As we come up on Halloween, now is a great time to take stock of your finances before heading into the holiday season. Here are five “Monster Mash” tips to help you pay off debt, save money, and clean up your financial situation.
Never Ghost Your Creditors.
The worst thing you can do when you fall behind on payments is bury your head in the sand and hope your creditors don’t notice. Trust us—they ALWAYS notice. But even if you aren’t able to make a full payment, sometimes creditors are willing to work out a repayment plan to help you get back on track. So don’t ghost your creditors. Take control and initiate the conversation. Let them know what you can afford to pay each month and negotiate from there. If you don’t feel confident calling creditors yourself, our partners at GreenPath may be able to help with that!
Stop Living on a Skeleton Budget (aka Paycheck to Paycheck) and Save Money.
If you struggle to pay bills, save money, and still keep your finances above water, you’re not alone. According to a 2019 Charles Schwab survey, 59% of Americans report living paycheck to paycheck. That means for most of us, we are one emergency away from breaking the bank. Now is a good time to take a hard look at where your money is going and make some cuts so that you can divert funds to a savings or investment account. Avoiding your spending triggers is also a good idea if you want to keep more cash in your pocket.
Simplify Frankenstein Finances by Consolidating.
Just like Frankenstein’s creation, piecing together multiple loans and credit cards with various rates, terms and due dates can quickly become a monster. One way to simplify your repayment, and possibly save money in the process, is to consolidate your debt. This can be done through a debt consolidation loan or through balance transfers to a single credit card. But be warned! Debt consolidation can be a useful tool in some cases, but it isn’t always the best option. In some cases, you may end up paying more in fees and interest than you were before. Make sure you fully understand your terms, conditions, and new interest rate before accepting the consolidation.
Bring Zombie Accounts Back to Life.
Did your parents open an account for you as a child that you don’t use? Have you ever opened an account to save money and then done nothing with it? Did you sign up for a credit card a while back and have yet to use it? Bringing dormant accounts back to life (or closing them entirely) is part of regular financial house cleaning. Leaving inactive accounts unsupervised can put you at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud without noticing. If it’s been a very long time since you last looked at your account, your terms and conditions may have changed, and you could be accumulating fees that you aren’t aware of. A best practice would be to check in quarterly, if not monthly, just to stay in-the-know on what’s happening with your account. (In case you’ve forgotten all of the credit accounts you’ve opened, you can always check your credit report for free once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.)
Werewolves Have to Deal With Hairy Situations, and So Do We.
Money issues never make for fun conversation, but being on the same page as your significant other about personal finance is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship AND bank account. Talking regularly about financial goals can help keep both of you working toward the same outcome. And if there is any financial infidelity happening—secret bank accounts, lying about purchases, etc.—it’s time to come clean to your partner. You won’t be able to move toward your financial goals together until you’re both aware of the real situation in your household.
Samantha Salazar is a University of Texas at Austin alum who has worked in the finance and marketing industry since 2011. She has a background as a CUNA Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor and is a Class II graduate of the Latina Leadership Institute (LLA). True to her millennial nature, Samantha loves coffee, covers her home in hanging plants, lives a frugal lifestyle, and works hard so that her dog, Olive, can have the backyard she deserves.