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FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The importance of creating and following a budget, also called a spending plan, is a lesson that cannot be overemphasized if you want financial stability and security.

A budget is simply a plan that takes into account both current and future income and expenses. Having this type of plan keeps your spending in check and makes sure your savings are on track.

If you are not convinced this one simple tool can do it all, here are six good reasons why everyone should create and stick to a budget.

Budgeting helps keep your eye on the prize

A budget forces you to plan out your goals, allocate money for savings and helps to keep track of your progress. Although not being able to buy everything you want immediately may hurt a bit initially, you will be grateful you waited when you see your plans unfold as you set them up in your budget.

Budgeting helps ensure you do not spend money you do not have

Far too many consumers spend money they don't have and we owe it all to credit cards. According to a recent study, the average credit card debt per household is $7,513.19. Before the age of plastic, people tended to know if they were living within their means. At the end of the month, if they had enough money left to pay the bills and put some away in savings, they were on track for the future. These days, people who overuse and abuse credit cards do not always realize they are overspending until they are drowning in debt. Nevertheless, if you create and stick to a budget, you'll never find yourself in this unstable position. You will know exactly how much money you earn, how much you can afford to spend each month and how much you need to save.

Budgeting helps lead to a happier retirement

In addition to spending responsibly, following a budget and never carrying credit card debt, saving is also critical for your future. It's important to build investment contributions into your budget. If you set aside a portion of your earnings each month to contribute to a retirement fund, such as the Thrift Saving Plan, you can eventually build a significant savings to be used for retirement years. Though you may have to sacrifice a little now, it will be worth it down the road.

Budgeting helps you prepare for emergencies

Life is filled with unexpected surprises. If you get laid off, become sick or injured, go through a divorce, have car repairs or a death in the family, it can lead to some serious financial turmoil. Emergencies always arise at the worst possible time when you're strapped for cash. The goal for most individuals and families should be an emergency fund that is large enough to handle serious, unexpected expenses. A reserve fund can also tide you over for a while if you lose your job and need to hunt for a new one. Your budget should include an emergency fund that consists of at least $1,000 and a reserve fund of three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Some financial planners recommend setting aside six months to a year's worth of expenses. This extra money will ensure you don't spiral into the depths of debt after a life crisis.

Budgeting helps shed light on bad spending habits

Building a budget forces you to take a close look at your spending habits. You may notice that you're spending money on things you do not need, such as eating out, daily coffees, mobile shopping, impulse buying, emotional spending, vending machine purchases or paying for unused services or subscriptions. Budgeting allows you to rethink your spending habits and re-focus your financial goals.

Budgeting is better than counting sheep

Following a budget can also help you catch more shut-eye. If you lose sleep over financial issues, you are allowing money to control you. Take back the control. When you budget your money wisely, you'll never lose sleep over financial issues again.

Help is available

This advice is just the tip of the iceberg. There are several other advantages of following a budget. If you would like assistance with creating a budget, call the Army Community Service Financial Readiness Program at 573.596.2078 to schedule a free, confidential appointment.