Graduating from college marks a huge time of change in your life. You’re officially joining the real world and there are some things you’ll need to consider. Pretty soon you’ll be faced with new challenges, like looking for a job, paying back student loans, and figuring out where to live next. This may sound daunting, but we’ve got five tips to make the transition out of college go smoothly.

1) Create a budget
After landing a job and getting used to the amount of take-home pay you’re earning, figure out how much you can afford to spend each month. First, add up your necessities like rent, utilities, transportation, groceries, and debts. If there’s nothing left over to save at the end of the month, go back to the drawing board, crunch some numbers, and figure out what expenses you can cut back on. Establishing and sticking to a budget is essential for long-term financial health.

2) Manage your debt
Credit cards can make it tempting to spend money you don’t have. Don’t fall into the debt trap and let it hold you back from achieving true financial freedom. Whether it’s student loans or credit card debt, it’s important to reduce your debt load as quickly as possible. You need to be honest about what you owe, what it will take to pay off your debts, and have the courage and dedication to tackle it head on.

3) Protect your credit score
New graduates need to be aware of the problems associated with having poor credit. It can seriously limit your opportunities to make a big purchase, secure an apartment lease, or even land your dream job. Protect your credit score by paying your bills on time and in full each month. Missing payments means you’ll not only get hit with fees, but you’ll also see your score plunge. Ultimately, your credit will affect almost every major financial decision in your life. The better your credit, the more money you’ll save in the long run.

4) Establish an emergency fund
No matter what stage of life you’re in, it’s crucial to have a stash of money set aside for the surprises life throws your way. It’s okay to start small, but eventually, you’ll want to give yourself a financial cushion of at least six months. It will help tide you over if you face a job loss, unexpected medical bills, or run into other financial emergencies. Debt or no debt, an emergency fund is vital to your overall financial health.

5) Start saving for retirement
Even though retirement seems years away, the earlier you start saving, the better. Consider opening a Roth IRA account and contribute as much as you can to it each month. It may not seem like much now, but with compound interest, your funds will continue to grow over time. If your employer offers a match, take advantage of it. Not participating enough to get your 401k employer match is like leaving money on the table.

Want one less thing to remember? Set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your Roth IRA and emergency savings accounts. Soon, you won’t even miss the extra cash, and your money will be there for you when you need it.

Follow these tips now and adopt smart money habits early to help maximize your savings for a lifetime.