I'm trying to get out of debt, but it seems like something always happens to knock me back down. I'm single, make $45,000 a year, and I have $12,000 in debt, in addition to a mortgage payment of $1,024 a month. I've been trying to live on a budget, but I still don't know where the money goes. – Lalitha / Dallas, Texas
Dave Says: For starters, your house payment is pretty heavy. Usually, I recommend that your monthly mortgage payment be no more than 25 percent of your take-home pay. Still, the biggest thing is that you've got to get control of your money instead of having it control you. It's no fun waking up broke at the end of every pay period, and the best way to keep this from happening is by doing a budget!
There's a big difference between "trying to live on a budget" and doing a budget. Remember when you were a kid and you'd tell another kid, "You're not the boss of me!"? It's kind of like that. The budget is not the boss of you until you get it done! I want you to sit down every month, before the next month begins, and write it all down on paper, on purpose. Give every single dollar a name, and tell your money what to do. You're the boss of the budget until you get it done. Then, and only then, does it become the boss of you!
Once you've done this, you've got a real game plan for your money. The idea of "trying to live on a budget" stops being some vague idea floating around out there. If you were driving from Dallas to Tampa, you'd get a map and decide which roads to take, right? You'd have a plan. Do the same with your money!