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BUILDING A BUDGET

You might think the hunt for the perfect rental property in Gainesville, FL starts with a look at the communities themselves. But if you begin there, there’s a good chance you’ll end up disappointed.

“Before you can make a reasonable decision on where to live, you need to figure out how much you can spend,” says Dave Carnell, a rental specialist in Apartment Hunters’ Gainesville office. “It seems simplistic,” says Dave, “but you have to have a realistic understanding of your budget. Otherwise, you’ll waste time looking at apartments that are beyond your means, or you’ll be saddled with a hefty rent payment that leaves you with little money for anything else.”

To establish a good budget, you’ll want to follow three steps:

1.      Determine your income. This is the easy part. Just tally up savings, college loans and scholarships, your estimated income from jobs, and any other revenue you may have.

2.      Estimate your monthly expenses for everything but your rent. The Apartment Hunters’ move-in kit includes a worksheet that will help you tally expenses. Be realistic when you fill it out. If you’re likely to spend $40 a week on clubs and entertainment, don’t lowball that figure for your budget. The goal at this stage is to look at what you would actually spend to live as you would like to. Also look carefully at your utility costs. They can be substantial. “We tell people to budget $125 to $150 per person, on average, for utilities,” says Ronnie Neale, manager of Apartment Hunters’ Gainesville office. And make sure you include a budget estimate for savings so you’ll have money to cover emergencies and spur-of-the-moment fun.

3.      Subtract your expenses from your income. What’s left over should be the amount you can afford to spend on rent. If you find there’s not enough to cover the cost of an acceptable rental property in Gainesville, FL, you’ll either have to reduce your expenses, look for additional sources of income, or consider less expensive ways to live – taking on additional roommates or going without a car, for example.

FOLLOWING YOUR BUDGET

Once you’ve nailed down the budget, picked an apartment in Gainesville and moved in, you’ll want to test your budget to make sure your estimates are proving true.

For the first few months, fill out a sheet and record every dollar you spend—and that means everything, whether it’s for rent, clothes, high-speed Internet or that $10-all-you-can-drink night. At the end of each month tally your actual expenses, then check them against your ballpark figures. If you find yourself going over budget, adjust your spending accordingly. If you’re under, celebrate.  One final piece of advice: After you’ve got your budget planned and fine-tuned, do your best to live the plan. This may be the hardest part of budgeting, but it’s the best way to ensure that you get through the year without scrounging for pennies or spending every Saturday night at home.

BUDGET RULE OF THUMB

Unsure how much you should budget for food, housing and other major expenses? As a rule of thumb, figure on staying within these percentages of your annual income:

·         Housing (rent, utilities, etc.) – 25%-30%

·         Food – 10%-15%

·         Medical and dental care, prescriptions, etc. – 5%

·         Insurance (health, auto) – 8%

·         Transportation (gas, car payments, car maintenance) – 15%

·         Entertainment – 5%-9%

·         Clothing – 5%-8%

·         Savings – 5%-10%

Printed with permission of Insite Magazine.