I love looking at real estate and property when I’m in a new place so I was already checking out the area when I was on my interview for my new job. I begin looking at the cost of living, apartments, popular areas etc. right away to get a little knowledge about the area. This became a practice of mine as soon as I realized I was going to move away from home to pursue my career path.

I’m pretty bad at figuring out or accepting money for work so I try to get as many facts as possible so I can put together a reasonable payment/salary. Otherwise, I’d offer to work for something ridiculous, like corn.

The area around Hanover, NH is pretty pricey. Especially right in town. The nice thing about New Hampshire is though that there is NO INCOME TAX OR SALES TAX! Property taxes are higher to make up for it which in turn makes rent higher.

After I received my job offer, I really delved into to finding a place. I’m not afraid of a commute and honestly, Mitch and I would love to be out in countryside more so we were able to expand our search perimeters.

Another huge issue with our search for an apartment was the fact we probably weren’t going to see if before signing a lease. I currently live in Pittsburgh, PA. It’s about a ten hour drive to New Hampshire and although we entertained the idea of making the trip and instead of a hotel room, saving money by camping out on the Appalachian Trail (it runs through Hanover) we decided to save the money and do all our searching remotely.

We had set the bar pretty high for ourselves. We wanted a place that was $1,000 or under a month at the end of the day (this means all utilities etc. factored in) within thirty minutes of Dartmouth AND we couldn’t physically see it beforehand…Yikes.

We turned to Zillow, Trulia, Craiglist and thankfully a site specifically for the Dartmouth community (wooo!)

Here’s my advice if you’re ever in a similar situation:

  1. At all costs, try and see the place. Or have someone see it for you. We contemplated asking Mitch’s dad and stepmom to check it out (they live four hours away).
  2. If you can’t see it, ask for pictures. Lots of them. We found that these interactions immediately gave us a better feel into what the the landlord was like. Were they super accommodating? Did we annoy them? Did they pay attention? Did they get angry that we couldn’t see it in person (that happened once)? We got a really good vibe from people just based on how they responded to this slight inconvenience.
  3. Have A LOT of conversations with your potential landlord. Especially if you’re leasing not in a complex. People who rent out basements of their houses or above their garages are a lot harder to do research on. They don’t always have reviews done on them like complexes or management places.
  4. Remember that they’re people too! Don’t demand every little detail about the place. For instance, our potential future landlord gave us measurements and everything (she really likes us!) without hesitation but I would never ask someone to do that for me, aside from maybe a door frame so we could know if our couch would fit.

So did we find a place? WE THINK SO! We sent a deposit in via snail mail which is absolutely terrifying but we’re trusting our guts with this one.

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Mitch and I with our security deposit! Courtesy of his much better savings practices!

The price, location and our landlord are just the right amount of perfect for us. Once things are confirmed, there will be a post!

 

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I picked up my cap and gown yesterday.

 

I’m not quite sure how I felt about it. I’m stuck in this weird limbo of needing to be done with school but terrified of what comes next. When I physically held my cap and gown, there was no definable feeling. When I took it out of the package and held the Class of 2014 tassel, I can say I felt a twinge of giddiness.

Inside the package were two papers. I can’t remember what the other one was (maybe because I was so shocked by the second sheet).

It was information on how to start paying my loans back.

 

What.

 

Are you kidding me?

 

I can’t even begin to think about paying back loans yet. I’m not even sure how much I have in loans! I’m pretty sure its around 40k but still. My goodness. I can tell you that my “nondescript” feelings immediately went out the door and I hit all the emotions from angry to panic to shock and back again.

 

I understand why its included. After graduation comes paying back your loans. The sooner you get on top of that, the better. But at the same time, I really needed a minute to breath.

 

I plan on continuing this post-grad and into the young professional part of my life so get ready for my journey through loan payments…yikes.

I’ve noticed that my life, at least in college pretty much directly parallels itself year to year. I wrote the post below around a year ago. (I’ve attached it below because I liked the message it had about budgeting and I wanted to reiterate it again!)

And low and behold, I’m finishing up classes AND my college career. Stress is at a all time high. And I am splurging on my budget here and there to enjoy the things I need to keep going. Mainly coffee. And some chocolate although apparently I’ve “matured” and prefer black coffee as a comfort food and fuel.

Coffee on campus, from my favorite shop, runs about $2 a cup plus a $1 tip (because they’re really nice people and always smiling so they make my day. Plus they play awesome music.)

I know I should be more careful with my spending on these types of things but when the stress levels get high, my finance stress is often outweighed by keeping my sanity.

What type of things do you splurge on?

 


 

And Salsarita’s and cookies and coffee and anything else to keep me going as the last few classes and projects draw to close.

This week, about halfway through, I decided to ease up on my budget. I allowed myself a few coffees on campus, a delicious chocolate mousse with strawberries and Salsarita’s during a group meeting for dinner tonight.

I think budgeting can sometimes be like a diet. As you may remember, I am an avid follower of nutrition, eating healthy and being fit. I know very well that most people cannot starve themselves of sweets and delicious goodness that may be high in calories, fat or bad stuff, without breaking every once in awhile. To combat those breaks in diets, to make sure you don’t consume every thing in your path, you allow them more from time to time to counteract the urges and prevent huge splurges.

How is this tied into budgeting? Well, to keep from one day spending everything I’ve saved on a silly purchase or even on multiple purchases is by allowing little slips from time to time. Now, I don’t mean by breaking the budget. What I mean is instead of attempting to spend the least amount of money, allowing myself to spend the few extra dollars on a couple coffees or bagels on campus to get me through the week.

That’s my tax refund at the end of the day. Around half of the federal taxes I paid last year. Not too bad! Of course, I’d always like more ;) but something I didn’t expect to get back!

 

Just a quick update on that! What will I do with all this money?! Probably pay rent ;)

Everyone’s favorite time of the year right? This year was definitely a rude awakening of how far I’d strayed from budgeting and smart spending last year.Taxes - FortyorlessYup. That’s how much I made last year. How much of that is in my account? I don’t know…like $5. Seriously though where did all that money go?!

I do not have 4,559.93 (total after everything taken out) anywhere.

Last year I definitely was, shall we say, a little more frivolous in my spending. I did help out paying my rent though when I could. My rent was $660 a month. Yikes, I know. But it include utilities already and had a bus to campus/was close enough to walk so it was nice.

I’m not sure how much I’m getting back on my tax return yet but I know it won’t magically make 4,559.93 appear in my account though!

So I did a little experimenting with my gas and my trip to and from school. I typically make one round trip. I stay on campus all day, basically every day. This is because I’m really busy, not because I’m trying to save money although not traveling back and forth multiples is definitely friendly to the pocket.

I drive, on average, about 85 miles a week (14 trips 5.5 mile trips to school + odds and ends trips). Most of the other places I need to visit other than campus and home, are with a mile of school so going to the grocery store does not add that much to my overall mileage.

I am able to make all of this on 3 gallons of gas, so at around 3.79, that’s only a $1.37 over the ten dollar budget I set for myself. My poor father would have a heart attack if he saw this. He’s a mechanic and has lectured me on keeping my gas at least at a quarter of tank. My tank is small, 12 gallons I think. So 3 gallons is not far off from that quarter tank mark. The issue that lies within only putting 3 gallons is is that I never have a surplus of gas in my tank, usually. Unless I don’t drive as much one week. So I’m always on the brink of empty. Which is bad for the fuel pump and that’s not good. Although I have an excellent mechanic who would help me out at any point and never make me pay for repairs (THANKS DAD<3) I know that’s not how the real world works for all of you so this week, I’m taking a chunk of of my groceries (going to eat just leftovers and make due with what I have in my storage) and putting it toward gas. If I put $20 in gas, that should put me at a quarter of the tank after my normal week of driving. This way, I can just put $10 in each week on top of that! I’d much rather eat a little bit more sparsely one week than trash my car in some way!

 

 

 

So although I try to spend $40 a week, I do have other costs. The $40 is what I try to limit my weekly spending to. Overall though, $40 a week, my monthly spending ideally looks like this:

  • $400 – rent
  • $50 – utilities
  • $40 – weekly budget

This brings me in at $490 each month. I get paid bi-weekly for most of my jobs, monthly for one. On average my paychecks range from $200-$300 dollars. When I receive my monthly stipend for my work with my school’s student government, it jumps up to around $500. So ideally, I should have around $200 saved each month if the budget works.

I do rely on my parents for healthcare, phone bill and car insurance. These are three huge costs that I know not everyone has parental support on so your budgets might definitely look different in that regard.

My weekly budget break down looks like this:

  • Gas – $10
  • Groceries – $20
  • Norbert – $5

I like to budget out for under $40 a week so that hopefully 1) I don’t spend it all or 2) in case something comes up, I have a little bit of wiggle room. I also find myself trying to keep my groceries below the $20 as well. If I can cut costs anywhere, I try to (buying non name brands, shopping at Aldi <3 or eating simple for a couple meals) so that I can save money and give myself even more wiggle room but also to change my behavior when it comes to shopping again (more on this in a later blog).

This year I moved off campus, about 5.5 miles off campus – a 13-15 minute commute. Along the way there are and ten stoplights and train tracks. Sometimes the commute can take longer due to traffic and the start/stops I encounter the long way kills my gas. And the price of gas? Well that kills my wallet.

With gas prices hovering between $3.60-$3.80 pretty consistently around me, I barely get 2.5 gallons for the $10 I try to keep my gas spending to. Thankfully, my car does get great mileage about 30-35 miles per gallon, highway. City, I’m not 100% sure what that is. It’s been pretty close (I’m pretty efficient when I drive). That definitely helps. However, not really enough.

 

As gas prices increase, it’s getting harder and more expensive to be a commuter. The whole reason moving off campus was to save money on rent and now I’m interested to see if my extra spending on gas, still makes the moving off campus still budget-friendly.

 

I wanted to update an old cheap eats post. Because the prices AND size changed! The container is slightly smaller and it now rings in at $5.17! Boo a dollar more AND smaller! It’s still a great deal. Still makes it to two meals, but an extra dollar when you’re spending only $20 on food, is a big deal.

 

This “small” serving of lo mein, General Tso’s chicken and white rice cost me $4.11 from one of the on campus dinner halls, The Ritz.

I managed to only down a little less than half of this so I have enough left over for definitely another meal and even maybe a little snackage. Definitely worth the $4.11, especially when you split it between the three times I’ll be eating it. ($1.37)

Not bad for campus food!

Knowing the cheap deals around campus definitely helps out when it comes down to going home to make lunch or studying for an exam later in the day. Figure out what your campus can offer you that’s budget-friendly!

Update: This did, in fact last me another session of munching and one meal! Woot, woot!

Now, I am all for retail therapy. I love just going out and buying things. It usually is for other people, like making someone’s favorite food or getting them a present. I’m also one of those people that if I see something that reminds me of you, I’m probably buying it and giving it to you the next time I see (birthday, holiday or not). So that kind of shopping = right up my alley but not = to being broke and budgeting. It’s definitely been a demon of mine for as long as I’ve had money to spend.

 

The organized, planned out kind of shopping is my worst nightmare. It’s so hard for me to wrap my head around planning out exactly what I need, when I need it vs. what I have already. I love the idea of nice, planned out menu and nice planned out schedule of when I buy what house products but the reality is, getting to there is absolutely overwhelming to me.

 

I think that’s why the show Extreme Couponing gives me anxiety. Too much planning, organization and just…ah! It’s stressing me out just thinking about it!

 

I stalk a-many bloggers and their designs (mostly via Pinterest, check out my Menu Planning/Shopping Guide Design Board) in hopes some day I will either 1) be able to create my own that I use religiously or 2) pick one and put it to use. Until then though, I sit and “ohh” and “awe” over them and their extreme organizing skills.

 

This week, I’m starting small. I am doing a little bit on menu planning and organizing! Instead of going in blind and guessing what I need for this week’s meals, I’m going to do an inventory on what I already have. Baby steps, people! Hopefully once I get an accurate reading on what exactly I do have, I can continue to keep track of it and apply it properly to my grocery lists.

 

I started simple – working from my pantry to my refrigerator, to my freezer to my spice cabinet. I broke each area into their own section and listed how much or roughly how much I had of each. I hope to also use this as a reference as to where I keep items. Look at me trying to be all organized and stuff!