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Make a Conscience Decision on How to Spend Your Money

Q. I have a good job and am a single parent, and like so many other people I know, I live paycheck to paycheck.  I’ve already curbed my spending on eating out but don’t see where else I can cut back. How can I can get out of my financial rut and get ahead?

A. Every budget is personal and should be based on your family’s needs and goals. A family of 4 will spend differently than a family of 2. A family who has someone with special needs will have different expenses than a family that does not. Your budget will naturally reflect your family size, but it should also be focused on helping you achieve what you desire.

While every household has to pay for housing, utilities, and transportation, there are a number of areas where people often spend more than they need to. One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that $5 or $10 here or there doesn’t make a difference. But nothing could be further from the truth. By cutting your spending by just $10 a week, you can save $520 in a year. Save $20 a week, and you can sock away $1,040 in a year. 

If you are struggling to save, I encourage you to become more conscious of how you are spending every dollar. When you do, you might find that you are spending a significant amount of money on miscellaneous items.

Miscellaneous items include, but are not limited to, magazines, books, hobbies, snacks, bingo, music downloads, videos and computer games. They can also include things like dues, postage, cosmetics, activity fees, gifts for birthdays, specials days, holidays, tobacco, alcohol and pets. Movies, concerts, swimming, camping, skating, golfing, bowling, skiing, rodeos, races, clubs & memberships, vacations, gardening and home decorating items can eat up a lot of your money, too. If you tally up your miscellaneous spending over the course of a month, and then multiply that number by 12, you may be surprised to learn how much you spend without thinking.

A new kind of consciousness lets you consider if your purchases bring value to your life. For example, are you paying for cable services that you don’t want or use?  Do you need a land line and a cell phone? Is it necessary to buy a new phone every year? Your cable and cell phone plans are just one place where you can save. Once you have an overall picture of how and where you are spending your money, then you can decide if you want to continue making the same choices.

A budget is the best tool you have available to you to help you reach your financial goals. You don’t have to cut out all miscellaneous expenses – just those that don’t bring you value. Every time you spend money on anything, you are making a choice. I encourage you to feel empowered knowing that you have the ability to reach your goals, one small decision at a time.

Bonnie Spain is the executive director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills, a United Way member agency. For more information, email

The material in this transmission is provided for personal, non-commercial, educational, and informational purposes only. ACCE makes no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this transmission and assumes no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any inconsistency herein. You should consult a professional where appropriate.

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