Tips to Avoid a Holiday Spending Hangover

You can survive the season without suffering a fiscal holiday hangover. By examining the reasons for overspending, planning expenditures, and identifying what’s important to your family, you can rein in your spending and rediscover the joy of the holidays.
Examine your motives. What fuels the gift-giving mania? Tradition strongly influences holiday spending habits. If your family always broke the budget to buy presents for every living relative, odds are you’ll carry on the practice. So even though you haven’t seen Aunt Connie in five years, you buy her a gift.

Then there’s the time factor. People’s lives are busier than ever before. Decades ago we used to make gifts at home. Now we just buy it all because it’s easier. Hectic schedules may prevent us from shopping until the official rush begins after Thanksgiving. By then, we’re battling throngs of shoppers and racing through town looking for something, anything, for people on our list.

Malls cater to our desperation; witness the appearance of countless specialty stands and calendar kiosks that appear only during the holiday season. Their easy access encourages impulse buying.

Credit also is a prime culprit. Department stores try their best to add one more credit card to your wallet by offering a 10%, one-day shopping discount. But it’s a deceptive bargain. Since department store cards charge high interest rates, if you carry over the balance into a second month, you’ll eliminate the discount you got.

Spend some time planning and budgeting before you start your holiday shopping spree.
1. Evaluate how much you can spend. What was the final bill last year? Too much? Estimate how much you can comfortably save between now and the holidays (or what you can pay off quickly afterward) and set that as your limit.

2. Start saving money now. Build it into your regular budget as a periodic expense set aside for the holidays. Consider establishing a separate credit union savings account for holiday purchases. The more money you save, the fewer purchases you’ll have to charge on credit cards.

3. Set a holiday budget. Holiday spending goes beyond gifts. There are decorations, postage, extra food, etc. Organize expenses into categories and if your total exceeds what you can afford, set priorities for purchases and cut back where you can.

4. Start your gift list early. Planning ahead will help you avoid costly impulse spending.

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.

Advertisements

Holly Jolly Thanks and a Happy New Year

Tips for Surviving the Holiday Crazy
By B. Kelly

The holidays can be stressful; however, they can also be full of joy, family traditions, and fun.  Take time to enjoy the season with these tips to help weather the crazy that can accompany holiday festivities!

HIT THE GROCERY EARLY

Make your grocery list, well in advance, to ensure you have your ideal holiday menu mapped out.  Don’t wait until the day before, or you’ll be sorry.  Procrastinators will be met with crowds and chaos that could create more stress than excitement about the big day.

BE A TASK MASTER

Determine your guests, how you plan to seat everyone, plated or buffet style, and any other details that you want to have for your celebration.  Then determine what you will need to do to make these things happen.  Start early!  Clean the house, set the table, start prepping food – do all the things you can do, in advance, and get them checked off your to do list.

SET A BUDGET

The holidays can quickly get expensive.  Set a budget, watch for great deals, and don’t overspend.

GET SOME SLEEP

One of the worst things you can do before the holidays is get burned out.  Make sure you are eating healthy, exercising and getting plenty of rest.

DON’T OVERTHINK IT

Unrealistic expectations of what your holiday should look like will most definitely end up in disappointment.  Let things happen naturally and be sure and take in all the wonderful moments with family and friends.  Pause to observe all the amazing things you did to prepare for the day and take a moment to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

AVOID FAMILY DRAMA

Perhaps you have a family member who attends the festivities that, well let’s just say, can be a little challenging.  Don’t let this ruin your holiday.  Try the talk, smile, walk method.  Talk to them briefly and exchange pleasantries.  Smile and remember that you don’t have to spend the entire holiday with only one person.  Walk away and remember this too shall pass.

KEEP IT CLEAN

Oh, the major messes that can erupt from hosting a family gathering at your home.  You cleaned for hours and now it looks as though a bomb went off, right?  Don’t clean as soon as the meal is complete, or you won’t have a chance to enjoy it.  Consider purchasing to-go containers and allow guests to pack up some left overs.  The more food that goes, the less there is to clean up!

Ultimately, we are responsible for our own happiness and we need to remember that we can’t control everything.  The more you can let roll off your back, the more enjoyable your holiday experience will be.  Try to stress less and embrace the mess!  Have a wonderful holiday season.

Easy Way to Save – Pack a Lunch

Saving money can be difficult for some people. They feel like there just isn’t enough to spare at the end of the month to put into a savings account. But by making small changes to your spending habits, you’ll see that saving money isn’t really that difficult.

For instance, how often to you buy lunch instead of making your own? Once a week? Every day? If we add up those daily purchases, you may be surprised at the cost per year.

Cost to buy your lunch every day
There are about 250 work days per year.
A lunch at a café or restaurant runs about $6.00 to $15.00.
If you eat lunch out every day, you’re spending between $1,500 to $3,750 per year.

Now, let’s figure out how much it costs to make your own lunch.

Cost to brown-bag your lunch.
If you buy lunch meat, bread, and a bag of chips, it will cost you about $10 and last you the whole week.
$10 ÷ 5 working days = $2.00 per lunch
$2.00 x 250 working days = $500 per year
If you packed your lunch every day, you’d save between $1,000 to $3,250 every year!

Now, let’s say you put the money didn’t spend into a savings account every month.

$4.00 to $13.00 (money saved each day) x 20 working days = $80 to $260 per month.
If you put those dollars into an account that earns even 1% interest, compounded monthly, you’d have $1,046 to $3,399 saved in 12 months!

You can play around with the numbers on this website to see what your actual savings would be: https://www.calculatestuff.com/financial/compound-interest-calculator

See? That isn’t so difficult, is it?

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.

Tips for Black Friday and Cyber Monday Shopping

The holiday season is approaching and with that comes the biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These high holy days for shoppers follow Thanksgiving each year. To make the most of these days, we offer you the following advice:

1. Make a budget and follow it. Know how much you can afford to spend and stick to that amount. Use cash to avoid overspending.

2. Just like Santa, you gotta have a list. Write down everything you plan to shop for and put them in order of importance. That way, as soon as you enter a store, you can focus on finding those items first.

3. Get out early. The earlier you get to the store, the better your chances of finding popular items in stock.

4. Shop with a friend. Not only is it fun, but you can work together and find your gifts faster. While you hunt for items in one section of the store, your friend can search for items in another section.

5. Sign up to get alerts about various products. There are websites, like bestblackfriday.com, dealnews.com, and theblackfriday.com, that specifically leak Black Friday ads, giving you an early advantage.

6. Use online price comparison tools. Google shopping, PriceGrabber, and Shopzilla allow you to compare prices at various location without having to drive all over town.

7. Use loyalty programs. Many retailers have loyalty programs that offer sales and promotions to their members first and even earn rewards on their purchases.

8. Follow your favorite brands on Social Media. Many retailers will offer special deals on their social media platforms and reward customers who like or follow them with special alerts to discounts.

9. Check timing. Some Cyber Monday deals are for a certain window of time, offering the steepest discounts to early morning shoppers. Check deals before that Monday to know what time to shop for the best deals.

10. Look for deals at Brick-and-Mortar Stores on Cyber Monday. If a store’s Black Friday sales were lower than expected, many will offer deals to lure Cyber Monday shoppers.

After all that shopping, consider participating in Giving Tuesday, which is celebrated the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It’s an international movement that encourages everyone to donate their time, resources, talents, and money to helping others. You can get information and updates about the movement by going to https://www.givingtuesday.org/about or following it on social media sites.

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.

How to choose the correct credit card for you

Choosing the best credit card for your lifestyle can have a considerable impact on your overall financial health.

In an Ohio Credit Union League 2018 consumer survey, 73 percent of respondents stated they use at least one or two credit cards every month. Of those who regularly utilized credit cards, 39 percent carried up to $1,000 in credit card debt. Another 30 percent owed between $1,000 and $5,000. According to the Ohio Credit Union League’s Quarterly Performance Summary (2nd Quarter, 2018), the average credit card balance held at Ohio credit unions was $2,142.

Ohioans are right in line with national trends as 71 percent of Americans have at least one credit card, according to The Motley Fool. About 18 percent of Americans have three or four credit cards in their wallet, and those cards tend to carry debt.

With the possibility that their credit cards could carry significant debt, it’s not surprising consumers want to shop around before choosing a card.

The majority of respondents in the Ohio Credit Union League consumer survey, about 44 percent, said they look for the best interest rates and lowest fees in their credit cards. According to Experian, most Americans shop for credit cards with a similar mindset; 54 percent seek out a card with no annual fee, while 40 percent look for a low-interest rate. It’s not all business, though. Another 45 percent of Americans and 32 percent of Ohioans said perks, including points for travel, discounts, and other rewards, could influence them to apply for a card.

Americans might have clear motivations for seeking credit cards, but that doesn’t mean they’re easily finding the cards that suit their needs. Although consumers know they should shop for the best deals, according to the Experian survey, 69 percent of Americans said they feel researching the correct card is too time-consuming. Another 61 percent said they become overwhelmed by the number of options available, and 57 percent said it’s too difficult to tell which card would work best for them.

Still, the majority of respondents in the Experian survey, 64 percent, said they believe their perfect credit card is out there, they just haven’t found it, yet.

Don’t let stress over choosing the best credit card deter you from using plastic to pay. Here are tips for finding the perfect credit card.

  • Check your credit. Higher credit scores are more likely to be approved for credit cards with better perks, while those with lower scores may need to shop around more. It’s best to begin the research process knowing your score, rather than being declined for the credit card you want after searching. Federal law entitles you to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year. com is a federal- authorized site where you can find your score.
  • Figure out what type of credit card you need. There are three main types of credit cards, according to NerdWallet. Consumers can choose between cards that help improve limited or damaged credit, cards that save money on interest, and cards that earn rewards. Additionally, some consumers choose cards to transfer a balance from an existing credit card. Be sure you’re choosing the card most beneficial to your current situation.
  • Decide how likely you are to carry a balance. If you know your credit card will carry debt you won’t be able to pay off right away, you should search for cards with low annual percentage rates. Otherwise, you could end up with card payments that don’t fit into your budget and that drag out longer than expected. A card with an 18 percent APR, for instance, would accrue $1,138 in interest on a $3,500 balance, according to CreditKarma.com. Making $120 payments on that card each month, it would take more than three years to pay it off. Make sure you know how much you can realistically afford to pay in finance charges each month and shop around accordingly.
  • Read all the fine print. Thoroughly research and understand how your potential credit card will fit into your budget. You may be attracted to a card because of its 0 percent APR introductory offer, but make sure you understand how long that offer lasts and what you’ll be paying in finance charges once that rate changes. Some cards also include annual fees, late fees, and foreign transaction fees you should be aware of before you apply. Be sure you understand everything about your new card so you can use it as wisely as possible.
  • Look to a credit union. The unique business model of credit unions allows them to offer competitive rates on credit cards, along with reward programs.

Learn more about how a credit union can help you make a savvy credit card choice, by visiting asmarterchoice.org to find a credit union near you.