The Credit Card Statements Are In…Now What?

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a recent volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com, but contributed previously while serving at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. Prior to government service, she worked as a Financial Services Representative for several brokerage and insurance firms. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy.

As we leap into the New Year, it is easy for us to find ourselves suffering from excessive holiday spending and recalling how each credit card swipe could have been different. Maybe you overindulged, or maybe you stuck to your budget and still feel overwhelmed by that first credit card statement of the New Year.

Rather than looking back regretfully, let the onset of the New Year motivate you to move forward. Here are two steps to get you on the right path:

  1.  Damage control and assessment. To know your numbers is key, and while it may seem like an agonizing experience, it is the pathway to a full recovery! Collect receipts and match them against your holiday spending so you note differences between regular household expenses and holiday transactions. Next, categorize your numbers to give a better understanding of household trends: food expenses, travel, clothing, gifts, etc. Lastly, check your credit report for changes and accuracy of information. This is especially important with the recent breaches at major retailers like Target.
  2. Strategize Now that you know what you owe, you can construct a viable plan for recovery by setting goals about what gets paid first, in what order and by what method. Use a debt repayment calculator, such as www.powerpay.org, to calculate the best repayment plan for your household, keeping in mind known expenses, such as car insurance renewals, and possible future income, such as a tax return. With this clear picture of your finances, you can also consider discussing your choices with a financial counselor who can help apply objectivity. In addition to your Family Service Center, here are a few online starting resources: http://www.saveandinvest.org/MilitaryCenter/ and http://www.militarysaves.org/.

Financial planning can never be done in a vacuum simply because we have competing goals, needs, wants and limited resources. Take this to heart and along with your debt repayment plan construct a savings plan that will help your family thrive both in your holiday spending recovery and all year long.

Additional resources from Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte:
Get Your Financial Bearing by Setting a Budget
A Lifetime of Financial Security Can Begin Today
Fall into Healthier Finances

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