A financial advisor says literally freezing your credit cards in a block of ice may be the best solution to some of our individual economic woes. Karen Atwood, C-E-O of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northeastern Iowa, says her staff is working to help clients make ends meet with higher prices for gas and food and, in some cases, an uncertain mortgage climate.

Atwood says: "We are seeing people feeling a lot more desperate than they have, even if the crunch isn’t hitting them as much yet, they’re worried about it. ‘Is it really true what people are saying? Should I be doing things differently?’ That’s what we’re seeing from people right now." She says there is good news is the midst of the bad, in that people can take control of their finances and get back on track even if they’re in deep debt.

"People need to really tighten the belt. They need to really know what their needs and wants are," Atwood says. "This is a time where you need to know that. That allows you to spend money where you want to, freely, without really wasting." She says one way to get a clear handle on your spending is to create a budget and stick to it. She says to list your income, list your expenses, prioritize your spending, cover shelter and food first, then list what you can live without.

"We all need a budget, no matter what your situation is," Atwood says. "Whether it’s really great and you’ve never had more money, you need a budget there because you need to be saving. If things are tight and you’re in a really bad spot, you need a budget because you need to know what you truly need and what you have that is extra." She also suggests taking a rather unusual step with one’s credit cards.

Atwood says: "Many people have multiple credit cards. If you would put all but one of them in the freezer in a little baggie with water in it, they can sit in the freezer. If you need those credit cards, you’re going to have to thaw them out very slowly or you’re going to break them. By doing that, it gives you some time to think." She says to use that time to consider whether you truly need the item you’re considering buying. The C.C.C.S . is based in Waterloo and has offices in Cedar Falls, Dubuque, Decorah, Marshalltown, Grinnell, Ames, Mason City, and Forest City.