This summer I started the biggest adventure I’ve been on so far…budgeting while living alone for the first time. So far, it’s been both easier and a lot harder than I thought it would be. I had been anticipating that budgeting while living alone would be a lot harder than budgeting while living in the dorms or budgeting while living with a roommate had been but I hadn’t anticipated that there would also be times when it would be easier too. I think that going through a few months while I’d still been living with my former roommate where I was the only one paying for the rent, internet, electric bill, food expenses, and gas (for my car that we shared) definitely helped me to prepare for what life on my own would be like.
I know that each month I’ll need $375 for my rent, about $40-60 to keep gas in my car, around $30 for my electric, $100 for interest on my loans, $120 for food, $60 for my phone bill, and I try to save the rest for incidentals or to be able to help my family. That combined total for my bills is still less than the $750 for rent, $43 for internet, $50 for gas, $60-120 for electric, and $160 for food that I’d been spending for a few months earlier this year. Up to $745 versus up to $1,123 is a huge difference when it comes to monthly expenditures! Every once in a while I still find myself smiling when I realize that I’m able to keep my monthly spending under the price of the 2 bedroom I’d been renting with my former roommate.
However, there are still times when, for one reason or another, I seem to fall over the budget I’ve set for myself and can only save about $20 for the entire month. In the past year or so that I’ve been out of the dorms, those kind of months have always made me sad. I think this is, in large part, due to the fact that growing up I was always taught to be very aware of how much money I had, especially in relation to how much money I was spending and if I could, then to build a type of cushion with that money. Now, I’m not talking about literally building a cushion of money to sit on or decorate my apartment with but rather a certain amount of money that is stored away and not touched unless absolutely necessary, that is meant to give me at least a little piece of mind when it comes to believing that everything is going to be ok and that I really can take care of myself by myself.
Currently, my cushion is a lot flatter than I’d like it to be. I could choose to get frustrated at this fact or I could choose to make the most of it and find ways to either tighten my budget or make some extra money. I’m hopeful that my finances will only be tight for a while but I have a feeling that I’m going to need to readjust my budget soon to fit in some previously unforeseen expenses. For those of you that have never tried to create a money cushion before, here is my challenge for you: create one and always make sure you’re keeping a running list of how much money you’re spending on a monthly basis (the goal is to try to either keep it at the same amount or be able to get that amount to go down)! It could be as small as $50 or as big as $1,000 (if you get really thrifty and ambitious). The world is your oyster and if you ever need help with budgeting or taking better care of your bills and other finances then you can simply stop by the It Makes Cents! Money Management Center (2103 Centennial Hall or visit their webpage) or attend one of the numerous seminars that are offered year round on our amazing campus!