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Money and Sense

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To download your Fritter Finder, click on the links after the story below.

If you reach the end of the month and you're barely making it cash wise until payday, you're not alone. Millions of people in the United States live paycheck to paycheck. But there are a few steps you can take to help get ahead of the game and get a handle on your finances.

Effective money management begins with a plan. A plan for your money to help you budget, save and get out of debt.

Cutting all of her credit cards up was the first step to becoming debt free for Paulette Underwood. Then she called Consumer Credit Counseling to help pay it off. During the past few months, Consumer Credit Counseling has negotiated lower rates with her creditors, reduced late fees, and consolidated her debt into one monthly payment. In turn, Paulette pays Consumer Credit Counseling a small monthly fee. "They don't make you feel bad, because you're in debt," she explained. "They help you."

JoEllen Dennis, a credit counselor, says her clients have all told her that it feels really good to know they have successfully paid off their debt. But it doesn't end there.
The company also helps clients make a plan for the future.

A fritter finder is what the company calls the form they use to help people track out of pocket expenses. Expenses that everyone has including food, gasoline, and clothing. "Tracking your expenses is that it can help you plan more effectively, so you'll know how much you need to set aside each month for the different areas in your life that your spending your money," said Consumer Credit Counseling spokesperson Meredith Exline.

Three KOTV employees agreed to try it out the service. Sadiqa is single, raising a five- year-old daughter. Jason's married and they have a little girl. Kathy is single and a new homeowner. The three faithfully filled out the forms for one month, then met with Exline. "You don't think about it when you're spending the money until you write it down and see where everything goes," said Jason's wife, Cindy.

Kathy noted that it makes her stop and think of some of the things that she could do without. "You know like at the end of the month or every two weeks, I'm saying, 'Oh God, - why am I so broke?' Now I know why," said Sadiqa.

The culprit in Sadiqa's case was food. "I didn't realize I was spending that much eating out," she said. Many families spend cash on meals, paying more for someone else to do the cooking. "I think with our schedules, it's quick, it's easy," explained Jason. "You just don't think about it."

You don't think about it, until you write it down. "Three or four dollars here isn't bad, but it is once you start adding it up," explained Cindy. It added up to $152 for Jason and Cindy, that's about $1,800 a year. Exline suggested they cut meal money to $100 a month and save $600 a year.

Sadiqa works full time and meal planning sometimes suffers. She spent about $76 eating out per month. Cutting that luxury to $50 a month would save her more than $300 a year.
Kathy didn't spend much on food, but she did put extra coins in the vending machines.
"You have to have a Pepsi when you have lunch," she said. "It was only eight something a month, which doesn't seem like a lot of money, Exline explained. But when you total that up for a year it comes to $102.60. Remember that cents add up to dollars and dollars add up to hundreds of dollars and it all adds up really quickly."

"I know that if I cut back on the eating out, and the impulse buying for gifts, I think I can save there," said Sadiqa.

It's all a matter of making choices.

"What is it that you want in life right now? What direction do you want to go? You must figure out what things you're going to be willing to give up to get there," Exline noted.

SUGGESTED RANGES FOR YOUR BUDGET

32 - 40% Housing
15 - 20% Food
15 - 20% Transportation
5 - 10% Health
5 - 10% Credit Payment
5 - 7% Fun
5 - 8% Clothing
5 - 10% Savings
3 - 6% Other - Misc

100% TOTAL

**Other considerations: child care, education, gifts, vacations


To find your own personal guideline percentages:

1. Decide on the percentage you should spend on each budget item.
2. Multiply your net income by the percentage for the particular item: For example, if you want to allocate 35 per cent of your net income ($1050) to Housing (rent, utilities, insurance, etc.), multiply:
1050 (Net Income) x .35 = $367.5 (rounded to $365.00)

*Remember, the total for all catagory percentages, should not exceed 100%

3. Divide the $365 between the budget items listed under Housing (see Example below)

**If you know the dollar amount budgeted for each item and want to find the percentage, divide the dollar amount for the budget item by the net income: Plan to spend $150 for Food:
$150/1050 (Net Income) = 0.1428 or 14%

Example - $1050 Net Income

Savings $105 = 10%
Housing $365 = 35%
Rent 250
Elec 50
Gas 20
Water 20
Phone 25
Food $150 = 14%
Trans $185 = 18%
Payment (own)
Insurance 75
Gas/Oil 50
Maintain 50
Tags 10
HEALTH $40 = 4%
CREDIT PMT $60 = 6%
FUN $50 = 5%
CLOTHING $50 = 5%
OTHER $50 = 3%

TOTAL $1050 = 100%


Click here for page 1 of the Fritter Finder.
Click here for page 2 of the Fritter Finder.

For more information, contact:
Credit Counseling Centers of Oklahoma, Inc.
4646 S. Harvard
P.O. Box 4450
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74159

Call (918) 744-5611 or (800) 324-5611


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