How to Survive Real World Budgeting for the First Time

One of the most exciting times in life is entering the real word as a young adult. Finishing school, getting that first full-time job, and venturing out on your own is always an important milestone. However for many, the excitement wears off pretty quickly and you then get hit with one of the harshest realities of being an adult: managing your own finances.

Why is it so hard? Budgeting and learning how to spend your money wisely for the first time is a challenge for everyone. And you’re bound to make mistakes. To make your transition easier, here are four tips to help you survive budgeting in the real world for the first time:

1. Know Your Take Home Income

When you get your first job, you will get a salary offer. Let’s say you’ll be making $20 an hour or roughly $40,000 annually. Does that mean you’ll be taking home a little over $3,300 a month?

Wrong! When you get your first pay stub, you’ll see that many expenses are deducted from your paycheck, such as state and federal taxes, social security income, and health insurance (just to name a few). This can take up a very large percentage of your gross pay, on average 25%. It’s important to know what your true net or take home income will be so that you can properly budget.

2. Understand All Your Expenses

Living away from your parents for the first time can be a real eye opener. You start realizing how many things you actually need to pay for that you didn’t necessarily think about before. Make sure you really understand what all your expenses will be – from the big items like rent, all the way to the little things like paper towels. If you’re trying to figure out how much to spend on rent, a good rule of thumb is no more than 30% of your gross income.

Also think about your food costs, which will probably be your second biggest expense. If you’ve never had to do grocery shopping before, a good first step is to just hit the grocery store with a list of necessary items you need to buy weekly. Get a gage of how much everything costs so that you can better budget for this in the future. Remember, all the little things add up – so make your budget as detailed as possible.

3. Be Organized, Track Everything

One of the most important things about managing your finances successfully is organization. Once you have that down, you’ll have an accurate snapshot of how you’re spending and what you should cut back on. Many people forget the little things, like a daily cup of coffee, but even a small expense like that can actually add up in the long run.

Make sure you’re keeping track of everything. The easiest way to do so is by starting a spreadsheet where you input your expenses. Tools such as Mint.com are also great to use, because you can integrate it with your bank and credit card accounts to help you track your purchases.

4. Save, Save, Save

Being on your own for the first time is exciting, and you’ll want to do everything and spend on everything. But remember that it’s important to live within your means, because not doing so will get you in financial trouble down the road. Start good financial spending habits now. Have a small budget for discretionary spending, but for the most part: save, save, save.

Start an emergency fund as soon as possible—because you truly never know what can happen in life. It’s also never too early to start thinking about retirement. With the power of compound interest, the earlier you start saving for retirement, that more you’ll see later on when you need it.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com 

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