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Behind on bills: 3 steps to help you make tough choices in tight moments

By CFPB

When bills are piling up, it’s important to remember that you’re still in control. While you are ultimately responsible for paying all of your bills on time, there are things you can do if you fall short one month and don’t have enough money to cover everything.

Follow our 3 easy tips that can help you plan and make the best decisions for your situation.

1. Make a plan

When you’re facing a cash flow emergency, make a list of all of your bills and when they’re due. This step will help you assess your financial obligations.

Consider organizing bills into categories:

  • Job or education-related expenses, such as transportation to and from work, tools, uniforms, or work-related courses and trainings
  • Insurance, such as car insurance, health insurance, or home or renters’ insurance
  • Housing-related, such as rent, mortgage payments, or utilities
  • Other obligations such as credit card bills, loans, medical bills, child support, or childcare

You can also use our bill calendar  to help you get a total picture of your monthly bills and identify the weeks you have the most money due.

If you can’t pay all of your bills at once, think about the order you pay them in. Weigh the risks of falling behind on one or more bill. While not ideal, this may prevent you from losing your car or house, having utilities shut off, or getting into serious default on a loan.

2. Call your creditors (or your CCC Account Specialist!)

General rule: If you have to miss a payment, try calling your creditors first to tell them why. Depending on your situation, ignoring your bills could lead to higher interest rates, damage to your credit score, repossession of your car, or foreclosure. Instead, talk to your creditors and explain your situation. They may be willing to forgive a late fee and make short-term arrangements. For example, if you are in good standing with your creditors, they may be willing to enter into an affordable repayment plan.

If you find you’re often late with a particular bill, negotiate a due date that better lines up with when you get paid or receive income or benefits. Many creditors may be willing to shift the due date if you ask.

As a client enrolled in CCC’s Debt Management Program, contact your Account Specialist immediately at 800-377-4469 option 5 if you can’t make a payment. Remember, we are here to help!

3. Track your spending

We also recommend tracking your spending for a short amount of time, like a month. This practice will help you figure out how you’re spending your money and identify where you might be able to adjust your spending to get ahead of upcoming expenses.

According to consumer marketing research, 9 out of 10 shoppers report that they frequently buy items not on their shopping lists. When people overspend, they may have to dip into savings or borrow money, sometimes at a high cost, to make up for the difference between what they earn and what they spend. Our budget worksheet  and spending tracker tool  can help you get started. Not sure where or how to start creating a budget? Check out CCC’s Budget Boss Webinar for free!

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The First Step to Financial Freedom

By Chuck Bentley

Have you been waiting to make a budget until you make just a little more money? Maybe you have good intentions to start saving for retirement, but it just hasn’t happened. Debt has a way of accumulating quickly while we work to develop a plan to pay it off. Can you identify with any of these? When it comes to our finances, taking the first step is often the hardest. We want to do the right thing, and may even commit to saving, budgeting, making a plan, but then it just doesn’t happen.
Sometimes it’s a result of our fear – the “what if’s” interrupting our drive to make progress. But sometimes it’s just because we over-think things.
If you think more than you do, you may never get your finances in order. Waiting until just the right time delays the process and postpones any progress. Mark Twain said, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”

So, DO IT! Today. Tonight. Don’t put it off and don’t let yourself make excuses. 

Get Out of Debt.

We recommend that if you have credit card debt, you pay it off first. Before you tackle your student loanscar loan, or mortgage, free yourself from the burdens of high-interest rates and credit card debt.

Take the first step by making a plan. The Debt Snowball Calculator makes it easy and you will be encouraged to see how much interest and time you will save! You just enter basic information about your debt (balance, minimum monthly payment, interest rate), and how much extra cash you can put towards it each month ($20 makes a big difference!), and it makes a payoff plan FOR YOU. It will work with all kinds of debt. Not only that, it will save you a significant amount of time and money by “outsmarting” your debt.

And if you have overwhelming credit card debt, you may need a helping hand. Get in touch with Christian Credit Counselors. Their dedicated, professional team of counselors is ready and waiting to help you pay off your credit cards forever. 

Make A Budget.

Many people are intimidated by budgeting, but I promise you can do it. It’s going to help you reach goals, stay on track, and experience rewards. And guess what? You can change it! It’s not set in stone, and no two months are going to be the same, so adjust it here and there as you need.

We know that budgeting can be a big hurdle to overcome, so we made an easy-to-use guide to help you. It’s simple, and you can adjust it to meet your needs. You can use it if you’ve never made a budget before, or if you’ve just fallen off track. 

Start Saving.

Once you have your budget in place, reaching your savings goals will be easier. Your first goal should be to save $1,000 in an emergency savings fund. Having this cash on hand will help you stay out of debt, and eliminate a lot of stress when those emergencies pop up. Once you have your emergency fund, work towards saving 3 months’ worth of your living expenses.

Look for ways to cut out expenses and spend less on the necessities. Set up an automatic transfer to a savings account. Or, have your employer deposit part of your paycheck into that account. These budget hacks will help you get started! 

Start Investing.

If you want to invest but don’t know where to start, seek wise counsel, either from a trusted professional or friend, and set a date to make that first investment. In the meantime, do research online, and talk with those who understand the world of investing. Many people never invest because they’re intimidated, or don’t understand how it all works – don’t let this stop you! Investing is a Kingdom principle, and Solomon gives us wise advice in Ecclesiastes 11 – “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant; if they watch every cloud, they never harvest.” Solomon is telling us to get in the game and diversify!

Having a written plan, goals, and direction for your finances is so important. God asks us to live as faithful stewards, and that often looks like making sacrifices and taking the first step. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul said it even better, “I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control.” Today, I challenge you. Do not spend aimlessly. But, discipline yourself and get your finances under control. The Lord will reward you for it.

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5 Financial Fears to Confront and Conquer This Halloween

By Holly Perez, consumer money expert at Intuit and Mint spokeswoman

Ghosts, goblins, and monsters under the bed scared us as children. As adults, we tend to be more frightened by our finances. So instead of pulling the covers over your head this Halloween, why not face a few of those money fears head on.

We’ve dusted the cobwebs off our book of spells and potions to reveal some easy tips that will keep you from falling victim to five of the most common financial fears.

Budgeting. Let’s face it. Many feel that budgeting means depriving yourself of the good life – but it’s actually the opposite. A budget is simply a tool that can give you a framework for spending more purposefully – so you can confidently work toward reaching your financial goals. However, if sitting down to review your finances makes you break out in a cold sweat, face your budgeting fears by taking small steps first. For example, if setting a monthly or even a yearly budget is spooky, start by setting a budget for tomorrow. Over time, you’ll get a better sense of what’s working and what’s not so you can adjust along the way. Budgeting can be scary – but going into debt because you don’t have a budget can be even scarier.

Trapped by debt. Once you’ve accumulated student, credit card and auto loan debt, it can seem impossible to resolve it all. Even those who lack debt fear the possibility of it. Carve out some time to assess your overall debt, and devise a plan to pay off the smallest first. This method spurs immediate gratification and motivates you to keep working toward paying off your other debts. If you are suffocating under piles of debt, Christian Credit Counselors is here to help! Call us at 800-557-1985 to take a breather from your overwhelming debt through our Debt Management Program.

Emergencies will drain my bank account. Like a haunted house, life is full of unexpected surprises, some of which can prove to be pretty costly. A car repair, illness or unemployment can catch you and your family off guard and leave you feeling financially stranded. To avoid this, it’s important to have money set aside in an emergency fund for when the unexpected happens. At a minimum, it should hold three months worth of your living expenses. If you pay $2,000 a month to cover the basics such as housing, utilities and food, then put aside $6,000 in your emergency fund. If you have dependents, your emergency fund should consist of six months of your living expenses. An emergency fund provides the reassurance of knowing you have money to fall back on during an unexpected life occurrence. If funding an emergency fund feels overwhelming, start small by setting aside even a few dollars a week to help build up a reserve over time.

Reviewing bills. Many of us feel a tinge of fear when a bank statement arrives or when we discover a bill hidden in a pile of paper. It’s important to review your bank and credit card statements as well as bills to make sure you’re not being charged fees you don’t recognize or paying for subscriptions or services you never use. You should also consider looking at your insurance policies. Some personal finance tools expose fees that are often hidden on statements or buried in the fine print to help you eliminate unnecessary fees and ultimately save you more money.

Not being able to retire. Fortunately, with some early planning, this is an easy fear to face. With most people entering the workforce in their 20s, time is on your side from the start. By opting into your company’s pension and retirement plans as soon as possible, you can ensure you will have enough money to retire when that day comes. Also, changing your mindset to prioritize your future over your immediate wants can empower you to save for retirement. Yes, it’d be nice to have a few extra hundred dollars a month, but just think – that $100 each paycheck in your 401(k) is just $100 today, but it will increase in value over time and provide more gratification in the future if saved. Be sure to take advantage of employer benefits, and always max out any matching your employer offers. Think of it as free cash on the table.

With these tips in your back pocket, the only thing you’ll have to fear this Halloween is spooky costumes knocking at your door for candy.

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