Montana State University

Montanans can use Extension resources to get a grip on their money

February 20, 2009

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Montanans who are feeling the pinch of decreased income and higher prices are using Montana State University Extension ideas to try to get a better grip on their money.

"The popular financial planning materials include tools to help people determine where there could be leaks in their spending," said Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension family economics specialist.

"Most methods of getting a grip on your finances involve tracking expenses for a while so that you really know where the money is going," Goetting says. "In a week or a few weeks of tracking, you can develop a clearer picture of where changes could be possible."

Goetting has seen the process unfold many times. She has presented estate and financial planning seminars to over 2,075Montanans in 2008. Since the first of the year, she has responded to requests for over 500 copies of "Get a Grip on Your Money," a free packet of financial management resources.

Goetting has also written several free publications aimed at bringing the often mysterious financial leaks to light. One is a recently updated four-page MontGuide titled "Developing a Spending Plan," which is available free on the MSU Extension Web or can be mailed to you.

A special feature of the "spending plan" publication is a chart from the Consumer Expenditure Survey done by the U.S. Department of Labor. The chart shows average family expenses by percentages in a variety of income brackets.

"If a family finds that it spends more on undocumented miscellaneous cash expenses than most families in their income bracket, they may want to determine where the cash goes," Goetting said. "Or maybe the ease of sliding that debit card at the fast-food restaurants is hiding the increased cost of that option. In an economic crunch, you have to look at where all forms of family funds are going."

The publication leads an individual or family through the steps it takes to develop a realistic spending plan. "Montanans who have a spending plan say it has helped them manage their money more effectively," Goetting said.

A spending plan based on what your family considers to be most important can help balance spending with income and values. The step-by-step procedures outlined in the fact sheet will help families clarify priorities, make decisions, and implement and revise their spending plans.

She added that families with a spending plan also reported that they reduced their need for using credit cards and were better able to save for future needs. One woman wrote that she and her husband had been a bit haphazard in their approach to money management before the class, but that as a result of it, "We have been able to cut our dining budget in half, saving $100 per month. We have also slashed our grocery bill by 25 percent, saving an additional $100-200. We now routinely pay more on credit card debt and have been able to save money."

"Developing a Spending Plan" can be ordered through your local MSU Extension office or printed from the MSU Extension Web at http://msuextension.org/publications/FamilyFinancialManagement/MT199703HR.pdf

The entire packet of fact sheets in "Get a Grip on Your Money," is available free from Goetting by calling (406) 994-3511 or e-mailing goetting@montana.edu.

Contact: Marsha Goetting (406) 994-5695 or goetting@montana.edu