University of Wisconsin-La Crosse |

It Make$ Cents!

Expand page menu
Skip to page menu
  • Budget

     Developing a Budget

    After you've decided what goals you want to accomplish and figured out the numbers that you need to meet, follow these 3-steps to budgeting your way to those goals: Planning, Tracking, and Reviewing.


     Calculate your income and expenses and write them down. You can use the forms above to help you. After that you can visibly see how long it will take to save for different things, and remember to keep some money saved away for when the forces of chaos, evil, and mayhem decide to break something expensive.

    Sources of Income

    Wage Employment

    Wage Employment is when you earn money working for a wage. That means you get paid a certain amount for each hour you work.

    Salaried Employment

    With Salaried Employment you are paid for the finished job you do, no matter how long it took you to do the work.


    Interest is money you can make on money you already have. A bank will invest the money you have given them and when they get a return, you get interest on your account.


    Much like Interest, Investments are money made on money you already have. You can take your money and invest it. If whatever you have invested your money in is successful, you will get back more money than you put in.


    Terms to know when dealing with YOUR income

    Gross Pay

    This is your total hourly wage.

    State Tax Withholding

    You will pay a percentage of your gross pay as State Tax withholdings. These taxes pay for state level activities, and though the percents vary from state to state, it is currently about 10% in Wisconsin.

    Federal Tax Withholding

    Similar to State Tax withholding, you will most likely pay another 10% from each paycheck to the United States Federal Government.


    The Federal Income Contributions Act costs about 12.4% of your paycheck. That money will go towards paying Social Security, and another 2.9% will cover Medicare. Depending on your contract, your employer may pay half, leaving 7.65% to you.

    Net Pay

    After the approximate 27.65% of your pay has been deducted, what is left is your net pay. These payments will be automatically deducted from each paycheck so the money you actually receive will be your Net Pay.


    Average Student Budget


    Watch your money, keep your receipts, make a purchase log, track your accounts online, and do whatever else you can to keep an eye on your money! Tracking what you purchase and save will make it easier to prevent identity theft and get an idea of your financial habits!



    Regularly check your accounts to make sure you're sticking to your budget and that no one else is accessing or using your money!


    Budgeting Forms

    It Make$ Cents! came up with this easy to use Spending Plan to help you out!

    As pictured below you can also use our more detailed budget form!  
    Spring 2016-Budget Form
    Spring 2016-Budget Form
    Excel Form
     Personal Monthly Budget

    Money Management Tips!

    Budget Building Tips
    When building your budget it is important to keep the following ideas in mind.

    1. Overestimate your expenses. It is better to under-spend and end up with a surplus than it is to NEED some groceries but not have any money in your budget for expenses. If you overestimate how much you will need you tend to fall on the 'under-spending' side of things.

    2. Underestimate your income. If you are on salary your income is pretty much black and white (provided you keep your steady job) but if you work for wages you will have to approximate how much you will make in a given time period. Because this can change depending on overtime, cut hours, a sick day or tip income this number can shift paycheck to paycheck. If you under-estimate your income you will find yourself with some extra cash rather than running out.

    3. Build in an emergency fund. I cannot over stress how important Emergency Fund's are! If something happens that is completely unexpected (i.e. your car breaks down and needs some repair work) having the emergency fund can really save the day!

    4. Set saving goals. You may be able to live perfectly fine on your paycheck but if you aren't saving some of it you could be in serious trouble down the road. What if this job folds? You may need some stowed away cash to get you through until you land the next interview. What if you want to rent a new apartment, or buy some furniture for your place? Without a savings account you may be taking all this money out of your food allowance which means living on Ramen Noodles and Easy Mac for MONTHS.

    Makes goals

    S.M.A.R.T. Goals

    Age Distribution

    When setting goals it helps to make sure that they are SMART. With these tips it'll be more likely that you actually follow through and achieve your goals.


    "I'll go to the coffee shop only twice each week" is more specific than "I won't go to the coffee shop as much as I used to."


    "I will call and speak to an advocate at my local Parent Center to get a list of organizations that might be able to help pay for technology assistance (is measurable). "I want to find out how other parents pay for technology assistance (is not measurable).


    "I will save $5 a week" is more achievable than "I am going to save $50 a week" if you don't have the money.


    "I will shop around for a low-rate, low-fee credit card by the end of the month" is realistic only if you set aside the time to actually do that.

    Time bound

    "I will start contacting funding sources for assistive technology by the end of next week" is a more specific time frame than "I will start looking for funding sources after the holidays."
    Time Based Goals
    Goals for spending get broken in to 3 categories: Short Term, Mid Term, and Long Term goals. Making this distinction helps you plan your saving and spending in order to reach your goals.

    A short-term goal

    (Less than a year) might be something like buy a new CD or setting up an Emergency Fund with 6 months expenses in it.

    A mid-term goal

    (Under 5-years) could be to invest $1200 a year for grand total of $6000 in 5-Years time.

    A long-Term goal

    (More than 5-years) is something like having saved up a certain amount of money towards buying a house, or have $1,000,000 saved for retirement.

    Budgeting Smarter

    Want to know about saving? Investing? Insurance? How about breaking bad financial habits? 
    Check out Dave Ramsey's how to budget or these infographics from Life Tuner!


    Spend less than you earn Have an emergency fund Save at least 10% Limit your debt Invest, don't gamble Protect yourself