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This Week In Your Wallet: Deadline To Save On Holiday Airfare

We’re coming up on Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year. If you’re headed down the Jersey Turnpike next Thursday morning, that’ll be me in the blue Volvo wagon with a load of pies in the cooler in the trunk. The arrival of this holiday marks more than a day of great food and gratitude, however. It’s also a good deadline to self-impose for booking your holiday flights.

Last year, 27.7 million people took to the skies via U.S. airlines during the Thanksgiving travel period, according to Airlines for America (A4A), the U.S. airline industry trade organization. This year, that number will jump to 28.5 million.

And flight prices are rising right along with those numbers. Every day you wait after Thanksgiving to purchase could add another $6 or $7 to the price, says Rick Seaney, co-founder and CEO of FareCompare.com. (Note that if you’re headed to a warm-weather destination, those dollar-per-day numbers might double.)

So how can you protect your wallet? Don’t wait on sales, since any that pop up will probably be blacked out for the most popular three weeks of travel dates (starting in mid-December). If you can stomach being on the road on the holidays themselves, know that Christmas and New Year’s Day tend to be the cheapest days to fly. Patrick Surry, chief data scientist at Hopper, says that the Thursday, Friday and Saturday leading up to Christmas are the most expensive days to fly out, and return flights should be cheapest on or after January 3. Avoiding flying during that window could mean saving 25 to 30 percent on a round-trip ticket. For more flight savings tips, here’s my piece for NBC News BETTER.

And What’s More Stressful Than The Holidays?

Not much, for many people. But for others, the answer is money. Eight in 10 Americans are “financially anxious,” according to a new study released by Northwestern Mutual. The research also found that financial stress can impact brain function, which can then lead to poor decision-making. Yes, it seems like a negative cycle… but there’s good news, too. The study suggests that getting advice from a peer or adviser could help lower financial stress levels significantly.

Neuroscientists found that subjects who had assistance in financial decision-making had marked increases in the neural signals associated with relaxation and recognition. But when subjects didn’t have assistance in making a financial decision, their neural signals associated with “more difficult or stressful information processing” spiked 20 percent higher. This tells us that talking about money with pros or peers can be helpful for both your wallet and your peace of mind. (And if you’re not sure how to get started, we have this kind of conversation every week on my podcast, HerMoney. I’d love it if you’d take a listen. And if you have a money question, shoot me a note at Jean@JeanChatzky.com, and we might answer it on an upcoming show.)

Student Loan News For 2017 Grads

If you — or someone you love — graduated college in May of 2017 with student loans, you should know the end of the six-month grace period is on the horizon. In other words, it will soon to be time to start paying those loans back. Keep an eye on your mailbox for a letter from your loan servicer with details what you need to do and when you need to do it. If you don’t receive one in the next week or two, reach out to your lenders proactively. (You’re unfortunately still responsible for repaying your loan even if you don’t receive an official notice.)

For federal loans, you can check the National Student Loan Data System to find out your lender’s information. For private loans, check your credit report or reach out to your school’s financial aid office. As far as repayments go, you’ll be enrolled in a standard 10-year repayment plan unless you contact your servicer to make a change, reports The New York Times. A quick savings tip: Opting to have your payments automatically debited from your account can lower your interest rate by 0.25 percent. If you can’t afford the payments, Student Loan Hero has advice for how to change your repayment plan, as does the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — and I went over it on the TODAY show here.

The 10 Percent Money Hack

Finally, I’ve always found that when you’re trying to accomplish a large goal, breaking it down into smaller benchmarks is key. Taking on too much of anything at once can be overwhelming and counterproductive, but — whether you’re trying to pay down debt, run a half-marathon or lose 10 lbs — trying to meet smaller goals in succession usually makes for more progress. Desirae Odjick, the blogger behind Half Banked, agrees. She and her fiancé are saving up for a debt-free wedding next summer, and she knew she needed to adjust her budget accordingly. Her hack? Take your budget one category at a time, and try to adjust each category by just 10 percent. For example, buying one less workout tank a month could slash your fitness budget by 10 percent, and for your food budget, the same could be true for one less takeout order a week. If you try this, shoot me a note on Twitter to let me know how it goes @JeanChatzky.

Have a great week,


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