Getting Through the Winter Blues

Winter brings cozy fires, happy holidays and fun sports like ice skating and skiing. It can Little girl huddled under a coatalso bring some things that are less welcome. With sunshine being scarce, many people get the winter blues. This depressed state is often made worse by the financial realities of winter, which include higher energy costs and money spent on holiday festivities.

Here are some ways to get proactive and beat the blues before they start.

Budget for Holiday Spending

It might be too late this year, but it is not too early to think about strategies for next year. Consider what you actually have in hand to spend without using credit. Then, make a list of all your holiday expenses. These expenses might include gifts, travel, special foods and entertaining.  Consider a holiday club account to meet those expenses next year.

If you have family or friends you usually exchange gifts with, speak to them about putting a dollar limit on spending. Think of some other ways to celebrate in addition to gift giving. Maybe a holiday potluck would work. Have a family game night. Plan an at-home New Year’s party.

Doing rather than buying can lift your spirits. Psychology professor Tom Gilovich of Cornell University says you’ll be happier and have longer-lasting happiness if you spend your money on experiences instead of things.

Also, consider making your own gifts, because a handmade gift can be more meaningful than something store-bought. Have the whole family participate in making fruitcake or jam. Even the youngest members of the family can help with decorating and wrapping the gifts.

This is a great time to talk with your children about financial realities and budgeting. Instead of making a long list of presents they want, have the kids pinpoint one or two items that are really important to them. Talk to them about the expenses you have and reassure them that there will be plenty of joy even without being overwhelmed with presents.

Keep Warm

Energy costs can be a source of worry. However, there are some things you can do to cut your energy costs.

For starters, check your house to make sure you have enough insulation. Look for places in the house where you may be losing heat, such as loose windows or cracks. You can fill these cracks yourself or hire someone to come in and do it. The money you spend will be recouped quickly in the form of lower heating bills.

Try to keep your thermostat at a lower temperature. Get your family in the habit of wearing sweaters and socks in the house. Small afghans on the couch are attractive and useful for cuddling and keeping warm. Buy some extra blankets for the beds and lower the temperature even more at night.

If it is in your budget, a new programmable thermostat can save you money. You will be able to adjust room temperature according to your schedules, keeping it low when no one is home. You can set the thermostat to kick in more heat before you get home from work, so the house will be warm when you arrive.

Do It Yourself

When the kids are home from school, it’s easy to fall into the trap of keeping them busy by going out for treats — pizza, hot chocolate or a warm meal. Start doing more of this at home. Make a large pot of chili or some cocoa for the family. It’s easy and more fun than bundling everyone up to go out. It will save you both money and time.

In general, you can save quite a bit of money if you have been buying expensive coffee on the way to work or throughout the day. Hone your skills as a barista, brew your own and save a bunch.

Consider Credit Counseling

If you are still feeling blue and think it may be related to your finances, start the new year off with free counseling for members offered by Destinations Credit Union’s partner, Greenpath Financial Wellness. A sure way to beat the winter blues is to get a confident feeling about being on top of your financial wellness. “The more you plan, the less you spend,” says Ellie Kay, a California financial planning expert.

And that can make a world of difference in many areas of your life.

Your turn: Are you feeling down about your financial situation? Does the cold weather have you feeling depressed? What are some strategies you’ve used to combat the winter blues?

SOURCES:
https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/dealing-with-winter-blues-sad.aspx 

https://globalnews.ca/news/2460320/5-ways-to-beat-the-winter-blues-and-stay-happy-beyond-blue-monday/ 
https://www.bankrate.com/finance/debt/7-tips-to-beat-the-post-holiday-debt-blues-1.aspx

The Dos And Don’ts Of Credit Repair


If you’ve recently been rejected from a credit application of any kind, you may be poor creditlooking at a poor credit score for any number of reasons. You might have been late with your credit card payments, have an outstanding judgment against you or have even been frauded or victimized by identity theft.

Whatever the cause of the fall in your score, you’re probably looking for ways to get it back on track. Tread carefully! There are lots of dishonest opportunists looking to make a quick buck off your pressing need. Don’t become the next victim of a credit repair scam. In fact, there’s nothing a credit repair company can do for you that you can’t do yourself.

This probably has you wondering how to untangle the legitimate steps you should be taking now from the pointless and costly actions. Look no further! Our handy guide of credit repair dos and don’ts will help get you on the road to improving your credit score.

Do: Determine your actual credit score

If a recent credit application of yours has been denied, don’t take it at face value – find out why it happened. The three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – are each required to provide you with a complimentary copy of your credit report once a year, upon request. To order yours, visit annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228.

If you’ve already requested a report from each of the agencies in the last 12 months, you can still get one free of charge; you are entitled to a free report whenever a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance or employment. To qualify, just request a report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action.

Do: Review your report and dispute any errors

Once you receive your report, review it for inaccuracies. If you spot any fraudulent purchases or erroneous information, you’ll need to dispute them in writing. In your letter, identify every item you are disputing and the reasoning behind your claim. Include copies of documents that support your stance and ask that the errors be removed or corrected. It’s best to send your letter by certified mail so you can ensure the credit reporting company actually received it if that is necessary. Also, keep a personal copy of your letter and all supporting documents for your own records.

You’ll also need to dispute the charge with your actual creditor, taking the same steps you did above.

Don’t: Expect any quick fixes

Anxious as you may be to improve your score, know that there is no “quick fix” for creditworthiness. Enhancing your score takes time, lots of hard work and creating and sticking to a realistic debt repayment plan.

If your credit score is poor, you may be bombarded with promotional material from credit repair companies that promise to increase your score by 100 points in less than a month. If you think these claims sound too good to be true, you’re absolutely right. There are some legitimate credit repair companies out there, but as mentioned, there’s nothing they can do for you that you can’t do on your own – and without paying their hefty fee.

Do: Take steps toward fixing your credit

If you’ve determined that your credit report is accurate, you’ll want to take a careful look at the habits that may be leading to your unfavorable score.

Are you timely with your credit card payments? If you’re consistently late, consider setting up an automatic bill-pay system so you never forget to make a payment. Are you making headway on your debt? If you’re paying your bills on time but your debt is not going anywhere, it’s time to rethink your spending habits. Don’t shop with credit cards; use only debit or cash. Look for ways to trim your expenses, like couponing wherever possible, planning dinner menus around sale items, and finding cost-free ways to relax instead of blowing money at a restaurant or on retail therapy.

Are your monthly bills unmanageable? If you can’t make it through the month and still meet all of your minimum payments, your debt may need an overhaul. Consider debt consolidation, in which your debt is transferred to one low-interest account, or a balance transfer to a card that has an interest-free period. Be aware, though, that lots of open credit is not considered favorable by creditors; close as many accounts as you open – but leave your oldest one open as it shows a longer period of credibility.

Also, no card is interest-free forever. When the introductory period ends, you may be hit with higher than usual interest rates. Alternatively, you can contact your creditors and work out a more reasonable payment plan.

If these options don’t sound feasible, try finding ways to increase your income instead, using all extra cash exclusively for paying down your debt.

Don’t: Expect to see any changes immediately

Don’t fret if you’ve made strides toward fixing your credit and haven’t yet seen an increase in your score. Creditors will only report to the credit reporting agencies on a periodic basis, usually once a month. It may take upward of 30 days or more for your account to be updated and your score to improve.

Do: Ask us for help

Here at Destinations Credit Union, we’re all about helping you manage your finances. If you’re in financial trouble of any kind, we can help! Look into our credit counseling services and assistance with creating and sticking to a budget. [We even offer debt consolidation loans, providing you with the opportunity to transfer your debt to one low-interest loan, making the prospect of paying down your debt a lot more manageable.]

Your Turn: Have you drastically improved your credit score? What was your secret weapon? Share your success and best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.credit.com/credit-repair/

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0058-credit-repair-how-help-yourself
http://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/credit-education/improving-credit/credit-repair/