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Financial problems hit just about everyone at one time or another. The question is, when they hit you, how will you react? By talking with an objective, experienced credit counselor you are taking back control of your financial future. We're here to help, and the time is now.
So, are you ready for the big holiday this week? No, not Thanksgiving- Black Friday! Although this year, Thanksgiving has gotten roped into the mix as well. Shopping has officially taken over as the objective for the entire latter half of this week. Weâ€™re starting off the season of the highest retailer profits of the year with a bang- but at what personal cost?
Iâ€™ve already heard lots of people I know talking through their shopping strategy- which stores theyâ€™re hitting when, whoâ€™s offering the deepest discounts on what. Some people are making their plans to get up at 4AM to start shopping on Friday, while others are planning to start in as soon as theyâ€™ve downed their last slice of pumpkin pie tomorrow.
Donâ€™t get caught up in this frenzy. Way too many people break the bank- or worse yet, the credit card- helping to make the holiday season more and more commercial every year.
Whether they realize it or not, these people are making spending a small fortune their family tradition for the holiday. Is that really the kind of tradition you want to set? Think of all the ways you could spend this Friday other than shopping: Family Game Day, Bake Cookies Day or Watch Old Movies Day. The possibilities are endless when you make the day about spending time with loved ones instead of spending as much of your hard-earned money as possible.
I understand the allure of Black Friday-there certainly are some impressive discounts to consider. But think about this: how many of those items would you still buy at full price? Is the fact that something is cheap a legitimate reason to buy it?
Sadly, this type of mentality- paired with the hyper-excitement that builds during shopping on Black Friday in the first place- causes many people to spend money on things they normally wouldnâ€™t (and shouldnâ€™t.) Itâ€™s not a good deal if money is spent on something you didnâ€™t truly want.
Remember, retailers are in the business of making money, not helping you save on your holiday shopping. They offer these heavy discounts because they know once youâ€™re in the store, you will spend far more than you planned to-often on items that arenâ€™t even discounted. Youâ€™ll lose and the retailers will gain.
Itâ€™s your money and YOUR holiday- donâ€™t make it about spending and presents. How about teaching our children that itâ€™s about family and friends enjoying the most wonderful time of the year together? Now that would be a holiday to look forward to.
Thanksgiving is nearly here. It's that special time to give thanks and spend the day with our loved ones...not to mention having panic attacks over the money you'll spend on one meal. This year, FCM is helping you keep the spending in line so you can focus on what really matters.
Make everyone in your family responsible for at least one dish or beverage, and try to coordinate or assign so that Uncle Bob and Brother John donâ€™t bring the same kind of mashed potatoes. Not only will this save you some cash, but the variety will make the table more interesting. Picky eaters will tend to bring a dish theyâ€™ll actually eat, which cuts back on the waste of trying to find something to appease them. Even if someone brings $5 store bought cookiesâ€¦ thatâ€™s five bucks still left in your pocket! If youâ€™re the guest, make sure you bring something to help ease the strain on your host or hostess.
Yes, that turkey is the symbol of the holidayâ€¦ but if your family doesnâ€™t actually love it and pack it away itâ€™s just not worth it. What meal does your family really dig into? The best meals are filled with laughter and conversation. Every family is different, so cater the day for the memory and not the overpriced commercial. I donâ€™t care how pretty the cranberry sauce is, if you KNOW most of it ends up in the trash at the end of the day, donâ€™t buy it!
Thereâ€™s no shame in buying the grocery store brand. If the lack of a brand name bothers you, toss the food on your fancy plate and no one will be the wiser. A lot of those items are manufactured in the same place and just stuffed into different boxes. Ignore the ego and donâ€™t buy into the advertising.
Do a little research before you hit the grocery store. Write down the items you NEED for those recipes and try not to stray from the list. Everything is packaged enticingly and placed to catch your eye and wear down your frugal defenses. Be strong! Itâ€™s a jungle out there, and those little extras take a big bite out of your income.
Even the â€śmoney saversâ€ť are out to get you. Many of the stores offer turkeys at a cheaper price to lure people into buying more for the extras. You could end up spending an extra $50 on the extras so that you can buy the turkey at $.49/pound when you could have bought the turkey at its regular price and all extras for a total of $20. Donâ€™t just assume the stores are out to save you money-theyâ€™re out to make money for themselves!
No matter how savvy you are, youâ€™re still likely to spend more on this dinner that you usually do during the week. Supplement that loss by saving the leftovers and packing them for lunch or heating them up for dinner the following week. Waste not, want not!
Frozen turkeys are generally less expensive than the fresh and taste just as good. The catch is that you need about one day for every four pounds of meat thaw. So, my procrastinating friends, youâ€™ll have to buy that bird early. If youâ€™re dashing for that last minute turkey the day beforeâ€¦ youâ€™re usually stuck with the bigger and more expensive fresh birds. Desperate last minute shopping tends to be more expensive anyway, because those early chicks nip all the cheaper grocery brands and honest good deals on the shelves as well. Get in there! Youâ€™ll feel far less stressed if youâ€™re prepared early and enjoy the holiday more.
Arenâ€™t those prepared plates gorgeous? And if time is money, youâ€™re actually saving some change by not having to slice, dice, and arrange all those little meats, cheeses, and fruits and veggies, right? WRONG. Youâ€™re usually paying twice as much for that labor. Get out your knife and start chopping! No one notices if the carrots arenâ€™t all the same length, or if the cheeses are different thicknesses. Honestly, as long as people can tell there are different items, they usually donâ€™t even notice the design, they just plop what they want on their plate.
Everyone wants a beautiful table. It doesnâ€™t matter what your dĂ©cor style is, people want things to match and sparkle in some form or another. Usually everyone is so busy stuffing their gullet that they donâ€™t noticeâ€¦ but the desire to impress is always there. Luckily, if youâ€™re potlucking, everyone will have mismatched dinnerware. Did you know that you can usually find all those little accessories at a dollar store, or other home discount store? Clear glass can match with anything. Discounted items in the same color family can create a mismatched and cozy look. Use colorful mixing bowls and grill platters as service ware. Use small pumpkins or gourds as inexpensive decoration. Be creative and you really wonâ€™t have to shell out for new tableware.
Every cent you save for this holiday can be used towards the one thatâ€™s just around the corner. Every step above can be re-used as well. Wouldnâ€™t you rather skip the fancy cheese plate and buy that gift instead? Canâ€™t you purchase the store brand and use the saved $3 to put toward a stocking stuffer? Use this holiday as both a practice run for smart shopping and budgeting (both in stress and money!). Also try and use this as inspiration to rein it in so that you can have a fabulous Christmas as well and keep your piggy bank happy.
Debt around the holidays weighing you down?
Credit cards are part of our everyday lives. While these little pieces of plastic can be a convenient way of shopping, they can also get you into trouble if youâ€™re not careful. We all
know that living within our means and not racking up credit card debt you canâ€™t pay off is importantâ€¦ but what else should you avoid when it comes to credit card use?
Glad you asked!
It's a simple piece of advice: pay your bills on time so you don't incur late fees. They're simply a waste of your hard-earned money. Just as important, late fees reflect negatively on your credit. If you do not utilize online bill paying services or make payments on your creditorâ€™s website now is the time to start. This will save you time, and money (checks, stamps,) and you will not have to worry about the mail.
We recently counseled an older gentleman with $20,000 in credit card debt. A significant portion of that debt was due to consumables. He'll be paying for things like gasoline and groceries long after they've disappeared. Don't ever use a credit card for a purchase that will be gone by the time the bill comes. If the item isn't going to still be here in a month, it's not worth putting it on your card, because you'll be paying on it for months after it's gone.
Charging on a credit card is like not spending real money. We have seen study after study showing if you use plastic, you spend more than if you used cash or a check. The lenders and merchants have seen the same studies and are relying on you to fall prey to this type of thinking- be smarter than that! If you are not among the handful of consumers who can control their spending and never charge more than you can pay off in full that month, keep your card safely stowed away when you hit the register.
I once met with a young man who was past due on several credit cards. When I reviewed his accounts I noticed he purchased a brand new TV for $500 while several of his cards were past due. When I asked his reasoning, he said he figured the minimum payment would only go up by about $10 a month and he can always come up with that. When you make only the minimum payment every month, all you are doing is paying off the interest and at best, a tiny portion of the principle. This type of thinking is one reason so many of us need debt help today.
Cash advances usually come at a higher interest rate than debt from purchases, and often come with a transaction fee as well. While cash advances aren't payday loans, they're still extremely costly. What's so important that you have to have this money now? It's typically not the most desperate people who get into the most with credit cards, because banks (unlike payday lenders) don't loan offer credit cards to high risk applicants. It's the middle class Americans who get into the most trouble with credit cards and cash advances.
Most people fall victim to their impulse shopping cravings at least some of the time and merchants know it! They spend a lot of time and money figuring out the best way to lay out a store, and just the right words in advertising so that you will be encouraged to buy things you don't need and, often, will regret buying them in the first place.
If you think, or know, that you're an impulse buyer, take the appropriate steps to prevent this detrimental habit. Leave your credit cards at home, or if youâ€™re married to someone who doesnâ€™t suffer from chronic impulse shopping syndrome, have them hold them for you. If youâ€™re a particularly bad offender, put your credit cards in a glass of water, and then freeze them. When you're out shopping, only buy the specific items you need. If you see something else and grab it without thinking, stop! Put it back, and give yourself three days. If you still want it after three days, buy it. Most likely, you won't even remember what it was that caught your eye to begin with â€” and that's money saved.
Studies show that when you use plastic, you spend more. It doesn't matter if that plastic is a credit or debit card. This can be dangerous, as it doesn't take much to empty your bank account, leaving you nothing for living costs. At the same time, however, plastic is the direction we're heading for our purchase transactions. So, understand that whether it's an ATM or credit card (even cash!), it's your money that's going into someone else's hands.
Ask any credit counselor and they should tell you opening several credit card accounts might be tempting, but it's a bad idea. That free t-shirt, or 10% one day discount you get when you open a store account really only encourages you to spend more. Not only that, but multiple new department store accounts could actually hurt your credit. It doesn't look good to the credit bureau when you seek multiple new sources of credit. Moreover, department store interest rates are typically high â€” often 21%. I realize many stores offer promotions, coupons, special sales, etc. for their card holders, but they do this for a reason- it gets you to buy more. If you have a merchant that you are very loyal towards and insist on opening or keeping a card, always pay it in full and don't spend money you wouldnâ€™t normally spend just because of promotions or sales.
If youâ€™ve found yourself in debt, the most important thing you can do is to take appropriate action and get yourself back on track. Sometimes you just need a little help finding extra money within your budget to apply to your credit cardsâ€¦or you might need help negotiating terms with your creditors that you can work within. Whatever the case, talking to a certified credit counselor is the best course of action to determine how you can best attack your problem. To get started on your plan on action today, send us a quick free quote request, call us at 800-994-3328 or start a chat with one of our friendly counselors. The sooner you start, the sooner youâ€™ll be on track to becoming debt free!
A major crisis can take a toll on both you and your budget. Divorce, unemployment, illness orthe death of a family member can cause your finances to spiral out of control. Despite skyrocketing bills and mounting financial stress, we have some steps you can follow to improve your current situation and, over time, achieve debt-free living.
Examine your current situation to determine whether the
change in your life is short-term, long-term, or permanent. This will help you understand if temporary adjustments are needed
or a major lifestyle change is necessary to get back to debt-free living. To adapt successfully, you must cut some expenses from your budget.
Start by listing all of your expenses, labeling each as a want or need. A want is an expense that you could survive without, and a need is something required in order to live and provide for your family.
Here are some examples of each:
Reduce what you spend on necessities. Shop at Wal-Mart or Aldiâ€™s instead of expensive grocery stores. Skip the expensive name brand clothing. Shop around or raise your deductible on your insurance to lower payments. Weatherize your home and keep the heat low to save money on utility bills. Go online or to the library for money savings ideas to fit your situation. Family Credit Management Service also offers free books on a variety of financial topics.Distinguishing between wants and needs can be tricky, but itâ€™s important to be honest with yourself and eliminate all wants. You will face some hard choices, but drastic steps will lead to success. For instance, having internet access is a want for most people, but can be a need for someone who works from home. Cell phone services are considered a want, but if you do not have traditional phone service at home it could also be considered a need.
Once you have reduced expenses as much as possible, youâ€™ll need to increase your income. Is an additional part-time job possible? Does your employer allow for overtime? When was the last time you asked for a raise? Are you eligible for disability insurance or social security income?
Another option is to sell unneeded items or property. Ebay or Amazon Marketplace are great websites for selling everything from musical instruments and CDs to clothing and housewares. Familiarize yourself with each companyâ€™s policies before selling anything online.
Asking for help is difficult, but there are resources available if you need financial assistance. Local churches often provide services to help people pay bills and put food on the table, while organizations like the YMCA or YWCA may be a source for help with child care expenses.
Check your area for other local resources.
No matter what your financial situation may look like, you must prioritize your bills. Credit card bills and other debts should seldom come before groceries, shelter, or utilities. There is nothing more important than your familyâ€™s well-being.
Donâ€™t wait for your creditors to call you. Initiate contact to discuss your current financial situation. Most creditors are willing to work out a solution if they know you are committed to paying off your debt.
Be prepared to explain:
If contacting by phone, document the name, title, and extension of the representative you speak with. Follow up with a letter that summarized the arrangements as agreed. Keep copies of all letters and replies.
Creditors may be willing to reduce monthly payments, defer payments, eliminate late charges, or lower interest rates. They all want their money and would rather get some money on a regular basis than no money at all. If your creditors wonâ€™t work with you or you need extra help in this area, give us a call or start an online chat and weâ€™ll create a customized action plan for you. We have relationships with thousands of credit card companies, banks, creditors, stores hospitals and others and can help you get your debt under control.
Bankruptcy is an extreme solution to unbearable debt, and only an attorney can give you advice regarding the process. Although it may seem like a quick fix to your money problems, it can be accompanied by consequences that could affect the way you make financial decisions in the future. Filing for bankruptcy might make it more difficult to purchase a car or home, send your children to college, or even get a job. If you are seriously considering bankruptcy, do some homework online so you have an idea of what youâ€™re getting yourself into before you meet with an attorney.
Dealing with debt can feel like a never-ending battle, but itâ€™s important to look to the future. Regardless of your situation, you can find the light at the end of the tunnel if you have the proper tools and support. Create a budget and commit to taking control of your financial situation by making hard decisions, selling things, eliminating wants, working overtime, talking to creditors, and seeking assistance. With a little hard work and patience, you can be debt-free!
Ready to take the first step toward financial freedom?
Complete our free online quote to get started today