Everyone cringes at the dreaded ‘B’ word: Budget. Before you even begin searching for apartments in Chico, Redding or the surrounding areas in Northern California, you need to know how much you can afford to pay for monthly expenses.
Here are the materials you’ll need: pencil with eraser, paper, calculator, paycheck stub, and at least a small dose of reality.
St the top of your paper write “MY FIRST APARTMENT BUDGET” in big letters. Good. Now it’s time to crunch some numbers.
1. What is your monthly net income?
Take a look at your paycheck stub. Write down the amount you bring home. Take into account if you have an irregular income, get paid monthly, bi-monthly, or weekly. Add accordingly. Now add in any other income you might receive. There. That’s the number you have to work with. This is also where your small dose of reality can be used.
2. What will your monthly expenses be?
Now, write down everything you can think of that you will have to pay for each month. Since this might be your first apartment living experience, we’ll help you with the basics:
- Gas and Electricity
- Gas if you drive a car
- Home supplies
- Fun stuff
Keep in mind this is just the basics. You will have things specific to you and your lifestyle that will also be thrown into the mix. Now write those down. Some examples could be:
- Student loans
- Car payment
- Shopping habit
- Gym membership
Now estimate about how much you think you currently pay each month or how much you will be paying and write the amount next to each item. Be honest. Some items you will probably have no idea, since this is your first apartment experience. Like rent.
As a general rule no more than a third of your income should be spent on rent. You can also ask friends or family how much they pay for things like utilities, and get a ballpark estimate. Add up the expenses. If they are more than your income, move on to the next step.
3. What can you live without?
You’d be surprised how many easy ways there are to cut costs. Now put a star next to areas where you are willing to cut costs. Here are some suggestions:
- Ride your bike or use public transportation instead of driving your car as often
- If you already have a cell phone, you don’t need a home phone too
- Instead of cable watch shows and movies online
- Cancel your gym membership with plans to use the fitness center at the apartment complex if there is one
- Shop sales
- Reconsider what “fun stuff” you do. For example, instead of going to the movies, make some popcorn at home an invite some friends over
- Consider getting a roommate
That last point could help you out a lot because a roommate will help you cut your monthly costs. Learn more about the qualities you should look for in a roommate and the pros and cons of having a roommate.
Here’s your last step. Now that you’ve figured out approximately what you can afford each month, write the number you’re willing to pay for rent for your first apartment in big numbers and circle it. Then draw a smiley face. Congratulations! You’re ready to start searching for apartments in Chico or Redding!