Budgeting to get back on track

Budgeting is like being on a diet, quips Motti Weisner, financial adviser to the Beit Shemesh-based nonprofit Lema'an Achai (www.SmartChesed.org), which runs a wide range of empowerment programs, including financial seminars. "The question is who controls who? Do you control your money or does it control you?" he says. "Being on a diet is about taking control of everything you eat; budgeting is exactly the same, it's about getting back in control of your money." A former resident of Cleveland, Ohio, Weisner, who has been running the financial seminars at Lema'an Achai for the past three years, says, "I'm always surprised when I meet people who have no idea how to manage their money. For so many people, it's a really difficult concept and they are very afraid of setting down a budget plan; they think it might change their lives too much. "I usually suggest the family sticks to the same or similar expenditure each month, with additions for certain times of the year such as when there are religious festivals. Anyone can learn how create a budget and even be persuaded to stick to it." Asked if he has experienced an increase in interest in his seminars over the past six months, Weisner says that more and more people are coming to him, including those from middle to higher income families, looking for ways to stay afloat during the growing recession. "We have definitely seen a rise in people using this service in order to maximize their budgets. Many of those who have either lost their jobs or are feeling the economic crunch are more compelled than ever before to seek out advice on how to make their money go further." With very low earners, however, Weisner cautions that it's much more than just smart budgeting. "It would be hard for anyone to keep to a budget on a very, very low income, but we do suggest to those individuals that they find additional work to increase their salaries, or encourage both partners to find a job," he says. "Financial troubles can really cause the most strife in families, especially if all the burden is on just one partner. "I know it can be very scary for someone who has never worked before to go out and join the job market, but the most important thing is for every individual to take responsibility for his own actions."