Getting it together in 2018

Monthly Budget Plan for Expenses and MoneyWe’re a few weeks into 2018. Are you still feeling empowered to make all of those changes you said you were going to make this year?

How many times have you said to yourself that you have to save more and spend less? How many of you have basked in the glory of instant gratification over that purchase made with a combination cocktail of store cash and coupons only to feel not so hot about it days later or the next month when the credit card statement shows up.

While there is no one magic formula to help you, there is something that you can do to get going in the right direction. It involves commitment. You and your finances are in a love-hate relationship. You love having money and probably love spending it. Then you hate it when you don’t have enough, make enough, or you get mad at yourself when you make some not so good financial decisions. A committed relationship involves compromise and collaboration for the good of the whole. You need to work together to achieve common goals. And, you need to commit to taking that first step to truly wanting to save more and spend less.

By now you’ve seen countless articles online or in print offering ways to help you get it together in 2018. Here are a few suggestions from us:

Assess your current financial institution. Is it giving you what you want and need? Has its name changed many times? What types of fees have you been paying? Are they easy to work with? How’s their service? Having a happy and strong relationship with your financial institution plays into how you manage your finances.

If you don’t have an account with Members 1st, consider experiencing the difference of credit union membership. You’ll benefit in terms of fewer fees and the fact that we’re not going to be bought out by some other financial institution. We have all of the products and services that other financial institutions offer. The one thing that truly sets us apart is that we are local. That’s right – we’re locally owned and operated from Mechanicsburg, PA. When you call us, you talk to us right here.  Our associates are always available to assist you with your personal or business financial needs. They’ll help you decide which products and services best meet your short and long term needs. And, they can put you in contact with our investment services and insurance services teams to help round out your complete financial picture.

Clean house. Review the plastic in your wallet. Look at all of your department store accounts and other bank cards you may have. Do you really know what interest rates you’re currently paying? Are you paying any fees to have those cards? Typical store cards have astronomically high interest rates. Do the math – you saved 10 percent on your purchase but because you’re now carrying a balance on that card at 27 percent interest, what did you really save in the end? Seems like that purchase is costing more than that discount you received. Consider consolidating your balances to a lower rate card with our fee-free VISA Balance Transfer program.

Make a list. Making a list holds you accountable. Pretend it’s a contract between you and your wallet. You agree to buy only what’s on your list. If you see something you think you can’t live without, wait 30 days to purchase it.  Or if you’re an online shopper and uses sites such as Amazon, make online wish lists or just hold things in your shopping cart and think about the purchase for a few days before you click process. Also, don’t store your credit card information on shopping sites. This way when you shop online it’s not as easy as hitting a payment button. You’ll have to physically get your card and enter the information. This may help you pause and think about that purchase you’re making and avoid spontaneous shopping.

Review your living expenses. Do you need cable TV when there are other options available? Have you shopped around for a new cell phone plan lately? Have you compared your electric supplier rates? Doing a little legwork and homework can pay off.

Budget tracking. Make an excel spreadsheet to track your monthly expenses. Record your income, your monthly bills, due dates, amounts, and so on. Again, having some sort of written document helps hold you accountable for your spending. Use a bill pay service to help you pay your bills on time to avoid any late fees.

Entertaining inexpensively. Invite your friends and family over for pot luck and game night. With the costs of food and beverages these days, it can be quite a strain for one person to foot the entire entertaining bill. With everyone contributing in one way or another, everyone can enjoy a good time without the huge expense. Interested in a movie? Wait a few months and rent it for a few bucks from your cable provider or watch it on popular services like Netflix. This way you’re only purchasing one “ticket” for the whole family or your guests to watch the same movie. And snacks at home are much less expensive than those at the theater.

Insurance premiums. Review your various policies at least once a year. Consider a free quote from Members 1st Insurance Services. We may be able to help you save money as we’ll shop around for you. Also, we offer insurance products such as long term care and final expense policies to help your family take care of costs associated with your funeral or long term care needs.

Set savings goals. Take advantage of the various savings accounts offered by Members 1st. We offer short and long term savings options. And look for our new Goal Savings account coming in early 2018. This way you can plan for your various needs throughout the year such as tax bills, education expenses, vacations, holidays, weddings, graduations, new babies, and so on. It’s also a good idea to commit to putting back at least three to six months of living expenses in case you have a job loss situation or a medical emergency.

Think about retirement now. Planning now will play an important role later in the lifestyle you’ll get to enjoy when you decide you’re done working. We have resources to help you plan for retirement.

While these are tips you’ve probably seen, heard and tried, know that we’re here to help you. Making the commitment to getting your finances in order is the first step. Once you’re committed, remember, we’re your resource for all of your savings and borrowing needs.

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