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The 60% Solution

There are no hard-and-fast rules to budgeting except one: Spend less money than you make.

But say you want to fine-tune your plan without much heavy lifting, long division, or hours poring over Quicken spreadsheets. A personal favorite on budgeting is The 60% Solution proposed by author Richard Jenkins. He suggests that 60% of your income should go to "committed expenses" (mortgage, food, car payments, utilities, etc.), 10% used for "fun money," another 10% for irregular expenses (your short-term savings), 10% for retirement savings, and 10% for long-term saving and/or debt reduction.

Consider this a starting point for your own budget, and modify the 10% chunks for your lifestyle. If you have no debt, consider socking away 25% of each paycheck for retirement savings and use a little bit more for "fun money." Bend the rules to fit your own situation.

If there's a significant other in the spending picture, avoid playing killjoy by bringing them into the money conversation early. Sit down together and start talking about some of your near-term and long-term goals. Retire early? Build a screened-in porch for the house? New schnozzles for the whole family? Then take a stab at figuring out what it would cost to achieve those things. You'll be surprised to see how cutting back a little now can turn into a big payoff in the future.

Staving short-term but costly treats will require discipline and constantly reminding yourselves of those things you are working towards. Make it a game and see how much you can "save" one weekend by not shopping. Set up a separate account (and hands off!) for that dough. Lather, rinse, and repeat on a weekly basis.

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