New year great time to improve finances

PARKERSBURG — Many of those entering 2018 do so with debt and fragile finances, but officials say the new year is a great chance to set achievable financial goals.

John Jackson, executive director of Consumer Credit Counseling Services of the Mid-Ohio Valley, said among the most common New Year’s resolutions are creating a budget and improving savings.

“It has to be specific and something you can achieve,” he said. “Setting a goal of ‘saving money’ is not going to work, because you have to have some specifics. But also don’t make it something you can’t do. Don’t set yourself up for failure.”

Jackson said he recommends tracking expenditures to see where the money is going.

“We tell people to keep a notebook of everything you spend in a five-week period,” he said. “That gives you the chance to have a couple of paychecks and most of your bills, so you can see what you are spending.”

Jackson said small expenditures, such as eating out or that morning coffee, can end up biting a large chunk out of a person’s budget without them realizing.

“It takes a little bit of planning, but those little changes can add up,” he said.

Jackson said people also don’t always realize what something costs over time. Most people carry some level of credit card debt, and making the minimum payment can multiply the amount of money owed, he said.

“You’re going to pay five times what it’s worth just making that minimum payment,” he said. “If you can pay more than the minimum each month, event if it’s just $5-10, that can have a pretty significant impact over the long run.”

Making financial improvements isn’t just about having more money, Jackson said, it’s about planning for the future, but short- and long-term.

“The biggest thing we see here is people aren’t prepared for emergencies,” he said. “Those emergencies can range from losing a job to needing new car tires. My number one piece of advice would be work on building those emergency savings. That will make it easier to not turn to credit, which racks up debt and expenses, or asking friends for help.”

Consumer Credit Counseling Services offers help with financial planning as well as free classes on a variety of financial issues. For more information and to see upcoming events, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CCCSMOV/.

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