smart spending

6 budget bombs

Bored, sad woman in living room © wavebreakmedia/

Your best intentions for wise saving and spending are easily sabotaged by any of these budget blunders. Follow our advice and turn these dumb money moves into acts of financial self-preservation and enlightenment.

6 budget bombs

  1. Cut out all the fun stuff.
  2. Be hit or miss with savings.
  3. Overuse your debit cards.
  4. Pay only the minimums on cards.
  5. Live without emergency savings.
  6. Spend more than you earn.

1. Cut out all the fun stuff. All budgets should allow for entertainment. Think about where your recreation priorities lie and add up how much you spend each month on those activities. If the total is more than 10 percent (5 percent is ideal) of your total household budget, it's time to scale back. But don't blunder by eliminating recreation altogether or your best-laid plans will eventually self-destruct.

2. Be hit or miss with savings. When it comes to money management, slow and steady wins the race. Once you've determined how much of your monthly income can be allocated to short- and long-term savings, make your deposits consistent by using automatic payroll deductions.

3. Overuse your debit cards. Money doesn't grow on trees, of course, but debit cards sure fuel that impression. Allot yourself a specific amount of cash for purchases during the week. Implementing a strict cash-only diet not only puts spending habits in perspective, it also helps you think before making that impulse buy.

4. Pay only the minimums on cards. There's no better way to perpetuate debt -- or waste your money -- than to carry a credit card balance. Making only the minimum monthly payments will cost you thousands in interest fees that could otherwise be applied toward savings or entertainment. Send as much as you can to your credit card company each month.

5. Live without emergency savings. If you haven't set money aside for a rainy day, you're one job loss or illness away from financial ruin. Most consumers should save between three and six months' worth of living expenses in a liquid interest-bearing account. Those who are self-employed or work in a high turnover industry should have up to a year's worth tucked away.

6. Spend more than you earn. It's the cardinal rule of household budgeting -- live within your means. In our instant gratification society, however, it's easier said than done. Experts insist living with less begins with changing your spending philosophy. Learn to moderate, resist reckless spending and, above all else, don't take another vacation until you've got the money in the bank. You'd be surprised how gratifying it is to bid farewell to the financial treadmill


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