Soon, many high school and college graduates will be starting out on their own--getting their first full-time jobs and perhaps their own apartments. Even though those paychecks for full-time work may look fat at first, living on your own can be costly. Without good control of spending, a lot of young people may find themselves strapped for money before their next payday. The following advice may help you set a budget and figure out what you can afford for living expenses. Also keep in mind that states tax at different rates and may impose taxes you're not used to paying. Check with government agencies to find out more about tax rates. Apartment--Renting an apartment often means a substantial outlay at first, and not just for the rent, so you should shop carefully. First, select an area where you would feel comfortable living and you can afford. Look at several apartments in the area, and compare them on price, quality, and convenience. Check plumbing and appliances to be sure they are working properly, and once you've decided on an apartment, ask that the needed repairs be done before you move in. Most landlords ask for either a security deposit (commonly the equivalent of one month's rent) or payment up-front for the first and last month of the lease. Be sure to review the lease carefully so you will know what the security deposit covers and under what circumstances it will be forfeited. UTILITIES--Sometimes your heat and gas are included as part of the rent; sometimes apartments are separately metered for certain utilities and require you to pay directly for each. In many areas, if you haven't had an account before, you maybe asked for a security deposit for certain utilities such as electricity. If you are to pay for utilities, especially heating or air conditioning, ask the landlord what the average monthly payment has been, as well as charges for the "high" months. These figures will help you budget more realistically. FURNITURE--Until you get more established, used furniture makes a lot of sense in terms of cost and durability. Check out your local thrift stores, plus second-hand shops, garage sales and flea markets for some good deals. Older, sturdy wood furniture can be a better investment than furniture that may soon need replacement. FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT--Be sure to set a budgeted amount for this category and try to stick with it. Eating evening meals at home and "brown bagging" lunches at work, rather than regularly eating out, can save a lot of money. Try to keep your refrigerator and shelves stocked so you won't be tempted to go out for meals too often. If you're a movie buff, try to cut expenses in this area by taking advantage of lower admissions during off-times. Also, if you have a VCR, consider renting movies and inviting friends over for a casual evening rather than always going out. Telephone--The telephone company may require a security deposit if you haven't had a telephone in your own name before. If you are living away from your hometown for the first time, the temptation to make long-distance phone calls to keep in regular touch with family and friends often breaks the budget. Increasingly, people with access to the Internet find that a good alternative is sending e-mail messages to family and friends. If your telephone calls are necessary, check out long-distance services that offer reduced rates during non-peak hours. TRANSPORTATION--Check out your transportation costs for commuting to and from work. If you drive, you might consider having car-poolers from your own or nearby offices to help share costs. If you have moved from another state, don't forget that you usually have a limited time period to change over your driver's license and car registration. Also, your automobile insurance rates may change. CLOTHING--Entering the business world for the first time probably means that the clothes you wore in school may not be appropriate. Try starting off gradually with skirts or slacks from your current wardrobe and adding a basic suit and jacket that will coordinate with these. Resist the impulse to go overboard in outfitting yourself with a whole new wardrobe. Be sure to budget for laundry, if you have to use a laundromat, and for dry-cleaning services. HEALTH INSURANCE--Most employers provide group health plans. With some plans, employees share the cost. Usually there is a one to three month delay for coverage, but don't gamble that you won't need the coverage during this time. See if you can extend your previous health insurance plan by paying the premiums to cover this time period. CREDIT--If your are considering applying for credit, figure out ahead of time what you can afford in payments each month, say, on a car loan or on credit cards. And stick to that limit. Try to resist impulse buying on credit and keep track of your purchases so you'll know when you reach your self-imposed limit. Many college graduates are sent credit applications when they graduate. If you think you'll need access to credit early on, it may be a good idea to take advantage of one of these offers. Once you relocate and get a new job, it may be more difficult initially for you to obtain credit. STUDENT LOANS--If you have student loans to repay, remember that you will have to start making payments after six months of working. Don't get used to living up to your full paycheck during that period. SAVING--Remember, too, that putting some money into a savings account every month will help insure that you have reserves on hand to meet an unexpected expense or emergency. Our friends at ConsumerProdigy.com suggest that you don't fall into the trap of spending your entire paycheck. After you have figured out what your regular monthly expenses, including savings, will be, make sure that your take-home pay will cover these. If you find that there is a short-fall, that means you'll have to cut back in non-essential areas, such as entertainment, clothing, long-distance calls.