The Our Money Needs Calculator helps you understand whether your family earns enough money to make ends meet without any government support or help from friends or family. If this income seems out of reach, stay with us. You are not alone and there are resources that can help move your family forward.
Into numbers? The Our Money Needs Calculator is based on United Way of North Carolina’s Self-Sufficiency Standard and offers a more comprehensive and useful baseline for North Carolina families. It considers seven components, including where you live in North Carolina, your family makeup, taxes and basic needs. Basic needs include housing, child care, food, transportation, health care and other essentials. The Our Money Needs Calculator can also be used to determine a starting place for your family’s emergency fund. Explore the data behind each component below.
Housing costs are based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Fair Market Rents (FMRs). FMRs include utilities, except telephone and cable, and reflect the cost of housing that meets basic standards of decency. FMRs are set at the 40th percentile, meaning that 40% of the decent rental housing in a given area is less expensive than the FMR and 60% is more expensive. FMRs within a multi-county metropolitan area are adjusted using Small Area FMRs.
Child care includes the expense of full-time care for infants and preschoolers and part-time care for school-age children before and after school. The cost of child care is calculated from market-rate costs (defined as the 75th percentile) taken from a state-commissioned survey by facility type, age, and geographic location. It does not include extracurricular activities, babysitting when not at work, or coverage for work beyond full time.
Food assumes the cost of nutritious food prepared at home based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Low-Cost Food Plan. The Low-Cost Food Plan was designed to meet minimum nutritional standards using realistic assumptions about food preparation time and consumption patterns. The food costs do not allow for any take-out or restaurant meals. Food costs are varied by county using Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap data based on Nielsen scans of grocery receipts.
The Standard assumes the cost of public transportation if 7% or more of workers use public transportation to get to and from work. However, no counties in North Carolina meet this level, so private transportation costs are assumed for all counties in North Carolina. Private transportation costs assume the expense of owning and operating a car. Per-mile costs are calculated from the American Automobile Association. Commuting distance is computed from the National Household Travel Survey. Auto insurance premiums are the average statewide premium cost from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners index by county using premiums from top market share automobile insurance companies. Fixed costs of car ownership are calculated using Consumer Expenditure Survey amounts for families with incomes between the 20th and 40th percentile. Travel is limited to commuting to work and day care plus one shopping trip per week.
Health care costs assume the expenses of employer-sponsored health insurance. Health care premiums are the statewide average paid by workers, for single adults and for families, from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. A county index is calculated from rates for the second-lowest cost Silver plan via the federal marketplace.
Miscellaneous expenses are calculated by taking 10% of all other costs. This expense category consists of all other essentials including clothing, shoes, paper products, diapers, nonprescription medicines, cleaning products, household items, personal hygiene items, and telephone service. It does not include cable or internet service.
Taxes include federal income tax, payroll taxes, and state and local sales taxes where applicable. Tax credits calculated in the Standard include: the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit. State tax credits include the North Carolina Child Credit.
Emergency savings is the amount needed to cover living expenses when there is job loss net of the amount expected to be received in unemployment benefits. The amount calculated takes into account the average tenure on a job and the average length of unemployment of North Carolina workers. In two-adult households, the second adult is assumed to be employed so that the savings only need to cover half of the family’s basic living expenses over the job loss period.
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