From Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs
MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Making a holiday budget and following it is a great way to make sure your January credit card statements won't be a scary but don't forget to protect your personal and financial data too, officials said Dec. 11.
"As consumers prowl retail stores looking for the best bargains, criminals and hackers are lurking, waiting for opportunities to steal their identities and in turn, their money," said Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, personal financial management specialist at the Fleet and Family Support Center in Millington, Tenn.
She went on to explain that there are ways to protect your identity and financial security by:
-Maintaining physical control of your debit cards, credit cards, checkbook and identifying information (such as Social Security number and date of birth).
-Know where these items are at all times.
-Only carry the cards you plan to use. This protects you in two ways: If you lose your purse or wallet, you will know exactly what is lost and secondly, you will be less inclined to overspend if you do not have other financial resources at your fingertips.
-Know with whom you are doing business. This is especially important when doing business online or over the phone.
-Review all statements upon receipt to verify that all the transactions are accurate.
-Immediately report any "missing" cards or unrecognized transactions."
"Be proactive," said Livingstone-Hoyte, "waiting to report a loss or unauthorized use won't make it easier, the sooner you can minimize damage, the better."
If you do spend more than you had planned, here are a few steps to take to lessen the harm:
- Stop charging, put the credit cards away and stop the bleeding. Before you use your credit card; you should know how you will pay off the debt and have the funds on standby.
- Review your spending plan and make changes so that you can afford your additional holiday debt payments. Update your financial planning worksheet.
- Pay more than the minimum monthly payment to reduce your debt faster.
- A $1000 credit card charge at 18% APR amounts to 19 years to pay off the debt and $1931 in interest payments, if you only pay the minimum payment (2% of balance). Avoid making only minimum payments.
- If overspending has left you unable to meet your debt payments, see your CFS or FFSC financial educator to review your spending plan and help you explore options.
"Financial planning is important even after the holidays end," continued Livingstone-Hoyte. "Take the time to note which techniques and strategies were effective in helping you stick to your holiday spending plan and apply them to your yearly efforts. If the strategies didn't serve you well, try to figure out why and make adjustments."
Livingstone-Hoyte says dealing with debt is essential to your wellbeing and navigating stress. She recommends using lessons learned from this year to plan for next. Saving now for next year will ensure you will have the cash for your expenses and your holidays will be debt-free. To do that, she says, add up what you spent this year and divide that amount by 12. This is the amount you'll need to put into a savings account each month to be ready for next year. Additionally; since the Military pay increase for 2013 will be 1.3%, consider using this "new money" as an extra resource in helping to grow your household savings or eliminate debt. The allotment feature available in MyPay can help you with this effort.