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Some people pride themselves on being self-disciplined when it comes to spending their money. Others may need a visual reminder of where their money goes. Creating a personal budget is the key to gaining control of your money. A budget helps you make sure you’ll have enough money every month. It helps you decide what you spend your money on, letting you know when you can spend less money on some things and more money on other things.

1. Keep your budget & goals realistic – Goals need to be manageable. If you’re looking to pay down debt, make sure you can afford the payment you want to include in your budget.

2. Account for all expenses & seasonal changes – Evaluate your bills from each month of the prior year for a reminder of the fluctuating expenses. Perhaps your power and water bills increased during the summer months. Make sure to account for the difference in this year’s budget!

3. Don’t forget the incidentals – Expand your budget beyond your grocery, loan payments and utility expenses to include spending on clothes, eating out, coffee breaks, haircuts and more.

4. Include savings in your budget – Whether you’re building an emergency savings fund or contributing to your retirement, make saving a real goal in your budget.

5. Shop the discounts – This can be in the form of online grocery coupons or calling your utility, cable or credit card companies to inquire about promotions, special deals, waiving fees or other savings opportunities.

6. Get rid of the excess – If you have any excess clothing, decorations for the home, winter coats, toys or more, donate them to a charity of choice and you could earn a tax benefit.

7. Automate where possible – Sign up for payroll deduction and online banking at the credit union so you can have your savings contribution automatically deducted from your paycheck. This way you’ll have better visibility to your accounts for tracking your spending.

8. Enjoy a little – Set aside an affordable entertainment fund so you can enjoy some of your paycheck! This might include shopping, dining out or recreational adventures. A great way to save for perks is to collect the loose, remaining change after you’ve made a cash purchase. At the end of the year, you’ll be surprised at how much you have to use!

9. Always look for substitutions – You don’t always have to buy new, or even buy at all when it comes to acquiring goods. Look for substitutes such as visiting the library for books and shopping for secondhand or refurbished instead when it comes to cars, phones, computers, décor, toys, or even clothing.

10. Review your budget often – Many times people make the budget and try to follow it in their heads without truly tracking it on their computer or with pen and paper. Unless you monitor it closely, the daily incidentals accumulate and can cause you to veer off course with your budget.