Budgeting Basics


As we move deeper into 2018, now is a good time to refresh some of those New Year’s624546230 Resolutions and continue to integrate good habits so they stick throughout the year. One of the most important and fundamental habits for financial wellness is budgeting. By making budgeting a habit now, you will see lots of benefits over the long-run!

What is a Budget?

A budget is a plan for how much money comes in and how much money goes out each month. It’s really that simple. By breaking down your budget into categories such as mortgage, food, and entertainment, you can see where you can cut back, and where you have wiggle room. Creating a budget that factors in things like savings and investments also makes it easier for you to create a solid foundation.

Why Budget?

Budgeting will give you clarity into your finances and will help you make more informed choices. You wouldn’t enter a dark room without turning on the lights first, right? That’s exactly what a budget is for your finances: it’s a light that you shine on your financial transactions. By seeing your finances clearly, you may notice where you are overspending. You can set other goals too, such as paying down debt, saving, and investing. By placing these items on your budget, you are essentially making your financial goals a bill that you pay to yourself. This makes it easier for you to achieve your dreams on your journey of financial wellness.

Who Should Budget?

A budget is beneficial for anyone who uses one. Almost every business in the United States operates off of a budget, which allows them to make smart financial choices to increase the bottom line. Families who create a budget also find that they are better positioned to achieve financial wellness and meet certain goals like planning for retirement or building up a college fund. For individuals, the benefits are the same: greater understanding of your finances that enables better choices for how you spend your money.

How Do I Budget?

The first step to creating a budget is to list all the money that you have coming in. This includes your paycheck, social security payments, alimony, money from a side gig or any other form of income you receive.

Next, track your spending. Here you want to start with all of your fixed payments—the bills you absolutely have to pay such as mortgage, utilities, car payments, student loan debt, etc. After that, take a look at your last few bank statements and figure out where the rest of your money is going.

Record all of your income and expenses in a place that is easy to access and understand. There are online tools, such as Mint.com, that can automate the budgeting process for you.

When Should I Budget?

You can create a budget anytime! The important thing is to stay consistent and continue to track it. For instance, when you first start budgeting, you’ll want to make sure you are sticking to your budget each month. This will ensure that budgeting becomes a habit and will help you make sure you are staying on track with your financial goals. Once you get into the flow of budgeting, you may decide to refresh your budget seasonally. Updating your budget on a semi-regular basis allows for you to account for changes in income or expenses, such as a raise or unexpected medical issues.

Some people think of a budget as the financial equivalent of a straight jacket, but the reality is just the opposite. Rather than constricting you, a budget gives you freedom to spend, knowing that you are able to achieve your financial goals at the same time. Once you know your budget and stick to it, you’ll find a sense of mental clarity on your path to financial wellness.

Information courtesy of GreenPath Financial Wellness.


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Need additional help? 

We offer our members access to money management and financial education services through GreenPath Financial Wellness.  As a member, you can receive assistance with:

  • Personal and family budgeting
  • Understanding your personal credit report and how to improve your score
  • Personal money management
  • Debt repayment
  • Avoiding bankruptcy, foreclosure, and repossession

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Is Your Child Ready for His or Her First Phone?


It used to be that getting a driver’s license was the official milestone when freedom and the race toward growing up began. Today, thanks to the ever-evolving world of technology, the timeline has accelerated—having a phone to call your own is the new first step toward independence.

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To help you prepare and decide when the time is right, Sprint has introduced an especially helpful microsite: Kid’s First Phone. The interactive website, built around the question of whether a child is ready for the responsibility, addresses the common challenge by offering helpful considerations, a readiness quiz, contract info, and even the benefits of giving a child their first phone.

Plus, once you decide your child is ready, you can take advantage of the Sprint Credit Union Member Cash Rewards program, another great benefit of credit union membership!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Members can get a $100 CASH REWARD for every new line you activate with Sprint.
  2. Current Sprint customers get a $50 cash reward for every new line transferred into Sprint Credit Union Member Cash Rewards.
  3. You’ll get a $50 loyalty cash reward every year for every line.
  4. Plus, credit union members are eligible for 25% off accessories with the Sprint Credit Union Member Cash Rewards program.

 Get started today!

  • Become a Sprint customer and mention you’re a credit union member
  • Register at LoveMyCreditUnion.org/SprintRewards
  • Allow up to six to eight weeks to see cash rewards directly deposited into your credit union account

 

Take the first step toward freedom with your child’s first phone. Click here to sign up today!

7 Ways to Get Your Savings on Track — No Apps Required


By Jacquelyn Pica, Penny Hoarder

We all want to save more money. The question is, how?

With so much new technology out there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Plus, maybe you don’t feel comfortable sharing personal bank details with tons of different websites and apps.

Forget the latest tech — these seven methods will help you get your savings on track without signing up for any apps.

  1. Figure out what you owe

First things first, find out what — and who — you owe.

Use a spreadsheet such as Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel to track all your debts and recurring bills. Personally, I use Excel to record my different credit cards, each payment due date and any balances on them.

I prefer using a plain-old spreadsheet over a budgeting app or website. It’s simple. It’s easy. And — best of all — you don’t have to provide your bank or card information to any third parties.

  1. Create a budget

Now that you know what you owe, it’s time to get the rest of your money in order.

Keep track of your budget without relying on software or sharing personal information. You can use a spreadsheet for this one, too, and it’s easy to find free templates online. Here are my favorites for Google Sheets and Excel.

With these monthly spreadsheet templates, you’ll be able to track your income and expenses, and set goals for yourself.

  1. Participate in the 52-week money savings challenge

The 52-week money savings challenge involves setting aside a certain amount of money per week. The first week, you save $1. The second week put away $2, etc. This continues until the last week of the year, when you’ll save $52.

Here’s a helpful chart so you can check off each week as you go. At the end of the year, you will have saved a little over $1,300! Without using technology to help guide you, it’s important to stick to some kind of savings plan or challenge so there’s a tangible goal.

  1. Save every $5 bill you get

This savings strategy is a less calculated approach than the 52-week savings challenge, but it still adds up.

For this method, save every single $5 bill you get. If you usually don’t purchase items with cash, now’s a good time to start! (Plus, did you know paying with cash can help you save money?)

I’ve read countless stories of people who have managed to save thousands using this strategy alone, without even realizing the money was gone.

  1. Save all your spare change

Likely the oldest savings tactic in the book, buy a giant jar and drop all your spare change into it. I do this religiously. So far I’ve saved a little over $100 — just in spare change.

It’s such an easy way to save money without thinking about it. If you combine this with the $5 savings method above — since you’ll already be spending cash — you’ll be hitting your savings goal in no time.

Tip: When you’re ready to cash in the coins, don’t go to one of those change machines at the grocery store. They charge a hefty percentage of whatever you cash in.

Instead, ask for empty coin rolls next time you’re at the bank and roll the coins yourself. It’s a bit time consuming, and you do have to count it all out in specific amounts, but you’ll get to keep all your money. Once they’re rolled up, take them to the bank and exchange your coins for cash.

  1. Define “why” you’re saving and constantly remind yourself of it

Keep yourself motivated to save by defining why you’re saving, and constantly remind yourself of it. Are you saving to take a trip to Europe next year? To pay off credit card debt? Put a down payment on a house?

Whatever your reason, write it down on a sticky note and put it around your house. Seeing a daily reminder of what your goal is will help keep your savings on track.

  1. Have a money date with yourself

I know — this doesn’t sound like the most exciting night in. But, it’s important to stay on top of your finances.

Have a “money date” with yourself weekly or monthly and figure out how you’re doing. Check your credit score, look at what you spent over the past month and see if your budget is on track. Based on this, you can figure out if you’re already doing everything right or if there’s room for improvement.

These savings methods are just as effective as any savings app, and you won’t have to share personal information or clutter up your phone. Here’s to saving more and achieving your financial goals in 2018!

Jacquelyn Pica is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

The Science of Saving


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Saving your money isn’t always easy, especially when you don’t have a lot to spare. After paying all your usual expenses, there may be very little “fun” money at the end of the month. When we do find ourselves with some extra cash, like a tax refund, many of us rush out to buy those shoes or that electronic gadget we’ve been eying for months instead of putting it into our savings.

Why do we do that? Why do we spend the money we planned on using for our future?

We can blame it on our brains. Behavioral science has shown that humans are hard-wired to act on impulse and that it takes conscious thought to delay gratification. It’s also much easier to focus on the present than our future.

To help you save for your future, behavioral science suggests visualizing yourself as you might look when you’re older. For instance, if you want to save for retirement, imagine yourself at age 67, living comfortably, maybe traveling the country, or having the time and the means to do something you’ve always wanted to do. According to a study done in 2014, this technique works. The researchers took photos of 50 college students and digitally altered each person’s photo to make them look 70 years old. The participants were instructed to study the photos. Then they were told to imagine receiving $1,000 and were asked how they’d like to use the money: buy something now for a special person or for extravagant night out, or put that money into a retirement fund. After seeing a photo of themselves at 70 years old, the majority allocated more of the money to their retirement fund than to the other options.

Another way to help you save for your future is by making it a habit. Start with small goals. For instance, commit to putting a certain amount, say $10, into a savings account every week. If you have direct deposit, you might want to consider setting up an automatic transfer of $10 into your savings account every time your paycheck is deposited. Over time, you can gradually increase the amount by a dollar or two.

Teach Your Children How to Save

To help your children get into the savings habit, start by having them cut out pictures of something they’d like to have someday and post the images where they’ll see them often. Then help them open a savings account at Members 1st Federal Credit Union! Encourage your child to make regular small deposits each week. Tell them their money will earn interest while it’s in their account. If they keep this routine going, they’ll quickly see their savings grows.

This April, we’re celebrating Youth Month. To find out how we are celebrating visit our website by clicking here! We encourage you to bring your children into any of our branches to enjoy fun games, win prizes, and learn more about the Science of Saving.

 

10 Steps to Purchasing a Home


couple getting keys from realtorWe are coming up on home buying season and Members 1st is here to help! Review these 10 steps below and plan to attend one of our seminars. We are here to assist our members in the purchase of their dream home!

  1. Determine your budget to see how much house you can afford.
  2. Determine what your needs are for a home.
  3. Contact Members 1st to complete the pre-qualification form or go online to complete the form.
  4. Choose a real estate agent who knows the neighborhoods in which you are interested.
  5. Your realtor will look for homes to show you that fit your criteria.
  6. Once you’ve found your perfect home, your real estate agent will prepare an offer.
  7. Once the offer is accepted and an agreement of sale is executed by all parties, your application process begins at Members 1st.
  8. You will be assigned a Members 1st loan processor. Once your loan is approved and all conditions are met, you will proceed to settlement.
  9. At settlement you will sign all of the paperwork required to complete the purchase.
  10. Congratulations! You are a proud homeowner!

Our Mortgage Services team looks forward to helping you. Contact us today at (800) 283-2328, ext.6026 or online by clicking here.

For a list of upcoming seminars or to register, click here.

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Spring clean your paper clutter


So many bills!It’s that time of year to get organized and make a clean sweep of clutter. We know you have busy lives and here are three ways to help you get-and stay-organized.

  1. eStatements

Do you find yourself buried in a pile of paper statements every month? Then be sure to enroll in eStatements! They are FREE! They are easily searchable through Members 1st Online and they’re good for the environment! Plus, you keep your home clutter free!

  1. Bill Pay

Pay all your bills right on your desktop, tablet or phone! No more visiting multiple websites or trips to the post office for stamps. And this also cuts down on paper statements and the need to write out a check. Bill Pay is now FREE to all members.

Watch our Bill Pay video and learn how easy it is to use by clicking here.

  1. Auto Bill Pay

Want the security of knowing that your bills are automatically paid on-time every month? You can set up an automatic bill payment that will occur at the same time every month. Just set it up once and you’re done!


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Do you and your money care about the same things?


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By Heather Marshall, CFPC, MPP; Educator, AAA Fair Credit Foundation/Utah Saves

As the old adage goes “Actions speak louder than words.” On the topic in question, it is fair to say spending is an action that implies values. Which explains why the nature of finances can be so personal, and challenge us to ask the question, what do we value?

Is it:

  • Family?
  • Friends?
  • Health?
  • Happiness?
  • Travel?
  • Spontaneity?

In asking these questions, spending becomes a means of self-examination shedding light on our actions and our values. Sometimes they don’t add up and when they don’t add up life can get off track. Such as if you value health, and yet find on your bank statement a lot of transactions related to unhealthy fast food. Thus, prompting the questions:

Does your money care about the same things you do?
Is your budget going towards things you really care about?

In which case steps can and should be taken to realign spending with what we value. Such as:

  • Review expenditures and categorize them to see where the money is going. Know where you are now so you can make a plan going forward.
  • Recognize there may be some items in your budget that need adjusting, but will take time to achieve. For example, moving closer to work to cut down on travel and provide more family time will require time and planning.
  • Set goals to getting your money on track.
  • Make your goals visible. When you have the impulse to spend on something you really don’t value, you can stop yourself because you have visual reminders around you. Create visuals with pictures of your goals on the wall, on our computer, on your phone. Keep it readily in front of you.

Remember, money can enable a lifestyle of values and goals that reflect us. Now that you are aware of these tendencies and about what you value in life…go make your money care about what you care about.

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