The slower economy has forced everyone to make different choices.  During the summer cutting costs may be even tougher because of extra expenses on vacations and entertainment for the children.  I have witnessed my clients at all economic levels having a greater awareness of what they are spending and scaling back.  Never has there been a more important time to implement a budget that can help you really understand what you are spending on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis.

While I am not a financial advisor, I do have some organizing tips to share to get you started.  If you find the process difficult to navigate or find yourself needing more detailed advise on managing your money, strongly suggest meeting with a Certified Financial Planner to work out a specific plan to help you spend and save your money wisely.  Starting with the following actions will better prepare you for a professional assessment as well as help you focus and proactively deal with your finances.

First, you must understand how and when you spend your money.  If you are one of those people who never open their bank or credit card statements when they come in the mail, you could be doing yourself a great disservice.  Not only can you miss how much you are really spending on a monthly basis, but you can also miss important mistakes on your statements that can be costing you money.  Even worse, you won’t be aware of identity theft, should it happen to you.   Enrolling online can be an easy way to monitor your spending and your accounts.

For two weeks keep a notepad with you and mark down every penny your are spending and on what.  It might be surprising to see how much you spend buying bottles of water on the road or something as small as a pack of gum.  Do you really know how much you spend on gas each week?  Or, when is the last time you added up all of the money you spend on groceries and food.

When you are done with this exercise, take the time to categorize your spending.  Whether you use a computer spreadsheet or a handwritten chart.  If you are more techie I highly recommend using software such as Quicken, Microsoft Money or Mint.com to help you manage your accounts and see the big picture.

For a free budgeting template go to my website www.theorganizedlifestylestore.com and click on Tips/Downloads.  There you will find a list of free organizational templates/downloads, including The Organized Lifestyle Budget Template.

For a list of 80 inexpensive activities to do with your kids this summer check out this great link:
http://www.crystalandcomp.com/2011/05/80-inexpensive-or-free-summer-activities-for-kids/

Kristin Mastromarino is a Professional Organizer and the owner of Livable Solutions Professional organizing (www.livablesolutions.com) and The Organized Lifestyle online retail store (www.theorganizedlifesytlestore.com).  You can e-mail her your questions at kristin@livablesolutions.com.

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