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Tips for Staying On Top of Monthly Expenses

02/17/2015 10:29 am ET | Updated Apr 19, 2015
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While "Mo Money Mo Problems" may be the anthem for famed rap stars, hotel heiresses and other multi-millionaires, the rest of America could use a little extra just to meet monthly expenses. These suggestions can help you manage your money and stay on top of your rent and bills:

Create a Budget

Whether you're in debt or simply trying to stay on top of your bills each month, one of the first things you should do to get your monthly expenses in order is to create a budget. Begin by calculating your monthly income, then determine your expenses, including rent, utilities, student loans, credit card payments, food, toiletries, household items and other necessities.

You should also take your spending money into account, subtracting from your total income how much you spend on going out and other unnecessary costs. If you find that your outgoing money is more than your income, it's time to cut something out or find a new way to make up for the gap.

Ditch the Paper

Online banking isn't the way of the future -- it's now. Rather than having your bills mailed to you at home where you'll need to juggle and keep track of physical copies, have them sent straight to your email inbox. You can even create a folder in your email account that contains only your statements and bills.

Don't forget to back up these documents by storing them on the cloud or a storage device in case there's an issue with your email provider. Another big perk for the environmentally conscious is that going paperless significantly reduces your carbon footprint.

You can also ask your landlord about paying your rent electronically, which not only saves trees but can make it easier to pay on time every time, since you can do it from with convenience on your own laptop.

Set Up Auto-Pay

It can be hard to stay on top of your bills when you have so many. Fortunately, online banking technology has advanced to the point where you don't even have to log on every week to pay your electric, gas, credit card and other bills.

Contact your financial institution to set up auto-pay, which generally requires that you provide each of the companies with your banking information. The money will then be automatically deducted from your account on the set dates.

Keep in mind that using your bank's auto-pay feature doesn't mean you don't have to do any work -- you'll still need to manage a budget and ensure that there are enough funds available to cover the amount on each deduction date.

Give Yourself an Allowance

Limit the amount of money that can be spent on the non-essentials, such as going out on the weekends and small pleasures (coffee in the morning and Friday lunches with your coworkers can add up fast). Keeping your budget in mind, give yourself a specific amount that you are allowed to spend on these luxuries.

Be strict with yourself: If you use up the last of your spending money on ice cream after work Thursday evening, you must wait until your next allowance to start spending on non-essentials again, which may mean packing your lunches at home and skipping on Thursday night bowling. This tactic will not only help you control your spending, but it may also help you embrace those small pleasures even more.

Save for a Rainy Day

Last but certainly not least is adding to your savings account on a regular basis. You should think of your savings deposit as a necessary bill rather than an afterthought or something you do with extra income at the end of the month.

It can be hard to find ways to save money, especially for those on tight budgets or with high monthly expenses. However, setting aside a small percentage of your paycheck, even if it's only $20 per month, can be an enormous help if something unexpected comes up, such as a medical bill or emergency car repair. This financial cushion also provides a little peace of mind.

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