Archive for Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Knowledge for Life: Post-holiday financial check-up

January 3, 2012

Post-Holiday Financial Check-Up

We do a lot of overindulging during the holidays. We take an extra day off work, eat an extra piece (or two) of pie, and sometimes charge more than we can afford on our credit cards. With the holidays coming to an end, and post-holiday credit card bills rolling in, it’s time for a checkup … and time to create a plan to pay off any debt we may have incurred during the holidays. Here are some tips to rein in spending in the new year.

Cut back on spending — The first step in getting out of debt is to stop borrowing. If you overspent during the holidays, you need to cut back your post-holiday spending. It may help to cut up your credit cards or lock them away in a safe place.

Make a budget — If you’ve never done a budget before, start NOW. Cut out any expenses you can and plan to pay off your debt as quickly as possible. While you are making a budget, figure out the most you can afford to pay each month to reduce your debts, then make those payments without fail.

Create a payment plan — If you have debts on more than one credit card, either pay off the card with the highest interest rate first and work your way down to the card with the lowest rate, or pay off the smallest loan first and work your way up to the largest. Once you’ve paid off your debts, don’t give in to the temptation to start overspending again. Instead, take the money you were paying each month on your debts and begin to save it. Better yet, save it automatically. Ask your bank about automatic transfers between accounts. This will give you a financial cushion the next time an emergency strikes.

Plan for next holiday season — Start saving NOW to avoid debt next holiday season. Take a look at what you spent the last few months on gifts, travel, food and other holiday-related items. Divide that amount by 12 and put that much away in a savings account. Spent too much this year? Analyze your purchases now while it is still fresh in your mind and develop a plan to help you budget and save for next year.

To start the new year on the right foot, financially speaking, sign up to be an American Saver and receive a quarterly newsletter with savings tips. To enroll, sign up through the Leavenworth County Extension website: www.leavenworth.ksu.edu

— Sullivan is family and consumer sciences educator for Leavenworth County Kansas State University Research and Extension. K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K State campus, Manhattan. For more information, visit the Leavenworth County Extension Office at 613 Holiday Plaza, Lansing, KS 66043, call the office at 913-364-5700, or visit its website at: www.leavenworth.ksu.edu

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