Budgeting for the Holidays – Part One

The holidays will be here soon and they are a “season”, not just a singular day or event; and, there can be several events! There may be parties and celebrations where you are expected to bring a dish, and/or provide a gift(s) and also meet family and friends out for lunches and dinners. The costs add up!

The holiday season can also include other celebrations such as birthdays, anniversaries or even weddings. Finally, winter is the time where added expenses can come into play such as higher utility (e.g., heat, electric) bills, and unexpected car expenses like batteries and tires that need replacing.

How do you cover these expenses without completely exhausting your budget and getting yourself in post-holiday debt?

Consider several of the suggestions below to help reduce the expense and stress of the holiday season. Ideally, an early and clear plan communicated to your family and friends can help a lot!

  1. Have the list of WHO you will shop for and stick to it! Make agreements with your family and friends as to WHO you will buy for and HOW MUCH you will each spend. It’s very tempting to want to buy “a little something” for others, especially items under $20, but it adds up fast!
  2. If you have large extended family or circle of friends, pick ONE name for each group.
  3. Discuss possible family gifts that you all will enjoy. Start collecting change as a family starting each early each year (January) to help reduce the cost of bigger family gifts. If your children have part-time jobs, ask them for $2-5 a paycheck to help support a significant family gift.
  4. Shopping for items (e.g., at a spring craft show, summer fairs) throughout the year makes a BIG difference! There are sales all year round! It is just a little pre-planning to build your gift inventory throughout the year.
  5. Buy items for your food pantry early, ideally when they are on sale or when you have more spare funds. If your extended family knows you bring a signature dish every year, consider buying non-perishable ingredients early on and then place them in a separate storage area for the holidays. 
  6. Buy food staples at discount stores such as Aldi, Save-A-Lot and Price Rite.
  7. Buy food items in bulk, if possible.
  8. Don’t feel obligated to attend EVERY holiday invite you receive.
  9. Open a separate bank account to systematically save for the holidays. Set aside a manageable amount of money for a bank or credit union account that is offering a high interest rate such as a money market account or a short-term (e.g., 3-6 months) Certificate of Deposit so you have your money in time to shop without incurring any penalties.
  10. Consider making or even baking some of your gifts. Personalized gifts are very memorable. Add a small ($5-$10) gift card if you like.
  11. Shop at small businesses in your area that may have unique and reasonably priced gifts.
  12. Try not to get too caught up in Black Friday deals. Many times, people spend far more on other items than they actually save by battling the crowds and spending a lot of time and gas.

Keep a look out for Budgeting for the Holidays Part Two coming soon!

If you’re dealing with high interest debt payments as well, see what you can save with Parachute’s Debt Management Plan https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/dmp-calculator/

Would you like to meet one-on-one with one of our Financial Counselors to talk specifically about your budget? Check out our Financial Coaching Session https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/services/credit-budget-counseling/#financial-coaching  or call 716-712-2060.

“Stretching Your Budget When Money is Tight” – Part 1: Tips for food, groceries and dining out expenses

The majority of individuals will likely go through periods where money is tight due to unexpected expenses, a significant life or job changes, medical hardships, inflation/increased prices, and much more!  Here are some simple, but not insignificant ways, of stretching your dollars further. Small amounts of savings do add up! Part 1 will focus on food, groceries and dining out.

Groceries

  • Plan your meals for one week ahead, if possible. Be sure to inventory what you already have at home to avoid buying items that you do not need.   
  • Make a grocery list to cover meals and stick to it!  Plan the aisles you will go down when shopping, and try and avoid the others. You can get a store directory ahead of time to plan your route.  
  • Avoid multiple trips to the grocery store. This counts down on gas and the temptation to buy more than you can afford.
  • Comparison shop by cost per ounce/pound, etc.
  • Avoid shopping when you are hungry, tired, or in a hurry. Also, try to avoid bringing a number of other people with you.
  • Calculate your costs with your phone, or using an app while shopping so there are no surprises at the register.
  • Consider ordering groceries online and utilizing curbside pick up to avoid going into the store to prevent buying items you don’t need.
  • Buy in bulk the items that you are sure you will use; such as paper products, hygiene products, etc.
  • Buy store or generic brands.
  • Only use coupons for those items you are sure you will use. Many times, food and groceries are purchased because we have a coupon, but then they are thrown out.
  • Plan some meatless meals that are still high in protein (e.g., cheese, peanut butter, legumes).
  • Meals do not have to be “standardized”.  Kids may love pancakes for dinner!
  • Involve the family! Making dishes such as a casserole, lasagna, enchiladas, etc. together on a weekend can produce leftovers for part of the next week.
  • Consider growing a family garden of fruits and vegetables. If neighbors grow fruits and vegetables, trade or exchange with them.
  • Go to a farmers’ markets.
  • Consider discount grocery stores.
  • Check out your local dollar stores for items like toothpaste, shampoo, etc.  
  • Ask for grocery store gift cards for holidays gifts and birthdays.

Dining Out

  • Make dining out a treat, and limit to special days.
  • Look for establishments that offer specific days when kids can eat free.
  • Share meals
  • Ask if you can order from the kid’s menu.
  • Ask for senior citizen or retiree discounts, if applicable.
  • Cut in ½ (or less) the number of times you go out to eat per week (e.g., grabbing coffee, fast food, lunches).
  • Don’t order beverages or alcohol when dining out. Eat dessert at home, or just go out for dessert.

Would you like to work on your individual budget plan with one of our knowledgable counselors? Contact Parachute today to schedule a one on one appointment! 716-712-2060 https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/services/credit-budget-counseling/#financial-coaching

How to Improve Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a number that lenders use to assess your creditworthiness. It is based on a variety of factors, including your payment history, the amount of debt you have, and the length of your credit history. A good credit score can help you get approved for loans and credit cards with lower interest rates, which can save you money in the long run.

There are a few things you can do to improve your credit score:

  • Pay your bills on time. This is the most important factor in determining your credit score. Make sure to pay your bills in full and on time each month.
  • Keep your credit utilization low. Credit utilization is the amount of debt you have compared to your total available credit. Aim to keep your credit utilization below 30%.
  • Avoid opening too many new accounts. Hard inquiries, which are requests for new credit, can temporarily lower your credit score. Try to limit the number of new accounts you open each year.
  • Get a copy of your credit report and dispute any errors. Review your credit report for any errors, such as accounts that are not yours or late payments that you did not make. Dispute any errors with the credit bureaus.

Improving your credit score takes time and effort, but it is worth it in the long run. By following these tips, you can improve your credit score and get the best possible terms on loans and credit cards.

Here are some additional tips to help you improve your credit score:

  • Get a secured credit card. A secured credit card is a good option for people with bad credit. With a secured credit card, you will need to make a deposit, which will be your credit limit. Using a secured credit card responsibly can help you build your credit history and improve your credit score.
  • Pay down debt. The less debt you have, the better your credit score will be. Make a plan to pay down your debt as quickly as possible.
  • Be patient. It takes time to improve your credit score. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results immediately. Just keep working at it and you will eventually reach your goal.
  • Contact Parachute! Here at Parachute, we offer one-on-one Credit Report Review, and Financial Counseling sessions to review your specific credit situation and can offer individualized results that align with your goals.

www.parachutecreditcounseling.org 716-712-2060

April is Financial Literacy Month!

Financial Literacy Month is a national observance held every April to promote financial education and responsibility. Financial Literacy Month is a great time to learn more about financial literacy and to start taking steps to improve your financial well-being.

Financial literacy is the ability to understand and manage personal finances, and includes the awareness and knowledge to make informed financial decisions. Financial literacy can be improved by seeking to understand basic financial concepts such as budgeting, saving, and investing.

Financial Literacy Month is a great time to start taking steps to improve your own financial well-being. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Set financial goals.

What do you want to achieve financially? Do you want to buy a house, save for retirement, or start your own business? Once you know what you want to achieve, you can start making a plan to reach your goals.

  • Create a budget.

(…and stick to it!). A budget is a plan for how you will spend your money. It can help you track your spending and make sure you are not spending more than you earn. You can’t make progress toward your financial goals if you don’t know where your money is going each month.

  • Save money.

Start by setting aside a small amount of money each month and gradually increase the amount you save as you get more comfortable with it. Set up auto pay to direct deposit a realistic amount to a savings account out of each paycheck.

  • Start thinking about investing.

Investing money is a way to grow your money over time. There are many different ways to invest, so it is important to do your research and choose an investment strategy that is right for you. Contact a financial planner or advisor for specific advice and guidance.

  • Get help.

If you are struggling with financial literacy, there are many resources available to help you, both online and in your community. You can take a financial literacy class, read books or articles about financial literacy, follow reputable financial sources on social media, subscribe to financial newsletters, or listen to personal finance podcasts. Meeting with a financial professional is a great way to assess your own situation, and work together to create a plan on how to achieve your personal financial goals and stay on track moving forward.

Parachute Credit Counseling is dedicated to promoting financial literacy and well-being, and to help minimize the stigma associated with debt.  We offer many different services to assist individuals and families achieve their personal financial goals, and to provide financial education.

  • More information on Parachute’s Workshops and Events to promote financial literacy:
  • Essential information compiled by Parachute to promote making wise budgeting choices and maintaining good financial health:

Contact us at (716) 712-2060 to speak with a certified financial counselor and review your personal situation and create a plan to take specific steps to improve your own financial literacy.  We are offering appointments all through the month of April, and beyond!