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Low income survival strategies

April 23, 2012
By JOHN PEPIN - Journal Staff Writer (jpepin@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

MUNISING - Michigan State University Extension educator Joan Vinette in Munising said that if you are coming up short on dollars each month to pay for your basic needs, you are not alone.

But, Vinette concedes just knowing others are struggling too doesn't solve your problems. She said that some people handle their financial shortages with less stress and less troubles. Do you ever wonder how do they do it?

She said they incorporate a strategy of Planning, Prioritizing and Practice, a winning strategy you can use to improve your own financial situation.

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"With planning, any family or individual can adapt their spending habits to better match their available income," Vinette said. "Without bothering to plan or manage assets, your financial crisis will probably get worse."

Vinette asks, "Have you caught yourself following the buy now, worry later formula for spending down your last dime before the next paycheck? Maybe you have watched, in frustration, as others you love appear to be spending their limited funds carelessly?

"A financial crisis affects most people at some time in their lives and everyone's situation is different," Vinette said. "The opportunity and responsibility of making a plan for how to weather your own storm, is something only you can do for yourself."

Fact Box

Web resources

Michigan State University Extension Educator Joan Vinette said there are many excellent web-based resources for developing a spending plan.

Use a search engine to find "monthly budget" to get started.

Here are two MSU Extension links:

http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/personalfinance and www.mimoneyhealth.org

On the left bar, click on "Your Financial Plan" then select "Monthly Budget"

For more, visit Money Smart Week at: www.moneysmartweek.org

Check the different financial literacy resources here and on the Money Smart Facebook page

Here is Vinette's three Ps strategy, as she explained it in greater detail:

- Planning. Listing options for stretching financial resources is a starting point. Most options aren't easy. Most require self-discipline to establish and follow a household budget. More diverse and creative options for stretching financial resources do exist. Research the ideas, educate yourself using on-line resources. Talk to people; ask for their suggestions. Check out community agencies to learn what services they offer that might help you. Request a reasonable extension to pay some bills.

You won't like all of the suggestions, because some may come with negative consequences. But they are still options. In the end, how you handle your money and assets is a personal decision. Doing nothing or making changes are your only two options. If you choose "changes," remember the strategy.

- Prioritizing the needs and wants of every person in your household is the beginning. When you lack the income to meet basic needs, this is not the time to be spending limited funds on wants. Categorize all expenses.

Here are five broad categories to use to start a first draft of a workable budget: 1.) Housing (rent or mortgage payment, utilities and maintenance); 2.) Transportation (vehicle costs gas, loan payment, repairs; or bus tickets); 3.) Health and Nutrition (groceries, food eaten out, medications and health care); 4.) Kids basic needs (clothing, school supplies, activity costs); 5. Other (everything else that you want and have spent money on previously -toys, recreation, vacations, birthday parties and gifts, etc.) Get everyone in the household involved. After you are done putting expenses into categories, scrutinize them carefully. This is the real prioritizing part. And it isn't easy. Sometimes it's even hard to talk about or write them down on paper, but do it. Seeing your needs it in writing is part of the process of eliminating frivolous expenses at a time you can no longer afford them.

- Practice what you took the time to plan and prioritize. Practice delayed gratification. Set a responsible example for your children to manage their own money. They will learn with you. Talk to your kids. They need to know things in the family have changed. They may have questions that are hard to discuss. Respond as best as you can. Be open, and offer age-appropriate responses, but try not to burden young children with adult worries and responsibilities. Ask school aged children and teens what they think. Ask if there is anything they could do to help? Let children have a role in the process of change within their family. Through tough transitions, it is possible to develop valuable lifelong bonds of caring and respect. Transform your thinking. Be entrepreneurial about the whole family financial situation. Try thinking of your household as a business. The adults (parents) are owners and management team. Make it fun. Give your business a name and plan together for its success. Assess the business value today and what you would like it to be in five years, then 10 years from now. Put the numbers on paper. Find a budget form you like and fill in accurate numbers. Access skills of family members to develop the business resources (identify what the strengths are of each family member). Showcase best assets with pride. This is important to recognize successes and progress. Work quietly and consistently to improve your financial bottom line.

Vinette said MSU Extension has added new features to their website to make it easier for consumers to find information and educational resources. Check out: msue.anr.msu.edu/

The local county offices of MSU Extension continue to "Bring Knowledge to Life." Vinette suggests getting to know your local extension staff; they can connect you with a world of resources through technology.

In the UP, if you are not yet a computer user, and would like more information discussed in this article, contact Vinette at the Alger County MSU Extension office at 387-2530. She will mail you printed copies of the on-line materials.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.

 
 

 

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