If your paycheck seems to be disappearing into thin air, you may be stuck in money traps.
But don't despair.
Most people can get unstuck without going bankrupt.
The biggest budget mistake is no budget at all.
As one reader put it, "we just put all the bills in a pile, and try to decide which to pay."
As she and others have learned, however, the money usually runs out before the bills do.
The same problem plagues many who do have a budget.
In letter after letter we read, "It looks good on paper, but it never seems to work." Why not?
Often because the budgets are unrealistic.
The solution: make a detailed record of where all your money goes now; then study it carefully.
Look for expenses that can be cut back.
And don't give up in the face of high fixed expenses.
Many of these can be reduced too.
In fact, it's often easier to save on essentials than on enjoyable extras.
If housing takes more than 25 percent of your income,
for example, consider moving to a cheaper place, or renting out an extra room.
If utility bills are high, get the whole family involved in a conservation plan.
Some bills can be eliminated altogether.
When one mother realized that cable TV was costing her $500 a year,
she decided that network TV wasn't so bad.
If you question every expense, you can find a few that can be reduced.