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Living paycheck to paycheck

If you're on a merry-go-round, you're not alone. Scrambling to make ends meet is an all-too-familiar exercise in homes all across the country.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN

For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' "Home Rich," now in bookstores.

NEW YORK ( -- Here are some tips on how you can stop living hand to mouth.

1. Get a plan

Setting up a budget is the first step to knowing where you money is going and where you can cut back.

Check out This site let's you input your user name and password for each of your bank, credit card and investment accounts, and Mint automatically draws in all your transaction and balance information. You'll be able to review your spending in a pie chart. And you'll receive an alert when there is unusual activity, a low bank account balance or an upcoming bill.

A site called also stores your banking info. You'll be able to see snapshots of your spending. This is a community-based Web site, so members can share tips and advice to each other. And finally, has a budget calculator where you can see how your spending compares to others like you.

2. Get more money

If you're looking forward to a big refund from the IRS this year, it means you've been giving Uncle Sam a big fat interest free loan for the past year. Instead, change your tax withholding so you can take home more cash in your paycheck. Aim to adjust your withholding so that your tax payments will match your actual tax liability. Check out the withholding calculator at the

3. Think pre-tax

Make your money go further by taking advantage of pre-tax spending programs your employer may offer. You may be able to contribute money to a medical flexible spending plan. This lets you put aside pre-tax money to cover expenses like doctor co-pays, prescription medicine or over the counter remedies.

You may be able to take advantage of flexible spending accounts when it comes to child care and transportation. And of course you don't want to miss getting your employer match on your 401(k).

4. Don't overlook perks & benefits

You may be eligible for a bonus if you bring in new business or refer people to company jobs. Many employers pay one-time bonuses to employees who bring in new business or refer candidates for hard-to-fill company jobs.

A majority of companies also offer special bonuses to employees with who go above and beyond expectation or have accomplished something extraordinary. So, find out whether your company has a spot-award program. And then you can figure out what it takes to get it.  To top of page

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