Your very first budget
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.
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.
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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Every time payday rolls around, I’m on top of the world. Jeff Bezos-level rich - even though I’m anything but. And then somehow the very next day, rent is due.
The cycle continues. The next payday, bills for my apartment. I find myself without a surplus of savings since I just moved and newly-furnished my apartment completely.
Even more terrifying is the looming presence of the holiday season. Halloween’s officially over and before we know it, hello Thanksgiving…and then there’s Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s. It’s insane.
I’ve been feeling very British lately. Not in a Union-Jack-obsessed, “Keep Calm and Carry-On” way. I went through that phase in 2012 with everyone else… no thank you. And it’s not even a surge of patriotism catalyzed by the Queen dying — I’m firmly team Diana and team Meghan.
Now that fall is officially here, the holidays will sweep in and I’ll have to contend with the fact that I won’t be spending them with my family in the UK. I went home to London earlier this year, so there’s not much left in my travel budget for another trip across the pond. A few domestic jaunts might be in my future, but the closest I’ll get to England this winter is watching Love Island and Love, Actually.
So in that spirit, I’ve been filling my days with content from my favorite Brits. I’m listening to all the old British rock bands I grew up listening to, patiently awaiting the new Arctic Monkeys album, and rewatching anything with Michaela Coel in it. I even shipped myself an order of British Baked Beans, so you know it’s dire.
I’ve also been watching British YouTubers like Grace Beverley — my favorite. Generally, I only go on YouTube to watch Vogue Beauty Secrets and AD Open Door videos. But I’m so glad I stumbled on Grace. Her content is a mix of London lifestyle (what lured me in), relatable entrepreneurship, and mindful productivity. I’m not a hustle-and-grind-girlboss, but as a creative person in a 9-to-5, I need all the help I can get to stay plugged in. So, the video “how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmed” changed my approach to WFH.
Grace outlines her own productivity method: the to-do table. Instead of making a simple to-do list, she divides her tasks into a table that anyone can follow. As someone who’s survived with to-do lists for years, I recently implemented Grace’s method, and it’s revolutionized my workdays.
how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmedwww.youtube.com
I follow her routine to a tee. Here’s how it works:
Essentially, she divides her daily responsibilities into four categories: quick ticks, tasks, projects, and non-negotiables.
- Quick Ticks: Actions that take less than 5-minutes
- Tasks: To-do’s that take up to 30-minutes. Probably don’t take too much brain energy.
- Projects: Long-term list items. These help guide your priorities, even if you’re not crossing them off in one day.
- Non-negotiables: Pick 3 things each day that you must get done. This is how you’ll truly measure success.
With everything written down and sorted, next address your schedule. Meetings, deadlines, and time blocks — whatever works best for you. Write it down. Then make a pact with yourself to stick to them.
This way of categorization provides a roadmap for prioritizing your day — making you far more productive. Have you ever spent the entire day on small tasks and then suddenly realized you hadn’t moved the needle on any task? Or do you spend way too much time on tasks that aren’t a priority? No more. With your non-negotiables laid out, you know what to laser-focus on and what to dedicate energy towards.
Also, it pays to know your working style. I’m not a morning person. Yet, I have to be up and at ‘em super early. So, first thing in the morning, I march through my Quick Ticks to warm me up. I set a time limit, so I can knock out some easy wins which is totally inspiring. Then I move on to bigger things without lingering on emails or admin. For others, it might be more helpful to tackle the big things with all that early-in-the-day brain power earlier.
Grace has great tips on avoiding overwhelm and burnout. My favorite is taking more intentional breaks rather than scrolling through social media. I call this scrolling “productive” because I’m “coming up with pitches.” Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. It’s more productive in the long run to giving my brain a break with non-screen related stimuli.
Grace’s solution? Set a timer to read a real, an actual book. I’ve never thought of this. It’s a genius way to check off some books on my TBR and kickstart my creativity. After reading a good book, I’m completely inspired to write. So having books near my desk helps me step away from the computer during my lunch break for an actual reset. (And yes, the current books I’m reading are by British authors: Assembly by Natasha Brown, and Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalolu.)
In my pursuit of switching out my WFH set-up and getting my life together, I’ve engineered my workstation for success. With my new WFH essentials and Grace’s productivity technique, I’m revitalized for work — despite the fall blues and my melancholy about the pending holidays.
Here are the things getting me hyped for work and helping me crush my Grace Beverley-inspired to-do tables — no lists in sight:
Pack your bags — Southwest Airlines is having a major sale! Fares are as low as $59 one-way if you book by October 3rd.
This end-of-summer super sale is a game-changer for your travel plans through the end of the year. Summertime travel gets all the glory. But why not take advantage of your long weekends, holidays, and PTO this fall. You’ll be surprised at how much travel you can fit in. Keep the fall/winter season exciting with domestic trips that give you all the excitement without breaking the bank. All thanks to Southwest.
Here’s the breakdown:
Where can you go?
You’ll find discounted tickets to and from most airports. Sale fares apply to cross country travel, and even Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean! Whether you’re visiting a new city or revisiting your last beach vacation, this sale has fares to make your travel dreams come true.
What do the fares cover?
Southwest Airlines has multiple fare tiers, each with various benefits. Wanna Get Away fares start at $59, while Wanna Get Away Plus fares start at $89. You can also find great deals on Anytime fares, which offer priority boarding and express lanes. Then there’s Business Select tickets for a luxe experience at an affordable price point.
Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member?
You may think these sale fares are too good to be true. Is there a catch? Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member to access them? You’re in luck — anyone can attain these fares for a limited time.
But, insider tip, you should consider signing up for Southwest Rapid Rewards. With a free sign up, you earn points and miles with each trip you take. And with this sale, each dollar you spend on these discounted tix can stretch super far until you eventually earn free travel. The only thing better than a sale is free stuff.
I’ve been browsing the Southwest Airlines site, checking out flights and dreaming.