Four-Week Financial Fitness Challenge

Four-Week Financial Fitness Challenge

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ATLANTA - The beginning of summer often means the start of summer fitness workouts. But how about a twist this year with a financial fitness challenge? Here's a four-week plan to trim your expenses but fatten your savings.

WEEK ONE: Set goals and put them in a timeframe. Think on it. Talk to your partner because this sets the tone for how you will save and how you will spend. For example: Paying off debt would be an immediate goal. Saving for a baby is likely more of a mid-range goal and a long-term goal would be saving for your child's college education. Once they're in a category, rank them so you know which ones are top priorities.

WEEK TWO: "Feed the Pig," a finance Web site operated by the American Institute of CPAs, has already created a four-week financial workout plan. It says to use this time to track spending for at least a week. Here's my first-hand experience, I have found a month offered a more accurate view of my finances

When that's done get those expenses divided up into categories by using the 50-20-30 Rule. We've talked about this before. No more than 50 percent of your take-home pay should be used for essential expenses like rent or mortgage and utilities. Twenty percent goes to savings and the rest - 30 percent - is for lifestyle choices like cable, pedicures, vacations, eating out, things like that. This is where you'll have to look at where you can trim your spending.

WEEK THREE: Build that budget. Here's a list of already-designed templates or sites that you could use.

www.BudgetPulse.com
www.feedthepig.org
www.learnvest.com
www.levelmoney.com
www.mint.com
www.mvelopes.com
www.payoff.com
www.ReadyforZero.com
www.yodlee.com

WEEK FOUR: Take a harder look at more long-term planning. Look at your 401K. Is it maximized? Are you insured properly? If there is a death, is your family covered? And this is important: set milestones. When you meet a goal go ahead and treat yourself.

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