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Home Budget: Cost-of-Living Reality Check

Having your own place sounds like a breeze until you realize the reality — you’re responsible for everything — bills, repairs and any other services that come with living on your own. Whether you choose an apartment, condo or a house, the responsibility of being on your own is often underestimated if you haven’t experienced it before. However, this great responsibility will allow you the coveted control over your own environment — one thing many people only wish for.

When you live on your own, you have the luxury of coming home, walking around naked while you cook dinner — if you want to — not worrying about your food mysteriously disappearing or a sink full of your roommate’s dirty dishes. You can blast Justin Timberlake before binging on Dateline because there’s no one else there to tell you that you can’t.

While all of the above sounds great, it’s important to weigh out both the pros and cons of living alone or buying a home — whether a first time homeowner or just a new homeowner. There are many things you need to consider before taking the leap into homeownership and full responsibility.

Read on for common essential expenses and services you should consider to help keep your home in good shape, as well as reduce the stress of handling everything yourself.


Find Affordable Lawn Service

Unless you enjoy edging and mowing, you’ll want to start exploring lawn services in your new area sooner rather than later. After all, you don’t want to be the neighbor with weeds growing in front of their front door or yellow grassy patches throughout the yard. Take pride in your landscaping, and if you don’t want to do it yourself, hire someone else.

Your neighbors are a good place to start. Once you get to know a few of them, ask if they use any services, then give them a try. It’s great to try and get personal recommendations so you don’t depend on the web and bring strangers to your home. If this isn’t an option, ask the teenage boy across the street if he wants to make some extra cash. Teenagers always look for ways to make an extra buck and will no doubt cost less than a professional service — an average mowing service costs around $40.

If you do choose to go the do-it-yourself route, don’t be afraid to get dirty. Lawn care is no glamourous job. It gets hot, dirty and exhausting. Prepare yourself and choose mornings for your weekly mow. That way it will be cooler, and you’ll have more energy first thing in the morning to get it done. You’ll also want to keep up with your fertilizing, insect control and herbicides — many of these you can make on your own.


Hire a Cleaning Service

A cleaning service is a commitment because you’re trusting strangers enough to let them into your home, usually when you aren’t present. With this being said, take the time to research residential cleaning companies that are recommended from trusted individuals, such as friends and family if you can. Then interview them as you would any other employee. Ask important questions regarding compensation, equipment, worker’s comp, etc., so you can get a feel if you’re the right fit or not. After you interview your candidates, weigh out the pros and cons of each, then make your decision.


Consider the Cost of Furniture

Furniture is a huge expense when moving into your first home, unless you came from a large fully furnished apartment. If not, you’ll need to factor in the cost of furnishing your new digs. Start with the basics, like window coverings and your living room and kitchen necessities, since those are the areas you will spend most of your time. This is assuming you already have bedroom furniture.

Don’t overdo it. You don’t need to have a fully furnished home in your first month of moving it. In fact, most first time homeowners don’t and can’t afford to do this. This is normal. Work an annual furniture expense into your budget so you can take it slow and really enjoy the process. You’re also bound to find great deals this way if you take the time to shop around.


Budget Your Monthly Expenses

Make sure you research all possible expenses you may incur monthly when owning your own property. On top of utilities, your mortgage and maintenance, you need to think about property taxes, homeowner’s association fees, home insurance and possibly private mortgage insurance. These extra fees are easy to overlook, so even though you may think you have your new budget all figured out, you may not if you haven’t realistically considered these.

Add extra cushion to your monthly budget as well, in case unexpected repairs come up like your water heater, AC unit or plumbing. You will depend on this emergency fund in the future.


Owning your own home and living on your own is an exciting time. Relish in the moment, but also prepare, and make sure you’re ready for all of the responsibility that comes with this luxury. If you mentally and financially prep yourself for the journey ahead, you’ll be on your way to becoming a successful first-time homeowner in no time.



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