Budgeting / Essays & Confessions

How Much It Really Costs Me To Be The Sole Financial Provider In My Relationship

By Thursday, May 20, 2021

In the summer of 2019, I landed my first full-time job which brought something I had wanted for so long — freedom.

I was turning 24 in a few months, about to graduate that fall, and living with my dad, which had been very stressful for a while. I picked out several apartments in my town with a pros and cons list of each (before touring them). My boyfriend and I had been together for over five years, and we were both ready to get out of our parents’ houses and start this new chapter together. After meticulously calculating our expenses and touring apartments, we finally decided on a place. Though I’m currently the sole provider of our household (due to COVID and my partner’s ongoing health issues), back then, we decided to get a two-bedroom since it wasn’t that much more a month than a one bedroom (oh, but just you wait)! 

I once heard that living on your own is more expensive than you think it will be; you have just enough money in your checking account to pay your rent, but when you need a new tire, you have to pull from savings. However, one thing people failed to mention is that your basic expenses can increase significantly after a year. Hopefully, this will be relatable for some, but also a warning to those not on their own yet.

Rent- Increased $100 a month 

My boyfriend and I live in an average-sized city in the South, so our monthly rent was $814 for a two-bedroom apartment. Currently,  When we first signed our lease, our landlord mentioned that they were doing mandatory renovations, but it shouldn’t happen in our first year of renting.

Well, it did. The renovations made our kitchen and bathroom, which were reminiscent of the 1980’s, look more modern, but nothing spectacular. A new faucet, fake marble countertops, new cabinets, and slightly more attractive flooring cost us an extra $90 a month. While the renovations made our space look better, we definitely needed the money more in our pockets than in our kitchen. We also adopted a cat which increased our rent by $10 a month (however, our cat hasn’t visited our community pool yet, so I’m not sure why he has to pay rent.) This $100 increase (12.5% of our original rent) technically priced us out of our apartment according to the 30% of your income rule, but we did not want to move locally again, especially since we would eventually like to move to a bigger city soon. So we were (and still are) stuck with our rent taking up over half of our take-home income. Yikes!

Internet- Increased $40 a month

My apartment complex will only let us use one internet service provider, so to say we were limited in options was an understatement. My boyfriend plays online games, watches live streams, and all of our TV watching is through streaming services. Needless to say, an internet that wouldn’t lag was important. We picked the plan recommended for “gamers,” which was also the second most expensive plan. The internet worked great, and we were happy with it. 

Then I get the email that the promotional rate has ended… Our $80 a month internet increased to $120. There was no way we could afford to spend that much, so we had to downgrade. We were nervous that it would be way slower, and since I was working from home due to the pandemic, we especially needed a good internet connection. Fortunately, it turned out to be comparable to the more expensive plan and is more than sufficient for our needs. 

Pro tip: if your internet provider lets you upgrade after you start your plan, choose the plan that is one below the one you think you need. If it is bad, you can always upgrade next month.

Health Insurance- Increased $10 a month

This was the first time having health insurance in my life since both my parents owned their own small businesses. I was used to paying about $300 for my yearly physical (after the self-paid discount). I was really excited to have health insurance because I remember how stressed my parents were about paying for the removal of my tonsils and my fractured wrist as a child. I went with the middle option, so my deductible was relatively low and I wouldn’t be screwed if something serious happened. 

A few months later, I got an email from my employer that it was time to go through the new benefits. I found no new benefits for my plan, but it increased $10. This extra $120 a year was still worth it, since my only other option was to pay out of pocket but it was disheartening to have to pay more with no adjustment in my income or added benefits.

While I am still really grateful to have health insurance, since it made my therapy really affordable and my birth control free, it was difficult to pay more for the exact same plan as before. Thankfully, I could afford it (I am on the single plan), but for some people, this may have priced them out of their current plan. 

Conclusion

So in short, here is a breakdown of annual increases:

The Numbers:

  • Rent: Increased $100 a month (12% increase)
  • Internet: Increased $40 for same plan (promo rate ended). We ended up downgrading.
  • Health Insurance Premiums: Increased $10 a month for same coverage

If we would not have downgraded our internet plan, our yearly expenses would have increased $1800 despite very few things changing. Even though we didn’t have to pay extra for the internet, our yearly expenses still increased by $1320. Since my job doesn’t offer me raises or pay well in general (a whole other issue for public university staff), this was difficult to accommodate for. No one told me how much necessary expenses can increase at the end of year.

Thankfully in our situation, our landlord didn’t increase our rent (outside of the renovations) and my health insurance premiums stayed the same from 2020-2021. The biggest lesson I learned from this is to try to live below (and not within) your means as much as possible  because life gets more expensive each year. No matter how much of a planner you are, you should always leave room and be prepared for the unexpected.

Abby works in higher ed administration in Georgia. Most of her free time is spent admiring her two cats and binging Survivor with her boyfriend.

Image via Unsplash

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