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Budgeting 101 and Credit Card Debt

January 11th, 2009 11:21 PM by Sam Kader

Most people can tell you pretty much to the penny how much their mortgage or rent is every month. They can tell you how much they pay each month for their car loan. However, they have no clue what percentage of their income should be allocated towards housing or transportation. Many simply don't know.

Budgeting using percentages help you increase savings, repay and reduce debt, prevent impulse spending, distinguish between a need and a want and identify expenses that can be reduced. 

Following is a sample guidelines of budget allocations (including comfortable or affordable ranges):

  1. Personal debt (credit cards, personal loans), 14 percent, with a range of 10 percent to 20 percent.
  2. Housing, 27 percent. Range: 20 percent to 35 percent.
  3. Food, 21 percent. Range: 15 percent to 30 percent.
  4. Transportation (including car loan, insurance, gas, etc.), 8 percent. Range: 6 percent to 20 percent.
  5. Utilities, 6 percent. Range: 4 percent to 7 percent.
  6. Clothing, 4 percent. Range: 3 percent to 10 percent.
  7. Miscellaneous (travel, child care, entertainment, gifts), 1 percent. Range: 1 percent to 4 percent.
  8. Savings, 7 percent. Range: 5 percent to 9 percent.
  9. Insurance (health, life, disability), 6 percent. Range: 4 percent to 6 percent.
  10. Personal care, 3 percent. Range: 2 percent to 4 percent.
  11. Health (prescriptions, eye care, dental), 3 percent. Range: 2 percent to 8 percent.

Keep in mind these percentages and line items are just guidelines. They help you establish a barometer. The range and categories will depend on a lot of factors, whether you're married, have children or live in a high-cost area. If 60 percent of your income is spent on housing, transportation and food, you've got to make the remaining 40 percent work by refiguring the percentages.

Everyone is different, and each one of us have a percentage for each item. 

Additional tips:

  1. People who are 50 or better should save an additional "catch-up" amount i.e additional $5,000 a year in 401(k)s.
  2. Save automatically to retirement savings.
  3. Cut small expenses.
  4. Trim big expenses.
  5. Stop using credit cards. If you've arrangged to have some recurring charges automatically billed to your credit card, switch it to a debit card.
  6. Compare rates amongst existing credit card companies.
  7. Consider a home-equity line with lower rate and tax-deductible.
  8. Pay-off cards with the highest interest rate first and pay more than the minimum.
  9. Do not tap into your retirement account if you are under 59.5 years old.

If you end up with credit card debts:

  1. Do save money while repaying debt
  2. Do automate payments on recurring bills
  3. Do pay in cash or certain purchases or use debit card.
  4. Do find the best interest rate.
  5. Do read the fine print
  6. Do pay on time every time.
  7. Do remember that borrowed money is not free.
  8. Don't borrow money frivolously.
  9. Don't borrow money without telling your spouse.
  10. Don't carry credit card balances.
  11. Don't borrow money more than you can affford.

 

 


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