Whether you are trying to reduce debt or interested in pursing investment opportunities, creating a budget is the best place to start. Budgets give you a realistic picture of how much money you are bringing in and spending in a given month. There are many tools, calculators, apps, and worksheets online that can help with this process. Or use the attached excel worksheets to get started.
Simply input your income after taxes and other sources of income (benefits, stipends, allowances, etc.) and subtract reoccurring expenses, including essential and nonessential expenses. If spending varies from month-to-month, averages or estimates can also be used.
In general the 50/30/20 framework is a good rule of thumb to shoot for in your budget. From your net income after taxes, fifty percent of your income to should go towards living expenses, such as housing, food, utilities, and transportation. Thirty percent should go towards discretionary spending or "wants" such as clothes, entertainment, and eating out. Finally, twenty percent should go towards your future financial goals, whether that be saving and investing in your future, or paying down debt.
Budgets start with a salary or income, and for those preparing to graduate soon, it may be worth looking at salary benchmarks, salaries by location, and cost of living before you accept that offer letter. Here are a few resources to inform your big decision.