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Living Well


Budgeting

Everything in life costs money – and it is essential that you figure out how to balance your income with expenses. Use one of our budgeting worksheets, calendars, or other useful tools to organize your income and expenses and then plan out your monthly budget.

As a rough estimate, subtract your expenses from your income per month. If the number is positive, think about saving some of that extra money in an emergency fund. If, on the other hand, that number is negative, consider ways that you can earn some more money, cut down your expenditures, or both. Budgets depend on balancing income with expenses.

Education can drastically increase your income throughout your lifetime and is an essential tool that can be used to better your economic status. Investing in your future can be the most important financial decision that you ever make – getting a degree in a marketable field can really help you stand out and give you a leg up for getting employed. When planning for the future, bear in mind that college graduates, on average, each make $1 million more in their lifetime than those who did not attend a higher education institute.

If your expenses outweigh your income, you should start thinking about budgeting your money. Create a monthly plan to reduce your spending and/or increase your inflow of cash. Budgets truly depend on balancing income with personal expenses.

Tips & Strategies

As described by Rob Berger’s article in “Forbes,” some strategies for maintaining a strong budget include:

  1. Understanding your goals and your purpose for budgeting;
  2. Tracking your income and expenses for a week or a month;
  3. Determining which 3 categories of expenses are the least necessary and most easily reduced for you;
  4. Using credit or debit cards (read: pay the balance off at the end of the month!) to easily keep track of your spending;
  5. Making sure to save money before you spend any of your paycheck(s);
  6. Spending 50% of income on necessities, 20% on savings, and 30% to lifestyle choices; and
  7. Using effective online budgeting tools to easily explain how your money is being spent -- and on which items.

Emergency Savings

Having money stored up in case of an emergency is essential to have a stress-free and secure life. According to a survey conducted by Vanguard, 26% of people had unpaid medical bills and 22% overdrew their checking account. By setting money aside to pay for unexpected bills, job loss, medical emergencies, essential home repairs, and many other potential expenses, you can avoid making poor financial decisions.

If possible, you should have 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund to take care of issues just like those listed above -- 56% of Americans don’t have a “rainy day” fund to cover even 3 months of expenses. Remove that stress and cost before it ever happens!

"Smart" Options

Food, housing, and transportation are typically the largest expenses and will account for approximately 50-66% of your entire take-home income. Therefore, you should budget those before accounting for any debt payments, house expenses, entertainment, and other miscellaneous costs. Avoid temptation to make poor choices when purchasing goods, reward yourself when appropriate, and feel free to share your budgeting and financial knowledge with others.

Careers

A variety of career services are available in the Bridgeport, CT area. Career Resources, Inc. is a perfect example of a nonprofit that aims to train and support individuals to become employed and be successful in the workforce. Whether you are just starting your path to employment, looking to further your career, or are looking for reentry into your field after some time away, these groups can offer you the guidance you need to succeed.

Filing Taxes

If you need help filing your taxes, please visit the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The people there are extremely supportive and will make the process as painless as possible. Bridgeport has a few local chapters, so search for a site near you and contact them to see if they can help you out!

Calculators & Tools

There are many relevant tools out on the internet that can help you figure out your finances! Check out the following selected calculators, budgeting worksheets, calendars, and many other items that will help you make sense of money woes. Visit www.finra.org/investors/tools if you would like to find additional online resources.