It’s all about the money

Help me. I have to somehow figure out some kind of workable, not-going-to-starve-or-run-out-of-gas budget for my immediate future, and this involves figuring out the horror that is a W-4 Withholding form. I have gone through the IRS Web site and have even taken its Withholding Tutorial, and I have managed to get three different answers from its Withholding Calculator, with a variance of $500. ACK!!! Does anyone have any great wisdom to offer on how, exactly, I can figure out what I’ll be taking home at the end of the month (from the new job)?

The second part of my budgeting problem is that I’m in the middle of the student loan consolidation process (and, recent graduates, now is the time: interest rates go up dramatically on July 1), and I don’t yet have any clear picture of what my payments will be. I hit a run of bad luck at the beginning of the loan payments process — for instance, I am not eligible for the lower, extended payment program because my first loan originated one month before that plan became an option (October, 1998). And blah blah blah, it’s all complicated and frustrating and I’ve now filled out and mailed in the same forms at least twice and am still in a holding pattern.

The moral of this story is: I am not impressed by either irs.gov or ed.gov today.

My third budgeting woe is in figuring out the “hidden” costs of different apartments. I have my eye on one particular complex in town that is within walking distance of my new job and offers, among its amenities, a 24-hour fitness center, free breakfast on the weekdays, and free DVD rentals. So that all sounds great, but… it’s more than I want to pay for an apartment. The question then becomes, will I save enough by walking instead of driving, using the on-site fitness place instead of buying a membership elsewhere, etc. to make up for the additional cost? If my apartment is right there, will I walk home for lunch instead of going out to eat, thus saving myself huge chunks of money each month? Or will I get so bored of working and living right in the same little square that I’ll go out all the time? Would it be better, then, to rent the place that’s waaaay on the edge of town but offers cable and water included in its (significantly cheaper) rent?

Again, if anyone has any wisdom, let me know, even if it’s a nudge toward a helpful Web site or a decent place to live in town.

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6 Responses to It’s all about the money

  1. webcowgirl says:

    First, your takehome pay will be roughly 1/3 less than your actual pay. SS and Medicare and taxes will suck it all away. So that’s what you’re going to be taking home, about 1/3 less than you imagined. Take zero deductions at firstl; with no mortgage or anything to get you out of the “single person without dependents,” you’re going to really get stuck.

    Second, take the cheaper apartment. When you’re strapped paying your student loans, you’ll discover you couldn’t afford the gym membership anyway, but you’ll have enough money not to default on your loans. As long as you’ve got a way to get to work that you can afford, you’re set. You can always move later.

    Third, um, can’t help with the student loans. Sorry!

  2. simplelyric says:

    I’m with the other poster: I’d go for the cheaper apartment across town. It sounds advantageous in multiple ways.

    Loans baffle me. I’ve been trying to figure out if I should consolidate my two loans. But I’ve been paying steadily on both over the past couple years, and Mom and Dad paid a ton of my tuition along the way, so I only owe about $2500 and $1000 (pre-interest) respectively for the two, and I’m not sure that’s worth the hassle of consolidation applications and all.

  3. kepkanation says:

    Apparently, if you call the direct loan people, they can do the whole thing over the phone — I’ve been told that’s much simpler than this process I went through. then again, I have a huge stack of loans, and there’s a difference between consolidating right out of school and after… so yep, obviously I don’t really know whether it would be worth it or not, except that consolidating might lower your payments.

  4. simplelyric says:

    I glanced at Direct Loan’s Internet application for consolidation yesterday. I need to give the whole idea more thought, but I think I’d lean more toward the Net version than doing it over the phone, just because I can see what I’m doing as I’m doing it on-line. ::shrugs::

  5. kepkanation says:

    Yeah, I’ve finally managed to stake out the exact IRS chunk that’s coming out of my check. I’m in a low enough bracket that it’s a little nicer than 1/3 being gone, but not much.

    I went to tour the cheaper apartment today and they had NO VACANCIES. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with that idea! Thanks for the advice, though; I tend to forget that student loans will be creeping up full speed soon.

  6. starstraf says:

    2/3 of your income is a good guess, there will be deductions for your benefits also. Your HR person should be able to give you a good idea.

    I think you need the walking distance appmt.
    You know you will wake up late, that is in your nature, not having to deal with parking or bus or diving across town will give you a better opportunity to be at work on time.

    There are some houses for rent in north lawrence.
    Dont’ forget things like water, electric, gas, internet, phone…

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