Minimalize Your Life and Your Finances

The home decorating business is a billion dollar industry, and for good reason. Nothing makes a house feel like a home quite like photos, artwork, and end tables. Before you know it, you’re buying more odds and ends from your Pinterest board so your home can look like it’s from an episode on HGTV.

If this Dave Ramsey quote applies to you, it might be time to reconsider your lifestyle: “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

In response to this, the minimalist lifestyle is catching steam. From tiny houses to spare, clean bedrooms, it seems as though these self-proclaimed minimalists have really good design taste. But the truth is they’ve readjusted their mindset to appreciate the things they have and purge the things that don’t bring joy.

Adopting a minimalist lifestyle can help you emotionally and financially. How?

1. Organizing is great! But not having to organize your clutter every week (or month, we don’t judge) is even better. Simply put, when you don’t have as much “stuff” to consume your space, you’ll have more time to enjoy with your friends and family.

2. You stop wasting money on items that don’t serve any purpose. Saving money is not the ultimate goal of minimalism, but it is a nice side effect. How many times do you find yourself shopping and buying something you never wear, eat or use? Think about how much money you’ve wasted on unnecessary junk in your life. Once you rid yourself of those purchases, you have more money to spend on items and experiences that actually bring light into your life.

3. You feel happy and less stressed in your home environment. Is most of your cleaning simply hiding messes in drawers? Are there drawers bursting with potholders, pens and other odds and ends? That can cause anxiety! Once you get rid of items you don’t need, everything seems to feel lighter and less stressful.

4. You realize you’re not defined by what you own, or by what others think of you. In the end, it doesn’t matter if your coworkers or friends are impressed by the car you drive. You can’t pay your bills with someone’s opinion.

5. You stop wasting time and effort in the sale section. Okay, this is only half true. You can still try to find a good bargain, but when you realize you don’t need as much, you can afford items with higher value. By only purchasing what you need, you free yourself of unnecessary card swiping.

6. You begin to realize that contentment doesn’t come from what you own, but from how you feel about yourself. Money can buy you happiness to an extent, but it will never satisfy you completely.

Adopting a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t have to mean making big changes in your life. But it does mean committing to ridding your life—and finances—of clutter. The best way to start is by grabbing your checking account statement and analyzing your monthly purchases. If everything you’ve purchased has somehow enhanced your life, great! If not, you may want to start there. Happy minimizing!

Don’t Fall Prey To Fraud This Holiday Season

10 Steps For Mobile Phone Safety

1 – SET PINS AND PASSWORDS

A first line of defense in your personal security is setting your Personal Identification Number (PIN) or Password on your phone.  If your phone is lost or stolen, it will keep your personal information safe.

2 – KEEP SECURITY SETTINGS

Factory security settings are designed to keep you safe.  Altering these settings can leave you vulnerable to a fraudsters attack.

3 – BACK UP YOUR DATA

Back up your data on your cloud or removable storage card.  Should your device be lost or stolen, you can still retrieve your information.

4 – TRUST YOUR SOURCE

Each time you go to download an app, be sure it is a legitimate and trusted source.  Many apps come from fraudsters apt to steal your information, install viruses or damage your phones content.

5 – UNDERSTAND BEFORE YOU ACCEPT

Before you grant applications access to our personal info, be sure you are aware of what they are requesting.   Don’t leave yourself open to an attack.

6 – ENSURE SECURITY FROM AFAR

Having the ability to wipe your phone clean from a remote location can prove to be invaluable if your phone is lost or stolen.  Be sure to research this opportunity as it could save you from a breach in security.

7 – GET THE FIX

It is imperative to keep updates and patches to phones smartphone software as current as possible.  You reduce the risk of exposure to new threats.

8 – BE AWARE OF PUBLIC WI-FI

An open to the public Wi-Fi network can provide an easy target to cybercriminals.  Despite their convenience, you must be aware and cautious when utilizing them.

9 – CLEAR BEFORE YOU SAY GOODBYE

Smartphones are loaded with lots of personal data that you need to keep private.  When you decide to upgrade, resell or recycle your phone, it is necessary to completely erase all the data off your phone.  Reset it to the initial factory settings to ensure all your personal information does not go with that phone.

10 – REPORT THEFT

If your phone is stolen, let your wireless provider know as soon as possible.  They have protocols in place that will prevent the thief from activating it.

6 Ways to Save More Money in the New Year

Even if saving has never been your thing and money is tight, the coming of a new year is an opportunity to change old financial habits. Here are some ways to become a more efficient saver.

1. Budget

Budgeting helps you organize your finances so you have money left over to save each month. It may seem laborious, but budgeting doesn’t have to be hard. Mobile apps cut a lot of the work and can help you track spending throughout the month.

2. Pay yourself first

Firmly commit to making a savings deposit monthly, even if you can only afford a small amount. Do this before paying your other bills.

3. Automate

If you’re not confident your resolution will stick or you want to simplify the process, automate your savings deposits. That way, a portion of your paycheck will automatically go to your savings account, or an amount you choose will be transferred from your checking to savings account each month. You won’t miss money that was never in your hands in the first place.

4. Make your money work harder

Compound interest is the interest paid on the interest your money earns in an account, and it allows your principal balance to grow faster. To fully benefit from compound interest, consider opening a high-yield savings account or a certificate of deposit that offers higher rates than the average savings account.

5. Plug up cash drains

It’s not always the big expenses that sabotage saving efforts; small expenses can add up and be a huge cash drain. To rein in spending and increase your cash surplus:

  • Shop around for the lowest possible rates on utilities, insurance, TV, internet and mobile plans. Also, make sure you get discounts you may be entitled to.
  • Check bank account statements for less obvious fees such as those for account maintenance, ATM use or having a low balance. If your accounts come with several fees, it may be time to find a financial institution that costs less.
  • Monitor daily spending and cut back on extras like lunches out, donut runs or fancy coffee.
  • Explore free and low-cost entertainment options, including parks, beaches and hiking trails, as well as local concerts, theater and sporting events.

6. Bring in extra bucks

When trimming expenses doesn’t do the trick, the only way to create enough free cash for saving is to increase what’s coming in. You can:

  • Sell unwanted items online or at a yard sale.
  • Cash in credit or debit card reward points.
  • Ask for a raise or for extra hours at work.
  • Take on an additional part-time job or turn your hobbies or skills into dollars through tutoring, yard maintenance, dog walking, writing, crafting, musical performance or handyman work.

The benefits of saving kick in very quickly and only get better with time. A solid cushion in the bank protects you during emergencies and provides the means to travel, buy a home, get an advanced degree, or pursue whatever other dreams you may have.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Consumer Comfort Level with Financial Apps

From Candy Crush Saga to Google Translate, consumers have thousands of mobile apps to choose from. While numerous people are quick to download music or movie-streaming apps, not everyone is as confident with financial apps.

According to a 2016 Mid-Year Consumer Survey conducted by the Ohio Credit Union League, 52 percent of respondents don’t use a financial app. The 48 percent who said they do, mainly use it for basic banking needs. Thirty-six percent said they use a financial app to deposit or transfer funds, 32 percent track financial accounts, 25 percent track where their money is going, and 17 percent keep a mobile budget. While nearly half of Ohioans use a financial app, 82 percent of users said they aren’t sure how safe their information is when using the app, and figure someone will let them know if any information is compromised.

Although threats to mobile data security have made consumers wary of using financial apps, market research shows that the number of consumers downloading them is increasing. A survey conducted by Market Force Information found that 77 percent of consumers whose financial institution offers a mobile app have downloaded it, an increase of 5 percent over 2015 and 12 percent above 2014. Those who are 18 to 24 years old have the highest adoption rate at 92 percent. Half of those older than 65, also use their financial institution’s app.

With so many apps outside of your primary financial institutions out there, how do you know which ones are safe, effective, and useful? Here are some tips for choosing safe third-party financial apps.

  • Confirm an app is legitimate: If you decide to download an app to manage money, do the research. Check with the Better Business Bureau’s comprehensive database, and read customer reviews online before downloading a third-party financial app.
  • Don’t ignore Terms of Service (TOS): Not only will the TOS outline the app’s privacy and security policies, but it will also summarize any important disclaimers.
  • Use advanced security: Take advantage of security features such as fingerprint ID or a numeric passcode on your smartphone and on the app, if it allows it. This offers an added level of protection against fraud or theft.
  • Streamline your finances: Stay organized by using a single app to streamline your finances. An added benefit to credit union membership is the mobile wallet Sprig® by CO-OP. If your credit union offers it, it’s essentially a virtual credit union where you can track all of your accounts and send money to friends.

To learn more about how a credit union can help you watch your finances on the move, visit www.aSmarterChoice.org and find a credit union in your area.