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Christmas in July
7/29/2015
It may seem crazy to be thinking about Christmas in July, but actually it makes good financial sense. We know Christmas will eventually roll around, so it’s wise to start planning for it now to avoid stressing out and overspending later. When people wait till the last minute and basically wing it, it’s very tempting to just start charging gifts on the credit cards because there’s not enough money on-hand.

The two big things you can do now are: Start setting aside money for Christmas spending, if you haven’t already; and set a budget spending limit so you know how much you can afford to spend and what you might spend it on. Don’t forget to estimate costs for non-gifts, such as any travel costs, extra food, decorations, postage, etc.

Starting these easy steps now will make for smooth holiday spending later so you can enjoy a Merry Christmas and a Debt Free New Year!
Pinching Your Pennies At the Gas Pump
6/23/2015
Gasoline prices are inching their way back up again. Any time fuel costs increase, it takes a bigger bite out of a family’s vacation plans or their overall budget.

The reality of increasing gasoline prices is that it can wreck a family’s budget. People who may particularly struggle more with increased costs are those on a fixed or limited income, those who drive a gas-guzzling vehicle, or those who must commute a long distance to work or school.

A few tips for those looking to keep their gasoline costs under control:

• Don’t “floor it.” Fast starts and Indy 500 style driving drastically cut down fuel efficiency and can burn 30 percent more gasoline.
• Make sure your air and gas filters aren’t dirty. Dirty filters waste up to 10 percent more fuel. It’s like a jogger trying to breathe through a straw.
• Check to make sure the air pressure in your tires is adequate. Underinflated tires not only result in lower gas mileage, but wear out your tires sooner as well.
• Extra weight makes your car work harder. If your trunk is doubling as a storage closet, remove some items. For every 100 pounds of extra weight in the car, you lose 1 m.p.g.
• Explore your options. If possible, use public transportation. Ride a bike short distances. Or find carpool friends to split the costs.

Stretching your gas dollar can be helpful, but if it’s not enough, you may need to take a step back and look at your overall household budget to see what else you can adjust.
Avoid a Vacation Financial Hangover
5/26/2015
It’s summer time, which for many people means time for some vacation fun! “Where do you want to go?” “What do you want to do?” Those are fine questions, but the most important vacation question of all is “How much can you afford to spend?” It’s okay to spend money on a vacation if your budget allows it, but overspending is something you definitely want to avoid.
Overspending isn’t merely limited to credit cards, but includes cash as well. Often times people say they won’t overspend on their vacation because they won’t be using credit cards. However, overspending with cash is still quite possible and it’s no fun returning from a vacation to realize that you have a vacation financial hangover. It can be challenging to pay the normal monthly bills, such as rent, car or student loan payments, etc., if you spent too much on your fun getaway.

A few tips:

• The first and best tip is to look at your budget to see what amount you can afford for a vacation.
• Look at fun options in the area such as parks, museums, concerts and other local attractions to avoid expensive hotel costs.
• Pack your own food, drink and snacks, rather than paying $3 for a bottle of water at a park, hotel, or convenience store.
• Avoid charging your vacation onto a credit card unless you have a solid plan for paying it back in full within a few months.

With just a little advance planning, you can have a vacation that you will enjoy without wrecking your budget.

Happy vacationing!
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Education Survey
7/29/2015
Money Check Up
Take the My Money CheckUp! Answer some basic money and credit questions to get a snapshot of how you are doing financially and what areas you may need to work on. Best of all – it’s FREE! Check Up
CCOA Recognition
6/23/2015
CCOA was recently named one of the best non-profits in the state of Arkansas by the Arkansas Business Journal
Help For Homebuyers
6/23/2015
CCOA’s next free Homebuyer Education class is Saturday, August 1st, at Washington County Extension Sign Up
CCOA 20th Anniversary Celebration
6/23/2015
This year CCOA is celebrating its 20th anniversary of helping individuals and families with personal finance issues. In the past two decades, over 350,000 people have received free financial counseling and education. The President/CEO of Sam’s Club, Rosalind Brewer, was the main speaker for CCOA’s 20th anniversary luncheon. Over 300 guests attended the event. National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) President Susan Keating of Washington, D.C. was also a speaker and congratulated CCOA on 20 years of community service. Congratulatory videos were shown, including one from the Consul General of the Marshallese Consulate in Springdale, and a message from Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.
Website Updates
CCOA is committed to continually improving our service to you. Several clients have suggested that we add a new feature to our Web site that allows clients to access their quarterly client statements, rather than receive it in the postal mail. We heard you. This year we have been diligently working on creating this new capability for your convenience. Simply go to our Web site at www.CCOAcares.com and click on the “Client Log-In” tab on the top right of our home page.

Your username is your CCOA client number and your password is the primary’s last name plus the last four digits of the social security number.

If you have any questions please email us at ccoa@ccoacares.com or call 479-521-8877 or 800-889-4916.
Credit Counseling of Arkansas, Inc., Credit & Debt Counseling, Fayetteville, AR