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Saint Patrick's Day: How to save more of your green

Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and legend credits him with driving all the snakes from that island. As a financial counseling director for LSS, it made me wonder, what are the financial snakes that families today need to drive out of their lives? How is it that we all can "keep more of our green," especially in tight financial times?

Many Americans today are carrying a credit card balance and making only minimum payments, and that means very little progress. Say, for example, that you hold a credit card with $1,000 balance and your APR interest rate (Annual Percentage Rate) is at 24 percent. If you pay only the minimum monthly payment of $20, you will have debt forevermore!

Practice paying more than the minimums, and if you are making no headway, sign up for a Debt Management Plan. Through such a plan, most creditors will reduce interest rates, allowing you to be debt-free within five years.

In 1996, historian Thomas Cahill wrote the classic book "How the Irish Saved Civilization." If the Irish can save civilization, perhaps the rest of us can set aside money for emergencies.

It's also true that, time after time, our financial counselors have worked with families worried by high debt levels who learned that their misery could largely have been avoided if they had set aside even a small amount in savings.

Get started now, even if it's just saving change in a jar, or $10 each paycheck in an account. Don't wait around for some Leprechaun to appear with a magic pot of gold! Celebrate Saint Patrick's Day by keeping more of your green. -- Darryl Dahlheimer, program director, LSS Financial Counseling Service