Graduation is Coming: What's Your Money Management Plan?

New graduates can look forward to a job market that's a bit brighter than it was the last few summers. Though you may have to take a job outside your field of study or one that pays less than you hoped for, the Labor Department reported in April that the unemployment rate for those age 20 to 29 with four-year or advanced degrees was 10.9%, down from 13.3% in 2012. That's the lowest since 2007.

Whatever your employment situation, you're an adult and money management is part of your life now. Don't worry: your life isn't going to suddenly be all about mortgages and savings vehicles and retirement plans. But if you start out your post-graduation life with a general money management plan and learn how to budget, you'll be miles ahead of your peers who don't bother and concentrate on enjoying freedom from the pressures of school. Here are some tips on money management for the recent graduate.

Moving Back in With Parents Does Not Equal Failure

In 2012, 36% of young adults age 18 to 31 lived with their parents according to Pew Research analysis of Census data. This is the highest percentage in at least 40 years, and is a reflection of economic reality since the 2008 recession. If parents either don't charge rent, or charge a token amount based on your limited income, you have a prime opportunity to pay off debt and build savings - money management practices that are important for everyone. Starting an emergency fund and saving enough for a security deposit may postpone moving out for a bit, but will make it an easier transition and reduce the chances you'll have to move back in with your folks.

Avoid Debt

Maybe you have your first credit card, but that doesn't mean you have to use it. Debt can accumulate rapidly, and sound money management practices like budgeting can prevent this problem. The less debt you have, the more flexible you are in terms of pursuing professional and personal opportunities. Also keep in mind that some employers check prospective new-hires' credit reports before making hiring decisions, so the less debt you have, the better.

Start now: Sign up for Mint and get free budgeting tools and tips.

Make a Plan to Tackle Existing Debt

Graduates in the class of 2012 had average student loan debt of $29,400, and 71% of 2012 graduates had taken out loans. Freedom from student loan debt is going to require work, but the results will be well worthwhile. If you can add even an extra $25 to your monthly student loan repayments, you'll save on interest and shorten the duration of the loan. Set up automatic debit from your bank account, and you can reduce the interest rate on federal student loans too.

Start an Emergency Fund

It doesn't matter if you're 22 or 52, having an emergency fund is one of your smartest money management moves. While your goal should be to save three to six months' living expenses, just start. Even a few hundred set aside in an emergency fund is helpful for that unexpected dental expense or replacing the fried laptop you were using to job hunt.

If You're Unemployed

If you're a graduate without a job, you are far from alone. If you can move in with family, this is often the least costly way to live while getting on your feet financially. If you already have your own place, getting a roommate and sharing costs can help you minimize expenses.

Temporary and freelance work can help you keep the wolves from the door while you search for full-time employment. You may need to relocate to somewhere with a lower cost of living. It may not be ideal, but it can work well for building your resume and the job experience you need for something better in a more desirable location. Working overseas may also be a possibility for some new grads.

Avoid credit cards if at all possible. Yes, they can bridge cash flow gaps, but the temptation to overspend is always there. Lock them up unless you have no other alternative for an important expense like utilities.

Whatever your situation as a new grad, money management is one of the keys to building the life you want. The best first step you can take is to create a budget, which you can do for free with great apps like MintMint makes it as easy as possible to make a budget tailored to your life and needs, and it links up with your phone too, so you can carry your budget with you anywhere. Great money management starts with knowing what comes in and where it goes, and a budgeting app is the terrific starting point.

Start now: Sign up for Mint and get free budgeting tools and tips.