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Create a spending plan

If you always skid into your next paycheck, you'll be left weeks, months, or years short of your financial goals. Get organized, and develop a spending plan.

A spending plan helps you get to know your money flow -- money earned and money spent. Keep it simple!

Create two charts: one for your income, the second for your expenses. Divide expenses into two categories: fixed expenses, such as mortgage, rent, or car payment; and flexible expenses, such as utility bills, groceries and gas.

For one month, record your income and all your expenses, cash and credit -- yes, even those pocket-change coffee and doughnut runs! At month's end, tally up what you spent your money on and compare it to your income.

Surprised? Now it's time to organize your bill paying and economize your flexible spending. Where can you cut back? Your flexible spending needs to fund your emergency savings and your "debt pay-off plan."

Here's more information on setting up a budget.

NEXT: Plan out your debt pay-off strategy


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