By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
You’re almost done with school — what a great accomplishment! You’ve certainly learned a lot in the past semesters; however, something you may not have learned or even considered is your post-graduation budget.
The percent of income you spend in each category depends upon where you live, your career and what lifestyle aspects are important to you. Some parts of your post-graduation budget may be hard to predict (like how much money you’ll have coming in); however, planning a modest budget and tracking your spending with a debit card can help you better control your finances.
• Rent and Utilities — These take a substantial chunk of income. To minimize rent, share an apartment with roommates. Reduce utility expenses by keeping the heat turned down at night and using air conditioning only when necessary. Trim any extras from your phone service.
• Food — Skip eating out and limit prepared items. Learn to cook with online tutorials and simple recipes. Plan meals and shop with a list at discount markets and grocery outlets. Look for sale items but compare their cost with that of generics. Buy ingredients instead of completed foods when it makes sense to do so. Keep on hand a few prepared foods, such as canned soup, in case other options don’t work out. A $2 can of soup is a lot less costly than a $10 meal out.
• Student Loan Payments — Interest still accrues during a loan deferral. Set up an automatic payment; this may give you a small break on interest.
• Insurance — Keeping your renter’s insurance (this protects your belongings, unlike your landlord’s policy) and auto insurance under one provider may save money. Shop around for the best deal. Don’t worry about life insurance unless someone relies upon you for income or full-time childcare.
• Transportation — Compare the costs of Uber and public transportation with car insurance, gas and maintenance. If you need to own a car, run all your errands at once instead of making several trips. Carpool if possible, and perform more errands on foot or bike.
• Wellness — Instead of pricey gym dues, get simple equipment to use at home, go walking or running, or follow online fitness videos. Many schools regularly open their gyms and pools for low-cost or free community time.
• Memberships — Cut out any memberships that do not save or make you enough money to pay for themselves.
• Entertainment — Attend free events in the community where you live. Stream movies instead of paying for cable. Borrow from the library. The earlier in the day you eat out, the cheaper it is. Enjoy activities during “off” times — bowling mid-week usually costs a lot less than Friday nights.
• Occasional Expenditures — Plan ahead for one-time budget saboteurs: annual payments, taxes, and attending weddings and other events. Put aside a little money each month.
• Saving — Contribute heavily to your company’s retirement plan. Save regularly for your own “emergency” fund until you have at least three months’ salary to help out if your car dies or if you get sick. Rebuild the fund as needed.