How to Build Your Savings

Many Americans have little to nothing at all saved up. In the event of any emergency, most people just don’t have any resources to weather the blow. It can be difficult to understand how to build up your savings, but the key is to start little by little. Nothing is impossible once you get started. Here are five tips to help you:

1. Evaluate Your Priorities

To be successful at saving, you have to understand why you need to do it. We all have goals in life. What are yours? When you have a better understanding of what you want to achieve in the short and long term, you can then make plans to save for them. It’s very important to understand what your priorities are, because the reality is that you can’t spend on everything you want to. Be strategic with your budget and only spend where it can help push you further in life.

2. Make Small Changes

Your savings isn’t going to multiply overnight. Results will take time. Many people make the mistake of trying to save too much too soon. When you make too many drastic changes to your life at once, it’s difficult to sustain the effort. You’re likely just to go back to your old, bad spending habits. It’s best to start small and do little things that you barely notice, like making your own coffee in the morning or bringing lunch to work a few days a week. These small efforts sound minuscule, but the savings will start adding up.

3. Make It Automatic

Set it and forget it. That’s the name of the game. The easiest way to save is to make it automatic so that you don’t have the possibility of forgetting to make the deposit. Set automatic payment transfers from your checking to your savings account. You can do this for days you get paid. Start with small transfers and then increase them over time. Eventually, you probably won’t even notice anymore.

4. Get a Side Gig

If you’re just making ends meet and your budget is bare-bones already, it’s probably going to be difficult to start saving no matter how hard you try. In that case, it’s wise to find additional streams of revenue. Many people these days can make extra income right from the comfort of their own home, doing things like freelance writing or graphic design. If you prefer something more hands on, you can moonlight as a handyman, dog walker, or sell crafts on Etsy. There are plenty of options out there for people of any skill set. You just have to find it.

5. Plan Ahead

Lastly, the most important thing to do is to plan ahead. Most of the time, people can’t save because they are caught off guard by their own spending. Be proactive and plan out your weeks and even months ahead. Try your best to stick to a budget and if you find yourself having trouble, adjust the numbers as soon as possible. The more you plan ahead, the easier it will be for you to save any amount of money.

Start small, and work your way towards financial freedom. The effort will be worth it in the end.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com

Save Money By Taking Your Spring Cleaning to the Next Level

Springtime is here, and that means it’s time for that beloved annual tradition — spring cleaning. In surveys conducted by the American Cleaning Institute, responses indicate that as many as 91% of Americans and 96% of Millennials engage in spring cleaning, so it seems safe to say we’re all in this together.

As you open the windows and begin your routine of washing, sweeping, dusting, and decluttering, the goal is to spruce up your home’s interior while eliminating things you no longer need. When done correctly, spring cleaning can actually make you happier and healthier. So, it makes sense to be as thorough as possible. This year, while you’re busy cleaning your fixtures and furniture, it might be a good idea to update some common household items to more energy-efficient options. A more efficient home is an investment that can save you money all year long, and we’re pretty sure lower utility bills will boost your mood as well!

Simple Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient This Spring

Energy Saving Power Switch: By completely cutting off all power when an electronic device isn’t in use, these plug-in adapters reduce the costly effects of “vampire energy.” While the term sounds scarier than it should, vampire energy refers to the power that still flows to a device even when it is turned off. These handy switches can be purchased online or in your local hardware store for $10 or less. And with prices that low, your return on investment can be quite substantial.

Low Flow Showerhead: According to a research project conducted by the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the average American shower lasts for just over 8 minutes and uses approximately 17 gallons of water. The average flow rate works out to be roughly 2.1 gallons per minute (gpm). By switching to a low flow shower head that reduces usage to 1.25 gpm, you can save an average of $32 per year per person. For a couple, that means about $64 in savings each year — especially impressive considering that most low flow showerheads can be purchased for $10-15.

Smart Thermostat: The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, shop, and even do our banking. Now, thanks to smart products like the Nest Thermostat, it appears that it has also changed the way we save on energy-related expenses. While the initial price of a Nest will set you back approximately $250, the average annual home energy savings of $150 per year means you’ll recoup your investment in less than two years. After that, the savings will continue to add up.

Energy Audits: Not sure where to begin? An energy audit can help! Depending on your location, energy audits can cost anywhere from $250 to $600. And while that might seem like a lot to pay up front, the potential savings can make it worth the investment. During a professional energy audit, efficiency experts utilize specialized tools to identify areas where your home may be using excessive energy, which in turn – can help you pinpoint which improvements will make the biggest difference. To find an energy auditor and prepare for an upcoming audit, check out these helpful tips.

Throughout this article, we’ve talked about a few relatively low cost ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency. But maybe you’re thinking a little bigger this spring. If you need a little more incentive to make big ticket improvements like installing new windows, updating your HVAC system, or adding solar panels, federal tax incentives may provide just the push you’re looking for. Usually available in the form of rebates, these incentives are designed to encourage homeowners to update their home systems to be more energy efficient and sustainable. If you’ve been thinking about making some major energy saving upgrades around your house, don’t forget to see if the upgrades qualify for valuable government incentives. When it comes to saving energy and saving money, every little bit helps!

Tips for Building a Fabulous Wardrobe on a Budget

It’s Springtime, and one of the most popular seasons to shop for clothes and do some spring cleaning. This includes your closet. One of the first steps is to eliminate anything in your closet that doesn’t fit, flatter, or you simply don’t love.

Is it possible to build an amazing wardrobe on a budget? If you consider the following tips, absolutely.

1. Plan Out Your Ideal Wardrobe

Like any financial endeavor, a successful makeover starts with a plan—in this case, your ideal wardrobe. Make a list of 10-15 key items you’ll need for each season, not counting accessories or activity-specific items. Some prefer 33 items that mix and match into four 3 month mini capsules. Whichever plan you choose, here are two things to consider:

Follow your personal style – what you feel and look good in, your lifestyle needs, and the image you want to project. Think about your favorite clothes and what they have in common.

Choose colors that will blend well with one another. Mostly neutrals tones (black, white, gray, ivory, brown/camel, navy) with a few pops of color will allow you to create the greatest number of outfits with the fewest pieces.

2. Determine Your Shopping and Downsizing Strategy

Seeing what you have and what you need, will allow you to target your shopping. If you can only afford to purchase one new item a month, which items are the highest priority? Take your time making decisions, because you’ll want each new piece to last as long as possible. If you won’t be donating your old clothes, sell them through consignment, a yard sale, or an app like Poshmark – and channel the funds into your new wardrobe.

3. Choose Quality Over Quantity

Many of us mark a successful shopping trip by how far we stretch our money, failing to take into account the quality of the clothing we’ve purchased. Instead of replacing three poorly-constructed items purchased for $100 after a few months, it’s better to purchase one $100 item that will last you much longer. How do you determine quality other than price? Try things on, read reviews, and test things out until you find a handful of brands you can count on for the right mix of quality and value.

4. Go for Timeless, Not Trendy

You’ll probably notice that high-quality pieces tend to be classics — items that will always make you look fashionable, regardless of the current trends. If you want to ‘freshen’ your wardrobe, look through fashion magazines for ideas on how to create new looks with the classics you already have.

5. Be a Savvy Shopper

While budgeting and saving for quality pieces, don’t forget to look for great deals. Stay aware of what’s in the stores, but wait for end-of-season sales in June/July and December/January. Don’t be afraid to mix in a few cheaper pieces with more expensive ones by shopping consignment and vintage stores, but again — prioritize quality.

6. Take Care of Your Clothes

Paying more for your clothes will make you want to take better care of them. Always follow care instructions exactly, and when in doubt, hand wash and air dry. To avoid ironing disasters, replace your iron with a garment steamer.

And there you have it – creating an amazing wardrobe on a budget!

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for Moneyning.com

8 Ways to Save at the Grocery Store Without Coupons

Grocery shopping can be a hassle, and having to take time to cut coupons can make it even worse. Here’s how you can shop without coupons and still save money.

1. Pick the right store.

Try comparing stores by shopping for identical items and figure out which store has the best value. Keep in mind the distance you travel to each store, because that can add up too.

2. Stock up on sale items.

When there’s a sale, buy anything you can freeze or that has a long shelf life. If it’s an item that goes on sale often, buy enough to last you until the next sale. Compare your store’s weekly ads and plan ahead.

3. Take advantage of loyalty programs.

Some stores require a loyalty card to get sale prices, so definitely sign up for one. It only takes a few minutes and you may even get other discounts as you use it.

4. Check the unit price.

Occasionally, buying in bulk will save you money. However – at a lot of grocery stores, the smaller quantity packages actually cost less per ounce.

5. Don’t buy prepared foods.

You may think having to wash and cut fruit and vegetables is an inconvenience, but it’s also a great way to save money. You may enjoy the ease of using already prepared food, but you’ll pay for that benefit. Buy the ingredients uncut, and create your meals. You’ll pleasantly be surprised to see how much you can save.

6. Don’t waste anything.

Make sure you’re not buying anything you haven’t already planned on eating. If you buy on impulse, you may end up buying something that will eventually just get thrown away. Map out meals and snacks and don’t get anything you don’t really need.

7. Cook the right amount.

Don’t make more food than you need. If you follow the recipe on a package, you may cook too much food, especially if you’re only cooking for 1 or 2 people. Sometimes leftovers are good to have, but a lot of times they end up in the trash can. Make sure you figure out the correct serving size and adjust your purchases accordingly.

8. Shop less.

This one is easy. The more you shop, the more impulse buys you’ll make. Look at your store’s sale schedule and shop only as often as you have to.

 Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

3 Habits of Highly Effective Savers

When life changes, adjust.
Whether it is having babies, job changes, or the purchase of a new home, life is constantly changing. Every life changing event leads to an increase or decrease of your available funds. People who save effectively will look at these situations as opportunities to adjust the way they save. This may mean a temporary hold on saving, but always make sure you plan for a time when you can begin saving money again.

Play for keeps.
People who are great at saving don’t look at their paychecks as something to spend. They look at their paychecks as something to keep. Center your financial decisions around the question: How do I spend less, save more, and still obtain the things I need?

Set aside part of any extra earnings.
While your yearly income is (hopefully) predictable, we sometimes receive money we did not expect or budget for. This can be a tax return, bonus at work, birthday money, credit card rewards, etc. A great saver will put at least a percentage of each windfall they receive into their savings account.

If you’re looking to save, check out your local credit union like First Financial! We offer a great variety of options in savings accounts and savings certificates, which are Federally Insured by the NCUA.*

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

Article Source: Robbie Young for CUInsight.com

12 Tips to Stay in the Money Saving Mindset

If saving money isn’t your strong suit, don’t worry. Changing your money habits will have its challenges, but with a little effort, you can stop making so many unnecessary purchases and start building a sizable savings.

The first step is to think about your goals and priorities. Why do you want to save money? You might be looking for the security of an emergency fund, hoping to spend less time working, or preparing to buy a new car.

Whether your savings journey is just starting out or you’re already a saver and want to keep it that way, these 12 tips will help keep you from backsliding into poor money habits.

1. Remember why saving is important to you.

Think about why you want to save money, and take every opportunity to remind yourself. Talk about it out loud, or write it down.

2. Hold yourself accountable.

Budgets, spreadsheets, and shopping lists are enough to put the average consumer to sleep, but don’t be afraid to give this strategy a try. People who are already in the habit of jotting down notes or lists will likely be successful making strict shopping lists and sticking to them.

Once you make a reasonable budget, don’t stray from it. Check it over every once in a while and try to eliminate or reduce any expenses.

3. When you get a raise, don’t increase your spending.

After you get a raise it might seem natural to spend a little more. The problem is that a more expensive lifestyle could jeopardize your saving behavior. Think of a pay raise as an effortless way to speed up your savings.

4. Create a vision board.

It’s easier to reach a financial goal if you can see yourself accomplishing it. One way is to create a financial vision board. Cut out pictures of the financial goals you desire to reach and put them in a photo collage together.

5. Separate needs from wants.

You may fall out of the money saving mindset when you spend money on wants instead of needs. The two can be easily confused, especially if you really want something – you might become so invested in it that you convince yourself that it is a need and not a want. Prevent this by taking your time with purchasing decisions.

6. Learn why you spend.

It will be easier to save when you get to the bottom of why you spend. Do you buy a lot of clothes because you want to impress someone? Are you always spending money on eating out because you don’t set aside time to cook? If you’re more focused on impressing others or you haven’t established financial discipline, it is time to start figuring out these bad habits.

7. Address lingering money problems.

If you want to stay in the money saving mindset, you need to take care of any destructive money issues. Maybe you’re not used to having a lot of money, so you tend to save your money and then find an excuse to spend it. Consider consulting with a financial therapist or joining a financial support group.

8. Ask for Help.

No matter how hard it gets to save money, stay committed. If you find it hard to continue saving money, ask a friend or family member to help you stick to your goal. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

9. Make a game out of saving money.

Saving money doesn’t have to be a chore. Make a game out of it, so you can stay motivated. Invite your friends to join and try the 52-Week Money Challenge, which requires you to save a certain amount of money each week during the year.

10. Track your progress.

Don’t get too comfortable after reaching a big savings milestone. Once you’ve saved a certain amount of money, it’s easy to fall back into your old habits. Continue to keep an eye on how you are doing with your goals.

11. Keep educating yourself.

Continue to learn as much as you can about how to manage your finances. If you want to be a money success, it’s important for you to keep feeding on new financial information every day. The more you learn about money and how it works, the more you will commit to making savings a priority.

12. Celebrate successes.

Keep moving forward by giving yourself a pat on the back when you reach a goal. Every time you reach a savings milestone, celebrate – but don’t celebrate so much that you get yourself back into debt.

Article Source: Sheiresa Ngo for cheatsheet.com