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You’ve landed your full-time job, and a full-time paycheck to go with it. So why do you still feel broke? One of the best perks but toughest parts of starting your first job can be figuring out how to manage your money.
“It’s all about being organized,” says Kimberly Palmer, financial expert and author of Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back. She gives her top three tips for managing your money.
1. Don’t budget based on your salary. “A lot of people are surprised by how much of their paycheck goes to other things like taxes and benefits,” she says. Make sure you’re basing your budget on take-home pay, not full salary.
2. Focus on the big three: housing, transportation, and food. As a young professional, these are most likely your biggest expenses. Food is the one you have the most daily control over—so adjust your lifestyle accordingly.
3. Yes, you actually need to keep track. Being organized is the most important thing, Palmer says. Make sure you hold onto all the paperwork about your job benefits and salary and put them in a binder or folder that will hold all your important financial docs. Try keeping track of your expenses and weekly or monthly budget with a spreadsheet or app (there are great ones out there like Mintor You Need a Budget), and make sure you’re taking advantage of your bank’s online banking services.
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Adjusting to the Cube Life
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Cubicle, sweet cubicle. If you’ve started a new job, you know that your little desk can feel like a second home, which is exactly why it’s important to try to keep it feeling like a haven, not a prison. “You operate in cycles of rest and of work,” says Christine Carter, Ph.D., sociologist and senior fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Work and Home. Your brain works best in cycles of about 90 minutes, says Carter. So that means every 90 minutes you should try to step away from your computer, go for a walk, chat with a friend. “Do something that’s human-like—and checking Facebook doesn’t count,” she says. Besides taking occasional breaks, these other things can help make your cube a healthy-living zone:
1. Get green: Office plants (or a view of nature) have been shown to reduce fatigue.
2. Go towards the light: If you can’t get outside to snag a bit of serotonin-boosting sunlight (aka your body’s natural feel-good chemicals), adding a lightbox to your desk could help, experts say.
3. Prevent freak outs: Keep uplifting things like a happy playlist, cute pics of your pup, or a sassy inspirational quote (we like these ones) to your desk to help in the event of a stressful situation, says Carter. “These are kind of an emergency break for your fight-or-flight response; they’ll short-circuit your stress by bringing on positive feelings instead.”
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Navigating a New Industry
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Hopping into a new industry is a lot like when you take Pilates, barre, or yoga for the first time—there are a lot of new words, behavioral norms, and processes that make you feel you’re from another planet. Feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable is pretty much guaranteed.
“Being uncomfortable happens in any new job,” says Carter. “But the discomfort of everything being new gets interpreted as stress. “My advice for newbies: realize that you’re going to be comfortable and that’s ok. But you need to keep the discomfort from being new from blossoming into a full-blown fear response.”
Easier said than done, right? Here are some simple stress-reducing tips:
1. Stand up straight. “All mammals, when they’re stressed or threatened, hunch their shoulders to protect their neck,” says Carter. If your body is doing that, it’s telling your brain that it’s under stress. Be conscious of dropping your shoulders and reaching your head high (and exposing your neck) for an instantly calming effect.
2. Breathe deeply. You’ve probably heard this one before, and that’s because it works. The key, however, is to make sure you “focus on deep exhales from the bottom lobes of your lungs,” says Carter. Those deep, slow breaths send a signal to your brain that everything is A-OK.
3. Try cognitive reappraisal. Take a moment and say to yourself: “My body is reacting to this situation (sweaty palms, increased heart rate), but my heart is just pumping more blood to my brain.” Understanding that your body is trying to help you will help you stay calm.