to come," Mervine says.