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Resources by Topic >> Independent Living

Managing Money

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Making a realistic budget isn't something to do after you have struck out on your own. It is part of evaluating whether you can manage independently and if so, how. If the numbers aren't there, you need to wait and work to build your likelihood of success. It's a good idea to have your budget checked by someone with experience living on his or her own to make sure you haven't forgotten unavoidable expenses and been unrealistically optimistic. You need to include a cushion for low estimates and unexpected expenses. Little things here and there that you didn't count on can add up to break the budget.

Banking is the key to keeping your money safe and keeping records to help you keep your budgeting realistic. Automatic deposits, bank cards and electronic banking have changed the nature of banking—you can handle most finances remotely these days. It can still be very worthwhile, however, to make acquaintance with the manager and staff of your nearest bank branch. Someday they may be in a position to help you avoid a problem and problems with banks usually involve service charges, one of those things we don't budget for.

Having enough money isn't enough—you still need to make sure you pay your bills on time. Credit cards are a big convenience and can be salvation in an emergency but mismanaging credit, especially credit card debt, has become a very widespread problem in America. If you are spending more than you have, building up a balance on one or more credit cards is not a solution; it just makes the problem worse and harder to turn around.

If you start going downhill financially, don't delay or do something dumb or desperate—get help.

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