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"The Sky's the Limit"

Objective | TasksFinding Careers | Finding a House | Finding a Car | Setting Up Your Budget | Reviewing the Budget | Evaluation | Additional Resources | Conclusion 

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The objective of this project is for you to set up a budget that would allow you to live the type of life you would like, as well as to understand what skills and/or education you need to get there. This will include finding a house, finding a car, developing a budget, and finding a career that would match your income needs. This project does involve doing some calculations and setting up a budget on Excel, but it's main purpose is to allow you to have fun dreaming of the future while realizing what these dreams may cost.  I also hope you observe certain iron realities about work and what it takes to be a successful adult in Southern California today.  It is not easy.  It takes lots of money!

During this project you will need to fill out and then print this worksheet.  You will also have a master spreadsheet that will show all your calculations and contain a working budget.  Your expenses must fall within your income!  Be advised!


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You will need to have a partner to complete this project. Essentially, each of you will be required to set up a monthly budget. You will be required to set up your budget on Excel, and then get your information off the internet, noting the sites that you used.  The preparing of the budget will include you finding out what type of careers will provide you with the necessary income, and how much education is needed for such a career.  This project consists of two steps: first, you will construct a budget according to a job you are assigned by your teacher; and, secondly, you will - within limits and with teacher approval - select your own career.  No matter what your job might be, you must construct a working budget with costs less than expenses.

No matter what job you have you must first deal with your housing.  You will need to find a house or apartment that you can afford.  You can have roommates, if you need help in covering the monthly rent or mortgage.  Next, you must find a car or other type of transportation, and then set up a budget.  Then you must fill out the worksheet, print it out, then and discuss it with Mr. Geib.

After completing the preliminary budget, you will exchange your budget with your partner. At this point your partner will review the project, looking for calculation errors and commenting on how realistic the budget is.

To complete the project, you will need to make revisions to your original budget, explaining your reasons for doing so.

If you need additional resources to complete the project, links are provided below. Also, you may e-mail the author with questions or comments.

Each part of the project is detailed below.


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Now it's time to find a career. Using this link to the U.S. Government's Occupational Outlook Handbook, find a career that you are interested in and that will give you the needed income to afford the lifestyle you want. Include the amount of education needed for your career.

As soon as you have found a career, come and talk to Mr. Geib and he will give you your gross earnings for the year.  Then find out your net earnings, after taking out  federal income tax and CA state income tax.  Your social security tax will be 7.65% of your gross income is you are employed by someone else, 15.30% if you are self-employed.

Enter all this into your budget spreadsheet.  You will then have your net yearly income.


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After you have a career and an income, you need to try and get a house to live in. Almost everyone has an idea of where they would like to live, and what type of house they would like to own. It's your job to use the links below to find your dream house. After you do so, make sure to note where the house is located, and what the selling price is. Also make sure to note the URL that you used.

When you find the house you want, come talk to Mr. Geib and get his approval for a loan from the bank.

If you cannot afford to buy a house, search for an apartment here.


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Most people also have ideas on what type of car they would like to own. Use the links below to find your dream car. Make sure to note the price of the car. Also make sure to note the URL that you used.

NOTE: If you have already done this in an earlier project for Mr. Geib, you may skip it as soon as you have copied the information to your new spreadsheet.


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The next step is to set up your budget. This will entail the following steps:

  • Figure out your monthly mortgage payment and your monthly car payment.  Assume that you only have a 5% down payment for your mortgage.
  • Some budget experts recommend that a house payment should be no more than 28% of your gross monthly income, and that a car payment should be no more than 12% of your gross monthly income. Decide if your net income will make it possible for you to afford your house and car.  If not, go and find a car and house that you can afford.
  • Examine your spreadsheet to see how much money you should budget for the remainder of your household expenses. Make sure to double check your calculations.  Then enter those household expenses into your spreadsheet.


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Time for a reality check. At this point, change worksheets with your partner. Once you have your partner's worksheet, you need to do two things:

  • double check the calculations (example 1, example 2), and
  • check with adult (probably a parent or guardian, or Mr. Geib) to see how realistic the budget is.

Now, write a recommendation to your partner explaining how realistic their budget is, and making suggestions on any necessary changes.


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To complete the project, make any changes to your budget THAT YOU CONSIDER NECESSARY (not necessarily the changes your partner recommended). Write a summary of the changes you made, and why you made them.  Make sure you heed Mr. Geib's comments!

The completed project should contain the following:

  • 2 copies of the spreadsheet printed out: the initial copy and the revised copy;
  • the recommendations that you made to your partner; and
  • the summary of the changes you made.

The final step of this project, is to create seven slides using PowerPoint to present your budget and lifestyle.  Your presentation should have the following:

  • An opening slide which includes your name and the basics of your career, education, and family (life); 
  • a slide that shows the yearly income you earn and the various taxes you pay (income and taxes). 
  • a slide that shows the chosen vehicle and specific information about your automobile (color, year, maker, radio, airbags, financing, insurance, etc.) (vehicle info.);
  • a slide that has the spreadsheet information about your car, taken from the previous project (monthly payment);
  • a slide that shows all the details about house, where it is located, other miscellaneous information, etc (house info.); 
  • a slide that shows your house/apartment and where you obtained your mortgage, what interest you pay, number of months of loan, etc. (house payment);
  • Your monthly budget, including all expenses balanced against your net pay (monthly budget);  
  • A graph, created in Excel and exported to PowerPoint, that helps explain outflows vs. inflows, with the money left over (graph);
  • and lastly, a slide that explains what you learned in this project (learned).

Each slide need only be a brief synopsis of what you have in your report.  Keep it simple yet informative.  Copy and paste as many spreadsheets straight from Excel into PowerPoint as possible!

After I receive and view all your work, Mr. Geib will evaluate it according to this rubric.


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If you would like to use resources other than the ones given in this project, you may want to use the following search engines:


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          The average U.S. worker must earn at least $13.87 an hour--nearly three times the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour--to pay the rent on a standard two-bedroom apartment, according to the annual 2001 report by the Washington-based National Low Income Housing Coalition.  And it is even worse here in Ventura: the affordability gap between minimum wages and rents in Southern California and across the nation grew significantly in the past few years, forcing more low-income residents into substandard housing, according to the annual "Making Ends Meet: how much does it cost to raise a family in California?” published by the California Budget Project (CBP), which details the climbing costs that devour family budgets and the failure of wages to keep pace.  The gap between rich and poor, chronicled in the recent census reports, lays out the depth of the problem.

          The ""Making Ends Meet" study found that the problem is acute here in Southern California, where 500,000 workers earn the state's minimum wage of $6.25 an hour--about $13,000 a year, according to the Department of Finance. Rents here have risen faster than the national average, forcing many families to share converted garages and one-bedroom units with other households. In Orange County, a worker would have to earn $21.27 an hour in a 40-hour week to be able to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, the study found. The federal government considers housing affordable when it costs 30% or less of gross income.

The problem, of course, is the high cost of living in Southern California.  The current poverty level for a family of four in the U.S. is only $17,650, but CBP researchers found that it costs more than twice that just to cover a family’s basic bills in California.  It costs about $7,000 more a year today for a family to live modestly than it did two years ago, according to the CBP. The average California family today needs to earn $52,304 to support a two-parent family in which both parents work; $36,245 for a two-parent family in which on parent works; $43,443 for a single-parent family until two children; and $20,503 for a single adult. Someone making the state’s minimum wage, meanwhile, earns only $13,000 annually. This is not really enough to make ends meet. The reality is many Ventura residents work two jobs just to be able to live in the areas.  The situation is hardest for the Ventura working poor - those who generally have low levels of education and job training.

A family of four - two working parents, two children - now needs an annual income of more than $52,000 to make ends meet, according to the nonprofit CNB, a research group which studies how public policies affect low- and middle-income Californians. That means both parents must make at least $12.50 an hour to be able to afford the rent on a modest apartment, car payments and maintenance, childcare, food, clothing, health insurance and other basics.  The main problem, everyone agrees, is affordable housing. There is not enough of it, and all Ventura county’s cities are struggling to find ways of developing more affordable housing to meet the needs of  thousands of people who work here, but can’t afford to live here. But it is wise to assume the situation will get worse before it gets better.  Are you on the path of being able to live in the city where you grew up?  Will you have a "career" that provides intriguing, fulfilling work and opportunities for growth and advancement?  Or will you just have a succession of jobs that lead nowhere?  Will you be able to acquire the education and job skills to make your attractive to a potential employer?  Will you be able to land a job that enables you to pay your bills?  Or will you be unable to pay your bills?  Will you thrive after high school?  Or will you struggle just to survive? 

            A bank teller and a construction worker? They’re not quite making it, with a median combined income of about $50,000 annually. A preschool teacher and a restaurant cook?  Their salaries are about $44,000 a year-fall short by $8,000. A cashier and a security guard?  They will need another $15,000.  For single parents, the threshold is higher.  A single parent with two children needs a job that pays $20 an hour to earn the $43,000 it takes them to live comfortably.  School teachers, social workers, secretaries, and police officers - their salaries put them on the margins of economic stability here in Ventura.

             Even if they are able to make ends meet, home ownership for most of these families is but a dream. Stock portfolios, family vacations, saving for collage, putting money away for retirement - those are unaffordable.  It is a difficult life.

             Still, many people have adjusted to the high cost of living in Ventura. In fact, despite the depression in hourly wages, family income continues to rise because family members are working harder to keep from losing ground. The average married couple with children worked 185 hours more a year during the late 1990’s than they did a decade before. That’s the equivalent of an extra month each year of work!  But do you want to have to work like a dog just to pay for the essentials in life?  Or would you prefer to relax more and have a life outside of your career?  As a young adult planning your future in terms of education and job prospects, these are important questions to ask yourself.

             To ask questions about the project, or to make comments about the project, please e-mail the author at:


FTHS  Ventura, CA     805.289.0023x119