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

More Bad Money Habits You Need to Let Go Of

Habits happen. When it comes to money, it’s a good idea to recognize the bad ones and kick them to the curb as soon as possible. Here are a few less-than-stellar money habits that you need to let go of right away.

Not setting goals: If you don’t have savings goals, you’ll never have the savings you need. You should be packing away money for retirement and at least have an emergency fund for those unexpected bills. If you don’t know how much you need to retire, checkout a retirement calculator like this one.

Picking up every check: It’s great to buy dinner sometimes, especially when you’re out with friends and family, but don’t feel you have to pay the check every time. Even if the bill is only $40-50 bucks, if it’s a regular thing, it can really add up. Having separate checks is the best plan, and feel free to pick up the check every now and again.

I’ll have what he or she is having: If you see your friend pick up a new 60” flat screen, it can make you very envious. Remember just because your friend has some new, cool toys doesn’t mean they haven’t put themselves in debt to get it.

Paying ATM fees: When you are going somewhere and you need cash, make sure you plan ahead. You may feel like stopping at a random ATM is no big deal, but those little service fees will rob you blind over time. If you’re going somewhere that doesn’t take plastic, plan to stop at your local branch and use the free ATM that’s provided for you.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Unexpected Life Events That Could Ruin Your Finances

Although it’s impossible to predict what will happen in life, there are certain actions you can take to better prepare yourself for what may come your way. Instead of worrying about things you often can’t control, consider these potential life events and what you can do now to avoid ruining your finances in the future.

Becoming a caregiver.

It’s difficult to think about our parents growing older and the possibility of becoming a caregiver to a loved one. If you’re not careful and prepared, taking on this responsibility can significantly impact your finances. The best thing you can do to prepare your family is to fully understand your loved one’s financial situation. Have they invested in long-term care? Are their finances in order and have they sought the advice of a financial planner? Try not to let any new expenses you may incur while helping out cause you unnecessary financial stress.

Getting a divorce.

No one expects to get divorced when they’re reciting their marriage vows in front of family and friends. The fact is, sometimes things don’t work out and you and your spouse may be better apart than together. The smart thing to do if you’re faced with this situation is to get informed now. Don’t let your soon-to-be ex control your finances. Don’t be afraid to get the help you need so you’re financially independent and stable. Experts also suggest that immediately after going through the divorce, wait before you make another serious decision. Let the dust settle, make sure your assets are in order and take things slowly. Rash decisions can cost you, so take your time during the transition.

Weathering a natural disaster.

We all know that Mother Nature has a mind of her own. But, there are a few things you can do to prepare your financial state in case of a weather disaster. First, start an emergency fund now. Saving a small amount initially is a wise plan, but ideally you’ll want to have around four to five months’ worth of living expenses on hand. Secondly, keep your financial documents organized and secure so if disaster strikes, you can easily access the information needed. Third, get up to speed on your insurance policies. Most homeowners insurance plans do not include flood damage – so in the off chance you live in an area prone to high flood waters, get coverage now as flood insurance usually cannot be purchased after the disaster strikes.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

4 Money Skills You Should’ve Had Yesterday

Everyone’s life is different and we all learn life skills in a different order, at a different age, and at a different place. No matter where you’re at, here are 4 money skills you should have.

Negotiating purchases: When you were shopping for your first new car you probably didn’t have a clue about how much you should spend or how much the car was really worth. It’s time to do your homework. Negotiation is a battle and you need to show up to the dealership prepared with knowledge as your ammo. Don’t just accept the price of the first car you like. Make a counter-offer that’s reasonable and don’t be afraid to say no and walk away. Stick to your gameplan and you’ll end up with a good deal.

Here’s how to buy a car in 5 easy steps!

Budgeting your paycheck: Your first job put more money in your pocket than you’d ever made in your life and you probably spent like crazy. Now that you’re older, you need to be seriously thinking about your spending habits and saving for retirement. If you haven’t used a budget before, find one and stick to it. If you’ve been living paycheck to paycheck, it’s time to stop.

Check out our budgeting guide for some helpful hints on creating a budget.

Maximizing your credit score: When you’re young, you don’t care about your credit score. But it’s never too early to start paying attention to it. Anything you purchase that requires making payments will be affected by your credit score. The higher your score, the better your interest rate, which will save you a lot of money over the life of the loan.

Using your credit cards: Credit cards are a valuable tool when used correctly. When used irresponsibly, they can turn on you in a heartbeat. When you get that first credit card, use it periodically to build credit. DON’T overspend. If you want to use your credit card more often, make sure you pay it off every month. EVERY SINGLE MONTH. Don’t miss payments and don’t leave a balance. If you stick to those rules, you’ll be in good shape.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

4 Items You Should Never Carry in Your Wallet

When it comes to your wallet – there are some things you should surely throw away, and there are others you should take out and file away immediately to prevent identity theft.

Social Security Card

It may seem obvious to not carry this with you, but many people have long kept their SS card in their wallet. But think about it, if you have your number memorized, which most of us do, when do you actually need your card? Have you ever had to present your card to someone? Carrying this information around with you is a bad idea. If the wrong person gets ahold of your social security number, you could end up with loans opened up in your name and new credit card accounts.

Passwords

It seems every website we visit now requires a password. How are we ever supposed to keep up with them all? It’s a great idea to have a cheat sheet where all your passwords are kept, but do not be tempted to keep this information in your wallet. Instead, keep your notes at your desk, locked in your phone, or filed away somewhere at home with other sensitive information.

Credit Cards

Many of us are way past the point of having a credit card just for “emergencies.”  It’s hard to check out at any retail store without being asked if we’d like to “save 10% by opening up a store credit card.” No matter how many cards you have, it’s wise not to carry all of them in your wallet at once. Think about it: if your wallet is stolen or lost, would you want someone to have access to every account you have? Instead, keep one card with you for those emergencies and leave the others at home in a safe place – unless you are specifically going to that particular store. This can also keep you from making spur of the moment purchases you’ll likely regret.

Receipts

Once you get home from a store after making a purchase, decide right then if you need to hold on to the receipt. Is there a chance you’re going to return the item? If not, then toss the receipt right away. If it is a larger purchase or some type of home technology, you may want to keep the receipt until after the purchase shows on your next credit card statement, to ensure you were charged the correct amount and that the item functions properly.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa today. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

How to Eliminate Debt Using the Snowball Method

The snowball method is a simple debt elimination strategy that can be employed by anyone of any income level to quickly pay off debt.

Begin by making a chart of all outstanding debt and list your monthly payment.

Then, organize your debt in order of highest monthly payment to lowest monthly payment.

Each month, pay the minimum payment on all debt except the lowest.

For the lowest debt, pay the minimum plus any extra you can. Ideally, pay double (or more if possible) to quickly pay off this loan.

After the lowest debt is paid off, roll what you were paying on it into the next lowest debt. It will be the next loan you pay off.

This accumulation method, like a snowball effect, works because it’s clear and concise.

By tackling the smallest debt first, it’s easier not to be overwhelmed. Once it’s paid off, you’ll feel more empowered to tackle debt after debt till there’s none left!

Article Source: Jennifer Reynolds for CUInsight.com