For many of us, creating and sticking to a budget is a top New Year’s resolution. Mastering the ability to live within your means is especially important if you are in the middle of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or planning to file, because successful planning can help ensure greater financial success in the future.

Here are some steps to get you started.

List your monthly expenses

This includes:

  • Monthly bills like rent/mortgage, utilities, cell phone, etc.
  • Your daily purchases

The last category is especially important. Do you get a morning latte from Starbucks on your way to work each day? Go out with your colleagues for lunch? See a movie every weekend? These seemingly little expenses can really add up.

Once you have a reasonable estimate of your monthly expenses, subtract them from your monthly take-home pay. If you have a balance, then that’s good. You can make it even stronger by (for example) bringing your lunch to work a few times a week or taking coffee with you in a travel mug. If you have a deficit, then you definitely need to cut back.

Determine your monthly priorities

Food, clothing, and shelter are top needs for everyone and definitely come before restaurant lunches and designer accessories in terms of priority. List the priority expenses for your family and how much you spend on each one every month.

Don’t forget to add the ones that can come up once a year, such as maintenance and repair costs for your home and automobile. Review how much you spent on these costs last year and divide the number by 12 to get a reasonable estimate of how much you will likely spend this year.

Re-examine non-essential spending

When you’re re-establishing yourself financially, it’s important to review all non-essential items on your list of monthly expenses. Look at your list to see where you can cut back. For example, if you’re spending $80 a month by going to the movies each weekend with your partner or spouse, why not invest in a Netflix account and minimize the outings to once a month?

While cutting back unnecessary spending is a good practice that will help you make the most of your fresh start after discharge, don’t be too harsh on yourself. Attaining financial stability calls for some sacrifices, but completely depriving yourself of any enjoyable activities can make the process seem punitive. Achieving a healthy balance is key.

With the right planning, 2018 can be the year that you put your financial challenges behind you. For more information on how a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help you achieve a more prosperous future, contact a New York bankruptcy attorney today. Jayson Lutzky is a lawyer with an office in the Bronx who has over 34 years of legal experience. He offers free in-person initial consultations and can be reached at718-514-6619 or online at