What Should Your Monthly Housing Costs Be?

housing costsHow much of your salary should you be spending on housing costs? What do you actually spend? We decided to devote a post to this topic after seeing an interesting discussion about readers’ rent/mortgage payments as compared to their incomes.

Before getting to specifics about housing: The general 50/20/30 rule for budgeting is still commonly accepted advice. The guideline was made popular by Senator Elizabeth Warren (who happens to be a bankruptcy law expert) in her book All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan. As described in this LearnVest article, you should:

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Tales from the Wallet: Leave Room in Your Budget to Take Advantage of Sale Prices

leave room in your budget for salesI just saw a great study on this, so I thought we’d discuss — do you leave room in your budget to take advantage of sale prices?  Do you do it in a disciplined way (“I have $300 to spend for fun purchases, no more!”) or is it just part of your budgetary cushion? Which sales do you splurge on? 

This seems like a great follow up on our recent post about how to make a budget: Of course it’s great to be aggressive with your savings, student loan payments, and investments — but be wary of trying to live on too tight of a budget if you don’t have to. Probably the biggest long-lasting effect the recession had on my money habits is that I leave enough room in my budget for unexpected sales on household items. When I’m in the grocery store or the pharmacy, I look for items with good sale prices and then purchase them even if we don’t need the item immediately (provided we have the storage space). The headline of the HuffPo article I saw about a relevant study says it all: “Poor People Have To Spend More On Toilet Paper Than The Rich: Study.” The study found that low-income households don’t have the cash to buy in bulk, so they end up paying higher per-item prices; the article also mentions that poorer people often end up paying more for “discount” toilet paper than richer people do on “premium” toilet paper. (A lot of readers agreed with me when we talked about everyday splurges: sale prices or no, life is too short for cheap toilet paper!)

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Tales from the Wallet: How to Make a Budget

how to make a budgetFor today’s money feature, let’s discuss living within your means — how to make a budget and stick to a budget. What does “budget” mean to you? What tips and tricks have you used to set a budget, pay down debt, save money and protect against lifestyle inflation — and what alarm bells have you used to tell you that it’s time to reassess? 

The No-Budget Budget

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think every person needs to make a budget — there were years in BigLaw where I would automatically move my second paycheck to savings/investments, living entirely off my first paycheck (and auto-contributing to my 401k). That was enough of a “budget” to me, with no further thought. I knew then and know now I was lucky in those years, and I’m still so grateful for them — that simple decision has laid a great groundwork for me and for my family.

Pictured: MICHAEL Michael Kors ‘Jet Set’ Travel Wallet, on sale for 40% off in purple; at full price in several other colors.

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Tales from the Wallet: From A Lawyer’s Salary to Paying Tuition – Six Ways to Deal

Ah, golden handcuffs — long after some people know they should quit their high-paying jobs, they stay on because their lifestyle costs too much (usually due to a combination of rent or mortgage, plus debt).  How do you break free from the golden handcuffs, and adjust your finances to your new lifestyle?  Today’s guest poster, Ruth Moore, has some tips for just that. (Pictured below: Pochi coin purses, available at Kitson for $12 each.)

A couple of years ago, I quit my job as a litigation associate at a large law firm in midtown Manhattan in order to attend a conservatory of theatre arts (acting school) full-time. I’d always wanted to do something creative and watching TV had made me think that law was the perfect choice for me. By the time I found out that I didn’t really want to be a lawyer, just an actor that played one on TV, I was already living in an expensive high-rise rental in Manhattan and encumbered with a hefty debt from student loans. Fortunately, after five years of accidental lawyering, I was able to save up enough money to quit and pursue my dreams. [Read more…]

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