4 Month Budget Project Summary

This activity is part of a cross-curricular Life Skills Unit which our team has completed each spring. There are separate components for each of the four core subjects. Each student keeps a portfolio which is submitted at the end of the unit for a major grade from each teacher.

The unit commences with the COPS program in math, after which the students draw
a “salary” by the lottery system. Salaries range from $20,000 to $45,000 per year. Students then choose from a list of corresponding careers as the focus of their study.

The English teacher has students “interview “ for their job, and write a business letter requesting information about that career. Students also use the newspaper to locate an affordable apartment, based on 30% of their salary. Many realize that they can not afford to live alone and need a roommate to share expenses.

The Civics teacher uses this opportunity to discuss national and world economics, students prepare a resume for their job, and complete a comparison shopping activity.

The Science teacher allows students to choose four activities ranging from taste-testing to calculating the amount of electricity that they are responsible for using in their rooms and the amount of water used when they take one of those long showers.

In Math, students are issued a “paycheck” on Friday for four weeks which corresponds to their individual salary. Each paycheck has a gross pay figure, deductions for federal and state income tax, FICA, health insurance, retirement, and finally, net pay. This is truly a “reality check”. On April 15 we will prepare our 1040EZ form using the tax tables provided by the IRS. Students will also “buy” a car using the classifieds and “borrow” money to pay for it. Many quickly find out that they cannot afford the “hottest” car, as they are only allowed a payment which does not exceed 25% of their salary. More car, less food is not an option! The biggest component of the math portion of the unit is a spreadsheet budget. Students report to the computer lab six Fridays in a row to, first, learn how to do a spreadsheet, and then to update it weekly as they receive their paychecks and chance cards (i.e. broken glasses - $100, 50/50 raffle winnings - $250, 10% pay raise in June, dead battery - $65). The final product becomes part of their portfolio.