If you’re the average American, you’re earning about $50,500 a year.
After taxes, Social Security and Medicare, that number starts to shrink, and leaves you with only about 60 to 80 percent ($30,300 to $35,350) of your original income, depending on which state you live in. You can calculate exactly how much of your salary is really yours by using online salary calculators like Paycheck Manager or Paycheck City.
And then you’ve got the basic costs of living to cover: your monthly rent or mortgage payment, insurance on your car and/or house, bills for groceries and dining out, utilities, gas for your car, your wardrobe and supplies for your home.
Is that it? Definitely not. However, the ways in which you spend the rest of your money can vary, depending on the kind of spender you are. Do you like to eat out every day and go out on weekends for dinner and drinks? Or do you prefer to clip coupons and buy groceries to cook at home? Do you travel every weekend or stay home and rent movies?
Do you have kids to feed, clothe, and support until their college years?
What also determines how much money you’ve got left is where you live—big city or small town?
Within this question, there are a lot of factors. Going to see a movie in small town Texas will cost you about $6.00. That same movie ticket will set you back $11 in big city Chicago. But while Chicago offers you public transport (subway train, city buses) so you don’t necessarily need to drive every day, that small town no doubt requires a car to get around. Carpooling has, however, has become increasingly popular in various cities around the country and saves you money on gas, as well as wear and tear on your car. Choosing to bike to your destination on a regular basis is not only a gas-free option, it gets you in better shape—something that can potentially cut back on future medical bills.
After all of these expenses, you just may be grasping at pennies. It’s no wonder that despite your latest “big raise,” you still can’t manage to put any money into savings.
But can you actually save money with what you have left after all the necessary expenditures? Here’s an option, aside from stuffing money under your mattress every time you get your paycheck; You can save money simply by cutting back on how much you already spend—eating out one or two less times a week, buying what you need when it comes on sale, switching to a simpler phone/cable package, etc.
When you take a long hard look at your actual take-home paycheck, you’ll find that the bills and costs add up very fast. Saving for a rainy day isn’t such an old fashioned idea once you realize that you’ve got less cash to play around with than you may have thought.
Suchi Rudra is an avid traveler and freelance writer from Texas who covers personal finance, travel, green building, tech, and entrepreneurship. Her work can be found in VICE, The Guardian, Vice, American Way, BBC Travel, Fodor’s, Transitions Abroad, PlanetEye.com, TravelStart.com, Expats.cz, The Writer and India Currents and many other publications.