Christmas charge-card bills soon will be arriving. Income tax forms are in the mail. It's that time of year when thoughts turn to - budgeting.

Although people who never use a budget probably don't want to hear the news, two Utah researchers have found that formal budgeting definitely pays off in the long run.Ivan F. Beutler, a Brigham Young University professor of family sciences, and Jerald W. Mason, a former BYU faculty member, surveyed Iowa families in the late 1970s, and their research was recently published in the Home Economics Research Journal.

They found that fewer than 10 percent of the families used "textbook style" budgeting, including planning, written records and formal review. But those who did follow formal budget guidelines had greater financial worth than those who didn't. The difference wasn't large but was statistically significant, Beutler said.

Overall, just 9.5 percent of those in the survey planned one year ahead, wrote down their plans down and recorded and reviewed their actions. Most of the rest, 55.6 percent, used some of the formal criteria. A large number, 34.9 percent, made decisions at the point of purchase and never recorded transactions or made any evaluation of spending.

Beutler said income did not influence how a family budgets its money. But those who were married, younger and more educated or who had high circumstantial demands, such as large numbers of children, were more likely to use formal budgets.

Beutler said he was surprised at the variety of budgeting techniques used. He's begun researching the relationship between family type and budgeting pattern, hoping the information will help in the writing of school curricula to address different budgeting styles.

"All the textbooks in personal finance essentially say the same thing. They all use a very technical, rational approach to budgeting. You write everything down as though it was predictable and you keep accounts as though you were an accountant by nature. I realized that this is not what people do; this is just what the textbooks say they ought to do."