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Budget is not a four-letter word

24 Aug

Budget is indeed a six-letter word but we often see it as something dirty, constrictive, and restrictive. However, many of us, if we hadn’t already, are learning that in today’s world we’ve had to define a new normal. Living on a budget is nothing to become uneasy about or even discouraged by. Being accountable to how you spend and what you spend it on is not only wise, it will also make you think about what is truly important to you. From those who are super shoppers to the charitable giver, having a budget actually gives you more freedom to do the things you want and need. And with the new school year about to begin and summer nearing its end, it’s something to really think about. It’s never too late to improve your finances.

It’s no longer news that gas prices are on the rise. Add to that the increased cost of things that depend on transportation (FYI that’s everything), we see our paychecks become smaller and smaller. How do we stretch the dollar? Carpool? Cut out entertainment? What? It’s time to think of a budget in a different way. A budget is more of a guide. If you sat down and took the time to write out your monthly expenses you’d find that they really don’t change and that for many, you spend without real consideration of what your total income really is. The vast majority of us live paycheck to paycheck. We reach for the credit card when we should be enjoying life within our means. While we may not be able to satisfy that urge to eat out or buy a new outfit every time it takes us, what we can do is allow ourselves to appreciate more the times that we do. Besides, do we really need all of that stuff?

We have all had to do more with less but often times it is without taking a real look at whether or not we really have to. For most of us we have our staple bills, mortgage, gas, electricity, water, and trash. Here’s something to consider. In many cases each of these companies provides you with options that permit you to pay the same amount every month. By taking advantage of this there are no surprise bills. Regardless of if you have income that varies from month to month creating a quick budget that allocates money to your required bills takes away the stress of whether or not the bills will get paid. For example, if you know that you spend $750 per month on all your required bills, you can then easily allocate money for the non-essentials. Be sure that you don’t forget to treat yourself. Even if that treat is only $5 a month. It can be used for entertainment. Having limits doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Rent a movie (or get it for free at the public library), buy some popcorn, and make it an evening of fun.

No matter how diligent you may be there will be times when you fall of the proverbial horse. Some months can be more difficult that others. However, there are no unexpected expenses. At some point in time you will end up with a blown tire or an extra bill. It is guaranteed to happen. What you do need to know is that the rainy day is going to come and so being prepared for it key. Put a little away for that day. And just know that you will fall short. We are all human. But it is doable.

We’re a society of excess. No matter how smart we may be we all fall into the trap of spending more than we have and after time that behavior causes us to add to the nation’s mounting debt. If we can’t balance our own checkbooks why should we be surprised that the government can’t balance theirs? Having a budget doesn’t mean we have to deprive ourselves, it just means that we’re being responsible in how we spend and how much stress we cause ourselves. There are plenty of resources available to easily assist you in coming up with a basic budget that’s right for you. Famously, and as I’ve referenced in this article, Dave Ramsey is a financial author and motivational speaker who offers many resources. The principles of living within our means and on a budget are simple and work best when customized for you and your specific needs.

This article appeared on page 5A in the 8/24/11 issue of The Union-Recorder.

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