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Did you know that you need an actual budget for your job search? It’s true. Even though you’re broke because you don’t have a job, searching for a job costs money just as much as it costs time. If you’ve just graduated or are looking for a new job, you need to create a monthly overall budget to get through your job search financially, and you also need to create a budget for the actual job search. Here’s what you need to know about creating a job search budget:

1. Take a serious look at your finances first

First, take a serious look at your finances. How much do you have in savings, and do you have any money coming in during your job search? In general, you should prioritize your spending while searching for a job – paying secured debt like house and car payment first and unsecured debt like student loans and credit cards second.

If you don’t have any room left in your budget (after putting a roof over your head, paying utilities, eating, and paying for transportation) to spend on your job search, you have a couple of options. One is to cut your expenses, and the other is to consider financing options that will help you pay for necessary items while you’re in between steady paychecks. Switching to a credit card with a low interest rate, for example, could cut back on unnecessary costs.

2. Budget for professional help

First, you may need to leave some room in your budget for professional help. You don’t need to pay for an image consultant or other silly services you can figure out on your own, but you may need to pay for some professional help in some areas. For instance, a resume specialist can polish your resume to make it really shine, and a career consultant can help you learn to deal with tough spots in your job interview or sticking points on your resume.

Before you decide how much to spend on professional job search help, check out free resources from local non-profits, your alma mater, or even services like LinkedIn.

3. Check out your closet

It’s absolutely essential that you have the right wardrobe for job interviews. You need to make an impression of being a professional, but you want interviewers to remember you – not your clothing. While you may not necessarily need a three piece suit and tie for your interviews, you may need to polish up your wardrobe again.

If you’re not fashion-savvy, do some research online to see what hiring managers expect in various industries as far as interview dress goes. And take a fashionista friend shopping with you to ensure that you end up with clothing that fits well and looks nice and professional. Remember, you don’t need fifteen different outfits. One or two variations will do, since no one will know that you’re wearing the same outfit for all your interviews.

4. Don’t forget travel expenses

The travel expenses you need to factor in for your job search will depend on where you’re looking. You may not need much if you’re only looking in your metro area, but if you’re looking at jobs country-wide, travel could get quite expensive.

There are, of course, ways to cut costs here, too. Many modern businesses will conduct phone or even Skype interviews before requesting to see you in person. This can save help you save your traveling budget for the businesses that are truly interested in you as a job candidate.

5. Figure out the cost of networking

You wouldn’t think that networking has a cost, but this may not be entirely true. Even networking on LinkedIn can cost you something, if you opt to upgrade to the Job Seeker premium account level (which is highly recommended in many industries.).

But you’ll also need to account for the cost of things like lunch and coffee meetings while you’re networking. Networking events through your local Chamber of Commerce or other organizations may also be worth paying for. The cost of networking will depend largely on how much networking you’re planning to do and what type of networking will be most beneficial for you. Talk to other people who networked heavily to find a job to figure out what they have to say about this.

6. Put it all together, and trim the fat

Once you’ve figured out all these expenses included in your job budget, put it all together to see how much money you’re talking about. If your job search budget is still too high, find ways to cut back.

For instance, if you have a friend whose professional clothing is close to your size, see if you can borrow some clothing for interviews. If you know an English major from college, offer to bake her some cookies in exchange for a resume edit. Or just buy less expensive clothes and shop around for job search services to get better value for your money.

The key here is to remember that your job search is actually worth investing some money in. If you’re missing out on several thousand dollars a month by being out of work, you can afford to invest some money in your job search, even if you need to use a credit card in order to cover job search expenses until you find a new job.

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