As I was listening to Governor Palin speak the other night, one thing caught my ear. When she first came to office, she cut spending. Out went the private jet, the cook and the driver. After those cuts, she continued to control spending. Now Alaska has a surplus. I was nodding at the screen. I thought, “Yep, that’s how it is done.” Control spending, delay gratification and what you end up with is a surplus. It’s not rocket science. It’s simple discipline.

Discipline is a great concept to inject into our spending habits, especially at this time of the year. Exercise discipline as you are knee deep in back-to-school shopping. I model discipline by giving the girls a budget to work with for school clothes shopping. I pay it out in cash and, armed with a list of what needs to be purchased, we keep our school clothing expenses under control. This takes time and planning — something that is always in short supply when you are raising kids.

I usually pick dinner time to talk about money with my own girls. Start the process by sitting down at the kitchen table and ask your child to make a list of what clothing they think they need to purchase for school this year. Then, take the list and go to their closet. Find a sibling or a charity for what does not fit and take a good look at what does. Now take a second look at the list. Chances are there are items in your child’s closet that they have forgotten they had. Clothes from last winter may make it through the new season. The point of this exercise? To get your child to stop, think and then make better choices about how they spend the money they have been given.

When you make the time to make a list, create a spending plan and think within the confines of a budget, you are exercising discipline. That’s called controlled spending — just like Governor Palin talked about last week. Who knows — it just may lead to your own family surplus. And wouldn’t that be nice for a change!

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Written by Susan Beacham
Susan Beacham founded Money Savvy Generation in 1999 after almost two decades in private banking and investment management complemented by considerable time teaching at the elementary level.

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