When you first leave college, it’s hard to think about saving money and planning for your retirement. After all, you haven’t even started your career yet, so how can you be expected to think about what to do after you’re done working? Regardless, though, you will need to save up for retirement at some point, and starting early is always the best choice when it comes to investments. There are several things you can do right out of college to help you save for your future.

Avoid lifestyle inflation

When you just get out of college and get a job, you suddenly feel flush with cash. You are no longer a broke college student and your first instinct is to go out and rent a big new apartment, get a new car, and buy lots of other things to go with your new situation. The problem with this is that you will be living paycheck to paycheck just as much as you were in college, only now you have more stuff.

Keeping a college-like living situation for even the first couple of years in your career will help you save a large percentage of your income and get you off on the right foot. You will get used to and be comfortable with whatever living situation you are in, so the excitement of buying new stuff will wear off quickly, leaving you no happier than you before the lifestyle adjustment.
Although you’re making more, keep your living quarters small until you need more (like when you have a family), keep your amount of stuff to a minimum, and avoid wasteful purchases that some people feel are necessary when you get a big paycheck.

Start pre-tax deductions

It’s easiest to save money when it’s never in your account to begin with, and there are many programs that will help you save more by taking the money directly out of your pre-taxed earnings, reducing the amount of taxes you pay. A 401(k) is the perfect example for this type of program. Because the money is pre-tax, more is going into your savings account than you are losing from your check amount (because a portion of the amount put into the account would have been taken for taxes.

Take advantage of company matches

If you are lucky enough to work for a company that has a savings match program, take advantage of it. The company is essentially giving you free money, and free money is a beautiful thing. Find out how exactly your company’s program works and get yourself invested in it as soon as possible so you can maximize your earnings.

If your company doesn’t do a savings match type of program, check through the paperwork or talk with the people at the company to find out if there’s any other type of incentive for saving. Being aware of what the business has to offer could help you retire years earlier than you might think

Whatever career you decide to go into after college, it is important to plan for your retirement and find ways to accelerate your savings. Being able to retire early because you saved enough when you were young can help you have a more enjoyable life, and even if you want to work into your 60s, financial security and the knowledge that you’ve got yourself covered is invaluable. Doing a little work to figure out investing and stop yourself from overspending will help you greatly in the future.

Author Jenny Masterson is a career counselor and content contributor to thebestcolleges.org, an informational site featuring college reviews. Jenny says to check out the 50 best colleges of 2012!