5 Quick Tips To Save Money

Review your miscellaneous spending this month and find ways to cut back. Try to give up a subscription you don’t really need, brown-bag it to work another few times a week and skip the gym membership by getting your workout at home. Small purchases add up quickly!

Fast food is super convenient — and expensive. It’s not that great for your health, either. Try to slow down on your fast-food purchases this month by thinking ahead. Keep some snacks in the car to help tide you over when you’re pulling a late night and have some drinks on hand as well. Save time, calories and money by putting the brakes on your fast-food purchases.

It’s time to get your house ready for winter! As you weather-strip your home and check for air leaks, look for exposed pipes as well. If you find any, wrap and insulate them carefully so they don’t freeze up when the temperatures fall. A few minutes of your time now can save you the hassle and cost of fixing burst pipes in the dead of winter.

Give your car the care it deserves by getting it a routine service check this month. You’ll possibly catch any developing issues before they become major, and add years of life to your vehicle. You may even get better fuel mileage by making sure everything is in proper working order.

Putting aside money each month to use for some vague purpose sometime in the future can be super challenging. Make it easier by creating a spectacular goal for your savings. Is there a dream vacation you’d love to take? Maybe you’re hankering after an RV or a new entertainment system. Write down your secret dream and figure out exactly how much money you need to make it happen. Then, set up an automatic monthly transfer from your Destinations Credit Union checking account to your savings account to make it even easier. Start your savings momentum today!

How To Enjoy A Busy Wedding Season Without Going Broke

It’s the season of gauzy canopies, lacy gowns and stiff penguin suits. That being the case, guests tossing flowers at wedding coupleand with wedding invitations flooding your mailbox, you might already be booking your weekends with weddings through the end of August.

Celebrating a new marriage together with your friends is great fun, but all those wedding invites can put a real strain on your budget. Between wedding attire, travel costs and gifts, each wedding can add up to a pretty penny. In fact, according to the most recent research by Express Spending & Saving Tracker, the average wedding guest is out $673 for each wedding they attend. That’s enough to make you go broke by the time wedding season is through!

If these numbers are scaring you, take a deep breath and relax. You don’t need to go into debt just to attend your friends’ weddings. Just follow these hacks for simple ways to celebrate in style-and within budget.

1.) Save on airfare

Get the best deal on your flight with these hacks:

  • Clear your browser cache before searching for a flight so airlines don’t target you with high-priced flights.
  • Get the lowest prices by booking your ticket for mid-week and/or taking a red-eye flight.
  • Shop on a Tuesday about six weeks before you’re needing to fly out to score the best deals.
  • Use apps like Kayak, Hipmunk and Hopper to help you find the best-priced tickets. Some apps will even send you alerts when tickets on a flight you’ve looked at go down in price.

If your destination is within driving distance, you can also choose to hop on a train, board a bus or rent a car with some friends and turn the drive into a fun road trip.

2.) Think outside the registry

Jump off the registry bandwagon and get creative instead! You can gift the couple with a more personalized gift, like a themed breakfast basket for the morning after, tickets and reservations for a dream date night or a customized kitchen package complete with quirky mugs and whimsical gadgets. No one has to know how much (or how little) you spent. But, your gift is sure to be memorable and treasured by the couple.

If you’re part of a bunch of friends who are attending the wedding together, you can also choose to purchase a group gift. Do some detective work to find out the couple’s secret luxury gift wish, like a top-of-the-line grill or a leather sectional sofa, and then let each friend contribute to a pot until you have the full amount. You’ll save on your gift costs and you’ll know you’ve given your friends a wedding present they’ll be thrilled to receive.

3.) Don’t buy a gown

Don’t feel pressured to spend hundreds of dollars on the dress you’ll wear to your friends’ weddings. Chances are, you won’t want to wear the same gown twice in a season. Also, the dress that perfectly matches one wedding color can horribly clash with the décor at next weekend’s wedding. Instead of dropping a ton of money on a dress you might wear once, rent a gown for a fraction of the price from rental services like Rent the Runway. You can also borrow from a friend or purchase a gently used gown on sites like OnceWed.com or PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com.

4.) Invest in a good suit

Tux rentals can run you up to $150, so if you’re looking at several weekends of weddings over the next few months, it might be worthwhile to invest in a staple suit or tux you can wear again and again. Make sure the suit is of decent quality and will make it through hours on the dance floor with its seams and buttons intact. Once you’ve got your suit in the closet, you can change up the outfit to match different wedding colors and themes by swapping the shirt and tie or the cummerbund and bowtie.

5.) Use AirBNB instead of booking a hotel

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a hotel stay for every destination wedding you attend. Instead, check out AirBNB for affordable lodgings in the area. You can save even more by booking a full apartment or an entire house with a couple of friends and splitting the cost.

6.) Don’t be afraid to say no

Members of the wedding party inevitably end up outspending everyone else thanks to the wedding attire, shoes and the pre-wedding parties they’re required to attend. Most of these costs are dictated by the bride and groom. If you’re asked to be a bridesmaid or an usher and you know you can’t afford the associated costs, don’t be afraid to explain your position to your soon-to-be-married friends. They’ll likely understand, and either accept your declination or make some adjustment to their plans so you can be part of the wedding party.

Here’s to a season of affordable and joyous wedding celebrations from all of us here at Destinations Credit Union!

Your Turn: How do you save money on wedding expenses? Share your best ideas with us!

SOURCES:
https://lover.ly/planning/news-tips/guest-guide/sneakiest-ways-save-money-attending-wedding/

https://www.moneycrashers.com/tips-save-attending-wedding-guest/
https://lover.ly/planning/news-tips/wedding-101/why-youre-about-to-spend-700-on-every-wedding-this-season-ouch/
https://www.theknot.com/content/amphtml/save-money-as-wedding-guest

7 Signs You’re Living Beyond Your Means And How To Fix Them

In the age of plastic spending and mobile payments, it’s easier than ever to buy stuff you couple looking at billscan’t pay for right away while supporting a lifestyle you can’t really afford.

Let’s take a look at seven red flags that might mean you’re living beyond your means and the steps you can take to get back on track.

1. You’re carrying a credit card balance from month to month

Credit cards are a great way to earn rewards, pay for emergency purchases when things are extra-tight and build a strong credit history. Unfortunately, though, they also make it far too easy to fall into the spending trap. It’s a lot harder to feel like you’re spending money when all that stands between you and a purchase is a plastic card.

If you have an outstanding balance on one or more credit cards and you’re only paying the minimum payment each month, you can end up carrying this balance for years while paying hundreds of dollars (or more!) in interest. You might also be tempted to make more purchases on this card since you already have an open balance.

The fix:  Try to double down on your monthly payments and/or make one extra payment each month instead of paying just the minimum amount. Stop using your card until the debt is paid off.

2. You stress about paying your bills

No one likes paying bills, but if you’re losing sleep over your bills, you need to take a step back to review your monthly budget and spending habits. Bills should be fixed into your budget and you should be able to pay them easily without any stress or nail-biting involved.

The fix: Take a long look at your monthly budget to find ways at cutting back. Cancel a subscription you never use, trim impulse purchases, start brown-bagging it at work more often or tighten the belt in any other way possible.

3. You can’t save 5% of your monthly income

Financial experts recommend putting 20% of your monthly income into savings, or even more if you can swing it. At the very least, you’ll want to sock away 5% of your monthly take-home pay to fund your retirement and any other expensive purchases or events you might need to pay for in the future. If you can’t possibly do that now, and you’re left with little or no money at the end of the month, you’re living beyond your means. Savings aren’t an extra; they are a necessity that should be a fixed part of every budget.

The fix: Again, you’ll need to trim your expenses and restructure your budget to include a minimum of 5% for savings.

4. You don’t have emergency and rainy-day funds

Unexpected expenses, like a household repair or extra tutoring for your child, can disrupt your monthly budget and really set you back-unless you have some way to pay for them. Ideally, you’ll want to have an emergency fund to cover major unexpected expenses, like a job loss or a medical emergency, and a rainy-day fund for small expenses you can anticipate, like replacing an aging appliance and sending your child to summer camp.

The fix: Start building your funds now by putting away as much as you possibly can each month.

5. Your mortgage payment eats up more than 30% of your monthly income

Most financial experts agree that your monthly mortgage payments should not exceed 30% of your take-home pay (that’s after taxes). Take a few minutes to do the math. If your mortgage is more than 30% of your income, you’re in over your hea

The fix: You have two choices here:

  1. Find ways to boost your income. You can seek a raise or promotion at your current job, freelance for hire or find another side hustle to bring home extra cash.
  2. Scale back your mortgage payments by considering a refinance. [Speak to a home loan counselor at (credit union) to see if this is the right choice for you.] If your mortgage is really crippling your budget, you might want to consider downsizing to a smaller and cheaper place.

6. You lease a car you can’t afford to buy or finance

Leasing lets you live the life of a high-roller without the huge bills. The problem is that many people can’t really afford their leases either. You might be covering your monthly payments, but if you can’t do that while also putting money into savings and meeting your other expenses, your car is too expensive.

Can you afford to pay for or finance your car? If the answer is no, you’re in financial trouble.

The fix: Downgrade your vehicle to one you can actually afford.

7. Your financial decisions are influenced by your friends’ spending habits

Thanks to social media and the hyper-sharing culture it introduced, the pressure to keep up with the Joneses is stronger than ever. If you find yourself making financial decisions-from what kind of footwear to buy to where you vacation-based on your friends’ choices, you’re likely spending more money than you can afford.

The fix: Stop looking over your shoulder and keep your eyes on your own life and your own wallet. If your friends have expensive tastes, try to be the budget-conscious influence in the group. You may just start a new, financially responsible trend!

If you’re in over your head, Destinations Credit Union can help! Stop by today. Our HOPE Inside Financial Wellbeing Counselor will be happy to help.

Your Turn: What’s your personal red flag that your spending has gotten out of control? Share it with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.hermoney.com/invest/financial-planning/warning-signs-of-living-beyond-your-means/amp/

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/08/in-over-your-head.asp
https://rockstarfinance.com/7-signs-that-you-might-be-living-well-beyond-your-means/

7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Making A Large Purchase

You’re convinced: You really want that Coach handbag. Or you need that genuine ArmaniFamily carrying large box into home tie. Or maybe you know that gigantic, high-res entertainment center will transform your weekends. So you swipe your card and the dream item becomes yours. Of course, you’re absolutely thrilled.

That’s until, a few weeks down the line, when you’re staring a huge credit card bill in the face and buyer’s remorse hits hard. You can’t help wondering, then, why you thought this expensive purchase was worth the steep price tag.

Don’t get sucked in again! Before you say “yes” to a large purchase, ask yourself these 7 hard-hitting questions. You just may end up leaving that “dream” product in the store.

Do I have cash to pay for this item?

This is the number-one question to ask when you want to determine if you can really afford a purchase. If you’ve got money socked away in long-term savings, it won’t help much. You need to have it available now.

You might have been trimming your budget just a little bit each month to pay for this item, or maybe you’re using a surprise work bonus. Either way, make sure you have liquid funds that can cover the cost of your item. Putting it on credit means you can’t really afford it, and you’ll be hiking up the price once interest is tacked on. Plus, you’re now going to be reminded of the purchase you may come to regret for a long time to come.

Is this the best price I can get for this item?

When making a large purchase – and what constitutes “large” will vary with individual budgets – it’s important to comparison-shop before plunking down your money. Check several online listings and hit some brick-and-mortar shops to find the lowest selling price. Visit CouponCabin.com, RetailMeNot.com and similar sites to look for available coupons and discounts. Spend some time researching the best season for purchasing that particular item so you’re not buying it just weeks before it goes on sale. Finally, consider buying your item previously owned for steep savings.

Don’t spend any more money than you absolutely must.

How many hours of work will you need to do to pay for this purchase?

Nutritionists famously warn their clients that the calories in a single donut will take a 45-minute workout to burn off. This exercise helps dieters decide if that small indulgence is really worth the price.

Adapting a similar approach to your finances will help you make the best choices. Calculate the total amount of hours you’ll need to work to pay for this “must-have” item. Then ask if it is really worth the price.

How else can I spend this money?

Think about the money you’re about to spend on this item. What else can that money buy? Can it pay for a few weeks of groceries? Would it go further on vacation, where it can fund a priceless trip filled with memories that will last your lifetime? It might even be enough to sponsor your child’s wardrobe for the season!

Take some time to think of other ways you can spend this money before making your final decision.

Have you splurged on any other large purchases recently?

If you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with an occasional pricey indulgence, even if you don’t absolutely need it. But when luxury purchases become a habit, it can spell disaster for your finances. Your standard of living will rise to match your choices and you might soon find yourself spending enough to go into long-term debt.

When was the last time you bought something this expensive? If you’ve been super-careful with your spending for awhile, and you can afford this purchase, go ahead and enjoy! But, if you picked up a designer handbag just last week, you might want to wait a bit before buying the one that’s caught your eye today.

How often will I use this item?

Yes, the item seems absolutely essential today, but looking forward, how often do you think you’ll really use it? If you can see yourself growing tired of it quickly, or only using this purchase several times a year, you might want to re-think your decision.

How much will this money be worth if I put it into savings?

Even if you do have funds put aside for this purchase, you might find that you don’t want it that badly once you calculate how much this money can earn you over time. Check out this investment calculator to get that magic number. The results might leave you pleasantly surprised.

Here at Destinations Credit Union, we have several types of long-term savings accounts that can really help your money grow. Give us a call or stop by, and we’ll help you choose one that’s perfect for you!

Your Turn: What’s your number one question before making a large purchase? Share it with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.frugalrules.com/questions-to-ask-before-a-large-purchase/

https://www.makingsenseofcents.com/2016/08/what-to-do-before-a-large-purchase.html
https://www.thebalance.com/before-you-make-large-purchases-2385817|
https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/sc/things-to-consider-before-major-purchase-2016-10

Saving as a Family

By Sarah M. Ellis, UF/IFAS Extension Citrus CountyFamily sitting in front of house

When you have a family, it seems like there is never enough money to go around and saving money frequently gets pushed aside. However, saving money can help stabilize your family’s financial life.

Saving is putting money aside for future use and requires discipline and, at times, denial. Therefore, it’s important to discuss the importance of saving with the whole family. Generally, people save with a goal in mind. Do you have an emergency fund? Do you need a new car? Would you like to take a family vacation?

If you do not have an emergency fund, establishing one should be your first goal. Life happens and you never know when a family member or pet might get sick or have an accident. Having money set aside in case of an emergency helps you avoid building debt if a crisis occurs.

How much money should be in your emergency fund depends on your family size, income, spending habits, and job security. It is recommended, if possible, to have three months of income in your emergency fund. Saving three months of income might seem impossible, but how much you save is less important than how often you save. Small, but consistent, savings add up over a period of time.

Once you have your emergency fund established you can start saving for other needs or wants!

For saving tips visit America Saves’ 54 Ways to Save Money.

Saving as a Family

By Elizabeth Kiss, Ph.D.; Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Kansas State University/Kansas Saves

Sometimes when children hear their parents or other adults in their lives talking about cutting spending or saving money, they assume that the family is going through a rough patch. As appropriate based on children’s ages, family conversations about money goals, including saving and spending plans, reassure children. It is also a great way to introduce (or remind) children about the reasons we save.

Talking about family saving goals helps children understand that putting money aside for the future – whether to be prepared for unexpected expenses, for short-term goals such as summer vacation, or for longer term goals such as paying for college – is important to you. They will also likely be interested in knowing how they can help. They may even want to set their own savings goals and be motivated to work toward achieving them!

Get Your Family Involved

Get your family involved with your saving plan by brainstorming ways to cut expenses in order to free up money to put toward your saving goals. Explore low- and no-cost activities you can do together as a family. Consider selling rarely used books, toys, clothes and other items in a garage sale or other marketplace.

Involve children by:

  • Encouraging them to be aware of their energy and water use by turning off lights and electronics when not needed and by turning off the water when brushing teeth and taking showers
  • Thinking about things that the family regularly spends money on and talking about if the family stills wants or needs the items or if they can select cheaper alternative or perhaps do without them
  • Teaching them to comparison shop and choose generics or use coupons when it makes sense
  • Challenging them to suggest ways to enjoy time together as a family for less. Not sure where to start? Check out these suggestions

Including children in trips to your financial institution (or an ATM) to deposit or transfer money into a saving account helps them to visualize the process. Consider posting a running total of the dollar amount of deposits and the progress made toward a family saving goal on the refrigerator or a bulletin board.

Encouraging Children to Save

Saving money is a habit that is developed over time. In addition to letting children know that you save, help them begin to develop their own saving habit. Money as You Grow, a framework that links money-related activities to children’s developmental stages, is a great resource for conversation starters and activities for children of all ages at consumerfinance.gov.

Make Your Tax Refund Work for You!

By Justin Chu, Program Associate, Taxpayer Opportunity Network

Piggy bank on tax form

Filling income tax form with pen, calculator and piggy bank

Every year, the middle of April marks the end of the federal tax return filing season. For many Americans, that can mean seemingly endless forms, paystubs, and other paperwork. However, tax time can also be a unique opportunity for saving for your future! You can maximize tax time in three easy ways and have your tax refund work for you.

1. Put your refund into a saving account
For people claiming some of the unique tax credits that benefit hardworking families around the country such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, their tax refund may be the largest sum of money they will see the entire year. By opening a savings account, you can deposit a portion or all of your refund and let the amount grow over time. Luckily, you can do this using the IRS Form 8888, which will divide your refund over multiple accounts.

2. Put your refund into a savings bond
As a part of the Form 8888, you are now able to easily and seamlessly purchase Series 1 US Savings Bonds as you prepare your tax return! These 30-year bonds are backed by the United States government and they will pay you interest yearly. Bonds are a great, low-risk option to grow your savings while receiving a little bit of money each year.

3. Get your taxes prepared for free
If you make less than $53,000 a year, you can your taxes prepared at no-cost by IRS-certified volunteers in your local community! The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program has served millions of Americans for more than 45 years. If you qualify, you can find your local VITA program using this tool; at these VITA sites, you can find expert information to help demystify the tax code and to prepare your taxes.

These three steps are only a small sample of how you can leverage this annual process! Tax time can be confusing but you can maximize your tax return to build for a more sustainable future. Don’t delay and be sure to start your own saving story today!

Is It Always Best to Pay Off Credit Cards Before Saving for Retirement?

By Janet Alvarez

image of credit card

Close-up of a credit card

Conventional wisdom says you should pay off your credit cards before saving for retirement. While it’s generally true you should pay off high-interest credit card debt as quickly as possible, there are a few situations where retirement savings should come first. Let’s look at the benefits of each approach.

Benefits of Paying Off Credit Cards First

Credit cards usually mean high-interest debt, and the longer you take to clear it, the more you’ll pay in interest. Here are some key reasons why you should pay off credit cards first:

  • High-interest credit card debt can be hard to make a dent in. If you’re not making more than the minimum payment on your credit card, compounding interest means your balance will barely budge. Even if you never use the card again, you will end up making payments for a long time.
  • If you’ve got credit card debt, your finances might be strained. High credit card debt is usually an indicator that you’re living above your means. You should get your spending and budget under control before investing in retirement.
  • High-interest debt rates are usually higher than market returns. If your credit cards carry a 25 percent interest rate, but a retirement fund is likely to only earn about 8 percent per year in the market, that’s a whopping difference of 17 percent that you’d be missing out on by saving for retirement instead of paying down credit cards.

Benefits of Saving for Retirement While Paying Off Cards

Still, saving for retirement is critical, and there are several reasons why you might wish to do so even if it takes you longer to pay down high-interest cards. Among these are:

  • 401(k)s and other retirement vehicles carry tax benefits. You can contribute to 401(k)s and certain other retirement plans using pre-tax dollars, thereby reducing your adjusted gross income and overall tax burden. This frees up extra cash for other purposes, such as credit card debt repayment.
  • The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. Delaying retirement savings means missing out on months or years of compound interest. The longer you wait, the more likely you’ll end up pinching pennies in your 50s as you try to catch up on retirement savings. Compounding interest allows even people who never make big salaries to end up with comfortable nest eggs—but only if they start saving early.
  • Saving for retirement builds good financial habits. Socking money away for retirement is not only essential to your financial future, but it also helps you develop better money habits today. In doing so, you’ll learn how to budget better and address the sources of your debt. Plus, retirement accounts are usually difficult to raid (they often carry fees and penalties for early withdrawal). These extra hurdles discourage you from accessing this cash until you actually need it for retirement.

Special Situations May Help You Decide

Deciding whether to pay off credit cards or save for retirement first is a complex, personal issue. However, there are some special circumstances that suggest a clear direction:

  • Your employer offers a 401(k) match. A retirement savings match is free money. Even if you have high-interest credit cards, save at least the minimum required to get your full employer match, or you’re leaving money on the table.
  • Your credit cards have low interest rates. If you’re able to carry or transfer your credit card debt on low or zero percent APR cards, then it makes sense to save for retirement while paying these off, since your low interest rates mean debt won’t snowball quickly—assuming you’re not making new purchases that add to existing debt. (See: When to Do a Balance Transfer to Pay Off Credit Card Debt).
  • You’re age 50 or older. If you’re 50 or older, savings are critical because you’re that much closer to retirement, and have less time to save or allow money to compound. Plus, savers 50 or older are allowed extra catch-up contributions to their retirement plans.
  • You’re buying a house or applying for credit. If you’re applying for a mortgage or other forms of credit in the foreseeable future, you’ll want your credit card balances low, and your credit score as high as possible.

Paying off credit card debt and saving for retirement are both important financial goals. Often, they can even be achieved simultaneously. Regardless of which one you pick, commit today to setting aside extra cash each month to achieve your financial goal.

Janet Alvarez is the news anchor for WHYY/NPR and the Executive Editor of Wise Bread, an award-winning consumer education publication focused on helping consumers make smarter credit choices.

Why & How to Plan Ahead for Health Care Expenses

Health care is something that most Americans overlook when budgeting. Medical debt child with nursecan get out of control if you don’t have health insurance or you don’t plan ahead for unexpected health care expenses.

But how do you plan ahead for health care expenses?

Here are a few tips that can help you start the planning process:

  1. Research health insurance plans and medical costs. To plan ahead for your health care expenses, you will need to understand what type of health insurance plan you have and the medical costs that you may incur in the upcoming year.
    • Determine how much to save based on your deductible, co-payments/co-insurance and/or out-of-pocket maximums. You can contact your health insurance provider to find out the amount of your deductible.
    • Estimate how much to save based on any medical bills you received in the previous year.
    • Calculate how much to save based on any prescriptions you had to pay for in the previous year.
    • Attend workshops and seminars presented by your employer or health insurance organization to get a better understanding of how to get the most out of your health insurance plan (and spend the least amount of money out of your own pocket).

Everyone’s situation will be different. Use what you think will be best for you to determine how to save money on your health care costs.

  1. Start the planning and budgeting process. A best practice is to use a budgeting tool to outline all of your monthly expenses, including any estimated health care costs. A visual map of your financial plan will give you something to follow to ensure you are meeting your savings targets every month.
  2. Consider Opening a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA). These enable you to save for health care expenses in advance (on a pre-tax basis). Not only are the funds untaxed, they can also be used to cover the cost of co-payments, co-insurance, out-of-pocket maximums, and prescriptions.

The Bottom Line: You’ll Save Money in the Long Run

Ultimately, planning ahead for health care expenses is like planning ahead for retirement. With retirement, you plan ahead to cover all of your bills in the future. The same concept applies for health care expenses. The money you save will enable you to cover the costs of any medical expenses you incur in the future.

Courtesy of Accel Members Financial Counseling, Destinations Credit Union’s partner to provide its members free unlimited financial counseling.