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August 23, 2013

Dave Ramsey: A budget should change each month

NEW CASTLE — Dear Dave: Should a budget change every month? — Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: Yes, it should. Your life changes every month, and your budget should reflect the ebb and flow of your life.

Now, some things will stay the same. Your house payment or rent should fall into this category. If you have a car payment, which I hope you don’t, that would be the same too. There shouldn’t be a big difference in the amount you spend on food most months though. You might spend more in this category during November and December thanks to the holidays, but overall it should remain pretty steady.

The biggest fluctuation you may see is in your utilities. I heat my house with natural gas, so the bill is much higher during the winter months. It’s just the opposite during the summer. We burn electricity to run the air conditioner, so the electric bill is higher in summer.

This is part of the reason I urge people to do a budget on paper, on purpose before the next month begins. You may look at the upcoming month and realize the kids have soccer pictures scheduled. There may be a school trip planned, or they may need back-to-school clothes and supplies.

When it comes to a budget, there’s no easy out. Things change from month to month, and you need to think, plan ahead, and itemize so your budget is an accurate reflection of your life. — Dave

Dear Dave: My husband and I would like to buy a home in the next year or so. My credit is in pretty bad shape, so we’ve decided to work on getting his credit in better shape in order to qualify for a mortgage loan.

I have $104,000 in debt, and $92,000 of that is in student loans. He has $13,000 in debt, with $7,000 of that a repossession on a car for which he was a co-signer. Can I file bankruptcy on my debts only? — Latrell

Dear Latrell: You can’t file bankruptcy on certain, specific items. By the way, student loans are not bankruptable. Even if you filed, you would still have all that debt hanging around your neck.

I want you to own a home, but I don’t want your home to own you. Neither one of you have done very well with money so far, and at this point I’m afraid a house would be a curse instead of a blessing in your lives. I would encourage you to build a stronger financial foundation before you buy a house. In short, this means you need to get out of debt, save money, and start living on a budget.

Latrell, buying a house when you’re broke and deeply in debt is never a good idea. I’m not trying to be mean, but I really think you’re asking the wrong question. I don’t want you to try and use bankruptcy as some kind of escape from this situation. Right now, I want you to change your behavior with money and get things cleaned up with a good, organized financial plan in your lives. — Dave

 

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