The city of Calhoun has started its budgeting process for the 2016 fiscal year and, with one planned purchase, is looking to make a process easier for citizens and business owners.

Residents and business owners soon will be able to apply and pay for business licenses online.

The city plans to purchase Citizens Self-Serve mainly for the online business license capability but City Clerk Paul Worley said officials could expand it, as they get more familiar with the program.

"It gives us a more customer-friendly aspect to business licensing and general billing," he added. "It gives the citizens an option to go online and do some of the work instead of coming to City Hall and filling out the traditional paper forms."

A few years ago, it added online modules for property taxes, which allows citizens to retrieve information and pay taxes online, and utility payments.

"Anything we can try to do to automate the process, make it easier for the citizens, we're interested in doing that," Worley said.

The city is looking to spend a total of more than $13 million, but less than the $13.7 million it budgeted in 2015. City Clerk Paul Worley said tax revenues have been flat and officials are waiting on the 2016 tax digest, which will determine how much property tax it can collect.

"We're seeing a little bit of growth on valuation of homes," Worley 

said. "We know we've added several businesses and commercial activity in particular, but until we know specifically what that dollar amount is, we're keeping some of those predictions flat from last year."

The proposed budget, which may be viewed at City Hall or in the Finance Department at Calhoun Utilities, is expected to change, Worley said. Mayor Jimmy Palmer at a Monday council meeting announced the city May 11 will hold its first public hearing on the budget and capital plan.

The preliminary budget includes a $5,000 increase in salaries for the mayor and council and an $18,000 hike in costs to house inmates that will result from procedural changes due to new legislation and a larger number of inmates and cases, according to Worley. From its operating budget, the city will spend less on repairs and maintenance on fire stations and vehicles and its Streetscape IV project.

Most capital expenditures will be funded with 2011 SPLOST dollars, including the ongoing effort to begin the Peter Street project, related water and sewer relocations and improvements at the Calhoun Recreation Department following the development of a plan to expand it.

The May 11 public hearing will include a presentation of the proposed budget, department by department, Worley said. A second public hearing June 8 also will include a budget presentation in addition to the city schools' presentation of its budget.

The council is expected to vote on the budget at its June 15 meeting.

City council meetings happen at 7 pm at The Depot in downtown Calhoun.

Republican Carly Fiorina isnt just the only woman in the Republican presidential field. Shes also the only candidate whoonce ran Hewlett-Packard, which was once the worlds second-biggest computer company. And while her tenure at HP didnt end well (she was fired), shes drawing on her business experience by making a budget-setting tool into one of her key campaign issues.

Arguing for a leaner federal budget, shewants to force every agency to justify itsspending by starting with a budget of zero and working up from there. The tool iscalled zero- based budgeting, and while likely candidatesRick Perry and Chris Christie have also talked about it, shes the one person in the field whos made it a signature issue.

Washington doesnt even know where all your tax dollars are going, Fiorina wrote on Facebook on April 15, Tax Day. They have no idea because they never examine any budget from top to bottomand havent for decades, she wrote, adding, Its time to move to zero-based budgeting and simplify the tax code.

Fiorina portrays zero-based budgeting as a solution to Democratic overspending.Ironically, the last president who made a big effort to zero-base the federal budget was Democrat Jimmy Carter. Reagan actually dropped the ideawhen he took office. What is true is that zero-based budgeting has enthusiastic practitioners in the business world. The Wall Street Journal reportedMarch 25 that its used heavily by 3G Capital Partners, which has announced plans to buy Kraft Foods Group for $49 billion and merge it with its HJ Heinz unit.

Fiorina might have a hard time distinguishing herself with zero-based budgeting given that shes never used it in government, whereas both New Jersey Governor Christie and former Texas Governor Perry have. Whats more, zero-based budgeting isnt universally popular, even among fiscally conservative Republicans. It just doesnt work with Congress, because they all believe in the spending, Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, told the Washington Times. Profit motivation is the fundamental ingredient that the government doesnt have.

Fiorina takes pains to set herself apart from the typical middle-of-the-road Silicon Valley CEO by stressing strongly conservative positions pretty much across the board of economics. Shes expressed skepticism about the science of global warming and opposed cap-and-trade legislation to combat it. She opposed fiscal stimulus in President BarackObamas first term. Shes in favor of lowering tax rates, simplifying the tax code, and deregulatingbusiness. The weight of government is literally crushing the potential of the people of this nation, she told the New Hampshire Republican Partys First in the Nation leadership summit on April 18.

To make clear that shes not the candidate of big business despite her former perch at HP, Fiorina wrote in her Tax Day post on Facebook, The result [of over-regulation] is crony capitalism because only big businesses can handle big government.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who is president of the conservative American Action Forumandadvised Senator John McCain on his 2008 Republican presidential campaign, says Fiorina is smart to stick to broad themes at this stage of the campaign. As someone whos been in a policy position in a campaign, I certainly felt we were well down the totem pole in terms of priorities, he says.

Fiorinas lack of a track record in government may hurt her overall, but it does make her less vulnerable to criticism about this or that policy. SaysStan Veuger, an economist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute: The detailed plans that people come up with just get them in trouble. At this point, says Veuger, I think she wants to position herself as the one Republican candidate who can attack Hillary Clinton the best without being accused of sexism.

Millennials -- wary of amassing debt and overdrafting their accounts -- think about budgeting differently than previous generations and are turning to tools, like prepaid cards, to manage their spending.

The cohort is more likely than the general population to give themselves an allowance, for example, or hide cash from themselves to avoid overspending, on top of more common savings techniques like using coupons and shopping at discount stores, according to a study by TD Bank that surveyed 1,300 people from various age groups.

Millennials have different financial needs than other consumer bases, said Tami Farrow, senior VP-head of retail deposit payments at TD Bank. The younger you are, the more the likelihood that you have emerging financial needs that require a different set of tools.

The shift, in part, is driving more millennials to use prepaid cards. According to the study, 56% of millennials surveyed said the ability to track spending is one of the main benefits of reloadable prepaid cards, as opposed to 46% of people overall.

The cohort also uses prepaid cards to shop and pay bills online more than other age groups, which speaks to the way the generation compartmentalizes their funds. For example, millennials are using prepaid cards solely for bills or as fun money, Ms. Farrow said. In the old days, it was putting cash in an envelope, she said. Think of prepaid cards as electronic envelopes.

Millennials are taking prepaid cards mainstream and fueling innovation in the space from issuers like American Express and Visa. Forget the bank-branded gift cards from the CVS checkout aisle, often gifted from relatives to hard-to-shop-for teens. Like the generation they appeal to, prepaid cards are growing up. Theyre reloadable, more secure online, digital and mobile-friendly, and some even function like full-service bank accounts.

One-third of millennials either currently use or have used a reloadable prepaid card in the past two to three years compared with one-quarter of the general population, according to the study. And 60% of millennials would consider using one.

We are now seeing the next evolution of prepaid, said Tony Chang, VP-US product and client marketing at Visa, which has been in the prepaid space since 1994. Prepaid is mainstreaming, and it provides such a great opportunity to be thinking about how prepaid services fit a diverse set of consumers.

AmEx, which broke into the prepaid space in 2011 with the digital banking product Serve, recently added tools that allow consumers to categorize their spending, set budgets and put aside money for a rainy day or upcoming expense. After it was relaunched 18 months ago, Serve began functioning like a full-fledged digital bank account with other features that appeal to millennials, like person-to-person payments, direct deposit and the ability to withdraw money from ATMs. Like other prepaid products, it doesnt require a credit check or minimum balance.

Serve customers, along with Bluebird, AmEx and Walmarts co-branded prepaid card, have loaded more than $7 billion in funds since fall 2012, representing 300% growth, according to AmEx. The company also said 54% of Serve users are under the age of 35.

Visa, which has a slew of co-branded prepaid cards in addition to its own offerings, is working to make online bill pay easier and help consumers better manage their money on mobile, according to Mr. Chang at Visa. In 2012, the company introduced a virtual prepaid account called Visa Mobile Prepaid where customers can check their accounts, transfer funds and deposit checks remotely, along with other services.

Prepaid cards, which are also used by parents to teach their children financial responsibility, allow issuers to connect with teens early on, whether they stick with prepaid, like their millennial siblings, or move on to credit or debit card products. We are seeing it as not only an entry to staying with prepaid, but also as a door that opens to traditional banking products, said Mr. Chang.

The process of smart budgeting, as opposed to the sickening obsession and rationalizations Vohwinkle alludes to, can eliminate the mind crunch while maintaining the healthy awareness of how spending influences the bottom line.

The Questions

Smart budgeting allows you the security and freedom to prepare for daily, monthly, yearly expenses, those unplanned emergency expenditures and establish a savings plan for the future, all while ideally living life relatively unshackled to the numbers.

It involves awareness of goals and constant reality checks.

It involves questioning and justifying.

The key difference between these questions and justifications, though, is that they occur way before your tires hit the shopping mall parking lot.

The Justifications

Unlike other drafts, blueprints or plans for major projects, financial planning involves a cyclical form of justification that requires a methodical series of looking backward and forward and back again. Each step of the plan, each breakdown of time, involves keeping in mind the broad endgame, the elemental steps and the occurrences that led to the current situation and the possible occurrences that will lead to the next step.

These justifications are in place to ensure that the steps outlined meet your personal financial goals with legitimacy and encompass every aspect of your financial life.

Justifications And Questions Work Together

When asking if a purchase is affordable, the purchase must be brought back into the context of the overall financial plan. Where does that purchase fit in the larger picture? Has it been accounted for in any way prior to that moment? Impulsive spending can easily lead to financial ruin, and the practice is easily habit forming.

In most instances, however, a quick reality check can dissuade unnecessary purchases that can wreak havoc on sound financial planning.

As with any other form of financing and investing, knowing your stops and following those pre-set regulations can save your balance. In the context of financial planning and smart budgeting, these stops are referred to spending thresholds - and they work.

One And Done? No Way

While the fundamental difference between the questions Vohwinkle mentioned and those involved in smart spending is planning ahead, financial plans and smart budgets cannot be calculated once and then left to collect cobwebs in the recesses of your mind.

Life never follows and exact path, and therefore, even the best-laid plans deserve and demand constant maintenance, upkeep and checkups.

Seriously take into account the financial freedom afforded through explicit and exhaustive financial planning. Invest in yourself and avoid the stomach churning questions in line at the cash registers. Know before you shop what you can afford and how your purchase fits into your finances.

This article is part of a collaborative project between NASDAQ contributor and Benzinga Managing Editor Joe Young and Benzinga Personal Finance Writer Rebecca Sheppard.