Jeanette A. Tucker, Claesgens, Mark A. | 7/20/2007 11:27:54 PM
Moving away from home for the first time is a pivotal moment. It is one of the rites of passage from youth to adulthood.
Whether the first residence is a dorm room, a fraternity or sorority or an apartment with roommates, it is still your own. You can decorate it anyway you please, invite over whomever you want and stock your refrigerator anyway you wish. It is up to you.
Independent spending decisions quickly become an everyday occurrence for college students, but they also involve an incredible amount of financial freedom that most young adults are not prepared to handle, according to LSU AgCenter family economics professor Dr. Jeanette Tucker.
Living at home usually meant that parents paid for most living expenses. It is a rude awakening when bills start arriving in the mail once you are on your own. Phone bills, credit card bills, utility bills and car payments are just some of the new arrivals that college students may find in their mailbox.
"It is a good idea to prepare a budget prior to moving out if you can anticipate your expenses," Tucker said. If it is impossible to prepare a budget in advance, it should be done as soon as you begin living independently.
How? "Begin by estimating your monthly income from all sources, such as jobs, student loans, scholarships, parent’s allowances and gifts," Tucker said. "This total should be the amount of money left over after you have paid your tuition expenses."
Next, determine how much you will be able to spend for the general categories of housing, food, clothing, health, transportation, apartment purchases, savings and miscellaneous. To simplify this step, multiply your total income by these typical percentages for each category: housing, 31; food, 16, clothing, 6; health, 5; transportation, 20; apartment purchases, 7; savings, 7; miscellaneous, 8.
"If your total expenses are more than your total income, determine which expenses can be reduced so that you can live within your means," Tucker advised.
Also, keep in mind that you will experience many first-time move-in costs. Some of these costs will not apply if you live in a dorm or a fraternity/sorority house. But if you choose an apartment or house, numerous upfront costs will need to be paid. Some of the most common include an apartment application fee and deposit, a pet deposit, a cable installation fee, an Internet service fee, the first (and perhaps last) month’s rent and utilities deposits for electricity, gas and phone.
In addition to these costs, if your new residence is unfurnished, you will need to come up with enough money to equip your place with appliances, utensils and furniture – sleeping on the floor gets old and painful quickly! Of course, you can dramatically reduce the cost of furnishing your new place by accepting donated furniture from your relatives or by shopping garage sales and thrift shops.
The reality today is that most young people want their place to be furnished just as nicely as the home they just moved from, complete with computer, entertainment center and all the amenities.
"These items cost money and, more often than not, will be paid for with borrowed funds," Tucker said, cautioning, "Although paying with credit seems easier than paying with cash, it can be much more costly in the long run."
For more information on family finances and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.