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Budget for your priorities

So many things to do! If only you had the money.

A lack of money holds many of us back from going after our dreams — especially for a working student. After all, the biggest goals tend to be the most expensive.

But many of us spend money mindlessly on things that don’t really matter to us. Here are six ways to budget for the things you really, really want.

1. Calculate your goals

Get a true estimate for how much that car, college education or home will cost, what financing options you may be able to take advantage of, and how much you’ll need to save each month to make your goal a reality by the date you choose.

2. Put what matters first

Create a household budget that revolves around that monthly savings goal. You can use budgeting tools, like YNAB (You Need a Budget), or you can simply use an Excel file or Google Sheets spreadsheet to track your income and expenditures, record your savings goals and figure out where you can cut costs. The point is to put your priorities first.

3. Make it automatic

Ask your employer if you can have a portion of your paycheck automatically diverted to your savings account. Or set up a regular automatic transfer between your checking and savings accounts through your financial institution’s online banking system.

4. Analyze, and renegotiate, your bills on a regular basis

It’s so easy to pay bills on autopay. But you need to take the time to look over your bills every few months; you’ll be surprised at where you can cut costs. You can often negotiate lower prices on your bills (cable, car insurance, cell phone contracts) just by calling and asking. And if they say, “no,” head off to greener (cheaper!) pastures.

5. Watch out for “gray charges”

They are those automated expenditures you’ve forgotten about — or never knew about — such as apps that bill you annually or “free trials” that roll over into paid subscriptions if you don’t stop them. Go through your transactions every month and look for unexpected charges. Then call up those companies immediately and cancel their services.

6. Do without (but not really)

If you really want to earn that degree, go on that trip or buy that house, consider what you can do without — at least temporarily. For example, do you really need to spend $90 every month on a cable package? That $1,080 yearly expense could buy you an island vacation or a down payment on a car. Another example: That $4 daily venti-skinny-latte-mochaccino habit costs you $1,460 per year. But ground coffee and a bottle of flavored coffee syrup cost a few cents a day.

After all, what do you want more — your dreams or that $4 coffee?