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Archive for the ‘Wallet Wellness’ Category

Jul

07.14

in-the-dark

Are thoughts about your debt keeping you up at night… or do you just push them out of your mind? If you try to avoid even thinking about your debt, it may be the first sign that you’re in trouble. Trying to ignore it just makes it worse! Denial may seem easier when you’re in too deep, but you’ll never make progress if you can’t confront the problem.

One study showed that American households underreported the magnitude of their credit card debts by at least one-third.1 The study noted that the discrepancy “could result from willful ignorance, as large credit card balances are not welcome information” or “from difficulty understanding the growth of credit card balances.”2

It’s one thing to know that you owe money, but it’s another to know exactly how much you owe and to whom. Compound interest works in your favor when you are building savings, but it works against you when you’re in debt. The fact that credit card debt is “revolving” – compounding daily instead of monthly – means you can pay much more interest and your debt can go on forever. This is how seemingly small debts can grow into large ones!

That’s one reason it’s so important for you to sit down and identify all your debt. Get your credit reports and scores to ensure you haven’t left anything off.

Of all the threats to your financial security, none is more dangerous than debt. Don’t you think it’s important to know exactly what you’re fighting?

1. NYTimes.com, “How Much Do You Owe? Guess Again,” viewed 17 June, 2014
2. Ibid

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Jun

30.14

financial-future

To get started on the path to wallet wellness, you often need to start small. But you can have fun in the process! As your new outlook becomes second nature, you can finally begin to focus on the four things that matter for your financial future:

1. Have an emergency fund.

This is your reserve fund in the event of an unforeseen emergency, job loss or an unexpected expense. A good rule of thumb: set a goal of having three to six months’ salary in your emergency fund. Every little bit helps! For example, saving $5 a week is the equivalent to giving up a latté.

2. Take control of your debt.

There’s often a connection between emergencies and debt, but that’s not the only reason people get into debt. Chronic consumer debt has become an epidemic on Main Street, and families now struggle more than ever to make ends meet. Debt is one of the biggest threats to your financial wellbeing. Take control by identifying your debt and learning how debt stacking can lead to freedom. They say you can eat an elephant – one bite at a time. The same concept works with paying off your debt!

3. Protect the things you love.

One of the most important expenditures a family makes is also one of the most misunderstood. In the event you can no longer provide for your family, it’s absolutely critical that you make the right decision when it comes to protecting the things you love. It’s hard to talk about the “worst-case scenario,” but being properly protected can have a huge impact on your family’s security and peace of mind. Don’t be afraid to ask the experts if you don’t understand! It’s better to find out now than to later wish you could go back in time and do it all over again.

4. Save for the future.

Finally, you want to think about your long-term savings. Your goal is to save for the future! There’s a high cost to waiting, so it pays to start early. Don’t get so focused on the future that you succumb to the “I can start tomorrow” attitude! According to experts, “The trick to making a savings plan stick is to think about small, specific things that can be repeated over time.”1 Time and consistency are two of the most powerful keys to achieving financial security.

By focusing on these four keys to your financial future, you can get started on the path to freedom and independence. The tiny battles you face day to day will ultimately help you win the “war” for your wallet!

1. TIME.com, “Want to Save Money? Stop Thinking About the Big Picture,” January 9, 2014

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Jun

23.14

kids-money-fun

While everyone wishes a “money tree” did actually exist, those who work hard for the money know differently. How many times did your parents tell you that “money doesn’t grow on trees,” and how often do you find yourself cringing when you voice that same wisdom to your kids?

While spending always seems more exciting than budgeting and saving (at the time), it’s important for us to teach our kids to be responsible with their money so they can avoid making many of the same money mistakes their parents did.

Here are some fun and easy ways to teach your kids about money this summer:

Goal: To emphasize the value of money and teach kids that money isn’t “free?” To make sure they understand that you have to work for the things you purchase.

Kid-tivity: Come up with ways your child can earn money toward something he or she wants to buy or wants to do. Here are some ideas:

  • Extra chores around the house or for a neighbor
  • Babysitting (must be at least 12 years old and very responsible)
  • Pet-sitting or dog walking
  • Yardwork or gardening
  • Washing cars or windows
  • Lemonade or popsicle stand
  • Yard sale … and more!

Goal: To have your children understand what it means to be charitable and he or she can have a sense of accomplishment and pride by giving back to his or her community.

Kid-tivity: There are plenty of big and small ways your child can give back, whether or not money is involved. Here are just a couple:

  • Have him or her buy a toy for a child in need with his or her own money.
  • Find a local volunteer project you and your child can participate in. Explain what the charity is and why you’re helping.
  • Keep a change jar around the house for loose change and let your kids pick the charity they want to give it to when the jar fills up.
  • Show your child the value of time by spending time with an elderly neighbor or shut in. Explain that the giving of time is just as valuable as the giving of money.

Wallet Wellness Challenge
Can you think up of more ways to teach your kids the value of money? Get creative! Make it fun! Then share them with us!

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Jun

16.14

20-under-20

“Summertime … the living’s easy…”

Are you ready to have some serious fun this summer and save money at the same time? It’s totally doable! Part of the Wallet Wellness Challenge is learning how to fatten up your wallet without giving up life’s essentials. And one of life’s most fundamental “must-haves” — especially if you’re trying to entertain kids or let loose this summer — is to HAVE FUN!

Learn what’s available to you and do a tiny bit of thinking ahead. There are tons of deals all around you and you probably aren’t even aware of some of them. Here are 20 fun and fabulous ways to save money this summer and still have a blast:

  1. Make your own snacks. Whether you buy in bulk and divvy your goods up into snack bags or make your own tasty treats, you can save some serious cheddar when you skip the concession stands and pack your own.
  2. Coordinate a block party. Get the neighbors together and plan a potluck. People can bring a dish and sharable toy (Frisbee, badminton, whiffle ball and bat, etc.). The kids will have fun playing together and everyone can enjoy the feast!
  3. Have a movie marathon. This is especially fun on rainy days. Grab a couple of movies, throw on your PJs, pop some corn and relax.
  4. Go to the park. There are parks all around and … they’re FREE! It’s a great way to get some exercise (wear out the kids!), get some fresh air and play!
  5. Check out your local library. Not only do they typically host summer reading events, but you can check out books … for free! Cheap entertainment and the boosting of brain power? Double score!
  6. Get festive! Most cities and towns host all sorts of festivals during the summer. Whether you enjoy arts and crafts or want to try some new eats, check your local paper or news/entertainment sites for activities near you.
  7. Kids eat free. You’d be surprised how many restaurants offer free meals or deals for kids during the week. This is a great way to “treat” your family to a nice meal for less!
  8. Water follies. Is there a community pool in your area? Rates are usually only a couple of bucks per person and you can make a day of it. Don’t forget your sunscreen and snacks!
  9. Backyard waterpark. If you don’t have a community pool near you, consider creating a mini “waterpark” in your back yard! All you need is a water hose and a sprinkler for hours of fun.
  10. Host a kids clothes swap. Mentally adding up the cost of new school clothes and cringing? Host a kids clothes swap with other parents and get gently used clothes for the new year. It’s a great way to update your kids’ wardrobe and be kind to your wallet, too!
  11. Field day, anyone? A fun way to entertain the kids this summer is to have a field day. Whether it’s in your backyard or a local park, you can grab a few items from your local dollar store (bubbles, water balloons, kites) and make a day of it!
  12. Community service. It’s never too early to teach kids the joy of giving back or doing something for others. Whether you visit seniors in a nursing home or pick up litter at a school or community center, it’s a great way to spend your time.
  13. Have a game night. Everyone has games in their house (or ones that you can borrow from a friend). Gather your group together and have a mini-marathon. Electronic team games or board games are terrific ways to spend time together without costing a dime.
  14. Get technical. There are tons of smartphone apps and websites that offer all kinds of deals and discounts. From spa days to entertainment to store coupons, there’s something for everyone!
  15. Buy produce in season. One of the greatest things about summer is all of the plentiful fruits and veggies at farmer’s markets and store. Buying in season is cheaper and can help you cut your grocery bill.
  16. Stay hydrated. We’re lucky to live in a place where water is very accessible. Buy a water container and carry your own water with you instead of buying drinks on the go.
  17. Watch a movie for less. Did you know that some movie theaters offer free movies for kids over the summer? Check your local establishments to see what kinds of deals are offered. Or, if your area has one, go to the drive-in! You pay by the carload, not per person.
  18. Score a sibling discount. Are your kids going to camp or daycare? See if there’s a sibling discount available to save some cash.
  19. Go local. Check your local college or university events calendar to see if they offer any cheap (or free!) concerts or exhibits.
  20. Get creative! Can that cardboard box be turned into a spaceship? Can those odds and ends in the junk drawer become a new folk art piece? Check out Pinterest for ideas on how you can create your own fun!

These are just a handful of the fun (and practically free!) things you can do this summer to help you spend less and save more this summer. Make sure you check back in over the summer for even more amazing Wallet Wellness tips and tricks!

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Jun

10.14

small-changes-big-results

So now that you’ve set your goals, how do you get to your desired destination? Learn how adjust your lifestyle over time in small, relatively painless ways to work toward your goals.

Pay yourself first: Paying yourself first means putting yourself and your family before any other demands on your money. Deposit a set amount each and every month into a savings account no matter what other financial obligations you have. It’s amazing how fast your money can add up! You can even start small and increase the amount as you go. The important thing is to start NOW.

Adjust your priorities, adjust your lifestyle: It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep. Making small changes over time is easier than making a big change at once. Bring lunch from home, skip your daily expensive latté and make conscious decisions about every purchase. Understand wants vs. needs and make small sacrifices to achieve your goals.

Earn additional income: Consider taking on part-time work to get the extra income you need to start a savings program.

Avoid the credit trap: Nothing is more dangerous to your financial well being than debt. Be careful to avoid the pitfalls of “plastic money.” Pay your balance in full each month or, better yet, pay with cash.

Set a budget and stick to it: Download this handy household budget worksheet to get an idea of where your money is going each month. Where can you realign your resources? Where can you cut back? It’s easier to get a grasp of your financial situation when you know exactly where your money is going each month.

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