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By Charlestien Harris

The past year has been quite different financially for numerous reasons, and starting the new year off right is so vital to the success of your financial future.  The present economic climate has in some ways forced many of us to make some major adjustments when it comes to our view of personal finance.  So, I thought I would suggest some tips to help make your finances less of a challenge to deal with. 

First, let’s take a hard look at your spending plan.  This is the roadmap you can develop to ensure your success!  Knowing where you are right now will go a long way to figuring out where you want to end up by the end of the year.  Just like traveling, you can expect some roadblocks, construction delays and some reroutes!  But that is okay, because it is normal for those events to happen.

Since budgeting allows you to create a spending plan for your money, it ensures that you will always have enough money for the things you need and the things that are important to you. Following a spending plan will also keep you out of debt or help you work your way out of debt if you are currently in it. 

Once you create your first spending plan, begin to use it to get a good sense of how it can keep your finances on track. You may also want to map out your spending plan for at least 6 months to a year to set a clear path to your financial destination. By doing this you can easily determine which months your finances may be tight and which ones you’ll have extra money. You can then look for ways to anticipate the highs and lows in your finances so that they can be more manageable.

Here are a couple websites that can offer suggestions on how to set up a spending plan:

The second item that I want to mention is just as important to the success of your financial health and it is the implementation of a savings plan.  Saving money takes discipline and a certain amount of sacrifice.  The importance of saving money is rarely disputed. Saving is one of the most basic (and most repeated) bits of financial advice out there. Despite the importance of saving money, many of us aren’t following through with that advice. When it comes to doing the right thing financially, just knowing you should save isn’t enough. 

First and foremost, saving money is important because it helps protect you in the event of a financial emergency. If you have cash set aside for emergencies, you have a fallback should something unexpected happen. Additionally, saving money can help you pay for large purchases, avoid debt, reduce your financial stress, leave a financial legacy, and provide you with a greater sense of financial freedom.  Overall, saving money allows you to enjoy greater security in life.

There are several websites that offer guidance on how to set up a savings plan.  Here are a few suggestions:

You can also find additional financial resources that can assist you with organizing a spending plan as well as developing a savings plan at

As you pursue your financial goals, I encourage you to seek financial guidance to help you stay on track with reaching those goals.  Southern Bancorp Community Partners is a HUD approved counseling agency that is fully staffed with five HUD Certified Housing Counselors. All of who offer credit counseling as well as financial coaching. You can reach us by calling the local branch nearest you or you can find us at  Until next week, stay financially fit!