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Life Costs Money

How much money do you need to live on your own?  Will your future salary match—or even come close—to the lifestyle you desire?

See how far your future occupation and income will take you with IN Reality, an online tool at hoosierdata.in.gov/inreality/.

Produced by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and the Indiana Business Research Center at the IU Kelley School of Business, IN Reality offers a reality check without a lecture on your spending habits.

Choose an income level and occupation and make choices about whether to drive a used car or new, live in a one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment, and whether you can splurge on a gym membership and manicures. Pinpoint your favorite city (hint: it’s cheaper to live in some Indiana cities than others) and see how much real life can cost.

Meanwhile, start watching your budget now. Some ideas:

  • Don’t add to your debt. If you must have a credit card, use it only for emergencies. Pay cash for all “extras” like pizza, coffee and clothing. Pay off your balance every month and on time. Interest charges can quickly add up and put you in a financial hole.
  • Pay your bills on time. The poor credit rating that comes from frequently late utility bills and credit card payments can make it difficult to get a car loan, rent an apartment or buy a house. Some employers also check your credit rating as part of the application process.
  • Even small steps can make a big difference. Buying used textbooks, taking advantage of free or low-cost student activities and discounts, walking instead of filling your gas tank and brewing your own coffee instead of forking over $4 for a high-priced (and high-calorie) shot of caffeine will make a difference in your college expenses. Find your own favorite ways to save—you’ll enjoy the occasional splurge so much more.

Think About Repayment, Now

Stressed about your student loans? Or avoiding thinking about them altogether?

Neither strategy is good. Here’s a better one: Use the U.S. Department of Education’s StudentLoans.gov website to calculate how much you can afford to borrow, how long it will take you to pay it off, and how much interest you will pay.

You can take action now to minimize your student loans and reduce what you’ll owe after graduation. Here’s how:

  • Keep applying for scholarships. Check out FastWeb.com for ideas, and investigate opportunities within your major.
  • Graduate in four years. Don’t drag out your college expenses. Get out—and earning—as fast as you can.
  • Consider lower-cost summer school opportunities. Taking remaining credits at a local community college or during the summer at a nearby campus are often lower-cost options.

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