Steps 1 thru 12 to Living a Debt Free Life

working on her accounts

Step One: Take Stock of Your Debt

You’re determined that this will be the year you finally pay down (or pay off) that debt. Get ready, because every month, our Do It Today plan will have you taking another step on your journey toward living a debt-free life. 

First, sit down and take stock of all your debts. Don’t let the numbers scare you; you need to do this to move forward. Get out every single credit card bill, personal loan, student loan, and any other debt you’re carrying (except your car and mortgage payments). Tally up the numbers to give yourself an idea of what you’re dealing with. 

Next, organize your debt into different categories, such as credit card debt, student debt, personal loans etc. Use a spreadsheet to list your debt, the remaining term of each loan (if applicable), the minimum payment and the interest rate.   

Finally, designate one hour each week for working on your finances. 

Step Two: Don’t dig yourself deeper

When you’ve dug yourself deep into a pit, the only way to get out is to stop digging. This month, focus on not racking up more debt. Stop using your credit cards. Skip your weekly trips that usually have you buying too many non-essentials.

Instead, start brown-bagging your work lunch and brewing your own coffee. Get into the habit of spending only on essentials so you can make real progress toward paying down that debt.

Don’t forget to make the minimum payments on every line of credit and loan you have open. Neglecting your debt will only pull you deeper into the pit.

Step Three: Negotiate a lower APR

If the majority of your outstanding debit is credit card debt, you may be spending hundreds of dollars just on interest alone. Aside from wasting money, this keeps you from moving forward and paying down your debt.

Most people don’t know you can call up a credit card company and negotiate for a lower APR. Take the time this month to do that. Explain that you are working on paying down your debt and that the interest payments are impeding your progress. You can even research competing cards and cite their interest rates in a bid for a lower APR from your current credit card company.

Lowering your interest rates will allow you to make another real step toward getting rid of debt.

Step Four: Create an emergency fund

You may be feeling impatient to start more aggressively paying down debt, but it’s important important to first create an emergency fund. If you don’t have money socked away for unexpected expenses, you’ll be tempted to use the money that’s already earmarked for your debt payments to fund this expense.

Experts recommend keeping three months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency fund, but you can start with a modest $1,000. Set up an automatic monthly or weekly transfer from your [credit union] Checking Account to your Savings Account until you have a fully padded emergency fund. This may take several months, but no worries, you can continue following the next few steps towards a debt-free life as your emergency fund grows.

Step Five: Create a budget

This month, you’re going to organize your finances. Hold onto every receipt, bill, paystub and invoice you produce throughout the month. Sometime during the last week of May, sit down with all of your paperwork and start crunching the numbers.

When you’re through, you should have all of these questions answered:

  • How much is my net monthly income?
  • How much are my monthly fixed expenses?
  • How much are my monthly non-fixed expenses?

Now that you have the numbers in front of you, work on creating a budget. Designate the necessary funds for your fixed expenses. Then, with the remaining money, determine how much you will spend in each non-fixed expense category; like groceries, clothing, entertainment, etc.

Put your minimum debt payments in the fixed-expenses category, with another category for extra debt payments in your column of non-fixed expenses.

Step Six to be continued in June ……………………………

 

 

6 Ways to Save On Summer Vacation

Family packing for vacation

 

  1. Time it right. Experts say the sweet spot for cheapest flight booking is 54 days before your travel date.
  2. Clear your cache before every new flight searchThis way, airlines can’t access your browser history and inflate the prices they offer you.
  3. Sweet-talk your way to savings. Ask for an upgrade at the check-in counter. About 78% of hotel guests who request an upgrade at the front desk actually get one.
  4. Never pay full priceCheck sites like coupondivas.com, entertainment.com and Groupon.com for deep discounts at local eateries and entertainment centers.
  5. Freebie fun. Search local sites and blogs for write-ups about free things to do near your destination.
  6. Save your mega event for the last day. Finish your vacation on a high note by saving your most exciting event for the last day of your trip.

Your Turn: How do you save big while getting the most out of your summer vacation? Share your best hacks with us in the comments!

7 Ways to Save Money on Camping

Family camping

 

Q: I’m planning a camping trip for the summer, and I’d love to keep the trip as low-cost as possible. How can I cut down on camping costs? 

A: It’s great that you’re looking for ways to trim your vacation expenses. We can help! Read on for seven ways to save on camping costs. 

1. Save on location 

Nightly rates for camping sites can cost a pretty penny during peak camping season. But why pay the fee when you can camp for free? You can find a campground where you can pitch your tent or park your RV at no cost, on Freecampsites.net or Campendium.com. 

Another great option is to camp at a national forest. You’ll be charged an entrance fee as well as an amenity fee, but you’re free to stay anywhere on these grounds as long as you follow park guidelines. If you’re a frequent camper, consider purchasing a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands annual pass. For just $80 a year, or $20 for individuals age 62 and older, you’ll have access to more than 2,000 national parks and national wildlife refuges. The pass covers entrance fees, parking fees, amenity fees and more. If you’re currently a member of the U.S. military, you and your dependents are entitled to a free annual pass. 

Finally, if your schedule allows, consider mid-week camping. Lots of campgrounds offer lower prices on off-peak days. 

2. Consider “workamping” 

If you don’t live near a national park and you’d love a free stay, “workamping” can be a terrific option. Lots of campsites and RV parks are now offering this choice: For a bit of hard work, you’ll be granted free access to the campgrounds. You might even walk away with some extra cash in your pocket! 

3. Rent or borrow camping gear 

High-quality camping gear such as tents, sleeping bags, camping stoves and camping clothes can cost a pretty penny. In fact, according to the American Camper Report from Coleman Company, adult campers spent an average of $546 on camping gear in 2016. 

You can have your gear and your budget, too, by double-thinking the purchase of brand-new gear. Are you a frequent camper? If not, does it really pay to spend big bucks on specialized equipment you’ll only use once or twice a year? If you have friends who practically live in a tent or RV, ask about borrowing their equipment for your trip. Otherwise, consider renting the gear you need from companies like REI Co-op. If you’d rather have your own equipment, check out sites like Switchback Gear Exchange for gently used camping paraphernalia at terrific prices. 

4. Skip the prepackaged meals 

Yes, they might be super-convenient, but they’re also super-expensive. Save a ton on food costs this trip by ditching the prepackaged meals. You can find loads of ideas for easy camping meals you can cook over a fire by doing a quick Google search. Often, all you need is some basic food supplies and a roll of aluminum foil! 

5. Share meal prep 

If you always camp as a group, take full advantage by sharing the meal prep. Divide the meals completely, having each family be fully responsible for several meals. Alternatively, you can create a master list of supplies and food and then divide and conquer. This way, only one of you needs to bring small packets of ketchup and a jug of maple syrup, while another one brings the coffee and salt. The packing and meal prep are a whole lot easier when they’re shared! 

6. Pack like you’re being marooned on an island 

Don’t set out on your trip until you’ve checked that you’ve packed everything on your list at least three times. It will take a few extra minutes, but it’s worth the time and effort. You don’t want to be forced to pay inflated small-town convenience store prices for forgotten items like bandages or batteries. 

To keep it simpler, create a master list of everything you need to bring on a camping trip. Make a digital and physical copy of the list. When you return from your trip, review the list and edit it according to how it all went down. Do you need to bring more paper cups next time? Did you overdo it on the ice? Adjust as necessary. Before your next trip, use the list when packing so that you don’t forget a single item. 

7. Check out free camping activities on your campsite 

Many campgrounds feature boat rentals of all kinds, but they can be pricey. Enjoy every minute of your camping trip by exploring walking trails, fishing and bike riding along a forest path. Don’t forget to pack some board games and books for rainy days. 

Use these tips when planning your trip and you’ll save big on costs without compromising on the camping experience. Here’s wishing you the camping trip of a lifetime, from all of us here at Mutual Credit Union! 

Your Turn: Have some camping hacks that save on costs? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

 

SOURCES:

http://bargainbabe.com/20-quick-tips-to-save-money-camping/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thepennyhoarder.com/smart-money/camping-on-a-budget-how-to-save-money-on-your-next-trip/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.budgettravel.com/article/save-money-camping/amp

https://axleaddict.com/rvs/CampingForCheapskates

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/