Having written about budgeting a number of times and personally finding it not at all fun, I've just discovered four online tools that supposedly make it at least bearable. Just remember a good spending plan is like a road map: it shows where you are and how to get to where you want to be. (I am sorry I can't attribute this information to a particular source; I found the printed list of sites, several of which are free, in my "To Write About/To Do" file.)
• www.mint.com is a free service that sets up your online budget based on your average weekly spending.
• www.clearcheck book.com is a super user-friendly tool that helps you to balance your checkbook and manage money.
Basically, it's an online check register that views reports, sets budgets, creates reminders, and much more. The standard version is free; however, the Premium version costs $4 monthly.
• Finance guru Dave Ramsey (www.dave ramsey.com) affords us a great tool. His Gazelle Budget Lite creates multiple budgets, gives the date on which you'll be debt-free, tracks all expenses, imports online bank statements, and customizes and adds new sub-categories. (Free seven-day trial; $9.95 monthly or $89.95 a year.)
Also see Dave's www.mytotalmoneymakeover.com.
Tax Tip: If you've lost your job and/or looking for a new position (although not a first one), certain expenses can be deducted: travel fees if the prospective job is away from home; food and lodging, if forced to be away from home; fees for signing up with an employment agency; and money spent advertising yourself to potential employers such as making resumes, business cards, and postage spent.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer email@example.com.