Christine Parker: Hi! I am Christine Parker, and I am a financial planner and a member of the Financial Planning Association. I am here to discuss budgeting. Right now, I am going to talk about taking financial control and trimming your expenses.
You may find that the very process of creating a budget will raise awareness of your spending habits and prompt you to make changes. Suddenly, you'll see in black-and-white where you are spending money, and sometimes that can be quite a surprise.
As you analyze your cash flow, make notes of what you want to change. Ask yourself, if your spending reflects your values and priorities? Does your spending take you closer to your goals? Is your income adequate to pay basic expenses with some money remaining to put toward your goals?
It the answers are no, you must increase your income to cover your expenses or trim your spending to bring it into line with your income. Can you increase your income? What are the possibilities? Find a higher paying job, secure a salary increase, or take one additional part-time work.
From your perspective, which path is the most realistic for you? If you set out to control spending, what's the most promising approach?
Step 1. Cut out Avoidable Expenses.
Step 2. Reduce Variable Spending.
Step 3. Plan to Lower Fixed Cost.
Here are few ideas to control spending. Make choices about what will give you the most pleasure, what will be better for you and your family in the long run. For example, is an expense like eating out everyday, something you really want to fund? Or would you prefer to direct that money to a family vacation or a class at your local community college.
Put the brakes on impulse buying and stay away from shopping malls or leaving your credit cards at home. Wait 24 hours before making a large purchase to decide if it's really worth it.
Before you pull out a credit card to buy something, ask yourself, if you would take out a bank loan to get it as well. Whenever possible, pay your credit card balance in full each month or at least pay more then the minimum due to minimize interest charges. Pay off your highest interest rate debts first. Or some planners suggest paying off your smallest credit cards' balances first so that you can have fewer bills to manage in a sense of accomplishment.
Lower your utility bills by setting back your thermostat, sealing drafty Windows and doors, adding energy efficient insulation to the attic, using compact fluorescent bulbs and washing clothes in cold water.
Shop for groceries using a list or coupons, avoid late fees by marking due dates on your calendar, programming your cellphone to remind you of bill payments, or automatically paying bills from your checking account.
Before spending money on entertainment, ask yourself, what else you could do that would be just as much fun, but free. If your debt feels overwhelming, enlist the help of a non-profit debt counseling agency.
If you're spending more than what you are earning, there are two ways to get yourself back in the black. You either must increase your income to cover your expenses or you must trim your spending to bring it into line with your income.
Now that you know the importance of taking financial control, let's talk about reducing your debt.