Best Life: Taking control of your finances

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Talking about your finances

PHOENIX - With the economy still on shaky ground, people are really trying to take charge when it comes to their money, but is it enough to keep them financially stress free in 2009.

"I bartender at night about thirty hours a week to supplement my income and help pay bills, so that I can keep my companies money in the company," Kevin Regan said.

"It's a little nerve racking, but I'm confident I can get back up on my feet really soon, but you've got to plan for the worst," Kerry Flynn said.

Kevin Regan and his girlfriend Kerry Flynn are like a lot of people these days that are either working more than one job or looking for one after getting the pink slip.

"It's definitely a wake-up call that ok you need to do the bare minimum until the income comes back," Flynn said.

To make sure the couple stays on track when it comes to paying their bills and saving money they're following a few simple rules to make for a less stressful year.

The first thing is to create a budget.

"Part of your budget even in January should be where do I want to be at the end of the year," Julie Stevens with UMB Bank Arizona said. "There's always got to be room in the budget for savings. If you can get a handle on it. If you know where you are financially and if you can stay to a strict budget you're going to feel in more control."

To help you keep track of that budget, she recommends making your own excel spreadsheets or using ones that are free online.

"There are free programs like mint.com and other things along those lines where you put you're spending into them and they'll track everything for you," Stevens said.

This is something that Flynn already does.

Not only does mint.com keep track of all of her bills, it also gives her a heads up when it's time to pay them.

"I get an email almost every other day saying pay your target bill, pay this bill and then it also gives me credit offers where I can save money," Flynn said.

Stevens said another way to stay on top of your finances is use auto debits or bill pay.

"Auto debits and bill pay are really nice because you don't have to think about your bills and you ensure that they get paid," she said.

How about using cash when it comes to paying some of those bills or making purchases?

"The debit and the credit cards make things really convenient, but if your somebody who is not disciplined with it and that could be throwing your budget off," Stevens said.

"If you're someone who is like that pull out cash. If you've budgeted 200 dollars a month for gas then pull out 50 dollars a week so that's your gas money. So when the 50 dollars is gone, it's gone."

Regan and Flynn both agree that using cash has been a lifesaver for them.

"I've used credit cards in the past, bit I've basically closed them all up and I try and live off the cash basis," Regan said.

"It's very easy to swipe and just forget about it and then you get the bill at the end of the month and you're like oh god," Flynn said.

Another tip to keep you financially stress free is talk to your banker and take advantage of their free programs.

"At UMB.com we have our online banking or bill pay service," Stevens said. "You can get free advice from a banker online."

So if your looking to get a jumpstart on your finances, following a few of these simple tips could make for a happier 2009.

"I'm always looking for more ways to save and ways to educate myself," Flynn said. "I'm not a financial expert."

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