Managing Your Money

Five Steps to Finding $1,000 for Holiday Spending
With the holidays only five months away, now is the time to take action

The 2014 holiday season is less than five months away, yet many are financially unprepared to begin shopping.  In recent years, Americans spent an average of $800 on holiday-related expenses. That's more than a week's wages for many workers, and in spite of the fact that the December holidays are an annual event, people routinely neglect planning for them and resort to charging their purchases.

Consider the ramifications of this lack of planning:  If a shopper charges $1,000 and makes only the minimum monthly payment of 2 percent of the balance at an Annual Percentage Rate of 18 percent, it will take 12 years to pay off the debt.  Think of it this way - the ghost of Christmas past will haunt until 2026. Further, this generous consumer will have paid a total of $2,353 for the $1,000 worth of goods and services purchased. 

Consumer Credit Counseling Service proposes a better plan. Since debt is a gift no one wants, CCCS suggests five steps that consumers can put in place now in order to have money available for holiday spending and create a debt free holiday.

  • Before trimming the tree, trim everyday spending.  Review current spending looking for leaks.  Plug those leaks and use the found money for holiday spending.  Amount saved by December 25 at $1 per day:  $150.  
  • Adjust the W-4 to accurately reflect the amount of taxes owed. The average income tax refund in recent years has been close to $3,000, but Uncle Sam only returns that money in April, long after the holiday bills should have been paid.  Amount saved by December 25 at $250 per month: $1,250.
  • Commit to shaving $10 off of 10 spending categories.  Some obligations such as rent, mortgage and car payments are fixed.  However, there are other categories that offer a great deal of flexibility.  Cut back $10 each month on categories such as food, clothing, gas, utilities, and entertainment without feeling deprived. Amount saved by December 25 at $100 per month:  $500.
  • Sell unused items.  Since others are also shopping, this is the perfect time of year to sell items that haven't been used in one year.  Amount saved by December 25:  $100.
  • Open a separate holiday savings account.  Don't mingle the holiday money with existing savings or checking accounts, as it could easily get spent on other items.  Amount saved by December 25:  $1,000. 

"If you're still paying for holiday spending 2013, consider rethinking your gift giving for this year," said LaTricia Schobert, director of CCCS.  "It makes no financial sense to pile new debt on top of old.  Kindness and experiences are meaningful substitutes for purchased gifts, and are remembered long after the wrapping paper and bows have been discarded." 

Find answers and solutions to your financial concerns at Consumer Credit Counseling Service, a non-profit United Way agency and a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Schedule a free financial consultation, simply by calling (423) 490-5620!

FEAR: Running out of Money (FORO)

September 10th, 2018

NFCC® Poll Reveals Overwhelming Majority of Consumers Have FORO

 - Fear of Running Out of Money

 

Washington, DC - As the children across America select their scary Halloween costumes, their parents are experiencing real-life fears.  A recent poll conducted on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC) website, www.NFCC.org revealed that 92 percent of respondents have a fear of running out of money (FORO). 

 

The root causes of the fear vary, with the majority (64%) fearing they will not have enough money to pay each month's bills.  Other causes include the fear of not having enough money to comfortably retire (14%), to satisfy unplanned expenses (11%), or pay for their children's education (3%).  Only eight percent of respondents indicated they do not have FORO.

 

"The focus on immediate needs, as opposed to future ones such as retirement, reflects the uncomfortable financial situation in which many Americans live month after month," said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC.  "Entering the holiday shopping season already struggling to meet existing debt obligations will only add more pressure on the family."

 

Finding stable financial ground today will relieve stress and allow planning for future needs to begin.  To get started, the NFCC suggests that consumers put the following five steps in place:

 

Track spending - A leak can't be plugged until it has been identified, and finding a financial leak starts with tracking spending.  Have everyone in the family who spends money write down their spending for 30 days.  It is critical to include incidental spending, as small leaks can add up to be big problems.  At the end of the period, have a family council to review the spending, making joint decisions as to how the money should be spent moving forward.  Make necessary cuts and allocate the money toward the categories that the family determines are most important.  The unity that results from this type of decision-making process will likely produce a greater level of success, as everyone will be pulling in the same direction.

 

Create a cash-flow calendar - This is perhaps the easiest step, but will increase financial awareness by being able to see the overall picture at-a-glance.  On a calendar devoted to finances, record all sources of income and the associated paydays.  Next, note which bills are due to be paid during the various pay cycles.  If there's not enough money available to meet a debt obligation on its due date, call the creditor and find out if the date can be moved.  This will prevent overdrafts, late payments and fees.

 

Begin saving - People without a well-funded saving account are living on a slippery financial slope, as unplanned expenses are inevitable.  However, when money is tight, saving is often low on the list of priorities.

 

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To remedy the situation, consider living on a cash basis, as people who pay with cash typically save 20 percent over their previous spending on plastic.  Pretend that any raise, bonus, birthday money or other windfall money never happened and instead direct it toward savings.  Aim to build up the rainy day fund to equal one month's salary, as this should be sufficient for most short-term emergencies.

 

Decrease debt - Debt is expensive. Carrying debt over from month-to-month results in paying interest on top of interest, making the debt even more difficult to eliminate.  Further, debt is a barrier to moving forward in life, as it often prevents saving, investing, or making life dreams such as family vacations or launching a new business come true.  Start by facing the financial facts.  Write down and total the existing debt and associated interest paid each month.  The totals may be shocking, but will hopefully spur action, as ignoring the problem will only make matters worse. If help is needed to create a realistic debt repayment plan, reach out to an NFCC member agency.

 

Set goals - A goal is only a dream until it is in writing.  Make a list of short-term goals for the next 12 months.  Make a separate list of long-term goals. Now go back and include dates and dollar amounts with each goal and decide which can realistically be met.  Goals that aren't achievable only serve to discourage and potentially derail the entire plan.  Knowing the objective, timing and financial commitment necessary to meet the goal will bring a sense of purpose to overall spending decisions.

 

"Fear and worry can impact more than a person's finances. People owe it to themselves and their family to find solutions to financial concerns before they negatively impact other areas of their life," continues Cunningham. 

 

Make today the day you take action to resolve the financial concerns that have been haunting you.  Reach out to an NFCC member agency for help.  Whether in-person, by phone or online, spending time with a certified financial counselor will be time well spent.  To be automatically connected to the agency closest to you, dial (800) 388-2227 or to locate an agency online, go to www.NFCC.org

 

The September poll question and responses are below:

 

I have FORO, the Fear of Running Out of money

  1. To comfortably retire = 14%
  2. To pay each month's bills = 64%
  3. For my children's education = 3%
  4. To satisfy unplanned expenses = 11%
  5. I don't have FORO = 8%

 

Note: The NFCC's September Financial Literacy Opinion Index was conducted via the homepage of the NFCC website (www.NFCC.org) from September1-30, 2014, and was answered by 1,391 individuals.

 

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The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), founded in 1951, is the nation's largest and longest serving national nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC's mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services. NFCC members annually help millions of consumers through more than 600 community-based offices nationwide. For free and affordable confidential advice through a reputable NFCC member, call (800) 388-2227, (en Español (800) 682-9832) or visit www.nfcc.org.  Visit us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/NFCCDebtAdvice, on Twitter: twitter.com/NFCCDebtAdvice, on YouTube: www.YouTube.com/NFCC09 and our blog: http://financialeducation.nfcc.org/.

Saving up for the Good Stuff

September 10th, 2018

From http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/youve-got-goals-for-your-life-and-some-of-them-take-money-to-achieve/?utm_source=social&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=02242015_y1

Written by Laura Schlachtmeyer

When you look ahead to your future, what kind of changes do you see?

You might envision major changes, like moving to a new city for a new job, starting a family, or helping your kids move out and live on their own.

You might anticipate smaller changes too, like starting a hobby or exercise program, upgrading your home appliances or technology, spending more time with friends or family, or volunteering more. Maybe you want to reduce your debt, or save up for a purchase instead of charging it.

Goals, whether long term or short term, usually cost money to accomplish. That means when you have a life goal, you probably have a financial goal, too.

Life goals—and financial goals—can be small or large, short-term or long-term. Helping consumers reach their own goals is an important part of our mission. Whatever your goals are, here are a few steps that can help you reach them:

  • Set a financial goal. Let's say you want to go on a vacation next year, and you set a goal of saving $1,000.
  • Break it down into specific steps. You could decide to save $1,000, for example, by bringing lunch from home instead of buying it for $5 a day. Or you could set aside $20 from your pay every week for 50 weeks. Or you could find additional income from an extra shift or side job.
  • Set up the system you need to make it work. Sometimes we forget the small things that can get in our way—like making sure you have the right kitchen supplies and groceries to make lunch every day, or opening a savings account to keep your vacation fund separate. Set up what you need in your life, so that you don't have excuses to miss your goals.
  • Get help sticking to your plan. You can set up automatic transfers at your bank, moving funds automatically from checking to savings. You can set a weekly alarm on your phone. You can ask a friend to remind you—or join you and save along with you.

America Saves Week can help you get started—and stay on track

Taking place from February 23-28 this year, America Saves Week gives you an annual chance to get started on saving. If your own goals include saving for the future, take the America Saves pledge today, and you'll stay motivated all year with tips and reminders.

Now is the time to think about how to achieve the changes you envision for yourself. Know what motivates you, then take action. By meeting your financial goals, you'll make a start on following your life goals.

When thinking about setting financial goals, consider what financial well-being means to you. Learn more about what consumers across the country told us about their financial lives and views of financial well-being.

Chattanooga: 1-800-459-2227 | Huntsville: 1-888-381-8178 | CCCSReception@partnershipfca.com