Credit Crunch: Implement A Budget
Implementing a personal budget can be more difficult than you would expect. Start by writing out a great budget that allows for paying down any accumulated debt while still leaving a reasonable amount to live on for food, clothes, entertainment, etc.,
Once you've planned a budget, be sure to implement it! Often times, it seems that actually getting started never seems to happen. Usually it's because an unexpected expense comes up. There are some steps you can take that will the transition to a budget much easier.
For starters, learn to expect the unexpected. If you're a homeowner and/or a parent, there will always be surprises. Plan for them in advance by adding a miscellaneous expense item to your monthly budget projection to cover just such occurrences. You should also set up an emergency fund to cover larger surprises including unanticipated medical costs, the loss of a job, etc.
A sample worksheet for budgeting:
Obviously, the money will have to come from somewhere to implement these suggestions — and the solution surely should not be going deeper into debt. Instead, cut down (substantially, if necessary) on discretionary expenses including lunches out, costly dry cleaning bills, and even your morning grande latté. The easiest way to do this is to have each family member carry a notebook or organizer and record every single purchase made for at least a two-week period, including fast food, manicures, movie tickets, and so on. If you're like most families, you'll be amazed at how much money you're spending on these seemingly innocuous expenses. I'd be very surprised if you couldn't realistically "find" at least $100 per month by paring down these costs.
Don't doom your budget to failure by approaching it like a New Year's resolution starvation diet. If you cut out all of life's pleasures, you'll be sure to find your hand right back in the cookie jar before long.