Budgeting, Finance, Goals, Money Management, Personal Goals

Ask Chuck: 5 Steps to Improve Your Finances This New Year

By: Crown Financial Ministries

Dear Chuck,

Covid set me back financially this year. As a result, we’re having a very frugal Christmas. Can you offer any tips on setting financial goals for next year? I want to be better prepared for what may lie ahead!

Getting Ready for 2021

Dear Getting Ready, 

I am so sorry for the setbacks you have suffered during this pandemic. Millions of people just like you are looking forward to the new year with great anticipation and are hoping to make improvements in our finances. 

New Year, New You

January is typically a time of renewal. For many of us, that includes diets, health and fitness goals, relationships, or financial plans. However, after what we have experienced in 2020, our highest need will be for renewed hope. Watching the news, scrolling through social media, and listening to certain friends or family members will not fulfill that need. Hope gets us through the tough seasons and gives us direction in times of uncertainty. Thankfully, we have the ultimate source of hope: Jesus. We need to learn to rely on Him in order to cultivate that hope. Here is a quick outline of the steps for 2021.

Step One: Make a Vow. Dedicate this year to the Lord and seek his guidance in all decision-making.  

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3 ESV)

Step Two: Make a Plan. Plan and encourage one another daily. 

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 ESV)

Pray for self-control and the willingness to stay focused throughout the coming year. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

Step Three: Make a Target. Defining your financial goals gives you something to aim for. 

  • Write them out and place them where you are reminded daily. 
  • Determine to spend less than you earn. 
  • Have monthly money dates to analyze your progress. 
  • Assign roles to each other for defense and offense. Be “guard dogs” to protect your earnings so that you can steward wisely. I guarantee you that the “thief” is on the prowl. He comes ONLY to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10a ESV). He will rob you of progress unless you are very intentional in implementing your plan.

Step Four: Make a Budget. Gather your financial records, track your expenses, and create a budget. Make giving your first priority. Establish an emergency account. This will enable you to cover unexpected expenses so that you can avoid debt. Start with $1,000 and then aim for an amount that covers 3-6 months of your overhead expenses. Analyze lifestyle decisions. Some short-term ones to consider include replacing a vehicle, repairs, maintenance, vacation, gifts, etc. Long-term decisions may include a downpayment for a home, education, retirement, etc. Keep your tax liability in mind and plan accordingly.

Step Five: Review Your Insurance. This is a good time to review your insurance coverage: Homeowners or Renters/Auto/Liability, Disability, Life, and Long-Term Care. Not only should you determine if you have coverage but also if you are getting the right price for what you have in place.

Don’t Overlook These 

Update your will. Today this includes creating a Living Will or Trust, Health Declarations, Power of Attorney documents, and password files. 

Pick a debt management plan and pay off all credit cards! Christian Credit Counselors are trusted partners of Crown and have helped hundreds of thousands of families eliminate their credit card debt. Once free of consumer debt, you can begin investing

Depending on your age, put a reminder on your calendar to enroll in Medicare before your 65th birthday. Determine when you should begin to draw social security. 

Check your credit reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. This is important with the number of security breaches. Check to make sure information is correct and report any inaccuracies. Contact them to freeze your credit if necessary. This will prevent thieves from applying and obtaining credit in your name. You can unfreeze as needed. 

Know your credit score. A free report is available at www.annualcreditreport.com. Some credit cards update your FICO score for free each month. 

Calculate your net worth (assets minus liabilities). Aim for a positive number! 

Get Wisdom! 

There has never been an easier time to attain a Biblical financial education. Books, online studies, and insights from places like Sound Mind Investing, Generous Giving, and Crown’s online library of courses make it convenient and practical to learn year-round.

Most importantly, read the Word of God. You will gain wisdom, discernment, and hope that is more advantageous than anything the world offers. 

God has called us to himself that we might shine light into the darkness and bring Him glory. At Crown, we provide resources that will renew your hope through Biblical truths about the Father and the gifts He has entrusted to you.  

Merry Frugal Christmas 

It has been our experience that a frugal Christmas is often the best Christmas. The focus shifts away from the number of boxes under the tree or the expense of the season to the awe and wonder of celebrating the incarnation of Christ; Emmanuel, God with us. 

I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year. We are here to help you on your journey in 2021.

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Budgeting, Money Management, Saving

Money-Saving Tips for the COVID-19 Pandemic

By: Crown Financial Ministries

The Crown team makes it a priority to “practice what we preach”. During this pandemic, as we recommend to cut back your living expenses by 25% for the next 90 days, we’ve made a list for you of the ways we’re doing that ourselves. There are some natural savings that happen when you follow social distancing rules, like spending less on gas, eating out, and entertainment. Below are some additional recommendations from the Crown team for cutting expenses and increasing your savings!

Cut back on any unnecessary or luxury subscriptions

Maybe Spotify free is the way to go for now. Here’s a video with easy ways to do this. Courtney said, “My husband and I both went through the last few statements of our bank accounts looking for subscriptions that we could cancel or downgrade. I didn’t realize I was paying for a few app subscriptions! That has saved us a few extra dollars a month.” Calvin and his wife have cut their gym memberships and are working out at home. They are also saving all discretionary dollars in their budget for a few months.

Negotiate cable and internet rates

You may be able to negotiate a better rate for your cable and/or internet. Businesses are wanting to keep their clients right now, so call to check if there are any special promotions you can take advantage of. “We contacted our internet provider and found that we could save 30% on monthly payment because they could move us to a new promotion package,” Alet said. Another one of our staff members canceled their cable TV altogether. Many streaming services are offering free promotions over the next few months, so be sure to look on Google for coupons before signing up for anything new.

Turn off the lights

Be mindful of your energy usage while you’re home. Do you have a habit of leaving the lights or ceiling fans on? Get up from your home office desk and make sure you’re not paying extra for that electricity!

Defer medical bills

If you need to, call your medical provider and set up a payment or deferment plan. Most will let you do this if you ask and work with them.

Slow down loan payments or stop paying ahead – for now

Several staff members have been paying ahead on their mortgage or student loans. For the next few months, their plan is to pay the required monthly balance as billed and use the extra to increase their savings.

Save on your phone bill

Handre called his mobile provider and moved to a less expensive package saving him each month on his family plan.

Activate the “pantry challenge”

Melinda and her family have challenged themselves to eat out of only their pantry and freezer before going out to eat. Once a week, someone grocery shops for a few fresh essentials for their meals. Other than that, they save money by depleting their stocked food and complying with social distancing rules.

Go meatless

Hannah said her family has moved to 3 meatless dinners a week. It has helped them to mix up their recipes and helped them cut back on their grocery bill!

Save on insurance

One member of the Crown staff said, “I contacted our home insurance company and asked if there were any discounts we could qualify for because of recent improvements we did to our home. A miracle happened – they lowered our yearly insurance amount by $400 and gave me $500 towards this year’s installment because we fixed the roof recently. We had already decided to give to people who were losing their jobs, and now our gifts have been doubled!”

Trusting God’s Promise

We know it’s not fun to take these steps, but we’re trusting in God’s promise that discipline now will pay off later. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (ESV) Here are a few other financial steps you can take to find peace and freedom.

Pay off debt

Now is a good time to work on decreasing or eliminating debt. If you need help making a plan, contact our partners Christian Credit Counselors. They’ll help you consolidate your payments so you can be debt-free sooner!

Increase your savings

If you’re not in the habit of saving, now would be a good time to start. To make it easy, check out the Eli Savings App. It automates your savings for you and only saves what you’re able to afford.

Give generously

It may seem uncomfortable right now to think about giving, but it is in these times where we are able to truly show our faith and trust in the Lord. Share the resources you have with your neighbors and friends. Are you able to give more to your church when others might be holding back? Do you know someone furloughed or out of work that can use some help? Find a way to share.

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Budgeting, Credit Cards, Holiday Tips, Money Management, Saving

A Saver’s Guide to Holiday Shopping

By: America Saves

Ready or not, the holiday shopping season is here. With the multiple sale days between now and the end of the year, you can avoid being served a heaping side of seasonal debt along with your plate of honey-baked ham if you keep a few smart-saver tips in mind.

Set Reasonable Expectations

In 2012, it was reported that the average American expected to spend $854 on gifts during the holiday season. While many won’t spend that much on shopping, any spending that strains your finances or saddles you with post-holiday debt is bad for your financial future —period. Take the time to talk with family and friends about realistic holiday spending limits before you go shopping. Consider less expensive gift options like homemade gifts. If you have a large extended family, maybe it’s time to start a new tradition of picking one name out of a hat to buy a gift for, rather than everybody buying a gift for every person in the family.

Plan, Budget, and Save

One of the best approaches you can take to holiday shopping is figuring out who’s on your gift list, creating a holiday budget, and gradually setting money aside to help you avoid overspending, unwanted debt, and financial stress. You can find helpful budgeting tools on mymoney.gov. If you didn’t budget and save for this year, it’s never too early to start saving for next year. Check with your bank or credit union to see if they offer holiday savings accounts that you can use to save for next year’s holiday goals. If you set up a plan now and leave that money alone, you’ll have a nice gift fund in a year.

Keep the Big Picture in Mind

It can be easy to forget that we spend money on other things besides gifts during the holidays. Big holiday dinners, travel to see family and friends and even increased electricity costs to run massive holiday light displays can drain your bank account. Make sure you plan for the cost of all of your extra holiday activities.

Watch Out for Costly Surprises

If you’re using gift cards or layaway plans, make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions. Expiration dates, inactivity rules, and hidden fees on gift cards can eat away at their value if you’re not careful. Take the same cautious approach with store credit cards that you’re offered at checkout. They might save you a few bucks at the register today but stick you with very high-interest rates later.

Avoid Holiday Debt Traps

Doing things like catching early sales, comparison shopping, ordering from sites or stores that offer free shipping, shopping at discount stores, and buying items that offer rebates can help save you money on holiday purchases. However, don’t let the excitement of holiday deals go to your head! If you rush to a store sale because you can get a $3,000 television for $2,000, you’ve still spent $2,000. Was that really something you had planned to do? Also, don’t be enticed by payday lenders who want to “help” you get holiday cash. Proper planning and saving long before the holiday can help you avoid a cycle of high-interest debt that can last for weeks or even months after the holidays are over.

Keep in mind that holiday spending is short-term spending. Once the unwrapping frenzy is over, how long will the excitement last? Saving your money for long-term goals like homeownership, college or a comfortable retirement may be the very best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones.

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Budgeting, Coupons, Holiday Tips, Saving

How to Save During the Holidays

By: America Saves

Holidays are often an exciting time of the year. Spending time with family, enjoying time off work, and celebrating with family traditions are enjoyable activities. However, the holidays can also represent added stress due to the crunch on your wallet.

It is hard to look forward to a holiday if you are worried about how to pay for it. Have you stressed about how to provide a fun experience for your family without breaking the bank? Decorations, gifts, and food expenses add up quickly.

To avoid this financial strain, it is important to plan for holiday expenses throughout the year. America Saves has compiled some tips to help you plan for a fulfilling holiday season while not drowning in expenses.

Develop a Holiday Budget

One way to reduce impulsive spending is to develop a budget that includes clear expectations for travel, food, entertainment, and gift-giving expenses.

  • Set your spending limit before you start budgeting. And stick to your limit. That might mean making some compromises. Decide what you will spend on each person before going shopping. If possible, talk with family members and friends to set a spending limit that everyone can spend on each gift.
  • Be as comprehensive as you can when you create your budget. Make a list of everyone who will receive a gift as well as all items that will cost money during the holiday season. Some items often forgotten include gasoline, babysitter fees, eating at restaurants more often, and so on.
  • Reduce your spending. Add up the total of your holiday list, and don’t be shy about reducing it some more. Challenge yourself to spend a little less each year. Consider writing handwritten notes expressing thanks or appreciation rather than buying gifts when possible to reduce your spending costs.
  • Divide the list into necessary items (needs) and extra opportunities (wants). For example, gasoline is a needed expense for traveling while eating out at restaurants while on the road is an extra expense that can be avoided if needed. Dividing your list will help you save for all necessary expenses and provide a list of ideas in case extra money is leftover.
  • As part of your budget, determine how you will pay for each item. Paying with cash will help avoid unexpected spending. Paying with a credit card without keeping track of spending may cause you to forget purchases for which you’ll have to pay later. If paying with layaway, look out for hidden fees and be sure to budget for any interest added.
  • Carry a copy of your budget with you, and be sure to follow it while in stores. Once a budget is made, it can still be hard to follow. In-store sales are tempting, but making impulsive purchases, no matter how small, can add up quickly.
  • Plan your shopping trips ahead of time by reviewing store ads for upcoming sales. This step will lower costs while also helping to reduce impulsive decisions while in the store.
  • Remember to save. Continue saving over the holidays so you don’t shortchange your retirement, education, small business, or other goals. Stick to more long-term savings goals and avoid the accumulation of new debt.

Download our Free Holiday Budget Printable for easy budget construction, and check out additional budgeting tips here.

Consider the following tips for the upcoming holidays:

  • Cooking an entire holiday meal on your own can be expensive. Consider having a potluck with friends and family to avoid cooking or paying for the entire meal yourself.
  • Keep the menu simple. Dinner can be special without two different types of meat, four vegetable dishes, and three different desserts. If you plan to serve mashed potatoes and gravy, you can skip the macaroni and cheese casserole. If you plan to make candied carrots, no need to serve candied yams also.
  • Plan for meals ahead of time to take advantage of coupons and grocery deals. Advertisements about upcoming sales can be found online and in local newspapers. Using in-season produce for recipes can often reduce food costs.
  • Reduce travel expenses by visiting out-of-town families for one holiday during the winter season (such as just Thanksgiving or only Christmas, rather than both holidays).
  • Consider setting up new holiday traditions that cost less. For example, some families or friend groups use “Secret Santa,” where each person draws a name randomly so that each person receives a gift and each person only buys a gift for one person.
  • Consider spending time together rather than gift-giving. Other ideas include a nice dinner out or playing games as a group.

When it comes to holiday spending, the important thing is to stick to your budget. We all want holidays to be special, but if you create debt in the process, it will end up being more of a headache than a holiday.

Spending less is just the first part of a successful financial plan. Put away the money you save during the holidays into a savings account for future expenses, both anticipated and unexpected ones. Those with a savings plan are twice as likely to save successfully. Let America Saves help you reach your savings and debt reduction goals. It all starts when you make a commitment to yourself to save. That’s what our pledge is all about. Learn more about how to save money for the future here.

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Ask Chuck: Avoiding The Paycheck-to-Paycheck Trap

By: Chuck Bentley, Crown Financial Ministries

Dear Chuck,

I read an article recently about how many Americans live paycheck to paycheck and question how many really have to live that way. I don’t want to be calloused, but doesn’t the Bible tell us not to live that way?

Financially Secure

Dear Financially Secure,

Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with people caught in the paycheck-to-paycheck trap for multiple reasons. Many are there due to circumstances beyond their control, including tragic health issues, job loss, unwanted divorces, and basic financial illiteracy.

A key consideration regarding household finances and overall economic well-being is the ability to withstand financial disruptions. A lack of emergency funds is the onset of financial suffering for many. With little or no margin, an unexpected expense or loss of income throws their finances into chaos.

A 2017 report by the U.S. Federal Reserve revealed the following issues that contribute to the paycheck-to-paycheck problem.

Dealing with Unexpected Expenses

  • 4 in 10 adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either be unable to cover it or would find it necessary to sell something, borrow from family or friends, or carry a balance on credit cards. (This is an improvement from half of the adults in 2013.)
  • Over 1 in 5 adults are unable to pay their current month’s bills in full.
  • More than 1 in 4 adults skipped necessary medical care in 2017 because they could not afford the cost.

Income

  • 3 in 10 adults have family income that varies from month to month.
  • 1 in 10 adults experienced hardship because of monthly changes in income.
  • Nearly 25% of young adults under 30 and 10% of all adults receive some sort of financial support from someone living outside their home.

Financial Literacy

  • On average, people answer fewer than 3 out of 5 basic financial literacy questions correctly.
  • Lower scores fell among those less comfortable managing their retirement savings.

What To Do

There are emotional stories of those living paycheck-to-paycheck, but, like you, I question how many are willing to change their lifestyles, to adjust priorities, and make some sacrifices to protect themselves from financial disaster.

People rely on debt because it’s easy and “everyone” does it. It is certainly easier to buy a new car with low-interest rates than saving to pay cash. After all, saving means you have to forfeit (or postpone) a bigger house, the latest fashion, a new phone, or eating out; but easy is ultimately the more costly option.

In the long-term, sacrifice has its rewards, and it isn’t all that painful once the decision is made to take control rather than letting the world dictate how to spend money. Learning to discipline oneself eventually becomes a habit and a way of life. Before long, the thought of carrying consumer debt becomes ridiculous.

I think most people who are experiencing the overwhelming burden of carrying credit card debt would tell you the small sacrifices upfront are worth it. If you’re dealing with overwhelming credit card debt, contact Christian Credit Counselors. They can help!

The trick is to develop a mindset of tight control over your income. With a budget in place, progress can be made toward getting people off the financial cliff so they CAN withstand financial emergencies.

Self-control, accountability, hard work, living contrary to the rest of the world, and disregard the availability of credit are some basic steps I recommend to anyone wanting to become financially secure.

Learning to wait is a great discipline. Pausing and praying for a need allows us to see God provide. God wants us to be good stewards of what He provides for our good and for the benefit of others. We are living examples of His goodness and offer hope to the hopeless. When we manage our finances the way He tells us, we have the freedom to live out our purpose and glorify Him in the process.

Debt Counseling

Dr. Anne Bradley with The Institute for Work and Economics summarizes this beautifully:

Good stewardship leads to flourishing, which is characterized by well-being, thriving, and abundance. It is the way God created all things before the fall, as well as what he will restore when Christ returns. In the parable of the talents, Jesus teaches that everyone is to maximize the gifts that he is given in order to contribute to the flourishing of the world (Matt. 25:14-30).

…Each of us is created uniquely by God to contribute something to his kingdom. We have a special opportunity to use our particular interests and abilities to do something significant.

This larger view of stewardship encompasses every aspect of life. That job that one takes, where you live, how many children you have, and where you send your children to school all involve stewardship. Those options require us to make choices with our scarce resources, as each tradeoff presents us with a cost and becomes part of the calculus of stewardship. Our efforts can bring delight to us and to the Lord and allow us to serve the common good.  

So let’s not disparage those who are struggling to make ends meet. Let’s work to help them discover and understand that God has a better way. Ultimately, we not only want to see them get out of the pain and stress of living paycheck to paycheck but to be prepared to stand before the Lord and hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”

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Debt Counseling
Budgeting, Debt

Finances, Debt Counseling, and Marriage

Money and Marital Bliss

According to the Huffington Post, marriage is not just an emotional commitment but a financial one as well. When you enter into a marriage, you often share wealth as well as debt. Money problems are the top reasons cited for marital conflicts. When you seek debt counseling with your spouse, you are more likely to build financial intimacy.

Money tips for Marriage

  • Set Financial Goals
  • Seek Credit Counseling
  • Discuss Financial Habits
  • Talk about Money Decisions
  • Be honest
  • Talk at least once a month
  • Set benchmarks for your finances (Saving for retirement)
  • Set a budget

Setting a Debt Management Plan

After receiving debt counseling, you will know more about debt consolidation to handle credit card debt. If you have credit cards with high interest rates, you can often pay less in interest with debts under the umbrella of a debt management plan.

Couples can celebrate small financial victories such as sticking to a budget or saving money when grocery shopping for the week. After paying off credit card debt with a debt management plan, you can find low-cost ways to celebrate. Many couples take the money they used to spend for their monthly debt payment and use the money to fund a vacation, IRA or emergency fund.

Other financial questions to discuss with a credit counselor and your spouse include how to pay bills together, plan for the future and improve credit scores. A trained credit counselor doesn’t judge, but helps facilitate hard conversations about money.

 

Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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    Credit Counseling
    Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Debt, National Debt

    Credit Counseling and Rising Debt

    Debt and Credit Counseling

    Household debt is reaching unsustainable levels, according to a report by NerdWallet. Another article in The New York Post states the average household debt in the U.S. is about $16,000. By arranging credit counseling or yourself and your family, it is possible to deal with staggering credit card debt. Most Americans pay a lot of money to cover interest charges over the years.

    Though, those statistics only take into account families carrying debt. Experts point out many Americans defaulted on their credit card debt in 2008 during the Great Recession. Instead of declaring bankruptcy, a positive solution is debt consolidation. A trained and certified credit counselor helps you avoid debt settlement scams and bankruptcy.

    Credit Card Debt and Your Roth IRA

    According to some reports, many Americans pay as much as 20 percent every month in interest. The best way to deal with staggering debt is to consolidate your payments through a debt settlement plan. Your creditors typically agree to lower the interest rate while you pay back the money you owe. The plan is simple because you only make one payment every month to satisfy all your credit card creditors. With an automated payment plan, the process becomes simple and stress-free.

    According to the report, American households pay more than $6,000 a year in interest. With an extra $6,000 each year, you can easily max out a Roth IRA or other retirement account as well as save for the future.

    Revolving Credit Card Debt

    According to an article in Mainstreet, paying down credit card debt is a top priority for Americans. But it could take up to 40 years for some families to pay down their credit cards, if they only pay their minimum payments every month. With the New Year on the horizon, make paying off debt a resolution.

    With credit counseling, you learn how to stop the revolving credit card debt trap. A debt consolidation plan stops the bad cycle because you stop using credit cards as you pay off a debt management plan.

     

    Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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      Debt Counseling
      Budgeting, Credit Counseling, Credit Score, Debt, Finance, Holiday Tips

      Debt Counseling and Holiday Credit Card Debt

      Debt Counseling and Christmas

      Most people love spending money on their family and friends, wrapping presents with shiny bows and watching their expressions as they open gifts. However, Christmas is a bittersweet holiday for people with excessive credit card debt. By seeking debt counseling before or after the holidays, you take control of your holiday credit card debt.

      According to an article in the Huffington Post, many shoppers experience the shopping hangover after major shopping days such as Black Friday. Even if you shop on major sale days, you don’t get ahead by using credit cards if you can’t pay them back. Revolving credit card debt is at the highest level it has been in several years, according to the Federal Reserve. Debt counseling gives you an edge so you start the New Year on the right path.

      Credit Card Debt Repayment

      If you can only afford to pay the suggested amount due or minimum due, you will benefit from debt consolidation. By receiving debt counseling, you find out how to budget to pay back all of your credit debt as well as monthly bills and expenses. With a debt repayment plan, you figure out how to get out of credit card debt for good.

      By consolidating debt you pay off credit card debt and satisfy your creditors. If you take a different approach such as using a balance transfer credit card, you could end up running up even more credit card debt. Debt counseling helps many consumers overcome the temptation to keep putting items on credit instead of setting the credit cards aside.

      Credit Counseling and your Finances

      If you just want a short-term fix, pay your minimum balance or transfer credit card balances to a new credit card. However, experts say most credit cards charge a 3 percent transfer fee. Also, paying the minimum amount doesn’t lower your interest rate. A credit counselor helps you actually lower the interest you pay on your credit card debt so you pay it all off in less time. A long-term fix is about examining your spending habits, learning how to boost a credit score and budgeting. Many consumers fall into traps. You can change your spending and savings habits with a few simple personal finance tricks.

      Although the holidays are all about giving, it is a good time to treat yourself to debt counseling. With a proper budget, you can buy loved ones holiday gifts and avoid lingering debt.

       

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        Christian Credit Counselors
        Christian Credit Counselors

        Credit Counseling – Five Steps to Crush Debt

        Crushing Credit Card Debt

        People who struggle with a crushing amount of credit card debt often feel motivated and positive after receiving Christian credit counseling. Trained and qualified credit counselors work with consumers overwhelmed by debt without passing judgment. According to a recent article by wisebread.com, there are 5 action steps you get a grip on personal finances. Christian credit counseling helps with all of the steps. Debt statistics by NerdWallet shows the average family in the U.S. owes more than $16,000 in credit card debt. Although some consumers feel helpless and frustrated by debt, having a realistic debt management plan helps you turn around the situation.

        Stop using Credit Cards

        One action step to take to crush debt is to stop adding to your existing debt. When you agree to a debt management plan, you agree to stop using the credit cards. A debt consolidation program often lowers your monthly expenses so you can save more. Most people find it easier to pay bills and live below their means when they money put aside in savings.

        Lowering Your Credit Card Interest Rate

        With Christian credit counseling, you receive the help you need to lower the interest rate on your credit cards. A credit counselor negotiates for lower interest rates. Experts say some credit card companies will not lower interest rates for consumers even when you ask nicely. However, the expert credit counselors know how to negotiate and help you meet your financial objectives.

        Agreeing To Down Debt

        Instead of agreeing to a payment plan with each credit card on your own, you will likely find more success by consolidating debt. It is a lot easier to make one debt payment each month, especially when you can enroll in an automatic repayment plan through a bank. In some cases, people who consolidate debt through a Christian credit counseling agency get out of debt 80 percent faster than those who take the DIY approach to debt repayment.

        Spending Less Money

        Although it is important to pay your utility bills, try to limit mindless spending. Also called discretionary spending, some of the items skip include clothing, entertainment, cable and vacations. Once you are debt free, you can resume the spending. Some people continue to treat themselves with free rewards such as a hot bath or walk.

        Earn More Money

        A final action step to take is to increase your income so you pay off your debt. The secret is to funnel any extra money you have into your debt management plan payment first. The second priority is savings.

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            Credit Counseling

            Credit Counseling – Paying Down Debt

            Debt Management Programs

            A lot of people who receive credit counseling wonder if they qualify for a debt management program to pay off debt. Debt management programs are so appealing because a trained and certified credit counselor negotiates a lower interest rate so you can make a monthly debt payment. Many consumers dream of living a debt-free life. Credit counseling makes it simple and easy. To qualify for an intensive plan to pay off debt quickly, it is important to look at where you are and where you want to go. According to a piece by the Great Fall Tribune, credit counseling gives consumers a chance to take control of their situation. However, not everyone qualifies for a more intensive plan to pay off debt.

            Credit Cards and High Interest Rates

            If the interest rate on your credit cards are 24 percent or higher, you are likely a good candidate for an intensive plan to pay off debt. Struggling consumers often deal with high interest rate credit cards that put them on a never-ending debt cycle. Credit counseling provides a positive solution to the financial dilemma.

            Earning Extra Money

            If you aren’t making a lot of money, consider getting a second job or better position so you can afford the agreed-upon monthly debt management program payments. With credit counseling, you learn how to set income and savings goals.

            Your Credit Score and Credit Counseling

            People with low credit scores inevitably benefit from good credit counseling. Whether you decide to consolidate debt or pay off your debt on your own, you will grow wealth more easily by knowing the secrets of a good credit score. Having a good score often means lower interest rates on car loans and mortgages and better job opportunities.

            Life Beyond Credit Cards

            When you enroll in a debt management program you agree not to open up any new credit cards. You can still benefit from the sage financial advice of credit counselors even if you don’t enroll in a program. However, most consumers do well when forced to live within their means by relying on debit cards and cash.

            Other benefits of credit counseling include advice on reducing spending, paying off debt and changing poor financial habits that led to excessive debt. At Christian Credit Counselors, we help consumers struggling with substantial debt. For more information on credit counseling and tips for paying off debt quickly, please contact us.

             

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