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Old 09-05-2010, 11:21 PM
38 posts, read 73,413 times
Reputation: 16


I have done quite a bit of research and have created a tentative forecast of what my expenses may be if I relocate to NOVA to take a federal job. (No offers yet, but I want to make SURE I can afford moving before I seriously consider moving. )

This is for a household of two young adults who are used to being broke.

Anyways, here's what I've come up with:
Rent (includes water, gas, electricity where applicable, trash): $1200-$1500 for a 1br/1ba apartment (based on Dorchester Apartments, Dorchester Towers, and other E. G. Reinsch properties near Columbia Pike)

Utilities: $0 (included in rent)

Cable TV, Phone, and Internet: $150 (based on Comcast bundles and my current rate)

Transportation (via Metro, buses, etc.): $50-$100 (based on a half-off discount that I am eligible for since I am disabled and the fact the my husband and I don't usually go much of anywhere anyways) With a little sacrifice of preferences, I think I should be able to get most places I need to go from the Columbia Pike area for $1.50 round-trip.

Date Night: $40 for me and my husband to go out to eat at a reasonable, if not lower-middle class restaurant once a month

Groceries: $350 based loosely on Safeway's prices and the fact that we have a no-frills "Don't buy it if you don't need it" style of grocery shopping.

Allowance: $300 (to cover things not budgeted, like new clothes, electronics, fast food, and other things not budgeted for)

Health Insurance: $300-400 (based on typical family rates for federal employees)

Other Fixed Pre-existing Expenses: $205 (These, I do not expect to change since they include things like credit card payments that should remain the same no matter where I go.)

"Cushion" and Savings: $300-$700 ("Cushion" will be used for unexpected expenses, such as oh - I don't know - pedestrian traffic tickets or something, and to absorb any costs that I under-budgeted for, like if our grocery bill ends up being $450 a month or if our rent suddenly goes up.

Taxes: $3,124.08-$9,000/year (based on a projected salary range of $38,000-$48,000/year. (This doesn't sound quite right. Maybe I'll run the numbers again.)

Am I totally off with these figures? Is there something I'm missing? Any answers should be able to help me prepare for negotiating, accepting, and declining job offers.

Thanks in advance!

Oh yeah, I also plan to ditch the car. So, no gas, car insurance, tune-ups, etc.

Last edited by ransomedbyfire; 09-05-2010 at 11:34 PM..
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Old 09-06-2010, 10:25 AM
2,612 posts, read 5,562,037 times
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If you can stick to that budget it will be kind of a miracle. Especially here in NOVA where there is so much money that you really "feel" the lack of it. I think the grocery budget is a little too small. I spent about 450/month when it was just my husband and I, but of course that depends on what you eat.

Also, remember that those apartments may not be available - sometimes the cheaper ones are taken and don't come up too often. You might find only the more expensive apts at dorchester are available. Also, if you are going by website prices, they might not be current. Those prices seem too low.

Finally, ditching the car would be a mistake. Even near a metro, you cannot live here without a car. The metro here isn't like in NYC - it doesn't go everywhere, and everywhere is not near a metro stop. You will find that often what you need is not near a metro - for example, doctors, dentists, the store that has something particular you need, the cheapest grocery store, etc. I once tried to live in dc without a car, and it was just awful. Moreover, you will probably save enough money on rent and other expenses living further from a metro stop that it would not be that much more expensive.
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Old 09-06-2010, 10:44 AM
Location: Orange Hunt Estates, W. Springfield
628 posts, read 1,926,786 times
Reputation: 232
Although Marie5v thinks no car would be a mistake (and would be, too, for my family's lifestyle), only you know for sure how comfortable you both can be without one. I agree that the food budget seems low, but again, we don't have insight into your eating habits. Cut out soda, ice cream, expensive cuts of meat, snacks, and packaged meals, to name some things, and who knows how much less our food bills would be. One can eat nutritiously on a lower budget than most of us are used to if we really tried. I'm guessing your income tax will be at the top of your range--if not higher--given you will not be a home owner.
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Old 09-06-2010, 01:00 PM
38 posts, read 73,413 times
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Oh. Hahaha. Yeah, we almost NEVER buy soda. Tea around here is $0.04 a gallon plus the cost of a cup of sugar. And, where I am now, the rule for meat is $3/lb. or less. I've also been known to do things like make my own taco seasoning mix, biscuits, etc. And if we ever eat steak, it's usually chuck steak, on sale. I think I might simulate a grocery trip on one of your grocery stores' websites to figure that one out.

Thanks for the heads-up on the apartment issue. Do you think maybe $1,500-$1,700 might cut it?

As for the car, we really don't drive all that much. I can't drive, and there are times where my husband can't drive either. (He is almost constantly having surgery of some kind.) So, I am used to only going out if we have to and shopping where you can get to and such. One thing I am consciously looking into in finding a place is making SURE the metro and buses offer access from the place to a hospital with minimal walking. Although I hear Columbia Pike isn't the best of neighborhoods, it seems to have transportation you can't beat.

As for taxes, do you think this tax calculator looks fairly accurate?

Last edited by ransomedbyfire; 09-06-2010 at 01:10 PM..
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Old 09-06-2010, 01:23 PM
Location: Northern Virginia
4,489 posts, read 10,898,650 times
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I think that's a fairly accurate budget. We spend about $300/month on groceries for 2, but we eat out for lunch most days so that skews things. We don't try extra hard to keep that low though. If we were aiming for super small grocery bills, I think we could take sandwiches to work each day and $350/month would work.

$1500-$1700 should be perfectly acceptable for a 1 br apartment if you don't need to live on the metro. I lived in a nice 2 br place in Alexandria for that much. It ran a free shuttle to the metro during rush hour, and had a bus stop right out front for all other times of the day. I could also walk to a small grocery store & drug store, which was really nice when I didn't want to drive.

Make sure you're comfortable grocery shopping on the bus though. Often times the best way to save is to buy things in bulk when they're on sale, and it could be very difficult lugging a dozen bags of groceries on a bus (especially depending on your disability).

Something else to budget for is 401k/retirement savings. I don't see that anywhere in your outline, but it's SUPER important. Is the other adult in your household going to have a salary coming in once you're settled? That would give you a lot of extra wiggle room in your budget.
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Old 09-06-2010, 02:36 PM
38 posts, read 73,413 times
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Cali, which complex were you staying in that cheap?

As for groceries, I am hoping I can use delivery through somewhere like Safeway. I've looked into it; and, as long as it's available wherever I end up moving, it sounds like a good deal. And for other things, I'd plan to pick them up maybe at a 7-eleven or something (like if we run out of milk or something). I also plan to invest in something along the lines of a reusable grocery bag or two for special things like farmers market trips, etc. And I am planning on buying a freezer to keep bulk food in and possibly make my own homemade TV dinners on the weekends to feed us both while I'm at work. (Hopefully, they'll have a microwave for me to use at work. )

I plan to start a 401(k) once I have saved enough to cover at least half of the copay limit for our health insurance. (And if it's not all needed for copays, we'll be able to spend it elsewhere.) Also, as far as I know, if I get a job within the next month or two, I may not have to pay any income taxes at all for 2010, since I'll have standard deductions and a special tax break given to legally blind people. So, I'm hoping to pocket the money that would have gone to taxes to go toward the healthcare expenses. Once those are met, I will begin saving as much as I can. This will depend on how much of the "cushion/savings" budget will be needed for a cushion, and I will save/invest the rest.

I will be, at least for a while, the only income earner since my husband is dealing with some severe mobility issues. But I don't have a problem with it as long as it's doable. In fact, I kind of see it as more an exciting challenge. And, hopefully, I will be able to get a promotion/raise after a year (besides a COLA). I hear the federal government is pretty good about that.
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Old 09-06-2010, 03:41 PM
515 posts, read 1,684,701 times
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If you take a federal job, you will have far more choices for health insurance than is typical. $400 would be the premium for one of the most generous fee-for-service plans. You can save money if you are willing to join an HMO or use one of the fee-for-service plans that has restrictions (like on which drugs it will pay for). There should be more info on the OPM website.

I agree that the food estimate sounds low. We're two retired adults with two dogs, I am fanatic about couponing and smart grocery shopping, but it's a rare month when I can keep the bill to $400 (this includes nonfood items we get at the grocery store, like paper towels and detergent). If you use Safeway's delivery service, I dont think you get double coupons, so that would add $5-10 week for us.

Good luck to you.
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Old 09-06-2010, 05:30 PM
Location: Washington, DC & New York
10,915 posts, read 31,243,414 times
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One thing to consider since you're going to be car-free is to look into a car sharing service like ZipCar, where you can rent a car by the hour or up to four days. It comes in handy if you have an unexpectedly bulky purchase, or just want to take a day trip somewhere, and need a car to do so. The cost includes insurance and fuel, so the rate is what you pay.

One other thing to get if you're going car-free is a heavy-duty foldable shopping cart. They are worth their weight (10-15lbs) in gold because you can get a fabric lining bag for going to the laundry/dry cleaner, and it will haul groceries home without having to carry bags. And, you can fold it to store under the bed or on the inside of a closet door.

Bed, Bath, and Beyond sells a good one, around $50, and a good one should be steel. The BBB one is steel and in the same price range, IIRC.
All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.
~William Shakespeare
(As You Like It Act II, Scene VII)

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Old 09-06-2010, 05:57 PM
38 posts, read 73,413 times
Reputation: 16
We don't have many "choices" as far as healthcare goes because my husband usually needs fairly extensive treatment. So, I am purposely choosing one of the better plans to minimize our risk. (i.e. paying a little extra premium in exchange for minimizing any chance of astronomical medical bills.).
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Old 09-06-2010, 06:14 PM
1,591 posts, read 3,538,080 times
Reputation: 1175
Keep in mind that you are 2 young adults that may have children before you know it. Unless you have decided not to have them. That adds a whole other set of costs. Also, I didn't see a budget in there for gifts (unless you are factoring that under "Allowance"?). Eg., what if you are invited to a wedding, or a baby shower, or you celebrate Christmas or another gift-oriented holiday w/ family, etc.? Even if you are not a gift-giver by nature, some people may sort of expect it from you, especially siblings who have small children or a best friend who's getting married -- just sayin'...
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