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Old 11-24-2013, 06:49 AM
 
1 posts, read 11,399 times
Reputation: 11

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I'm a 22-year-old college student and my boyfriend and I are looking to move into our own apartment. We live in western Pennsylvania, where the cost of living is quite low and we have found a decent two-bedroom townhouse nearby for $575, including sewage. It has central air and gas heating. We've never lived on our own before and we're nervous about making the move. We're trying to figure out if we can realistically afford it.

We only make a combined income of about $1700-1800 a month. We are very lucky in that we do not have car payments nor do we have any credit card debt whatsoever. So our main expenses would be electricity, gas, cable/internet, car insurance, gas for the cars, and groceries. I believe that we should be able to pay our utilities and rent with about half of our earnings. The other half would go towards the cars and food. This is what worries me the most because they will undoubtedly be our biggest expenses. Is it possible for two people to eat relatively well for under $250 a month? This is assuming that we don't eat out. Both of us have to travel about 15-20 minutes on the highway 4 to 5 times a week to get to work and school. I don't really track it at the moment so I'm nervous about how much gas will cost.

So what do you think? Can we do it? I think that some odds are in our favor, such as the fact that we don't have the burden of car payments and that we will live in a low-cost area. So if we follow a budget and aren't careless, can we get by alright? And perhaps even have a little extra money to occasionally eat out or see a movie? I might take another job part-time that would earn me an additional $350-400 a month. Do you recommend this?

Your help will be greatly appreciated.

 
Old 11-24-2013, 06:57 AM
 
Location: Oklahoma
6,806 posts, read 6,876,072 times
Reputation: 20946
You can absolutely do it. Just create a budget and stick to it. Food shouldn't be a problem if you check out the sales circulars and base your weeks menu on what is on sale that week. If you have an Aldi's in the area, I recommend shopping there, as the food is very reasonably priced and will stretch your grocery budget further.

The additional income from a part time job would give you some extra income to take advantage of sales, clothing and some entertainment. If you decide to get that extra job, try to save some money for unexpected expenses. It's not a matter of if they will occur, it's a matter of when.
 
Old 11-24-2013, 07:46 AM
 
Location: Simmering in DFW
6,952 posts, read 22,576,878 times
Reputation: 7295
It's possible for sure. But this the stuff most of the Judge Judy's shows are made of. If you don't watch the snow, here's what often happens. Two people move in.money is tight and then one of the pair has an unexpected expense such as:

Vehicle dies or car accident
DUI or bar fight and guy gets arrested
One loses job
One cheats on the other
They get a dog and it damages the rental unit or bites a neighbor
They dislike eachother's friend(s)
One gets sick or injured and loses income


Here's what happens next.....one or more

One moves out and there's big issues about covering rent and returning Security deposits
One covers the other person's bail/rent/car repair or replacement
Another person --addl roommate-- moves in to help with expenses and there are clashes
One grows up and the other becomes a party boy
One pays for all the fun times and then wants reimbursement when everything sours


So, with a tight budget, you really really really need very sound ground rules to address all of the above. I guarantee that more than one of the above will be happening
 
Old 11-24-2013, 07:46 AM
 
537 posts, read 1,231,269 times
Reputation: 1280
Is the $1,800 - $1,900 before or after taxes? Have you included maintanence and registration to your budget? Have you also included emergency savings and/or retirement savings?

I too would be concerned about the cost of the cars and food. Food should be very easy to stick within budget. My recommendations:

1. Create a food plan for each week. That way, you know exactly how much to purchase (no waste). You might be eating the same things for three or four days at a time if you cook in bulk. I would recommend making a lot of soups/salads/sandwiches. They're cheap, easy to make, and very healthy if you make them on your own.
2. Don't forget to eat healthy and exercise. The healthier you are, the fewer trips to the doctor, meaning lowered hospital costs.
3. Make food in bulk! Chili, soup, chicken breasts... you can put them in containers for everyday of the week or freeze until you need it again.
4. Shop around weekly ads. If you're nearest grocery store has certain things on sale, plan your meals around them.

Another question is do you need two cars? If public transportation is any good, I would get rid of a car. I know this isn't advisable to most people, but this lowered my expenses tremendously. I went from spending a quarter of my check on a car (this included monthly payments) to having all of that money tucked away into savings each month. I do see that you both go to work and school, so that might not be the best option for you both. Totally understandable.

Think about not using cable and just internet. You have Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, so cable is just another unecessary expense.

Make a spreadsheet. It sounds like you have everything written down, but make a spreadsheet with your monthly expenses and see how you and your boyfriend will live for the next year. Even better, make two spreadsheets. One will be if things go exactly as planned, the other is worse case scenario (paying for car repairs, high cost of utilities). Message me if you don't have a spreadsheet made, and I'll send you what I use each month. It's important to keep track of all of your expenses in some way.

You guys can totally do it! Just make sure you're prepared for some bumpiness in the beginning (moving expenses can be very high in the beginning), and you'll be fine. Best of luck!
 
Old 11-24-2013, 09:08 AM
 
537 posts, read 1,231,269 times
Reputation: 1280
Quote:
Originally Posted by Squirl View Post
It's possible for sure. But this the stuff most of the Judge Judy's shows are made of. If you don't watch the snow, here's what often happens. Two people move in.money is tight and then one of the pair has an unexpected expense such as:

Vehicle dies or car accident
DUI or bar fight and guy gets arrested
One loses job
One cheats on the other
They get a dog and it damages the rental unit or bites a neighbor
They dislike eachother's friend(s)
One gets sick or injured and loses income


Here's what happens next.....one or more

One moves out and there's big issues about covering rent and returning Security deposits
One covers the other person's bail/rent/car repair or replacement
A other person moves in to help with expenses and there are clashes
One grows up and the other becomes a party boy
One pays for all the fun times and then wants reimbursement when everything sours


So, with a tight budget, you really really really need very sound ground rules to address all of the above. Be ause I guarantee that more than one of the above will be happening
You bring up a great point. If the relationship sours at all, money is one of the first things to come up. And if things aren't equitable, then it's easy for someone to make the decision to leave. I can't believe I didn't mention house rules! Having a cleaning schedule, creating boundaries, and rules is very important. Living with someone and paying bills all on your own can be a pretty shocking experience, and people have a tendency to project their frustration on the closest person around them. Well, I know that happened to me when I was having money troubles living on my own.
 
Old 11-24-2013, 03:46 PM
 
Location: North Idaho
32,455 posts, read 47,260,266 times
Reputation: 77525
It's going to be really tight.

If you are very good at money management and do all your own cooking, you should be able to make it.

Before you do, sit down and work out a budget. Make sure both parties are willing to sacrifice some of their luxuries. Don't assume that both of you are on the same page. Work out that budget before committing to the apartment.

Also, I suspect that you could get the rent down lower by accepting a less expensive place to live that wasn't quite as big.
 
Old 11-25-2013, 09:46 AM
 
Location: MO->MI->CA->TX->MA
7,015 posts, read 14,387,039 times
Reputation: 5568
It's entirely possible and I live on around that amount even though I have a full time professional job.

The #1 rule is to be ultra cheap in your housing (rent)

The #2 rule is to get a car that'll cost you as little as possible over the long run (Honda Civic)

The #3 rule is that you don't need to watch your other expenses so tightly but you still need to be mindful as long as Rules #1 and #2 are not violated
 
Old 11-25-2013, 02:45 PM
 
Location: Sector 001
15,932 posts, read 12,146,210 times
Reputation: 16097
It can be done, especially if you were to do something like say, living in a mobile home rather than buying a house... I know it sounds trailer trashy but if you want to get by on little money without having to spend every living hour at work, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. The company you keep and your friends and family are what matters, not status symbols.

Also living close to where you work, since long 'dumb commutes' eat away a person's time, and time is money.

Buy a used honda, toyota, or whatever with like 40K miles on it instead of buying new. Of you can target used ford focuses or pontiac G8's which depreciate faster but will still last a long time. Watch out for dealers selling used ones that were rental cars for not much under MSRP. Better off buying from craigslist rather than stealerships in some cases.

Use a prepaid cell plan and ditch the data? Research around for what would fit you best. Also ditching cable or cancelling and going to different providers when the 2 year promos run out....

Don't go out to eat in sit down restaurants and go to clubs all the time. That stuff is expensive. Some people throw down a $20 tip to the bartender just to get the night started and do this week after week...
 
Old 11-26-2013, 01:59 AM
 
2,401 posts, read 3,234,796 times
Reputation: 1837
Quote:
Originally Posted by bkm091 View Post
I'm a 22-year-old college student and my boyfriend and I are looking to move into our own apartment. We live in western Pennsylvania, where the cost of living is quite low and we have found a decent two-bedroom townhouse nearby for $575, including sewage. It has central air and gas heating. We've never lived on our own before and we're nervous about making the move. We're trying to figure out if we can realistically afford it.

We only make a combined income of about $1700-1800 a month. We are very lucky in that we do not have car payments nor do we have any credit card debt whatsoever. So our main expenses would be electricity, gas, cable/internet, car insurance, gas for the cars, and groceries. I believe that we should be able to pay our utilities and rent with about half of our earnings. The other half would go towards the cars and food. This is what worries me the most because they will undoubtedly be our biggest expenses. Is it possible for two people to eat relatively well for under $250 a month? This is assuming that we don't eat out. Both of us have to travel about 15-20 minutes on the highway 4 to 5 times a week to get to work and school. I don't really track it at the moment so I'm nervous about how much gas will cost.

So what do you think? Can we do it? I think that some odds are in our favor, such as the fact that we don't have the burden of car payments and that we will live in a low-cost area. So if we follow a budget and aren't careless, can we get by alright? And perhaps even have a little extra money to occasionally eat out or see a movie? I might take another job part-time that would earn me an additional $350-400 a month. Do you recommend this?

Your help will be greatly appreciated.
One likely advantage of not making much is low taxes. I believe you also get a tax credit if you're going to school, but don't quote me on that. Just don't underestimate the potential of tax returns. It may be thousands per year if you do it right.

One other little tip. You guys may want to consider a cash back rewards card if you know you can manage credit (meaning paying off the balance every month and never having to pay interest). The Amex Blue Cash Everyday or Bank of America Cash Rewards gives you 2%-3% on groceries and gas, which seem to be your largest expenses after rent and utilities.

$250 a month on food is possible if you cook everything from scratch. Make sure you're aware of the grocery deals and coupons flying around and buy in bulk when there is a good discount.

But there is only that much you can reduce your spending by. Another way to live is increase your cash inflow. Don't hesitate to ask around the neighborhood for random gigs such as lawn mowing, dog walking, or baby sitting. If you build trust with people they will help you out. If you work hard and stay connected and trusted you can make $100 on a good day, which should afford you a pair of discounted movie tickets once in a while

Really, the hardest thing to do in real life is making connections. Don't shut yourself in your apartment all the time. Go outside, meet people, be sincere and trustworthy, and you'll make your life a lot easier.
 
Old 11-26-2013, 02:22 AM
 
16,488 posts, read 24,364,922 times
Reputation: 16338
It is possible, but will be tight. See if you can cut down some of your costs by combining your cable with your internet and phone. Some places do this where you get these services cheaper if you get all 3 services from one provider. Throw around the idea of either only having a cell phone and no landline or visa versa. Shop around for car insurance as cheap as you can get. Don't do anymore driving than you have to, maybe car pool with others. Take sack lunches to work. Shop sales and with coupons at the grocery store. Make out a menu plan for the week, write down what ingredients you will need and make enough to have leftovers for another day or two.

The kink in all of this, and I know this personally because I live on a small budget, is those unexpected expenses that can really break you. Things like your transmission going out, medical/prescription bills, important appliances breaking down, things like this that just happen in life.
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