Living on 35k a Year in Philadelphia, PA

Budgeting as a beginner (seriously).

At the age of twenty-one years old, I am lucky enough to have a secure, full time job that allows me to live in the beautiful city of Philadelphia, while also attending Temple University full time. Budgeting is an extremely important part of my weekly routine, and it allows me to have some extra fun money on the side as well.

The Breakdown

The breakdown of my monthly bills looks like this:

$600 for rent & utilities ($1,200 total — but it’s split between me and my partner).

$50 for my phone bill

$350 for my car payment & insurance

$50 minimum payment between both of my credit cards (though I try not to carry a balance).

$20 for monthly subscriptions (Netflix & Spotify)

That leaves about $330 per month in my savings account, and $600 to spend on groceries, cat food, and the occasional night out. If it’s a slower month and I take home a bit less than I normally do at work, I absolutely do not take it out of my savings. It always comes out of my allotted “fun money”.

Credit Cards

“Fun” purchases often go on my credit card, like dinners out, or drinks at the bar. But, at the end of each billing cycle, I make sure that I pay both of my credit cards off in full. I firmly believe that this is what gave me the opportunity to take out a car loan at the age of 19, when my car broke down and I couldn’t afford to get it repaired.

If I do have to carry a balance, I never let it sit for more than two months. I check my statement almost every single day to make sure there’s no irregular activity and so I can stay on budget.

Staying Sustainable

Of course, I slowly collected these items over time instead of buying them all up front, and I definitely see them as a privilege to own.

Food Shopping

Like most people, I do find it hard to control my wandering eye when it comes to the snack aisle, but a little bit of extra snackage in the pantry never hurt anyone. I try to limit myself to one or two snacks a week that’ll hold me over, and the occasional Milky Way bar at the self-check out.

Meal prepping for two really helps me stay on budget when it comes to food. I always make meals in large batches for myself and my boyfriend. Ingredient prep is the most convenient for us so we can shake up our flavors during the week. I like to prep two or three cups of (uncooked) rice or quinoa, cut my veggies up & roast them if needed, drain and prepare things like chick peas and black beans, wash any greens, and make a quick meal day-of. This saves us time, and lets us know exactly how much of everything we have left. It also gives us some variety throughout the week for lunch, and gives us some quick options for dinner if we’re on the go.

Dinners are definitely a bigger ordeal. My partner and I both love to eat more than anything — so we try to prep 2 or 3 sit down meals a week. Of course, we plan this around the weekly grocery store sales.

Our weekly grocery bill usually comes out to about $60 a week (or $30 each), or $240 a month split between the two of us.

Eating out is another thing that we do, but not that often. We usually save it for a Saturday night date night and some sort of Asian/Indian take out on Friday’s (a tradition we’ve had since we started dating). This gives us more financial freedom when it comes to doing other things, like concerts, movie and museum trips, or grabbing drinks with friends. We are also both very much home-bodies and like to stay home a lot of the time — or spend more time doing things like hiking (which is free!).

Final Thoughts…

Written by

Writer. Student. Storyteller. Welcome to my brain. | “Every action is an act of creation.”

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