The U.S. Financial Diaries project, a joint initiative of NYU Wagner’s Financial Access Initiative (FAI) and The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), reveals hard-to-see aspects of the financial lives of working Americans, providing new insight for the design of financial services policies, programs and products for a broad range of Americans.
Each of the project's Household Profiles presents the financial life of one family in the USFD study. While these families are not necessarily representative of the total sample, they illustrate recurring themes: households struggling with income volatility, unplanned expenses, and finding ways to save and invest, but also using creative–and sometimes counter intuitive–budget and money management strategies to help make ends meet.
The latest profile focuses on Lauren Walker, a single mother living with her four-year-old son in a rented townhome in a small town in eastern Mississippi. Lauren works full time as an administrative assistant for a local construction and engineering firm, and she covers her frugal needs with her annual income. Lauren employs several financial management tactics: keeping expenses low, timing the payment of recurring bills to align with her income, paying for larger expenses gradually, and getting financial assistance from her mother for childcare and other occasional expenses The Earned Income Tax Credit, which she relies on to pay off her debt to her mother, complements her financial discipline to help her stay on top of her bills and manage ups and downs.