The Cost of Living

Budget Basics: Gain financial control of your life!

When you have a job, you will earn an income. What you can spend depends on the amount of money you make. Based on your salary (12 months of earnings), you can estimate what you can afford to put toward monthly expenses. A basic rule of good personal budgeting is to spend less than you earn.

Many expenses are required: Mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance, transportation costs and medical expenses, as well as taxes. A credit card or student loans are also required monthly expenditures.

If you stay within your estimated budget, you will have money left over at the end of the month. Use this to pay down debt and build your savings. Ideally, you’ll have a savings account you build up for unexpected expenses, vacations and holiday gifts, or maybe for a car or house.

After required expenses are covered and savings account contributions are made, you can use the money remaining for “discretionary expenses,” a.k.a. fun!

Monthly budget for a single person in southeastern Wisconsin

Housing (Studio apartment/utilities) $611

Food $245

Transportation (car payments, gas, insurance, transit, maintenance) $733

Health care(insurance, out-of-pocket costs) $394

Personal care (clothes, hair)/household (phone/internet) $346

Taxes (state, federal, FICA) $466

Total monthly expenses: $2,795

Annual Cost of Living: $33,540

(Source: Economic Policy Institute budget calculator for Milwaukee/Waukesha/West Allis metro area.)

Median Salaries of Hot Jobs

Check out the income for these positions in demand for southeastern Wisconsin to see what you would be able to afford on their salaries.


HR specialist: $52,230 ($4,352.50/month)

Administrative assistant: $47,170 ($3,930.83/month)


Machinist: $41,250 ($3,437.50/month)

Manufacturing manager: $94,670 ($7,889.16/month)


Mechanical engineer: $71,190 ($5,932.50/month)

Industrial engineer: $73,290 ($6,107.50/month)


Construction laborer: $36,960 ($3,080/month)

Electrician: $58,160 ($4,846.67/month)

Human Services

Social worker: $44,430 ($3,702.50/month)

Nursing assistant: $27,000 ($2,250/month)


Fun Money!

Here are some estimated costs of discretionary budget items.

Based on your monthly income, how long will you have to save to afford your desired goal?

  • Dinner out ($50)
  • Movie ($20)
  • Concert tickets ($90)
  • Kayak ($150)
  • Skydiving ($250)
  • Bicycle ($350)
  • Tablet ($425)
  • TV ($435)
  • Musical instrument & lessons ($1,000)
  • Sofa ($2,000)
  • ATV ($7,500)
  • Trip to Europe ($4,500)
  • Motorcycle ($10,000)
  • Camper ($15,000)
  • Vacation home down payment ($20,000)


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