Making a plan for spending money is key to long-term security



K-State family resource expert says meeting life’s goals requires a spending strategy

MANHATTAN, Kan. – When it comes to managing finances, Elizabeth Kiss says we should think less like a sprinter and more like a long distance runner.

“It’s a lifelong process,” said Kiss, a family resource management specialist with K-State Research and Extension. “The idea is that you have a plan and it’s thoughtful in that you’re spending money now that helps you achieve your life’s goals.”

Kiss said April is a good time to stop and think about the family’s financial goals. The month is annually declared financial literacy awareness month – usually it coincides with doing your taxes – which is a chance to take stock of what you’re earning and what you’re spending.

“To get ahead, you have to spend less than you earn and do something with the rest to meet your goals,” Kiss said.

For example, parents and families may have a goal to save for retirement, or are saving for a family vacation. Other long-term goals may include such things as buying a car or helping children pay for college.

“There are a couple ways to think about how you pay for all of that,” Kiss said. “We might just talk about saving what money is leftover. Another approach that is typically more successful is to make a plan for your spending and saving. You might have some miscellaneous spending, but hopefully that is not more than 10% of your total spending.”

Kiss said putting together a spending plan, or budget, for the family does not have to include a formal spreadsheet. “It could be on a piece of notebook paper or other paper,” she said.

“What you want to do is think about the expenses that you have every month and the expenses you have periodically throughout the year. If you are spending more than you actually earn, then you are either taking money from savings or you probably using credit. Sometimes in the short run, (using credit) is what we need to do, but in the long run, that’s not sustainable.”

Getting ahead could be prioritizing the family’s ‘needs’ and ‘wants,’ Kiss said. Then thinking about what can be changed in the short and long term.

K-State Research and Extension has recently revised the publication, How Are You Doing? A Financial Checkup, which is available online.

“My mantra on this is to be thoughtful and deliberate,” she said. “Think through your choices and if they make sense. If a decision fits your values and helps you make progress toward your financial goals, then go for it.”

More information and resources on family finances is available online from K-State Research and Extension.

FOR PRINT PUBLICATIONS: Links used in this story
Publication: How Are You Doing? A Financial Checkup,

K-State Research and Extension family finances,

K State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K State campus in Manhattan. For more information, visit

Story by:
Pat Melgares
[email protected]

For more information:
Elizabeth Kiss
[email protected]


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here