Today’s Friday Focus was written by guest blogger Lynne J. Johnson, CMO, Consumers Credit Union. Thank you, Lynne!
It’s Friday, and for many of us that means pay day. Time to jump up and down with joy, right? For some, pay day is another day to worry about our finances and think to ourselves, “I barely made it. What if I face even a minor emergency?” It’s scary stuff.
Working in the financial industry, we listen to our members (and colleagues) talk about their everyday life. In everyday life, events can happen that take us off course and make us stumble with our finances. In these moments, when asking for help is what we need the most, we often hide our problems instead. Sometimes we even hide it from ourselves, which is the biggest stumble of all.
Let’s make this clear: Money is NOT Scary. Money is manageable, and at Consumers, we teach people from all walks of life how to be financially healthy. Helping our members in this way is what we do best.
As we enter the week of Halloween, we’d like you to take a minute and ask yourself if you are scared of money. If you are, come in and talk with any one of us. We aren’t vampires… we won’t bite. We aren’t clowns… we won’t laugh at your situation. We aren’t ghosts… we won’t disappear without offering assistance. Our member service team is made up of people who have the same questions about money that you do. You can come into our office on the spur of the moment, call us to set up an appointment, or send us a Facebook or Twitter message. Connect the way you want to connect and we will get the right people in the room to listen and help you succeed.
Maybe you want to purchase your own haunted house. We can help with that. Perhaps you’d like to be able to buy the most expensive treats for the trick or treaters. We can help with that. It could be that your grey-haired “wig” is now your REAL hair, and you need retirement advice. We can help with that. Or maybe you just want some “witches brew” from our office (aka Coffee) and need a pointy listening ear. We can help with that too.
All of us here at Consumers Credit Union hope you enjoyed a Thanksgiving full of the blessings of family and friends yesterday. If you’re now headed out to get a head start on your Christmas shopping, check out our favorite Black Friday sales advice from around the web before you hit the mall.
DailyFinance has researched the ads so you don’t have to. Take advantage of great deals on TVs, iPads, slow cookers—even washers and dryers.
Are you sure you’re really getting a deal on today’s purchases? The Fiscal Times shares common ways retailers make their sales look better than they really are.
Myth #1: Everyone gets the deals. Check out this article from Fox Business to make sure you’ve got the smartest shopping strategy.
Budgets often get tight around the holidays—but Christmas spending shouldn’t require you to take on more debt. The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch shares great strategies for the debt averse.
Think Black Friday is your only chance to score holiday bargains? Think again. If you don’t want to elbow your way through the crowds today, LearnVest shares the best dates for relaxed holiday shopping.
Prefer to shop locally? Check out MLive‘s list of downtown Kalamazoo merchants participating in tomorrow’s Small Business Saturday and support our local economy as you stock up on stocking stuffers.
Identity theft occurs when a criminal steals personal information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card numbers, or ID numbers to access the victim’s accounts or open new accounts, obtain credit, etc. with a false identity.
To prevent identity theft, we recommend safeguarding all personal information and securely destroying all sensitive documents when you no longer need them. We provide secure shred bins in all of our offices for your use. We also recommend monitoring your accounts for any suspicious activity. The following can be signs that your identity has been stolen:
Receiving unexpected billing statements or having your mail rerouted or stopped.
Receiving multiple phone calls for another person.
Notices that your address or password has been changed.
A sudden unexplained change in your credit score or new accounts on your credit report.
Unusual transactions on your bank accounts.
Being told by a service provider that they cannot verify or locate your account or that your Social Security number is already in their system.
In addition to monitoring your bank accounts, you should also verify your credit report each year. To receive a free copy, visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
More information on protecting yourself from identity theft and what to do if you suspect you’ve been a victim can be found on the FTC’s Consumer Information website.
As always, if you have questions about protecting your accounts, don’t hesitate to call us at 800.991.2221 or stop by to speak with our member service representatives.
We’ve often shared our view that creating a budget shouldn’t be looked at as a chore, but an opportunity to prioritize where your money goes. Budgeting helps you cut out the spending that doesn’t matter to you so that you have more money for the things you care about it.
Of course, that’s why it’s can be difficult to start a conversation about money with someone else. It’s not just about the numbers—it’s about your individual priorities and values. It gets even more complicated when the financial choices of the other person impact your decisions and vice versa.
Here are our three favorite tips for talking money with your partner:
Ease into it
If you’re currently furious at your partner for spending you consider frivolous, it’s not the time to talk. Instead, wait until you’ve cooled off. When you’re ready, don’t start with accusations. Ask your partner why he made the choice he did—and focus on hearing him out. His reasoning may make more sense than you expected.
Work with the facts
If you and your partner don’t currently track your spending, it’s a good idea to do so for a month. You may think you’re on target to hit a financial goal you’ve been working toward (say paying off the last of your student loans), but not realize you could be doing so even more efficiently if you change some of your spending habits.
Tracking your spending can also help you better align your own individual goals and inspire impromptu conversations about your financial goals, as you learn more about each other’s habits.
Remember it’s not just about your spending
When budgeting, we tend to focus on where our money goes—how much to savings, retirement, groceries, etc. How we get that money—and how that affects our relationship with our partner—is just as important.
Those discussions can involve a constant tradeoff. Is it worth it for you to work longer days for extra income, but less time to enjoy it? What about your partner? Does one of you dream of opening a business, which might mean taking a pay cut until it takes off?
The more you and your partner get in the habit of talking about money and what it means to you, the easier the conversation will get.
Here at Consumers Credit Union, we’re all about empowering our members to make the best choices with their money. Our new online calculators help you do just that! From calculating loan payments and payoffs to your monthly budget and savings goals, our website has the tools you’ve been looking for. You can find all of them on our Financial Calculators page or follow the individual links below to check them out.
Personal Finance Calculators
In addition to these new calculators, we have many handy calculators available specific to mortgages, including:
Have you found the new calculators helpful for your finances? Share your stories in the comments!
Here at Consumers, we love to help you save money. One way to do that is to set a budget. Budgeting shows you how much money you can allocate to housing expenses, food, entertainment, and the rest of your spending categories each month.
We know that many people dislike the idea of budgeting, because they think that if they put their spending habits on paper, they’ll have to give up the splurges they enjoy: hobbies, dinners out, the occasional latte. But budgeting shouldn’t make you miserable. Ideally, it helps you cut back your spending on the things that don’t matter to you so that you have more money for the things that do. Creating a budget is simply about prioritizing where you want your money to go.
Here’s how to create a budget that makes you feel good.
1. Make a list of goals.
Paying off debt and saving for the future are important components of any budget. Set specific goals for yourself to stay excited about your progress. For instance, what will you be able to do when you’ve paid off your credit card debt? Or perhaps your big goal is saving up to buy a house. Even smaller goals, like working up to stashing a certain percentage of your check in your 401(k) each week can keep you motivated.
2. Become a bargain hunter and add your savings to a “Fun Fund”.
When you’re doing your regular shopping, keep track of the money you save by using coupons and seeking out sales—money you’d otherwise be spending. Reward yourself for taking the time to cut expenses by adding the savings to a “Fun Fund” that you can use for a special activity or purchase. Or put the extra money toward the financial goals you set to help you reach them even faster.
3. Cut the clutter.
Have old furniture or clothing just taking up space in your home? Have an end of summer yard sale or start listing it on Craigslist or eBay. The money you make can go toward replacements or your savings.
While you’re getting your home organized, consider doing the same for your email inbox. Do you really need the dozen special offer emails you wake up to each morning? If they’re just tempting you to spend money you otherwise wouldn’t, start unsubscribing.
4. Make saving automatic.
You’ve probably heard this from us before, but here it is again. When you make saving a habit by setting up automatic transfers, you’ll learn to not even miss the money you’re stashing.
You can set up an automatic transfer in Online Banking. Choose “More Transfer Options” from the Transfer window. Then choose the option for “Recurring Transfer,” and complete the remaining details on your transfer before clicking “Submit.”
Have more questions about setting a budget and sticking to it? Ask us in the comments!