The calendar may say October, but we can see it on the horizon already. The Holidays.
We bring enormous expectations into the holiday season. We anticipate the holidays
will bring happiness and good cheer, but sadly, often the result is a heavy and
unnecessary debt burden. How can we alleviate some of the stress and strain of the
holiday season? By planning ahead.
“Hey,” you ask. “Are we talking about budgeting again?”
In a word - YES.
But another important part of debt management is preparing for out-of-the-ordinary
expenses, like the holidays. As a CAF client you’re already half-way there.
As you follow your Credit Advisors Foundation debt management plan, you have
put your everyday budgeting plans and debt management goals into the hands
of experts. Good for you!
You have also been learning about the budgeting process through your program and
reading the Defeat Debt newsletter. You already know how to budget for those
unexpected expenses without going further in debt.
You can do that for the holidays as well.
Taking the time to plan ahead, forecasting, and anticipating needs and tapping into
our creativity are helpful ways to reduce the seasonal price tag.
Just where should you start?
Setting a little aside every month is ideal. However, if you didn’t start
setting aside a little last January, it’s not too late. There are still some
things you can do now.
First, don’t wait any longer.
Use that budgeting know-how and your ideas and begin the process now. Review last
years holiday expenses. Understand where your money is likely to go. Choose which
expenses to reduce or to avoid. If you will be exchanging gifts, begin your list
as soon as possible.
Gifts were, most likely, the single greatest expense category in your holiday budget
last year. (OK, so you didn’t have a budget last year. Let it go. This year
doesn’t have to be that way.) Once you’ve made your initial list of
who will receive a gift, review it again. Now is the time to get tough.
Eliminate as many gifts as possible. Come on, wouldn’t a card suffice for
your 4th cousin, twice removed? Or how about a gift of your time? Eliminate or lower
the cost of the remaining list. Be creative!
Here are some ideas: draw names for a gift exchange, pitch in for group gifts, give
handmade gifts (kitchen gifts are always a happy-maker) or personalized coupons
for time and talent. Give yourself a budget limit for each gift. Have a White Elephant
(those gifts you got last year but could have done without) Holiday Gift Exchange.
Forego gifts altogether and simply spend time with family.
Have a family meeting or contest for ideas of ‘free’ or low-cost activities
everyone can enjoy during the holidays. Or better yet, volunteer time as a family
with a local charitable organization. Remember, as the holidays approach, the time
to organize and arrange a gift for less money becomes more difficult.
As you develop your budget don’t forget to consider other holiday expenses.
Electric cost increases for lighting for example, or wrapping, cards, entertainment,
food, inside/outside decorating, and travel.
Once you’ve got your budget and plan, the hard work is done and you’re
ready to go.
Next...make a visit to Kid’s Korner above for ideas and help on the comparison
shopping portion of our holiday preparations.
Oh! And take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy.
You’re ahead of the game!
As a CAF client you probably enjoy one of our benefits the most. No more creditor
calls! However, it’s always important to know your rights in this area. The
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act covers the interactions between debtors and debt
collectors. So what makes a person a debtor and who would be considered a collector?
Anyone who owes money on a personal loan, credit card, medical bill, mortgage or
other outstanding debt is a debtor. Falling behind on payments or an error
on your account can cause you to be contacted by a debt collector.
Debt collectors are not the same as creditors. Debt collectors are third parties
(someone other than the lender or credit grantor) who, in regular course of business,
collect debts for others. In addition to what is traditionally thought of as collection
agencies this can also include attorneys who collect debts.
The Act spells out what actions a collector can and cannot take in the course of
attempting to collect a debt. Collectors cannot use harassment, false statements
or unfair practices to collect a debt. While collectors can attempt to contact
a debtor in writing, over the phone, by FAX or through others, there are
restrictions on how this is done.
For example: when contacting a debtor in writing, a collector cannot use postcards,
window envelopes that reveal information or envelopes that reveal the nature of
the communication on the outside of the envelope. When contacting a debtor over
the phone, a collector cannot call before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., use profanity,
call repeatedly in a day just to annoy, refuse to identify themselves, falsely state
they are a government representative or attorney, threaten arrest or any other legal
action to which they are not entitled and fully intend to use. When communicating
through others, collectors cannot reveal the reason for the contact or the nature
of the debt, cannot contact through an employer if it is known the employer does
not approve of personal calls/letters at work, and if contacting through neighbors
or relatives should keep these contacts to once per person.
Debtors rights are also outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
These would include, but are not limited to: requesting that all contact be in writing,
that all contact be through an attorney, and that all contact with that particular
collector cease and the debt be assigned to another collector. If a debtor believes
a collector is in violation of the Act, they are also entitled to sue the creditor
within 1 year of when they believe the violation to have occurred. Most remedies
require written notification to all parties involved, and include the recommendation
to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. While the FTC cannot erase
a legitimate debt or intervene in individual cases, these complaints are used to
establish a pattern of violations. The FTC will then investigate a collector or
firm for compliance with the Act.
Compiled from “Facts for Consumers: Fair Debt Collection”, a publication
of the FTC. For more info, contact the FTC at www.ftc.gov
The goal of the Comparative Shopping Game is to teach children the basics of comparative
shopping and budgeting.
You’ll need a pencil, pad and calculator. This game can easily be played at
the grocery store or any store as the holiday shopping is done.
At the beginning of the shopping trip, the parent gives each child an item on the
purchase list and a budget. For example: Starting at the grocery store at the beginning
of the canned vegetables aisle. Child is assigned to find a can of stewed tomatoes.
Budget is set at $1.10.
Objective: The child must choose the item the parent requested without going over
the budgeted amount.
The Win: The child who saves the most money wins.
Bonus: If the child completes the task and is under budget, he or she can keep the
money saved. Double Bonus: Your children will learn the importance of comparison
shopping and gain important skills for adulthood. They might even stop begging for
the most expensive items!
Hints: Don’t forget to explain to your youngster unit pricing tags, generic
brands and the ‘strike zone’ pricing (items displayed in the strike
zone - the area most easily reached - are usually higher priced - sometimes
even when on sale).
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act offers protection to consumers and guidelines
to collectors. This month Word Search takes you into the world of debt collection
and consumer rights with insights from the Defeat Debt review of the Act
found on the facing page.
Tips For October: Review basic safety reminders to help keep you and yours safe
during the holiday season. Credit Advisors Foundation views sensible safety precautions
as a way to reduce unexpected expenses, inconvenience, and even medical bills during
the season. With all the other activities, no one wants the added burden of addressing
insurance claims, police reports, and disappointments.
First and foremost, always stay alert and be aware of what’s going on around you.
Traveling: By car? Give your auto a maintenance check * Travel populated,
well lit streets * Keep doors locked, windows closed * Leave early, don’t speed
* Never leave car unattended with valuables in view, motor running, or children
alone inside * Locate keys prior to going to car * Ask trusted neighbor to watch
home—shovel snow, park in your driveway * Don’t forget to have mail/newspaper stopped
or picked up * Everyone wears seatbelts—children in back with age and weight appropriate
safety equipment * Prepare and carry a traveler’s emergency and first aid kit *
NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE
Shopping: Re-read and adapt the travel tips to your shopping excursions.
* Make an emergency plan with your children before you get to the mall. Remind them
to locate a security guard or store clerk if separated. Make sure they know your
name (other than Mom or Dad) and phone number. * Plan purchases in advance and carry
only the cash you need. (read article on page one if you have questions on planning)
* Carry wallet in front pocket * Only use well lit ATM’s, cover the key pad when
entering code, don’t count money at ATM machine. * Never leave your purse or shopping
bags unattended * Avoid overloading yourself with packages (clear visibility and
freedom of motion are necessary to avoid mishaps) * NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE
At Home: Establish emergency fire exit routes with your family, practice them.
* Check your fire extinguisher and smoke detectors—they won’t help if they don’t
work * Keep candles, lighters, and matches away from children * Never leave lit
candles unattended (think of it as leaving the keys in your unlocked car with the
engine running, and gifts piled high in the back seat —everything may be okay, but
why risk it?) * Holiday gifts should not be visible through windows or doors of
your home * Don’t leave boxes in alley or other garbage pick up locations for several
days, break boxes down, put in garbage bags and place them inside trash cans or
out of sight until the evening before regular garbage pick up. * Use only non-combustible,
flame-resistant materials and UL approved electrical supplies to decorate * Take
that home inventory—photo or video items, list descriptions and serial numbers.
* If you host a get-together offer non-alcoholic beverages, alternative transportation,
and a designated driver for intoxicated guests * Use caution when strangers come
to the door, criminals pose as couriers delivering gifts or collecting for bogus
charities * NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE
****** (Compiled with information from NYPD and MPDC)
This tasty slow cooker spaghetti sauce is easy and at $.64 a serving, inexpensive.
The recipe results in 18—24 servings. We froze half of the sauce to use another
day—with very good results. Round out your meal with crusty Italian bread and a
salad. (Don’t forget to remove the bay leaf after cooking.)
Brown bacon in skillet until crisp. Remove. Add ground beef and pork. Crumble and
cook until brown. Stir in onions, green peppers, and garlic. Cook 10 minutes.
Pour tomatoes into slow cooker and crush with back of spoon.
Add all other ingredients, except 1/4 cup wine, in slow cooker.
Cover. Bring to boil on High. Reduce heat to Low for 3-4 hours.
During last 30 minutes, stir in 1/4 cup red wine or water.