Prep Your Finances for Success in 2016

Brought to you by our partner Accel Financial Services
With 2016 just around the corner, many people will make resolutions to manage their personal finances better.  Whether that means saving more, or setting up a personal budget, the suggestions can get overwhelming.
Here are four easy personal finance goals for you to consider, to start the New Year on the right path:
1. Set up a money management system that works for you

Different systems work well for different folks, but here are a few ideas:

  • Write down your income and all of your monthly expenses. Look for opportunities to trim expenses, wherever you can.
  • Identify the areas where you might overspend, and then decide to use cash for these transactions. Then, limit the amount of cash you put in your wallet each week to the amount you’ve decided to spend. Seeing the amount of money available as a fixed, finite thing can help you control your spending. 
  • Set up automated budget alerts with a service such as our MoneyDesktop financial management program within online banking.

2. Review your credit report 
Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to receive one free credit report annually from each credit bureau. 

If you’re having trouble understanding how to improve your credit, a free credit report review through the Accel program can help.
3. Begin to save 
Once you’ve got a workable budget, automate the process of saving. Setting up direct-deposit into savings makes it much more likely that you’ll save. Plus, paying yourself first helps the money to be “out of sight and out of mind,” so that you’ll be able to stick more closely to the spending plan you’ve set for yourself.
It’s important to reach a point where you have a balance between short-term savings and long-term (retirement) savings. It should be a priority to try to adjust your budget, so that you can take advantage of any employer-sponsored retirement plan that your job might offer, especially if the employer offers a contribution match.
4. Get serious about reducing debt 
One of the first steps in decreasing your debt load is to stop adding to it in the first place. Begin to get out of the habit of using credit cards for purchases.
If you have consumer debts, look for ways to try to reduce your overall interest costs and fees. Through our credit union’s partnership with Accel, you have access to a Debt Management Plan, which may reduce interest rates, lower monthly payments and waive late fees, for free!  To learn more, call 877-332-2235 or visit www.accelservices.org.

Credit Repair Scams Are Back, Don’t Let Them Fool You

Earlier this month, the Better Business Bureau warned the country to keep an eye out for criminals masquerading as credit repair agencies, an old scam that keeps coming back every few years.  The scam is easy to spot if you know what to look for, so here’s what you need to know. 

How the scam works:

Companies advertise a service that can give customers a “new credit identity” and will immediately fix their credit score.  The scammers charge their customers an upfront fee in exchange for a 9-digit code, sometimes called a “Credit Profile Number” or “Credit Privacy Number.” They might say the number protects customers from identity theft, builds their credit or enrolls them into a new government debt-relief program.

The numbers they give to customers are not magic numbers that fix bad credit; they’re stolen Social Security numbers.  Not only won’t they improve your credit, but anyone who pays a scammer has unwittingly bankrolled an identity thief. 

How the scam can hurt you:

If a company sells you a stolen Social Security number and you use it to apply for a loan, you’ve committed fraud, even if you had no idea that the number was stolen.  If you lie on a credit or loan application, misrepresent your Social Security number or obtain an EIN under false pretenses, you’ve committed a federal crime.  You could face fines, or in some cases, time in prison.  If you suspect this might have happened to you, seek legal advice immediately. 

How to spot a scam:

Credit reporting scams are one of the many kinds of criminal activities built around identity theft. If you’re not sure if you’re dealing with a criminal, listen for some of these key phrases credit repair scammers use:

·        “We just need a small fee to get started”  – In the U.S. and Canada, credit repair companies can only receive their fee AFTER they’ve performed a service.

·        “We dispute all of the charges on your credit report, even the ones that are correct.  The worst thing that can happen is that they say ‘NO’ and you might even get lucky” – Legitimate credit companies will not encourage you to lie to credit agencies because that’s a crime.  It is a good idea for you to check your credit report for inaccuracies from time to time, but don’t lie to those agencies.

·        “If a loan asks for your Social Security number, put in this code instead” – There is no magical code to fix your credit.  If it seems too easy, proceed with caution.

Remember, some credit repair companies work hard and treat their customers fairly.  They’ll write a contract, make their loan rates known and follow the law.  When you call an honest company, you’ll know the rates and terms.  Scammers tend to make outlandish promises or omit details, so if a deal seems too good to be true, or if it’s hard to find out what you’re getting into, you might want to walk away. 

What to do if you think you might be a victim:

If you’ve been the victim of this kind of scam, you have some legal options.  You can sue them for any money you lost, seek punitive damages on top of that or join a class action suit.  Talk to a lawyer immediately.

You can also file a complaint online atftc.gov/complaint 

Who can I trust to repair my credit?

If you have bad credit, it can feel like everyone is trying to scam you.  If you need to repair your credit, and you don’t know who to trust, talk to Destinations Credit Union‘s counseling partner Accel.  Accel can help you make a plan to get out from under your debt, build your credit successfully, and plan for the future.

If you don’t have any credit, then Destinations Credit Union can help you, too. Unlike the multinational corporate banks and credit cards, we’re local and personal.  You’re more than a number to us, and we look forward to helping you.

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College Credit: Where will you live?


Brought to you by Destinations Credit Union

Top on the priority list for high school graduates is often, “Move out of mom and dad’s house.” And while sometimes mom and dad can’t agree more, this is not always the best financial move for teens.


What are some options for room and board while you are in college? There are plenty. Weighing the financial and personal benefits and downsides to each living situation can help you find the best possible option. Here are some possibilities for you to consider:

  • Staying at Home. This is often the most affordable option, especially if your parents will let you live in their home rent-free. If your college is within driving distance, you can live for free, eat for virtually nothing, and have the moral support of your parents nearby. The downside is being an adult and living in your parents’ home. This is not always an ideal situation for some new college students.
  • Living in the Dorms. The dorm life will help you meet people on campus and make it easier to get involved. However, the convenience comes with a price tag. The cost of living in the dorms varies by college and you often have at least one roommate in a very small room. There’s also the added cost of campus meals plan to consider.
  • Finding an Apartment. An apartment provides you the privacy of a home but at a lower cost than a house or some dorms. Finding a roommate will help defray some of the cost so you don’t have to foot the bill all on your own. The downside is that apartment living can be more expensive than a dorm room when utilities and other expenses are added in. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of food as well.
  • Live with Family. If your college is away from home, living with other family members that reside in or near the college town is a great option. You’ll get to know your extended family a bit more, plus live at a relatively low cost. Perhaps you can babysit for younger cousins to help cover expenses. The downside, again, is living in someone else’s home. If you’re looking to reconnect with family, though, this could be a great option.

Whatever housing option you choose during college, make sure you do your research and find an option that works for you-both financially and personally.

Rebuilding An Emergency Fund


A significant financial crisis can wipe out your emergency savings.  If this has happened to you, rebuilding your savings must be a priority. 

All the best financial experts agree you need to keep an emergency fund. Keeping 3-5 months of living expenses in a savings account, certificate account, or investment account can be the difference between a temporary hardship and a life-long debt trap. Using that money instead of credit cards or short-term loans is a lot less expensive in the long run.

There are many reasons why you might need to use that money. It could be from an unexpected expense, like a medical bill or a car repair. It could also be job loss that forces you to tap out your savings. Whatever the cause, it’s a whole lot cheaper to pay for it out of savings than to have to borrow, and it’s much less embarrassing than having to beg friends or family to cover your bills.
In the midst of a stressful crisis, it can be hard to focus on the positive. It’s important to take a moment to congratulate yourself for having the foresight to manage your problem. Things could be much worse than they are now. In addition to all the stress you’re currently feeling, you could have a big ball of debt to add to it. It’s not because of luck, it’s because of good planning.
Despite that relief, you’re not out of the woods yet. Without savings, you’re in a position of significant insecurity. Another crisis right now, even a very minor one, can cause financial problems that will create a ripple effect on into the future. You could find yourself in a much worse position in three months’ time than you are now.
Getting back to a position of financial security should be your highest priority. That means rebuilding your emergency fund as quickly as possible. These three steps will have you back on track before you know it.

1.) Make an emergency budget – and stick to it! 
Without an emergency fund, you’re one blown tire, one missed shift or one broken arm away from a financial catastrophe. That’s why an emergency fund is so important. Cut spending wherever you can. If you can do without cable for a few months, call and suspend service. Temporarily cutting back on media, clothes, and other discretionary spending is also a great idea.
Also, consolidate your savings. If you’ve been saving for a vacation, a new car or some other big ticket item, stop putting money into those “buckets” until you rebuild a few months’ living expenses. Once you return to having a decent cushion, you can get back to saving for your other priorities.  Visit a Destinations Credit Union Member Service Representative to see if there are higher rate options for your saving or if refinancing a loan from elsewhere could cut your payment amounts.
If these cuts aren’t enough, finding money in more extreme places might be helpful. If you can, spend a few months taking public transportation. If it works out well, you might find yourself thinking about selling your vehicle for another quick infusion of cash.
Remember, a budget is only as good as your commitment to it. If you make extreme cuts that you can’t keep, you’ll end up spending even more because you feel entitled to it. Make sure your budget is realistic and humane! 
2.) Build income wherever you can 
There’s no secret about building your savings. You can only save the difference between your income and your expenses. In your budget, you worked on the minimizing expenses part of that equation. Now, it’s time to turn your attention to the income side.
Raising your income at work could be as easy as asking for a raise. It could also mean taking additional hours or picking up extra shifts from co-workers. You don’t have to do so for the rest of your career, just for a few months until things get better.
You may also need to boost your income outside work. Selling old clothes and books can be a source of quick cash. Picking up freelance or contract work can also be a way to earn extra money. It’ll create a stressful few months, but it’ll be worth it to get back to security. You might also make connections that could help your career over the long term. 
3.) Build a backup plan 
The worst thing that could happen right now would be another crisis with no way to pay for it. You may not have the money to deal with it, but you’ve still got your financial smarts. It’s time to make a plan. 
Think about what you’d do now if you lost your job, even without your emergency fund. Make a list of phone calls you can make to find temporary work. Who in your network do you know who could use your skills on a temporary or contract basis? Do you know anyone who, if you absolutely had to, you could call for a quick loan? 
There are a few other questions to ask. What stuff sitting around your house would you sell if you had to? What does your food budget look like with $50 taken out of it? It’s easier to make these decisions when you’ve got the time and space to reflect on it. Making these choices with a past due notice in hand is much harder to do. 
Hopefully, you’ll never have to use these ideas, but you’ll feel better for having thought about them beforehand. It’s also something pro-active you can do instead of worrying. Taking action, any action, to remedy your situation can help fight the stress involved in insecurity and get you in a better head space. That alone is worth the effort. 

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Financial Literacy Month – Celebrate Knowledge!


“April showers bring May flowers” goes the old saying. It’s also a great lesson about the importance of saving – where weathering some light showers can pay dividends during the nicer days that are to come.

April is Financial Literacy Month, and a great time to think about some important lessons everyone can learn about finances. Whether you’re a parent looking to make talking money with your kids easier or a professional looking for a few tips, there’s always something to learn. Here are some fun activities you can do to expand your financial knowledge.

1.) Make a financial date night

Most people dread doing anything with their money. Unless there’s a serious issue, they don’t think about their bills or their paychecks. When something serious comes up, they do little more than panic and figure out how much money to throw at it so it’ll go away. Money is scary, and not dealing with it is the easiest thing to do.

If you want to improve your knowledge of finances this month, schedule a financial date night. It doesn’t matter if you’re partnered or on your own, it works the same way. Pick a day when there’s nothing good on TV, no major social events and no serious distractions. Put some light music on. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Sit down with your bills, your paycheck and anyone else who matters to your finances, and figure out where you stand.

This can be a time to make dealing with your finances fun. You can do a little daydreaming and figure out what your future looks like. Jot down some goals and think about how you can achieve them through your monthly budget. Make a financial date night part of your monthly routine!

2.) Build a list of needs and wants

One of the best ways to build an efficient budget is to start from a list of priorities. What do you spend your money on each month? Make a list of all your expenses. Then, break them into one of three categories.

The first category is the essential, non-negotiable bills. These are your big-ticket essentials that have serious consequences for missed payments. Your auto loan, your rent or mortgage, your utilities and your taxes go here. This is the bare minimum you need to bring in each month.

The second category is the essential, negotiable obligations. These are unsecured loans such as credit cards and student debt. You need to pay them, but if you have to miss a payment, these are the ones to miss. Paying these off is a priority after you make your essential payments, and you may have some room to negotiate and reduce these payments if things get dicey.

The third category is the inessential spending. This is everything else you spend money on each month. This is the best place to make cuts when you want to shift your priorities.

Making a list of priorities is the first step to making solid plans and reshaping your own financial destiny. When you know where your money is going, you can start to move from financially existing to intentionally spending. That’s the beginning of improved financial literacy.

3.) Take charge of your retirement planning

Financial security means planning for the day when you can’t work anymore. Financial literacy is all about taking an active role in thinking about that future. There are a few concrete steps you can take in April to put yourself ahead of the game.

If you’re not already doing so, contribute to your employer’s 401(k) program. Most employers will match contributions up to a certain level. If you’re not contributing enough to get the full amount of that match, you’re leaving money on the table. Set up automatic contributions out of every paycheck to automate that savings.

April 15 is the last day to contribute to an IRA for 2014. Even if you’ve already filed your taxes, you can file an amended return to get credit for your contribution. More importantly, you can add to your retirement nest-egg and take advantage of the tax benefits of those accounts. Visit Destinations Credit Union to open your IRA today.

There’s also no shame in asking for help. Retirement laws are complicated, and it takes an expert to really understand their intricacies. Speaking with a qualified financial planner can take some of the guesswork out of it. This conversation can also help you clarify what retirement looks like: what your goals are, how much you need to save to achieve them and what programs are available to help you get there.

If you’re counting on Social Security to provide for your entire retirement, you’re in for a rude awakening. Benefits are shrinking and the fiscal solvency of the program is always in danger. Taking an active role in your retirement planning is the best way to get some peace of mind about your future. It’s never too late. Retirement planning you do at 50 is better than retirement planning that never gets done!

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Involvement In Finances


In many relationships, one partner handles all of the financial arrangements.  If your partner is the one who handles everything, but you want to be more involved, how can you start that conversation?

You’re not alone. A recent study by Fidelity Investments showed many people want to be more involved with their finances. Among women, 92% wanted to learn more about their finances, while 86% wanted to take a more active role in managing them. It’s very easy to get caught in a routine with bill paying, checking and spending. The person who was doing so when you started cohabiting just continues to do so exactly the same way they always have.

What’s more, those conversations are really difficult to initiate. Even with close friends, 56% of survey respondents say finances are “too personal” to discuss. Of those survey respondents, 43% were willing to talk about their health issues, but only 17% would talk about investments. About half of respondents would willingly talk about the strange things their bodies are doing, but talking about where they save their money is considered “too personal.”

Intimate partner relationships aren’t a safer space for conversations about money, either. Only 66% of respondents talk about investments or salary with their spouses or partners. In one out of every three relationships, finances are not a common topic of conversation between people who likely share a checking account!

If you’d like to change that dynamic in your relationship, there are a couple of approaches you might consider. No matter what you do, make sure you’re approaching this sensitive topic from a place of love. Fights over money occur when one partner feels put on the defensive about budgeting or spending. Take care and try these three techniques!

1.) Talk about a common goal

If you and your partner have been trying to plan a summer getaway, save for a new car or put a down payment on a house, this can be an excellent place to start a conversation. It’s best to begin on broad notes. Ask about hotel choice or means of transportation. From there, it can be easy to talk about making a budget for the occasion. Once you and your partner are talking about dollar amounts, it can spill over into a more general conversation about finance.

If you ask about saving for this project, it’s important to have suggestions or ideas. Come to the conversation prepared to make a small sacrifice to contribute to saving for the project or have some cost-saving strategy to make the process easier. This encourages a feeling of joint struggle as opposed to you “checking up on” or “managing” your partner.

2.) Set guidelines for spending

Spending is the biggest cause of fights between couples. In general, people tend to see their decisions as rational and the choices they disagree with as irrational or impulsive. In relationships, it’s tempting and gratifying to think of yourself as the sensible one and your partner as the reckless one.

Your partner likely feels the same way. For instance, you may enjoy a daily coffee drink while your partner might consider that to be frivolous spending because they don’t know the joy and satisfaction you derive from that little indulgence. Conversely, your partner’s enthusiasm for home electronics might make you see a top-of-the-line stereo system as an extravagance, while your partner sees it as a way for the two of you to spend more time together at home.

The best way to avoid resentment while still keeping your spending under control is to set personal allowances for you and your partner. You can spend so much each week or month without consulting your partner. Major purchases that go over that limit require consultation. Try to avoid bringing up recent or specific purchases and focus on planning for the future rather than placing blame for the past. This will keep the conversation from feeling accusatory.

3.) Dream about the future

Retirement planning is a difficult subject to broach. Many people don’t want to do it on their own because the prospect of saving that much money is frightening. Add in the stress of talking about money in a relationship and this can be a conversation filled with dread.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Many couples find retirement to be a time of great relationship strength and bonding. If you and your partner didn’t have to work, you could spend a lot more time together, enjoying your mutual interests and each others’ company. Instead of beginning a retirement planning conversation with a dollar amount, begin it with a dream.

Maybe you’d like to travel the world together and see exotic sights. Maybe you want to build furniture out of your home. Maybe you want to become active in the leadership of your church. Beginning with such dreams in mind, as opposed to how much they’re going to cost, can help you and your partner better share the stress involved in saving and planning.

However you broach the conversation about money, it’s important to do so. Secrets about finances in a relationship can lead to stress, interfere with honest communication and produce relationship-ending fights. On the other hand, couples who talk openly and honestly about their financial situation can use that transparency to build stronger, more straightforward communication strategies about other topics. As many people have found, the couple who saves together, stays together!

Cash Flow Budgeting: A Fast, Flexible Way To Fix Your Finances


You’ve heard it from a million places: Budget your money! Make a firm plan and stick with it. It’s the pathway to prosperity!

For many people, though, that advice just doesn’t resonate. They feel constricted by a budget. Keeping cash in separate envelopes makes them feel like they can’t have a life. It takes too much planning and too much rigid denial. They break their budget and sometimes wind up in serious financial trouble.

Other people have an inconsistent cash flow, making creating and keeping a budget difficult. Maybe they’re freelancers who work gig-to-gig. Maybe they’re in commissioned sales. Maybe their hours fluctuate month-to-month. Whatever the reason, it’s hard to make a detailed plan when your bottom line changes every month.

The answer isn’t to give up on budgeting. The collective wisdom, that monitoring your expenses and income streams is the way to stability, still holds true. It might just require a different approach to budgeting: cash flow focus.

Cash flow focus is the strategy used by most businesses. They pay their fixed costs, and whatever is left is used to grow the business. You can manage your finances the same way. Just follow these four steps:

1.) Automate your savings

Even if you disregard everything else in this article, implementing this one tip can be life-changing. Figure out how much of your income you can save, then take that out as soon as you get paid. You can set up monthly transfers from your checkingaccount to your savings account. You can also divide the money between the accounts on a per deposit basis. How you choose to do so is less important than doing so.

Like the saying goes, pay yourself first. This savings provides you the flexibility to cover big expenses or make major purchases on your schedule. It’s the single most important step in any budget, but it’s even more important with cash flow budgeting.

When you automate your savings, you remove the money you saved from consideration. You can’t spend it; you’ve already spent it on savings. The importance of this kind of savings will become more clear once you see this budget in action.

2.) Pay your needs and your priorities

Make a list of your essential expenses each month. Include your rent or house payment, your car loan and your utilities. Also include your student loan payments, your insurance and other necessary expenses. These are your “fixed costs.” They get paid after your savings contributions are made.

Next, make a list of your priorities. Include your charitable contributions, vacation savings and retirement account contributions. These are your “growth expenses.” They get paid after your fixed costs.

If you don’t have enough money to make these bills, you don’t need a better budget. You need to lower those bills or increase your income. No amount of spreadsheet magic will change that bottom line.

It’s helpful to automate savings for these expenses, too. That way, you never get caught short on these bills. Transferring this money to a special savings account can be a helpful way to ensure you don’t spend it.

3.) Spend the leftovers

This message may sound peculiar for personal finance advice. Remember, though, that you’ve already automated your savings. What you’re spending here is the leftovers – the extra that’s left at the end of the month.

Spend this money however you like – don’t worry about putting this much in entertainment and that much in travel. Just keep track of how much you’ve spent so you don’t accidentally overdraft your account.

This approach allows you to go out or indulge in a latte. You don’t have to worry about including it in your budget. Your spending habits might change as the month goes on, just like a business. If you know there’s a big outing before you get paid again, you may want to save some money for that. You don’t need to say that you can’t go because you didn’t budget for it.

4.) Roll over what’s left

If you’ve worked in a big business, you’ve seen departments desperately spending at the end of the fiscal year. Departments buy cases of pens and paper, knowing that they’ll lose whatever they don’t spend. Fortunately, you’re more flexible than a big business. You don’t have to spend it all. If you have money left over at the end of the month, then you have more to spend the next month.

If you have a month with slightly higher expenses, you can cover it from a previous month’s slightly lower expenses. Your spending will change from month to month, as might your income. So long as you keep the former smaller than the latter in the long run, you’ll be fine.

That’s what cash flow budgeting is about: flexibility. You don’t have to write your unbudgeted spending purposes in stone. You don’t have to mess with cash envelopes or other strategies. You can spend when you have money and save for when you don’t.

If you’re thinking about adopting a cash flow budget, Destinations Credit Union can help. A friendly, knowledgeable representative can walk you through the savings tools you need. You can automate your savings, flex your spending, and build toward financial security. Call, click, or stop by today to find out how!

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Paying Off Student Loan Debt


Student loan debt is terrifying. You left for school with the best of intentions. You worked your tail off for four years and got a degree. You throw your cap into the air in celebration, and by the time it lands, you have a bill for $29,400.

When dollar amounts are that high, it’s difficult to make them seem real. As a recent grad, you have all kinds of financial obligations. It’s easy to let those student loan notices pile up and focus on furnishing a household, buying a fancy car or starting your adult life.

That’s the path many young adults are taking. According to the Department of Education, only 56% of student loan borrowers are repaying their loans. This is a problem that’s going to get worse before it gets better. A study in the Wall Street Journal estimates that the debt load is going to increase by 6% per year.

It’s difficult to pay down that debt, but it’s possible. Even making just $30,000 per year, you can pay down your loan in 3 years. There’s no big secret; it’s just a matter of spending less than you make. The inspiring story of Zina Kumok, a 27-year-old marketing professional, can offer some help to struggling grads. Let’s take a look at 3 pieces of advice for paying off debts in record time:

1.) Find your motivation

Getting out of debt is always an instrumental good. People don’t pay off their loans for the fun of it; they do so to get earlier or better access to something else they want. For Kumok, it was about her relationship. She was getting married and didn’t want to burden her new husband with her debts. She knew that the number one cause of fights between married couples is money, and she didn’t want hers to start off on a bad foot.

Finding a motivation is central to making the debt-free project work. Getting rid of your debt will be expensive and it can be easy to think of the opportunity costs to repayment. With that $30,000, you could buy a luxury car. You could spend a month in Europe. You could buy five expensive coffee drinks every day for a year. If you don’t have a goal, that’s all you’ll see when you write checks to the loan company every month. Getting motivated to reduce debt will help you avoid the temptation to cheat on your budget.

There are as many motivations as there are graduates. Maybe you want to get debt free to reduce your stress. Maybe you need to boost your credit score before buying a house or car. Maybe you want to reduce your debt so you can start saving for retirement. Finding and focusing on a motivation to get out of debt can make sticking to a debt-free plan easier.

2.) Cut your expenses

Kunok was taking home about $2,500 per month and only had about $300 to go toward paying off her loans. She was working difficult shifts and forced to travel most weekends to see her fiancé. She took a chance and applied for a job with more regular hours.

Kunok caught a bit of a break by finding work in the city where her fiancé lives. This meant they could move in together, saving money on rent, utilities and transportation. They also found another roommate, allowing them to further split the costs of living. She translated those cost savings directly into a higher loan repayment and was able to quadruple her payment.

The biggest areas of expense in your budget are likely rent and transportation. Taking big steps, like getting a roommate, moving closer to your job or using public transportation will make big dents in your budget. Saving a few dollars by switching to store brands can help, but you won’t see real progress that way. Live like you’re still in college for a few more years. Eat ramen noodles, share a 10×10 space with another person, and call Chinese takeout and a DVD from the library a romantic dinner date. Defer these savings onto your loan repayment process.

3.) Don’t forget to budget for fun!

A budget of pure austerity is one you’re not likely to stick with long-term. Constant denial and deprivation can really tax your willpower. You can build in some money for relaxation and rest. Kunok and her fiancé put aside a little money for a few vacations. They set a budget and got away for a while. Kunok admits it was a little hard to relax, but the time away from work was great for them both.

Make sure you put room in your budget for little indulgences. Whether it’s travel, dining out or a hobby, you need to take care of yourself. It can be difficult to commit to unwinding if you’re staring down several thousand dollars in debt. However, taking care of yourself will save you more in the long run.

Budgeting for your fun can be a way to ensure you enjoy it. If your luxury money gets eaten up by tiny bits, like a candy bar here or a cocktail there, you’re less likely to mindfully enjoy it. If you save and plan, though, you will be more cognizant of the experience and more likely to remember it.

If you’re looking for help with your student loan situation, contact Destinations Credit Union. We have activities designed to help you budget, save, and plan for retirement. Call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union today!  

Family Finance Games For Kids


Usually, paying bills is one of those adult chores that takes time away from family time. It doesn’t have to be that way, though! Getting your kids involved in the family finances can let you take care of your responsibilities and spend time with your children at the same time. It’s easy to say “get your kids involved,” but getting them out of their phones, tablets, and video games for dinner is hard enough. Making financial fitness a game can help it be more of a fun activity and less of a chore. Try these tips to get kids involved in money matters:

1.) The memory game: If you’ve ever played the card game, “Memory,” you know how this works. Put the bills you’re working with face down on the table, then go through each category – ask your child to find the electric bill, then read off the amount to you so you can write the check. This can also be a chance to talk with your child about savings strategies – “What do you think we could do to lower the electric bill?” While they may not have a firm grasp on the solution, getting them thinking about savings early will help build good habits.

2.) The party budget: The next time you’re hosting a sleepover or planning a family activity, set a budget with dollar amounts and walk through the steps involved in setting priorities, allocating funds, and finding cheaper alternatives to expensive activities. Let your child make the decisions as much as possible. Even if it’s $20 that they have to allocate between pizza, movies, and candy, it’ll help them understand the basics of budgeting. This exercise helps your child understand scarce resources and can make it easier to include them in family budget talks.

3.) Play “What If”: Ask your kids questions like what they would do if they found incrementally larger quantities of money. Start with a small amount – $5, for example. Work your way on up to $1,000 or whatever point your child starts to struggle with thinking of the dollar amount in real terms. This can be a great way to get to know where your kids’ financial priorities are at and to start a conversation about saving a portion of financial windfalls. It can also be a great way to talk about what things really cost.

Still Not Saving? You’re Not Alone!


We like to think of ourselves as learning animals. We take our lived experiences, extract valuable lessons from them, and use that information to improve our daily lives. This is how we get better at doing things over time.

However, a recent survey from Bankrate.com shows that we haven’t yet learned the lessons of the Great Recession. While Americans paid down their debt in the months since the recovery, a shocking 26% of Americans still report having no emergency fund. Another 24% have less than three months living expenses saved. Only 23% of survey respondents have the recommended 6 months living expenses saved.

It’s not for lack of caring. The same survey reveals that 60% of Americans don’t feel comfortable with their current savings position. We all know we need to save more, but we still don’t actually do it. Why is that?

Many experts say the problem is there’s just not enough money left at the end of the month for savings. This is true no matter how much you make; fewer than half of people with incomes more than $75,000 have that 6-month cushion. Rebecca Kennedy, the founder of Kennedy Financial Planning in Denver, says that after utilities, rent, and other expenses, there’s no money left over for savings.

Not having an emergency fund is like walking a tightrope without a net. No one likes to think about it, but what you would do tomorrow if you lost your job, wrecked your car, or had to miss work due to illness? In 2008, the answer provided by many would have involved tapping into a home equity line of credit. But, when house prices began falling and interest rates rose, these people had to rely on expensive debt to finance their lifestyles. That forced them to postpone retirement, miss vacations, or compromise on educational plans for their children.

You can avoid this problem. It may seem impossible to create an emergency fund, but there are always ways to squeeze a few extra dollars out of each month. Consider these seven ideas:

1.) Start small. If you save $5 a week for four years, you’ve got an emergency fund of just over $1,000. That’s a great start to a rainy day fund, and you can do it by giving up one vending machine soda a day. Many people stash every $5 bill they get in a coffee can or store all their loose change. You might also consider a 52-week plan where you save $1 the first week, $2 second, and so on. These incremental steps can make a big difference in the long term – at the end of a year, you’ll have saved almost $1,400.

2.) Take on a second job. It’s never fun to leave one job and head to another. Remember, though, that you’ll have to work fewer hours to build a savings than you would have to work to pay down debt. Don’t limit your search to part-time jobs. Consider freelancing, taking surveys, babysitting, or selling tupperware. You don’t need to finance another lifestyle. You just need to make enough to start a savings fund.

3.) Pay yourself first. Think about your savings as another bill. This mode of thinking prevents you from treating the money as discretionary and frittering it away on impulse buys and luxuries. Make your savings as important as your house note, car payment, and utility bills.

4.) Automate it. Consider setting up a Club Account or a savings account with direct deposit. This step ensures you’ll remember to take the savings out of your budget each month. You’ll also be earning a little bit of interest on your savings to help you on your way. These savings products have the flexibility to allow for immediate withdrawals if you need it, but are limited by law in how many withdrawals they allow. This means your money is there when you need it, but far enough away that you won’t be tempted to spend it.  With one of Destinations “Kasasa” rewards checking accounts, your rewards can automatically be swept into a high-yield savings account.

5.) Put luxury in the back seat. Whether it’s a fancy coffee drink, a pack of cigarettes, a fast food meal, or the latest cell phone, things we don’t need will consume much of our income. You don’t need to give up your vices all together. In fact, financial expert Candice Elliot compares these choices to dieting. Repeated denials can drain our will-power, leading us to snap back harder. The answer may be to cut back on our consumption instead. Go without your Starbucks on Friday or wait 6 months for the price to drop on a gadget. Put the difference into your savings account.

6.) Look at recurring expenses. If you’re honestly spending everything you get on your monthly bills, it may be time to look at them. Consider cutting your TV services or switching to a pre-paid cell phone plan. Simply giving up a premium movie channel for a year could save you as much as $240. Now that Game of Thrones is over for the season, do you even need it? These don’t have to be long-term choices. Your goal should be to make temporary sacrifices to ensure yourself against future loss.

7) Don’t spend it. Your emergency fund should only be used for actual emergencies. Ask three questions before you take even a dollar out of your emergency fund. Is the thing I’m paying for absolutely necessary? Is there nothing I can cut back on this month to pay for it? Do I have to pay for it right now? Unless the answer to all of these questions is yes, leave the money where it is.

SOURCES:

http://www.wtop.com/675/3649150/Americans-arent-saving-enough-money