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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I thought I had a pretty good handle on my finances out of school. I worked several jobs while attending university and had little to no problem managing my income. However, once I graduated, I realized how much more complicated personal accounting could really be.

There were so many variables I needed to keep track of. Biweekly bills, monthly charges, and general necessities amounted to a heap of confusing numbers that were often impossible to decipher. The funniest part was that I was actually trying to do this by hand (I don't know what I was trying to prove to myself, either).

After messing up for the 17th time, I decided to give Microsoft Excel a shot. I used Excel a bit in school and I knew all the big-wig finance people used it, so what could I possibly have to lose? The answer is about six hours of my precious time. Excel isn't much of an improvement over handwriting and it's still dependent on the user to manually input all of the information. It's like doing everything by hand with the slightest help, meaning that it still required a tremendous amount of time and concentration. Well that was all for nothing, I guess.

It's sort of funny. I was certain that I could manage my personal finances with ease, when it's practically a full-time job. I was already stressed out enough with my first job and I knew I didn't have enough time to give my finances the attention it deserved.

That's why I decided to try out a budgeting app. My best friend told me that he uses an app called Truebill to manage his finances. "What does it even mean to manage your finances?" I asked him. He told me that Truebill was the personal financial assistant I wished I could have. It could aggregate all of my account information into one place and give me specific insights and actions.

I loved the idea of having full control over my finances, especially during a time of financial uncertainty, and I realized that Truebill would be the easiest way to accomplish this. The user interface is incredibly simple and intuitive, so it doesn't even feel like a finance app! Truebill offers a multitude of features, with their most popular being the ability to cancel subscriptions with the press of a button.

Okay, I had no idea how many subscriptions I was still subscribed to. In fact, I wasn't even using a quarter of the subscription services I was signed up for. Subscription boxes, streaming services, my old gym, and even an old subscription to my favorite magazine--it was all there and I was livid. How could I let myself waste all of this money and how did I never catch this? Thank goodness for Truebill.

Truebill also offers bill negotiations. There is a 40% fee based on how much you save and Truebill even claims that there is an 85% chance that they'll be able to lower your bill once a negotiation is requested. Why wouldn't I take them up on this? There was zero risk and I would only have to pay once my bill was lowered (which means that I would be saving money regardless).

More standard features of Truebill include the ability to generate a credit report on-demand and even request a pay advance. I only used the pay advance feature once when I wanted to buy a gift for my mom, but didn't have enough cash in hand and Truebill automatically reimbursed itself when I got my next paycheck.

The credit report is another fantastic feature and practically taught me what good credit meant. Truebill's credit report basically shows you which financial decisions have the most significant impact on your credit score and ways that you can improve your credit month-over-month. I've never had such control over my credit and it feels good.

I'll be the first to admit that I was extremely naive coming out of school. I figured that as long as I was attentive, I could manage my finances with ease. We manage money to some extent throughout our entire lives, but once you're thrown out on your own, it's a completely different story. With Truebill, I've finally been able to take control over my finances and stay on top of all of my responsibilities.

Update: Our friends at Truebill are extending a special offer to our readers! Follow this link to sign-up for Truebill.

My buddies and I always try to make it out to a game, but we never really care which one we end up at. Obviously we have our favorite sports and teams, but it was rarely about what game we went to or who we saw playing. It was about watching the game live.

In the early months of lockdown, all we had was Korean baseball, and trust me, we loved it. The only issue was, none of us had any idea what the commentators were saying. Even then, a few of my friends weren't huge fans of baseball. They were into sports like football and basketball, ones that moved at a quicker pace with less down-time in between plays.

We decided to see if there were any other events going down and came across horse racing. Yes, horse racing. It was perfect--short, fast-paced, and most importantly, an opportunity for betting.

I had never really considered watching a horse race any time other than the Belmont Stakes, but the prospects of the sport seemed exhilarating. Even better, with horse racing we knew we could still recreate the atmosphere of a race track. Salty snacks? Check. Stale beer? Check. A simple and easy way to bet? Check.

One quick Google search later, we came across TVG, powered by FanDuel. It's an online betting platform that takes you right to the heart of the action. We were a little apprehensive about using a mobile app to place our bets, but TVG's ability to bet on live horse races from all over the world was too good to pass up.

Here are 5 reasons why we are obsessed with horse racing thanks to TVG:

1. Betting has never been easier

Use your phone or computer to watch and bet on live horse races in real-time. TVG offers a bunch of features to make betting even simpler--live odds and handicapping tips leverage recent learnings to help you make your best bet. Not to mention, TVG's exclusive race content and wagering guide offers an under-the-hood look into the strategy behind horse race betting.

2. The biggest selection of horse races out there

If you're looking to drop a little dough on a horse race, chances are your best option is your local race track. But watching the same few horses races over and over again isn't the most exciting thing. With TVG you have access to over 150 tracks worldwide with races happening consistently throughout the day.

3. Get a generous sign-up offer when you place your first bet

Once you register your account, you will be eligible for a $200 risk-free bet. All you have to do is place your first bet and you're covered. If you happen to lose, TVG will insure you for up to $200 as a sort of wagering credit. I may have been a little trigger happy when placing my first bet, so having this insurance was a great perk. There are also a bunch of promotional offers available year-round.

4. Making deposits and cashing out at the touch of button

With a ton of payment options such as PayPal, BetCash, debit/credit, wire transfers, and other third-party services, making a deposit is a breeze. But what about the payout? Depending on your deposit method, your withdrawal will be available in a few days. No more waiting in-line to collect your winnings!

5. Watching live races with your friends while betting is exhilarating

Even when we were watching Korean baseball, Zoom calls with my friends were a little dull.

With TVG, we haven't had this sort of fun in months! Every weekend we'll turn on a race and throw our bets in. After a few races, and quite a few drinks, we'll tally up our winnings to see who won the most! Sometimes it's not even about making money, but just having a good time.

TVG is the perfect way to add a little excitement to an otherwise mundane afternoon. It introduced me to the world of horse racing, a sport I never would have considered otherwise.

The races just keep ramping up and thanks to TVG, I can always get in on the fun.

UPDATE: The biggest derby in horse racing is THIS WEEKEND. Get in on the action with your $200 risk-free bet!

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