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3 Ways to Use Your Graduation Money Wisely

Congratulations! You’ve officially graduated high school! What an accomplishment. We’re proud of you, and hope you’re proud of yourself! This summer, you’ll likely be celebrating with family and friends, and may even receive some congratulatory cash or checks! While how you spend these funds is ultimately up to you, here are a few ways to consider making the most of them.

United States cash with a graduation cap on top.

Establish an emergency savings fund.

Students frequently share with us that they wish they’d established a savings to fall back on following a major life disruption. You never know when you may come face to face with a costly car repair, unexpectedly lose your part-time job, or experience another kind of financial hardship during your time in school. While parents or guardians may be able to step in from time to time for some students, for others, the cost of these kinds of emergencies will fall on their shoulders. Experts suggest having 3-6 months’ worth of income or living expenses stashed away, just in case. Talk with your support system to determine what you think a good amount of emergency savings is for you, and start saving today! We do suggest putting your emergency savings into a separate account from your checking or regular savings, so you aren’t tempted to spend on non-emergencies.

Learn more about creating an emergency fund.

Cover a portion of tuition or school supply expenses.

Another topic that doesn’t linger too far behind emergency savings is tuition and supplies. The individual cost of things like tuition, books, food, laptops, clothing, and dorm room necessities might seem small, but add them all up and that’s a good chunk of change! Colleges and schools normally provide a list of what incoming freshmen need for their first year—take stock of that and touch base with other college students to determine what you’ll need to buy (or where you can save by renting, borrowing, or skipping altogether) and calculate how much you’ll be spending to start your college career. Then, dedicate your graduation money to cover any gaps you haven’t yet saved for or funded (a semester’s worth of books, a laptop, etc.)

Save up for future study abroad adventures or spring breaks.

If you’re interested in studying abroad or simply going on occasional trips, like spring break, during your time in school, your graduation money could help make those adventures happen! The cost of studying abroad varies with each school and program. Reach out to your financial aid office or study abroad program within the school to discuss what the range typically is, and opportunities for funding it (many schools offer scholarships and grants for students studying abroad). Your graduation money may be able to cover the cost of your airfare, passport, or a portion of your living expenses! We recommend establishing some solid savings goals and opening a separate savings account for study abroad or vacation funds, so you’re not tempted to spend them on day-to-day expenses. 

When it comes down to it, how you spend your graduation money is up to you. You know your current situation and your future goals best. Maybe that’s saving for emergencies, simply covering the standard costs of school, or saving up for the adventure of a lifetime. Or maybe there’s another expense most important to you! In any case, whenever you come into extra money in your lifetime—be it graduation money, tax returns, work bonuses, or more—it’s always wise to have a plan for it to better your financial state.

If you want to talk about your best options for making your graduation money work for you, or have general questions about paying for college or managing your money while in school, get in touch! Contact our Youth & College Support Team anytime at 260.399.8265, or send us an email at

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