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How To Budget And Keep Your Sanity
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Is budget a dirty word to you? Do you think of it as too restraining and a bit of a fun-killer? If so, you may want to rethink that, because making a budget and living within its boundaries can give you a whole new lease on life, and more than likely will bring you greater peace of mind.

Obviously step one would be to create a budget, and although it's easier to work a budget when you have a program like Excel, it is not absolutely necessary. So here is a list of bulleted items that might appear on your budget:

• rent • car payment • car insurance • utilities bill • cable bill • phone bill • life insurance • credit card payments • miscellaneous bills like web hosting, dental plans, etc. • food • gasoline • eating out • doctor • medications

The main thing is to put ABSOLUTELY everything on the list that you spend money on, leaving nothing off the list.

To the right of the item you’ll put the following information:

• dollar amount of each item • due date (if it’s a bill) • whether it’s recurring monthly, every few months, or a one time expense • whether it’s paid or not

Here’s what headings you should have over the items: Bill, Amount Due, Date Recurring, Paid. The Date Recurring heading is for whether the bill is monthly, quarterly or annually. So your headings will be at the top of the page and your line items (bills) will be down below with the dollar and due date information. The Paid column is for a check mark after it's paid.

After you’ve pulled your entire budget together, you’ll want to put your incoming monies at the top to know what you’re working with. Simply subtract your total bills and expenses from what money you have coming in. If there is more money than bills, yell hip-hip-hurray and give your self a pat on the back. If there are more bills than money, then you’ll have to find ways to trim your spending. Here are a few ideas:

• switch car insurance companies

• call your cable company and ask if there is anything you can do to reduce your bill

• same deal on your phone, call your carrier and ask if there are any better packages price wise

• buy generic versions of food items instead of brand names. You'd be surprised how much you'll save on your food budget, without sacrificing taste and quality. And the Walmart brand items compete in almost every category; from crackers, to cereals, to dairy ... all adding up to hundreds of dollars in savings yearly. I save at least $20 per trip by buying the Walmart version of any item.

• reduce the amount of times you eat out per week, and when you do eat out, do not order beverages. Drink water instead. Also, some restaurants offer pretty big portions, so you could order one dish and share it. They won't mind bringing you an extra plate.

• Use coupons for eating out. You can usually find a host of them online.

• Spend less on frivolous items that you don't really need

People tend to think that if they take little steps to save money it's like denying themselves something, but that really is not the case. And if you look at it like it's an adventure versus a drag, then you'll be excited about it.

One of the major reasons people get into trouble money-wise is because they DO NOT have a budget and they never really think about where they are spending money. Nor do they think about the value they are getting for what they are spending. I personally bring my daughter to Chick-fila breakfast a couple of times per week, but I bring my own tea and breakfast items. It saves money and I get to eat EXACTLY what I want.

It never feels good to be playing it so close to the vest that you're worried, so having a budget, embracing a budget, and for the most part, living by your budget will give you peace of mind. And the idea is to know what you are spending and where, and then to make moderate but effective adjustments.

Hope this inspires you to get a feel for how much you’re spending versus how much you’re making, and that it puts you permanently on that road of always having a budget and being content to live within it.

Street Talk

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