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Income drops, worries rise; what to do?

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
April 13, 2009

You've always known you should do a family budget, but you've never done one.


Now, you've lost a job, or the boss has cut everyone's salary or benefits, and you know that soon bills will come due, and you're not sure you'll be able to pay them.


You need a plan.


Sure, you could hire a lawyer to help you deal with creditors, or (gulp!) you could declare bankruptcy, if things get that bad. You could hire a credit counselor or accountant.


Or you could do what you do when you need a new sink or the house painted: You do it yourself.


When you fix a sink, you can always ask the hardware store employee for advice. But where to you go for help with money?


The UW Extension has an answer. And you don't even have to talk to a stranger about your personal business. You just go to a Web site and read.


The Extension has a new publication that answers tough questions in plain language. It even provides a handy worksheet to help you figure out a budget.


Called "Dealing with a Drop in Income," it is available here.

Here's a sample of the plain-talking document:


"When you have a sudden drop in your income, the first step is to figure out what your current income will be and how much your monthly living expenses add up to."


The publication and related Web links explain how to talk to creditors, plan to get yourself out of debt, control your credit card spending, improve your credit rating and, if you need it, how to choose a debt counselor.


One of the links may be particularly valuable. It offers tips for resolving money arguments with your spouse.


"No matter how bad your situation might be, ignoring your worries won't make them go away. Take charge," the publication advises.


The UW Extension also offers free, confidential help at its county-based locations.


To learn more


To access the tools for dealing with a drop in income, go to www.uwex.edu/ces/flp/economics/resources_flp.cfm.
If you want to talk to a person, too, the UW Extension has real, live people who are charged with teaching people how to do things such as pickle beets, raise chickens, start a garden or even balance a budget. A list of county UWEX offices can be found at www.uwex.edu/ces/cty.

Local offices include:


-- Rock CountyŚCourthouse, 51 S. Main St., Janesville, (608) 757-5696.


-- Walworth CountyŚ100 W. Walworth St., Elkhorn, (262) 741-4951.



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