New Year, New Finances!

Is your New Year’s Resolution to get out of debt? Improving your finances and increasing your savings is a common goal on Jan 1, but it’s not always easy.

If you are in debt, you’re not alone. Total American household debt is only rising. According to the US Federal Reserve’s Center for Microeconomic Data, “total household debt reached a new peak in the third quarter of 2017, rising $115 billion to reach $12.96 trillion.” Although getting out of debt, especially credit card debt, may seem daunting, it can start you on the road to financial freedom and wealth creation.

If you want to get your finances in order in 2018 and stick to your New Year’s Resolution, follow these tips from your BBB:

  • Take a closer look at your credit cards. Credit cards are known for their high interest rates, and this can waste a lot of money over time. See if you can use a balance transfer offer to switch to a card with a lower rate. Do your research on org first; consumers nationwide filed more than 10,600 complaints against credit card companies in 2016. Make sure to read the terms and contract very carefully – there may be big penalties if you miss a payment. If you have multiple cards, decide which debt-paying strategy is best for you. Some experts recommend paying off cards with the highest interest rates first, but others recommend paying off cards with the smallest balances first – figure out what works best for you! Additionally, try sending in payments throughout the month. Put the $5 you would have spent on a morning coffee towards your debt instead!
  • Don’t waste money on unethical businesses or scams. When making a purchase or choosing a business, always check with BBB! Making careful decisions now can save you time, money, and headaches later. Research all companies at org, and check BBB Scam Tracker regularly to see what scams are happening in your area.
  • Take advantage of free tools. There are many online tools that can help you manage and reduce your debt. A great place to start is the BBB Financial Building Blocks website, which helps consumers evaluate their finances, learn how to stay debt-free, and protect themselves from scams and illegal collection calls. Additionally, you can use the free and easy-to-use debt solution tool to find options for managing your debt.
  • Start budgeting. Creating a written budget and tracking your spending is one of the best ways to save money and stop spending more than you earn! First, figure out how much debt you have; you need an accurate picture before you can figure out your budget. Note the difference between fixed expenses, needs, and wants. If you have debt, include repayment goals in your budget. If you can, try to factor in retirement and emergency savings as well. Save money by giving up your morning coffee and cooking at home instead of getting takeout. Factor in any alternate income that you can think of, like selling unused items or part-time work in the gig economy.

 

Pearl is the Communications Specialist for Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California (BBB Oakland). She works to advance BBB’s vision of an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers trust each other by being proactive in the community and developing relationships with business and consumer groups. Pearl represents BBB at events throughout the Bay Area to educate a wide variety of people. Pearl also manages BBB Oakland’s social media channels.

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Posted in Consumer Tips, Consumer/Business Services, Credit - Mortgage - Payments

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