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Budget Diet

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Dieting is no fun, whether it's for your waistline or your wallet. Now that you've accepted that all-purpose truth, get over your fear and loathing and find $100 you don't need to spend each week.

Impossible you say? "Not so," says Wendy Kaufman of Balancing Life's Issues, a national corporate training company. "Many people don't even know how much money is slipping through their fingers each week and identifying that is the first step," according to Kaufman. Next step annualize each expense. Add up what it will cost you over the year. That realization usually convinces even the most recalcitrant to come up with a bail out plan for fiscal restraint.

Now, where do you spend your money? If you're male apparently surveys show you spend it on lunch, hobbies such as golf, and electronics, including media rooms. If you're female you spend it on hair, clothes, cosmetics and other beauty products. For most people this isn't discretionary spending but part of their living expenses. Unfortunately, many can no longer afford their own lifestyles.

So, what can you give up and what won't you give up? According to Donna Rosato of "Money Magazine" gym memberships are the number one "can't live without" ironically followed closely by "eating out". On the other hand, those surveyed were most likely to forgo new gadgets, sporting events and big vacations.

That being said, here is a list of 10 things from which you can pick and choose in order to eliminate $100 a week from your budget:

Coffee out
Meals out/take out
Weekend golf/skiing
Movies out
Snacks on the go
Lottery tickets
Happy hour
Manicures/pedicures
Massages/facials
Recreational shopping

You can also cut back on spending in some areas even though you think you can't:

Pet care and products-learn to bathe the dog yourself.
Dry cleaning try to save dry-clean only items for special occasions.
Gym- look for one that's less expensive or do without the personal trainer.
Housekeeper- reduce from once a week to bi-weekly, even once a month. Do some of the chores yourself.
Landscaper- find a local student to mow the lawn and trim the hedges.
Insurance- try combining car and home for savings.
Utilities- conserve and look for extras and waste you can eliminate.
After all of this disciplined belt-tightening, you'll probably feel you've earned a vacation
from the stress of thinking about every nickel and dime you spend. And the truth is vacations re-energize us to better deal with life's challenges. However, continuing with the program of why spend more when you can spend less, don't fly, drive and look for all-inclusive packages. Better yet, stay home and get to know your community in a different light. You may discover a wonderful restaurant, art gallery, park, wine store, bakery, and bowling alley.

Think of the new frugality as an adventure and a challenge and there is a point to all of this penny-pinching. Your reward is your own money, fruit of your labor that can make you feel more secure, fuel your retirement and your children's education. And it's not just a case of long-term goals; you'll actually have more money to do the things you really want to do now.



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