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2004 Sep 13 08:55

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Re: [vox] [OT] Cost of living in davis
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Re: [vox] [OT] Cost of living in davis

On Sun, 12 Sep 2004, Hans W. Uhlig wrote:

Well the time has come that ive got to think about
moving out on my own before I kill my parents, or bury
myself in my own room with the stuff I collect. so Im
curious as to what people seem to think is a resnable
cost of living. so far my numbers seem to make me
thing that $13-16 per hour is minimum to live. which
makes me ill as I am still sub 10$. If anyone is
willing to give me opinions on how much life is I
would be most appreciative. Thanks in advance. Hans.

I know that feeling (needing to get rid of the parents) well from my days as an undergrad, heh. I tried to save money my first few years by living at home, but eventually moved out into a cheap apartment. Of course, that was a totally different area so cheap was really cheap and meant no roommates. Which brings me to my point. You cost of living really depends on how you live. Seems obvious I know, but so much more goes on under the surface. Ask yourself how you want to live. Do you want roommates? If so, how many? Do you want a private room or are you okay with sharing a room with other(s)? These questions will affect the rent and utilities monthly costs. Rent can go pretty cheap depending on how many people you want to share your space with. Utilities will vary greatly by complex (insulation, shade, energy uses of roommates, general design), so ask around for people in that specific complex.

As for other costs, don't forget the one-time upfront costs of things like security deposits and first/last month's rent. Then there's move-in costs for things like towels, furniture, etc (anything that you can't "borrow" from your parents basically). This really adds up if you're living alone and you need to get kitchen and cleaning supplies. There's also other situations when dealing with roommates, like if they want cable and want you to split it with them even if you aren't particularly interested in those costs. Or my most common issue with roommates: if they are energy inefficient and drive up the power bill but refuse to change. That cost me an extra $20-40 a month one year (after the split) when a pair of particularly inefficient energy users moved in.

Don't forget the costs of food either. If you aren't a cook, it can get expensive (and I'd suggest learning a few simple dishes like pasta). If you have foraging roommates who eat your food, it can add up. Then there's other little things like the phone bill, laundry mat quarters, insurance payments and ISP bill, not to mention any extra "spending money" for entertainment, computer parts, etc. You'd also be amazed at how many little things nickel and dime you like shampoo, soap, paper towels, cleaning products, etc. For example, I went to Target recently for a few essentials like that and ended up spending close to $50 with only $5 of that being a splurge on a bag of Halloween candy.

My best advice is to get a more detailed budget going. Start thinking what you use daily in terms of food, personal grooming products, etc and figure out how much that would cost to keep those in supply. It might be useful to do a trial run at home where you buy all these items for yourself just to see how much it would cost. I did that with food before I moved out of my parents (although my motivation was avoiding food intolerances) and it really gave me a better grasp on how much that would cost me living alone. Then try to work backwards from your salary to figure out how much money you'd have left after these misc. basic costs. Then subtract fixed monthly expenses like the phone or ISP bill. In the end you should have a target rent+utilities amount that will help you decide if your budget is in line with your desired living situation (as assessed by the questions I asked initially). You should also leave a margin of error for unexpected expenses like having to replace something that has broke or worn out. These pop up more often than you'd think.

Hmm, I've rambled on too extensively perhaps, but budgeting is the one thing I've found that has kept me financially afloat during college. Unlike many others, the only debt I'll have when I graduate is moderate student loans. All my credit cards are paid off in full every month because I just use them to get the bonus points/reward cash, not as a substitute for budgeting. I've also seen first hand by observing my family what can happen when you don't budget and it isn't pretty, so I've learned well by counter-example.

I personally keep a MySQL database that has tracked all my income and expenses since I moved to Davis. This lets me calculate average monthly costs for a variety of categories. Thus I can fairly accurately predict how much money I'll need throughout the school year and how much I'll need in student loans and income to cover it. I keep a spreadsheet with a projected budget through the end of the next school year using these averages and any foreseen large expenses (like SHIP not having enough annual prescription coverage to cover my allergy/asthma meds all year). I also update it every month to see how my estimates matched reality. If I overspent, I know to tighten the belt the next month. This has actually allowed me to live pretty well on a student budget because it's so carefully planned. I can even afford to be sloppy in my spending habits a little (like splurging on computer stuff) because I include at least a 5% margin of error on all my averages just to allow for such. Always overestimate how much you'll spend, then you can save the extra for any emergencies.
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