April 24, 2019

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After Burst of Holiday Spending, a Plan for a ‘Frugal February’

After Burst of Holiday Spending, a Plan for a ‘Frugal February’
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“It’s fun, rather than a struggle,” she said.

Ms. Finn said that while cutting back on nonessentials might sound dull, “it’s all about getting creative.” Last year, the Winter Olympics were on television in February, so the couple watched at home and played games like “countertop curling,” using ice cubes.

Ms. Finn and her husband enjoy meeting friends for drinks, but the cost of such outings can quickly add up. So in February, she said, instead of meeting a friend for a glass of wine after work, she may propose heading to a gym. They can catch up while burning calories instead of cash.

The month can also be a time to rediscover entertainment options in your home, Ms. Finn said, whether they are movies, books or board games. “We use the time to appreciate what we already have,” she said.

Here are some questions and answers about a post-holiday financial reboot:

Does transferring a credit card balance to a zero-rate card make sense?

If you have good credit, you can consider transferring your balance to a new card with an introductory zero percent interest offer and pay the bill off over time — sometimes, a year or longer. Look for a card with no or low transfer fees, and be sure you can pay off the balance in the allotted time. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying stiff rates again, when the zero percent period ends.

Another option, if you have a record of on-time payments with your existing card, is to contact its issuer and see if you can negotiate a lower interest rate, said Bruce McClary, a spokesman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Nick Holeman, a certified financial planner with the online financial adviser Betterment, suggests considering the larger picture when paying off card debt. After paying at least the minimum amount due on your cards, he said, you should next contribute enough to your 401(k), if you have one, to get your employer’s matching contribution, if offered. Then, he said, focus on paying off any high-interest debt — generally, anything over 6 percent, including remaining credit card debt.

What’s the best approach to paying down credit card debt?

One popular strategy is to pay off the card with the smallest balance first, to achieve results quickly and build momentum. Another approach, which Ms. Palmer of NerdWallet suggests, is paying off the cards with the highest interest rates first, since that saves the most money.

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