A new job is a fresh start. An exciting time filled with new opportunities, including the opportunity to finally take control of your finances.

Figuring out how to handle your finances can be intimidating. There’s a lot to think about. Understanding how things like budgeting, expenses, debt, saving, and retirement relate to one another will help you lay the groundwork.

Here are 4 things to keep in mind when starting a solid financial plan.

Establish a spending plan as soon as possible. This road map will help you figure out what to do with your money each month. Once you have an idea of how much your paychecks will be, determine what your fixed and flexible expenses are, as well as what you can save. Fixed costs are things like housing, grocery bills and utility payments – things you know you will have to pay each month.
When you create a budget, you begin to see the full picture on how much money you have, what you spend it on, and how much, if any is left over. This will allow you to make smarter decisions with your finances on a daily basis, allowing you to stick to your budget and do more with the money that you earn.

Pay Off Debt
It’s time to get serious about repaying your debt – and your lenders will expect you to. Limit the amount of debt you take on from here on out. One of the most important steps of getting out of debt is to pay more than the minimum amount due each month. Always tackle the highest debt first and go from there. Make a plan to pay down existing debt – your budget will help you reach these goals. Make sure your plan includes a balance between managing debt and building your savings.

Save for Retirement
Saving for retirement needs to become a priority instead of an afterthought. If you’re not saving for retirement yet, revisit your budget to see if you have room to include it – even a small amount can begin to add up. Check with your company to see if they offer a retirement plan such as a 401(k). A great starting point is if your company offers a matching contribution. If they do, it’s a good idea take full advantage of their match. For example, if your employer offers a dollar for dollar match up to 3% of your salary, you’ll greatly benefit from contributing at least 3% of every paycheck.
If your company doesn’t provide a plan, the next most common retirement account is an IRA or Individual Retirement Account.

Saving with Auto-Transfers
The best way to begin saving for unanticipated events and expenses is to create an auto-transfer from your checking account into your savings account. If you have a set amount of money being set aside from each paycheck automatically it’s impossible to forget. Not to mention, it’s easier to save what you don’t think you have than to try and save what you know you have. Having an emergency savings fund will help you out in a jam, and after a few paychecks, you won’t even miss the money.
Your new cash flow comes with new responsibilities and financial considerations. Understanding how to manage your money wisely both for now and for your future may involve a bit of trial-and-error, but that’s okay! Everyone’s financial situation is different, but in time, these habits will get easier and you’ll develop a plan that fits your goals.