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Savings Guide 2006

Savings story

  We may be saving less than ever, but money DOES buy happiness.
Forget budgeting -- get a 'spending plan'

Deborah Knuckey's passion is traveling. She's been to more than 40 countries, and even took her mother with her to Italy for cooking school.

She wasn't born with a lot of money, and she didn't win the lottery.

She has a spending plan. You might call it a budget. She doesn't.

A money coach and author, Knuckey says she doesn't even use the word "budget" when she counsels people because of its negative connotations.

"The word 'budget' says self-deprivation," she says. "The way I approach, I talk about creating a spending plan and start from, 'What do I want to make room for?' Start with what you'd really like to spend and how you can create that space. It's not about being frugal. It's about saying, 'What's most important to me and how do I get there?' "

OK, so you can say budget, but think spending plan.

Just like eating right and exercise, just about everyone understands the value of a spending plan or budget. But unlike nutrition and exercise, most people don't get an education in money management.

"Most people don't budget properly because they're not taught to," says Howard Dvorkin, president of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "There are no courses I know of, especially in the high school level. A lot of families purposely don't talk about finances; I think that's extremely detrimental."

On the right track
All the experts say that the place to start is to track every expense, even snacks from vending machines and change put in parking meters, for a month. The process itself is time-consuming at the outset, but it's not difficult. On one chart, write down all your income. On another, write down all your expenses, broken into categories for fixed expenses like the house and car payments; flexible expenses that vary each month, including the phone and electric bills, and discretionary expenses, such as gifts and recreation.

Compare the two lists, see where the gaps are, and adjust accordingly. Now, be surprised at what you find.

-- Posted: Oct. 1, 2006
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