Budgeting, reality, and my sanity!
I had the opportunity last week to dive into an awesome experience and learn along side high school students at a Financial Fitness Fair in Lewiston, Maine.
Credit unions across the state of Maine give back to their communities and every spring more and more credit unions are helping high school students understand good money management and financial literacy.
Financial Fitness Fairs are a taste of reality for teenagers. During the fair they are fast forwarded to the age of 22. In this mock scenario they have a job, bills to pay, and expenses they cannot avoid.
With their chosen career and salary, the students then have to walk around to different booths and make realistic financial decisions on housing, transportation, insurance, clothing, furnishings, entertainment, education, etc. As easy as it may sound... it's not! Facing real world decisions can be daunting.
Last week I decided to join the high school students in their quest for a perfectly balanced budget. I thought I would have no problem.
I got had a taste of reality, even at 22!
A few students were absent so I picked up portfolio with a name, career, annual salary, and monthly net pay. In that moment I was 22-year-old Steve, with a career in law enforcement, and an annual salary of $38,500. My monthly net pay after taxes equated to $2,486.
My first run through of the Financial Fitness Fair was a total bust!
In my budget I tried to buy a home. But the mortgage payments were too much and the estimated monthly maintenance costs really pushed my budget over the edge. Actually I was in the hole about $800 when I first attempted to budget Steve's income.
I went back to choose a rental property, spend less on groceries, and find a cheaper phone and internet plan. That mostly worked except I had nothing left over for a savings, an emergency fund or for a retirement plan. And that freaked me out!
Even though this was a mock scenario it made me realize how fast a paycheck can go (even when it's just bills). The student loans, rent, health insurance, car payments, phone bills, and groceries adds up fast!
In conclusion, I'd like to say that I'm savvy with my money. I'm good about saving money and keeping to my monthly budget. However as your Young & Free Maine Spokester, I have some awesome perks that come with the job. I have a cell phone, camera gear, laptop, and to top it all off a car!
Needless to say there are a few things in my budget that I have not had to worry about for the better part of a year. Like a cell phone bill or gassing up the Green Machine.
But alas my job as Spokester is a one year term. (Which means you can apply to be the next Young & Free Maine Spokester!) This summer I'll be adding a few more expenses to my monthly budget and probably setting aside some time to prioritizing some things. However I made a tremendous effort to save money so that will defiantly help me in going into my next chapter of life!