Archive for Tuesday, December 27, 2011

5 Questions: A Penny Saved…

December 27, 2011, 2:53 p.m.

Updated: December 28, 2011, 12:00 a.m.

Q: What is a good way to start getting a handle on finances?

A: Track expenses for a week or two. Doing so need not be difficult. Save receipts and review them, noting expenses in a check register or pocket notebook, or using a computer financial management program to identify unnecessary spending.

Q: Why track expenses?

A: We have to know where our money is going before we can make changes to improve our financial situation. If, for example, you are choosing a beverage from the vending machine at work each day, ask yourself: “Do you really want to spend $250 – or more – a year on beverages?”

Q: After tracking expenses?

A: Look for ways to reduce expenses. Then, make paying down credit card and other high-interest loans as quickly as reasonably possible (while still meeting other necessary expenses) a priority.

Q: How do I meet my savings goals?

A: Start building a cash reserve for an emergency fund and saving for short- and long-term goals. Pay yourself first. Use payroll savings, which are automatically deducted from a paycheck, or regular automated transfers from a checking to savings account.

Q: How much should my emergency fund have in it?

A: The Consumer Federation of America currently recommends $1,500 as a minimal basis for an emergency fund. While such an amount may seem insurmountable to individuals and families who are struggling, begin by saving something. As little as a dollar a day can be a beginning toward building an emergency fund or cash reserve. Building an emergency fund that is equivalent to 10 percent of your income or six months of earnings is a good goal.


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