Not too long ago, I was on the job hunt. EC and I knew that I would need to make more than I did out of undergrad, since I doubled my student loan debt while in graduate school. But how much exactly did I need to make to get by just on rent and required bills alone? Since we were looking for work based on only one person at that point in time, my salary alone had to ensure we at least broke even. Here are some tips for figuring out how much you need to make, to make it in the working-and-bill-paying real world.
Add up known and estimated quantities of current expenditures
- Rent (estimate a reasonable range based on some home-shopping in the area where you’ll be living)
- Current debt (outstanding credit card bills, student loans in deferment, car loan, etc.) and required monthly payments
- Check out our monthly budget posts here and here for estimations on monthly expenditures, and multiple x12, and use a spreadsheet to start add up these numbers.
Call your newest student loan companies and ask what your payments will be and when they start
- Ignore that they won’t be due for six months or one year after graduating. Factor it in now, because likely your salary won’t change during the grace period.
- Keep all of your student loans organized, and don’t forget any. Start with this handy spreadsheet.
- Add the exact amounts into the monthly “out” column in your monthly budget spreadsheet.
Expect the unexpected.
- Be honest: should you add an extra $500 for “miscellaneous”? An extra $1000? For real, what is your monthly leeway after averages? Put that on a line item.
Let us hope that we are around a reasonable number of what you need for your monthly expenses. Just to be safe, let’s add an extra $500. Trust me. Now multiply times 12. That is the amount of after-tax income you need to make. So what is a reasonable salary, based on the amount of after-tax income?
Now… here’s where the magic happens!! Go to this website. Enter your final number (the monthly estimate from your spreadsheet x 12) into the box “wages.” In the first row of “Pay frequency,” select “Annual – 1 pay period per year.” Select “Net income” as your wage type, and then fill out the rest of the boxes for what is appropriate for you. Then “Calculate taxes,” and find out what your total salary should be! And then, as you are applying for jobs, you know you have, have, to make at least that, though really should make a lot more.
Disclaimer: This is a minimum salary amount. Keep in mind that you may have a partner’s salary added as well. Also keep in mind the need to create a savings account, including a six-month emergency savings. You may eventually want to purchase a car, go on vacation, buy people presents, and buy yourself new clothes at some point. Thus, always negotiate for a higher salary so you can do more that just get by! And, Eric’s favorite, even in the non-profit world, ask for a signing bonus or moving expenses!
PS: Still figuring out how much you can afford to borrow for school?
- This calculator will give you an idea of how much salary will be required to cover an estimated student loan debt over “x” number of years. FYI: According to my current debt total, I should make over $180k to pay off my current loans in 30 years. That ain’t happening, let me tell you, and I’m paying things off just fine.