What Is The True Cost Of Pet Ownership?

For most pet owners, their furry, feathery, and scaly friends are more than animals; they are family members. This can sometimes mean spoiling them like they would human family members.

With nearly 70 percent of Ohioans owning pets, according to the Ohio Credit Union League’s 2018 consumer survey, that means a lot of funds are dedicated to pets. Of those pet owners, 46 percent said they tend to spend up to $500 annually on pet care and supplies. Another 21 percent spend between $500 and $750, 15 percent between $750 and $1,000, while 18 percent claim to spend more than $1,000 on their fur babies each year.

Expenditures on pets by Ohioans are not far from national averages, according to research from the American Pet Products Association (APPA).

Data from the APPA shows about 68 percent of households in the U.S. – 84.6 million families – own at least one pet. In 2017, American pet owners spent a combined $69.51 billion on their animals. That means each pet-owning U.S. household spent about $822 caring for animals last year.

The APPA breaks pet spending into five major categories: food, supplies (including medicine), veterinarian care, live animal purchases, and pet services (including grooming and boarding). According to the Ohio Credit Union League survey, 51 percent of Ohioans spend most of their pet budget on veterinarian care.

Nationally, most money spent on pets – about $29.07 billion – went toward food in 2017, and $17.07 billion on vet care that same year. Spending on pets in the U.S. is expected to continue to rise. The APPA estimates Americans will spend $72.13 billion on their pets this year, almost $3 billion more than in 2017.

So, how do you continue to spoil your loyal friend without breaking the bank? Here are some money-saving pet care tips.

  • Create a pet budget. It’s easier for owners to save on pet costs if they can see how that money is spent. Try setting up a budget specifically for your pet. Track spending on food, toys, veterinarian visits, medicine, grooming, and boarding. At the end of each month, assess how much money has been spent on pet costs and adjust those categories as necessary.
  • Keep pets healthy. Taking pets to the vet regularly can get costly, with veterinarians charging an average of about $257 for a routine dog visit and $182 for cats. But emergency medical costs are even higher (surgical visits cost an average of $245 for cats and $474 for dogs) and tend to stack up. It’s more cost effective to visit the vet regularly for complete physicals, which include diagnostic tests to detect problems before they’re serious. To help keep pets healthy between vet appointments, make sure they’re getting the correct food and plenty of exercises.
  • Make your own Many of the toys sold in pet stores can be created at home. For instance, cat scratching pads can be fashioned from cardboard boxes and braided towels can replace pricey rope toys for dogs. Sites like VetStreet.com offer creative and simple DIY pet toy ideas.
  • Consider less-expensive alternatives to boarding. Travel with animals isn’t always possible, but boarding can get expensive. Instead, try setting up a pet-sitting system. Offer to watch friends’ pets for free while they’re away in exchange for their pet-sitting services next time you leave town. If free pet care isn’t available, check out alternative boarding options like com or DogVacay.com. These sites connect owners with walkers and sitters who typically charge less than pet daycares.
  • Get help. Pet owners struggling financially have options. Charities like RedRover and The Pet Fund provide grants and money toward veterinarian bills. Meals on Wheels and local pet food banks can help owners struggling to feed their animals. For more pet assistance programs, visit iheartdogs.com.

Learn how a credit union can help you do more with your money by visiting www.aSmarterChoice.org.

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Unplug Your Kids from Technology with Summer Camp

Children are increasingly becoming dependent on TV, game consoles, or other electronic devices for entertainment. Summer breaks often means they’ll spend more time in front of a screen. To get your kids outside in a healthy, natural environment, consider sending them to a summer camp. They’ll spend their days being physically active, participate in fun activities that build self-confidence and self-esteem, become more independent, make new friends, and reconnect with nature.

There are over 12,000 camps in the U.S. of many varieties:
• Traditional camps: Usually family-owned and focused on providing outdoor adventures.
• Girl and Boy Scout camps: Great for children wanting to learn more outdoor skills.
• Underprivileged background camps: For children whose parents cannot afford the usual camp fees.
• Day camps: Children attend for the day and return home at night.
• Not-for-profit camps: Run and funded by organizations and charities, there are fewer offerings than those at more expensive camps, but they’re valuable nonetheless.
• Special Needs camps: Children and adults stay in cabins with accessible living arrangements.
• Specialist camps: Catering to campers wanting to learn and practice specific skills, like horseback riding, soccer, performing arts, or science.
• Faith-based camps: Christian and Jewish camps that celebrate and teach their respective religions.

You can find camps on the following websites:
http://find.acacamps.org/
http://www.summercamps.com/
http://www.campchannel.com/
https://www.camppage.com/

Costs vary, but many camps offer early enrollment or sibling discounts, and some will arrange payment plans with parents. Every year, 90% of American Camp Association (ACA) camps offer some kind of financial assistance, often called “camperships.”

If you work, are looking for work, or are a full-time student, and your child is 13 years old or younger, you can send him or her to day camp and deduct a portion of the expense from your taxes. The size of the deduction depends on your income or number of children under 13 you have. For more information, see IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses at http://www.irs.gov.

It’s always a good idea to save for summer fun so you don’t have to go into debt. Hopewell Federal Credit Union can help you save for camp and other family activities by helping you create a spending plan. Call us today at 740.522.8311 or stop by for assistance.

Copyright 2018 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

Good News for Children with Disabilities

Do you have a child with a disability or do you know of a child with a disability?  I have some great news for you.  The state of Ohio has created opportunities for you to save money for that child without affecting certain benefits.

A STABLE account is an investment account available to eligible individuals with disabilities. STABLE Accounts are made possible by the federal achieving a Better Life Experience (“ABLE”) Act. STABLE Accounts allow individuals with disabilities to save and invest money without losing eligibility for certain public benefits programs, like Medicaid, SSI, or SSDI. Earnings in your STABLE Account are not subject to federal income tax, so long as you spend them on “Qualified Disability Expenses.”

You may put up to $14,000 per year and you have to stop contributing at $426,000.  The Stable account program allows you to invest the money how you want and you may make 2 changes per year.

This money grows tax free and you can spend it on “Qualified Expenses” like: Housing, transportation, employment training, personal support services, education, legal fees, assistive technology, and basic living expenses.

You can find out a lot more information by going to Stableaccount.com or calling 800-439-1653.  This article is a public service announcement for children with disabilities.  LPL Financial and Webb Financial Group LLC have no affiliation with the stable account program.  Please consult your advisor for more details.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual

Scott L. Webb CFS is the owner of Webb Financial Group LLC and can be reached at scott.webb@lpl.com or (740)454-6113 Securities are offered through LPL Financial,  member FINRA/SIPC


 

 

Copycat Recipe: Applebee’s Fiesta Lime Chicken

Eating out is fun, but it can take a huge bite out of your wallet.

Restaurants generally mark-up the cost of entrees over 300% just to cover their overhead. For a family of four, the cost to eat out can be over $50. Add drinks and a tip and the cost is over $70. By making your favorite restaurant dishes at home, you and your family can enjoy them for a fraction of the cost.

For instance, Applebee’s charges about $11.50 per serving for its delicious Fiesta Lime Chicken. If you make this in your own kitchen, the price shrinks to $1.40 per serving!

The chicken needs to marinate for minimum of two hours, but cooking takes 15 mins. You can prepare the marinade the night before and put the chicken in it so it’s ready to cook the following day. This recipe serves four. (Source: Genius Kitchen)

Ingredient ** Average Price ** Cost Per Recipe
1/3 C. teriyaki sauce , $1.82 (15 oz.) , $0.32
juice of ½ a lime , $0.15 (ea.) , $0.08
3 garlic cloves, minced , $0.40 (bulb by weight) , $0.11
1 tsp. tequila (optional) , $19.99 (750 ml.) , $0.39
1 tsp. liquid smoke , $1.48 (4 oz.) , $0.06
½ tsp. salt , $2.98 (26 oz.) , $0.01
¼ tsp. ground ginger , $3.97 (1.6 oz.) , $0.05
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast , $1.99 (per lb) , $1.99
¼ C. mayonnaise , $2.48 (30 oz) , $0.17
2 tbsp. chunky salsa, spicy , $1.98 (24 oz) , $0.08
1 tbsp. milk , $2.08 (gal.) , $0.02
1 tsp. Cajun blackened spice mix , $3.34 (5 oz.) , $0.11
¼ tsp. dried parsley , $2.49 (.5 oz.) , $0.21
¼ tsp. hot sauce , $1.54 (30 oz.) , $0.01
1/8 tsp.of dried dill weed , $3.28 (.3 oz.) , $0.23
1/8 tsp.of cumin , $2.98 (1.5 oz.) , $0.02
1 C. Colby-Monterey jack cheese shredded , $3.98 (16 oz.) , $.99
2 C. corn chips, crumbled , $2.00 (11 oz.) , $0.75

Total for the recipe: $5.60
Cost per serving: $1.40

Directions:
1. Whisk together the first 8 ingredients, coat chicken in mixture, and marinade for at least 2 hours.
2. Whisk together the next 9 ingredients, cover, and chill until needed.
3. Grill the marinated chicken breasts for 3-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Discard marinade.
4. Brush grilled chicken with reserved dressing, sprinkle with cheese, and broil until cheese has melted.
5. Serve the chicken over a bed of crumbled chips.

To find other recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes, go to http://www.geniuskitchen.com and search for “copycat.”

Copyright 2018 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

4 Ways to Curb Your Online Shopping Enthusiasm

Browse. Click. Buy. Repeat. Shopping online has never been easier.

Nearly every need or want can be fulfilled and at your door in 48 hours or less, thanks to sites like Amazon, Walmart and Google Express.

That near-instant gratification can be problematic, though. Boxes and bills can pile up quickly, making a mess of your home and your finances. Even if your urge to Amazon isn’t yet a financial drain, it may well be a time suck.

Tidying up your online shopping habits can make you more productive, if not more fiscally responsible. Try these tricks to hamper your internet purchasing impulse.

1. Unsubscribe and unfollow

“Cleanse your inbox and unsubscribe from any notifications … that encourage you to shop,” says Natasha Rachel Smith, a personal finance expert at TopCashBack.com, a website that offers rewards to shoppers who buy through the site.

Makenzi Wood’s kryptonite: Amazon Daily Deal emails. After she racked up more than $1,000 in six months — on everything from jewelry to clothes to hair extensions — she unsubscribed.

Wood, a marketer and author of the personal finance blog Picky Pinchers, also unfollowed brands on social media and used Unroll.me to unsubscribe from junk email in bulk and “rollup” other subscriptions into one daily email — rather than dozens of daily emails.

“I have lizard brain. I need to check emails immediately,” Wood says. “If I batch my emails with that tool, it doesn’t catch me by surprise as much and I’m able to evaluate it more logically.”

Services like Unroll.me have broad permissions to “read, send, delete, and manage your email” and may share your data anonymously. If you’re not comfortable with that, do things the old-fashioned way — unsubscribe individually. Promotional emails typically have a link at the bottom that you can click to shut off emails from that retailer or adjust their frequency.

2. Turn off app notifications

Retail apps can be a great way to save money. They can also be a trigger for impulse shopping, sending push notifications to your smartphone to alert you to sales.

If the pull of that push is too hard to resist, turn it off. Some apps give you the option to do this when you sign up, while others require you to go to your settings (typically a gear icon) or account profile to disable notifications.

3. Make checkout difficult

Websites offer to store your payment information for a reason: They know the easier it is to check out, the more likely you are to complete your purchase.

Add some friction back into the process by removing saved payment information from your favorite sites. And keep your wallet out of reach, so you’ll have to walk across the room to get your cards — then manually enter your account number — to check out.

You can take this a step further and enlist a trusted friend or family member to hold on to your cards. Strong emphasis on “trusted.” Wood locked her cards in a safe — at her now-husband’s apartment — for six months.

“This way, if I wanted my card I had to go over there and explain to someone why I needed my cards.”

4. Institute a waiting period

“If ever you feel the temptation to buy something, go ahead and add it to your cart,” says money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. “The simple act of filling your online cart is often enough to satisfy that urge to splurge.”

Woroch suggests letting your stash sit in your cart for at least 24 hours before completing the purchase.

Too tempted by a full cart? Put your finds on a wish list or set up price alerts. Michelle Madhok, an online shopping expert and founder of the deals site shefinds.com, uses the website Shopstyle for this.

“I do this all the time when a new season starts,” Madhok says. As the season wears down, she gets alerts for pieces she flagged at the start. “Frequently by that time I don’t want the item anymore.”

The article 4 Ways to Curb Your Online Shopping Enthusiasm originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Preparing a Disaster Kit

The number of natural disasters, particularly weather-related disasters, appears to be rising each year. (See the Economist https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/08/daily-chart-19) If you live in a hurricane-, earthquake-, or flood-prone area, you know you may only have seconds to get to safety. Since help may not arrive immediately, it’s important to be ready for the aftermath of a disaster.

To prepare for such an event, create your own disaster supply kit, something you can grab quickly and easily as you head to safety. The kit should contain enough food, water, and other vital supplies to help you for at least 72 hours.

Your disaster kit should contain:
• Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
• Food ¬– at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food, including food for your pet.
• Manual can opener for food
• Any prescription medications
• Radio (hand-cranked or battery-powered – make sure you have extra batteries)
• Flashlight (hand-cranked or battery powered – make sure you have extra batteries)
• First aid kit
• Whistle to signal for help
• Dust mask
• Plastic sheeting and duct tape to create a shelter
• Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
• Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
• Local maps
• Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
• Copies of important papers in a sealable, waterproof bag.

Store your items in a plastic bin or duffel bag and place it in an easily accessible place. If your work is far from your home, you may want to create a separate disaster kit for your car.

No one likes thinking about calamities, but giving a thought to a disaster prep kit now may save your life later. To get more helpful advice, go to http://www.ready.gov.

Copyright 2018 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

The realities of paying off student loans

College graduates in Ohio are entering the workforce with high hopes, bright futures, and years’ worth of student loan debt.

The average annual cost of tuition in Ohio was $14,804 for the 2016-2017 academic year, according to CollegeCalc. That’s $1,218 higher than the U.S. average and ranks Ohio as the 20th most-expensive state or district in which to attend college.

With the cost of college continually growing, student loans have become essential for attendance. According to an Ohio Credit Union League Consumer Survey, 43 percent of Ohioans who went to college used student loans to help pay for their degree. Another 26 percent have children who leveraged student loans.

Of those surveyed, 23 percent say they plan to pay off their loans in one to five years following graduation. Another 38 percent expect to have their loans paid off within 10 years, and 39 percent of respondents said they felt their loan payments were going on “forever” and wondered “if they’ll ever be paid off.”

This response isn’t surprising considering the average 2016 college graduate has $37,172 in student loans, according to Student Loan Hero. All that money can take a decade or more to pay off. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau considers a standard payment term on a student loan to be roughly 10 years, although borrowers with more than $30,000 in federal student debt could be eligible for payment plans of up to 25 years.

A NerdWallet study suggested student loan debt will hamper most new grads into their 60s and 70s, contributing to a longer working life. Most won’t be able to retire until age 75.

To circumvent this fate, here are some tips to help you pay down student loan debt:

  • Start paying as soon as possible. Use the six-month grace period, meant to give recent graduates time to look for a job before repayment begins, to get a jump start on payments. The sooner you can begin repaying student loans, the more money you’ll save.
  • Pay above and beyond. Paying more than the monthly minimum balance will save you money in interest over the life of your loan. Even rounding up to the next whole or even number takes money directly off the principal.
  • Allocate extra money. Your tax refund check is an easy place to start finding extra cash. You may also consider bonuses, an inheritance, settlement, or even birthday checks.
  • Set achievable milestones. Set-up a payment plan with achievable milestones throughout and reward yourself when you reach each milestone. Begin by paying off the highest-interest loan. When that’s paid off, celebrate with a small “splurge.”
  • Consolidating and refinancing your loans can help pay off loans faster. Credit unions typically offer lower interest rates on loans.

 

To learn more about credit unions in your community and what financial assistance they offer, visit www.aSmarterChoice.org and find a credit union in your area.