So you’ve just completed your studies at Uni or TAFE, graduated and secured yourself a job to start your career  – now what? Setting yourself up for the future is an important ‘next step’ after graduation, and owning a home is an aspiration for many new graduates.

However, being a homeowner can seem like a pipe dream for recent graduates, and saving money for a deposit can appear impossible with the cost of rent on top of managing existing debts like HECS or personal loans. Credit cards are a tempting way to make ends meet, but can end up being difficult to pay off.

The best way to start is to establish a budget. Regardless of how much you are earning, it is always good practice to budget and save, and developing these habits early can benefit you greatly in the future. Managing your finances is not always easy, but with some help, it can be very achievable.

Work out your budget

Be strict when devising a budget, and be sure to include all of your fixed costs, including rent or board, insurance premiums, phone bills, food costs, petrol and existing debt payments. It can be difficult to go without some of the luxuries you’ve been accustomed to (that essential morning coffee!) but work out where you can reduce unnecessary spending. Test your budget with an online budget calculator.

Set up a savings account

Put aside a regular set portion of your income into a savings account. This amount will depend on how much you earn and how much your weekly costs are, but also on what costs you can reduce. If you consider your savings as a bill, you will be more inclined to pay it into your savings account before you spend it.

Start small

Even just putting away a small amount every week or every few days is beneficial. It may not seem like much at first, but a handful of change each week will accumulate over time and help you get into the habit of saving.

Managing your HECS-HELP debt

If you are currently studying at Uni or have recently graduated, then the chances are you will have a HECS debt. While you may feel like this is a burden on your savings and it is preventing you from buying a home, this doesn’t need to be the case. Your HECS repayments will be taken into account when applying for a loan, along with other debts and commitments that affect how much you can borrow. Try Homestart’s borrowing calculator as a guide. You don’t have to start making repayments on your HECS until you are earning $53,345 or more per year and once you do hit this threshold, the repayments will be made through your income tax assessment. The amount of the repayments is determined by your current income level, so while it is an important consideration, it should not be too demanding on your budget.

If you wish to speed things up in regards to your HECS debt, you can make voluntary repayments, which may incur a bonus and make your total HECS repayments a little less in the long run. For more info about HECS, you can visit the Study Assist website.

Check in on your budget

By regularly checking in on your budget, you’ll be able to understand how your expenses and income have changed, as well as identify which aspects are working and which need improvement. This is important as your financial situation will change overtime, so your budget needs to adapt along with your varying needs and lifestyle.

Help with your budget

If you are worried about your finances, help is available. Friends and family members may be able to help you with tips on where you could cut back and save, and for financial assistance, there are government services available.

If you are ready to take the next step and are looking into purchasing your first house, HomeStart’s Graduate Loan options could be right for you. Graduates with a Certificate III/IV or higher qualification can apply for the loan, which could help you get started to buy or build from as a little as 3% deposit.