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Take Charge of your money

When it comes to money, you are in the driver’s seat and it is up to you to manage all of your resources.  Where does your money go?  Do you let it slip through your hands or do you control it?  During Financial Literacy Month, make an effort to take charge of your money and other resources to achieve your goals and get from where you are to where you want to be.

If you want to control your money, first distinguish between “needs and wants,” consider your values, goals and all of your resources.  It is okay to have a list of “wants”, but we usually don’t have enough money to pay the bills and purchase all of the things we want.  It becomes necessary to cover basic needs, then prioritize those “wants” and make a plan to acquire things when you have the money to cover the cost.

Look for ways to reduce expenses.  For example, you can save up to 15 percent of your take home pay by making and following a spending plan that covers your fixed expenses, flexible expenses, and funds for emergencies and future goals.  Another 25 to 30 percent can be cut by shopping with a list and doing comparative shopping before you make a purchase.  Look at flexible spending categories and find ways to cut back, then direct the difference toward savings or paying off debts.

Stretch transportation dollars by keeping your automobile in good shape.  Get regular maintenance and service checkups and use your care owner’s manual to plan maintenance. You’ll get better gas mileage and postpone major repairs.  Likewise, you delay the need for purchasing a newer vehicle, which saves you money over time.

Spend less by taking care of what you already have, whether it’s clothing, appliances or your home; regular maintenance keeps you from making big repairs that cost big money.  Take  care – recycle, remodel and recreate. Use your skills to repair or trade off with someone who has the skills you don’t.  For example, a friend or relative might be able to do a roof repair for you in exchange for painting several rooms.

Food is another spending category that can be controlled if you plan in advance. Buy only what you will use within a week and eliminate food waste. The average family wastes about 20 percent of their food through improper storage; buying too much and then eating out all week or not using leftovers.  Just think about all of those science projects in the back of the refrigerator you have to throw out.  Next time you clean out the refrigerator, add up the cost you are putting into the garbage can.  Plan meals and snacks around weekly sales, start preparing more meals at home and you will spend less on food.

Manage credit wisely.  If you use credit, try to buy at the start of the billing cycle so you won’t be billed for 25 days and charge only what you can pay off.  Pay the bill in full to save the interest fees.  Try operating on a cash only basis for a couple of months while you work on paying down those credit card debts.

Check your spending habits.  Do you waste money?  We often spend more than we think and money slips out of our wallets without much thought.   Try this exercise – for one week, whenever you take your wallet out, write down how much you spend.  You may be shocked at the amount of money that leaves your pocket each week.  We call these small amounts spending leaks, and they can add up to large amounts of money over time.  Remember, a dollar a day saved is $365 a year.

Controlling money is in your hands.  It’s up to you to manage your resources and direct money where you want it to go.  During Financial Literacy Month, make an effort to take charge of your money.   For more information on how you can cut costs and take charge of your money, contact the Madison County Extension Service.

The IFAS/University of Florida Extension – Madison County is an Equal Employment Opportunity Affirmative Action Institution.

-Diann Douglas

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