Budget Buckets For Twenty-Somethings

Everyone knows you’ve got to pay rent, turn on the utilities and pay for Wi-Fi, and it can be easy to assume there’s not much more to pay for when you’re out on your own in the real world. But there are so many other expenditures, though, that are easily forgotten, especially if you’ve always had your parents’ help. Here are a few things you should be sure not to forget when you’re making out your yearly budget.

All the insurances. For many twenty-somethings just starting out, expenses like car and health insurance (medical, dental, vision, etc.) were typically covered by your parents, because they were included in family plans. If your parents let you stay on their plans after you’ve flown the coop, then that’s great, but it’s still worth thinking about for when they do decide to boot ya off. Also, don’t forget about renter’s insurance and AppleCare.

A legitimately reasonable amount of money for groceries and food. The price of food is climbing higher and higher every day, and it’s unbelievably easy to underestimate how much you should set aside for groceries (this includes toiletry items like shampoo, shaving cream and razors, toothpaste, makeup, etc.) Additionally, if you’re really used to eating out all the time, it can be really hard to quit cold turkey, so try to wean yourself down from those big eating-out expenditures rather than just quitting all at once. Chances are, if you try just quitting, you’ll just get mad and say “screw it,” which is not good for that spreadsheet.

Gas and other transportation costs. If you live in a city where driving a personal vehicle is the norm, do not underestimate the amount of gas it’ll cost you. It can seem like nothing, especially if your parents have always helped you with the expense, but $40 or $50 every time you fill up can really take its toll. If you live in a place where using public transportation is available, like the Metro or other bus system, or taking cabs is the norm, make sure to include in your budget the cost of your commute (for example, the cost to ride the New York Metro a single time is around $2.75, and an unlimited Metrocard runs about $112 for a 30-day pass or $30 for a seven-day pass).

Travel costs. So your best friend from college moved three states away. You think you’ll be fine with Snapchat, Facebook and weekly Facetimes, but sometimes you’ve just got to get away. Remember that national monument you’ve always wanted to visit? Turns out you live about four hours closer now, and you’d like to go, because it seems more reasonable. Don’t forget to budget money for those vacations and little weekend trips. Even putting away a tiny amount of money every two weeks or month (depending on how you get paid) can add up in the end. Plus, it will give you something to look forward to!

Emergencies, big and small. Y’all. Your car will break down. The heel will break on your go-to pair of work shoes. Your computer will crash and have to be fixed. You will drop your iPhone off a second-story balcony (see No. 1 and Apple Care). Life happens, and it’s best to have some money set aside for when it does. Any time you have an unexpected expense, it’s pretty clear it’s not budgeted for (meaning your typical clothing budget would not be expected to cover the unexpected demise of said work shoes). So make a category! You’ll feel much better knowing there’s a little padding there to save you when the bottom falls out (of your car, if it’s your transmission).

Pets. I love dogs. In fact, I have two of them. I grew up with dogs and quite frankly can’t imagine my life without one (or two). However, nothing frustrates me more than young people who adopt a dog, cat, bird, rodent, or fish, for that matter, and do not take care of it due to general irresponsibility or cost. If you are thinking of getting a pet without Mom and Dad’s help, please remember one thing: Pets. Are. Expensive. While at the store or shelter, you only think of the sweet little cutie and how fun it will be to have a companion. What you don’t think about is how much it will cost to keep this companion alive: food, treats, beds, a crate, toys (which you will have to replace on a bi-weekly basis since they will destroy them all), collars, leashes, grooming, and items like phone chargers, furniture and shoes that you will inevitably have to replace/fix since they will chew everything up. Don’t forget boarding/pet-sitting when you go out of town, flea/tick/heartworm prevention, and vet bills for vaccines, check-ups and emergencies. Sound overwhelming yet? If you can budget for a pet, great! But if not, don’t let a little one suffer because you don’t have the time or cash to support it.

Me-Time Money. Everyone needs a break. And you deserve a little me-time every now and then to promote stable mental health. Maybe the occasional (or monthly) massage, pedicure, concert, fancy dessert or cocktails with the best friend is your type of thing. Or maybe it’s just that bottle of nail polish, new book or movie outing. We work our booties off to make that money, and we deserve to spend it on ourselves, too.

Gifts. Mother’s Day, the best friend’s birthday, the one-year anniversary, wedding showers, Christmas. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a thoughtful gift, but if you don’t set aside a little extra cash, you’ll be setting yourself back.

Furniture. When you move into your own place that isn’t a college dorm room or a big house full of roommates, you’ll find that it’s important to have adult furniture, which doesn’t always come cheap. Saving up to invest in pieces that will last a lifetime will be worth it, we promise!

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Taxes. It’s not something many think about, but as people in our 20s who often do contract work and freelance jobs, it’s important to remember that taxes are not always taken out of your paycheck. That means you have to pay it back at the end of the year. Be sure to talk to your employer for clarification if you aren’t sure about your situation. Don’t get stuck with a surprise bill from the IRS. Set aside 20 percent of all paychecks where taxes are not automatically taken out. (P.S.: Don’t forget to set aside some cash to pay an accountant to do your taxes.)

Things for school or work. Spending on school or work is unavoidable. You may need to buy professional clothing for a conference or seminar, get a replacement for a damaged device, or purchase supplies for a project. In case your computer suddenly breaks down on you, it’s great to save a little extra to get a budget replacement desktop to use while you save up for something better.

There are certain tools and items that you need to help your work or school life. If they stop working, go missing, or need repair, having that contingency fund means you can quickly get a replacement or have something repaired and avoid major disruptions in your work or studies.

What financial surprises have hit you? Tweet us @litdarling!

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