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Every day is a chance for money management

November 06, 2009|By LYNN LITTLE

Improving your financial outlook and watching your savings and emergency fund grow do not need to be difficult.

Common habits can lead to overspending and often, unnecessary spending. Have you ever spent money without knowing how much money you really have available or automatically paid with a credit card rather than a debit card, cash or check? These practices can result in costly overdraft charges or other penalties on your accounts.

At home: Plan before spending

To begin improving your financial outlook, assess the money you have coming in and going out. Try tracking expenses daily for at least a week or more to get a handle on your spending habits. Reviewing your spending habits will help you identify unnecessary spending, including little leaks that add up over time.

Avoiding point-of-purchase snacks and drinks might be a place to start. Stash crackers, granola bars or dried fruit in your locker or desk, or bring fruit for a snack to save a dollar or more a day.

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Group errands together rather than making several trips. Carpool to kids' athletic activities, and, again, carry snacks from home to reduce unnecessary spending and yield savings.

To help reduce impulse purchases and increase savings, limit the number of shopping visits, shop with a list and stick to your list. Prioritizing your purchases will also help you curb your spending and boost savings.

In the store: Shop wisely

Many people are in the habit of shopping to fill recreational time. If this is true for you, find new and different recreational options that don't involve shopping or other associated costs to participate.

If you are in a buying mood, you might mistakenly think that "credit available" means "money available" and spend more than you can afford or reasonably pay at the end of the month. Reserve credit cards for limited use unless you are able to pay the account in full each month.

Some independent businesses offer a cash discount on purchases to reduce their cost of credit. Ask for a cash discount on regular or larger purchases.

Although paying with cash, debit card or check is usually your best option, there are times when using a credit card can be helpful in providing security for returns or potential complaints about unsatisfactory service.

Help for financial planning

Reviewing your spending habits will help you increase your savings or whittle away at your bills. This review can help you come up with a regular savings plan so you have funds available for emergencies, as well as a savings plan for the future - your retirement, for instance.

Visit www.extension.org/personal%20finance for more tips and ideas on sizing up your financial situation. On this Web site you will also find many other personal finance resources. If you have an individual question you'd like answered you can also "ask an expert."

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