How to Save When You’re Invited to Everyone’s Wedding

Wedding season is upon us and soon you may see a few wedding invitations in your mailbox. What do you do when it looks like ALL your friends are getting married this year? Can you afford to get gifts for everyone, as well as pay for clothing and traveling expenses for each event?

If you find yourself invited to multiple weddings this year, first create a budget and estimate how much you can afford for these expenses. It’s better to have a picture of what you can realistically manage rather than spending wildly. Spending without a plan may leave you struggling to pay your own living expenses at the end of each month.

Next, determine how much travelling you’ll need to do to get to the wedding. Is it an hour’s drive away, across the country, or even in another country? Travelling expenses can take a huge chunk out of your budget, so it’s important to get a good estimate of what you’ll need to pay before you accept the invitation. If the event is within driving distance and your friends are going, consider carpooling.

If the wedding requires an overnight stay, you’ll need to factor in lodging expenses. Check out vacation lodging sites like Airbnb or VRBO. Again, if friends are also going to the wedding, consider sharing a place with them.

Will you need a new outfit? Instead of buying a new dress or suit, check out consignment shops for good deals on formal attire and accessories.

Are you artistically inclined? If so, you may want to make a personal gift instead of buying something, particularly if the couple already has enough plates and toasters. Creating something that shows how well you know the couple can be especially meaningful to them.

Lastly, if going to every wedding is going to wreck you financially, or require you to scrimp on all of them, then think about your relationship to each couple – how close are you to them? If you rarely see or talk to them, don’t feel obligated to accept the invitation. Instead, select which weddings you really want to attend and decline the others.
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.

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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.

Fresh Ways to Save Some Green at the Farmers Market

The difference between the produce at farmers markets and supermarkets is more than “tomayto” versus “tomahto.” And buying fresh fruit and vegetables at farmers markets offers opportunities to save money in ways you might not find at a grocery store.

The produce sold at most supermarkets is typically harvested before it’s ripe, says Chris Curtis, executive director of Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets. Then it’s transported — often long distances — before arriving at the store, she says. The many people involved in getting a tomato from the vine to the store and, finally, into your tote may get a slice of your payment, Curtis says. That doesn’t leave much for the farmer.

When you buy a tomato at a farmers market, however, “almost all of your dollar is going directly to the grower,” Curtis says. That grower picked the produce ripe, soon before selling it. A recently harvested peach tastes better than that “hard little green ball” sold at large retailers, she says.

How to save money at farmers markets

Here’s how to get the most for your money when buying produce and other farmers market goods.

1. Get to know the vendors. Many vendors give deals to folks they know, says Gabrielle Lupton, a baker at Bubble & Brown Bakery, which sells goods at Salt Lake City farmers markets. To build that kind of relationship with a vendor, become a regular. Consistently buy from that seller and turn to her for bulk and special orders, like a custom cake from a baker.

In addition to scoring deals — and maybe even a friendship — becoming a regular gives you “an inside scoop on the variability of the season,” says Nina Gruber, outreach and development coordinator for Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets. For example, you may be among the first customers to know when farmers will start selling peaches, she says. You may also learn when peach prices are expected to change with supply and demand throughout the season.

2. Buy “ugly” produce. “Seconds” or “No. 2s” are fruits and vegetables that taste the same as other produce but look a little off — they may be misshapen or bumpy, for example. Farmers typically sell them more cheaply than the perfect-looking produce. “It’s something farmers have been doing since the dawn of farmers markets,” Gruber says.

Get a deal on seconds, and you’re not just saving money — you’re also helping to reduce food waste. Even if you prefer eating or serving flawless produce, you can follow Gruber’s lead and use seconds for cooking, baking and making jam. She buys a box of No. 2 tomatoes, then cooks and freezes batches of pasta sauce. “Then I have sauce for the rest of the year,” she says.

» MORE: 12 ways to save money on groceries

3. Pay in cash. Access to a credit or debit card — and dozens of freshly baked pastries — can put your grocery budget in danger. Lupton says that customers paying with a card typically outspend those who use cash. Consider bringing cash, spending a set amount and leaving your cards at home. (This is a reliable money-saving tip for most kinds of shopping trips.)

4. Shop late. Vendors don’t want to be stuck with unsold inventory so “they’ll start slinging deals toward the end of the day,” Gruber says. For example, in the final 30 minutes the market is open, you may be able to snag a bag of apples for half the price you would have paid first thing in the morning.

The trade-off is that there will be a smaller selection of products at the end of the day, Gruber says.

5. Get discounts on bulk purchases. Remember, vendors want to offload as much of their product as possible. So they’re incentivized to cut a deal if you’re interested in buying a lot of it, Lupton says. Ask vendors what prices they can offer for the quantity you want, such as a dozen cookies or two pounds of potatoes. They may throw in a few extra potatoes or charge you less for a batch of cookies than they would have for 12 individual treats.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. 

The article Fresh Ways to Save Some Green at the Farmers Market originally appeared on NerdWallet.