Making Ends Meet

5. Controls To Help Your Plan Work

If you stick to a spending and saving plan, it can help you stretch your family’s money resources and live better on the money you have. A spending and saving plan can help you see how to use money to pay bills and get more of the things that you need and want. A plan allows you to decide what is important to your family and to make choices before spending your money.

You can make your money go farther by developing habits or routines that help you control your money. For example, which of these actions might work for you?

  • Pay all bills the day the money arrives.
  • Buy all necessities on the day you get the money.
  • Have all the bills in one place, ready to pay when the time comes.
  • Put all money to be used later in the week or month in a safe place.
  • Have a list of all the things you plan to buy this month and know about how much you can pay for each.
  • Grocery shop once a week or every two weeks. Keep grocery money in a special fund or pocketbook. Spend no more in the designated period of time.
  • Pay an “average” amount on heating/cooling fuel each month to avoid large bills due at one time. Be sure to arrange in advance with your utility.
  • Decide who will be responsible for handling the money, or divide the tasks up among the adults and/or children responsible for buying certain things.
  • Set up an “envelope system” to help you track where your money goes. Label each envelope with a specific spending category such as housing, food, transportation, clothing, entertainment, personal care, and credit/loan payments. At the beginning of each month, put the money you have budgeted into the appropriate envelopes. When payments are due, withdraw the amount needed.

6. Putting Your Plan into Action

Once your spending plan is developed, you will want to put it into practice. Think of it as a trial period and if it doesn’t work, revise your plan. Your spending plan is made to help you, not to make you feel uncomfortable. The plan may require revision fairly often, as your family, your circumstances, your needs, and your goals are always changing.

After your trial period, look to see how well you did. Chances are you will discover that your money is going farther in providing the things that your family needs and wants. Congratulations; you have taken a giant step toward better financial management and making ends meet!