Consumer Watch: Planning tips for budgeting newbies


    There is no such thing as a one size fits all budget, but there are some tips we can all learn from.

    No matter how much your make, budgets matter. If you are just getting started, track where your money is going first. You may be surprised by what you find. Commit to tracking your spending for a month to see where all your money is going. Even after as little as week, you'll have a clearer picture of your spending habits.

    “Not just their big things-- the rent or house payment and their gas and electric, but where is all the money going. You know how much is going out in the little purchases that you do throughout the day and throughout the week,” says Matthew Stratton, Tinker Federal Credit Union, Senior VP of Marketing.

    Then, it's time to figure out your wants and your needs. Be sure you watch out for traps, like housing or transportation.

    “That also seems obvious, but we all have an idea that, you know, I need a car-- I want a Corvette. So, I think that my corvette is a need,” cautions Stratton.

    Decide what expenses are fixed or flexible. Your mortgage or rent tends to be fixed, or the same every month, for example. On the other hand, your dining out spending is flexible.

    “You can control how much you spend on those non-essentials that are still a part of what makes life worth living, but it is just a matter of getting a good grasp of what they are, and are there ways that you can change that if you need to, to meet some bigger goals,” says Stratton.

    Little changes, like rethinking your grocery list, can help improve your spending. However, there are times larger changes will keep you from living pay check to pay check. That can mean downsizing your home, or getting a less expensive car.

    The bottom line for budgets is that you should without a doubt have one, but don't be afraid to make changes if something isn't working, and always build in a little wiggle room.

    Another item you should always include in your budget is a savings plan. That should be the first thing you budget for, and try to save at least 10 percent every paycheck, and rebuild your spending around what is left.

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