Savings & Spending Plans

Surviving and Thriving in Challenging Times

In these challenging economic times, it’s important to evaluate your finances! There are many things that you can do on your own to help get your finances in order – here are some ideas:

Look at your budget

  • If you don’t have one, make one! Personal spending plans can help you take control of your finances!
  • Track your expenses for a month or until you get a good idea of where your money is going – this will make your budget accurate
  • Remember: The more specific you are, the better

Budget formula

  • There are 4 parts to every budget: income, savings, debt repayments and living expenses
  • For your budget to work, your income must be equal to what you put aside for savings, use for debt repayment and living expenses
  • Income = Savings + Debt + Living Expenses
  • If this doesn’t add up, look for ways to increase income (overtime, part-time job, change W-2 deductions) or reduce debt payments. Talk to creditors about new payment arrangements, pay down debt or consolidate payments. Look for ways to cut costs on things like cable, phone, eating out, clothing, entertainment, etc.

Live within your means

  • Don’t spend more than you take home
  • Don’t charge more than you can afford to pay off each month
  • Evaluate your wants versus your needs
  • Spend only what is required
  • Downsize, right-size and cut wasteful spending
  • Search your house, attic, or garage for items that you don’t need/use and sell them. Then use the money to pay down debt or increase your savings

What to do with debt

  • Don’t default on your payments
  • Work with your creditors if you are unable to make payments
  • Don’t promise creditors what you can’t afford
  • Get help from a reliable credit counseling agency
  • Don’t take on new debt to pay existing debt payments


  • Try to put money aside each pay period through payroll deduction or automatic transfer from checking to savings
  • Build an emergency fund – just in case!
  • Always pay yourself FIRST!!!

Individual Development Account (IDA) Programs

Save for a purpose such as homeownership, education or business, and you might qualify for additional money! There are two main IDA programs in the Milwaukee area:

1. The Milwaukee Assets for Independence IDA Program

  • For the Homeownership IDA, call Select Milwaukee at (414) 562-5070
  • For Education IDA, call The Boys & Girls Clubs at (414) 267-8100

2. Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) Call (414) 263-5450 or visit

MyMoney.Gov 1-800-FED-INFO

MyMoney.Gov is an online resource created by the Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FFLEC) to strengthen consumer’s financial capability and increase access to services in five ways:

  1. EARN – Make the most of what you earn. This section of the website can help you understand your pay and benefits with resources such as the Tax Witholding calculator.
  2. SAVE & INVEST – It’s never too early to start saving for future goals. Learn about actions you can take to start saving, investing and planning for unexpected events.
  3. PROTECT – Take precautions to protect what you own. Access resources to defend against identity theft, finding health & property insurance and more.
  4. SPEND – Make a plan for using your money wisely by setting shot and long-term financial goals, and managing your money to meet them. Access resources such as sample budgeting worksheets, FDIC Money Smart podcasts and more.
  5. BORROW – Borrowing money is a way to enable some essential purchases now, pay for them over time and build credit. Being aware of the total cost of borrowing including interest charges and fees is an important step. Access consumer resources on credit cards, interest rates and loans.