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Love and Debt: Why you need to talk about money

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Where to go for mortgage and debt help

What You Should Know About Debt Settlement

Create a plan to deal with medical debt

Options for Higher Education

Will Changes in Credit Reporting Affect You?

What to do if your medical bills are turned over to collections

What to do if your spouse can't pay his or her bills

What to do when a family member ruins your credit

Homeownership is possible

What you need to know about the IRS and collection agencies

Will being turned down for a store credit card hurt my credit?

Beware of credit repair

Debt Management versus Debt Settlement

How to get ahead of late fees

Is There a Service That Helps You Not Pay Bills

Is a Debt Owed

Patience is the key to furnishing a new home

How to split expenses with your partner

Will my boyfriend's bad credit affect me?

What to do if your account is turned over to collections

Personal Credit and Starting a Business

Finding Money to Reduce Your Debt and Improve Your Credit

Simple Keys to Personal Finance

Be vigilant to avoid telephone and internet scams

Debt Settlement

Understanding credit utilization

The pros and cons of skipping a payment

Keep an open line of communication with parents about their finances.

Make a Choice to Get Ahead Financially

What to do when a relative asks you for money

Should You Buy a Home Now or Wait?

The difference between debt settlement and debt management

The negative impact of paying a payment 30 days late

Stressed by Finances

How to navigate two significant financial decisions: starting a family and buying a home

How to advise someone close to you who is coming into a significant amount of money

Make a Conscious Decision on How to Spend Your Money

How do you know if you have a good credit score?

Americans spend more money eating out than on groceries

Having Good Credit Saves You Money

Developing good money habits with your first job

How to save for a home

How to Know if you are Ready for Home Ownership

When is the right time to buy a home?

You can improve your credit to buy a home

Plan a Memorable Vacation Without Incurring Debt

The Hidden Costs of Payday Loans

Be Wary of Credit Repair Services

Use Caution when playing the credit card game

What does it mean to say bankruptcy gives you a clean slate?

How your credit is affected by various debt options

Be wary of predatory small business loans

What to do if you fall behind on mortgage payments

Financing a College Education

Money, Credit and Relationships

Should you be concerned with your date's credit scores?

Best options for a small, short-term loan

How to help a relative who is always borrowing money from you

Skipping a Payment over the Holidays

What to do if you are overwhelmed by medical bills

Make your financial intention a financial goal you can achieve

What to do when a collector calls you

The difference between paying bills and managing your money

My wife and I have gone through some tough financial times, which eventually led us to file for bankruptcy.  Following this experience, I don’t ever want to use credit again, but my wife

What do I need to know to pay ahead on my mortgage?

What to do if you get an unsolicited credit card in the mail

What to do when moving in to share expenses doesn't work out

The difference between paying bills and managing your money

Q. My sister and I have an ongoing argument.  She maintains that managing your money is not the same thing as paying your bills.  I say it is. Can you weigh in on this for us?

A.. I have to say that I’m siding with your sister on this one.  Let me explain why. Paying your bills is reactionary: a bill arrives, and you pay it. Once all your bills are paid, you either have no money left to spend, or you spend what remains. If you spend your life simply paying your bills, you will become frustrated, wondering why others–even those who make less than you—have things that you don’t. 

On the other hand, managing your money is a way of planning for the future. Sure, even when you’re managing your money you must pay your bills, but it has less to do with how much money you have and more about working toward your goals. When you take the time to set goals, you will be surprised by how quickly you start aligning your spending with your future plans.

We all have to live within the limits of our income, but how we do that is what differentiates one person from another. We naturally have different priorities, needs and wants. Nevertheless, without a plan, we can be easily sidetracked, thoughtlessly spending any extra money we have, or buying things we see others have, but that really don’t matter to us.

Managing your money means that you use your money to get what is important to you, by setting short-term, medium-term and long-term financial goals. Throughout this planning process, you learn to anticipate “unexpected” expenses, because the unexpected always happens, and you don’t want these circumstances to derail your goals.  When you manage your money, you do not spend every dollar you make. Instead, you save money for the unexpected, as well as for your goals.   

Goals will help you clarify what’s important to you and will help you ask questions about how you want to spend your money. When you’re making a buying decision, you can ask, “Will this purchase bring me closer to or further from reaching my goals?” Big-picture thinking can also help you zero in on places where you’re wasting money. For example, are you throwing out food each month because you let it spoil? Do you have magazines laying around that you never read?  Are there clothes in your closet you will never wear?  If you shopped with a goal-focused list, would you be more careful about what you purchase?  Would saving $25 or more a month help you reach your goal?     

It is important to pay your bills each month.  But if you want to make progress with your finances, setting goals and planning for the future will help you accomplish far more. 

Bonnie Spain is the executive director of the American Center for Credit Education and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills. For more information, email

The material in this transmission is provided for personal, non-commercial, educational, and informational purposes only. ACCE makes no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this transmission and assumes no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any inconsistency herein. You should consult a professional where appropriate.