I've been sitting here staring at the budgeting worksheet TFA sent me and trying to get a rough idea of a typical month's expenses will look like. There will be various costs associated with testing, certification, and getting set up in a new place that I can't do anything to control, but I'd like to know what my budget will look like once that's out of the way. TFA suggests a low, medium, and high cost for each expense category, and to get a first estimate I just added everything in the low and high columns. This methodology has several flaws, not the least is the failure to take into account expense sharing among roommates for utilities. The plan also clearly only applies to take-home pay since it doesn't include categories for taxes, insurance, or pension contributions.
I'm hoping to fall near the lower end of the range. I don't have any student loans or credit card debt so I can safely budget $0 for those categories, and although purchasing a newer car sometime during the next two years seems fairly likely, I'm not rushing out to buy a brand new car and take on a car payment right now. The suggestion of $100 per month for movies, drinks, dining out, etc. seems fairly high to me, and that's their suggestion for a minimum budget.
On the other hand, I don't want to do without internet access and trips home, items not allowed in the minimum budget. The suggestion that anyone could get by on $25 a month worth of gasoline in a region pretty much devoid of public transportation, even with carpooling, seems laughable. I also still have no idea how many roommates I'll end up with, which will definitely have an impact on my housing costs. It may be time to accept that obsessive planning won't do me any good right now and revisit the issue in a couple of months once I have more information.