I've always wanted to be independent from my parents ever since high school. I admit I got a late start, but I'm slowly transitioning from college to an apartment where I take care of myself. It can be scary though — what does "utilities" even entail — especially for someone like me who needs to plan everything out with numerous lists and endless research.


The pregame plan

Before you start, you should probably get some things in line so they don't come back to bite you in the butt later. Set aside some days to browse flea markets, garage sales or apps that sell cheap appliances, starting furniture and maybe even kitchen supplies. I scoured bins of unwanted objects my fellow students didn't want after the year ended — aim for the rich international students. I scored a microwave, a mini fridge, full length mirrors and some other useful stuff.

If you're still being taken care of by your parents, see if they'll keep you on their cell phone plan and health insurance if it's too much for you to take on for now. I know my parents wanted me to stay on because they got a discount for a family plan. When you're finally ready, you can take care of these things for yourself.

Set your budget

Always make a budget with the amount you are getting paid at the moment or an estimate that resides on the lower side. It's so easy to overestimate and get ahead of yourself which will leave you out to dry later. Calculate what you'll make per week, per month and per year so you can make long and short term budgets.

Rent and utilities

This is the most important aspect of your budget and something you should always set first. Between my boyfriend and I, we could afford to pay rent up to $2,000 a month in NYC but settled for an $1,800 apartment. Try to find a roommate — or a couple — if you can as paying rent by yourself can be bothersome. Also rent will of course be cheaper if you choose to live elsewhere.

Utilities include electric, gas, water, Internet and whatever else you need to make your apartment run. Some apartments have rent that cover the utilities so make sure you check up on that. I would set aside about $200 or more for these utilities but if you are moving into a house or a bigger home, it will go up.

Transportation

Since I live in the city, we basically get around by subway and Uber. It'd be super impractical to have a car since we'd have to pay for parking and gas. However, if you do decide to purchase a car or keep one you already have, set aside a budget for that. Be sure to include gas, car insurance, parking fees and maintenance.

However, if you take public transportation, consider an unlimited pass. An unlimited monthly Metrocard costs about $121 plus extra money for lazy Uber's will be about $150 per month. Decide how you should get around based on your surroundings.

Groceries, Toiletries and Miscellaneous

Since my boyfriend and I eat a ton — we're both super athletic — our grocery bill will stack up. We set the grocery budget to about $500 per month but a money-conscious normal-eating person could totally get by at around $300. Note that eating out is NOT included in this budget.

Toiletries range anywhere from tampons to toothpaste. Set aside $100 or so to get your monthly needs. Miscellaneous items include entertainment, play, date nights, Grubhub or anything else you might want to indulge yourself in. We set aside another $100 for this as we don't really have any room for fluff.

Savings

You should have two categories of savings — emergencies and long term. Emergencies can be anything from car crashes to rodent drop-in's. Long term is for money that you're saving towards a long term goal or expense. If you're slowly building up to an apartment to a house or starting early on your 401K, this fund covers that.

My boyfriend and I usually use the rest of the money from what we made that month towards the savings which adds up to about $600. If you think what you're saving isn't enough, redo your budget with cheaper amenities or skim from another category — looking at you, "miscellaneous."

I understand that my boyfriend and I have very well-off jobs for young adults literally just coming out of their teens so our budget might be bigger than most. Feel free to adjust this budget however you would like, but be sure to include all the elements. If you aren't quite ready to move out yet, that's fine too! This guide will still be here for you in a few years.

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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.