How to budget for the real world

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The “real world” can be tough, especially when you notice that your bank account is not being filled by Mommy and Daddy to pay for tuition, the ghetto party shack you once lived in, lunches at Pita Pit, and spring breaks in some sandy tourist trap.

Yes, there comes a time when one must cut the proverbial financial umbilical cord and support oneself, and this is where a monthly budget will save your life.

Upon entering the working world and setting up an apartment of my very own, I learned very quickly that if I did not budget properly I would end up eating ramen noodles out of a vending machine for lunch, which I’m pretty sure takes at least three years off your life.

If you do not learn to budget like a big girl (or boy), you will be stuck writing out loan cheques as you walk your kids to their first day of school, you will eat food of the boxed variety, and you may very well end up the old lady who lived in her shoes.

To begin, pay yourself first. Depending on income level, I generally take 10% of my monthly paycheque and put it in a tax free savings account. I like to think that I am slowly accumulating wealth to put a down payment on a house one day, but it is also very likely that I will be living in a very lovely cardboard box parked in one of Toronto’s chicest neighbourhoods.

After what can be deemed as “essentials,” such as bills, OH SNAP! OSAP loans, bus pass, and rent payments have been made (unless, of course, you are still living with your parents… in which case I’m not sure whether to congratulate you for your money-saving know-how or to take the training wheels off your bike), you can then take the rest of your funds and allot them to areas you find most important. I like to physically write everything out and always over-estimate how much I am going to spend, so as not to cry into my empty wallet on Friday night while all my friends are having fun throwing money about town.

I have discovered that a sizable amount of this money must be budgeted for food and not shoes. I learned this the hard way after chipping my tooth on a beautiful new pair of blue suede pumps. You must remember that you will not look so great in your recent shopping purchases if you are passed out on the sidewalk due to starvation. Other budgeting areas may include gym membership, entertainment, or gambling money for games of dice – though I caution against the latter as a life choice.

I try to stay away from using my credit card as much as I can. Adopting the attitude of I can totally pay for that later can become dangerous when you find yourself living in a financial game of catch-up. In my opinion, one should try to live each month within their means.

Learning to become diligent and to budget wisely every month does take some time, so please take this time to enjoy eating your ramen noodles in your brand new strappy sandals while you are still learning.

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About the author

Candis Green graduated from Queen's University in 2008 and is not using her degree in political studies, but she is using her French language skills. She now holds a job in publishing, but says she will work for shoes.

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