Surprise, life is expensive!

When I was a little younger, my noble self thought, “It doesn’t matter what I make as long as I make a difference and do something I love. I don’t need to be rich.”

How sweet. And stupid.

If only I’d realized there were a lot of options that could have been fulfilling and made a good income. Baller status income, even. [Also, the fact that I used the word “baller” should indicate that I’m getting older. I may or may not also use the term “mack daddy” occasionally.]

But still cool. Via Imgur

But still cool.
Via Imgur

Back to the point. Life isn’t all about money, but it sure costs money. You can decide how lavish you make it, but even the most humble living situation requires some money. As you consider what career to pursue, it is really helpful to have an idea of how much money you need to survive.

So what things do you need to plan for? First thing, you need food and shelter. Notice that my #1 priority is food? No shame there. You also need to get around. Depending on where you live, it could be your own vehicle, walking/biking, or public transportation. There’s also that pesky lifesaver called insurance. You can’t stay on your parent’s forever. Also, you probably need a phone. There are super cheap options and super expensive ones, so there’s wiggle room in the budget there. Ok, so here’s a little list.

Basic Monthly Bills

Now you may have things you think are necessities that I don’t have on here. These are just some of the big ones most people have to pay. This is just a base, you can add to it what matters to you. But maybe after you see how much it costs with the bare bones you’ll decide you don’t need that big of a fancy cheese budget. Or whatever you spend your money on.

The always relevant Amanda Bynes. You’re welcome.

So let’s take a quick look at what this could cost. The following is typical of my experience with my husband and I for a month.

  1. Food: $350-$400
  2. Rent: $700-$800
  3. Car payment: $225
  4. Car insurance: $100-$120
  5. Health insurance: $250
  6. Renter’s insurance: $12
  7. Phone: $120

Total: $1757-$1927

That’s pretty typical of what our basic bills looked like pre-baby. Pretty manageable right? We could both work minimum wage and make that. Not that we’d want to make minimum wage, but it would work if we had to. But, our plans included having a family, which changed things.

We have new bills now, including paying off the hospital bill from her birth, clothes,diapers, formula, stroller, carseat, bigger carseat, toys, etc. We finally paid off the anesthesiologist bill after 10 months. Keep in mind that is separate from the doctor bill and the hospital bill. Food costs increase now that she’s a toddler and eating more. Health insurance increases a lot with every additional person. If we have another kid one day and it’s a boy, then we have to buy all new clothes. As kids grow, things get more expensive too.

There are things I want too. One day a house. Occasionally cars need to be replaced. I want to travel all over the world. I want to be charitable with my money. There will come a day when I have a spot in my house for a real piano.

Now that you’re getting an idea of how easily bills pile on, think of where you live and where you want to settle down. Some places are a heck of a lot cheaper than others. Check out Numbeo to see what things typically cost and Zillow to see common rent prices in those areas. If you want to live in Seattle, you’re going to need to make a heck of a lot more money than if you were to live in Salt Lake City. Then, go to the Educate to Career website I was just introduced to. On the home page just click “Job seekers” and it’s really self-explanatory from there. There are so many cool tools out there, and I’m so glad I found this one. It uses a lot of the same sources for tools I’ve shown you before (like info from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), but it’s super easy and clear and seems to give more options for location. I really like this one.

In some ways, it was nice to be naive to how much life costs when I was younger. It kept me from becoming Scrooge McDuck. Ideally, though, we’d do better at teaching people the value of money as they make important decisions that impact their earning potential. It’s much better to be aware of what’s coming than be financially unprepared to meet those expenses.

So do yourself a favor and take some time to plan a basic future budget including the things listed above. Use the websites linked above to help you see how much you’d need to make to live where you want. As you do this, you may recognize that you’re on track the way you are, or it can help you see where you need to make an adjustment or two in your plans. Again, it’s not all about money, but money is important.


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