Ask The Readers: Budget Friday Submission 9

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Budget Friday: Submission 9

UPDATE: Contest extended until the end of the day! Get your budget submission in now for a chance at a $25 Amazon gift card!

Happy Friday everyone! Thanks for dropping by iHeartBudgets for a unique edition of Budget Friday! If you’re new to Budget Friday, check out all the other episodes HERE. Basically, readers submit their budgets for an EXTREME makeover to get them to reach their financial goals faster and start enjoying their money instead of hating it.

Today’s edition I want to bring in YOU, the readers, for some help. I’ve mulled it over in my head, and have come up with a basic budget, but I thought it would be MORE fun to have the readers give their input, and help come up with the best budget for our participant. Most of my readers seem to be intelligent, well-educated folk who handle money well and have some GREAT tips on keeping more of it. So here’s your chance to help out a fellow reader with their finances, and make a positive impact on their life forever. YOU READY?!


One of our readers son’s (we’ll call him Tom) got a number of great law school scholarships – from really well ranked schools (AWESOME!). He has his heart set on one that is located in New York City. He can take out $20,500/year in loans to live off of ($2,277 a month) for the school year (I’m assuming 9 months). His rent will be $1300/month, which leaves him with $977 a month to live on. I have created a list of common expenses for Tom’s budget and listed them below.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create a budget that can help Tom get through his first year of law school. After year one, he is able to work and bring in an income to help pay his way through school, but he is NOT allowed to work his first year (school policy or something). Use the $977 a month to help him survive New York City for 9 months. Even better if you have alternate housing suggestions, or experience living in New York and can provide helpful tips on saving as much money as possible. My goal for Tom would be to live on a minimal budget so he can pay back whatever he does not use for the year, thereby reducing his out of school debt.

I would then like to hold a vote on Monday for the top budget suggestion, and I will transport that budget into a spreadsheet for Tom, along with the suggestions for saving, and will post it up next Friday as the final budget result. Tom, and everyone else reading, appreciates your efforts for this Budget Friday exercise. And I am personally excited to see what everyone comes up with.

Take Action!

Copy/Paste the below list and place your budget numbers next to each line item for the budget. Feel free to add/delete things from the suggested list, and post your budget in the comments below. A poll will go up on Tuesday, and we’ll all vote for the best suggested budget for Tom, and I’ll post it up next Friday. And for some added incentive, the winner of the best budget gets a $25 Amazon gift card!! Got it? Good. Now LET’S GO!

Rent – $1300
Natural Gas
Cell Phone
Car Insurance

Spending Cash

Car Repair

Ok, there’s your list. Again, feel free to add/subtract anything, and come up with the most wicked-awesome budget you can for Tom.

And don’t forget, I’m going to pick the top posts for a vote on Tuesday, and Tom’s new budget will be selected by you, the readers! And the winner with the sweetest budget gets a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Thanks for playing, and Tom thanks you in advance for the epic budgeting ideas 🙂

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

21 thoughts on “Ask The Readers: Budget Friday Submission 9”

  1. Sounds like a nice little challenge. I will look forward to what other’s come up with. I’m going to have to stay out of this one since I have NO idea how much utilities cost in NYC.

  2. No work in the 1st year of law school is normal protocol. The first year is INTENSE.

    I don’t have complete solutions, bc I am out of touch with NY prices, but some ways I can see saving money are:

    Rent: Go to school administration or any orientation events possible and try to meet people to split rent with. My best friend went to Columbia a few years ago, they chose an apartment in Harlem (not as bad as it used to be) for $1500/month BUT it was a huge 3 bedroom apartment. Even better is to find a place where utilities are included in rent (it is possible).
    Cell: If not locked into a contract get a basic go phone!
    Internet: Necessity..especially for a student, but skip cable…with good internet you could watch tv!
    Car Related: Dude, you’re going to be in NY…skip the car and opt for a monthly metro card. If you keep the car, be prepared to be paying a WHOLE LOT of parking expenses! The city is not set up for cars and they rip you off :0)
    Gifts: As a broke student those that you love and love you won’t care that you can’t give them STUFF! Even as a grown adult with kids, there have been times where I have had to tell people that we can’t particiapte and hope that they can respect that and they do!

    While you can’t hold down a true job there are things to help supplement your income. Take advantage of freebies (hello shampoo/conditioner etc!). Use Swagbucks to do your internet searches and do their little daily assisgnments to earn points toward Amazon, Starbucks etc. Use ebates for when you absolutely must order stuff online and get cash back. Use a Perkstreet DEBIT card to get 1% cash back. Find survey companies to earn points and giftcards. Enter contests!

  3. Here is what I came up with, I think this is pretty realistic based on my experience and some quick craigslist research. I went to NYU and worked in Jersey City NJ for a long time. I think his best bet is to live out of the city for the first year. He can definitely score a nice 1 bedroom in JC near the Path trains for $1000 if he were willing to get a studio he could find one for $750 probably. This plan even has $50 extra for a little buffer.

    I assume that Heat and Hot Water are included in the rent as normally are water, sewer and trash. He should get student medical insurance through the school as part of his tuition so I kept medical to a minimum. Someone else said it about no car, this is NYC no car is required and there are lots of zipcars for when one is needed.


    Rent $1,000.00
    Electric $50.00
    Cell Phone $100.00
    Cable/ Internet $100.00
    Medical $50.00

    Food $400.00
    Public Transit $60.00
    Spending Cash $160.00

    Entertainment $100.00
    Restaurants $100.00
    Gifts $50.00
    Misc $50.00

    Expenses $2,220.00
    Income $2,277.00
    Balance $57.00

    • Kev, awesome budget! Thanks for submitting. I bet he can definitely live on LESS than $400 for food, though. That’s about our budget for a fam. of 3!

  4. Oh, Wow! You guys are incredible. Thanks for the input – but I’ve got to change things up a bit. Forget gifts, entertainment etc – that $977/month has got to cover FOOD, books, fees and other law school related costs. They actually charge law students to research (an absolute necessity – possilby more necesary than food) to research on lexisnexis or westlaw.

    Really appreciate the input, but this kid has GOT to live way cheaper than what you’re suggesting. Sorry – law school sucks and it costs a helluva lot – even with a fullride on tuition.

    Come on – I know you have all done this kind of thing before! Use your imaginations!
    Thanks much.

  5. I’ve lived in NYC so this comes with some experience, but as always, take it with a grain of salt! I’m also a law student, so have some experience in the common expenses. (Note: He should NOT have to pay for Lexis/Westlaw – they generally provide that for free to students in law school).

    Rent – $1000 (You can definitely go below $1300 if you’re living with roommates, but you still don’t want a crazy commute because you’ll likely be either living in the library or wanting to socialize with classmates. If you’re going to NYU, try to live in Brooklyn in a cheaper neighborhood – if Columbia, look to Harlem).

    Electric – $50 (this is a high estimate)
    Natural Gas – $60 (likewise – most NYC apartments run on radiators)
    Water/Sewer – $ 0 (never had to pay this in an NYC apartment, generally included)
    Trash – $0 (same)
    Cell Phone – $50 (try to get on a family plan. I know you could do a pay as you go phone, but really you’ll probably want a smart phone because you’ll be checking your email constantly)
    Cable – $0 (no time!)
    Internet – $ 60 (if you share, if can go lower)
    Car Insurance – $0 (no car in NYC!)
    Public Transport – $140 (Just over $100 for a monthly metrocard, and the rest is for taxis, because there will be late nights where you don’t want to wait for the train)
    Medical – $0 (should be covered by tuition in school, unless he may have prescriptions)

    Food – $ 250 (some think this will be high, but you may be buying more convenience food than you expect, and there will be socializing)
    Gas – $0 (no car!)
    Spending Cash – $200 (socializing – yes, this is a priority in law school. even if you’re going to a highly ranked school, you are going to need to make friends during that crucial 1L year)
    Pets – $0? (He didn’t mention a pet)

    Entertainment – $50 (I lumped most entertainment into misc spending and food)
    Restaurants – $ 100
    Car Repair – $0 (no car!)
    Gifts – $20 (always good to save up for Christmas/holidays)

    I noticed one big hole in the budget: TEXTBOOKS. Those suckers are crazy expensive. The best thing to do is buy used on Amazon and then re-sell (you will probably never need your first year contracts casebook again) OR, ideally – see if your school library keeps some on reserve, and then check them out on an as-needed basis. The first semester, I bought all my books because I was freaked out and needed the reassurance, but I’ve gradually moved to an all-library strategy to save money.

    One final hole: Professional clothing. You may already have a suit or two from before, but if you don’t you will likely need one in anticipation of your summer job. That will likely run you around $300. You will probably wear pretty relaxed clothing for class, but you’ll also need it for any oral arguments or moots that you do.

    Another smart thing to do is realize that Westlaw and Lexis give you points for using their search engines, because they want to win your loyalty. Make sure to rack up those points/do promotions, because you can cash them in for Amazon gift cards or other prizes, which come in handy during the holiday season/for gifts.

    This adds up to $1980, so probably aim for $2000 to be safe. (Ironically, this is my budget for when I plan to return to NYC, although it’s allotted somewhat differently.)

    • Caitlin,
      I personally am nominating you for the “award of the day”! Thanks for the “been there, done that” comments. Although, I must admit you had some pretty tough competitors. Thanks for all your comments.

  6. I love working up budgets so, of course I will help. Here is what I came up with:

    Rent $800 (Certainly you can find a school buddy to live with and split rent with–even if you have to resort to Craigslist).
    Electric $75.00
    Cell Phone $60.00 (hopefully you aren’t locked into a contract and you can get a pay-as-you-use-it phone. Lets face it. You won’t have much time to text/talk anyway 🙂
    Cable/ Internet $100.00
    Medical $20.00 (your insurance premium should be covered but this is for co-pays or perscriptions)

    Food $300.00
    Transportation (Public) $100.00
    Spending Cash $160.00
    Entertainment $200.00
    Restaurants $100.00
    Gifts $50.00
    Books/Misc. School Stuff $162.00
    Misc/Blow fund $150.00

    Total Budget: $2,277.00

    • Amy, thank you!Good call on the pay-as-you-go phone. No need to waste $100 a month on a smart phone that Tom shouldn’t be using during class anyways 🙂

  7. I forgot about chegg.com for renting textbooks. Half the cost of buying the books and they cover chipping both ways.

  8. Mom of 2 precious girls and Kev,
    I’m having a really hard time between voting for 1 or both of you over Caitlin.
    Caitlin, I told you you were up against some pretty tough comepetition.

    Thanks to all who have contributed!


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