Adjustment Dials for your Spending Plan

Getting greater financial control may mean spending some time examining what elements in your plan can be adjusted to tighten down on spending leaks while giving you more money for the things that are really important. When going through your monthly budget, consider ways you can adjust to accelerate your way to your financial goals.

Dial #1:  Increase Income - Increasing income through overtime or a second job can be a way to get you over a hump.  It doesn't have to be a long term gig, but an extra boost to help you though a tight spot can be a real help.  You might even consider turning a hobby into an extra income source so that you can make some money doing the things you love to do.  For some, extra income is a necessity for maintaining self sufficiency.  In those cases it is important to consider your career path and whether you can grow your income longer term.

Dial #2: Mitigate Expenses - This means finding a way to fund your needs with minimal cash outlay.  For instance, can you swap babysitting services with a friend or neighbor to cut the cost of date night?  Perhaps you can find a way to get along with something less expensive until you are able to save a little more.  If you were planning on a movie, can you find less expensive alternatives to the theater?  Lessening these expenses allows you more money to fund the other categories of your spending plan. 

Dial #3: Cut Other Expenses - You may find that cutting back on other categories of your spending plan may be necessary to make ends meet or to fund your emergency savings.  Use the Financial Decision Tree to determine what categories are most controllable.  For instance, in my housing category of my spending plan are there some things that I can control in the short term?  Perhaps I can minimize utility usage or cut the cost of telephones.  Discretionary expenses like eating out, entertainment, savings, or clothing might be more easily controlled in the short term, but if you have to eliminate an expense to get you over a hump, remember to make a plan to add some living back into your budget as soon as you overcome the crisis.

Dial #4: Tap Savings - Savings is there for when something unexpected throws you off track so don't feel bad if you have to use some of your emergency fund, but always make a plan to restore that fund as soon as you can, because you don't know how much time you have until the next emergency.  Savings is part of your longer term financial security blanket, so always consider shorter term adjustments before moving to reduction of savings.

Dial #5: Sell Assets - Do you have something hanging around not being used or some heirloom you can part with can help generate a little extra cash to tide you over?  Selling assets may be a means to helping you through a tight spot.  This time of year is great for yard sales and clearing out the precious treasures you no longer use.

Dial #6: Debt - While not a long term solution, sometimes using a credit card for an emergency and then making a plan to pay it off can help you address your current needs.  It is important that in using debt that you don't create a long term problem for yourself that you can't easily address.  Too often people find themselves in financial stress because of their debt, so use debt sparingly and repay as quickly as possible. Another solution related to debt might be to use an asset that has equity such as a home or a car to restructure the regular debt payments for the household so that monthly expenses are more manageable.  This will likely lengthen the term of your debt, but stretch out the payments enought that you can breathe a little easier. 

How have you gotten through a crunch?  Write to us at and tell us!

When is an Emergency NOT and Emergency?

All of us have unexpected expenses.  Truth be told, we all probably have unexpected expenses each month in one form or another that we didn't count on.  The price of gas goes up, personal property taxes are higher than we planned, the cost of a purchase that didn't include the additional shipping and taxes all little expenses that when unplanned can throw us off.

But since we know the unexpected is coming does it constitute an emergency necessitating the use of our precious emergency savings?  You may be saying that is what emergency savings is for; but if every time we have a blip in our spending plan we need to deplete our savings we will never be able to maintain that cushion for the true emergency that may be future. 

Emergency savings should be like insurance.  You have  to have it, but you hope you never have to use it.  Emergency savings is used when we have no other alternative barring debt to overcome the expense.  For smaller little unbudgeted items, we should first look to adjust our lifestyle spending.  In a true emergency, you fund just the basics.  Extra's like entertainment,clothing, even needed items that can be deferred for a while are.  If you have attended a Bank On Virginia Beach class you know about your 4 walls that need to remain in place: housing, transportation, food and clothing.  All else is put off until you get through the crisis. 

Here is a strategy you can use: 
  1. Quick Cash: when unexpected expense arrives, sit down as a family team and discuss ways that you can either quickly raise some money or cut back on expenses for the month to cover this additional cost.  By getting the entire family involved, everyone is on the same team and the forfeiture of a pleasure along the way is something that each team member willingly offers for the benefit of the larger picture. 
  2. Evaluate the expense:  is this something that will recur in the future?  Does your spending plan need to adjust?  What will flex to accomodate the additional expense? Can you plan now to keep it from happening again?
  3. Celebrate:  when the added expense has been addressed and the monthly bills are paid, celebrate as a family that you were able to come together and meet the challenge.  Working as a team paid off and hopefully, your family is all the stronger for meeting the challenge together.

Do you have a strategy for overcoming surprise expenses?  Write to us and tell us about it at

Brushing up on Computer Skills

Are you looking to get a new job, but need to improve your computer skills?  Opportunity Inc. offers a number of classes each month to help you build your resume.  Check them out by reviewing the calendar of classes at
Computer Basics

·   Getting Started– learn about hardware, software, how to use the mouse, and much more!

·   MS WORD 101- learn to “launch” the program and navigate the MS Word window.

·   MS Word 102 - learn to copy and paste a resume to a Flash Drive then format a resume.  You MUST have attended MS Word 101 to attend this workshop. By using the web based GCF Learn Free, website you will find tutorials and FREE classes for MS Word, Excel and Access.

 ·   MS Excel Getting Started – learn MS Excel basics and what spreadsheets can do for you.

·   MS Excel101- learn to “launch” the program and navigate the MS Excel window.

·   MS Excel 102 - learn to create basic spreadsheets then format to create a finished product.. 

·   You MUST have attended MS Excel 101 to attend this workshop. By using the web based GCF Learn Free, website you will find tutorials and FREE classes for MS Word, Excel and Access.