Life Lessons: Making a family budget

Lfe Lessons Family budget

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Studies show only about 30 percent of American families use a budget to track their expenses.

However, financial experts say having a budget can save you money.

College students are learning the importance of a family budget at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

As the students get ready to head out into the world and hoping for good paying jobs a Personal Finance class is teaching them what to do with their money once they start making some.

Professor Michael Stehlin says a budget is key.

Stehlin, who teaches the class at Muhlenberg, says he tells the students why a budget is so important for them to have.

"Well, I think it helps people plan for the future both the short term and the long term. It allows them to set goals," says Stehlin.

There are lots of tools to help you make a budget, but the concept is simple:

* Write down your expenses
* Recognize the difference between needs and wants.
* Figure out how much you'll spend in each category and stick to it.

Stehlin says, "That 's the difficult part: the discipline to understand we really want to do this but we just don' t have it this month."

Stehlin says to keep a journal at first and write down everything you spend money on, not just the major expenses.

"But there's a lot of other places people spend money and that's where we think they run into trouble, not accounting for that," Stehlin says.

And if you can, he says, calculate a savings payment.

"The rule of thumb is pay yourself first and I agree with that whether it's a 401k or a savings plan. You may have other goals, an education, buying a car, but you should pay yourself first."

Here's a rule to remember:

Experts say if you have to finance something, you can't afford it...except of course if it's a house or a car.

But anything else, they say you shouldn't buy unless you have the cash to pay for it.

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