The College Series: What I Did With My First Paycheck

The College Series: What I Did With My First Paycheck

"No matter who is watching or paying the paycheck, we are ultimately each our own boss."

A few weeks into my summer internship, my bank account was graced with a direct deposit. As a student still living at home with my parents, my expenses were minimal when it came to things like extraneous bills and insurance.  It was pretty tempting, and fairly easy, to have just spent it all on new clothes, food, and drinks, (especially working in New York City) but with some thoughtful consideration, I realized I probably shouldn’t blow my first paycheck, or all of them for that matter. Here’s how I prioritized where all my money went and things I needed to consider as a student and emerging young professional.

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27.2% Leadership Conference 2018

The largest chunk out of my first paycheck was to pay for a leadership conference in Washington D.C., as part of an organization that I am in. This was a unique expense in that it only occurs once a year and every year there’s also some sort of partial reimbursement. While the upfront cost was steep, I knew the experience of it all would be worth it. This conference was something I had been looking forward to for months, and I knew it would be very beneficial for me and my organization. Of course, this specific instance is not going to apply to you, but consider that sometimes a rather large expense like this is comparable to expenses of a flight ticket, vacation, new electronics, etc.


13.6% NJTransit (or Public Transportation)

While I’m making good pay at my current internship, I have to get there first. It takes money to make money. You always have to consider the costs of how you’re getting to work. I commute every weekday using NJTransit, so I buy a monthly pass. While I would only have to worry about buying a pass once a month (every other paycheck), it’s still a larger percentage that I can’t ignore.


11.4% Roth IRA

To be quite honest, while I’ve heard it numerous times, I wasn’t exactly sure what a Roth IRA was. I learned that, “A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account that has the potential for tax-free investment growth and withdrawals. Millennials have an opportunity to let the account grow for decades without being taxed. “ Being 22 years old, I initially didn’t see the benefit, but that was because the benefit would be more in the long-run than immediately. By starting young, I am ensuring myself a more financially stable future. My plan is to put a little into my Roth every paycheck during my internship.

I opened a Roth IRA via Ally and investing in a Total Stock Market Fund. Read more about the why here.

Learn more about what a Roth IRA is.


10.9 % Savings

Before I had a “steady” income, I was already putting aside a small amount every month to my savings, in the form of automatic transactions. However, with a larger paycheck, I was able to increase this percentage and put more of a priority on my savings (outside of retirement). You might not realize the impact now, but your job, health, and relationship can be at risk in the future and put a huge stress on your finances. On a lighter note, sometimes you just want to save for something fun. You’ll be thanking yourself in the future for saving money when life hits unpredictably or if you want to treat yourself.

I'm currently using CapitalOne360 to automate my savings which allows me create different savings accounts without any fees. Use my link to get a $25 bonus for opening a new account (new customers only) and funding it $250.


9% Credit Card (from Travel Abroad)

Last year, I was very fortunate to have studied abroad in Italy, with some extra time to travel around other countries in Europe. While I already had an American Express (thanks to my mom), I knew I couldn’t rely on AMEX for any credit transactions across the ocean, so my sister advised me to open a temporary Chase credit card for the summer. Before I knew it, I had racked up a much larger sum than I had anticipated. While I don’t regret my experiences abroad, I’m still paying the cost for all those dinner outings and glasses of wine in Tuscany.


4.5% Student Loans

Like the majority of students in the US, I have to deal with student loans. Since I am still in school, I’ve been just trying to keep up with the interest on my student loans. I have both federal student loans, as well as private loans. With a private loan, the interest rate is much higher, so I’ve been trying to prioritize this loan.


<3% Misc

For a small fraction of my paycheck, are the miscellaneous expenses I couldn’t avoid. This included an unexpected room charge post-move out from the spring semester, an electronic statement fee, as well as a student subscription to Spotify.


Remaining 15%

After assessing my allocations, my personal spending money amount had dwindled down to a much lower percentage than I had anticipated. I’m glad I was able to check myself before I wrecked myself. With the remainder of my paycheck, I stretched every dollar for the other miscellaneous things that would supplement my lifestyle. Maybe it’s treating myself to lunch on Fridays or going to see that new movie with my boyfriend. Sometimes I bought a new piece of clothing or planned vacations later in the summer. Regardless of how I spent the remainder (you don’t have to spend everything!), I learned that it’s important to put myself in check and live within my financial means.

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