Frustrated man pumping gas

STOP overspending on fuel

Save at the Pump!

Buying fuel can be one of the most frustrating, tedious, and painful ways to spend your hard-earned cash. For many, fueling up is a necessity to complete day-to-day tasks. Cutting out fuel completely isn’t realistic, but there are ways to reduce money spent. First, nothing will save you more money than a car that is fuel-efficient and well-kept. Heavy or oversized vehicles tend to guzzle gas, leaving your wallet empty. If you’re currently in this position, seriously consider purchasing a car that is built to get good gas mileage. The following tips will speed up your savings even further.

 

  1. Make sure your tires are always filled with the right amount of air
  2. Use the manufacturer’s suggested engine oil and get it changed as directed
  3. Use your air conditioner only when needed
  4. Remove any bike racks or luggage racks that could weigh your vehicle down
  5. Turn your car off rather than idle if you’re in a situation that allows it
  6. Drive the speed limit
  7. Use cruise control
  8. Use public transportation or some other means to get around
  9. Accelerate slowly at a stoplight when it turns green
  10. Use your GPS to find the fastest route
  11. Combine errands into one trip
  12. Arrange carpools to share the cost
  13. Buy gas with the lowest octane rating
  14. Check websites and apps that list gas stations with the lowest price
  15. If you have a Costco membership, use their pumps when available
  16. Don’t drive far out of your way to save a few pennies at another gas station
  17. Walk into restaurants instead of using the drive-through
  18. Avoid circling a parking lot to find a space that is a little bit closer
  19. Avoid gas stations near the highway as those prices tend to be higher than gas stations further away
  20. Don’t “top off” at the gas pump

 

For more tips you can visit https://www.balancepro.org/resources/articles/frugal-fill-ups-30-ways-to-save-at-the-pump-2


Kickstart your college savings plan

Get started on your savings!

Most people can agree, college is an exciting and scary time for young adults and their parents. Not only is it a new chapter, but it’s also a time where finances are significant.

 

The challenge is knowing how and when to start saving. What’s the right age, how much should you save, and which savings plans are the best? Doing research years in advance is vital to ensure that you’re ready. Check out these tips on how you can get your college savings plan on track:

 

1. Start very early!

The best time to start saving for college is NOW! Even if you have other financial obligations that you need to save for, starting now is vital. You don’t need to pump an insane amount of money right away, but every bit will help. You can visit this simple College Savings Calculator to plug in your personal information and create a meaningful savings plan, no matter what age you or your children are.

 

2. Set expectations

Setting expectations is good because it gives you a goal and a realistic idea of how much you will need. The average annual in-state college tuition in Florida was $14,000 for the 2019-2020 academic year. On top of that, you will need money for rent, food, books, and much more. The cost of college is expected to grow with inflation. But remember, you don’t have to accumulate all of this cash on your own.

 

3. Choose a monthly contribution you can handle

Everyone’s plan will be different according to what they can afford. You want to do the most for your children and make a real contribution, but don’t overextend your budget to do so. You should avoid borrowing money that you can’t payback. A high-interest loan or second mortgage may seem like acceptable options to free up additional funds, but they may put you at tremendous financial risk.

 

4. Research different savings plans and select the right one for you

Options like 529 Plans are a popular way for parents to save for their children’s college expenses. Several investment options will help contributions grow over time, and withdrawals are tax-free. With these types of plans, starting early is crucial. Another popular option is a Coverdell Education Savings Account. They are similar to 529s with one main difference: They let you invest in any stock, bond, or mutual fund.

 

Regardless of how your family chooses to prepare for college, start early so you aren’t stressed when the time approaches. I promise it will come faster than you think! For more information, visit https://www.balancepro.org/resources/newsletters/four-tips-that-will-kickstart-your-college-savings-plan/


child saving some money

Raising Financially Responsible Children

Raising a Financially Responsible Child

Most parents understand that they need to teach their children how to deal with money at some point in their life. Knowing exactly when can be challenging and confusing.

 

Thankfully, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a guide to help families raise money-smart kids. Here are a few important takeaways from the guide that you should consider implementing in your child’s life.

 

Ages 3-5: Introduce basic savings and spending concepts

 

As many of us know, children around this age want everything in sight. They don’t quite grasp the concept that money isn’t an infinite resource for many. According to the guide, parents should introduce the concept of saving and spending.

 

A great way to illustrate this to your child is to give a limited number of coins and talk to them about using them to purchase things or saving them to purchase something more significant in the future. Initially, your child might choose instant gratification over saving for something bigger, but the more you do this exercise the more willing they will be to save.

 

Ages 6-12: Set savings goals

 

When kids enter this range, it’s important that they start to grasp the concept of planning. Savings goals during this period are important and will help with the rest of their financial development down the line.

An exercise that you can do with your kid is to have them write down what they would like in the short, mid, and long-term. This is a great way for them to layout their financial future and then associate a price for each goal. To take it even further, you can attach a budget to show how much they would have to save monthly to reach each of those goals.

 

Ages 13-21: Boost financial confidence

 

Building confidence is so important for teens and young adults. As a parent or a guardian, you can empower your child by ensuring they follow through with their financial plans. If they tell you a goal, continuously check-in and see how they are doing. If you notice them slipping, offer some guidance to get them back on track.

 

The CFPB says that children this age are able to identify trusted sources of financial information. Having the knowledge and confidence to say “No” to financial scams is a valuable skill. For more information, visit https://www.balancepro.org/resources/newsletters/how-to-make-your-child-financially-capable-may-2018/

 


happy young girl photo

Spring into Some Extra Cash

Spring Cleaning is Upon Us

It’s that time of year again when everyone goes through their closets, garages, and storage units, trying to eliminate unwanted items. Before you throw it all away, consider making some money off of it! What you deem as garbage could be an item someone is willing to buy. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind as you spring into action.

 

Hold a Yard Sale

Yard sales are a great way of getting rid of random items you have around the house. Put them on display in your yard and watch as people line up to take a look. Even with social distancing protocols, you can have a successful sale. Consider teaming up with people around your block to gain more attraction from people passing by.

 

Sell on Facebook Market or Offer Up

Virtually list your items on a social media platform to gain attraction from members of your community. This is one of the easiest ways to get rid of unwanted items. Once you list your item, people will direct message you, either accepting your price or giving you a counteroffer. This is an excellent option if you have a lot of things and want to list them quickly. It takes about 5 minutes for each item to post, and once published, you can sit back and relax.

 

Learn to Earn

Online marketplaces like eBay, Facebook, and Offer Up are all excellent sources of knowledge. If you’re trying to sell something, you can look at these sites to see what people offer for comparable items. Rarely will you be able to sell an item above the market price, so doing your research before you list an item will save you a lot of time and effort.

 

Ditch the Storage Unit

Why are you paying for a place to store stuff you rarely use? This could save you hundreds of dollars a year and give you some extra cash when you sell the unnecessary things within it. Think about items that you may use once every couple of years and ask yourself if it would be cheaper to rebuy that or keep paying to store them. You might surprise yourself with what you can get rid of.

 

Don’t be Emotional!

Emotional connections to “things” are only temporary! Don’t keep items just because you might feel bad 5 minutes after selling them. Declutter your space and get some cash for those unused items. Not only will your bank account thank you, but you’ll breathe a sigh of relief once your living space is more organized.

 

https://www.balancepro.org/resources/newsletters/quick-tips-march-2014/


Pile of Debt

The Consequences of Debt

What happens if you don't pay your debt?

Debt is an obligation that requires the debtor to satisfy the financial needs of the creditor. Unpaid debt carries many harmful consequences. It's essential to educate yourself with the burdens of debt - here's what you can expect:

  • Unpaid debt will be sent to a collection agency
  • Your credit history and score will be affected
  • Debt takes a hefty amount of time to disappear
  • Contact from debt collectors

 

 

Collection Agency

 

"Under the federal law an original creditor can send your account to a collection agency once it's 31 days past due, though some creditors may try to collect the payment on their own for up to 180 days," according to Christina Lucey, director of product and financial advocate at the personal finance website CreditKarma.com. If you default on a credit card, loan, or monthly utility payments, you run the risk of having your account sent to a third-party collection agency in which you are still liable to pay off the debt.

 

 

Credit Score

 

Debt consumes an outstanding 30% of your credit score. Payment history, credit utilization, age of accounts, and recent inquiries can all negatively impact your credit score if you are dealing with debt. Quickly paying off your balances helps raise your credit score by lowering your credit utilization. If you lose control of your debt and are forced to choose debt settlement or bankruptcy, it will severely damage your credit score in which it takes several months, even years, to recover.

 

 

Impact of Debt

 

Unpaid debt reported to creditors takes an excessive seven years to disappear from your credit report. Creditors reference credit scores as a factor in their decision to offer credit cards, loans, or even approval for housing or vehicles. Debt also contributes to stress and depression, which can lead to more extensive mental health issues.

 

 

Financial Advisor

 

Bad news? You're in debt. Good news? BrightStar Credit Union offers its members free advisors to help with consolidating debt, surviving rough financial patches, and many more financial questions you may have. Advisors at BrightStar use their knowledge and expertise to construct personalized financial plans to achieve their clients' financial goals. Our advisors check in with their clients regularly to re-evaluate current situations/future goals and plan accordingly for continued success.


A lady budgeting

Make the Most of a Reduced Paycheck

Don't worry you will get through this!

Don't stress out!

Bubbles burst, the economy falters, companies downsize, and personal disasters happen which can result in a reduced paycheck. Perpetual salary growth or even maintenance is simply not guaranteed. However, by adopting the right tools and attitude, you can make the most of a reduced paycheck and not just survive, but thrive.

 

Determine whether your situation is temporary or permanent

If you fully expect to be back to your full salary soon, you may only have to adjust to lessened cash flow for a limited time. But before you tap into your reserves (and retirement savings, home equity, cash value life insurance, etc.) it would be wise to behave as if the salary reduction is long-term. Cut down on spending now. Securing your old income may take longer than you think.

If you do not expect to make as much money as you once did, you may be experiencing anxiety, which is normal. You may be panicking about the practical matters to contend with as well, such as how you will pay your bills. Adopting a systematic approach and devising a plan will help you manage the anxiety.

 

Recognize that your salary is not you

This is a deceptively obvious statement. Of course your salary is not you. But many people’s self esteem directly corresponds with how much money they make—the higher the income, the more important they feel. If your mood declines when your income drops, make every effort to dispel the attitude that financial wealth equals worth. It does not, nor does having an abundance of money guarantee happiness. Think back to when you were making more money then you do now. Were you genuinely happier, or did you just have the ability to buy more?

 

Seize the day

Hardship can hone skills and challenge entrenched ideas. Perhaps you worked in the high-tech field because the money was good, but that is not where your passion (or even perhaps talent) truly is. Consider this your opportunity to discover what you really want out of life. After all, if you are going to dedicate forty or more hours a week to your job, it should be something you love. Or at least like.

If you are currently unemployed or are working fewer hours, use this “extra” time wisely. Your options are as varied and abundant as your desires. Consider taking a class—one that will boost future earning potential or for pure pleasure. Write that book, paint the kitchen, start an exercise routine. Or just relax.

 

Analyze your expenses

When cash is copious, it is easy to spend arbitrarily. However, when the salary that sustained such a lifestyle is gone or drastically reduced, its time to take a good look at what you need to spend your money on, not what you can. Prioritize expenses now, and identify which bills take precedence. Mortgage versus car payment? Credit cards versus utilities? Analyze the ramifications of missing or not paying each. If you need help deciding, contact a financial counselor for help.

 

Develop a spending plan.

 

It will help you to discern between those expenses you can and cannot live without. If you find there is simply not enough money to support your necessities, much less your desires, at the very least you now know how much you will require from your next job. If expensive dinners are now a thing of the past, relish in the delights of a cheap pizza, or making cold cuts stretch with lots of lettuce. Enjoy and appreciate the things you may have begun to take for granted.

 

Remember: credit is not supplementary income

When money is tight, credit cards can take on an unusually seductive glow. However, a $40,000 line of credit is not a bonus in disguise, no matter how you much you wish it was. If you use credit to maintain the lifestyle you’ve grown accustomed to, it won’t be long before you “hit the wall”. Without an income to support repaying the balance in full every month, you’ll be paying in installments. Interest rates on unsecured credit is not cheap, and if you fall behind by 60 days, the rates will likely skyrocket. Late and over limit fees will add to an increasingly daunting balance. And soon you’ll be wishing you could return all the merchandise you bought and the meals you ate just so you don’t have to open another statement and look at those big, scary numbers. Credit cards are not designed to be emergency savings accounts.

 

Develop a plan

To thwart procrastination, write down what you want to achieve during this time. Be specific: include names of people you need to speak to and proposed accomplishment dates for each task. Update and refer to it regularly. Apathy’s enemy is a detailed and well-thought-out plan.

 

Go forward

Get professional assistance, talk to friends, and find others who are in like circumstances. It is too easy to think you are alone in this—support is key. Vent to those who can empathize; ask for help from those who can assist. Shock, shame, and anger are normal and feeling these emotions is expected. But by adopting a positive attitude and taking pragmatic steps, you can adapt to a reduced income, and achieve a financially stable future.

 

 

Blog Credit: https://www.balancepro.org/resources/articles/how-to-make-the-most-of-a-reduced-paycheck/


Woman with money on desk

Your Stimulus Check and How to Use It

Suggestions on How to Manage the Money

Everything will be fine!

The government will be sending financial relief checks to millions of Americans. If you’re expecting to receive this relief, we want to help you with some ideas on how to manage that money.

Establish a plan and take care of your immediate needs

Before you spend any of the money, you need to make a plan and budget. Make sure you have food, rent, bills and any other necessities. These should be your biggest priority and are what many will be using the money for. Once your basic necessities are taken care of, you can allocate money to other things.

Pay off debt

This is a perfect time to pay off high interest credit cards or loans that are racking up your extra funds each month. The average American has $8,000 of credit card debt with an APR around 22%. Once you pay this off, or pay a portion of it, you will have more money for necessities when you’re not paying that high interest fee. If your debt is paid off and you have the ability to save this or put it into an interest-earning checking, savings, or money market account, you could get ahead on your savings goals. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you make a smart financial decision.

Add to or start an emergency fund

A good rule to follow is to have 6 months of expenses saved for. This fund should be easy to access and pull from when needed. For many people, this fund could be in use right now with times being as challenging as they are. For others, this would be a great time to add to it and to create an extra buffer for when things aren’t going as planned. The Coronavirus is a perfect example as to why this emergency fund is so important to have.

Help the community

If you’re fortunate enough and willing to, the community could use your help. There are many people that are struggling to buy supplies and stay afloat. Consider donating to trusted sources such as the World Health Organization, the American Red Cross, and various other nonprofits. You can also check with your local government to see if there are any nonprofits that are directly assisting your community.

We're in this together!

Everyone will have a different plan as to how they are going to use the relief deposits. Figure out what works best for your situation but make sure you stick to a budget. Along with being financially responsible, we need to remain positive and support our community. We are all in this together and will get come out of this stronger than ever!


Frustrated man with head on table and paper all around him

How to Survive a Layoff

Surviving a Layoff

Everything will be fine!

Surviving a layoff can be tough and demoralizing, but there are plenty of strategies to get you through it. Many times, layoffs can be caused by things that are out of your control such as recessions, mergers, budget cuts, etc. These are unfortunate circumstance but are many times completely unavoidable. The only thing you can do is pick yourself up and divert your focus to finding new opportunities. Listed below are 9 items that you should keep in mind when you’re laid off.

  1. Make sure you’re receiving everything that was promised to you. For example, if you’re promised a certain amount of paid vacation days and sick days, check your final paycheck to make sure it’s all there.
  2. Don’t panic! You may even want to take a few days off to relax and clear your mind before you make any decisions. Becoming overly panicked and worried will only stress you out more resulting in poor choices.
  3. Review your company’s policies. Figure out how to file for unemployment if that’s what you decide to do, and make sure to check how long your company-paid health insurance will be in effect. These are immensely important to understand incase there is an emergency.
  4. Make sure to look over your budget and make adjustments. There are many ways to cut costs when you really need to, so revisit and make changes to your monthly expenses. This might be as simple as cutting on grocery expenses. Click here for some tips on how to lower your monthly grocery expenses.
  5. Update your resume! You should continuously be updating your resume even when you’re employed, but make sure you have a current resume to give to prospective employers.
  6. Assess your goals. Are they the same as they were before you were laid off? If they aren’t, make sure your future plan is clear and attainable.
  7. Start applying for jobs! There are many online portals that you can use! For example, Indeed and LinkedIn are great tools that you can use to find jobs.
  8. Your family will always want the best for you. If your family sees you struggling and offers to help, swallow your pride and accept it! There is no shame in needing a little extra help when things go bad.
  9. Don’t get discouraged! It could take some time to find a new job, but you’ll eventually get that offer! Who knows, the layoff could lead to much bigger and better things.

 


Young woman relaxing on beach, ocean view, Vacation Outdoors Seascape Concept

Ways to Save on Your Next Vacation

Man relaxing on the beach

As the spring and summer months quickly approach, we are all looking forward to some much needed vacation time. There are typically two types of people when it comes to planning for a vacation. Read the following sceneries and honestly reflect on which one relates most to your approach.

Scenario 1:

You and your friends/family decide to take a sporadic vacation to Mexico during March. The timing works perfectly for everyone, so you buy your tickets at a high season price. As the date quickly approaches, you all have completely forgotten about planning or buying a hotel, so you scramble to find a bouge place to stay. You end up spending way more than you should have due to your lack of planning.

As your relaxing on the beach with friends and family, zero thought goes into what you purchase or where you swipe your card. By the end of the stay, you have racked up a $8,000 bill for your luxury 4-night stay. Was it worth it?

 

Scenario 2:

You and your friends/family decide to take a vacation together at some point during the year. Everyone sits down and searches for the cheapest times for tickets, hotels, etc. Once the perfect date is settled and hotels and flights are purchased at an offseason price, you decide to make a daily budget to follow.

On vacation, you closely monitor your spending and aren’t just whipping out your rewards credit card to exercise your wrist. On your budget, you’ve accounted for extra spending each day so even if some days are more expensive than others, you have the necessary funds for it. Once it’s time to leave, you have a $4000 bill on your rewards credit card, but have enough money in the bank to pay that off immediately due to your proper planning.

 

Some tips to prepare for your next vacation:

  1. Budget. BUDGET! The last thing you want to do after coming back from a relaxing stay at the Bellagio is worry about paying off a credit card that you don’t have the money for.
  2. Use a rewards credit card for purchases. There’s nothing wrong with putting everything on a credit card. As a matter of fact, it’s what you should be doing to avoid having your account compromised. Earn extra money, miles, or gifts by putting everything on your rewards credit card and then pay the balance off to avoid high interest charges.
  3. Book in advance and during offseason if possible. Scenario 1 and 2 stayed at the exact same place but paid completely different prices. Booking well in advance will relieve stress as well as get you the best price. It’s recommended to start planning your vacation a year in advance to give you plenty of time to budget and find tickets.

According to CheapAir.com 2018 Annual Airfare Study, they determined that you should book this far in advanced for the following seasons.

  • Winter: 62 days in advance
  • Spring: 90 days in advance
  • Summer: 47 days in advance
  • Fall: 69 days in advance
  1. Figure out local transportation. You can easily save money by checking if there are local trains, busses, Uber, Lyft, etc. Taking a taxi everywhere will cost you an arm and leg.


Girl holding cash

8 Reasons to Create and Stick to a Budget

50/20/30 Rule to Budgeting

Try to budget with the 50/20/30 rule. What this means is that 50% of your income after tax goes towards nondiscretionary things such as: rent, utilities, food, car payments, etc. Next, 20% of your income should go towards some kind of emergency fund. Experts recommend saving a minimum of 6 months’ worth of expenses. Finally comes the fun. 30% of your income can go towards discretionary items like going out to eat, vacations, clothes, and anything else that you want to buy. 

 

1. Peace of Mind

You won’t have to stress about running out of money halfway through the month. Budgeting properly will lay out your weekly/monthly expenses and tell you how much you can spend. You just need to make sure to follow your budget precisely.

2. Helps you prepare for emergencies

Having an emergency fund set up is crucial. You never know when something bad will happen and the last thing you want to do is take a loan or put it on a credit card. It could take years to pay off the loan or credit card, so budgeting for an emergency fund will allow you to handle whatever life throws at you.

3. Shows bad spending habits

Bad spending habits can be seen through budgeting. You might not realize that you spend $100 on Starbucks every month unless you establish a budget. Once you see a pattern, you can change your habits to save more money.

4. Motivation

When your financially stable and have a clear goal, you’re automatically more motivated. Having a budget motivates you to make more, save more, and spend less. Without this, you might notice yourself slacking in your professional life.

5. Indulge in your wants

With a budget, you can slowly save for things that you don’t necessarily need. It’s better than charging it to your credit card and then having to pay interest over several months. Budget accordingly and maybe cut out certain unneeded things out so you can reach your goal.

6. It can be as simple as you want!

Budgeting doesn’t have to be a super complex task. You don’t need a finance degree to make a simple spreadsheet or plan. There are many online budgeting tools that you simply input your expenses and income. Start your kids out on a budget when they are young so they grow up learning how to use it. The sooner you start, the better.

7. Helps you determine how much debt you can afford

Oddly enough, budgeting helps you figure out how much debt you can actually afford. For example, if you’re buying a new car it can help you determine how much you can spend on a car loan each month. This is important to figure out because imagine how bad it would be to buy a car that is too expensive for you to afford. This happens to a lot of people so budgeting properly will make sure that you can afford whatever you end up buying.

8. It’s fun!

Budgeting doesn’t have to be boring! You can set mini goals for how much you want to save and then reward yourself when you reach that goal. It isn’t always easy, but creating a flexible budget will help you enjoy a financially stress free life.