$805.65. That’s the average amount consumers will spend celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa this year according to the National Retail Federation’s Holiday Consumer Spending Survey. Whether you spend more or less, the holiday season is right around the corner! Here are some of the best ways to save and make sure you and your wallet are prepared for the holidays.
Set a budget and check it twice.
Budgeting for the holidays can help you save money, reduce stress, and have a more enjoyable holiday season.
One way to start is to figure out what you want to spend. This will give you a clear idea of how much to save.
Another way to budget is to create list of the people you buy gifts for and then set a price point for each person. Total this up for your savings goal. Then use the list to keep track of spending so you don’t blow your budget.
Don’t rip into your savings for wrapping supplies.
Avoid unnecessary spending on wrapping supplies you already have. Many of us have bags, wrapping paper, boxes, etc. left over from last season. Check what’s on hand so you can free up space in your budget as well as your home.
Don’t wait to start shopping. Keep a keen eye out for gifts for family and friends on your list all year round. You might find the perfect gifts at a craft show, antique market, or boutique when you’re not looking for something specific.
Be sure to keep track of your purchases and keep them in a specific place (maybe hidden if need be).
Brave Black Friday
Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be a big time to score great deals on very specific gifts – if you’re willing to brave the crazy crowds also looking for the steal of the season. If you opt for shopping these days, get a game plan together:
- What gift are you looking for?
- What stores have this item?
- What times are the prices lowest?
Having a plan of attack can help you save the most and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
Are you good at art? Can you craft? For many family members and friends a handcrafted gift means more than something store-bought. Maybe you have skills for making home or car repairs; offer your skill set as a gift. You may be surprised how grateful people are for your help and expertise.
Get Started Ahead of Time
The best way to make sure you have enough for your holidays is to plan early. The sooner you start budgeting and saving the more you can accomplish! You may even find yourself with a surplus you could use to treat yourself or roll into next year.
Consumers offers a special “Christmas Savings” account that helps members make the most of their holiday savings. Log into Online Banking and click Additional Services, then click Open Savings Account. It’s that easy. Of course, you can always stop in at one of our offices, call us at 800.991.2221 or start your Christmas Savings account online today.
For many kids, back-to-school shopping may be the best part of heading back to class. But if you’re the one footing the bill, costs can really rack up fast when you consider the list of school supplies needed in addition to new shoes, clothes, and electronics.
According to survey results from the National Retail Federation, families with children in grades K-12 will spend an average $673.57 on back-to-school goods. Here are three great savings tips to keep in mind when you’re out shopping:
- Stick to the plan—or list. What? A Justin Bieber pencil and folder set isn’t required for fifth graders? Then maybe it shouldn’t be on your list either. Making a plan of what your child really needs and where to get it is key to staying within your shopping budget.
- Shop the sales. Be sure to check out the weekly store circulars for the best deals on supplies and clothes—or rebates for electronics. Many stores will offer special coupons to those who follow them on Facebook or Twitter. Consignment stores may also be a good option for clothing—especially for younger kids who grow through sizes quickly.
- Buy in bulk—and save for later. Glue sticks, pencils, Kleenex and a lot of other supplies can be purchased in bulk and shared between multiple kids or saved for later on. Consolidate lists (see tip #1) to see where you can combine savings.
If all this shopping stuff still has your head spinning, one stress-free investment you can make in your child’s future is setting them up with a Consumers youth savings account. All it takes is an initial deposit of $5.00 to get started.
- Kids 12 and under: Accounts focus on teaching students about deposits and the importance of saving. After the account is opened, the child will get his or her choice of piggy bank.
- Teens ages 13-17: Accounts focus on helping students learn to manage their money with online and mobile tools. With parent/guardian permission, students 15+ qualify for a debit card and access to online/mobile banking.
Wherever your back to school shopping takes you (hopefully including a stop into one of our local offices), breathe easy—you can do this! (Just don’t forget to buy the shoes with non-marking soles.)
Federally insured by NCUA
This will probably come as no surprise to you, but college is expensive. The latest Consumers infographic just scratches the surface of higher education costs here in Michigan—not to mention what students will additionally pay for entertainment, transportation or the laundromat.
This is your chance though, as a parent, to coach your college student on how to properly manage their finances, set budgets and find savings where they can. Choosing the right financial institution to help facilitate your student’s cash flow is important, too.
At Consumers, students can open a Simple Checking account. There are no minimum balance requirements or monthly fees when you opt for eStatements. And your student will be able access more than 30,000 fee-free ATMs within the CO-OP network.
For those heading out of the area (or even studying abroad), Consumers service and technology travels with them. Members always have 24/7 access to their account with Online Banking, Voice Access and mobile banking options. Through our Consumers mobile app, they can easily check balances, pay bills, deposit checks, and receive money transfers in case of emergencies.
For more about our Simple Checking account features, click here.
Federally insured by NCUA
- Create a Budget
Developing a budget for planned expenditures based on your monthly income can really help you keep track of where your money goes. Be sure to make adjustments when things come up and try and stay away from credit cards to cover a shortfall or unnecessary purchases.
- Keep Track of Your Money and Purchases
Keep track of the money you are spending. Check out what purchases you’re making. Take a look at what areas you can cut back. By cutting back you can move your savings forward. Getting your coffee at a chain can run you $4/cup a day, which quickly adds up to be about $80/month.
- Put Savings in the Budget
Be sure to include your savings in your budget. Instead of thinking it as a savings think of it as you paying yourself. Acting like your savings account is a monthly bill can really help things add up.
- Emergency Savings
Keeping a minimum of six months of salary in your savings account is a nice rule of thumb. While this goal is one that doesn’t happen overnight, it’s important to have something set up for those unexpected emergencies.
- Plan ahead for Major Purchases
If you’re planning on a big purchase, review your budget to make it possible without breaking the bank or without having to rely on credit cards. An adjustment in your budget a few months ahead of time could mean the difference between paying cash and going into debt.
- Saving for Retirement
Saving for retirement can be a challenge but it doesn’t have to be. Take advantage of interest rates and market upturns by saving early. Also, many employers offer 401(k) plans to help employees save. Consumers has Financial Advisors available to help you in those decisions.
- Protect Your Credit
Checking your credit score once a year can really help you understand where your credit lies and how to help it if need be. Going to www.annualcreditreport.com allows you to pull your credit for free, once a year, from each bureau. Making sure your payments are on time has the most impact on your score, as will late pays and failure to pay. Report any credit problem to the reporting bureau. Lastly, be sure to use your credit wisely to ensure your reports are up to date.
- Get Tax Advice
Make sure you have a handle on your taxes especially if you are self-employed, own or rent/lease property. Seekng out a professional for tax questions can really benefit you.
- Keep your financial records
In the age of technology its not always easy to have those paper pay stubs around or receipts, but utilizing online tools as well as paper can help you maintain and organize documents important to your financial portfolio.
Look for more financial tips on our eLibrary.
Back to school is a busy time for our member families. The excitement of getting a new teacher or learning if you have class with a best friend probably occupy the thoughts of your elementary students more than you know. For some (including parents), the anticipation may be more about transitioning to a new school or riding the bus for the first time.
Annual back to school shopping, it seems, is one of those rites of passage either filled with great excitement or dread. Costs can rack up fast when you consider the list of school supplies needed in addition to new shoes, clothes, haircuts and other things that generally accompany back to school time. (Check out our infographic for some typical back to school costs.)
Prices on such items vary greatly depending on where you live, shop and what your individual preferences are. Despite these differences, having a clear budget in mind will help you from going over board on that Disney princess glitter pencil set your daughter is begging for. Does it really write better than the classic yellow #2?
If all this has your head spinning, one stress-free investment you can make in your child’s future is setting them up with a youth savings account.
Consumers Kids Accounts are a fun and engaging way for kids 12 and under to make deposits and learn about saving. An initial deposit of $5 or more is all it takes to get going, and your kiddos will enjoy the following benefits:
- Fun Gift| Free gift for joining and with every $5 deposit into the account.
- Membership Card
- Special Events & Celebrations | Extra fun for all Consumers kids on holidays and other special occasions.
- Financial Tools for Kids & Families | Education is the key to success. Club activities and tools are designed to help kids and parents learn age-appropriate money management lessons.
- Kids CD (Certificate of Deposit) | Low $100 minimum deposit, $10,000 maximum deposit, and earns excellent market rate.
Teen accounts (ages 13-17) focused on learning money management are also available. Click here for details.
Wherever your back to school shopping takes you (hopefully including a stop into one of our local branches), breathe easy—you’ll make it! (Just don’t forget to buy the shoes with non-marking soles.)
If your student hasn’t handled their personal finances before, now’s the time to help educate them on what it’s like to live in the real world. Consumers has a number of available budgeting tools, which interact with our Online Banking system, to help you facilitate these types of discussion.
And if your student doesn’t want to take your advice (because we sometimes know how that goes), have them take ours. As a valued member of Consumers, your student has free access to money management and financial education services through our partner Accel Financial Services.
Accel can give personalized answers to your individual student’s needs. For issues ranging from a proactive savings plan to budgeting, repaying debit and how to build and improve credit scores, advice is only a phone call away.
Accel counselors are available Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (EST), Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To use this service, simply call 1-877-33ACCEL (332-2235) or visit them on the web at www.accelservices.org.
Our service staff are always willing to help with the financial education process, too. Just stop by to chat or give us a call at 800.991.2221.
College can be expensive for sure. The latest Consumers infographic just scratches the surface of higher education costs here in Michigan.
What are not included are expenses associated with transportation, parking, laundry, toiletries, mobile phones, software, and extracurriculars. The list could go on and does.
At Consumers, all members enjoy Seriously Free Checking accounts. There are no minimum balance requirements, monthly service charges or per check fees. Members enjoy access to more than 30,000 fee-free ATMs within the CO-OP network. And we can provide free instant-issue debit cards in case your student’s gets lost or damaged.
For those students heading out of the area (or even studying abroad), Consumers service and technology travels with them. Members always have 24/7 access to their account with Online Banking, Voice Access and mobile banking options. Through our Consumers mobile app, they can easily check balances, pay bills, deposit checks, and smile from money transfers from their loving parents.
April 15 is just around the corner, take control of your tax situation and save time and frustration. By being prepared you’ll have time to request copies of missing documents; avoid the last minute rush; and, if you’re getting a refund, probably receive it sooner.
* Gather records in advance. Make sure you have the documentation you need, including W-2s and 1099s. Save a copy for your files.
* Get the right forms. Visit your local library or check the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) website’s Forms and Publications section.
* Give yourself a break–a coffee break, that is. Rushing can cause errors, so take your time.
* Double-check your math and Social Security number. These are among the most common errors on tax returns.
* Use direct deposit. Let the IRS put your refund right into your account.
* Consider filing electronically. It’s easy and fast and the refund will be in your account even faster. Love My Credit Union Rewards has teamed up with TurboTax to save our members money, when filing taxes electronically. Click here to get started!