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Anti-Budget Beliefs

Author Sharon Durling draws comparisons between obesity and bankruptcy. According to Durling, "Obesity is an epidemic in America with over 59 million Americans obese." She goes on to say, "The American Bankruptcy Institute reported that there are over 400,000 personal bankruptcies in the first quarter of this year alone." She believes budgetslike dietsfoster a sense of self-deprivation and simply won't work for most people.

There are some people who need, and like, the structure of a budget. If you are not among them, you may learn from Durling's "Anti-Budget" beliefs.

Anti-Budget Basics

Check This! Don't Stress
Durling says some people get lost in the need to have a budget. If you relax a bit, and just outline your options, she believes you'll be much likelier to find success.

Check This! Your Financial Diet
It's possible to come up with a general guideline of expenses and income, then produce a financial "diet" that can work for you. Her suggestionif you make an income of $45,000 a year, only plan to live with $40,000. That gives you a little wiggle room.

Check This! Track Expenses
It's much easier to feel a sense of control of your expenses if you have a good idea where your money is going. Durling recommends using a debit card for all of your expenses over five dollars. Then, when you get your statement, you'll be able to see in black and white where your money went, and where you might want to cut back a bit.

Check This! Learn from Others
If you learn from those who have lost large amounts of weightand kept it offyou'll be more likely to find success. Their winning strategy? Make lifestyle changes. It can work for you, too, with small changes adding up to big savings.

Some people have serious problems with their shopping habits and simply cannot control their spending. They are considered compulsive shoppers. Their spending gets them into serious trouble, yet they have no way to stop.

But how do you know if you're a compulsive shopper? And what can you do if you are? We have some expert advice to stop those costly buying binges, and a way to test yourself for compulsive shopping habits.

SELF TEST: Am I a compulsive shopper?

Check your closet. Does it look like a rack at a clothing store? "You end up with lots of things in your closet with the tags still on them that you've never worn," says credit counselor Mel Stephens, of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

Have you become a stealth shopper? Shopping under the radar is another sign of potential trouble. "You're hiding things from your family about what you're doing in terms of your shopping," Stephens says.

Do you shop to feel better? Many people go on buying binges as chicken soup for the soul. "They're looking for some way to compensate for that kind of down feeling that they have," Stephens says.

Does 'window shopping' lead to a buying binge? If you go out shopping just to browse, but end up bringing home hundreds of dollars worth of goods, you could be shopping compulsively.

Smart Idea! BRIGHT IDEA!
When will I pay it off? Want some incentive to stop spending? Use this debt calculator and see how long it will take to pay off your current bills.

How can I stop my spending splurges?
If your shopping has become out of control, experts say you must learn to simply walk away when you feel a buying binge coming on.

And only use cash. Put your credit cards into deep freeze - literally! "Get a Ziplock bag, put the cards in, then fill it up with water. Zip it up, put it in the freezer and freeze them, allowing them not to be able to be gotten to very easily," Stephens says.

Another tip - window-shop when stores are closed. That way, you can't buy things even if you want to.

Professional Help?
If you can't get a handle on your heavy spending, you may want to consider heading to your area's Consumer Credit Counseling Service for some free advice. An advisor may be able to put you on a realistic repayment plan.

How can I find a credit counselor?
You can easily find the CCCS home counseling office nearest you. Just call 1 (800) 388-2227. Or locate a HUD-approved counseling service, by clicking here.

Money Saving Tip!Did You Know?
Only 42% of Americans who have credit cards say they always pay off the full balance every month.

Gallup Poll, 2001

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