Money Matters…Seven Steps to a Successful Budget

Brought to you by Accel Members Financial Counseling – through financial knowledge and expertise we enable people to enjoy a better quality of life.

Budgeting can be a simple and straightforward process.  It can also be a rewarding experience for all family members.  But, it takes interest and commitment.  Here are seven steps to help you create a successful budget.

Discuss Values – Determine what is most important to the people involved in your budget.  By understanding these values, you can make decisions that will provide you with the most satisfaction.
Set Goals – Begin setting goals by discussing with family members what each one may want to do with their money.  Have each member list the goal and a deadline.  Work on the most important goals first.  Put money aside in your budget for your priority goals.
Determine Income – Figure out your take-home pay.  The money that makes up your income can come from sources such as salary, allowances, social security or child support.  Do not include overtime pay.
Determine Expenses – Consider fixed, variable and periodic expenses.  Fixed expenses consistently stay the same every month, variable expenses change from month to month and periodic expenses are not due every month.
Create a Plan – Design a spending plan so that your income will allow you and your family to have what you want and need.  If you find that your income does not cover your expenses, re-evaluate your plan and decide what categories can be changed.
Keep Track of Expenses – Keep a record of expenses to see where your money is being spent.  By comparing your estimated expenses with what you are actually spending, you can evaluate whether or not your plan is working.
Evaluate Your Plan – Periodically evaluate your spending plan.  Is the plan still helping you meet your needs and achieve your goals?
A budget is the cornerstone of your family’s financial plan and a guide to help you achieve your goals.

Energy Choices

There is a lot of confusion in the market about choosing an energy supplier other than BGE.  You may have even seen the recent television commercials put out by BGE encouraging consumers to look on their web site for your energy choices

No matter who you choose to provide your gas and/or electricity, BGE will still service you.  Your bill still comes from them and they still maintain the gas lines and electric lines.

We strongly urge you to look at these alternative suppliers and try to save yourself a little bit of money.  Destinations Credit Union has formed an alliance with Viridian Energy to offer service to our members.  I recently switched my personal BGE account and saved $34 the first month.

Why would the Credit Union do something like this?

Destinations is always looking for ways to help our members financially.  We offer many discount services through these alliances.  In most cases, it’s a win-win situation.  You get to save a little money through these services and we earn a small revenue stream when you use the services (which ultimately benefits you since we are not-for-profit and owned by you, our members!).

Store Branded Debit Cards

There is a new trend out there for stores to offer their own debit cards.  There are some important differences in the way these cards work. You should understand those differences before getting one.

You Can’t Dispute a Transaction Through YOUR Financial Institution

When you sign up for one of these cards, the card is issued by the retailer’s financial institution, not your financial institution.  The purchases with these cards are sent as an electronic debit to your checking account at your financial institution.  

Therefore, if an unauthorized debit comes through to your checking account, you must go back to the retailer and deal with their financial institution to straighten out the problem.  Since you have no relationship with that financial institution, this may be a difficult and complex process.

Protect Yourself
  • Be aware that the cards do not function in the same way as the debit cards from your financial institution
  • Make sure to read and understand the contract – know your responsibilities
  • Understand how you will need to dispute unauthorized transactions and the complexities involved in that
  • Notify your financial institution when there is an unauthorized debit

Please comment if you have had experience with these types of cards, or let us know if you find the information useful.  We appreciate your feedback!