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Taking better control of your financial future this year starts with going back to the basics, and creating or adjusting your budget to fit your life.

First, figure out where you are right now. Use a spending diary to track your expenses for a month or two, looking for patterns and keeping an eye out for purchases that aren’t necessary or that you could have saved up for instead of financing.

Second, you should set your financial goals for the short (one year), medium (one to four years) and long (five or more years) terms. Make sure that these goals are specific, measurable, adjustable, realistic, and time-oriented goals, often referred to as SMART goals. Break these goals down into monthly chunks for your budget.

Third, create and manage your spending plan. Add up your income, determine what you need to spend every month and what you want to spend every month. Use the categories from your spending diary to determine what discretionary and personal expenses you may be able to cut back on. Once you have a spending plan in place, keep going! Track your expenses, pay your bills, and review your goals. If your budget no longer fits your goals, then make adjustments.  

Get a list of some of the most common “spending leaks” to help you save money, a budgeting spreadsheet, and more advice at stcumoney.org

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