How to better budget for your future

From what to do with your savings to how to budget for buying a new home, financial expert Gale Cunningham offers advice on how to plan ahead.

When we asked Marketplace Money listeners what you waste your money on, we heard from many of you who struggle with overspending on things like first-run movie rentals and nights out on the town.

Of course, getting unnecessary spending under control is an essential part of planning for the future and reaching your financial goals -- goals like buying a house, having a baby or taking a big vacation -- these are hard things to achieve even when you aren't blowing money on little everyday treats.

Gail Cunnigham  is with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, and she says the key is budgeting.  

"You know, a lot of people consider budget a four-letter word," says Cunningham. "And I tell those folks that if they can't tolerate thinking that they have a budget and if that sounds restrictive to them, call it a spending plan. But actually, a budget is meant to free up your money. You know, we work very hard for our money, and typically we spend it very casually, so let's adjust those to be in a better alignment by knowing where our money goes."

Many Marketplace Money listeners wrote in to ask how they can better budget for the future:

  • Andrew Reback from Northern California is wondering how he can make enough room in his budget to purchase a new home. His family moved to Silicon Valley from Philadelphia, where they owned a row house, but now they can barely make ends meet and they've considered moving to a more affordable city
  • Beth McGinley is a school teacher from Oakland, Fla. She has about $7,000 in savings and can't decide what to do with it. She wants to know if she should spend the money on an extended trip to New York City (a life-long dream), use the money as down payment on a rental condo or save up to buy a bigger house someday.

Click play on the audio player above to hear Cunningham's advice.

About the author

In more than 20 years in public radio, Barbara Bogaev has served as the longtime guest host of NPR’s flagship program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, as well as host of APM’s news and culture magazine, Weekend America and the weekly national documentary series, Soundprint.

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