Financial Readiness

Budgeting

Get Organized: Create a filing system for important documents and keep them in a fireproof and waterproof safe. Give a copy of important documents to someone you trust. Check your bills (credit card statements, phone bills, etc.) for accuracy and unauthorized use. Also, shred outdated documents. Back up computer files to Dropbox, Google Docs, etc.

Track Your Money: Use Mint.com! It will give you a monthly summary of your spending, in categories, so can understand where your money is going. You can also set up budgets for specific categories. Use www.balancepro.net for financial worksheets, calculators, and planning tools. Try our Reverse Budget (PDF) worksheet to determine how much you need to make.

Hourly vs. Salary: If you are paid hourly and work 40 hours per week for 50 weeks, multiply your hourly wage times 2,000 to get your yearly salary. If you are paid salary, divide your yearly salary by 2,000 to determine your hourly wage.

Savings: Keep at least $500 in savings (three months of your salary is better). Spend less than you make… if “living the dream” means credit card debt, that means you’re paying much more for the items you purchase.

Taxes: Income taxes are roughly 20% of your salary (depending on how much you make). If you have the option of taking money from your paycheck before it’s taxed (e.g. retirement, flex healthcare account, health insurance), it might be worth it. When you’re hired, you fill out a W-4 tax form and will be asked to choose how many allowances you wish to claim. The lower the number you claim, the more you are taxed and thus the higher your end of year refund.

Step off the Hedonic Treadmill: This is the tendency to focus on an object of desire, achieve that desire, experience brief (not permanent) happiness, and then change focus to another desire. If we constantly have to buy new things to feel happy, life can get expensive. Once we make enough money to be comfortable, making more money doesn't make us happier and will typically just lead to more spending.

Reducing Costs:

  • Check out Seahawk Savings.
  • Buy used (autos, furniture, fitness equipment, etc.).
  • Cook for yourself instead of going to restaurants or coffee shops.
  • Drink free water instead of costly drinks.
  • Buy generic brands.
  • Use coupons.
  • Share living expenses by getting a roommate.
  • Reduce your use of heating and air conditioning.
  • Cut out cable and/or internet.
  • Walk, bike, carpool, or use public transportation when you can.
  • Comparison shop for… everything. Online retailers often have the best prices.
  • Avoid overspending on clothes, cigarettes, etc.
  • Find cheap/free entertainment, or host a game night for your friends.

Autos: Buy used! Autos typically lose about 45% of their value after the first three years. For every $5,000 you borrow, a loan will cost about $100 a month for five years. A new $20,000 car will cost you about $400 a month, whereas that same model three years older will cost you $10,000 or about $200 a month. And the less you borrow, the less interest you pay. Buying a less expensive car could also save on auto insurance.

Debt: It is usually best to pay off higher interest loans first, because they cost you more (if your credit card charges you 18% and you only earn 3% in your savings account, put your money towards the credit card). If you have multiple debts, consider consolidating them into one loan.


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