5 Money Subjects You Need to Talk About Before Tying the Knot

Bursting the love bubble by sitting down and having a serious talk about finances is never fun, but open communication about money is a good idea in any relationship.

Since it’s wedding season, those thinking of tying the knot should have a serious discussion about money at some point, preferably before you move in together or actually get married. Even if there are no plans to combine finances completely, it’s still good to clear the air and see if you and your future spouse are on the same page.

Here are five things to talk about before moving forward:

1. Debt

One of the biggest things you need to talk about is debt. Get it out there. Even if you won’t be sharing finances, one person’s debt can have a profound impact on household finances. If you want to buy a home together or if you want to do other things, someone’s obligations can hold you back as a couple.

Have an honest talk about your debt levels, and see if you can make a plan to pay down the debt. Even if you don’t share finances, the partner without the debt is going to have to be supportive until the debt is paid off.

2. Credit

Credit goes along with debt, but it isn’t exactly the same thing. While it’s not vital that your partner have a perfect credit score, it is a good idea to see where you both stand, and be honest about the situation.

At some point, if you decide to get a joint loan together (for a car, wedding, or a home), both of your credit scores will matter. Talk about it so you know what you need to do together. If one of you has a poor score, you might have to wait a little longer before you accomplish some of your loan goals.

3. Money Philosophy

This is a bigger deal than you might think. It’s a good idea to know whether or not you have the same money values before you take that next step. Spenders and savers need to be able to come up with a plan to compromise. If you like spending your money on lots of books, and your partner prefers movies, you might need to come up with a plan to make sure you both get what you want at least some of the time.

4. How to Handle Kids and Money

If you think you’ll have kids together (and that’s another conversation you need to have before taking things to the next level), you need to talk about how you’ll handle kids and money.

Do you want to save up for college for them? How will you handle allowance? Extracurricular activities?

These are big questions you need to tackle together so you are on the same page. It’s vital to know early on so that you aren’t unpleasantly surprised later.

5. Retirement

Chances are, you both want to save for retirement. But do you have a shared vision for what that looks like? Before you commit to a long-term, life partner relationship, make sure you talk about how you want to handle retirement. It can be tough if one of you expects to sit at home most of the time, and maybe play golf a couple times a week, while the other wants to sell the house and everything in it to travel the world.

In the end, you need to make sure that everyone is on the same page so that all your money goals are being reached together. Take the time to have a discussion now, so there are fewer surprises later.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for moneyning.com

3 Ways to Stay Out of Debt

Your student loans are paid off, and you finally got rid of that credit card debt. It’s a great feeling to be debt free, and it only feels better when you’ve stayed that way for a while. Going forward, here are three things to be mindful of if you don’t want to slip back into debt.

Be ready for the unexpected: A car wreck could happen in an instant and you could be responsible for car repairs or medical bills. If you’re not prepared with an emergency fund, you might have to put those payments on credit, and then you’ll be right back where you started. Make sure you start saving a little bit every month, so when those unexpected bills happen – you’ll be ready.

Stick to your lists: Always make a list before you go shopping. If you like shopping with your credit card (credit rewards or cash back can be great), make sure you buy only what you intended to. A few extra bucks here and there can cause you to go over budget, and even leaving a small balance on your credit card can get you in trouble over time.

Take a long look at your subscriptions: Whether it’s a gym membership, a streaming service, magazines, or whatever else, make sure you’re really getting value out of any recurring purchase that you’re subscribed to. If you haven’t been to the gym in the last couple years, it’s probably time to stop giving them your money – even if it’s only twenty dollars a month.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Do Your 2018 Resolutions Need a Do Over?

Believe it or not, it’s May already. You’ve flipped the calendar page four times, and if you’re like more than 80% of the general public, it’s been a few months since your New Years’ resolutions crashed and burned. Have you taken the time to analyze why your good intentions didn’t pan out? Maybe they were too ambitious. Maybe they weren’t challenging enough. Whatever the reason (or excuse), your resolutions are over. Done. Finished. Or are they?

Failed goals aren’t ashes. They’re embers.

Is it possible to revive resolutions that haven’t shown signs of life in months? Absolutely. To stoke your motivational fire, you’ll need to revisit the reasons you set those goals in the first place. Take a close look at the things you want to accomplish, and then determine whether they’re still a realistic possibility. If so, recommit yourself. If not, adjust your expectations. But once you decide to have another go at it, work smarter not harder.

Find your momentum with micro-goals.

While it can be discouraging to examine missed goals or failure in general, author Erin Lowry addresses the topic of failed resolutions with refreshing candor on her Broke Millennial blog. Lowry shared, “Like most of us, I fail each year at my New Year’s resolutions. Then I realized I should apply one of my favorite money tactics to my resolutions. Micro-goals. I’m a big believer in setting a lofty goal and then working backward to chunk that goal down into manageable pieces.”

The beauty of micro-goals lies in their universal application. Financial Goals. Fitness ambitions. Relational hopes and dreams. Whatever the category, micro-goals can help you get back on track. The key to starting over is finding a way to gain momentum, and breaking your big goals into smaller goals can set yourself up for easy wins. Then, as you experience the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing each little task, you’ll find the inspiration to carry on toward your ultimate destination. Like the peaceful painter, Bob Ross, once said, “There’s nothing in the world that breeds success like success.”

Take another run at those financial goals.

Are you doubling back to pursue a financial resolution like paying off debt, building an emergency fund, or saving for retirement? Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Your credit union can be an incredible partner in your pursuit of financial stability. From low-interest loans and high-interest savings accounts, to financial counseling and investment advice – credit unions provide a wide array of solutions designed to help their members win with money.

Not a credit union member? Your first micro-goal is an easy one: become a credit union member as soon as possible! If you live, work, worship, volunteer, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey – you are eligible to become a member of First Financial. It’s easy, get started now!

Can You Afford a Pet?

Before envisioning long walks and fur-baby snuggles, make sure you are financially prepared for what’s ahead. The ASPCA estimates the first year costs of owning a pet is at least $1,000 – and that’s not factoring in unexpected emergencies.

Here is the breakdown of the average annual costs for a medium dog (not including the adoption fee which can range from $45-$300).

One-time costs

Spaying/Neuter: $200
Initial Medical Exam: $70
Collar and leash: $30-$45
Crate: $95+
Travel Crate: $60+
Training: $110

Recurring costs

Food: $319
Annual Exams: $235
Toys/Treats: $55+
License: $15
Grooming: $264+
Pet Insurance: $225

First Year Average TOTAL: $1,723

If you have a large dog, that average total jumps to $2,008. Cats are a bit friendlier on your wallet at $1,174.

Here are a few tips to help keep costs down:

Schedule regular check-ups.
Don’t be afraid to shop around for the right vet and compare preventative care fees. Ask family or friends who have pets who they go to and if they are happy with the veterinary services.

Brush your pet’s teeth.
Just don’t use toothpaste made for people, since the fluoride may irritate your pet’s stomach. But good dental health is important for pets – believe it or not, dental disease can lead to heart and kidney problems.

Groom your pet at home.
Some grooming salons offer a fully stocked self-service room complete with a tub, blow dryer, apron, and gloves at a fraction of the cost. Bonus? You take your fresh smelling dog home without doing any post-bath clean-up. Also invest in a good brush. Setting aside daily brushing time is good for your pet and will reduce the amount of hair floating around your home.

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

5 Easy Ways to Cut Your Spending Dramatically

Trying to trim expenses can seem like a never ending task, as new expenses always pop out of nowhere. With already tight budgets, the task of reducing spending can seem impossible. You’ve already cut out your morning latte and canceled your gym membership – what more can you do?

Lowering your expenses is definitely a daunting task. While you’ll have to make sacrifices and get a little creative, it definitely can be done without cramping your lifestyle too dramatically.

Cut Up Your Credit Cards

Take a close look at your credit card collection if you have multiple cards, and decide which ones you should keep using and which ones you can cut up. First, note the interest rate for each card, and don’t use the ones that charge the higher rates. Obviously, it is ideal to be able to pay off your bill every month – but that isn’t always realistic depending on your situation. Second, take a close look at the rewards programs for each card. Such programs are becoming more and more competitive and can be a determining factor when deciding what your go-to card should be. Also, canceling credit cards can negatively affect your credit score as it lowers your credit to debt ratio. Consider literally cutting them up and forgetting about them instead of really canceling them.

Be Your Own Chef

Food is one of the biggest expenses we face and most people are guilty of spending too much on dining out. Don’t ignore this habit because the expenses can really add up. Cooking more at home can easily and drastically lower your spending.

But what if you hate cooking? Don’t worry, because you can still save. To mitigate this, cook once a week by meal prepping. Make a big batch of whatever you want and portion it out into multiple meals a week. When it’s time to eat, all you have to do is heat it up – even easier than going out.

Ride a Bike

Car maintenance and gym memberships can cost an arm and a leg. Why not kill two birds with one stone by riding a bike? Depending on where you work, riding a bike to your office could be a great option to get a workout in and save money on gas. Many big cities also now have bike sharing programs, which makes it even more convenient to ride wherever you need to go.

Reinvent Your Social Life

Socializing with friends takes time and money. Just having a single drink could cost up to $15 with tax and tip, which can really add up as the night goes on. However, there are plenty of inexpensive or free activities you can do instead. If you’re going out for drinks, consider meeting up during happy hour. While timing might not be ideal, it can cut your bill in half. Also, every city, big or small, has free events, especially during warm weather. So take advantage of them as the weather is warming up for the season.

Analyze Your Bills

Getting a bill is never a fun moment, but be sure to take a thorough look instead of quickly glancing through it. Many of us end up paying fees we don’t realize every month that could easily be avoided. Also, look carefully at your usage every month, particularly when it comes to your cell phone and utilities. Perhaps you could lower your texting plan if you’re not close to using your maximum for the month, while others can easily trim their data plans. Small details like these seem insignificant when you look at them individually, but everything can collectively make a huge difference in the long run.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com

6 Easy to Forget Expenses to Include in Your Budget

Creating a budget is never easy, as it can take months or even years to perfect the process. And on top of that, life is always changing – so a budget that worked a few months ago might not necessarily work now.

One of the most common reasons people find budgeting so hard is because there are so many different expenses to keep track of. The big ones, like housing and food, are obvious. But there are so many little things we forget about that can derail a budget from the start. The next time you evaluate your budget, consider these six expenses that people often forget:

Celebrations

It seems like every week, we’re always celebrating something. From birthdays to weddings to holidays, our schedules are jam packed with social events. However, we often forget that these celebrations come with hefty price tags. Gifts, travel costs, and party attire can add up quickly. Not accounting for these items can really throw your budget off. For example, if you know you have a few weddings coming up in the next year, make sure to set aside funds to cover any associated costs. Also be sure to increase your budget during the holiday season to account for gifts and travel.

Pet Care

We love our pets, but there’s no denying that caring for them can get expensive. We tend to only think of pet care expenses in terms of things they use everyday, like food, but any pet owner knows that there are many other major costs associated with furry friends. Health care, including regular veterinary visits, are a big one. Grooming and pet sitting is another. These are expenses for your pet that may not happen every month, but they’re regular enough that you should include them in your budget.

Coffee

Any good budget will include a category for food and dining, but don’t forget to include your coffee in there as well. We all know how much a cup of coffee can cost – anywhere from $2 for a regular cup to $6 for a latte. It’s something many of us can’t live without and it definitely adds up. Whether you make your own or go to your local Starbucks, make sure you understand how much you’re really spending every month.

Home Maintenance

Owning a home is a dream to many, but when that dream finally comes true, many first-time homeowners are unpleasantly surprised by the cost of home maintenance. Aside from utilities, and minor repairs, there are many recurring expenses, such as lawn maintenance and weather proofing that homeowners often forget. Expenses like these drive up the cost of owning a home considerably.

‘Me’ Fund

When we’re trying to stick to a tight budget, we often forget about ourselves. If you’re trying to cut your budget, spending on things you enjoy is likely the first expense to go. Don’t underestimate the value of having a ‘me’ fund though. It can be anything, from a night out or a pedicure, but doing even something small from time to time can drastically improve your mood and increase your productivity.

Emergency Fund

The one thing people most often forget to account for is an emergency fund. This is also the most important. With all that’s going on, saving up for a rainy day is probably the last thing on your mind. But as with life, you never really know what can happen, and you need an emergency fund to protect you from whatever life throws your way. Your budget should include a portion to set aside for emergencies. Many recommend that you have 3 months of expenses on hand at any given moment. You can decide the amount you’re comfortable with and slowly save up for it. Just remember to make this a priority.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com