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It’s no secret that it’s pricy to live in Bozeman, Montana. For all its faults Bozeman is a pretty nice place. Great views, lots to do, but the cost of living here can strain a budget.

There are many proven ways to save money. Saving money is the opposite of losing weight. Eat fewer calories than you burn — you lose weight. Spend more than you take in and you gain debt.

It’s time to put yourself on a money diet.

So instead of asking, “Do you really want to eat that?” you might think, “Do you really need to spend that?”

The Wrong Way to Save

I can tell you from personal experience that I thought it was just impossible to save anything. Not a single dollar.

I got paid, I paid the bills that counted, rent, food, utilities, car, credit cards, and the rest went to impulse buys for the most part and I found that the money ran out before the month did.

It was a paycheck-to-paycheck mentality that many Bozeman residents experience.

The Right Way to Save

I created an Excel budget spreadsheet. You can do this on paper too if you’re not a computer person.

I needed to know where the money was going, and was there a way that I could handle money in a way that I managed it, rather than it managing me?

This didn’t happen in one evening.

Every time any bill for anything came in, I added it to the budget. Some bills only happen once in a while. One example would be property tax or car license plates.

Over the course of about six months, I had every conceivable bill included in my spreadsheet.

As you might expect a pattern begin to develop. As I managed money better by being on top of the spending, I was able to create small surpluses at the end of each month.

I began to see how to retire debt and spend more wisely with those small surpluses.

As each payment was retired I could add that to another payment and those small surpluses began to be larger surpluses.

Some Final Thoughts

Put yourself on a money diet. Spend less than you take in. It’s really hard to break old habits.

You see something on the shelf or online and just have to have it. We all battle those demons.

But once you start seeing an increasingly brighter light at the end of the tunnel your sacrifice starts paying off.

With my spreadsheet budget, I can see on payday where every dollar goes. I can adjust how much is sent to each creditor. Some will only get the minimum payment so I can add more somewhere else.

We can all live within our means in Bozeman or anywhere else — if we know what those means are.

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