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Sticking to a budget


Georgians believe constructing a household budget is important, but sticking to one isn't easy. According to the Year-End 2014 Consumer Survey conducted by the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA), unexpected expenses like a car breakdown, hospital stay or job loss are the most common reasons a family detours from the budget.

According to the survey, 75 percent of respondents said having a household budget is very important, 21.3 percent said it's somewhat important and only 2.4 percent said it's not very important. More than 61 percent of respondents claim they usually stick to their budget, 20.9 percent said they sometimes do and 4.7 percent never do.

According to 69.6 percent of respondents, unexpected expenses are the culprit that keeps them from being able to live within their budget. Other reasons include income fluctuation, poor planning, not having enough funds to pay monthly bills and fluctuating food costs.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), five years ago a family of four spent an average of $185 a week on food. By the end of 2014 that was up to more than $206, about an 11 percent increase. At the same time, income levels for the same group increased about 5 percent.

Insider's Perspective:
President and CEO of Augusta Metro Federal Credit Union Sherry Saxon said following three simple rules can help people stick to a budget.

"If you're making a resolution about wanting a budget, first off you have to be committed to it," Saxon said. "You also have to have some organization to it. You can't haphazardly do a budget. Lastly, don't be afraid to ask for help. You can turn to your credit union for help. Here at Augusta Metro we have a program called BALANCE that offers classes and online tools to help people buy a car, buy a house or set up a budget," she said. "We also offer financial counseling."

Another suggestion is to cut out extra expenses like cable television and eating out.

"Those are the little things people don't realize add up quickly when you're trying to pay off bills," Saxon said.

To access BALANCE go to and click on the Products and Services tab.

Tips to stick to a family budget:

  • Set realistic goals. Setting a budget too tight only sets you up for failure. Be realistic when planning and make changes when necessary.
  • Plan ahead. For grocery shopping, make a weekly meal plan prior to the shopping trip and only purchase necessary ingredients. For a work commute, find someone to carpool with to cut the cost of gas. For budgeting finances, write down the total monthly net income, list all monthly expenses and then subtract expenses from the monthly income. Writing the information down can help to see where money needs to go.
  • Make room for error. It's nearly impossible to stick to a budget 100 percent of the time. Re-evaluate each month and move the money around as necessary. Create a miscellaneous category for extra and unexpected expenses.
  • Look to a credit union for help. Credit unions are member-owned and therefore have fewer fees, lower interest rates on loans and higher rates on savings accounts. Many offer financial tools such as savings calculators on their websites and hold free financial seminars throughout the year.

To learn more about credit unions or to find a credit union to join, consumers can visit:

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Additional Information
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US Household Income: Information about trends in U.S. family income and trends over time.
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Eating Healthy on a Budget The Consumer Economics Perspective: Advice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on how to develop healthier eating habits regardless of income level.
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Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, November 2014: A chart illustrating the cost of food for individuals of various ages and families at several income levels.
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Augusta Metro Federal Credit Union: The website of Augusta Metro Federal Credit Union, including a link to the BALANCE Financial Fitness Program.

State Contacts

Angi Harben
Director of Communications, GCUA

Local Contacts

Georgia Credit Union Affiliates