Ways Minnesotans Can Find “Cushions” to Improve Personal Finances
April is Financial Literacy Month, an opportunity to increase your knowledge about money management and improve your personal finances. For LSS Financial Counseling, a nonprofit service that offers free financial assessments and budget counseling to the community, it’s an opportunity to share advice and information about how to create a more stable financial future, especially as Minnesotans face financial uncertainty during the pandemic.
“With the uncertainty that COVID-19 creates, individuals and families may be a little on edge when it comes to finances,” said Tasha Symiczek, a certified financial counselor with LSS Financial Counseling. “Many people are looking for ways to cut costs and build savings. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some reduction in expenses for many. There are places you can find money you didn’t know you had or discover where you are spending less on expenses. Discovering this unexpected treasure is like finding cash under your couch cushions.”
Some “cushions” you can look under to find that cash are:
- Student Loan Payment: An executive order is currently pausing payments and interest on all federal student loans until September, offering relief to borrowers.
- Day care: Many parents are working from home and caring for their children either full-time or part-time, creating additional savings.
- Gym memberships: If you’re avoiding public places, you may be exercising and working out at home, forgoing the expense of a gym membership that can cost several hundred dollars each year.
- Sports and activities: Many families are saving on sports equipment, clothing and additional fees as kids adjust to fewer sports opportunities during the pandemic.
- Clothing: Minnesotans who are working from home are trading in business attire for more casual and comfortable clothing that is already in their closets.
- Entertainment: With concerts, theater performances and other entertainment venues on hold, individuals are finding new ways at home and outdoors to add fun and enjoyment to their lives that are free.
- Vacations: Minnesotans who elected to postpone family vacations over the past year saved a bundle.
- Gas: For families working from home, average transportation savings can add up to $2,000 annually for the average household.
- Eating out: During the pandemic, many Minnesotans have saved on their budget by dining out less.
Symiczek suggests taking time to review your budget to determine where, and how much money, you have saved. Then, building a plan for what to do with new-found money so it doesn’t get lost in everyday spending. If you’re uncertain about employment stability or don’t have an emergency savings account, she recommends putting the extra funds towards savings first.
“Ideally, you want to have enough money saved to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses,” she added. “Once your savings is built up to a comfortable level, you can then use that extra money to pay down debt.”
LSS Financial Counseling offers a wide variety of services to help people develop a budget, pay off debt, build savings, improve their credit, avoid foreclosure, manage student loan payments and pursue home ownership. In 2020, LSS Financial Counseling worked with more than 5,000 individuals and families to help them achieve the following results:
- 73% improved their credit score
- 68% successfully completed debt repayment; $17,311,293 was returned to creditors
- 63% of homeowners at risk of foreclosure saved their homes
- 62% of student loan borrowers served reported payments were more affordable
- 81% reported increased financial stability
- 85% expressed increased confidence in their finances
Most services are free and are currently offered over the phone and virtually. To set up a free financial counseling session with a certified financial counselor, visit www.lssfinancialcounseling.org or call 1.888.577.2227.