On Your Own – Budgeting For Apartment Living
Managing your money to live on your own can be a big challenge, especially if you are a full-time student dependent on part-time work for income and attending full-time school. Determining how much you can spend for rent involves looking at the big picture of all of your expenses. Don’t forget key components of your personal budget when calculating what you can pay for rent.
Obvious costs include: vehicle maintenance (insurance, license, parking fees); phone and/or cell phone bills; internet/computer upkeep; food expenses; furniture cost; laundry and clothing expenses; and miscellaneous household expenses (light bulbs, cleaning supplies, cable or satellite TV, small kitchen appliances and cookware). Less obvious or unexpected costs may include vehicle repairs, lost income due to illness, replacement of computers or other necessary pieces of equipment and an emergency fund in case you need extra cash quickly.
You generally want to keep your rent expense to about 25% of your total budget. If your combined income from earnings and school-related funds (financial aid and grants) works out to about $2,500/month, then you can probably afford about $625/month on rent. Make sure that all of your utilities are included in this cost.
As a student, you have another major consideration: is the lease for a full year or for the school year only? If you are not planning to stay during the summer between semesters, you may be hard put to find someone to take over your lease just for two or three months. Unless you are going to stay, you may end up paying for an apartment even while you are living elsewhere. Thinking ahead and planning a year or more out can save you time and money and make life on your own that much easier.