Bridges Blog Financial Resources Series: Managing Money March 2024

Money Management Basics

Managing Money March with Our Bridges Resource Library

This month, we dive into MONEY! Once we have money, we need to know how to keep track of it. And, of course, we will need to file taxes. Join us for Managing Money March!

  • March 5: Money Management Basics
  • March 12: Background Information About Taxes
  • March 19: Types of Income and Taxes on Earned Income
  • March 26: Doing My Income Taxes

This week, we explore some fundamental aspects of money management.

Bridges’ Support Always Available

Please remember that we at the Bridges Technical Assistance Center are eager to help you meet your money management – or other — needs.

Aspects of Money Management – The Basics

What is money management?

It’s great to make money, and it’s great to have money. But the real purpose of making money is to have money, and the real purpose of having money is to be able to spend it.

Of course. Once money is spent, it cannot be spent again – so it’s important to make good decisions about spending it. This requires setting priorities (both short- and long-term) about how to spend, as well as deciding how much to spend on any item or service.

Banking and credit cards

Below, please find information about the two major means of collecting and distributing money: bank/credit union accounts and credit cards. We also include links to information about ABLE accounts.

Money management concepts and tools

Lastly, we discuss a few foundational concepts for money management and provide some ideas and tools to get started on the money management journey – a journey to financial independence!


Banking Basics

Bank and credit union accounts (collectively referred to as “bank accounts” here) – both savings and checking – provide a great way to collect money, store money, and spend money. Many bank accounts are available at no cost, and they often provide great additional services, like online banking, debit cards, credit cards, and more.

Benefits of Banking

Some employers require employees to have a bank account so that earnings may be deposited directly into that account (instead of issuing paper checks that need to be deposited or cashed out). While a bank account is not a requirement for SSI payments, it is a good idea (the alternative is a debit card).

Bank accounts allow you to keep your money in a safe place (bank accounts are insured – piggy banks and coffee cans are not). Also, you can pay bills and make purchases online using your bank account, and you can withdraw cash from your bank account 24 hours per day, seven days per week using an ATM (automated teller machine).

Accessibility in Banking

Of course, effective (and private) online banking requires an accessible interface. Here at the Bridges Technical Assistance Center and Helpdesk, we have experience with different bank software platforms, and we can help you find good options or decide between options you have already identified. We can also help you along the way – from opening an account to becoming comfortable with different actions in your account. Please reach out to us for any needed assistance.

ABLE accounts

For more information on the benefits of these special savings accounts, please check out:

Credit Cards

Credit cards can be important tools in your money management toolbox. Yet they are powerful tools, and, unless closely managed, they can become barriers to financial independence.

Credit card companies often besiege young adults with credit card offers. Many of these offers contain hidden fees and focus on making the credit card companies wealthy. On the other hand, it can be difficult for many young adults to find credit cards that do not impose fees or hidden charges.

Building a credit history with secured credit cards

A great option for a first credit is called a “secured” credit. These cards are credit cards, but the bank keeps the entire credit limit in an account that you cannot access – that’s the “security.” Thus, if you don’t pay your bill, the bank can simply use the money in savings to pay the bill for you.

Secured credit cards are a great way to build a credit history – if you use them correctly.

  1. Choose a credit card from the bank or credit union where you have your checking and savings accounts.
  2. Keep the credit limit low (especially if you are receiving SSI payments) because you won’t have access to that security amount, but it will count as a resource for SSI, and other means-tested programs.
  3. Budget how much you will spend each month, and stick to that budget. See below for more information about budgeting.
  4. Keep track of what you are spending. See below for more information about tracking spending.
  5. Pay off your credit card bill BEFORE it is due. This helps build your credit AND prevents you from being charged additional fees.

Monitor credit card use

Choose a credit card with a good and accessible online platform, and use that platform to monitor your credit card use. This is especially helpful for keeping track of recurring charges from monthly subscriptions, like streaming and gaming services, donations, etc.

Guarding against unauthorized credit card use

Credit cards also impose an important responsibility on the cardholder: monitoring for misuse and unauthorized use. David DeNotaris, one of the Bridges Technical Assistance Center’s national transition experts, advises anyone using a credit card to enable automatic alerts whenever the credit card is used. Most cards offer this feature (with alerts via email or text message), so ask about it before you open the account.

Carlton Walker, Director of the Bridges Technical Assistance Center, heard David’s advice and added these alerts to her credit card. Just last month, these alerts let Carlton know that an unauthorized charge was made – and several unauthorized charges after that. While Carlton would have caught the charges during account monitoring, the alerts allowed Carlton to address the situation earlier and prevent a cascade of unauthorized charges.

Next Steps in Money Management


Bank accounts and credit cards are great, and good, accessible software allows us to check a balance at any time. Alerts regarding deposits and withdrawals increase our ability to control our accounts.

Nevertheless, many will benefit from tracking banking and credit card activity outside of the financial institution’s program. This is particularly helpful when deposits or withdrawals (like pending payments) are shown in the program but not immediately active (they are delayed). In these cases, it can seem like we have more (or less) money than we do/will in a few days.

In the “old days,” many people kept track of their banking activities in a “check register.” Today, electronic and accessible versions of check registers can be useful for tracking activity in both checking accounts and credit cards.

We at the Bridges Technical Assistance Center have created a very simple register to share. It is an accessible Excel spreadsheet with calculations built in – just enter the beginning amount in cell C2, and enter each deposit or withdrawal on a separate line in the appropriate column. Please feel free to download and use the Bridges’ Electronic Check or Credit Card register with titles from Google Drive.


Budgeting provides the opportunity to evaluate our income and expenses and to prioritize where we want to spend our money.

Each of us benefits from the process of categorizing our expenses into different categories:

  • Needs and wants
    • Needs: Food, utilities, shelter, work-related expenses
    • Wants: Specialty foods/eating out, night on the town, vacation
  • Fixed and variable expenses
    • Fixed: Rent, mortgage, streaming service
    • Variable: Food, electricity bill
  • Regular and intermittent expenses
    • Regular: Monthly bills
    • Intermittent: Annual, semi-annual, quarterly bills

Once we have identified our needs and our wants, we can begin to budget. We take our income over a time period (such as one month) and determine what our expenses are for that month.

  • For intermittent expenses, we pre-rate the expense and treat it like that pro-rated amount is a regular monthly expense.
    • For example, if our Renters’ Insurance costs $300 per year, we divide $300 into 12 months and put aside $25 per month toward that insurance bill that we will need to pay.
    • We recognize that the monthly $25 is NOT available for spending, and we don’t count it as saving toward anything else.
  • For variable expenses, we make our best estimate of an average monthly cost.
    • We recognize that some items, like heating costs, will be higher in the winter, and some items, like air conditioning, will be higher in the summer.
    • If needed, we can treat some variable costs as intermittent expenses so that we save enough money during each month to pay larger bills later in the year.

The key to budgeting is setting up a plan to make sure that we can fully pay for all of our needs each month based on our income. Next, we are wise to set aside some income as savings. After that, we can determine how much money is left for “wants” and special items.


Keeping accurate records of our income and spending helps in the budgeting process and can be empowering. Good record-keeping will also benefit us when reporting income for means-based programs, like SSI and SSDI. For more information, please check out one or more of the following:

Good, consistent record-keeping also helps us at tax time. By regularly keeping track of our income and expenses, we make our lives easier each Spring when must file our state and federal income tax returns!

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Bridge’s Technical Assistance Center’s Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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