Aug 17, 2011 12:42 PM by Press Release
It's Back to School time.The BBB of Acadiana offers tips on how to manage a budget in a financial crisis
With the price of a gallon of milk being between $4 and $5 and a loaf of sliced bread pushing $3 in Acadiana, groceries have risen considerably in the last few years for local residents. Also on the rise are other necessary expenses such as gasoline, utilities, insurance and higher credit card interest rates as well as the high price of gasoline.
Expected costs such as school supplies and uniforms can become a real burden that seems insurmountable at times especially in the late summer when school begins. Sometimes, families cannot help but fall upon financial hard times due to illness or job loss, and the problem is made worse if an already strained budget is hit with unexpected expenses such as a vehicle breakdown or major medical expenses.
For anyone suffering financial problems, there is often one question: What do I do next? That answer is not always easy to find and sometimes very difficult to follow, but there are answers out there to help families get through difficult financial times.
According to the nonprofit company Money Management International that provides confidential financial guidance, free credit counseling, education resources and debt management assistance there are some steps a family can take to service hard time and find their way back to financial success following a difficult time:
Step 1. Establish Financial Priorities
Establish financial priorities to help focus available resources where it is needed most. Because not all household debts will equally impact your family, priority should be giving to the most important needs. These include food, utilities excluding cable TV, mortgage/rent, vehicle payments and insurance. You may be able to cut back on some of these expenses by watching sales and negotiating with utilities, but paying them is very important.
Step 2. Assess your personal situation
In order to address the problem, you have to assess your personal situation. IS the problem temporary or on-going? Know exactly how much money to you will have and how much you will need to spend to make it through. If you are facing medical bills and have insurance, be sure the provider has paid everything that company is responsible for. Also, if you have an emergency fund, it will help you navigate rough financial waters. A little help may go a long way in preventing financial disaster.
Step 3. Try to lower/renegotiate credit card debt
If credit card debt has become a major financial burden and you are unable to even make minimum payments, there is help. Locally, the non-profit Consumer Credit Counseling Service, also known as Money Management International has an A+ rating with the BBB as an Accredited Business and can try to negotiate to lower or restructure payments and interest.
You can also negotiate with the credit card and mortgage companies yourself by asking if they have a lender's hardship program. But do not wait until your account is sent to collections. Once this happens, the borrower's options become much more limited.
Step 4. Trim unnecessary fat from your budget
Carefully go through your budget and try to trim costs any way possible. You may have to watch TV without cable or satellite, but these are not necessary to survive and the extra money could help pay necessary expenses such as electricity, water, gas and food. Also, prioritize what bills need immediate attention and which can be prioritized later. If possible, do NOT go without health insurance. This can turn a minor setback into a major one very quickly in the future.
Step 5. Get busy!
Sometimes, if enough fat cannot be cut to balance a family budget, the only other option is to increase income. This may require one or both spouse to take on a second job or a stay-home parent to enter the work force. Enlist the help of an employment agency or the state Department of Labor to help if you are unable to find more work on your own. Even if a job is found that is not ideal as far a training or expertise, it will provide needed income and possibly even provide discounts on needed goods and services.
One or both spouses may also look into additional job training or education to improve future income. Often, financial aid, grants and scholarships are available to qualifying applicants and can greatly reduce costs associated with more education and training academies often feature job placement programs for graduates.
As the leader in advancing marketplace integrity, BBB is an unbiased, non-profit organization which sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses are under no obligation to seek BBB accreditation, but those who do promise to operate in an ethical manner and foster an environment of trust in the marketplace.
Every year, more than 87 million consumers across North America rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. The Better Business Bureau suggests for more information on financial tips to http://www.bbb.org/us/Consumer-Tips/
The Bureau service area includes the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion).