Here’s the breakdown:
Monthly total expenditures: $1700
Rent and Utilities: $650
Student Loan: $600
Phone Bill: $45
Personal Expenditures: $40
Alcohol and Bars: $40
Gas and Parking: $40
$1700 a month seems steep upon first glance, but notice that $600 of that is going toward student loans. My loan payments are $300 each month, but have decided to double that amount since paying off minimum payments only will lead to much wasted money on interest. If you subtract that amount, my monthly spending is at $1100 each month. There are some aspects of my budget that I would like to fix, such as lowering my phone bill, and lowering my rent and utilities. For now, however, this is working for me. Just about anyone with a full-time job that pays at least minimum wage can live off of a similar budget and still save money each month. It just takes some thought and some discipline.
How I stay in my budget:
Rent and Utilities: $650 per month
This one is pretty easy. High, yes, but fairly average for an apartment in urban Honolulu. I like to justify the cost with the fact that I am just 2 miles from work (save time and money), a block away from 3 cheap “grocery stores” (Wal-mart, Sam’s Club, Don Quiote), which also saves me time and money, less than ½ mile from the ocean (again, saves me time and money), and in the center of the city, making us in a great spot to travel to many locations within the city quickly.
Each month, my basic rent is always $600 per month. Utilities will fluctuate based on how much electricity we use each month. We always stay below the $50 budget for this by making sure that our lights are turned off when we don’t need them, our chargers are unplugged when not in use, we open the windows and use the fan much more than using the air conditioner, and we take fast, efficient showers.
Groceries: $200 per month
If you have heard anything about Hawaii at all, I am sure you’ve heard of how expensive food is here. You’ve probably been told that a gallon of milk is $12! Well, you’ve heard correctly, it often is! How the heck to I only spend $200 per month on groceries if food is so expensive here? Do I eat ramen every day? Ew. No. What people often don’t take the time to realize is that Wal-Mart has an awesome grocery selection. And even better, is Sam’s Club. The deals really are amazing. Changing the way I buy groceries has really been the core to my savings. Bulk shopping is such a good way to save a boatload of money, and I have been taking full advantage of that. If you don’t live in Hawaii, I expect your grocery bill to be even less!
Student Loans: $600 per month
My loan payments are actually $297 per month, but I really, really, really want to get them paid off as soon as I possibly can. So, I allotted $600 per month to put toward my loans each month. In addition to the $600, at the end of each month, I take a look at my budgets and check to see how much “leftover money” I haven’t spent. Whatever that amount is, I also put toward my loans. What is so crucial for me to be able to start saving and investing and reaching retirement at a young age will be my ability to stealthily pay off my loans. The longer I have my loans, the more interest I will be paying on them. The sooner I am able to pay them off, the less money I will be spending on interest, and in return, I will be able to maximize my savings.
Phone Bill: $45 per month
I absolutely hate my phone bill! I hate that I am paying $45 per month when really, I could be paying much less! I am going to switch providers when my contract with Verizon runs out. With the extra money saved, I will be increasing my student loan payments each month and getting one step closer to paying them off.
Personal Expenditures: $40 per month
I use my personal expenditures budget essentially as my miscellaneous budget. If I need a new pair of jeans, for example, it will fall into this category. My $40 per month actually goes a long way. Instead of going to American Eagle or Gap or some other name-brand expensive store, I look for jeans at places like Old Navy (when they have really good sales), or better yet, Plato’s Closet. So much money saved. Having a low budget for personal spending helps me to find the very best deals possible no matter what I want to buy. Another example is the fishing spear I recently purchased. I could have picked one up at Sport’s Authority for well over $100, but instead I decided to get a really nice one off of Amazon for $38. Perfectly within budget. And super badass and lots of fun.
Gift: $40 per month
This budget was useful around the holiday season. I started my Christmas shopping in September, so I was able to make all of my Christmas shopping fit within budget. Now that Christmas has passed, I probably won’t be using this budget very often. But when my father’s birthday comes up in May and I need to get him a gift, I’ll feel good about not having to go out of budget to get him something nice. As for the other months when I do not have to buy gifts, again, I will use the excess toward my student loans.
Restaurants: $45 per month
My $45 restaurant budget has been perfect. It allows me to take Jason out to a nice dinner once a month, and he can do the same for me. However, we often use this budget for smaller treats instead. Today, Jason and I went to the Health Bar and ordered a delicious Acai Bowl, for $8. Sometimes, we like to get froyo at Tutti Frutti after dinner, where we usually spend less than $5. The sushi place around the corner is tasty as well, and usually we only spend around $10 for the both of us when we go there. Needless to say, we have begun to make great choices and have been able to find great ways to really stretch out the $45 budget, yet still go out plenty.
Alcohol and Bars: $40 per month
Again, it’s really easy for me to stay within this budget. Our two favorite bars have no cover, so that is really helpful. Sometimes, I like to get a fruity mai tai or lava flow, but I make sure to keep those for special occasions. Instead, I often look at the specials and pick something from that list when I go out. This allows me to still have fancy, delicious drinks, but at a price that allows me to still have plenty of fun each weekend I decide to go out.
Gas and Parking: $40 per month
This budget I’m not too happy about, because it used to be just $15 per month. I drive a moped that gets about 100 miles to the gallon, so sticking within the $15 per month gas budget is very easy for me. However, I recently started a new job, and to park in the garage, I need to spend $25 per month on that. I decided it was a good idea to suck it up and pay the fee, because of the extremely high theft rate in the city of Honolulu. If I parked my moped on the street every day, it would just be a matter of time before someone found a way to break open my lock and steal my ride. I’d rather spend $25 per month on security than $800 on a new moped.
So, that’s the breakdown of my budget. It’s how I’m able to have just $1100 in living expenses per month, and spend a total of $1700 per month including student loan payments. If I am able to keep such a tight budget and still have loads of fun living in an expensive city, you can too.