Do you reach the end of every month in a scramble to make sure your bills get paid? Do your credit card balances just seem to keep on getting fatter, while your savings accounts are perpetually on a diet? Here are seven straightforward steps to regain control of your spending:

  1. Know What You Spend
    This advice may sound too obvious, but in fact, many people don t pay close attention to their monthly accumulation of expenses. If you pay for coffee and take-out food every day, you may be shocked to discover what these small indulgences add up to on a monthly basis. Personal finance software takes the burden of math off your hands and lets you track all your monthly spending.
  2. Pay Yourself First
    Certified financial planners advise setting aside ten percent of your income for future needs. These funds may be paid into a CD, a savings account or some type of individual retirement account, but the main point is to keep this money insulated from your present-day needs. Financial planning requires you to simultaneously make decisions about your present and your future.
  3. Establish Your Priorities
    While some monthly spending is claimed by regular bills for the infrastructure of living (housing, transportation, utilities, insurance), everyone is able to make certain choices. At least once each year, sit down and review your priorities in life as they relate to your use of money. What is really most important to you? When your goals are kept clearly in mind, it s much easier to make the right spending decisions.
  4. Use an  Envelope System 
    Before the invention of personal finance software, this term used to apply to putting a certain amount of cash in a set of labeled envelopes at the beginning of each month. When the envelope for a given category (such as  clothing  or  entertainment ) is empty, then nothing more is spent until the following month. Now you can do this same budgeting trick by establishing tabs or categories in your budgeting software.
  5. Review Your Utility Bills
    U.S. News points out that you can save three percent on your monthly energy bill just by turning down your thermostat by one degree. Cellphone service providers also frequently offer special promotions, and it s worth checking their websites every few months to review your plan. Furthermore, cable bills may become less necessary if you find yourself often accessing entertainment via the internet.
  6. Sacrifice With a Purpose
    If you own a home, you can save thousands of dollars on your mortgage by paying something extra on it every month. If you decide to bring your own lunch to work instead of eating out, the sacrifice will make more sense if you have a specific purpose in mind for the money that you save. It s also rewarding to put money aside each week to purchase something large (like a vacation or a new car) in a future season.
  7. Use Personal Finance Software
    The benefits offered by today s finance software are so numerous that there s no good reason to do your budgeting with a pen and paper anymore. Digital charts and graphs provide you with a clear record of spending, while monthly reminders help you avoid the penalties for late payment of bills. The best personal software options let you keep all your accounts together at your fingertips, where you can visualize your progress toward the goals that matter most to you.

Each person s budget is an expression of his or her own unique personality, lifestyle and hopes for the future. The important thing to remember in creating your budget is to be clear about what you want to spend your money on. Following these budgeting tips can help you get control of your spending today in order to build the foundation for the future that you want.

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