Life requires a LOT of financial decisions.
In this unit, you built spreadsheets to: Compare cell phone prices and monthly contracts; Choose housing options based on their proximity to a frequently-traveled location; Categorize and calculate monthly expenses; Determine car payments and loan interest amounts; And budget an entire vacation based on a randomly-assigned amount of money.
You also created code that communicates with the Google Maps API and calculates the distance between two points on a map.
And you used functions and formulas in Google Sheets to help you balance all of your budgets.
Budgets are an integral part of life on all levels.
Families, businesses, and even entire nations have budgets.
Balancing a budget is not easy.
Just look at the United States government.
Politicians talk all the time about “balancing the budget”--but it’s really hard to do!
If you have time, check out the New York Times Budget Puzzle game by clicking on the link on this page.
Behind the scenes of this budget puzzle is code that operates much like the budget spreadsheets you created.
A computer scientist like you figured out all the math and made a program.
The sheet has frozen rows at the top, so you see the savings you selected no matter where you are in the sheet.
Clicking one of the budget reduction options reduces the budget by a projected amount.
In fact, selecting a box is like using a SUMIF formula in your spreadsheet.
In your spreadsheet, if a value was labeled with a particular category label, the computer added it.
In the Budget Puzzle, IF the box is clicked, then the computer program subtracts the budget savings from the deficit.
Also like your spreadsheet, every decision you make in balancing the national budget has its benefits and drawbacks.
Check out what supporters and opponents have to say about each decision.
Balancing a budget is hard enough for one person.
Play around with this tool to get an idea of budgeting for an entire country!
Even though national, business, and even family budgets are more complicated than your personal budget, the basic concepts and skills you learned are applicable to them all.
Spreadsheets help you account for an organize all of your income, expenses, and savings.
They also help you make sound financial decisions that work best for you.
Those decisions may not be the best for other people, and that’s okay!
The spreadsheets you created in this unit can work together to help you track expenses and avoid overspending.
When you make good decisions about long-term purchases, housing options, car loans, you might have money left over each month.
Then, you could save up for a vacation or another large purchase.
In order to go on a vacation like the one you planned in the final activity, you must budget other expenses carefully.
If you spend too much on housing, car loans, or long-term contractual purchases, you won’t have much disposable income.
Disposable income is money you have left after taxes and bills that you can spend or save as you wish.
As you saw, you can also use spreadsheets to easily find where you spend your money.
Categorizing your expenditures can help you identify costs you could reduce.
For example, you could cut down on food costs by packing your lunch or brewing your own coffee.
You could choose a basic cell phone and data plan with smaller monthly payments.
You could rent an apartment that is closer to your school or workplace to save money on gas.
And you could borrow less money and pay it off quickly when taking out a car loan.
Routinely saving even small amounts of money can help you have a safety net for unexpected expenses, or extra spending for a vacation.
At the end of the day, budgeting is a skill you will use for the rest of your life.
If you’re interested in learning more about financial decision-making, check out BetterMoneyHabits.com, a partnership between Bank of America and Khan Academy.
If you get in the habit of using spreadsheets to organize your expenses, you can decrease spending on unnecessary items and increase your savings--maybe even take a vacation like the exciting one you planned!
Until next time, keep coding and learning!