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START A BUDGET
Unless you know how much you really earn and spend, you can't budget. To find out:
1. Total your monthly fixed expenses-mortgage or rent, auto payments, insurance premiums, loan payments and other sums that stay the same month to month. They may include health club fees or children's allowances.
2. Calculate your household's monthly ne income--what paychecks add up to after taxes and deductions. If income varies, use a typical month or the amount earned last month.
3. Subtract fixed expenses from your incom. This is the amount left for variable expenses.
4. For the next month, record every item you buy in a small notepad. Record purchases like gas and groceries, but also the bills for electricity, gas and phone service. Be ruthless. If you buy a candy bar or a lottery ticket, write it down. Don't forget to jot down video rentals, kids' music lessons, newspaper or magazine subscritions, and lunch money.
5. At the end of the month, total your variable expenses. How do they compare with what was left after you subtracted fixed expenses from you income? Since you wrote everything down, you'll be able to see where you need to cut back. At last-----