The cost of living

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Basic Budgeting: How much do I need to make to live like I want?

Do you have a picture in your mind of your future life? An apartment in the city, a townhouse in a suburb, a mansion on the lakefront? If you know where in life you want to go, then you’re partway there. If your goals aren’t so clear, some exploration is in order.

Identifying the baseline costs for your desired lifestyle can help you review what you want to do.

What jobs can I get that will take me there?

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Everyone starts somewhere: entry-level positions will lead to higher-paying positions, no doubt. However, some types of jobs pay more than others, such as those in high demand or that require more qualifications. Most industries have a range of salaries you can consider (see our Hot Jobs sidebar) to decide if a career is of interest and if it will pay for all the stuff you want and need.

What do I need versus want?

All humans have basic needs for food, shelter and clothing. We also require transportation to get to our jobs, which provide the financial base for our needs to be met. Some might say their gym membership is essential. To others, their Nintendo Switch or a weekend cabin retreat might be the key to their sanity.

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Identifying your true needs (indoor plumbing) versus wants (new BMW) will help you mark monthly budget requirements. If you earn money beyond what is needed, save it in the rainy day/fun money fund. With patience and persistence, in a few years that new Beamer could be yours!

Can I adjust my expectations to match my choices?

If your dreams are beyond your means at this point, you might need to alter course a bit. For example, say you want to buy a house. The luxury one-bedroom you’re leasing has a rental fee that is too high for you to have money left over to save for a down payment. If you move in with roommates for a while, you can share housing costs while saving for the future. A less dramatic move to save money might be to decide to learn to cook instead of eating out every meal.

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How much for a …?

Consider these average monthly costs for some items you might need to pay for on your own.

Monthly expenses for a single person

Studio apartment in metro Milwaukee $611
Two-bedroom apartment in metro Milwaukee $742
Source: Economic Policy Institute budget calculator

Car (fuel, maintenance, insurance, registration) $365
Public transit (bus ticket) $72
Sources: AAA, Milwaukee County Transit System

Making your lunch every day $189
Buying lunch every day $330

Clothing & Personal items
New outfit $100
New iPhone $1,000

$30K student loan $333
$18K car loan $372

Fun stuff
LED UHD 43” TV $300
Movie for two at the theater $25
Source: Economic Policy Institute budget calculator

50 Hottest Jobs in Wisconsin

These jobs have been identified by WisConomy as high-growth occupations, with the most projected annual openings in the state. Here is a sampling of median salaries for high-demand positions in a variety of industries: human services, trades, business, manufacturing and engineering. What can you afford to live on?

  1. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers
  2. Sales representatives: wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products
  3. Registered nurses – HUMAN SERVICES, $65,150 ($5,429/month)
  4. General and operations managers
  5. Maintenance and repair workers
  6. Accountants and auditors
  7. Carpenters
  8. Construction laborers – TRADES, $36,960 ($3,080/month)
  9. Welders, cutters, solderers and brazers
  10. Market research analysts and marketing specialists
  11. Software developers: Applications
  12. Management analysts
  13. Computer systems analysts
  14. Human resources specialists – BUSINESS, $52,230 ($4,352.50/month)
  15. Insurance sales agents
  16. Financial managers
  17. First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers
  18. Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters – TRADES, $68,230 ($5,685.50/month)
  19. Computer user support specialists
  20. Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators
  21. First-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers
  22. Food service managers
  23. Industrial machinery mechanics – MANUFACTURING, $41,250 ($3,437.50/month)
  24. Production, planning and expediting clerks
  25. Public relations specialists
  26. Insurance claims and policy processing clerks
  27. Medical and health services managers
  28. Training and development specialists
  29. Mechanical engineers – ENGINEERING, $71,190 ($5,932.50/month)
  30. Industrial engineers – ENGINEERING, $73,290 ($6,107.50/month)
  31. Dental assistants
  32. Bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists – MANUFACTURING, $43,480 ($3,623.50/month)
  33. Sales managers
  34. Cost estimators
  35. Health specialties teachers: Postsecondary
  36. Graphic designers
  37. Loan officers
  38. Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers
  39. Computer and information systems managers
  40. Educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors
  41. Securities, commodities and financial services sales agents
  42. Personal financial advisors
  43. Sales representatives: wholesale and manufacturing; technical and scientific products
  44. Administrative services managers
  45. Paralegals and legal assistants – BUSINESS, $44,980 ($3,748/month)
  46. Cement masons and concrete finishers
  47. Industrial production managers
  48. Financial analysts
  49. Painters, construction and maintenance
  50. Social and community service managers – HUMAN SERVICES, $44,430 ($3,702.50/month)

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