Employees who'd grown accustomed to bigger paychecks are now feeling the shock of the expiration of the Social Security payroll tax break that ended at the start of the new year.
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The so-called payroll tax holiday reduced the employee's portion of the Social Security contribution rate from 6.2% to 4.2% of earnings in 2011 and 2012. But the cut, intended to put more money in people's pockets and stimulate spending, was temporary and has now reverted to its former level, resulting in smaller paychecks for workers.
Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, warned that employees need to act fast to adjust their budgets, especially if they're living paycheck-to-paycheck.
"If a person was fortunate enough to have received a pay raise, it's likely that this Social Security tax increase will wipe out most of it," Cunningham said.
The NFCC is the largest and longest-serving credit counseling organization in the U.S.
To help you find extra money to offset the loss of the tax break, the organization offered the following suggestions.
1. Adjust your withholding. Use the IRS worksheet to calculate the proper number of allowances so you'll keep more money every month, rather than receive a big refund once a year.
2. Pay with cash. People who use cash to pay for purchases typically save 20% compared with their credit spending levels and don't feel deprived.
3. Refinance your mortgage. Historically low mortgage rates might enable you to lower your monthly payment.
4. Save $10 in 10 categories. Carving $10 out of 10 categories in your budget can be a relatively painless way to find extra money.
5. Do it yourself. Stop paying other people to wash your car, clean your house, mow your lawn or do other you can do yourself.
6. Quit bad habits. Make good on your resolutions to stop smoking, drinking and playing the lottery.
7. Clean out your storeroom. It's a double-play to sell stuff you no longer need and stop paying for extra storage space.
8. Shop for insurance. Examine all your policies, compare rates and ask about ways to lower your premiums or obtain discounts for loyalty, good driving or bundling multiple polices.
9. Examine your bank statements. Cancel automatic payments for banking goods and services you don't need. Don't use out-of-network ATMs. Negotiate with your financial institution to lower your fees or change to a different bank.
10. Earn extra income. Getting paid to do something fun won't feel like work, and honing a skill can pay dividends beyond financial.
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