Knowing what to do with a raise may determine whether or not it even mattered. If all you do with a raise is to spend more money on eating out and entertainment, it won't matter much to your family in the long run that you even got the raise. Being strategic with the money can have a big impact on your family's lifestyle in the long run.

Consider which of these circumstances best describes your situation and follow the guidance to get the most out of your raise.

Awash in debt

if you can barely make ends meet each month because you're over extended, with credit card debt, car loans and maybe even a payday loan or two that are eating away at every penny you bring home. Put the money from the raise toward the smallest debts - probably the payday loans - to quickly reduce the monthly outflow for debt payments.

Barely scraping by

if you've been frugal forever and have successfully stayed out of debt, but you haven't accumulated much and don't own a home, now is a great time to put your focus on buying a home. Put the raise toward a savings account for a down payment and get serious about putting your family in a stable, permanent situation.

House poor

if you just bought a home and haven't been able to do much else and haven't even been contributing to your 401k or saving for your kids' college, now is the time to start contributing to the 401k and/or saving for your children's college education.

Still driving the clunker

if you've been driving the same car for a decade it would be tempting to run out and buy a brand new car on credit. The dealer will make it easy for you. Don't fall into that temptation. Save for six months, take the cash plus the clunker and upgrade to a car you'll be happy to drive for a few more years while you continue saving for a car you'll really be excited to drive. Make your car payment to yourself!

On top of the world

if you have everything under control, the cars are paid for, retirement savings and college savings are on track, consider how you can do some good with the money. When you have been blessed it is your great opportunity to become a blessing to others.

While none of these situations may describe yours perfectly, you may be able to get some ideas about how to use your raise. Making decisions that will benefit your family in the long run will ultimately bring the greatest happiness. A few extra basketball games or dinners at Applebee's won't provide stability that helps families build for the future. You want your kids to grow up in a stable home, get good grades, go to college and become healthy adults, grateful to their parents for the sacrifices they've made. Envision the future you really want and then go build it.

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