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Watching Your Pennies: 5 Keys to Unlock Your Budget

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0121homespunweb.jpgRISMEDIA, Jan. 21, 2008-(MCT)-As simple as it may seem, spending no more than you make isn’t easy. “I think a lot of people don’t understand what they spend their money on and without knowing that, it’s hard to come up with a budget,” said Cecil McPherron, a shareholder at Wealth Advisors of Colorado.

McPherron said his company mainly advises businesses about finance, but he said a good way to get a handle on where the money goes is to use a software system like Quicken.

If computer software isn’t possible, a low-tech solution also will work.

Steve LaForest, owner of Financial Fitness LLC, Greeley, Colorado, said it is important to break expenses down into specific categories like rent or mortgage payment, groceries, eating out and association fees, for example.

Start with a yellow piece of lined paper, write expense categories across the top and write numbers 1-30 down the right side. Fill in your expenses for each day and each category on this page. It is important to be specific, LaForest said.

LaForest said once you know where the money goes, you can begin to find ways to cut back on what you spend. He also said many people may benefit from adjusting the amount of money they have withheld in taxes from their paychecks.

“When you get your next paycheck, that is your budget,” LaForest said. “But to get to that point, you first have to do a good budget.”

Once a budget is worked out, it is easy to backslide. LaForest said it is important to have specific and reachable budgetary goals in mind. He said if you have $8,000 worth of credit card debt, for example, set a goal of reducing that by half in a year. That kind of goal is specific and manageable.

“Getting more specific with that is important,” he said.

Even under the best of circumstances, sticking to a budget isn’t easy and takes work, LaForest said.

“Most people don’t have fiscal discipline,” LaForest said. “They were never taught.”

Five keys to a better budget

LaForest said the five most important steps to making and sticking to a budget as a means of getting out of debt are:

1. Track your expenses and categorize them for at least 30 days.
2. Find out where you can cut back expenses
3. Make sure you aren’t having too much in taxes deducted from your paycheck
4. If necessary, you may have to take a second job or find other sources of income
5. If you have children, put them on a budget

Copyright © 2008, Greeley Tribune, Colo.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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