How to set a family budget you’ll actually keep.

If you're anything like me, keeping records of income and expenses - and convincing your spouse to do the same - can be a real challenge.

Here are some easy alternatives to consider:

* Budget envelopes. This old-fashioned idea works great for visual people. When you get paid, put the cash in an envelope labeled Income. Start other envelopes labeled Mortgage, Utilities, Groceries, Dining Out, Movies, Clothes, Vacation Fund, etc. and put enough cash in each one for the month. When each expense is due, take the cash out of the envelope. If you feel like a movie, but that envelope's empty, you wait till next month!

* Expense Limits. Set a limit for non-essential expenses. If you or your spouse wants to buy something over the preset limit (maybe $200), you have to discuss it first. No more month-end surprises!

* Annual Projections. Rather than keeping track of each expense, figure out how much each one costs per year. When you see that the $4 you spend on coffee each day actually costs over $900 a year, you might start taking coffee from home. Do this for lottery tickets, snack food, fashion items, etc.

* Reverse Budgeting. Pay all your bills and buy all your essentials as soon as you get paid. Then you only have what's left - if anything! - for discretionary or luxury items.

Hope that helps...

Your trusted mortgage advisor,

Jeff Kerwin


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