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Spending and Budgeting

If you are having problems with debt, you may want to create a budget to plan how much you will spend each month. Whatever your income level, a budget will increase your awareness of how you spend money.

A budget can help you:
• Pay bills on time
• Stop collection agencies from bothering you
• Save money for emergencies and goals
• Enjoy a sense of financial security

Current Spending Patterns
Understanding how you use money is an important step toward managing money to meet your needs and goals. It can also help you make sure that you are spending money on what is most important to you. This is especially important when you return to work, because increasing your income might reduce your disability benefits and eligibility for other assistance programs.

To get a sense of your spending habits, answer the following questions:
• Are you unaware of how much total debt you have?
• Each month, do you skip some bills to pay others?
• Are you receiving calls from creditors about overdue bills?
• Are you unable to pay for necessities like food, heat, and rent?
• Are you using an increasing percentage of your monthly income to pay off debts?
• Can you only pay the minimum amount on your credit card(s) each month?
• Do you have money saved for an emergency?
• Have you postponed medical or dental appointments because you can't afford them?

Take a moment to think about your answers:

If you answered “yes” to any question in the checklist, creating a budget may help you make different choices about how you spend money and improve your ability to pay bills on time.

If you answered “yes” to more than four questions, your overall level of debt is probably increasing and may become overwhelming. Don't give up or deny that there is a problem. You may want to work with a credit counselor or a trusted friend to explore options that can lower your debt level.

If you aren't earning enough money to cover basic necessities, such as food and housing, contact your case manager or local HIV/AIDS organization for help in identifying public and private assistance programs that can help.