Word of the Month: Savings Account

father and daughter counting change

Kyle’s friend Ashley was always buying new things with her own money.  Today, she’d come to school with a brand-new glittery case for her laptop.

“How’d you pay for that?” Kyle wondered out loud. “You must get a really big allowance each week!”

“Not really,” Ashley said. “My parents give me just $6 each Sunday.

“Six bucks? That’s all?” Kyle’s parents gave him $8 each week. “But that costs a ton of money! How did you pay for it?”

Ashley smiled. “I saved up for it. I put away a little bit of my allowance each week in a special place. I also saved up my birthday cash and the money I earned helping my aunt out during the summer. It all adds up!”

Kyle was interested. His allowance never lasted more than a few days but he really wanted to buy a new Wii game. His mom had told him he’d have to pay for it himself.

The next Sunday, when Kyle’s mom gave him his allowance, he carefully put all eight dollars in his sock drawer. He’d have that Wii game in no time!

On Monday afternoon, Kyle’s friends decided to make a Slurpee stop on the way home. Kyle followed the group into the 7-11 store and started reaching for an extra-large cup when he stopped. His spending money was at home in his sock drawer. He wasn’t wasting his allowance on Slurpees!

He hung back and watched his friends fill up their cups with icy treats. He was surprised to see Ashley joining the line at the register with her own small Slurpee. Didn’t she know there were more important things to spend money on than a slushy drink?

***
That afternoon, he went with his mother on a trip to Mutual Credit Union.

“What’s that?” he asked his mom as she slid a small pile of checks across the counter to the Teller.

“This is some extra money I earned this month from a side job,” Mom answered. “I’m going to put them into our Savings Account.”

She held up another check. “And this,” she said. “Is going to go into our Checking Account.”

“But why don’t you put all of the money into savings?” Kyle wondered.

“Because we need money to live on now,” Kyle’s mom explained. “Savings Accounts are for money we will probably need sometime in the future, but we need to keep some money for today.”

Kyle nodded. That made sense.

On Saturday, Kyle and his friends met up at the pizza store for lunch.

After they finished eating, Kyle’s friends started digging out quarters and dollar bills and heading towards the arcade games at the back of the store.

Kyle stayed in his seat, watching them. His mom had given him enough money for pizza, a can of soda, and fries, but none for extras like arcade games.

“Hey, Kyle!” Ashley called from behind him. She jangled a small pile of quarters in her palm. “Want to race me in the car game?”

Kyle looked at her. “I don’t have any money on me.  I’m saving it all up for something really big.”

Ashley shrugged. “So am I. But that doesn’t mean I can’t keep anything for now. If you put all your money into savings, it can get really hard and you might give up quickly.”

“So how do you do it?” Kyle asked.

“I put 2 or 3 dollars into my savings jar each week, and the rest I spend on stuff like Slurpees and ice cream.”

“That sounds easy,” Kyle said.

“It is!” Ashley grinned. “Come on, I’ll lend you some money. Are you going to race me or not?”

“Nope,” Kyle smiled. “I’m not going to race you. I’m going to win!”

Talking Points:

Why do you think Ashley bought a small Slurpee?
• Why is it important not to put all of your money into savings?
• Why does Kyle’s mom put most of her earnings into her Checking Account?

9 Ways For Kids To Make Money

Lemonade stand

The best way to teach a child financial responsibility is by encouraging her to earn and manage her own money. As the weather warms and summer nears, there are many ways for your kids to pull in extra cash. 

In honor of Youth Savings Month, let’s take a look at 9 easy ways your kids can earn money.  

1. A lemonade stand 

It may be old-fashioned, but kids can bring in good money by selling America’s favorite hot-weather drink. For optimal exposure, let them set up near a local yard sale or another neighborhood event. 

2. Help a senior 

Your pre-teen can be a huge help to a local senior while earning money on the side. Let your child run some errands, take out the trash, clean the litter box or just chat with a lonely senior. 

3. Hold a yard sale 

Spring-cleaning season is the perfect time to host a yard sale. Let your kids be in charge by having them choose the items to feature, set prices and run it. You’ll want to be available to oversee things, but let them make most decisions on their own. 

4. Do yard work 

If your children are old enough to handle a gas-powered mower and can be relied upon to trim shrubs and weed gardens, let them offer yard work as a service. 

5. Help with pets 

Let your kids walk dogs around the neighborhood and offer to pet-sit. If your child is truly a budding entrepreneur and has the skills, they can set up a pet-grooming station out in the yard. 

6. Be junior tech-support 

Generation Z kids are practically born holding smartphones. Let your kids use those skills to help older folks who may not be as tech-savvy. They can offer to organize digital photos, assist with data entry or help set up a Facebook page. 

7. Help a mom 

Your child may be too young to babysit alone, but he can offer services in assisting a neighborhood mom while she’s at home. 

8. Collect recyclables 

Help your child gather empty bottles, cans, cardboard boxes and newspapers to bring to a recycling plant. You’ll be keeping the planet green and helping your child earn pocket money at the same time. 

9. Wash cars 

Let your child try out her car-washing skills on the family car. Once she’s got the technique down, have her offer car washing services to the neighborhood. Your neighbors will cross another weekend chore off their list and your child will be learning that hard work can pay off. 

Your Turn: How do your kids earn money? Tell us about it in the comments.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.moneytalksnews.com/10-ways-for-preteens-make-money-this-summer/

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-can-kids-make-money-2085398

https://selfsufficientkids.com/how-to-earn-money-as-a-kid-elementary-age/

5 Ways To Spring Clean Your Finances

5-Ways-to-Spring-Clean-Your-Finances-studying your PC

Q: Spring is here! I’ve cleaned out my house and now I’m ready to take on my finances. I’d love to give them a thorough cleaning, too. Where do I start? 

A: It’s wonderful that you’ve decided to clean up your finances. Springtime is months after the holiday squeeze and still a while away from the pricey summer season, making it a prime time for whipping your finances into shape. 

So, let’s get cleaning! 

1. Dust Off Your New Year’s Resolutions 

We get it: New Year’s resolutions get stale as soon as the calendar hits February. But this was the year you were really fired up and ready to conquer the world. Why sell yourself short when your goals are actually within reach? 

Use the fresh energy and renewal of spring to revisit the list of resolutions you penned back at the end of 2018. What were your budgeting goals? What were your savings dreams? Have you achieved any of those goals? If not, what’s holding you back? 

Take stock of where you are financially and get back on track, moving forward and toward those goals. It’s not too late to make it happen this year! 

Do it today: Dig out that paper with your New Year’s resolutions and go through your financial goals one at a time. Did you overreach? Were you irresponsible? Tweak and adjust as necessary, create a new tracking system if the existing one isn’t working, and then get out there and own those goals! 

2. Sweep Out Your Monthly Budget 

Now that you’ve taken stock of your resolutions, take a good look at your monthly budget. 

Review your spending habits of the last few months. What are your weak spots? Where can you cut back? Have you been allotting too much money for one category and not enough for another? It’s time to take stock! 

Do it today: Review your monthly budget and choose one area to trim. Create concrete and realistic steps to make that happen. For instance, try the money envelope system to keep you on track, or stick to cash-only so you don’t slip up. Your budget will thank you! 

3. Freshen Up Your W-4 

You might be celebrating a generous tax return this year, but that only means the government has been handling some of your money all year long instead of it earning more for you. It’s almost like giving the government an interest-free loan! You could have used those funds to start investing, add to an existing emergency fund, launch a business or to save for your dream summer getaway. 

Take a closer look at your W-4 so you don’t overpay in taxes again this year. 

Do it today: Spend some time researching your best withholding options or ask your accountant to help you work out the numbers. Adjust your W-4 accordingly and submit it to the payroll specialists at your workplace. 

4. Pile Up Your Savings 

Once you’re cutting down on your spending habits and taking home a larger check each payday, why not use the extra money to bump up your savings? You can add to an existing fund, build a new one, open a Savings Certificate or start investing. You have many great options! 

Speak to a Mutual Credit Union representative today to find out about our fantastic savings options. 

Do it today: After choosing a savings option, stop by any Mutual Credit Union branch to set up a direct deposit. Each month, your money will be automatically transferred from your checking account to your new account. It’s the ultimate in set-it-and-forget-it! 

5. Toss Your Debt 

This spring, while you try on old, scratchy sweaters and make piles of junk to toss in the trash or sell for cash, why not get rid of your debt, too? 

Debt is ugly on you. It holds you back from moving forward, keeps you in a spending trap that only gets stronger with time and clings to you like caked-on mud. Wash it all off this spring with an actionable plan to get rid of that debt for good! 

Do it today: We know that paying down debt is easier said than done. But, you can do it! All you need is a plan. Review your debts and pick one to pay off first. It can be the debt with the smallest amount of total owed or the one with the steepest interest rate. Find a way to double down on your payments toward that debt. You can do it by taking on a side hustle, seeking a promotion at work or trimming existing expenses. After you’ve paid down this debt, move onto the next one. Accelerate its payoff by applying the total payment amount from your first debt to the new one – in addition to the regular payment you were making on it. Keep going until they’re all gone. It might take until next spring, but eventually, you’ll kick all of your debt to the curb! 

Spring is here—it’s time to freshen up your finances so they’ll be in tip-top shape for summer! 

Your Turn: How do you clean out your finances in the spring? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.thebalance.com/spring-clean-your-finances-2385567

https://www.moneytalksnews.com/13-tips-for-spring-cleaning-your-finances/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T065-C032-S014-3-ways-to-spring-clean-your-finances.html

 

 

 

 

9 Steps to Buying Your First Car

CC_July_GettyImages-183212513-768x576

Congrats—you’re ready to purchase your first real car! 

The process can be daunting, but our certified financial counselors and loan officers here at Mutual Credit Union will walk you through it. Follow our guidelines for a stress-free ride! 

1. Determine if you really need a car 

OK, you weren’t expecting this, but it’s important to take a step back to review your actual transportation needs. Lots of college towns have a great bus system in place, which can save you loads on car costs. If you have a car-owning good friend you’ll be riding into town with each weekend, it may not pay for you to have your own set of wheels. Also, if your campus has everything you need within walking distance, it can be cheaper to rent a car when you need it instead of buying one now. 

2. Know your budget

If you’ve determined that a car purchase is necessary at this point in your life, don’t start hunting for your dream car until you’ve worked out a realistic budget. Take a hard look at your other monthly expenses to see how much you can spare for a new set of wheels. Don’t forget to include some cash for auto insurance, gas and maintenance. 

3. Create a tentative wish list 

This is your first car, so it doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles it does in your dreams. Sit down and make a list of all the “must haves” and “wants” you’re looking for in a vehicle. Determine how much each feature would cost you in a car and decide which are really important. 

4. Obtain financing 

If you’ve been saving up cash for your first car all through high school, you’re set! Otherwise, visit any Mutual Branch location or visit our web-page at  mutualcu.org to learn about your auto loan options and to get your pre-approval. 

5. Research your options 

You’re ready to start looking for a vehicle that will satisfy your needs and wants. You can research ratings and user reviews on sites like Cars.com and create another list that contains your top three choices of car makes and models. 

6.    Look up listings 

Start scavenging for listings of your car choices online and in your neighborhood. Once you’ve found several that might work, research their histories on Carfax.com and then contact the seller to set up a test drive. 

7.    Take it for a spin 

If a car checks out and everything looks good, you’re going to want to take it for a test drive. Pay attention to details like legroom, acceleration, brake functionality and more while you drive. 

8. Have it inspected 

If you’re purchasing a used vehicle, it’s best to have it inspected by a mechanic before signing on the deal. 

9. Make it official 

If your car has passed the test drive and inspection, you’re ready to make it official! Be sure to read all documents before signing and obtain insurance before your first joyride. 

Enjoy your new set of wheels and drive safely! 

Your Turn: Have you recently purchased your first set of wheels? Share your tips with us in the comments!

 

SOURCES:

https://www.carbuyingtips.com/first-time-buyer.htm

https://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/10-steps-to-buying-a-used-car.html

https://www.carbuyingtips.com/used.htm 

Spring Cleaning Hacks

spring cleaning.jpg

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming—and your cluttered closets are calling. Time to roll up your sleeves and whip your home into shape. And yes, this means you! It’s been a long winter and you’ve let the clutter grow, all over your garage, across your basement and up into your attic crawl space. And your bedroom closets? We’re not even going there. 

As always, Mutual Credit Union is here to help! Use this handy list of creative cleaning hacks to banish those dust bunnies without spending a fortune on organizers and cleaning solutions. Plus, you’ll be doing your part to help keep the planet green by skipping over those toxic cleansers this year. 

Let’s get cleaning! 

Schedule smart 

Before you get started, create a master list of every part of your home that you plan on attacking. It’s best to make this an old-fashioned physical list so you can post it somewhere you’ll see often—like the door of your fridge. 

Once you have every area listed, divide the chores according to the amount of time you estimate it will take to clean them. Make smaller sub-lists of 3-hour jobs, 1-hour jobs and 15-minute jobs. This way, when you have large chunks of time, you can find a larger job to do at a glance. And when you have smaller pockets of time, like those 10 minutes in the kitchen when you’re waiting for the water to boil, you can quickly tackle a smaller job, like straightening out the catch-all drawer in your kitchen. 

Once you’ve got it all written out, it’s time to roll up those sleeves and get to work! 

DIY cleansers 

Why blow your budget on pricey, toxic cleansers when you can make your own for so much less at home? Try these DIY solutions and hacks for all those hard-to-clean places around your home: 

  • Use a lemon for cleaning stainless steel sinks and faucets.
    Slice a lemon in half, and rub the fruit against hard water stains and rust spots in your kitchen and bathroom. You can also sprinkle on some baking soda for the really stubborn marks. The stains should now lift easily. Plus, instead of chemical fumes that make you gag, you’ll leave behind that springy, lemony scent.
  • Steam-clean your microwave.
    Is your microwave plastered with hardened food stains? It’s time to make your appliance shine! Grab a microwave-safe bowl, fill it with 1-2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, plus a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Nuke it for five minutes and then wipe those stains right off!
  • Wash your windows with 1 teaspoon of mild dishwashing soap added to several gallons of water.
    Pour your homemade solution into an empty spray bottle and use old newspapers to wipe away the grime. Leave this job for a rainy day—literally. Sunshine can make your windows dry too quickly and leave unsightly streaks behind.
  • Use coffee filters for your monitors and screens.
    Get rid of those fingerprints and itty-bitty dust mites on your computer monitors and TV screens. Let the gentle fibers in coffee filters leave your screens squeaky-clean!
  • Clean your shower heads with white vinegar.
    Fill a sandwich bag with white vinegar, and then use a rubber band to secure it around your showerhead. Let it soak overnight. The water stains and calcium buildup should wash right off in the morning.

Tips and tricks 

Cleaning is easy with these helpful hacks! 

  • Use a lint roller to dust.
    Instead of sticking brushes and feather dusters into every little corner and cranny in your home, use a lint roller. Run the roller over your light fixtures, mantels and shelves. It’ll pick up all those tiny dust mites and leave you with clean surfaces in just minutes! For corners that are super-dirty, use a strip of duct tape for stronger pickup power.
  • Use your dishwasher for more than just dishes.
    Stop scrubbing those teeny-tiny pieces of Lego and load up your dishwasher instead. You can also throw in your hair brushes, pet dishes, refrigerator shelves, soap dishes, tweezers and drawer knobs. When the cycle is through, it’s best to clean your dishwasher by placing a cup of white vinegar on the top shelf and running it through its hottest cycle.
  • Use a window squeegee to scrape pet hair off your carpet.
    The rubber edge of the squeegee is perfect for gripping and removing pet hair from your rugs and carpet.
  • Use a hair dryer to get rid of water rings.
    Is someone forgetting to use coasters? Let your coffee table look beautiful again by blasting a hair dryer over the water rings until they start to fade and disappear. You can also rub olive oil over the area to return the wood to its original shine.

Let’s get organized! 

Banish the clutter for good with these tips. 

  • Create a space for clutter.
    When you’re deep in the throes of spring cleaning, you’re convinced your home will never see clutter again. But all it takes is one art project, a stack of unread mail and one lone toy truck to give your home that cluttered look again. Be proactive and create a place for every bit of clutter that passes through your door. You can pick up perfectly functional organizers and storage bins at the dollar store. Consider investing in a storage ottoman for favorite toys and hanging a shoe organizer in your foyer closet for unsorted mail, keys and gloves.
  • Use Velcro to keep drawer organizers in place.
    Those adorable organizers are no use if they’re slipping and sliding all over your drawers. Fasten strips of Velcro to the bottom of your organizers to keep them in place.

Happy cleaning from all of us here at Mutual Credit Union! 

Your Turn: What’s your favorite spring cleaning hack? Share it with us in the comments!

 

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/capitalone/2018/02/21/spring-cleaning-tips-for-saving-time-and-money/amp/

https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/2017-03-23/5-ways-to-make-and-save-money-with-spring-cleaning

http://mentalfloss.com/article/62170/15-brilliant-life-hacks-speed-your-spring-cleaning

https://www.google.com/search?q=spring+cleaning+hacks&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS753US753&oq=spring+cleaning+hacks&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l3.8546j0j7&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8

DOLLAR STORES: ARE THEY WORTH THE PRICE?

woman shopping

Q: I love browsing my local dollar store, but I often end up spending more than I planned or regretting my purchases. Are dollar stores worth the price?

A: Dollar stores can be tremendous spending traps, but they can also  be a great way to snag a bargain. It’s all in how you plan your visit.

Read on to learn how to get the best deal at the dollar store.

Before you start browsing

Everything is just a buck, you say. How can you possibly go wrong?

Unfortunately, with that mindset, you might find yourself going way overboard with your spending. Before you set out for the dollar store, create a physical or mental list of what you need to purchase.

Love to throw just-for-fun products into your cart? The dollar store is a great place to do that, so exercise caution. You don’t want to blow tens of dollars on stuff you don’t really need and might never use. Establish a limit of how many of those items you can pick up on your trip before you set out. If you always find yourself pushing your self-imposed limit, only shop with cash so you’re forced to stick to your budget.

What’s hot at the dollar store …

Here are some products that are great bargains at the dollar store:

  • Cleaning supplies: Get clean for less by stocking up on Ajax, bleach, glass cleaner, scouring pads, spray bottles, off-brand Swiffer refills, sponges, dryer sheets and ammonia.
  • Seasonal: Visit the dollar store before hitting chain stores for your holiday decorations. Halloween décorcheap gift boxes and wrapping paper can all be had at the dollar store.
  • Toys: Load up on bubbles, sidewalk chalk, balls, card games and kites.
  • Groceries: Get your frozen fruit and veggies, string cheese, spices, name-brand condiments, rice, oatmeal and snack foods at the dollar store.
  • Kitchenware: Stock up on bargain-priced storage bins and containers, whimsical kitchen décor and glasses. Paper plates, cups and napkins can also be bought at super low prices.
  • Party gear: Greeting cards, wrapping paper, balloons, ribbons, streamers, birthday candles, party decorations and gift bags can all be bought for, you guessed it, a dollar each.
  • School/office supplies: You won’t be able to find every item on your school supply list that’s actually worth the price, but you can load up on project display boards, tab dividers, binder clips and poster boards at the dollar store.
  • Kids’ activities: The dollar store is a great place to stock up on rainy-day supplies for the kids. You’ll find some great books, puzzles, craft supplies, colored papers, stickers, activity books, coloring books and more.

… And what’s not

Not everything you’ll find in the dollar store is worth as much as a dollar. Plus, there are lots of things you can get elsewhere for a better price.

  • Cleaning supplies: The following cleaning supplies at the dollar store are either made too cheaply to be worth the price or can be bought for less in other stores: dish-washing soap, tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, garbage bags, laundry detergent.
  • Toys: Small toys for young children that aren’t made well can quickly become choking hazards. Also, dollar-store dolls and toy cars are likely to break the day you bring them home.
  • Groceries: These foods can be bought for cheaper in a grocery store: pasta, soda, gum, canned goods, chocolate.
  • Kitchenware: Plastic cutlery from the dollar store is too cheaply made to be worth the few cents you’ll save. Ditto for disposable baking dishes. You’ll also want to stay away from can openers, knives and oven mitts, as these items need to be well made to do their jobs.
  • School/office supplies: The following supplies can be bought for less money and of better quality in stores like Walmart and Target: lined paper, composition notebooks, glue, crayons, markers, Post-its, pens, pencils and highlighters.  
  • Self-care: Cheaply made soap, shampoo and cosmetics can be harmful to your skin. Don’t buy name-brand travel-size toiletries either; you can usually get tiny shampoo and soap bottles for less than a buck at big-box stores.

When it’s not a bargain

When making a purchase at the dollar store, hold it up to this checklist. If your item fits any of these criteria, you’re better off without it:

  1. It’s sold in tiny quantities. Often, what looks like a bargain is just a product in a really small package. Check the size on food items and cleaning products; you can often get more for less money when you buy a product in a bigger size at a larger store.
  2. It’s made with harmful toxins. Check all health and beauty products for toxic and carcinogenic ingredients.
  3. You don’t need it. A dollar spent on something you don’t need is a dollar wasted.
  4. It’s made super-cheaply. If it’s going to break during the first day of use, or even the first hours, leave it in the store.
  5. It isn’t food-safe. Check all products that will come into contact with food, like serving platters or dishes, for a label that proclaims them food-safe.
  6. It’s expired. Be careful to check the “Sell by” date on candy and other foodstuffs so you’re not paying for expired products.

Learn how to shop smart at the dollar store and you’ll go home with true bargains!

Your Turn: What are your favorite dollar store picks? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/dollar-store-dos-and-donts/

https://www.bradsdeals.com/blog/things-you-always-should-buy-at-the-dollar-store

https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/the-real-reason-everything-at-the-dollar-store-is-so-cheap.html/

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

Couple computer finances money

 

In the age of plastic spending and mobile payments, it’s easier than ever to buy stuff you can’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 head. 

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 Mutual 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, Mutual Credit Union can help! Stop by today. We 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/

How I Learned About Saving For Retirement (And You Can Too)

coins and time clock retirement

Confession time: Finances have never been my specialty. As a creative professional, sometimes what I dream up and what happens in the real world need to come together for a little tête-à-tête. Now that we’ve gotten that on the table, you may ask, “So why are you writing about saving for retirement?” Fair question. Here’s why: in my quest to crack the “retirement savings code,” I resolved many previous unknowns (to me) and ultimately rethought my personal approach to saving for retirement.

 

I will also conjecture that there are a lot of people who are similarly lost when it comes to saving for retirement. In fact, the numbers support this hypothesis: according to an Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study“nearly half of families have no retirement savings at all.” With that in mind, here are some of the major questions that I had while digging into how I should be saving for retirement.

 

How much do I really need to have set aside to coast through retirement?

AKA, what is the magic number? A seemingly innocuous question, right? Not exactly. Turns out it depends on who you ask. This is where I learned there are many schools of thought on how to best approach your number. Below summarizes the three different methods I found, but you can learn more about each at 3 Ways to Calculate Your Retirement Number by money.usnews.com.

 

Income Method

This involves multiplying your income by a factor to determine how much you need to retire. There’s a little more to it than just that, and exactly how much you should multiply it by is debatable, but the article does a nice job of breaking down the different variables and assumptions you should account for.

 

Expense Method

This method asks you to analyze your monthly budget to arrive at your retirement number. You’ll need to think through what expenses you anticipate having then, what gets added, and what falls off, which brings up the subject of a mortgage… I’ll get into that a little later. There are, of course, a few other considerations which you can see in more detail here, but that’s the main idea.

 

Savings Method

This method involves setting aside a percentage of your annual salary in retirement accounts. This might be the most prevalent approach I encountered in my research; however, the “right percentage” to set aside can vary from source to source. My takeaway: 15% is a good goal on the conservative end and 20% on the aggressive end. Anything beyond that gets you gold-star status.

 

That’s a lot to digest. I get it. Luckily, I stumbled upon this article by CNBC with features a more digestible timeline of savings goals from Fidelity that follows the Income Method. And visuals are always helpful.

 

How much do I need to save for retirement?

10X

Fidelity Investments suggests you should aim to have 10 times your salary in savings.

Here is how much to set aside by age in order to stay on track for retirement at 67.

how-much-save-retirement-380x839

Keep in mind this is a ballpark diagram. Consult a financial advisor for exact numbers.

Epperson, Sharon. “What’s the Magic Number for Your Retirement Savings?” CNBC. 11 Feb. 2016. Accessed 8 Feb. 2018.

Where all will this money come from?

Here are the key players. Getting a general sense of each will help you understand how they all work together. This video from CNBC Money also does a nice job of explaining the differences.

 

401(k) – A 401(k) is an employer-sponsored type of retirement plan. It allows an employee to dedicate a percentage of their salary to a retirement account. Contributions are tax-free and taxes are paid upon withdrawal. Putting money into your 401(k) can be a great place to start, as many companies offer a match program up to a certain percentage. Ideally, you should strive to at least contribute up to the full match since that is free money for you!  Learn more about 401(k)s here.

 

IRA – An IRA is an Individual Retirement Account that can be opened up by anyone, whether they’re associated with an employer or not. There are two types of IRAs — a traditional and a Roth — which have a few differences, but the main one being the time at which you’re taxed. (Roth contributions are taxed the year you deposit them, traditional IRAs are taxed upon withdrawal.)

 

HSA – An HSA or Health Savings Account offers a way to set aside money for your healthcare expenses while receiving some tax advantages. Another nice thing is if you don’t use it all in a year, you can hang on to it and, in some cases, invest it!

 

Investments (other) – Whether it be in real estate, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or any combination of these and more, this is anywhere you’re setting aside money in the eventual hope of reaping a return on top of your initial deposit.

 

Pension –  Employer-provided retirement income (from companies with pension plans) that requires an employee to work for them a certain number of years. The benefit usually increases with the length of time employed at the company. This often applies to government jobs, like military, police, and fire departments. According to The Balance, “Large corporate employers may also offer pension benefits, but it is not as common as it was thirty years ago.”

 

Social Security – It is hotly debated how much longer we should rely upon this as a source of retirement income. Regardless of its endurance, according to CNN Money, “your Social Security benefits will only replace about 40% of your previous income, which won’t cut it even under the most frugal circumstances.” So the best bet is to think beyond Social Security.

 

Do I count my home equity as income?

You’re right to realize that some of the expenses you have today won’t necessarily be around by retirement age. The amount you’re currently setting aside for retirement is one, ideally your student loans are another, and of course, that brings you to a major investment — your home (assuming it’s paid off).

 

But according to TheBalance, “you’ll also have retirement costs that you don’t carry today, like certain out-of-pocket health and end-of-life care costs. And ideally, you’ll also travel more, enjoy more hobbies, and indulge a bit. As a result, you may want to budget for retirement by assuming you’ll spend roughly the same amount you spend now.” The Huffington Post further supports this outlook in Is Your Home Equity Part of Your Retirement Savings?, saying that “If you don’t plan to sell, then your home equity, while still an important part of your overall net worth, shouldn’t be included in your retirement savings calculation.”

 

Should I focus on paying off debt or saving for retirement?

According to Dave Ramsey, it’s important to start with a firm foundation, and that includes addressing your debt first. In his post on The Truth About Retirement, Mr. Ramsey recommends that:

“You begin investing for retirement after you’ve done two things: you’re debt-free, and you have saved an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses. Three-fourths of the people on Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest people in America say getting and staying debt-free is the most important thing you can do when it comes to handling your money. The full emergency fund ensures you have a cushion in case of an illness or job loss and that your retirement funds stay where they are and keep growing.”

 

When is the best time to start saving for retirement?

The short answer: Now. Or as soon as possible. That’s because there’s also another factor in play that could really work to your advantage — compounding interest — or the interest you can earn on interest. According to Tony Robbins, “by not saving, and by not investing, you are losing out on more money by waiting than you stand to lose by taking a small risk and starting your retirement account.” For a more in-depth breakdown of how compounding interest over time can make a big difference, see Tony Robbins’s article: Create a Money Machine.

 

My final thoughts:

Although I’m no financial guru, I have wised up to a few things over time. First of all: processing your current age never feels any less like an alien/host-type situation; at 7 years old, the coveted teen years felt oh sooo far away, your 20s felt unimaginably grown up (hilarious), and every decade that passes thereafter… more of the same. Second: Seeking the “right time” is futile, because it doesn’t exist.

 

So when you factor in those “constants,” waiting to perfect a master retirement savings plan feels less critical (and daunting) than just getting the ball rolling in the right direction. That’s not to say you should become lax in your research and planning. By all means, get out there and speak to a certified financial advisor (they get paid to do this stuff for a reason). Just try to avoid getting stuck an endless loop of analysis and become your own enemy to progress. That’s not how you’ll make it to that little beach bungalow or another perfect retirement of your dreams.

Source: 

How I Learned About Saving for Retirement (And you can too)

Jaclyn Eickenhorst
Jaclyn Eickenhorst

 

By craft Jaclyn is a copywriter, but she really fashions herself more of an “idea explorateur.” When it comes to working through tasks to arrive at the best solution, she considers herself a purist, aka a compulsive brainstormer. Intervals of staring into space, broken up by a frenetic syncopation of keystrokes — that’s just part of “the process.” No need to call for someone…unless they have cookies. Definitely call then.

3 Questions for Jaclyn:

  1. Favorite hobbies?

    Paying guitar, boxing, finding new ridiculous things to worry about, daydreaming about the next great American novel, and talking to my cat like she’s a human baby (because she is).

  2. What was your very first job?

    A confectionary & culinary artist/customer service liaison within the food and hospitality industry — a.k.a. “counter girl” at Dairy Queen.

  3. Worst financial decision?

    Probably buying a timeshare at the ripe old age of 21. Not only was I gullible enough to attend the spiel, yes, I actually bought into it. Luckily, I read the fine print, found a loophole, and got out within 24 hours! Critical reading skills for the win!

Ultimate Guide to Saving Money at the Grocery Store

Food is one of the biggest expenses after housing, so finding ways to save money at the grocery store can mean the difference between saving and living paycheck-to-paycheck. Here are some of our favorite strategies for saving money at the grocery store.

 

Find the Best Coupons

It used to be that you could only get coupons through your newspaper or mail, and you had to hope that there would be a coupon for something you actually wanted. Thankfully, we don’t live in that world anymore. If you need it, odds are good there is a coupon somewhere online for it. Here are some of our favorite websites to find coupons.

One note about looking for coupons. You might find one and think “What a great deal!” but remember, it’s not a great deal if you didn’t need it in the first place.

 

Shop Items by Unit Price

Looking at item prices isn’t a trick, we all comparison shop, but manufacturers know this and will make packaging that deceives the eye. Heck, we’ve all opened a bag of chips to realize we purchased packaged air.

save money by shopping by unit price at the grocery store

To find the best deals, look at the unit pricing for items. Typically this will be below the price and will show cost-per-ounce. The best deal might be purchasing an item in bulk, so make sure that you know how to properly freeze produce or other goods to make them last.

 

Get Grocery Store Loyalty Cards

Almost every grocery store will offer a loyalty card. These cards will grant you discounts or savings on certain items in order to reward you for being loyal to their brand. The thing is, you aren’t limited to only having one loyalty card. If it is a store that you shop at, get the loyalty card. Keep them all in a drawer somewhere so as to not clutter your wallet and just grab the ones you need before you hit the store.

 

Search for Grocery Store Specials

Grocery stores need to move inventory. If something goes bad or can’t be sold, that hurts their bottom line. In order to help keep merchandise moving, they will run specials. When you are doing we weekly meal planning, check out what specials the store is running and build your menu around them. If you feel like you really can’t use the special this week, ask the cashier for a rain check. This will usually only work when they are out of a given item, but it is always worth a try. You can compound these efforts by finding manufacturer coupons for the item and stack the savings.

 

Don’t Buy Everything at One Grocery Store

Imagine this week you feel like experimenting. You want to make an authentic Indian curry. You might be able to find the ingredient and spices you need at your usual store, but the prices are likely to be pretty high. These items aren’t as popular, so they occupy shelf space for longer and thus need to be sold for more. You’re better off trying to find a specialty store.

 

Avoid These Grocery Store Tricks

save money at the grocery store by looking at the bottom shelf

  • Grocery stores have refined store layouts in order to make it easier to buy the most expensive items and items you don’t need. For example, the most expensive items will always be at eye level, making them the first thing you see. Look at the bottom shelves for the better prices. Stores also put common essential items, like milk and produce, on opposite ends of the store so that you will wander down the aisles. Focus on going directly to what you came for.
  • Going hungry or indulging in samples is a surefire way to end up purchasing things you don’t need. Always eat before you shop, or, if you can’t grab a meal, then carry around a pack of mints. Sucking on a mint while you shop will help kill some of those cravings.
  • Carry the basket. Carts have two tricks that will help you shop. First, they are huge, giving you plenty of room to chuck random items in. Secondly, they are on wheels, so you don’t have the weight to remind you that you’re getting a lot of items. Using a basket will limit both of those and help you to stay focused on your shopping list.
  • Bring your own music. This one sounds like a conspiracy theory, but grocery stores play music with slower tempos to encourage you to stroll leisurely around. Listening to music with a faster tempo will help you speed through.
  • Never shop when you are tired or stressed. We have a limited amount of willpower and we are more prone to caving into temptations when we are tired, stressed, sad, or angry. Spending money you don’t have will only make those emotions worse.
  • Leave the kids at home if you can. Stores position tempting items at child height specifically to trigger the “Mommy, can we get this?” Aside from this being a horrible experience for everyone involved, it also causes you to run the risk of saying “Yes” to something you didn’t plan on.
  • Know thyself. If you’re an impulse shopper, then don’t go to the store. Seriously. If you have a roommate or partner who can go, then send them. Or, if you must, make a shopping list and order the groceries online and arrange for pickup. Searching for the items online will minimize the opportunities to add things you don’t need.
  • Double check the cashier. I’m not suggesting that they are trying to con you on purpose, only that they are humans that sometimes make mistakes. Always look at your receipt and make sure it reflects what you purchased.

 

Buy Produce That Is In Season

When do you think we have more apples, when they are in season or when they are offseason? Easy, right? Obviously, there is a bigger supply of certain products when they are in season. Economics 101 lets us know that when there is an excess supply, prices drop, and when there is a limited supply, prices increase. Buying produce that is in season also guarantees better quality and freshness. It’s an all-around better way to shop and eat.

 

Use Cash Back Apps

There are several cashback apps that will give you money back just for shopping. Wild, right? These apps make their money by earning a small affiliate commission off of the items you buy, showing you ads, or providing your data (like purchasing habits) to companies. Assuming you’re okay with that, then these apps can be a great way to save money at the grocery store.

 

Never Buy These Items At A Grocery Store

There are some items you should just never buy at a grocery store.

  • Toiletries. Drug stores will usually have better deals.
  • Canned beans. Dried beans are cheaper and better tasting. Just soak them in water the night before you want to cook with them.
  • Prepared foods or pre-cut anything. Yes, these things are convenient, but you are paying extra to save yourself how much time?
  • Herbs. Nothing goes bad more quickly than fresh herbs. Make yourself a garden, it’s incredibly easy, your food will taste better, and it will save you money.
  • Milk. Convenience and drug stores, on average, are 30 to 50 cents cheaper.

 

Meal Plan Like A Chef

Chefs have to be master meal planners. If an ingredient doesn’t get used or goes bad, then that is some of their profits wasted. Here are some tips to meal plan like a pro.

    1. Go meatless one night a week. Vegetarians save, on average, $746.46 a year on their grocery bill.
    2. Cook double batches. Buying ingredients in bulk is typically cheaper and then you can freeze a meal for later.
    3. Plan meals with similar ingredients. A couple pounds of turkey can be made into burgers, meatballs, tacos, spaghetti… you get the idea.
    4. Double check your pantry. Sometimes we buy things we already have but have forgotten about. Americans throw away roughly 25% of their groceries every year. That is literally throwing money away.
    5. Look for the deal, then make the meal. Not the other way around.

 

Revise Your Strategies

Now that you have some of the basics down, it is time to tweak these strategies to fit your lifestyle. At the end of the month, look through your grocery store receipts and do the following:

      1. Find the most expensive item on your grocery list and research for a cheaper substitute. This might be another brand, another store, or another ingredient altogether. For example, instead of using pine nuts in pesto, try using almonds.
      2. Look at the items you most commonly buy. For me, that is coffee, bread, and peanut butter. Compare prices at different grocery stores to see who offers the lowest price on your most common items. Saving here will really add up.
      3. Write down the cost of ingredients at the top of the recipes. Add them to a binder of recipes and organize by cheap, moderate, and expensive. Now when you need to find a cheap meal, you will know exactly where to look. Or, if you want to impress, you can go to your fancier recipes.

Do you have a favorite trick to saving money at the grocery store? We’d love to hear it. Leave us a comment or feel free to tweet to us @Kasasa. Happy shopping!

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New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

Please enjoy this FREE E-Book from Mutual Credit Union as a gift to Kick Start your Successful Financial New Year in 2019! This workbook is designed to help you set goals, track them throughout 2019 and make your financial dreams a reality!

Click New Years Resolutions_eBook-interactive for the Downloadable Version. Enjoy!

New Years Resolution Workbook

January Resolutions Step 1

February Resolutions Step 2

March Resolutions Step 3

April Resolutions Step 4

May Workbook

June Workbook

July Workbook

August Workbook

September Workbook

October Workbook

November Workbook

December Workbook

WE Can’t Wait To SAY……………………………..

 

Congratulations on a Job Well Done