1. Balanced Budget, Balanced Life: Setting Your Financial Priorities

Many people don’t plan their spending. It just sort of happens.

But what we spend on the basics—where we live, how we get around, what we wear, what we eat—can have a profound effect on the quality of our life. So can the amount of debt we’ve taken on. If basic expenses or debt eat up too much of our income, we won’t have enough left over for the fun stuff—vacations, entertainment, and other experiences that make life worth living. And if we spend too much today, we won’t have a cushion to protect ourselves from an emergency tomorrow or to sustain us in our old age.

A budget can be empowering. We’re wresting control of our spending away from advertisers, lenders, and mere impulse. ...

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