4 Tips to Keep Your Money Goals on Track this Year

Even if you feel you’re doing pretty well with your finances, you could probably stand to make a few changes to your financial habits. If you’d like to stay a little more on track with your money this year, here are a few things to consider …

Be cautious with credit: A credit card can be a valuable tool, but if it’s abused, it can quickly create a mountain of debt. Try to only use your credit card for purchases you will pay off each month. Credit cards can be a great way to improve a credit score, but always make sure you’re being careful when paying with plastic.

Be on the lookout for savings:  It doesn’t matter what you’re buying, you can probably find it cheaper somewhere else. Have you looked online? You’ll probably find exactly what you’re looking for on the internet, and usually for less. If you don’t feel like waiting for something to be shipped, see if the store will price match your online price. If shipping isn’t free – see if you can order online and ship to your local store to pick up, which is usually always free.

Stop forgetting to pay bills: Have you mapped out your monthly bills and their due dates? If you’re not a very organized person, it may be time to design an auto pay schedule that will keep you from missing any payments this year. Paying your bills on time is must if you want to keep your credit score up.

Embrace frugality: No matter how much money you make, you should always try to spend less than you want to. You’ll be glad you filled up that savings account when an emergency arises.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

3 Things You Should Do With Extra Money ASAP

According to a recent report by CareerBuilder, 78% of Americans who work full-time live paycheck to paycheck. Thinking about the long term is hard, especially when it comes to finances, but life does get easier the earlier you start laying the foundation for good financial habits. Whether you have $100 or $1000 to spare every month, investing extra funds wisely can have a significant impact on your financial future.

1. Pay Off Your Debt

First and foremost, consider putting part or all of your extra income every month toward paying off your debt. Being in any kind of debt can definitely loom heavily over your life and finances. Instead of spending any extra cash, it’s smart to chip away at that mountain to become debt-free. You should start with your highest interest debt first and work your way down, though some people find more motivation to tackle their debt by focusing on paying the smaller debts first.

2. Put it in Your Emergency Fund

Having an emergency fund is not just a smart idea, it’s a necessity. Life is unexpected and you never know what can happen. Having an emergency fund can help you in life’s hardest situations, such as a car accident or the loss of a job. Begin putting money toward an emergency fund, any little bit helps. It’s ideal to have six months of expenses saved up just in case.

3. Invest in Your Retirement

After you’ve paid off your debt and put money in your emergency fund, it’s now time to think about the future – which means retirement. While it’s still years or maybe decades away, saving for retirement as early as possible means you reap more rewards later. And that can start with a 401k. Surprisingly, many full-time workers are unaware that their employers may match up to a percentage of your contribution to the company’s 401k plan. Find out what your company’s policy is and get started with contributing to your retirement as soon as possible.

A Roth IRA is another popular retirement savings account that allows your money to grow tax-free. When you’re ready to withdraw at retirement, you do not pay taxes on these funds. If you’re under the age of 50, the most you can contribute to a Roth IRA is $5,500 yearly. This basically means that those who have earned income, can put in just over $458 monthly to reap the most benefits in their retirement future.

If you have extra income at the end of every month, start with these three steps. It will set up a healthy financial foundation for you and your family. Going forward if you still have money leftover after that, you might want to start looking into investments or perhaps spending a bit on yourself.

Need help with retirement planning? To set up a complimentary consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your savings goals, email mary.laferriere@cunamutual.com or stop in to see us!*

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article Source: Connie Mei for moneyning.com

 

How to Financially Prepare for a New Baby

A baby on the way is a very exciting time for any family. Whether you’re new parents or adding to your growing family, preparing for your new arrival can feel overwhelming. One of your biggest concerns is probably your finances. According to Parenting.com, the average middle class family will spend $12,000 on child-related expenses in the baby’s first year of life. That’s not a small chunk of change. So how do you prepare financially while trying to juggle all the new responsibilities that come with a new baby at the same time?

The earlier you start preparing, the better you’ll be able to set up for your baby’s future. Before your baby’s arrival, take a look at this checklist on easy things you can do to financially prepare now:

Redo Your Budget

With the arrival of your new bundle of joy, life as you know it will probably never be the same again. The same goes for your budget. It’s time to review and redo your budget, as baby expenses will now take up a large portion of your spending. Do your research and understand how much baby items really cost. From food to diapers, it’s probably more expensive than you think. You should also make a shopping list of everything you need once the baby arrives. Once you have an estimate, figure out how you can scale back your budget. Obvious areas to cut back on are entertainment and dining out (as new parents, you probably won’t have time for that anyway!).

Understand Your Health Insurance

One of the biggest costs to a new baby are medical costs. Not only does your baby need healthcare, which is especially crucial in his/her first year, but labor and delivery costs can be significant also. Well before your expected due date, take some time to understand your health insurance. Be sure to understand what is covered and what you will be paying for out-of-pocket. Also, once your child is born, make sure to add him/her to your own policy. Most health plans require you to do this within 30-60 days. Also consider choosing a pediatrician that is within your network to limit costs.

Shop Wisely for Baby Items

There are so many cute baby items on the market that you’ll probably want to spend a small fortune on. Try to prevent that from happening though. Yes, you’ll want to spoil your baby and that’s totally fine, but keep in mind that babies grow into toddlers very quickly. That also means they’ll grow out of those expensive clothes and toys you bought quickly, as well. There are a few items worth the cost, but learn to shop wisely for baby items and spend where it makes the most sense, like gear and food.

Plan for Childcare

Most companies in the United States offer new mothers 3 months of maternity leave and much less for dads. Eventually, you’ll have to go back to work and think about childcare. Having the help of grandparents or other friends and family will save you a ton, but if not – make sure to plan for childcare expenses financially and well ahead of time. You will also want to interview nannies or visit daycare centers to make sure you find the right fit for your family.

Start Thinking About College

Lastly, it’s never too early to start thinking about college. It may be 18 years away, but it’s also a huge expense so you want to start preparing for it now. You should start putting away money for your child’s education as soon as possible. Consider putting your money into a 529 college savings plan, where earnings will grow tax-free and won’t be taxed when taken out to pay for college.

Need help with a college savings plan? To set up a complimentary consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your savings goals, email mary.laferriere@cunamutual.com or stop in to see us!*

Your finances will change drastically with a baby on the way, but you’ll be able to worry less and spend more quality time with your little one – with the right planning and preparing.

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article Source: Connie Mei for moneyning.com

4 Simple Categories to Create Your Budget

It’s the new year – do you have a budget plan in place? If not, here are some great places to start!

1. Housing

Having a place for all of your stuff and somewhere to lay your head should probably be your biggest priority, so as you can imagine this category will be a large portion of your budget. Along with the mortgage, insurance and property taxes, make sure you include repairs and necessary utilities like gas and electric.

2. Transportation

Remember that when it comes to transportation, it’s more than just your car payment. Gas, insurance, repairs, and preventative maintenance like oil changes should all be included. Planning ahead will help keep your car on the road, which will keep money in your pocket.

3. Life

This category is huge. Several categories could be made out of this one, but if you want to keep it all together, it should include the following:

  • Cell phone
  • Food (at home or at a restaurant)
  • Health insurance
  • Medicine
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment
  • Tuition
  • Childcare

All of these things will add up to a large percentage of your budget, so if separating them into their own categories will help you, definitely do that.

4. Savings/Debt

This final category is one of the most important. Saving money for your future is something you want to make sure you’re doing every month. The earlier you start, the better. You’ll be surprised at how a little bit each month can really add up. Also make sure you’re steadily paying down your debt, whether it’s credit cards or student loans. Focus on paying them off and enjoy the freedom you’ll feel when that’s all accomplished.

Learn to create your own budget with our handy budgeting worksheet!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUinsight.com

 

Budget Busting Rationalizations to Stop Doing Immediately

Did you spend money you didn’t intend to this past holiday season? If you are regularly falling victim to money rationalization (talking yourself into a purchase you don’t really need or can’t afford), you are doing yourself and your budget no favors.

Have you told yourself any of the following lies recently? If so, make it your new year’s resolution to stop right now.

  1. It’s on sale! There’s a very good reason why retailers put things on sale, offer two for one deals and give discounts. By offering something on sale, it gives the consumer a sense of urgency about purchasing the item. You know that the sale or discount will not last forever, so you want to snatch up the item before you lose out on the great deal. The thing is, it doesn’t matter how good a bargain the price is if you don’t need that item, because it’s still too expensive. If you are tempted by an item that’s on sale, put it down and walk away. If you still want it the next day (or even the next week), go ahead and buy it. The sale will still be in effect, and you will know that this is a good purchase, and not just an exercise in retail psychology.
  2. Buy now and save later. Later is a great time to do things you don’t want to do, whether that’s budgeting or dieting. It’s very easy to promise yourself that you’ll pay for your splurge by saving money in the future. If you are trying to rationalize a purchase by thinking about what you can give up next week or next month to pay for it, then you simply can’t afford the purchase. If you haven’t learned how to budget (or diet, etc), you’re not going to magically wake up knowing how to do this in the future. Telling yourself no now will be the first step in being the savvy budgeter you hope to be tomorrow.
  3. I need a reward. After a stressful period at work or at the end of a major project, it can be easy to want to reward yourself with something nice. But looking at a new pair of shoes or an expensive car and thinking “I deserve this!” is not the right way to go about being financially secure. Giving in to impulse buys because of stress will not help you achieve your financial goals.
  4. I want to fit in. Sometimes the worst purchasing mistakes come from peer pressure. It’s much easier to spend money when everyone around you is doing the same. Even if your friends would never dream of putting pressure on you, just seeing them spend money can influence your decisions. If this is a problem for you, then shopping should no longer be an activity you do with friends. Find other ways to socialize with the people in your life. Your bank account will thank you.

The best weapon you have against spending rationalization is to know yourself. If you are aware of the things that deceive you into purchases, then it will be much easier to avoid them.

And if you haven’t created a budget for yourself – that might be part of the problem. Learn everything you need to know about budgeting with our quick budgeting guide.

Article Source: Emily Guy Birken for Moneyning.com

How to Recover from a Blown Budget

Went a little crazy on holiday shopping and now your budget is completely off track? Get back on the path to financial freedom and kick off the new year with the following tips:

  1. Stop dwelling. Going over your budget isn’t fun, but it’s not the end of the world. Life happens and you can’t be perfect all the time. Acknowledge that you messed up, then move on. Obsessing about it isn’t going to bring your money back.
  2. Get back into your old routine. Play a little bit of catch up: pay your bills, balance your checkbook, and schedule transfers to pay off some debt if possible. Sometimes when you fall off track, it makes you want to stay off track. It takes more effort to jump back on the bandwagon than it does to remain on the same path. That’s why it’s important to get back into your old routine as soon as you have the chance. Get everything caught up, map out a plan for the remainder of the month, and immediately return to your former routine.
  3. Temporarily cut expenses. If you need to cut back, consider the following tactics:
  • Eat at home until you’ve cleaned your shelves/refrigerator/freezer out.
  • Have “no-spend” days, when you don’t spend a single penny.
  • Skip paid entertainment and opt for board game nights or movies at home.

If you’re still facing a budget discrepancy, you may have to look for extra ways to earn money for the month. Consider selling clothes, furniture, and appliances that are in good condition but that you no longer use. Or can you pick up extra hours at work, or get a part-time job?

If you’ve blown your budget, the important thing is to pick up where you left off and get back to your budget as soon as possible.

Need help creating an organized household budget? Check out our budgeting guide and budgeting fillable PDF worksheet.

Article Source: Alexa Mason for Moneyning.com