The new year is underway, and many of us have money-related resolutions. If you stacked on a bit of debt over the holidays, you’re not alone. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Center for Microeconomic Data, total household debt increased by $286 billion in the third quarter of 2021.

“Taking steps to get out of debt may seem overwhelming,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President of BBB Serving Central East Texas said, “But getting on the road to financial freedom and wealth creation is well worth the effort.”

The current COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect households. People are reassessing retirement timelines, considering where and how they live and assessing future personal goals in the face of the new omicron variant. Several federal financial programs are coming to an end soon, and employment opportunities vary from one sector to another. As consumers look ahead to the new year, having stable financial footing may become a necessary goal to meet day to day needs.

If you want to begin getting your finances in order in 2022, BBB provides the following advice:

Inventory your credit cards. Credit cards are known to have high interest rates, and this can waste a lot of money over time. Reach out to the credit card company to see if a balance transfer offer can be used to switch to a card with a lower rate or ask if the interest rate can be lowered. Research the financial institute where the credit card is held on BBB.org first. Read the terms and contract very carefully — there may be big penalties if a payment is missed. If you have multiple cards, decide which debt-paying strategy is best for you. Some experts recommend paying off cards with the highest interest rates first. Others recommend paying off cards with the smallest balances first.

Avoid wasting money on unethical businesses or scams. When making a purchase or choosing a business, check with BBB. Making careful decisions now can save time, money, and headaches later. Research all companies at BBB.org, and check BBB Scam Tracker regularly to see what scams are happening in your area.

Start budgeting. Creating a written budget and tracking your spending is one of the best ways to save money and stop spending more than you earn! First, figure out how much debt you have; you need an accurate picture before you can figure out your budget. Note the difference between fixed expenses, needs and wants. If you have debt, include repayment goals in your budget. If you can, try to factor in retirement and emergency savings as well. Save money by cooking at home instead of getting takeout. Factor in any alternate income that you can think of, like selling unused items or part-time work.

When possible, shop and use BBB Accredited Businesses who follow BBB’s Standards for Trust.

See BBB’s New year’s guide for more tips on how to be a savvy consumer this year. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call BBB at (903) 581-5704 or report it via BBB ScamTracker.

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