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Budget Basics, Part IV!

November 9th, 2006 at 08:29 pm

Small purchases can really add up. Don't believe me?

iTune songs = student loan payment
Purchasing 20 songs every month for a year totals $237.60.

Wii = rent
Those $50 video games don't play nice with budgets. One a month, and you're talking $600.

Pizza = groceries
Two $1.50 slices every Friday night for a year totals $156.

Fast food = phone bill
Addicted to Big Macs? At $2.90 once a month, that runs you about $34.80 a year. Now that's a lot of beef!

Nail polish = furniture
A $15 manicure 3 times a month chips $540 away from your budget every year.

Fancy dinner = car insurance
Dining out on the town once a week, at $20 a night, totals $1,040!

Budget Basics, Part III!

November 8th, 2006 at 06:16 pm

Extravagant Extras. Do you really need them?

HBO, AT&T, AOL.
Surprise! 58 channels, a dial tone and instant messenger are no longer free. Basic cable can run you $40 a month; the cost of just to have a cell phone is about $40 a month; and internet can range anywhere from $10 (crawling dial-up) to $40 (so-so broadband) a month. Some good advice, get an antenna, rely on your landline and check e-mail at your workplace during your lunch break.

Today's special.
Dining out is a common budget buster. Lunch should always be bagged, especially if you are really trying to save. Dinner out on the town should be reserved for special occasions or a once a week treat. If you must eat out, and have the choice between lunch and dinner, go with lunch. Dinner at a sit down restaurant can run you $15 to $25, almost double what you would normally spend on a light lunch. And as you know, pizza, burgers, and Friday night take-outs do add up.

New set of wheels.
Do you really need a brand new 2007 Jetta? Are heated leather seats, a moon roof, 6-CD changer, rear spoiler and rims really necessary? The average cost of a brand new car is about $20,000. Even if you put $5,000 down, that still leaves you with $13,000 to pay, usually over a 36 to 60 month period, plus interest. That's guaranteeing you at least a $200 to $350 payment a month! And a new car means a bigger bulkier insurance bill, especially if you live in New York/New Jersey area.

Plastic payments.
Credit card debt is an extra that you really want to avoid. It is easy to charge everything, get the bill, see a huge total, and only pay the $20 minimum payment. But interest will follow you! Down the road, a $20 sweater could cost you upwards of $50, depending on how long it takes you to pay off your bill. Solid advice: choose paper of plastic every time.

Name brands.
If you are an "image is everything" kind of thinker, get ready to spend a lot of unnecessary money. Shop for clothes at your favorite stores off season for the best deals (that means "sale"); even better, check out high-quality consignment shops or stores such as Marshall's or TJ Maxx for name brands at half the price. Furniture is another big buck eater. Spruce up a flea market find or hunt for a sofa at Goodwill. Chances are your tastes will change, so why drop hundreds or thousands on trendy finds that you'll only junk when you buy a house? Only buy what you love or need.

Budget Basics, Part II!

November 7th, 2006 at 09:54 pm

Bills To Bank On. Why so many?

A roof over your head.
Rent is the big one, but it can be the most flexible. In this part of Jersey, bank on paying a lot more, $1,00 and up, for a lot less space. In the area further from the city, rent may start as low as $800. Keep in mind that a roommate can lighten the load and apartment complexes with extras are more expensive.

Bachelor's degree.
Six months out of college, there will be the ever popular school loan. Sit down and figure out what you're expected to pay every month and see if it is possible to double-up on payments.

Food, glorious food.
Usually $100 to $150 per month is plenty, but keep in mind that meat, medicine, cleaning supplies and beauty products add up quick. Coupons and food store savings cards can help you save.

Getting from point A to B
Transportation by car, bus or subway can really drive the bills home. Settle on a reliable used car that eats up little gas and doesn't require monthly payments. Budget in the cost of insurance, maintenance and gas. If you have to take public transportation, plan ahead and include the cost in your budget.

Insure.
Homeowner insurance is good for renters because it protects your belongings (even clothes and CDs!) from theft, fire and water damage. A basic policy for someone with less than $15,000 worth of belongings can range from $50 to $75 for the year.

Is it cold in here?
Gas, heat, hot water, electricity, sewage and trash are basic utilities, with heat being the expensive in Jersey. Some are covered in the rent, so be sure you know what's included. A place that's only $800 a month could cost you $1,000 or more after utilities. Ask other renters in your building what they average a month and work that into your budget.

Budget Basics, Part I!

November 7th, 2006 at 09:53 pm

Yesterday, I had a chance to talk to a group of new college graduates at work. It was interesting to hear the enthusiasm and confusion (about money). While it might be hard to budget all of your money, it does help to monitor spending and put a set amount of it away each month. Why? Because if there is one thing life after graduation will bring, it's bills, bills, and more bills!

Budgeting isn't very glamorous, but that first paycheck . . . it's practically triple the work-study pay at college. When payday rolls around, it's easy to get distracted and go crazy with the spending. The cash that was supposed to be saved for rent, insurance, and those dreaded college loans, can disappear fast. A new car here, a plasma HDTV there and before you know it, the bank is broke!

I'm going to prepare some money guides, based on my little talk for new college graduates. Stay tuned!