Welcome to the Virtual Living Project. Below you will be given the instructions for the project, but first we should talk about why you are doing this. A lot of students graduate high school and go on to college where they are faced with many daily decisions. A lot of these decisions deal with money. Everyone loves money, but not everyone knows how to handle their money properly. Too many times I hear of students getting into debt that they could have prevented. This project is designed to simulate what it would be like to live on their own, working at a specific job with a specific salary. The goal of this project is to help you to learn how to plan a budget based on a fixed income. Below is an overview of what you will be doing...

Step 1 - Figuring out your career and salary

Step 2 - Figuring out your monthly Net pay

Step 3 - Paying Bills and other Expenses

Step 4 - Summarize and Report to the class

Step 1
Part A
The first step is to figure out what you want to do for a living. RESEARCH the type of career that you are interested in, and find out what the typical starting salary would be. Use credible resources when researching the salaries. Here are some example sites that you could use Salary.com, Monster, Salary Expert, Payscale. Do not just use one of these sites as the only source for your research, use a couple and compare. If they give you different salaries than you can take the average salary. PRINT out the screen that shows the salaries when you find them. This will go in with your final report!!!

Part B
You also need to do some research to figure out what it will take to get that job.  Do you need a certain degree?  Do you need certain types of experiences? How did people who do that job now get to where they are?  If you need to interview someone then that is an option too.  WHATEVER you do you need to somehow provide evidence of your research.

Step 2
Taking out Taxes
The next step is figuring out how much your gross and net pay will be based on a 40 hour work week. Then you will have to figure out how much you make per month. To do this follow the below.

Based on getting payed weekly:

  • If it is an hourly wage --- Hourly wage X 40 hours = Gross Pay

  • Look at the tax bracket spreadsheet below and take out the appropriate % of taxes that you owe to the government. This will leave you with your Net Pay.

  • Take your net pay and times it by 52 (for 52 weeks)

  • Then divide that number by 12 (12 months) to give you your total Net Pay each month.

  • Enter that in the Net Pay column of your spreadsheet.

Based on yearly salary:

  • Based on your salary...take out the appropriate amount of taxes. This will leave you with your Net Pay.

  • Take that number and divide it by 12 to give you your Monthly Net Pay.

  • Enter that Number in the Net Pay column of your spreadsheet.

Tax Rate
Most Single Filers
10% ..... Not over $8,375
15% ..... $8,375 - $34,000
25% ..... $34,000 - $82,400
28% ..... $82,400 - $171,850
33% ..... $171,850 - $737,650
35% ..... over $737,650

Step 3
Paying Your Bills and Expenses
The first thing you need to do is to create a budget spreadsheet that shows your income as well as all of your expenses. The spreadsheet must flow, meaning you must input all the proper formulas so everything will be calculated for you. A sample spreadsheet is provided for you in Step 4.

Then you need to list all your variable and fixed costs
You must have something filled in in each of the following categories below. You may also add anything else that you think your would have as an expense.

You must research how much it would be to rent a place. You have two options to choose from. You can live by yourself or you can have a roommate. Follow these steps:

  1. Think of a city that you would be living in.

  2. Research how much it would cost to live there...remember to use credible sources...and PRINT out anything that will support how much it costs as evidence.

  3. Decide if you need to have a roommate(s).

  4. Enter the results on your spreadsheet.

Utilities includes all the basic things you need at your new place. Utilities include:

  • Gas

  • Electricity

  • Water

  • Trash

  • Cable

  • Internet

  • Home Phone

Somehow provide evidence of your findings


  1. Research how much it would cost to buy all of your own food. This includes groceries for home, and eating out. A suggestion would be to ask someone who buys all of their own food already...like your parents or teachers or other family members.

  2. Put your formula on paper and print it out as evidence

  3. Enter your data to the spreadsheet.

For transportation you can have different options. Based on where you want to live may determine how you get around. For instance, if you live in New York than you probably don't want to own a car, but instead you will purchase subway and bus tickets. Decide on a means of transportation and research the costs. Print out any evidence that supports your findings.

  • Subway - If your area offers a Subway as a means of transportation and you decide to do this option, RESEARCH how much it would cost to travel around town. Is there a Monthly pass? Would you be interested in buying it? Is there a Yearly pass? Is that a better option?


  • Train - If you decide to take a train, research how much tickets costs, and how often you would be riding the train.


  • Bus - If you decide to take a bus, find out if there is a weekly, monthly, or yearly pass that you could choose to save money.


  • Trolly (like in San Francisco) - If this is an option, find out how much the rates are for riding a trolly. Is there a monthly or yearly pass that you could choose to save money?


  • Walking / Bicycle - This is FREE...but realistically will you want to do this? Probably not, so do not choose this option.


  • Buying a New Car - Research what type of car you want to drive. Research and find out how much the payments would be. Print out the evidence of your findings.


  • Buying a Used Car - Maybe you don't care about a new car, but you want to drive something to get around. You can always research how much it would cost to purchase a used car. If you choose this route than you need to calculate what the monthly payments would be.


  • Other - Get it APPROVED by the teacher beforehand.


Car Payment
How much would your car cost you? Decide on the type of car you want. 
If it is a New car, look at the costs of the car and find out how much the monthly payments would be. There is auto loan calculators that you can use online for free.
If it is a Used car, decide on how much you would be willing to spend on a car. Take that number and decide on how much your monthly payments would be. Use the free online auto loan calculator. Loan Calculator

Car Insurance
If you are using a car, how much would your monthly insurance costs be? Use at least 2 resources to come up with your numbers. Print out any evidence that supports your findings.

Cell Phone
Figure out what it costs to have YOUR OWN cell phone bill...NOT a $10 add on to your parents. Do some research at ATT, VERIZON, T-Mobile, Sprint, or others. Print any supportive evidence that you find.

Health Insurance
Staying healthy is important to most people, and health insurance is always a big expense. Based on where you live, California or out of state, figure out how much insurance would cost for a single person. Provide some sort of evidence of where you got your numbers. You can always google health insurance prices if needed. You can try to see if this site works for you Health.

Entertainment is anything "fun" that you think your lifestyle would hold. This category is pretty open to whatever you currently do, or what you wish you could do if you had money. Remember, going to the movies every week can add up. Whatever you come up with on a "MONTHLY" basis, provide evidence of how much it costs. 

Here are some suggested "normal" entertainment ideas

  • Movies

  • Eating Out with friends

  • Shopping (clothes, furniture, decor)

  • Concerts

  • Mini Vacations

  • Six Flags Magic Mountain

  • Dodger Baseball Games

  • Soccer Games

  • Art Shows in LA

  • etc...

Remember to provide evidence of your findings

Savings and Investments
Plan a fixed or variable amount of money that you plan to save for the future. The most common thing to do is to take a percentage of your Net income and invest it somewhere. You must choose where you want to save your money, and provide reasoning why you would save it there. Examples could be:

  • Savings Account - What is the interest rate on the account?

  • CD Account - What is the interest rate on the account for the term?

  • IRA Account

  • Roth IRA Account

  • Other

  • Life Insurance

Step 4

So what are you actually producing?You will be handing in your project in a folder. Within this folder you will provide the following:

Detailed Spreadsheet
You will have to keep track of all of your expenses as you go through this. You need to make a blank template first, and then fill in the blanks as you gather them from research. Remember-you must provide evidence for everything that you do or you get a zero. I have provided a sample spreadsheet that you could get ideas from.

  • Details

  • Download

  • 5 MB


  • Details

  • Download

  • 185 KB

Report on the overall project
Must be double spaced, MLA format, 12 font, etc...Maximum 3 pages long. Minimum 1 1/2 Pages. 
The paper must include at least the following topics:

  • *  Career Choice - Why did you choose that career? What qualifications do you need to have that career? What types of schooling do you need? How long does it take to achieve the career position?

  • *  What did you think about the Net pay verses the Gross pay? Was the difference shocking?

  • *  Write about the choices you made as you were researching about where you were going to live, what type of car you were going to drive, etc...

  • *  Do you have money to spend on gong to the movies every week? Can you eat out at restaurants every week? Do you have to actually make a budget to pay your bills?

  • *  How much did you decide to invest monthly? And WHY did you choose to do that specific investment? Is your investment a risky investment? What is the rate of return of your investment?

  • *  Write about whatever comes to mind about the project. Was it insightful? Is this something every student should go through?

  • *  What things could be added to it? What things could be changed?

  • *  Whatever else you would like to write about please do...


You will be presenting to the class using Powerpoint (Keynote). You should include at least the following to talk about:

  • Career Choice

  • How much you make a month

  • Copy of your spreadsheet - YOU MUST EXPLAIN your spreadsheet to us :)

  • Talk about how your research went...what things did you learn from your research?

  • Things you learned from doing this project overall

  • Things that could be changed / improved / modified

  • Anything else you want to share with us

Should be about 5 minutes long...make it interesting...get pictures of what you do, your house or apartment, your car you drive, etc...