United Way NCA Experts and Financial Advisors Available to Offer Free Financial Counseling to Area Families to Help Manage Debt and Spending Through the Holidays

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As thousands of consumers throughout the National Capital Area ready to spend money on holiday gifts, meals and other items, United Way of the National Capital Area (United Way NCA), in conjunction with its Financial Empowerment Center located at Prince George’s Community College Largo Campus, today released a set of financial tips for area consumers to consider as we enter the holiday season. 

Financial counselors are on hand throughout the holiday season for local residents to schedule free, one-on-one financial counseling sessions to help families create a household budget, manage debt and spending for the holidays, and even save for the future. 

“In our community, nearly one in three households don’t have sufficient savings to subsist at the poverty level for three months. That means that the loss of a job, a serious medical issue or another crisis can leave families in a dangerous situation,” said Sheila Somashekhar, Director of Community Impact for United Way NCA.  “The holiday season is particularly taxing on families’ budgets and it’s important for people to know that the best way to get through the holiday season without serious financial disaster is to plan ahead of time.  Our Financial Empowerment Center’s counselors are on hand and available to help area residents with free financial planning to get them through the holidays without breaking the bank.”

As a quick-reference guide, United Way NCA and its Financial Empowerment Center located at Prince George’s Community College Largo Campus released the following top, financial tips for the holiday season:

1. Budgets are everybody's best friend. Create a budget and stick to it. Don’t forget to account for the little extras like the cost of holiday cards, postage, wrapping paper and decorations.

2.   Make a list and check it twice. Make a list of all the people you want to buy for. Then go over the list and decide how much you can afford to spend on each person. Don't have enough money to cover your holiday budget? Go through it again and cut names or amounts. As an alternative consider making gifts or baking items. Often the thought and effort is valued more than the store bought item.

3.   Show me the green. Whenever possible use cash. Set a limit, take that money out of your credit union or bank, and when that (money's) gone, it's over. This will help you avoid overextending yourself (and finances).

4.   Credit cards are not access to free money. Ideally, you should try to use cash. When that isn’t possible, use the credit card with the lowest interest rate and that provides you with the best benefit (i.e. cash back, frequent flier miles, reward points, etc.) Remember, credit cards are like short-term loans. Be sure to stay on top of paying them off to safeguard your credit history and score. Track your usage and spending as you would when using a check.

5.   Shop online whenever possible. Often online shopping is a fast, easy way to plan your purchases while allowing you to comparison shop and avoid the temptations of making impulse purchases. 

The FEC at PGCC is the first of several Financial Empowerment Centers that United Way NCA will open across the region as part of its Community Commitment, which is a $12.3 million investment to address the education, financial stability and health of residents throughout the National Capital community over the next five years.  United Way of the National Capital Area (United Way NCA) is the region’s preeminent convener, collaborator and catalyst for social change throughout the National Capital community.

Click here or above to download an infographic with the Consumer Financial Tips

United Way NCA Experts and Financial Empowerment Center counselors are available for media interviews throughout the holiday season.  For interviews, please contact Kristofer Eisenla at kristofer@lunaeisenlamedia.com or 202-670-5747

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About United Way of the National Capital Area

Focusing on the critical areas of education, financial stability and health, United Way of the National Capital Area works to build a thriving community by addressing our region's most pressing challenges. United Way NCA has been improving lives by creating measurable impact in the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia, and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties for more than 40 years. For more information about United Way of the National Capital Area, visit UnitedWayNCA.org.