Tracey Briggs, MA
Health Ed. Consultant
Need strategies to get through the “holiday spending season” with less debt and a more manageable outlook on finances for 2024? Below are some recommendations I found through Nusenda Credit Union’s BalancePro.org resource. You may find it easier to “save here for spending over there” or better yet, create savings for future goals. Here are a few suggestions to consider:
Consider every purchase – Do you need it? Do you need it now? Can you get it for less somewhere else? Asking yourself these questions will help you become a savvy shopper in both feast and famine times.
- Buy in bulk – but only if you can afford it. It doesn’t make sense to buy a 50-pound bag of cat food, even if it is a great deal, if you only have enough for a box that will last the week.
- If there is a local market in your area, you can take advantage of the freshest product for less than the cost in a grocery store.
- Use coupons to save on food costs. But beware – you may be lured into buying something you would never otherwise purchase simply because it seems like such a bargain. Do you really need four packs of triple A batteries, or orange-confetti cake frosting?
- Cut entertainment costs by renting videos rather than going to the movies. Or take advantage of the movies available on the cable or satellite you already pay for.
- Eat at home rather than going to restaurants – even fast food is often more expensive than a home cooked meal. If you do go out, try eating at cheaper restaurants or take food out rather than eating in the restaurant to save on tips and drinks.
- Save on supplies – use sponges rather than paper towels, a multi-purpose cleaner instead of several specialized ones, and recycle newspapers, bottles and cans. You will help save the earth while saving money!
- If you find you can’t pay your bills, contact your creditors and explain your predicament – you may be able to avoid a late payment fee, particularly if your payment history has been consistent. A phone call is good, but a letter is better, as you will have tangible evidence of your efforts. Keep copies of all correspondence and maintain a log of telephone communications, complete with a representative’s name and time of call.
- If you have credit card debt, pull out your most recent statements and check your present annual percentage rates. Are they higher than you remembered? Or simply too high for you to be comfortable with? If so, it may be time to make some changes.
- Give your current creditors a chance. If you have been a good customer, remind them of it, and ask for an interest rate reduction. A five-minute phone call can make for huge savings.
- Consider transferring your balances to low interest cards or those with extremely low “teaser” rates. Be sure to evaluate the transfer offers carefully though – How long does the offer last? Is the APR 5.9% or 5.9% plus the prime rate of interest? How long is the grace period – you may not want to go from a 30 day grace to a 20 day grace. What is the punitive interest rate for late payments? They can be as high as 36% – quite a jump from the original offer.
- Credit card debt is expensive. And frustrating. If you feel you have been treading water or watching the balance grow rather than plunge, go back to your budget and consider making changes. A $2,000 balance with a 19% interest rate will take 30 years to repay if you just make the minimum payment – and that’s if you never make another purchase on it!
- Debt consolidation may be an option. A Debt Management Plan is designed to help consumers repay their debt in three to five years by offering interest rate reductions (depending on the creditor), one monthly payment, and a commitment from you to not get into further debt.
Finally, remember that planning ahead is key to being prepared for tomorrow. We have a group of financial advisors who are here to support you. Make a consultation appointment to seek guidance and knowledge for your overall financial wellbeing.