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This may come as no surprise, but three out of four Americans hate financial planning. Many of us like to dream about things such as buying a new home, traveling to different places, sending our children to college, or even retiring early. Unfortunately, the reality of financing those dreams often prevents many of us from living them out, which may explain, in part, why so many people hate financial planning. With some patience, planning and discipline, you can achieve some if not all of your dreams, and at the same time, feel better about yourself and your money!

Get Started Managing Your Money
by Terry J. Rigg

There are literally thousands of articles about how you should or should not manage your money. Myself and other well intentioned money saving wizards bombard you with ideas of all that you should be doing. However, if you are behind two payments on your mortgage or rent, credit card debt up to your ears or there is a tow truck waiting outside to repossess your car, not much of what we say really seems to fit your situation.

This article will attempt to give you some guidelines to help you get started no matter what your situation. The steps are fairly simple. Access the Situation, Damage Control, Find a Way and Get on Track are just 4 steps that you will need to
take quickly.

Access the Situation

Sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and find out where you are now. No I'm not talking about a budget yet. Many people never take the time to get a picture of what they have coming in compared to what they have going out. On the left
side of the paper put down any income you have. Only consider take home money because this is all that matters to you right now. On the right side of the paper write down all of the bills that you have coming out this month. At the bottom of the paper, put down any bills that are past due with the dollar amount needed to bring them up to date. Now total everything. Then subtract your bills from your income. If there is anything left over after bills, deduct what it will cost you for food and other necessities for the month.

Damage Control

If you are behind on your bills or just don't have enough money left after bills to buy what you need, something has to be done. This is where you have to set priorities. The first step is to eliminate anything you don't absolutely need. Some good examples of this are things like call waiting and other extras on your phone bill, selling that second car unless it is needed to earn income or stop eating out.

Here is a priority list of how you need to spend your money if you are behind:

1. Groceries and necessary health items
2. Mortgage or rent
3. Utilities
4. Other bills such as installment loans or credit cards

Notice that the above list adressess your basic needs, food, water and shelter, first.

Your next step is to call your bill collectors and let them know about your situation. I guarantee hiding from them will only make things worse. Let them know you can't pay them. Most important is to tell them you are working on the situation and will keep them informed. You will be surprised how many will work with you.

If you can't seem to get control of this on your own, consider contacting a free credit counseling service. You can find Consumer Credit Counseling Service at www.credit.org. They can make arrangements for you to pay them a set amount each month to be distributed to your bill collectors.

Find A Way

The fact is that you need to get your finances in order, if for no other reason than your sanity. You can do one of two things to help with the problem. Increase your income or decrease your spending. While there are several ways to increase your income, they don't necessarily help. Let's take the example of getting a second job. You have extra expenses such as transportation, extra taxes, food, etc. that will cut deep into what you make.

Your best bet is to decrease your spending. You can start by visiting my web site, The FREE Budget Stretcher Newsletter at http://www.homemoneyhelp.com. When you subscribe, you will find links to several hundred sites that provide ways to cut your spending. Here is a list of other sites that can help:




Debt Smart

Freebie Haven

The Stay-At-Home Parents Page

Brighter Futures




You Save On Taxes.com

I have chosen these sites because all of the information is free. I can almost guarantee that these sites will have what you need.

Get on Track

After you have looked into all of the above, it is time for a budget. The last thing you need is a budget that takes most of your time just to manage. I have developed a simple, easy to use budget system that will take very little of your time. It will also help organize your bill paying. You can find The Complete Budget and Bill Organizer at http://www.homemoneyhelp.com/BBOonline.html. This organizer is free. Whether you use my budget or someone elses, you must establish a budget and stick to it.

If you are reading this article, chances are you have a computer. Use it to find other ideas to help you manage your money. Try searching key words like: money saving, budget help and credit help.

About the Author
Terry Rigg is the author of Living Within Your Means - The Easy Way http://www.homemoneyhelp.com/ebookadpage.html and editor of The FREE Budget Stretcher Newsletter and Budget Stretcher web site http://www.homemoneyhelp.com. He has 25 years of experience counseling individuals and families concerning their personal finances.