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Tracking and prioritizing spending
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It’s hard to believe that the first month of 2013 is almost over. If you are like me, you are just now getting used to writing 2013 on letters and checks. Since it is still early in the year it is a great time to talk about the money management resources we have available at the Barton County Extension Office.
Students at the Barton County Academy have been eager to learn strategies for tracking and prioritizing their spending. Asking them to share during classroom discussions has been a great learning experience for everyone. A less than robust economy and daily news about rising unemployment figures makes everyone a bit cautious with their spending.
When the family budget tightens savings may take a back seat. Now, more than ever, it is a good idea to try saving money. If you don’t already have one, consider starting a savings account. Even though interest rates are quite low, having a savings account is the first step to get in the habit of saving money. Once you are in the habit of saving, you can buy CD’s or open a money market account. Look for the highest rate of interest at banks and credit unions. Save until there is enough money to have on hand for emergencies. (Three to six months of living expenses is a good amount)
During a period of economic uncertainty, it is important to have several different investments. I have seen an illustration of an “investment pyramid” where the base emphasizes savings accounts, money markets and CD’s. While the interest is lower on these types of investments, the risk is also lower. As you move up the “investment pyramid” the rate of return may be larger on stocks, bonds and global investments. Of course, with that possibility of earning higher interest, there is a higher risk that some of your principal could be lost.
The week of February 25th through March 2nd has been designated as Kansas Saves week. You can visit the K-State Research and Extension web site and follow the links to become a Kansas Saver. The slogan this year, “Start small, think big,” really sums up the message I try to bring to the classes I lead.  Setting a goal of how much you want to save and for what purpose is the first important step toward success. Decide if you will make the deposit yourself or if it will be an automatic transfer from your paycheck.
Consider paying yourself first. If you are like most people, we put what is left over at the end of the month into savings. A better plan is to pay yourself first. Write a check to your savings account before you pay your bills. Make a habit of this, and watch your savings grow. The key to sticking to your spending plan is making it simple and realistic.
For more information about the Kansas Saves program feel free to contact me at the Barton County Extension Office, 1800 12th Street.
Donna Krug is the Family and Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. You may reach her at (620)793-1910 or