Hi there! My name is Ashley and I have been a Financial Counselor for 15 years, specializing in housing and debt counseling. My husband and I both grew up in Duluth. We have been married 16 years and we have two children who are 11 and 13.
Hi, I’m Tasha and I have worked as a Financial Counselor with LSS for the past 11 years. When I am not at work, I enjoy spending time with my husband and our 3 kids.
Between us, we have met with thousands of families just like yours and ours. Even without a global pandemic, life throws us curveballs that land us on that razor thin line between financial stability and chaos. Right now, Americans are a little on edge when it comes to finances. Whether you have been hit with reduced income or just want to be ready in case of an unexpected financial emergency, many of us are looking for ways to cut costs and build savings. The good news is there are places you may find some money you didn’t know you had. Here is how you might find some “cash in the couch cushions”!
Capture What is Missing – Tasha
The pandemic has caused some reduction in expenses for many. Personally, our family is spending less than we were Pre-Covid. Since I am working from home our gas need has been cut in half. My children’s sports and summer camps were canceled. We’re eating out less and I am handling the family’s haircuts. With haircuts alone, we have saved over $300 in the last 6 months.
Take time now to review your budget; look for areas that have been reduced, such as the following:
- Student Loan Payments
- Gym membership
- Sports and Activities
Determine how much you are not spending. Next, get a plan in place for this new-found money or it will easily get lost in your everyday spending. If you’re uncertain of your employment stability or don’t have an emergency savings account, I recommend putting the extra funds towards savings first. Ideally, you want to have enough money saved to cover 3 to 6 months’ worth of living expenses. Once your savings is built up to a comfortable level, you can then use that extra money to pay down debt.
Your Credit Can Save You or Cost You – Ashley
We’ve all heard that better credit gets you better rates but what does that really mean? Well, it can mean thousands of dollars! A lifetime of poor credit will cost about $200,000 more in fees and interest than a lifetime of excellent credit will. If that isn’t jaw dropping enough, here are some other ways improving and protecting your credit will save you money:
- Cheaper auto and homeowner’s insurance
- Better cell phone packages
- Credit cards with better rates and rewards
- Little to no deposits on utilities
- More employment opportunities (30% of employers check credit as a part of the hiring process)
The best place to start is by reviewing your credit report. You can even meet with one of our Counselors to do a FREE credit report review or visit www.annualcreditreport.com to get your free credit report. Note that you can pull your report weekly (for free) until April of 2021 due to COVID-19. After that date, it will return to an annual free report.
Once you have reviewed your credit report, start improving your score by:
- Disputing any inaccurate information, including personal information
- Making on-time payments, which has the largest impact on your credit score
- Pay down credit cards and maintain a credit card balance of less than 30% of the limit
It Takes Time to Save Money – Ashley
Sometimes the time it takes to make changes to our budget can be a huge deterrent, but every month that goes by is more money slipping through our fingers. Seriously, a couple of hours could save you over $100 a month! Here is where to start:
- Call your cell phone and internet providers. Talk to the retention department and let them know you are thinking of leaving for a cheaper competitor. Then ask if there is a deal they can offer you to stay. They will! I do this every 6 months and save at least $20/month!
- Contact your heat and electric company and ask to get on a budget plan. This will keep your energy bills the same year-round, making it easier to budget with no major increase in your winter bill.
- Drop your cable for Internet TV. If you don’t have a smart tv, you can use Chromecast, Apple TV, or Roku to stream Internet TV. The average cable bill is $60-$75/month.
- Swap your paid streaming services like Netflix and Hulu for free streaming services such as Peacock, Crackle, IMDBtv, tubi, and Vudu. This is another savings of $20/month.
- Meal plan and order your groceries online for pick up. It will ensure that you get only what you need and prevent any impulse buys. This small change can make a dramatic reduction in your grocery bill.
- Shop for new auto and homeowner’s insurance, especially if your credit has improved since you last checked quotes.
- Unsubscribe from ALL of the retail emails you are getting. This prevents you from shopping for something that you didn’t need or want until you got that email. All specials are listed on the website which means that the only thing you’ll miss out on is the temptation!
- Check in with an LSS Financial Counselor to discuss options for lowering your interest rates on your credit cards.
LSS Financial Counseling has over three decades of experience working with individuals and families to find “cash in their couch cushions” and save money. Our experienced counselors are available to provide free support with budgeting, expense tracking, debt repayment, credit reviews, and strategies to build savings. Call 888.577.2227 to schedule your free, confidential phone or virtual session or get all your support online. Learn more about our services by visiting our website.