Five things you need to know about money and budgeting

1. How should I track my personal spending?
The simplest way to track your spending, especially your cash, is the low-tech way, with a notebook and a pen. By carrying around the notebook with you, you can actually track exactly where every dollar is going—from a small coffee on your way to work to a spending splurge at the mall. If you’d prefer, on a daily or weekly basis, you can transfer your handwritten notes to a computer spreadsheet.

2. What financial reports should my family have?
Each family should spend some time tracking their financial progress, and the best way to do that is to develop a few financial reports that you’ll update monthly or semi-annually. These reports include a family budget and a balance sheet.

3. When do I create and update my personal budget?
Individuals should start budgeting and tracking expenses as soon as they begin their first full time job. Revisit your budget every few months, and whenever significant life changes occur, such as raises, marriage, the birth of children, and divorce. 

4. What financial professionals should I consider working with to help manage my personal finances?
If you find that you need help with your finances, professionals such as tax advisors, credit counselors, financial planners, and lawyers can help. Before working with any financial professional, be sure to check their credentials. You may choose to ask your friends and family if they have any trusted financial partners that they recommend. Ask specific questions about their history and areas of expertise. Finally, be sure that you are comfortable with the advisors you choose; ideally, you will be financial partners for life.

5. Why is a personal balance sheet important?
A balance sheet calculates your net worth by comparing your financial assets (what you own) with your financial liabilities (what you owe). The difference between the two is your personal net worth. Don’t be discouraged if your net worth is negative—keep in mind that this should be an accurate depiction of your financial situation. Setting goals is much easier once you know what your current net worth is.
 

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

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  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.