June 19, 2024
I Make $17.50 an Hour at My First Job: Here's How I Budget

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Landing that first payroll job can be an exhilarating rite of passage into adulthood. After years of babysitting gigs, cutting neighbors’ lawns, or working minimally-paid internships, the steady income from an entry-level position finally allows you to get serious about budgeting, saving and taking control of your finances.

Take Eric F., a 20-year-old from Seattle who recently scored an hourly wage of $17.50 working at Costco. While that may not sound like a fortune, he’s managing to live quite comfortably in the pricey Pacific Northwest by making every dollar stretch. Here’s a look at how this financially-savvy Gen Zer budgets his modest income.

Housing: $450

The very first budget line item Eric tackled was reducing his housing overhead as much as possible. By rooming with three others, he splits the $1,800 rent on their shared house, paying just $450 for his portion. “It’s not ideal splitting a place with so many people,” Eric shared, “but keeping overhead low while I’m still entry-level is crucial.”

Utilities: $100

From Wi-Fi and electricity to water and gas, Eric estimates utilities for the four-bedroom rental add another $100 to his monthly expenses. He tries negotiating new promotions each time the internet or other services are up for renewal.

Groceries: $300  

Working at the legendary bulk retailer unfortunately doesn’t score Eric any employee discounts on groceries. But he’s still developed a knack for budgeting just $300 per month on eats by seeking out rock-bottom prices at Costco and discount chains like Aldi.

“I stick to mostly frozen foods, pantry items, and cheap produce,” he shared. “It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done without going over budget.”

Gas and Car Insurance: $210

Residing in a neighborhood without much public transit means Eric has to budget for cranking up his used Toyota Corolla. Between gas fill-ups and basic insurance coverage, he allocates around $210 monthly for car costs.  

Phone and Internet: $135

In today’s age, mobile data and internet access are virtually indispensable for any young adult. Eric pays $135 combined for his AT&T smartphone plan and the house’s internet package. “I figure these are just unavoidable necessities at this point,” he said.

Dining Out and Entertainment: $150

Of course, Eric isn’t such a miser that he refuses to treat himself once in a while. He budgets about $150 each month for hitting up restaurants, movies or attending local events with friends. “You’ve got to splurge and enjoy your youth at least a little,” he shared. “As long as I’m still setting aside savings too, I don’t feel guilty about having some fun.”

Savings: ~ $300

Speaking of savings, Eric knows from watching his mom scrimp and save throughout his childhood that saving money is important. “I try to save $300 from each paycheck to my online savings account, but it’s not always possible.”

He says that while working at Costco can be physically taxing, they are pretty accommodating and it’s not hard to rise through the ranks.

“For now I’m on this 3 AM to 11:30 AM freight stocking shift which is pretty brutal. But if I stick with it and prove my work ethic, they tell me I could move up to a supervisory role pretty quickly with even better pay and hours.”

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