“How much do you make, if you don’t mind me asking?” inquires the guy you JUST met at the cocktail party. Few questions make a conversation come to a screeching halt faster than those about your financial status. But not all discussions about money have to be uncomfortable. In fact, there are actually a number of non-awkward money talks that you should have as soon as possible—especially if you made a resolution to eliminate debt or save more this year.
Negotiate rates with your credit card company.
It is extremely difficult to get out of debt when you are paying exorbitant interest rates on your credit cards. In some cases, all it takes is a well-planned phone call asking for a lower interest rate. Be sure to call on a weekday morning when customer service representatives are cheerfully caffeinated and a supervisor is more likely to be in the office. When making your case, be polite and point out things that prove you are a loyal customer who is willing to pay what you owe:
- Length of time holding a card with this company
- Frequency with which you use the card
- Emphasize the number of on-time payments you make
If your negotiations fail, look for more affordable options with another company and transfer your balance. Or, ask the supervisor if he or she is willing to review the account in a few months if you continue to make payments on time. Be sure to document the name of the person you speak with and follow up with the same person.
Make a short-term savings plan with your significant other.
Even if they adore each other and eat off one another’s plates in their favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant, many couples are afraid that discussing their individual spending habits will transform their relationship from blissful to stressful. Couples who are honest about their finances and set goals together tend to be happier overall, however.
- Prepare for the discussion by making a list of your income, assets and debt.
- Keep a positive attitude during the discussion—don’t judge your partner or make accusations.
- Make a budget that includes everyday expenses, large-ticket purchases and savings.
- Consolidate accounts if necessary so that it’s clear you are both committed to your savings goal.
Once you have a short-term savings plan in place, turn the plan into a habit. Set up automatic deposits to your savings account through your employer or your checking account.
It has been said that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. While you can’t eliminate paying taxes altogether, you can minimize the amount you pay each year by discussing your situation with a financial planner. Take advantage of workplace savings plans with company-matching contributions and health spending accounts if your employer offers them. If not, you may want to consider an IRA. Discuss the impact of selling losing investments or making larger charitable contributions with a professional may also save you money on taxes.