With the economy struggling personal finance planning has become more important than ever before. For many Americans, this is the first real fiscal crisis they’ve seen. It’s not all doom and gloom though. With proper personal finance planning you can make sure you and your family weather the storm. No matter your income or financial situation, here are three steps to better personal finance planning.

1. Create a Budget. This is the most important step and, for some reason, the most frequently overlooked. Putting all your debits and credits down on paper is an invaluable step in personal finance planning. It will become obvious rather quickly where all your money is going. Many times it’s going to places where there is an opportunity to save a significant amount. Groceries, clothing, household items and entertainment are all costs that it is relatively easy to cut back on. For example, have dinner at home then go to a movie instead of an expensive dinner out. Or better yet, stay in and watch one. Many people come to accept that what they pay for daily expenses is “just the way it is”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Take the time to create a budget and you'll start to see exactly where the savings are.

2. Set Goals. The next step to proper personal finance planning is to create some financial goals. There’s no right or wrong here. It could be something like saving an extra 5% each month or paying down some debt. If you're reading this, then chances are you have daydreamed about having more money for something. Well, here is your chance to turn that something into a goal that you work towards every day. And there's no better feeling than seeing that goal become realized.

3. Create a plan. The last step is to come up with how you’re going to meet those goals. Unless you have the ability to create more income, this usually means that you’ll have to cut back somewhere. This is where having a great budget makes your life easier. If you cut corners on the budget, then you’re going to have a tough time wrapping your head around exactly where you can save the most money. When it comes to personal finance planning, it pays to be thorough and exhaustive.

Times are tough and everyone is feeling the pinch. With a good solid personal finance plan you’re can come out of it better, yes better, than you went in. It’s in these tough times that we are forced to take a hard look at how we're spending their money.  Once you’ve trained yourself to save .money, it becomes easy and second nature.