On The Move: A Budgeting Guide for your First Home
By Angela Nguyen
As uni students, we’re all tracking well on our journey to independence: scheduling our own study hours, balancing our part-time jobs and society gatherings. For some of us, our next venture is starting to look like a loft-apartment in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, or maybe (more realistically) a bare brick share house with a couple of roommates near campus. Sure it’s easy enough to fantasise about, but what does moving out really entail from an economic standpoint, and how do you ensure that you aren’t moving back in as soon as that first utility bill slides under your door?
As you may expect, living in a city whose housing bubble is inflating, the price of rent and housing in Sydney is facing a period of exponential growth which analysts expect to present no signs of breaking or plateauing until the end of 2022. According to the latest Domain Rent Report, house rents remain at a record high of $550 per month, whereas unit rent prices have restabilised at a mean of $470 a month since the end of the March quarter.
Compounded with this is the expenditure allocated to utilities and other necessary living costs, totalling approximately $1,407 at the end of the month. Realistically, you shouldn’t be thinking of moving out until you can sustainably support a monthly average income of at least $3,167 in order to live comfortably. That being said, moving out to your first place as a student will definitely not entail any periods of lavish spending.
Budgeting will play a significant role in making sure you aren’t living at a shortage of money or resources, with finances leftover for emergencies, or more likely, any impromptu dinner dates with your friends.
A good idea is outlining a monthly budget at the beginning of every month that sums your cumulative earnings and a rough estimate of your necessary expenditure by the end of that month. There are a multitude of resources and spreadsheets online that can help you with setting everything out in a clear, concise way, for example, Commonwealth Bank’s monthly living expenses calculator. Ultimately, if your total expenditure is greater than your total income, there should be some serious reconsiderations to be made to your spending, whether that be cutting back on water and electricity consumption, or making compromises to which bills you may be paying for.
Alternatively, a less meticulous but equally effective method of budgeting that can be applied is Senator Elizabeth Warren’s popularised 50-30-20 rule, that is, 50% on essentials, 30% on wants, and 20% to be stashed away into your savings.
Budgeting doesn’t just serve as an intelligent way to save your money. It also allows you to gain a more thorough and accurate understanding of your spending habits, and allows you to create a portrait of your personal cash flow, contributing to the long-term betterment of your financial decision-making.
Of course, budgeting doesn’t just boil down to numbers and spreadsheets. Prepare to live as ingloriously indoors as you can for the first few months. While living on a budget, less is more! Call it living minimalistically; buy only the appliances that are necessary, and make use of any household appliances that you may have had living with your parents that no one really uses anymore. Additionally, buying second hand furniture from places like Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace is an effective way of furnishing your apartment without having to pay any exuberant fees.
Similarly, this minimal lifestyle transfers over to how you eat. You can take the time to hone your skills in the kitchen to save yourself that $44 per month, usually spent on food delivery services. Furthermore, where possible, strive to buy ingredients that don’t go off easily, such as rice or pasta, in bulk. While products will differ, research has shown that when looking at the average prices across all grocery product categories, a 10% larger package translates to a 5% decrease in the unit price.
Whether or not you’re planning to move out sometime in the near future, or sometime down the line, these methods implemented into your first-home lifestyle will provide you with some financial security and the knowledge that, eventually, you’ll be able to afford that loft-apartment of your dreams with the funds left over to treat yourself after that.