Contributed by Elizabeth Maxson, Lizzy Bee’s Tax & Accounting
The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming! I think that’s how that went anyway…
As we fly through the rest of the month preparing for our friends and families this season, we often worry about our finances and just rush through life, one event after the other. Are you tired of scrounging for change to give that special someone the perfect gift? Well, there’s no time like the present. Here’s how to start:
The first thing I always tell my clients, and I do myself, is buy what you need and some of what you want. (Which is much harder than it sounds, so don’t get discouraged if you spend more your first month around than you had planned.) For the first month of your new budgeting plan, figure out what the bare minimum is you will need to survive. Rent, utilities, gas, food, etc. should be the only things on this list. Then depending on your income, set aside an additional $200 for toiletries, clothes and any other incidentals that may come your way - more or less depending on your household size. Be realistic.
After your first month has went by, figure what you have retained as extra income. If you didn’t quite make your budget this month, look and see where you can save. Coffee every day from the gas station is a tank of gas at the end of the month! Or instead of getting take out, prepare a lunch at home.
After you’ve successfully completed a few months of savings, decide where you would like to use your new savings. I always try to have at least $2,000 in emergency money first before I pay off any debts or buy “toys”. Then I set aside a certain percentage toward my savings goal every month forward (Christmas, a new car, etc.). After that savings percentage has been set aside, if you have the income to pay off debts, I’d start there.
Every year, each consumer gets three free credit reports from the government (one per reporting agency). You can view these at www.annualcreditreport.com. There are also free websites where you can monitor your score, one being CreditKarma.com. After you have a handle on where you are on the debt/income list, take what you have left for debt consolidation and divide that among all the debts you will be paying.
Keep in mind, debts in collections will fall off your account after a certain amount of years of being unpaid, before you start paying balances. Contact a credit professional if you see anything inaccurate on your account so you may possibly remove them.
After your first debt has been paid off, reconfigure what the amount per account you can afford to pay per month is and continue this process until you are debt free! Don’t forget that the PFD and if you’re eligible, your tax refund is another great opportunity to add to your savings and pay off debts. Happy Holidays!