Addressing my personal budget

Organize, analyze, and plan. That's the key to maintaining a personal budget. As a freelance writer it's crucial that I not only keep track of every penny, contract and receipt but also every client and job. I could take the somewhat archaic route, which means annotating every little (or big) expense in a ledger. But you know, sometimes my budget outlook has so much information that I might as well be writing a news story.

You've probably been told that when it's time to save money, every dollar counts. While this is true, cutting out your morning coffee isn't going to have as profound an impact as downsizing your home. Put your effort into reducing your largest expenses to fix your budget with minimal stress.

As advice site The Muse explains, every financial decision you make takes time, effort, and mental energy. Some of the changes you can make have bigger impacts than others. Putting your effort into these bigger changes will make the most out of your stress. For example, if you can cancel your cable bill with one phone call, that will do a lot more for you in the long run than resisting the urge to have a coffee every single morning. The bigger the expense, the more time and effort you should put into reducing it:

Make smart choices about big items in your budget, and don't obsess over pinching pennies. After all, if you're spending 50% of your take-home pay on rent, cutting out coffee isn't going to help much anyway... Taking aim at the big expenses may mean finding a roommate, opting for a cheaper car, or spending a few hours calling up service providers to negotiate better rates on your heftiest bills.

Of course, that doesn't mean you can't spend time or effort on the little things. Just treat them proportionately. If your house was on fire and the dog just peed on the carpet, obviously one of these crises needs to be dealt with much sooner than the other. Likewise, if you're spending five to ten hours a week couponing to save $30 at the grocery store, but your rent is 50% of your household income, the high rent should demand much more of your immediate attention if possible.

By Chris Lisinski

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GROTON -- If the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District has its way, the timeline of the towns budgeting process would get pushed back to match up more closely with the schools.

The district asked the Charter Review Committee to consider pushing back the due date of the town managers budget proposal from Dec. 31, where it currently stands, to Feb. 15. That request was the subject of a Wednesday joint meeting between the Charter Review Committee, the Finance Committee and members of the Board of Selectmen.

No final action was taken -- a more concrete decision will come at the July 6 Charter Review Committee meeting -- though the various officials debated the merits of such a change for almost two hours.

The school district believes such a change would allow the town to build a budget based on a more accurate estimate of what is needed to fund the schools. Currently, the town uses an estimate from the schools because the district cannot finalize its budget until it learns what it will receive in state aid, usually around January.

School Committee Chairman Jeff Kubick said that the change would also help avoid a perception that the school district is solely responsible for any financial challenges.

If you have a Dec. 31 budget that gets set by the municipal side and then the school district comes in after that and theres any variability, the perception there is that the school is requesting cuts to the town budget, he said.

LEOMINSTER -- In a review of Superintendent Jim Jolicoeurs job performance over the last school year, five members of the School Committee said he has been proficient in doing his job, while two said he needs improvement, and one said he fell somewhere in between.

This was the roughly same score Jolicoeur received last year, but with an added note that changes need to be made in how the superintendent goes about preparing the annual budget.

We definitely need to focus on that for the next year. Its been a challenge since Jim has come on board and maybe now with the opening of the business manager (position) well have the opportunity to hire someone that can get us to where we need to be, said at-large member Suzanne Koehler.

Of the nine committee members that rated Jolicoeurs performance on budget preparation, three said he had met expectations, one said he had made significant progress, two said he made some progress, and three said he had not met expectations.

Several committee members spoke more on issues in the budgeting process during Mondays meeting, including Ward 1 member Kristin Howlett, who said: Its about documenting and prioritizing, and I think if we can just get that piece down we will be on our way.

Jolicoeur did receive high marks from the committee in the areas of family and community engagement and instructional leadership, where eight committee members said he had been proficient, and professional culture, where seven committee members said he was proficient.