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Help is near to set up a budget

If you want 2011 to be the year you revamp your financial house, the Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Buffalo can be your guide.

The nonprofit financial education agency offers free monthly budgeting workshops. Participants get step-by-step guidance in tracking expenditures for a month, calculating income, setting goals and making a budget.

The next two workshops, open to all residents, will be held Jan. 15 and Feb. 26 in the agency's West Seneca main office, 40 Gardenville Parkway, Suite 300. Both sessions last an hour, from 10 to 11 a.m.

"It's free information, and we really think knowledge is power; the more people know, the more they can do for themselves," said Lisa Frankenberger, a workshop presenter and financial counseling program leader.

The workshop covers various types of spending plans, including the "calendar method," plotting out due dates on a calendar to visualize upcoming expenditures; and the "allowance system," in which a weekly amount is allotted for discretionary spending, limiting how much is spent on "wants."

Frankenberger pointed out that the Web has many free personal finance management tools. Site such as Mint.com and Wesabe.com quickly upload and analyze all of your accounts and financial data to cull and track spending habits, craft budgets, dispatch alerts to warn of overspending and even make comparisions with other users.

"Online budgeting can be great because everything is categorized and is right there for you to see," Frankenberger said. "It makes it easier."

She added many banks and credit unions also offer personal finance management tools on their websites.

For one-on-one budgeting help, which costs $25, or more information about the upcoming workshops, call Consumer Credit Counseling Services at 712-2060. The CASH Coalition (Creating Assets, Savings & Hope), a cadre of more than 60 community financial service organizations aimed at assisting low- to moderate-income families, also gives budget planning guidance. For more information, call CASH at 887-2717 or visit www.cashbuffalo.org.

-- Emma Sapong

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