“My boyfriend — 14 versus 19”
If you own your car outright, $211 a month for transportation is a good estimate—perhaps even too high. But if you have a car loan, your monthly payment will probably be more than $211 to begin with, let alone the money you’ll spend on gas, parking, maintenance and repairs. So before you rush out after graduation to buy your first set of wheels, make sure you are aware of the real cost of buying a car. For maintenance and repairs, you should budget at least $500 a year, or $42 a month—maybe more if you’re buying an older car.
For gas, let’s assume you drive 1,000 miles a month and your car averages 23 miles per gallon. You’d need to budget $117 per month with prices at $2.70 per gallon. That leaves only $52 for a car payment, parking and other transportation expenses. Clearly, not enough.
(And, of course, wildly fluctuating gas prices can throw a curve ball here.)
Some cities are easy to live in without a car, thanks to good public transportation and bike paths. But in other cities, a car truly is a necessity. Look into carpooling with friends or coworkers. Or cut back somewhere else in your budget—say, spend less on food and entertainment or take on a roommate to split the cost of rent to help make ends meet.