Cost-of-Living Reality Check

Heading out into the real world? Don't walk blindly. We show you how much life's expenses typically cost to help you anticipate your finances and build a budget.

(Image credit: (c) David Sacks)

You've heard the mantra over and over: budget, budget, budget. This is money management rule number one as you graduate, start bringing home a paycheck and begin life in the real world. But if you've never had to pay for life's essentials yourself, coming up with a realistic spending plan can feel like wandering in the dark.

SEE OUR SLIDE SHOW: 10 U.S. Cities With the Cheapest Cost of Living

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Monthly gross pay$2,917 ($35,000 divided by 12 months)
Federal taxes$331
Social security$181
State taxes$100
Employment benefits$150
NET INCOME$2,113 per month ($25,356 per year)

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Erin Burt
Contributing Editor,