Smart ways to spend and save your first full-time salary

18 May 2024

  • After six years of university study, Divya Saxena landed her first full-time job and is keen to understand how to get serious about her financial goals.
  • Divya developed some first-salary mantras to help her adjust to earning a full-time income, such as not comparing her own financial situation with friends.
  • CommBank personal finance expert Jess Irvine shares her tips, which include: spend less than you earn, save a portion of your income, start investing, keep track of your super and manage your cashflow with the CommBank app.

Six years is a long time to spend at university so it’s understandable that when Divya Saxena came into some cash, she’d treat herself almost immediately. “I’ve always been someone who’s lived in the present – I’ve been careless in terms of spending,” she says with a laugh. Now, with her double degree in law and communication behind her and having landed her first full-time job as a business development associate analyst (her dream job, might we add), she’s ready to get serious about her money. Here’s how she’s approaching life right now. 

Divya’s first salary money mantras

There’s no need to rush moving out

“I just started my first full-time role and was hoping to move out of my family home, but rental prices are exorbitant so that’s on hold. I’m happily staying with my parents for now. Many of my friends are struggling financially and are picking up second and third jobs.” 

Pursue the things that make you feel alive

“I’m the co-founder of a South-Asian dance business, DA Choreo, and in the initial years, we chose to reinvest all of our returns in our business, because it fulfilled me creatively. At that time, a lot of my time and energy was going into it without any direct monetisation, but we chose to keep our heads down and work as hard as we can. It is so easy to compare yourself to your peers in times like this and see the fun things they were spending money on.  I could spend money on those things too, but I’m making a choice to focus those funds on something that matters to me.” 

Cash alone doesn’t build wealth

“I’ve always been told that cash doesn’t accumulate wealth. If you want to create wealth, you could consider investing – whether in the property market or stocks – so I’ve started saving for shares and an emergency fund. You can invest in companies with $500. The share market is more accessible than you might think.” 

Try not to compare yourself to everyone else

“My family always tells me, ‘You should be saving as much money as you can so you can enter the property market and start building your wealth.' I also speak to my friends about the struggles they are going through to invest in property and set aside money for the down payment. This can be extremely stressful and overwhelming, but it is important to understand that everyone is at various stages on their financial journey and that’s ok. As long as I’m clear on my goals, then I’ll be okay.”

More ways to save money every day from a personal finance expert

CommBank personal finance expert Jess Irvine shares more tips on how to spend and save your first salary.

Start saving regularly and set aside money for a rainy day

Jess’ first tip is to think about your income and expenses, avoid spending more than you earn. Start saving straightaway and earning interest. “It’s about saving a portion of every pay cheque you get,” says Jess. “Ideally, we want you to have about three months’ worth of living expenses set aside in that fund just for when life’s unexpected things happen. A high-interest savings account can be a low-risk way to make sure that money is working for you.”

Use digital tools to figure out how much you can save

Automate your savings so you don’t get a chance to spend it before it gets swept away into another account. Smart Savings looks at your income, bills, spending and transfers to predict how much potential spare cash you may have each pay cycle to save, pay off debt, spend or invest. It uses other CommBank app features such as Bill Sense and Cash flow view to make these predictions. If you choose to save, Smart Savings will help you set aside this money. Getting started is easy and you get to decide – in the set-up process – if you want your potential spare cash transferred automatically, or if you want to confirm the transfers yourself.

For a home deposit, slow and steady is fine

The goal of home ownership may feel unattainable, but Jess says small steps will get you there. She suggests thinking about starting to invest in exchange-traded funds (ETFs). “Instead of buying a single stock in a company, you’re buying a share in lots of different companies – like the top 200 companies in Australia - and it’s a good way of not putting all your eggs in one basket,” she says. The CommBank app has a range of educational investing content to make taking the leap less overwhelming.

Don’t forget your super

“Superannuation is another way of investing in the long term. Using a low-fee, high-performing fund will help you to see long-term growth.”


For more of Jess’s money saving tips and support available to help you navigate the rising cost of living, visit:


Jess Irvine, CommBank personal finance expert, author of Money with Jess and a respected journalist with nearly two decades of financial reporting experience. Her personal passion is helping people with their money.

Things you should know

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