5 tips to get your budget back on track before the holidays

- As we turn the calendar page to August, it's hard to believe that more than half of 2015 has gone by. If you made a New Year's resolution to clean up your finances, have you saved as much as you wanted? Have you paid down any debt or has your debt actually increased? The halfway point in the year is a good time to check in and see how you are doing. 

Here are five tips from GreenPath personal finance counselors to help you better understand your 2015 finances, and how you can get back on track, as the holidays approach.

1. Take inventory. Are any major purchases on the horizon before the end of the year, like a vehicle, appliance or other big ticket item? If there are, start saving now. So often, when it is time to make a major purchase, it catches us off guard and we immediately turn to credit to pay for it. If your washing machine will need to be replaced in the coming months, try to set aside cash now. So when the time comes to replace it, you may be able to minimize the use of credit.

2. Start saving for the holidays. Now is the time to start saving for holiday expenses. If you set aside $20 a week, by December, you'll have nearly $400 to spend on gifts and entertaining. Look back at your 2014 holiday spending. Many of us underestimate how much we are going to spend, so make sure your 2015 number is realistic. If you are a Black Friday shopper, there are four months to go - so set aside a little bit off of your paycheck now. Another option is to watch for mid-year sales and begin buying gifts now. You can take care of your list slowly over the next few months, rather than buying it all in December.

3. Other expenses. What other expenses do you have coming up? Do you need to save for back-to-school clothing and supplies? Are you going to be making charitable contributions at the end of the year? Start accounting for these expenses in your budget. Maybe make the donation now, rather than at the end of the year. That way, you can avoid the budget crunch in December, when there are other expenses to consider.

4. Review your budget. Take time to make a realistic plan for the money that you earn. So often our budget stops once the bills get paid. But, a budget really should be a plan for every single dollar that you earn. 
You should have a line item in your budget for groceries, gas, savings, and entertainment. If you haven't been following a budget, take time to create one and track your expenses so that you can go back, review and adjust as needed.

5. Make a plan before the holidays. Have you accumulated debt in 2015? If so, now is the time to consider why that happened and create a plan for how to tackle the debt now. If you put it off a few months, it will nearly be the holiday season, which likely will force you to address your debt in 2016. Take the time and start now.

For more information on GreenPath, or if you need help reviewing your credit report or setting up a budget, log on to www.greenpath.org or call (866) 648-8122. Keep up with GreenPath Debt Solutions online on Facebook and Twitter

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