5 Ways To Save On Winter Heating Costs

thermostat

 

  1. Heat Selectively – To avoid paying for unused heat in rooms that aren’t regularly used, shut the doors and close the vents in those rooms.
  2. Trap the Sunlight – Open your curtains when you’ve got sunlight exposure, and then close them when the angle of the sun changes. This allows you to trap the solar heat inside your home.
  3. Plug up Holes – Seal up all holes near windows, doors and the chimney to help keep the heat in and the cold out.
  4. Digitize Your Heating System – Use a programmable digital thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature in your home according to your family’s schedule and habits.
  5. Maintain Your Heating System – Check for proper airflow throughout your heating system and clear any blockages that you find.

 

Your Turn: How do you keep warm when the weather’s cold? Ugly sweaters? Visualizing a beach? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

6 Misleading Advertising Ploys To Beware Of This Black Friday

ARTICLE-misleading-advertising

Here at Mutual Credit Union, we hate seeing your money go to waste, so we’ve put together a list of misleading advertising you may encounter when hunting for deals this Black Friday.
1. Very limited quantities
That $200-off supersized TV on the front page of the big-box circular that landed in your mailbox looks like an incredible deal-until you show up at the store on Black Friday and find it’s sold out. Of course, no deal lasts forever, but when a store that’s only been open for the day a few hours, claims it’s run out of an item, you can assume it only stocked a limited quantity.
When checking out the ads for Black Friday, look for an “In-Stock Guarantee” or a “1-hour In-Stock Guarantee.” This will allow you to get a rain check for a sold-out item as long as you show up on Black Friday, or in the case of the 1-hour guarantee, as long as you show up within the first hour of opening.
2. No discount
In this ploy, retailers deceive shoppers into thinking a product is on sale. They’ll list an item in a Black Friday circular so you’ll assume it’s being offered at a discount when it’s actually being sold at regular price. Do a quick check of an item’s standard selling price before running out to buy it on Black Friday.
3. Full price with a store gift card
At first glance, a regular-priced item that comes with a store gift card can seem like a fantastic deal; however, some research might reveal this product is being sold elsewhere on Black Friday for less. Also, if you’re not a regular customer at this store, you may end up blowing that gift card on stuff you don’t need.
4. Sales based on a dishonest manufacturer’s price
When retailers advertise their sales, they’ll often post the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, or MSRP, for customers to compare. However, this value can be theoretical at best and simply dishonest at worst. If the item was never actually sold at the listed MSRP, the number is essentially meaningless.
Avoid getting pulled in by this deceptive advertising ploy by checking out an item’s retail price online.
5. Stripped-down or downgraded versions
When shopping for computers and TVs, read up on every feature offered with the product. A common Black Friday ruse is to advertise a discounted item, which offers the very minimum in features and accessories. These “add-ons” are often essential features whose lack can make the device almost useless until you buy them.
Your Turn: Have you ever been taken in by a misleading ad? Tell us about it in the comments.

Word of the Month: Interest

boat ride with godparents

“Wow, Grandma! This is awesome!” Sean exclaimed as he toured his grandmother’s new boat.

With delight in his eyes, he admired what he was seeing. It was big. And it was beautiful.

Sean and Grandma sat down on the upholstered bench at the back of the boat and watched the passing waves.

“You know, Grandma,” Sean said after a while, “this must have cost a whole lot of money.”

Grandma laughed. “Well, yes and no,” she said.

“What does that mean?” asked Sean.

“Well, it did cost a lot of money, but because I saved up for it over time it wasn’t so hard. It was just a little bit at a time.”

Sean thought about this. It still sounded tough to save up so much money.

“Plus,” Grandma went on, “my saved money also earned interest, so it took even less time than I expected.”

“Interest?” asked Sean. “What’s interest?”

“Interest,” Grandma said, “which is actually referred to as ‘dividends’ by the credit union, is money that my savings earns while it’s in the account. It’s what helps my savings grow without any extra work on my part.”

“The money earns? For doing what?”

“For doing nothing!” Grandma laughed. “My credit union uses my money to loan money to my fellow members of the credit union so they can buy cars, homes and cover expenses for many other needs. Then, the credit union pays me some of those earnings since the money in my account allowed them to do that. It’s sort of a reward for saving money. You get it?”

“I’m not sure,” Sean said slowly. “Would this work for me, too? How much money do I need to save in order to earn interest?”

“Not a lot at all,” said Grandma. She sat quietly, looking out into the ocean. “I’ll tell you what,” she said after a minute. “How about I teach you about savings and interest by acting like your credit union?”

“What do you mean?” Sean asked.

“I’ll give you an extra dollar for every $10 you save over the next six months,” said Grandma. “That’s a great interest rate-10 percent! Do we have a deal?”

Sean smiled. This sounded cool. “Deal!” he said.

He was excited for the challenge. How much would he be able to save?

***

At first, saving some of his allowance money was easy for Sean. He put away a little at a time, a dollar here, two dollars there. It was just like Grandma had said she had done when saving up for her boat. This way, it wasn’t too hard for Sean to reach his first $10, and then his second and third. Soon, Sean had $40 saved up in a little glass jar at the edge of his desk.

But then came Sean’s birthday. His parents threw him an awesome Star Wars-themed party and all his friends and relatives came to celebrate along with him. His friends gave him presents, but most of his relatives gave him cash gifts.

When the party was over and everyone had gone home, Sean counted up his birthday money. He had gotten $250 in cash! Sean had never had so much of his own money in his life. He was thrilled! Now he’d be able to buy a few new Wii games, a new football and all the pizza he wanted. This was the best birthday ever!

But then Sean saw the little glass jar on the edge of his desk and the pile of money inside. He remembered Grandma’s boat and all she’d said about earning interest. He had $290 saved up already. With Grandma’s interest, that would be $329! And he would be making all of that money, just for holding onto his birthday money a little bit longer.

There were still five full weeks until the six months would be up and Grandma would pay him the interest he’d earned. But he really wanted to buy something with his birthday money. Could he wait that long?

After thinking about it, Sean decided to buy a new football for $25 and put the rest of his money away until the six months were up. He’d also continue saving as much money as he could.

It wasn’t easy to hold onto that money, but Sean knew it would all be worth it in the end.

And it was. When Grandma came to visit after the six months were up, she asked Sean how much money he’d managed to save. Sean told her he had $270. When Grandma handed over the $27 he’d earned, he knew he had made the right choice.

Talking points:

  • Why do you think Grandma offered to reward Sean for his savings?
  • Why do credit unions offer interest/dividends on savings?
  • In your opinion, is it more important to have an account that offers greater convenience or a higher rate?

Word Of The Month: HELOC

People painting house

Life at the Richards’ house had gotten really busy since the twins’ arrival-and really noisy. At first, Trish and Adam were delighted with the action. They loved their twin baby siblings and each day, they snapped dozens of pictures of the tiny infants to post on their Facebook and Instagram pages and show to their friends. They were the proudest older siblings ever.

But after a few weeks, the constant crying and the baby paraphernalia scattered all over the house began getting on their nerves.

One day, Adam stumbled down to the kitchen for breakfast, bleary-eyed and grumpy.

“Those twins,” he groaned. “They kept me up all night!”

Mrs. Richards looked at him while rocking one of the twins. “They kept you up?” she laughed. “I didn’t see you getting up for the four o’clock feeding!”

“Or the two o’clock feeding, for that matter,” a tired-looking Mr. Richards chimed in. “Come to think of it, I didn’t see you at the six o’clock feeding either.”

Adam fell into a seat and flung his head down on the table. “Well, they woke me up. Again and again and again. Why do they need to cry every time they eat? And so loudly!”

“You’re complaining? I didn’t sleep a wink!” Trish announced, shuffling into the kitchen. “I heard them crying all night long!”

“I don’t know how I’m going to stay awake in class today,” Adam grumbled.

“Me neither,” Trish said. “Can’t me and Adam move to the basement?”

Adam brightened. “Yeah. Then we won’t hear those annoying babies all night!”

Right on cue, the baby in Mrs. Richards’ arms started howling. Adam and Trish covered their ears and winced. Mrs. Richards stuck the baby’s pacifier into her mouth and rocked her.

“You know, we’d need to finish fixing up the basement if you guys want to sleep there,” Mr. Richards said thoughtfully.

“Oh, can we? Can we please?” Trish and Adam begged.

Mr. and Mrs. Richards shared a long look.

“We’ll see,” Mrs. Richards said after a while. “It isn’t fair for the two of you to be woken up by the twins night after night.And the basement may be the perfect solution. But it’s going to cost a lot of money to finish it, so we need to figure out if we can swing it.”

“It would be nice to have a little more living space around here.” Mr. Richards said thoughtfully. “You know what? Today’s my last day of paternity leave-maybe Mom and I can work something out while you two are at school,” Mr. Richards said. “We’ll talk about this later.”

***

When Adam and Trish came home that afternoon, their parents were waiting for them at the kitchen table with big smiles on their faces.

“Guess what?” Mrs. Richards said. “We’re going to be fixing up the basement soon and you guys can both move down there!”

Adam and Trish whooped and shared high-fives.

“When can we move?”

“Can I paint my new room with chalkboard paint?”

“Can I have a sleepover next weekend?”

Mr. Richards held up his hands. “Hey, slow down there! Nothing’s happening just yet! We’ll discuss all the details when they become relevant.”

“What happened today, Mom? Dad?” Trish asked curiously.

“Yeah, did you guys win the lottery?” Adam grinned.

“Not quite,” said Mr. Richards. “We actually took a trip to the credit union today.”

“That’s right,” said Mrs. Richards. “And we opened up a HELOC.”

“A what?” Adam and Trish chorused.

“A HELOC,” Mr. Richards said calmly. “Or a home equity line of credit. It’s an open line of credit we now have against our house’s equity.”

“Can you say that again in English?” Adam asked.

Mrs. Richards laughed. “Sure. That means the credit union allows us to borrow money we need for renovations. This is called a line of credit, meaning we can withdraw the money we need, when we need it. And then we pay it back, just a little bit at a time.”

“And it’s against-what was that you said?” Trish wrinkled her eyebrows.

“Our home’s equity,” Mr. Richards explained. “That means the credit is secured by the value of our home. It’s serving as collateral, or a guarantee, that we won’t default on the loan and neglect to pay it back.”

Adam and Trish were quiet as they processed this information.

“Cool,” Trish said after a while. “Now we can afford to finish the basement.”

“Yeah!” Adam cheered. “And we get to sleep without the twins screaming their heads off right near our rooms!”

The baby monitor chose that moment to start crackling-and soon the sound of an infant’s howling shattered the calm in the kitchen.

Mr. Richards stood up to go fetch the crying baby from upstairs, but before he went, Adam and Trish stopped him.

“Thank you, Mom and Dad,” they said together. “This is awesome news!”

“Don’t thank us,” Mrs. Richards smiled. “Thank the credit union!”

Talking points:

  • A HELOC is an open line of credit that allows the borrower to withdraw money as needed, and a HEL (home equity loan) is a loan that the borrower receives in one lump sum. Which do you think is the smarter choice when funding a home renovation?
  • How is taking out a HELOC different than using a credit card?
  • Why do you think some people make improvements on their home before they sell their house?

How Long Does It Take To Become A Millionaire?

article-how-long-does-it-take-to-become-a-millionaire
A million dollars. For many people, it’s the pinnacle of financial success. For others, it’s just the first stepping stone toward their outrageous dreams. But how long does it take to actually reach that goal? How much would you need to save on a monthly basis to net a cool million? And, most importantly, is achieving millionaire status even within the realm of possibility for most Americans?
If you’ve ever seriously considered these questions with the intention of implementing the answers in your own life, or you’re simply curious, we’ve got the inside scoop. We’ve crunched the numbers and worked out the math to help you find out exactly how long it takes to become a millionaire.
Who wants to be a millionaire?
Believe it or not, a million dollars is approximately four times the median net worth of retirement-aged people in the U.S. Even more incredible, a net worth of a million dollars is well within the reach of most Americans. You don’t need a six-digit salary to make it to the millionaires’ list; all you need is enough time and a sound investment strategy.
 
How long does it take?
There is no pat answer to this literal million-dollar question. The amount of time it will take you to become a millionaire depends on the following factors:
1.   The amount of money you invest
2.   The rate of return on your investment
The table provided here gives you an idea of how much you’d need to save, and how many years it would take you to reach $1 million, at various rates of return.
Monthly Savings
Years to $1 million with 10% annual returns
Years to $1 million with 8% annual returns
Years to $1 million with 6% annual returns
Years to $1 million with 4% annual returns
$100
44.5
52.9
65.7
88.6
$500
28.8
33.4
40.1
51
$1,000
22.4
25.5
29.9
36.7
$1,583
18.4
20.7
23.8
28.4
$2,083
16.2
18
20.4
23.9
$3,166
13
14.2
15.8
18
$4,166
11
12
13.2
16.8
The amounts used after the $1,000 mark in this table represent the numbers that single and married employees can contribute to their IRAs and 401(k) plans, with $4,166 representing the collective maximum monthly contributions for a married couple. Note: Maximum contributions, as of 2019, are set at $19,000 a year for 401(k)s and $6,000 a year for traditional IRAs.
If you already have a tidy sum saved up, and/or you’d like to see how long it would take you to reach a million by socking away a monthly amount that is different than any amounts shown on this table, you can input your own formula into this calculator to get the answers you need.
Getting started
Now that you’ve determined how long it will take you to reach your first million, don’t waste any time getting started. If you’ve made this your goal, the sooner you begin investing, the less money you’ll have to put away each month, and the sooner you’ll reach $1 million.
The easiest and most basic starting point for your million-dollar prize is to maximize your contributions to your employer’s 401(k) and your own IRAs and HSAs. Next, look into investing with a low-cost index fund, mutual fund or lifecycle fund.
If you can’t spare the money you’d need for investing enough funds to achieve your goal, take some time to review your budget and to plug up any expensive holes. Look for pricey habits you’d be better off giving up, subscriptions you can do without and entertainment costs you can trim without feeling the pinch. It might not be easy to make all those changes, but with a million-dollar finish line in sight, you should have all the motivation you need to start living a financially responsible life today.
Two neglected factors
One crucial factor most people forget about when trying to invest their way toward a million dollars is the rule of inflation. Simply put, a million dollars today does not have the same value as a million dollars 30 years from now. When you adjust for inflation at 3 percent a year, $1 million in 2020 would need to grow to $2,427,262 to have the same purchasing power in 2050. For this reason, you may want to tweak the amount you invest as a way of accounting for inflation. This way, you can be sure you have a true $1 million at the end of your investment timeline.
Another point that is often overlooked is the fact that no one can accurately predict the future. There’s no way to know what life events you’ll experience over the next three decades. Some of those can significantly affect your finances in either direction, such as windfalls, expensive medical emergencies, market crashes and the like. It may end up taking you a lot less time than you’d anticipated to reach $1 million, or you may never get there at all.
Are you ready to start investing your way toward one million dollars? Speak to a representative at Mutual Credit Union today to discuss our investment and savings products, as well as get some beginner investment advice. You can be a millionaire!
Your Turn: Do you dream of being a millionaire or did that goal never make it on to your bucket list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
Learn More: 

Back – to – School Budgeting Surprises

young boy child with Abacus

And How To Get Ahead Of Them

Ah, back-to-school season. Your child is anticipating the academic year ahead of them, and for parents, too, this can be an exciting time. But it can also be an expensive one — especially when you get blindsided by costs you weren’t expecting. Here’s your guide for how to handle unexpected back to school expenses.

Where To Start

A new school year can mean new activities and interests — many of which demand dollars. Talk to your child in advance about what they think they might be interested in, says Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at truetrae.com. “Especially as they get older, they might not be talking to you as much about things they deem important,” she says. “Keeping those lines of communication really open can help you as a parent anticipate what the costs might be.”

The school will likely provide a list of necessary supplies. But there’s nothing wrong with writing to your kid’s teacher — even during the summer — and inquiring about needs, especially for items that are generally more expensive, like field trips and technology.

Also, keep in mind that when you’re trying to anticipate costs, one of your best sources of wisdom is your spending history. “I would look at your back-to-school shopping costs from last year. See what you spent on that you didn’t anticipate, and factor those items into your budget if you need them again,” says Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert at andreaworoch.com.

Extracurriculars = Extra Costs

Your kid’s extracurricular activities always seem to inspire activity in your wallet. For activities like dance and gymnastics, you may have to purchase costumes for performances. And for things like Model UN, your child will need business attire. Also, if your child is an athlete, you’ll likely have to pay for equipment. “Nowadays, especially since the recession, a lot of schools can’t cover the cost of uniforms, and in some cases even basketballs and footballs,” says Bodge. And if you’re buying something like cleats, it can cost you again later in the year when your child grows out of them. “Don’t overspend now, assuming that these supplies are going to carry you through the year,” Woroch warns. Activities often require ongoing expenditures. Instead, keep an eye open for neighborhood sales and swaps where you may be able to use last year’s equipment to give you a leg up on this years, financially.

Clothing: At First, Less Is More

Even though you may be tempted to snap up every possible outfit your child may need for the year while the summer sales tax holidays are in full swing, hang onto a portion of your budget for later in the year, advises Bodge. Why? If you live in an area with regular seasons, better deals on cold weather clothing happen later — in late September and October. Plus, if you wait, your kids have an opportunity to go to school, check out what everybody else is wearing, and see if they want to hop on a trend. You can ensure you’re spending money on things they like wearing and will actually wear.

Technology

Technology is likely an integral part of your child’s educational experience — especially if they’re in grades five or above. It’s quite possible they’ll have homework requiring a computer and assignments to print out at home. In other words, if you realize in October that you’ll need to purchase a laptop you hadn’t planned on, that can be a major hit to your budget. To prevent a possibly stressful surprise like this, make sure you reach out to your childs’ teachers or school in advance.

Avoid The Big Shopping Spree Before September

These next few weeks as you’re strolling through the mall, you’re likely to be bombarded with colorful back to school sales. You may be tempted to start shopping for everything on your list right then and there, but prices are expected to drop throughout the month of August, reaching a low in early September, says Bodge. And even once you think prices can’t get any lower and you’re ready to shop, make sure you compare prices online before making a purchase — especially with big ticket items like a laptop or phone.

Also, if you want to minimize the hassle of returns and items that don’t fit, try to shop with your child. “Bringing your kids shopping with you — even if it seems like a pain — is good bonding time. And it shows them what shopping is,” Woroch says. Giving them a budget will instill in them the idea that money is a limited resource. Plus, if your child can watch you in action making efforts to save (using a coupon, buying on sale), that will give them an appreciation for the value of money — something that not nearly enough kids will be taught in schools.

 

Sources: 

https://www.savvymoney.com/blog/spending/back-to-school-budgeting-surprises/

Contributing Editor: Jean Chatzky with Molly Povich

Do My Child’s Activities Really Need to Make Me Go Broke?

little girls playing soccer with coach.jpg

Extracurricular activities are an important part of a child’s development. They allow students to shine in ways that may not be possible in the classroom. It also helps kids step out of their social circles to forge new friendships. They may even be your child’s gateway to a college scholarship and possibly a lucrative career. 

But extracurricular activities are expensive. If you’ve got several school-aged children and each wants to participate in two activities, you can be looking at an investment as high as $10,000 or more for fees, equipment, uniforms, instruments and supplies. 

No worries though; you don’t have to choose between your budget and your children’s happiness. Here are some ways to save on your kids’ extracurricular activities: 

1. Limit the number of after-school activities you allow for each child 

If you’ve got several over-ambitious young ones at home, consider limiting extracurricular activities to just one per child. You’ll be doing your children a favor by forcing them to pick an area of focus, allowing them to channel all their energy in one direction. Plus, it’ll be easier for them to keep track of just one schedule — and it’s a lot easier on your carpool calendar, too! 

2. Register early 

Lots of children’s’ sports programs offer discounts of up to 30 percent just for signing up early. Speak to your children about after-school programs and sports teams well before the season so you can register early and snag those early-bird specials. 

3Purchase used equipment 

Save big on sports gear by purchasing gently used equipment from sites like PlayItAgainSports and SidelineSwap. Some of these sites also allow you to sell your own used equipment. 

4. Swap equipment 

If you have friends with kids who are also into sports and music, see if you can swap equipment and instruments from year to year. 

5.  Rent musical instruments 

If you’ve got budding musicians at home, consider renting the instrument they’ve taken up this year. There’s no way to tell if that burst of passion they’re currently nursing for the oboe is just a passing phase or the beginning of a lifelong hobby. Some instruments, like the French horn, can cost as much as $1,000 but can be rented for as little as $50 a month. 

If your child is convinced they’ve found their instrument of choice, you can purchase gently used musical instruments from resale sites like Craigslist, eBay or Reverb. 

6. Volunteer your time 

If you’ve got the time to coach a team or to walk around selling refreshments during games, you might be able to nab a discount on the program’s fees and equipment. 

By making smart, frugal choices, you can turn your children’s dreams into reality without draining your wallet. 

Your Turn: How do you save on your children’s extracurricular activities? Share your own tips with us in the comments.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/g27678115/back-to-school-hacks/

https://www.moneycrashers.com/save-extracurricular-activities-kids-after-school/

https://www.parents.com/parenting/money/saving/11-ways-to-save-on-after-school-activities/

Word of the Month: Credit Card

Father and son using laptop together, online shopping

Kate and her mom were going shopping for school supplies. Kate had her mind set on exactly what she wanted. She’d even scribbled a list of all the things she was going to buy at the store.

“And can’t I get that?” she asked, pointing at the sequined pencil case her best friend Lori had told her about.

“Oh, Kate,” her mom groaned. “We can’t buy the most expensive of every supply on your list!”

Kate was stumped. “But why not?” she asked. “If it’s too much money, you can just put it on your credit card!”

Mom gave her a look, and then said under her breath, “Let’s talk about this a little later, at home. Meanwhile, let’s try to find all of your supplies at decent prices.”

Kate agreed and they finished shopping without any more arguments.

After they’d gone home and put away all of Kate’s supplies, Mom prepared two tall glasses of lemonade. She sat down at the kitchen table, across from Kate.

“Let me explain how it works, Kate,” she said. “A credit card isn’t ‘free money.’”

Kate yawned. “I know, I know—you get a bill at the end of the month and you need to pay it all back.”

Mom nodded. “Exactly. But there’s a few things you don’t know about credit cards.”

“Like what?”

“First of all,” said Mom, “lots of credit cards cost money just to have. It’s called an ‘annual fee.’ Also, credit cards don’t lend you that money for free. They charge you interest on every purchase you make.”

“Interest?”

“That means extra money, a certain percentage of the purchase that you need to pay to the credit card company.”

“So it really costs you more than the price!” Kate broke in.

“Exactly,” Mom smiled. “You won’t have to pay the interest if you pay the full amount on your bill on time, but most people don’t. And then they end up paying for that one little purchase for months—or even years and years!”

“So, if the best way to use a credit card is to pay up your full bill each month, why have one at all?” Kate asked. “Why not just use cash?”

“That’s a great question,” Mom said. “There are two main reasons people have credit cards other than to help them pay for stuff they can’t really afford,” she explained. “One is to get the rewards. Lots of credit cards offer points and money back for specific purchases you make on the card.”

“Cool!” said Kate. “Like a bonus for spending money?”

“Right,” said mom. “But it sometimes can get out of control and people spend more than they planned just because they’re getting some points out of the deal. So it doesn’t quite work out as planned. Plus, lots of rewards cards have an annual fee, so they’re expensive just to have.”

“Wow,” Kate said. “And what’s the second reason?”

Mom reached into her wallet and pulled out her MasterCard. “You see this?” she asked. “This helped me buy our house!”

Kate’s eyed bulged. “You can buy a house on a credit card?”

Mom threw back her head and laughed. “No, Kate,” she said. “Let me explain. Let’s say someone has a bunch of open credit cards but they’re super-careful with how they use them. They’re always careful about paying their balance on time and they never rack up huge bills. What does that say about them?”

“They’re responsible!” Kate said. “They know how to pay back what they borrow and they don’t spend too much money.”

“Exactly!” Mom smiled. “So when someone wants to take out a huge loan—like a loan that will help them buy a house, the people lending them that money will look at the way they use their credit cards. It’s called their credit history and credit score. The person’s credit history will tell the borrower about their credit card use in the past, and their credit score is like a grade which shows how responsible they’ve been with their credit. Are you following?

Kate nodded. “I think so.”

“So, why do you think the lender will look at their credit history and credit score when deciding if they will lend this person money to buy a house?”

“Because they want to make sure the person will pay them back!” Kate exclaimed.

“You’re catching on really quickly,” Mom grinned. “I was always very careful with my credit cards, and that helped us get a mortgage for this house!”

“Wow,” Kate said. She had a lot to think about. “What do you say we open a credit card for me, Mom?” She asked. “I want to start building my credit score right now!”

Talking points:

  • Can you explain the way a credit card works?
  • Why do you think credit card companies let people borrow so much money from them?
  • Are credit cards a good way to purchase something you can’t afford? Why, or why not?

7 Steps To A Mid-Year Financial Checkup

7-Steps-to-Your-Mid-year-Financial-Checkup

It’s hard to believe, but 2019 is half over. Take a timeout from barbecues and beaches to give yourself a mid-year financial checkup. Use the seven steps below to guide you. 

Step 1: Revisit Your Budget 

Take some time to review your monthly budget. Is it working for you or are you falling behind each month? After reviewing, adjust your budget as necessary. 

Step 2: Anticipate Large Expenses 

List any large expenses you anticipate in the coming six months. This can include household appliances that may need replacing or an anticipated medical expense that is not fully covered by insurance. 

Next, determine the spending category you will take the money from to cover these expenses. Deciding on a source for these funds now will help you avoid making the wrong choices when you’re under pressure in the future. 

If you do not have enough money set aside for these expenses, build a savings plan into your monthly budget so you have the funds available when you need them. 

Step 3: Review Your Tax Withholdings 

Review your tax withholdings to see if they need any adjusting. Your goal here is to pay the perfect amount so you’re not hit with a huge tax bill at the end of the year, but you’re also not lending the government your money all year long. 

Step 4: Check Your Credit Score 

Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for your free credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus. If your score has gone up in the last six months, you’re doing great! 

Conversely, if your score has dropped, review your report in detail. Take the necessary steps to fix your score today, whether that means contesting an erroneous charge with the Federal Trade Commission, setting up an automatic payment on some of your bills or lowering your credit utilization rate by paying with plastic less often. 

Step 5: Review Your Investments 

Review and adjust all of your investments. This includes your retirement funds, any stock investments, bonds, trust funds or share certificates at Mutual Credit Union. Make sure you are maximizing your contributions when possible and that your other investments are performing according to plan. Adjust as necessary.   

Step 6: Tackle Your Debt 

List every outstanding debt you carry, including credit card debt and all kinds of loans. Designate one debt to tackle first and work on a plan to pay it down. Once you’ve paid off this debt, move to the next one on your list. 

Step 7: Review Your Financial Resolutions and Long-term Goals 

Review the financial resolutions and goals you dreamed up at the end of 2018 and then determine whether you are taking the steps necessary for making them happen. If you’ve been neglecting them, create a plan for working toward them for the rest of the year. 

Now you can kick back and enjoy the remaining summer season, guilt-free. 

Your Turn: What’s on your list for your mid-year financial checkup? Tell us about it in the comments.

 

SOURCES:

https://money.cnn.com/2016/07/28/investing/financial-checklist/index.html

https://onebiteblog.com/its-time-for-your-mid-year-financial-checkup/

The Ultimate Smart Shoppers Cheat Sheet

shopping for appliances

Did you know you should be timing your shopping throughout the week? Each weekday brings its own special deals and savings. Read on for the ultimate cheat sheet for your weekly shopping. 

Sunday: Large household appliances 

Home improvement stores, like Lowe’s and Home Depot, tend to mark down their large appliances on Sundays. 

Monday: Cars and electronics 

Car dealerships are busiest over the weekend, and the comparative quiet of a Monday will put you in a good position to negotiate a great price on a new car. Stop by Mutual Credit Union to ask about our auto loans before you start shopping!

You’ll also want to shop for electronics on Monday, as stores like Best Buy offer exclusive manufacturer rebates each Monday, which can really lower the price of a product. 

Tuesdays: Houses, airline travel and more 

Tuesdays are the best weekday for making an offer on a house, particularly the first Tuesday of the month. This is when most home sellers review the activity surrounding their house from the prior month and are more open to accepting an offer that’s well lower than their asking price. 

If you’re looking to fly, book your flight on a Tuesday morning.  According to data analyses performed by Skyscanner, airlines mark down flight prices by 15-25 percent late Monday evening. By Tuesday morning, competing airlines will offer matching or lower prices, giving you the best selection of affordable flights. 

For a terrific way to end your Tuesday, go see a movie. Tickets to the latest blockbusters are usually discounted during the mid-week slump. 

Wednesdays: Groceries, discounted apparel and fuel 

The best time to shop for groceries is on Wednesday. Most supermarkets roll out their new sale events on this day, rearrange aisle end-caps and set out a fresh display of produce. They’ll also slap discounts on perishable products that are left over from the beginning of the week but are still days away from their sell-by dates. Shop early for the best pickings. 

If you’re a fan of discounted quality clothing, you’ll want to hit TJ Maxx and Marshalls on Wednesday morning, as this is when these stores post their new markdowns.  

Fill ‘er up on Wednesday! Weekly gas hikes will take effect over the weekend, often as early as Thursday morning. 

Thursday: Clothing, shoes and handbags 

Get first dibs on weekend clothing sales at big-name stores late on Thursday. Shop for matching footwear with in-store coupons, which also debut on Thursday. Then, complete your new look with a new handbag, which see online discounts each Thursday. 

Friday: Accessories 

Online accessories, like costume jewelry, belts, and scarves, see an average discount of 42 percent on Fridays.  

Saturday: Yard sale treasures 

Saturdays are prime time to pick up treasures at neighborhood yard sales. You’ll score the hottest deals later in the day when the owners are itching to get rid of their wares. 

Your Turn: Is there a weekday shopping hack we missed? Tell us about it in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.thekrazycouponlady.com/tips/money/back-to-school-shopping-hacks.amp.html

https://www.aol.com/article/lifestyle/2018/07/29/the-best-day-of-the-week-to-go-grocery-shopping/23491169/

https://www.dcrstrategies.com/shopping-guide-best-days-of-the-week-to-buy/

https://www.thekrazycouponlady.com/tips/store-hacks/retailer-clearance-markdown-cheatsheet.amp.html

https://www.rather-be-shopping.com/blog/2014/06/09/insider-tips-on-store-markdowns/