The new year is underway and many of us have a money-related resolution. If you are in debt, you’re not alone. Total American household debt is only rising. According to the US Federal Reserve’s Center for Microeconomic Data, “total household debt increased by $92 billion, or 0.7 percent, to $13.95 trillion in the third quarter of 2019.” Although getting out of debt, especially credit card debt, may seem daunting, it can start you on the road to financial freedom and wealth creation.

Many of us are looking to improve our financial situations in 2020. Keep in mind that saving and making money takes time and discipline.

If you want to get your finances in order in 2020 and stick to your New Year’s resolution, BBB provides the following advice:

— Take a closer look at your credit cards. Credit cards are known for their high interest rates. This can waste a lot of money over time. See if you can transfer your balances to something with a lower rate, but remember to do your research on BBB.org first, as consumers nationwide filed more than 8,933 complaints against credit card companies in 2019. Make sure to read the terms and contract very carefully — there may be big penalties if you miss a payment. 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 — figure out what works best for you.

— Don’t waste money on unethical businesses or scams. When making a purchase or choosing a business, always check with BBB. Making careful decisions now can save you time, money and headaches later. Research all companies at BBB.org, and check BBB Scam Tracker regularly to see which scams are happening in your area.

— Take advantage of free tools. There are many online tools that can help you manage and reduce your debt. A great place to start is the BBB Financial Building Blocks website, which helps consumers evaluate their finances, learn how to stay debt-free, and protect themselves from scams and illegal collection calls. Additionally, you can use the free and easy-to-use debt solution tool to find options for managing your debt.

— 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.

— New decade, new rule. Refrain from abbreviating the year on documents this year. The concern is that by shortening “2020” to “20” makes it easier for scammers to manipulate documents like your checkbook and contracts of any kind. For example, the date, 1/1/20 could be easily changed to 1/1/2021 or 1/1/2001. Instead, write out the full month, date and year (January 1, 2020).

Checks, bank drafts, pay orders, bills, legal documents and more are susceptible to alteration.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call BBB at 903-581-5704 or report it via BBB ScamTracker.

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