Do you know what your monthly cost of living is?  Does it stay pretty much the same, or does it vary? Do you have a budget (yes, that nasty B word) every month, or do you just "wing it”, and spending the money until it’s gone? Are you hard pressed to pay the rent or utilities every month?  Does your heat or water cost more at certain times of the year?

If you feel your "cost of living" is out of control, try this experiment.

For just one month, write down every single penny that you spend (use a little notebook).  DO NOT change the way you spend your money right now.  All you are doing is tracking your spending on that morning cup of coffee or cinnamon roll you buy on your way to work; that candy bar, or bag of chips you grab when you stop for gas; that very latest cell phones or tablets; that new piercing or tattoo that your teenager "just has to have" right now! How many times a week/month do you eat out?  Is it a planned expense, or do you eat out because you don’t have time, or don’t feel like cooking? How much did you spend for groceries, and what did you buy?  Simple foods to prepare at home or the "instant foods" frozen, deli, etc.? Keep track of everything you buy; add up all of the "must pay." Expenses (rent or house payment of the roof over your head). Utilities (water, lights). Groceries (the food for your table). Telephone services (cell phones Television, cable, satellite). Gas and upkeep on vehicles). Work medications, if necessary. Prescriptions and insurances (homeowners, health). Clothing and accessories. Credit card payments.

Subtract these necessary expenses from your paycheck, and figure out how much you should have left!  Chances are the dollars that were (to use an old saying) "Frittered away," will astound you, but not in a good way!

You can change all of that by preparing a budget (there’s that nasty B word again) and sticking to it. By eliminating the "snacky stuff" and reserving the I WANT’S for birthdays, Christmas or other celebrations, you will have dollars in your pocket and eliminate those services being cut off, because you didn’t pay the bills on time.  There are countless articles out there to help you learn how to manage your money wisely. However, the first step is to find out WHERE the money is going?

A simple sheet of paper, with columns of list of bills to be paid, is the easiest start.

Write down the essentials.

Rent/House payment, utilities/ lights, heat, phone, food/groceries, car/pickup payment, gas/oil, other debts, credit cards (which may have to be cut up).

Once you have listed the essentials, and know exactly how much they cost you each month, you can start adding in the other needs/wants into your lives, as the money becomes available

Remember, it’s all about control; and you are the ones in control of your spending and money. You decide how every penny is to be spent.
–Till next month,


Paula Vogelgesang, the author of the monthly column "Pennywise", is a monthly contributor to the Farm And Livestock Directory. Email her at [email protected]Please be sure to mention the "Farm And Livestock Directory" when you respond.