(MONEY Magazine) – Summer is when people tend to blow off their goal of paying down credit-card debt, according to the Cambridge Consumer Credit Index. The reason might be that they've tried to pay too much. People who make unrealistic financial promises to themselves do no better than people who make none at all. "And if you don't meet a goal, you're less likely to perform well in the future," says Washington University researcher Amar Cheema.
• WHAT TO DO Set targets that seem almost too easy to meet. At first, pay the monthly minimum plus $25. Next, up it to $50, then $100; keep going until you're paying the most you can without suffering too much. Start too far from the target and you'll never make it. Bolster your confidence with an easy start and you'll keep hitting the bull's-eye even as your goals get tougher.
Heard about the real estate boom? If only you could get the inside scoop on where the next sizzling market will be. Home Depot thinks it knows. The company invests as much in researching demographic, employment and wage trends as do sophisticated real estate investors. After all, the qualities that make for housing hot spots (rising prices, rising sales, lots of construction) are the same ones Home Depot seeks when scouting locations for new stores. Where does the chain hide its coveted list of upcoming store openings? At careers.homedepot.com/grandopenings.
• COMING SOON A new store in New Milford, Conn. (a MONEY Best Place to Live, as seen on page 82) and an eighth store in the Milwaukee area.
Flexible spending accounts (FSAs), which set aside pretax money for health care and dependent care, can save you big money. But only an estimated 20% of the 100 million Americans who have access to such accounts through employers actually take advantage of them. Why? A big reason could be the accounts' longtime "use it or lose it" provision--any money you don't spend by Dec. 31 disappears. (FSA users who don't spend in time waste an average of $100 a year.)
• THE GOOD NEWS A new rule will extend the annual use-or-lose deadline to March 15. Ask at work if your employer will be taking part. If you're unsure whether an FSA is right for you, start by setting aside a small amount and see if you use it in a year. You can always build up to the full $5,000 annual limit.