4 Hidden Costs of Starting Your New Life as a Recent Grad


Hey recent grads, how many times have you heard this line:

Life is expensive!

Yep. About 260,432,947,329 times.

Let me start by saying that I’m not so disillusioned that I thought that life would be cheap or anything. Believe me, I knew what I was getting into when I decided to move to the Bay—crazy rent, ridiculously high sales taxes, and costly organic food. I made my budget and checked it twice. I took smart moves to make sure that I could afford my new lifestyle. I took note of what I could and couldn’t live without. After looking over my plan, I felt good about it. I could totally afford to be an adult!

But then, things started happening in my friends’ lives that started to seriously affect me financially. These were things that I didn’t even think about until they were insisting that I open my wallet.

There are some parts of your life as a recent grad and new real adult that I promise are going to surprise you with how expensive they are. At least, they certainly threw me for a loop.

Do any of these things resonate with you?

  • Making new friends

Know how you make friends after you graduate?

You buy them!

Okay, maybe not like that, but a lot of money does go into adding new people to your life.

When I meet someone that could turn into a friend, I always ask if they would like to grab coffee or a drink sometime. It’s a simple and effective approach that appeals to most people.

It also seriously starts to add up.

When you go out with a new friend, you may be connecting with a new person, but what you’re really doing is buying drinks or having them over for dinner or buying wine for the dinner that they’ve invited you to.

The social part of me is usually pretty happy, but man, woe is my bank account.

How to budget for this:

Be adventurous! Venture out on your own and explore your neighborhood. Find great bars and restaurants that have cheap food, drinks, and a great atmosphere. Tell your new friends about the obscure (and economical) little place that they totally have to try. Put less money aside for solitary evenings like a nice dinner with yourself and remember to invest in social outings instead.

  • Weddings

No one told me how expensive weddings were. I mean sure, I would expect that one’s own wedding would cost a pretty penny, but I’m talking about other people’s weddings.

First of all, there’s the gift. The happy couple typically registers at a store like Macy’s and guests just check out their pre-built list and buy items off of it.

It’s kind of like writing your Christmas list and making your parents promise not to stray from it.

The wedding gift registry usually consists of things like dining sets or linens. Nothing too terrible.

Except when you have friends who register for $60 cheese knives and $130 trash pails.


Sorry, girl. I like you, but not that much.

On top of being expected to get a gift for the bride and groom, you may be a part of the wedding party.

What an honor, right? Note the sarcasm.

Did you know that if you’re in the wedding party, you have to buy your own dress or tux?

Our Editorial Assistant Kellen didn’t! [Editor’s note: Yes, these are the kinds of illuminating conversations we have during the AfterCollege lunch hour.] Neither did I… until I was informed by a particularly titillating episode of Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids when the maid of honor had an emotional breakdown because she couldn’t afford the dress that the others had fallen for.

Oh! And don’t forget about the fact that the betrothed doesn’t pay for their own bachelor(ette) party. The cost of their plane ticket, hotel, meals, and drinks means nothing to them because that’s all on you all as the best men and bridesmaids to take care of.

Makes you rethink that crazy, all-inclusive night in Vegas that you were considering, doesn’t it?

Finally, there are these destination weddings. This is where the lovely couple invites all of their guests to fly to Brazil or Germany or the Key West in order to attend their wedding.

As amazing as a trip like this sounds, the thought gives my bank account a heart attack.

How to budget for this: Have fewer friends.


Kind of…

Once you graduate, you’re going to need to be honest with yourself about who the people are who mean the most to you and who are the kind of periphery people in your life. Who are your best friends? Prioritize their big life events above the people that you just kind of partied with (who might think that you’re closer friends than you really are).

  • Babies (other people’s)

Babies are expensive. Duh.

But the thing is, I don’t have any children and yet kids are costing me an arm and a leg! And you’re next.

Why? Because welcome to that stage in your life where your best friend, the one that used to shotgun beer faster than anyone else on campus, is about to be someone’s mom.

And she wants you to be the godparent.


Cue all of the toys and clothes that you’re expected to buy and the baby shower that you’re going to organize.

How to budget for this:

Start a college fund for the kid. Open it with a small amount, say, $20–$50, and then add to it as you move up in the world. As your godchild grows, so will the bank account.

Cute, huh?

If you’re close to the expecting party, offer up your space as a location to host the party. Do this while also providing basic drinks and snacks as refreshments. Then, put everyone else in attendance in charge of bringing a dish, potluck-style, so that you’re not stuck footing the bill for catering the whole event.

  • Transportation

I don’t have a car, so I rely heavily on BART and buses to get around town. At first, I didn’t think that this was that big of a deal. After all, I was saving a ton by not having to pay a car note, car insurance, gas, or for parking.

I completely underestimated, however, how costly it was going to be to get to work via public transportation. It’s not as much as owning a car would cost me, but it’s still kind of a hefty sum. And don’t even get me started on how much this can cost you over time.

How to budget for this:

If you’re commuting to work, don’t forget to include this easily looked over expense into your budget! Do some research on services in your area such as Casual Carpool, where you can arrange to be driven into the city by commuters for little to no cost to you (and open up access to the carpool lane for them).

By using the Bay’s casual carpool service in the mornings, I cut my commuting expense in half. I also spend less time traveling into the city, which means that I get to work earlier.

Also take advantage of programs that will track the cost of your commute for you. Google Transit is great because it tells you how much your trip is going to cost you depending on your mode of transportation (driving versus the bus versus the train, etc). Here in the Bay, I like to compare the difference between taking a combination of Caltrain, BART, and the bus. This way, I get to see which type of trip will cost me the least and choose the most cost-effective one.

Homework time! Have you encountered any other surprising expenses since becoming a working adult? Share them—and your tips for not breaking the bank—with us in a comment below!


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