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Financial health important at holidays

Vow tp break bad habits, not overspend

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POSTED: December 23, 2012 12:30 p.m.
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While sitting down to come up with a solid household budget is not a chore many people look forward to, it’s something that must be done in order to avoid overspending or accumulating excessive debt, according to The Coastal Bank Senior Vice President James Rogers.

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The holidays can be an expensive time of year. Shoppers often overspend and rack up a considerable amount of debt by using credit cards or taking out payday-type loans.
It’s not too late to correct the problem, though. Those who have overextended themselves this season can resolve to seek out assistance and get back on track. There are no quick-fix financial solutions to get debt under control; it will take hard work and persistence to meet financial goals.
“The trick is to not get yourself into these situations in the first place,” said James Rogers, senior vice president of The Coastal Bank on West Hendry Street in Hinesville. However, he added that it is never too late to get assistance for financial problems, which can help consumers set themselves up for financial success in the future. Creating and sticking to a strict budget is the first step.
Rogers advises calculating your total debt before creating a monthly budget and a plan to pay it off. Take a look at what you are spending money on, then cut out frivolous expenses that you can live without, such as eating out, going to the movies, manicures, professional car washes and other impulse buys. Put that money toward bills, he said. If possible, pay more than just the minimum due each month to pay down debt faster.
According to Rogers, The Coastal Bank’s website, www.thecoastalbank.com, has more than 20 different types of financial calculators that customers can use to help manage finances. One such calculator, called “spend less,” helps users start up a basic budget using income and spending information.
Around the holidays, many retailers and companies offer rebates and incentives. While he doesn’t know whether it is seasonal chaos or just plain forgetfulness, Rogers said many of these rebates go unclaimed. Be sure to keep all holiday receipts and follow through on sending in rebate forms before the offers expire. When the rebate money comes in, apply it directly to bills.
Another way to access funds that can be used to pay down holiday bills is to file taxes early. Rogers urges customers to get started as soon as the required documents are received. If you are expecting a refund, the sooner you file, the sooner you will receive it. However, if you will owe money, hold off on filing until the deadline since you will not get anything for paying Uncle Sam early.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional assistance in order to get debt under control.
“Some people give up too quickly without seeking the advice of a financial counselor,” Rogers said. He recommends contacting Consumer Credit Counseling of Savannah for assistance. The company offers counseling services and financial classes to help educate the public. Its website, www.cccssavannah.org, has a wealth of information and a calendar of class offerings, he said.
Rogers urged consumers to resolve not to overspend next Christmas by starting to save now. Establish a savings account or a “Christmas club” and make weekly or monthly deposits so that when the holiday season rolls around, spending money will be available.
“Setting up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account will mean that you don’t even need to think about it,” he said. It also will leave you less tempted to spend the money on other things.

 

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