Budgeting For Your First Apartment

Are you thinking about moving into your first apartment? Are you worried you won’t have enough money? Try setting up a budget which will help you save money and establish good spending habits before you get out completely on your own. Financial advisor Nancy Dunnan and MetLife came up with the following guidelines to help you create a reasonable balance of expenses:

Cash Flo and MetLife recommend you spend:

  • 25 to 30% ON HOUSING
  • 8 to 15% ON FOOD
  • 5 to 7% ON HEALTH CARE
  • 6 to 8% ON CLOTHING
  • 62 to 88% Total Spent

Of course, these percentages will vary depending on your individual needs, but this is a general guideline. Start saving 25 – 30% of your paycheck for rent while you’re still living at home. You’ll want to have about three month’s rent saved in your account before you move in so that you can pay the security deposit and first month’s rent, and then have some left over so that if for some reason you go over budget one month, you won’t have to worry about making any payments.

Once you’ve moved in, you should continue to follow the budget. If you feel you need to save even more money, there are other ways to cut back. Consider spending less on food, transportation, and entertainment. This doesn’t mean you have to starve while you sit at home doing nothing, but there are easy ways to save money.

According to the Statistical Abstract of the United States 1994, the average American spends about 5% of their income on eating out. One easy way to save money is by packing lunch for work or school rather than stopping at a local cafe. You’d be surprised how much of a difference this could make! For instance, Mr. Smith usually leaves work for lunch every day to go to a burger joint. He spends around $5.00 each time. Five dollars a day turns into $25.00 a week which is $1,300 a year! It’s always cheaper to buy in bulk from the grocery store than it is to buy in bulk from a burger barn! For example, if Mr. Smith packed a fruit salad for lunch every day, not only would he be eating healthier food, but he could buy all the fruit he needed for a week for around ten dollars. So instead of spending $1,300 per year on eating out, he’d spend $520 and save nearly $780 a year!

According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 1995 the average American spent about 16% of their yearly income on transportation. To save money in this category, consider carpooling instead of commuting alone. You might cringe at the thought of ride sharing, but if moving to a new apartment is your ultimate goal, you really should consider it. If Mr. Smith took the bus to work instead of driving, he could eliminate many expenses. By ending the cost of gasoline alone (3% annually according to the Statistics of the United States in 1994), you’re saving close to $1000 annually. This doesn’t even include the extra money you’ll save on car maintenence, etc., and you’ll even be helping out the environment.

So, let’s look at the figures so far. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average American is spending 32% of their income on housing, 16% on transportation and 14% on food (62% of their total income). If you reduce the amount of money allowed for the transportation and food, that leaves more for the housing category. For example, by bringing his lunch to work every day as well as using public transportation, Mr. Smith has now increased the amount of money he has for his home by 6%.
If he chose to, Mr. Smith could also decrease the amount allowed for entertainment, clothing and other unnecessary expenditures, and so could you. Consider going to a dollar movie or even a matinee rather than the $8.00 night time movie. Most art exhibits are free. Most theatres offer a “pay what you can night.” Rather than taking a date to dinner and a movie, try going on a picnic in the park. It’s cheaper, and much more romantic. There are countless options to help you save for that new apartment.
Don’t give up on moving out until you’ve thoroughly evaluated your budget. You might be able to pinch enough pennies to move into a new place, and you will establish some better spending habits in the mean time.

Helpful Tips: The Millionaire Next Door recommends that in order to build wealth and have a cushion, a rental payment should be no more than half the realized income. (income after taxes.)
MetLife says you should spend no more than 65% on housing, transportation and food combined.