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5 Ways to Get a Great Car for Less

Premium styling. Flawless paint. Glistening tires. That unmistakable new car smell. Everything about a new vehicle practically begs you to buy it. When you close your eyes and think about driving your brand-new set of wheels off the lot, it quickens your pulse a little, doesn’t it? Shopping for your next vehicle is a uniquely exciting experience. Until you look at the price tag, that is.

If you haven’t priced cars recently, you may be surprised by the figures you find. According to a 2018 report by Edmunds, the average loan amount for a new car jumped to more than $32,000, and the average monthly payment rose to $558. Sure, the latest models may be nice, but facts are facts—that’s a lot of money to pay for a car.

Now, before we go any further, if you’ve been saving up for your dream car and figured out how to buy it without demolishing your budget, then by all means, go for it! But if you find yourself in the market for a new vehicle and you want to avoid overspending, we’ve got five tips to help you hang onto more of your hard-earned money.

5 Ways to Save Money When Buying a New Car

  1. Do your research.
    The last thing you want to do is show up to a car lot with no idea what you’re looking for. Lack of preparation puts you at the mercy of the salesperson. And while they may be genuinely nice people, sales professionals make their living by getting you to buy a product at the highest price possible. So, before you head to a dealership, narrow down your choices by doing your research. Thanks to the Internet, companies like NADA, Car and Driver, and CarsDirect can help you sort thousands of options by everything from location to price to trim packages.
  2. Get pre-approved.
    Once you’ve determined which vehicle fits your preferences and meets your needs, it’s smart to get pre-approved for financing. If you are a credit union member, there’s a good chance you’ll find better financing rates through your credit union than through another lender. Once you’re pre-approved, you’ll know how much you can afford, what interest rate you’ll pay, and how much your monthly payments will be. This information gives you the upper hand in price negotiations and keeps you from getting distracted by dealer tactics that focus strictly on monthly payments. Pre-approval lets you negotiate based on the most important aspect—price.
  3. Shop for incentives.
    When sales are lower than expected, automakers will often extend money-saving incentives to encourage buyers to purchase their vehicles. This is an instance where the manufacturer’s loss can be your gain. If you’re not already loyal to a particular make or model, you may be able to take advantage of dealer incentives such as discounts, rebates, and lower APR on financing. If you are loyal to a specific type of car, that can work in your favor as well, as some car companies will offer customer loyalty incentives to encourage you to keep driving their cars. To learn more about the incentives that may be available near you, click here.
  4. Ask for a lower rate.
    There are plenty of books, websites, and podcasts that offer tips and tricks on negotiating more effectively. While most of their ideas have merit, there’s one suggestion that may seem a little too simple and straightforward—ask for a better deal. In most cases, a dealer or salesperson will start negotiations with an offer that benefits them the most. Asking them to do better is part of the game. To give yourself the best chance of success, be polite and be prepared to walk away. Some dealers will play hardball, but when they have an interested buyer (especially one with pre-approved financing), most would rather sell a car for a little less than let it sit on the lot and hope another buyer comes along.
  5. Choose a used car instead.
    OK, maybe this tip isn’t exactly a way to “get a new car for less,” but it is an excellent way to save money on your next vehicle purchase. Since most new cars depreciate an average of 20% in the first year and nearly 50% after five years, buying a pre-owned vehicle is a smart way to steer clear of that depreciation. It’s also worth mentioning that in addition to their lower up-front prices, used cars usually cost less to insure. Save now. Save later. That’s a pretty convincing sales pitch, isn’t it?

When you’re ready to start shopping for your next car, we’re confident that you can handle the research portion on your own. But when it comes to the financing and pre-approval, do yourself a favor and contact us here at Scient Federal Credit Union. In most cases, we can offer lower rates and more flexible terms than traditional banks or lenders. Thanks to our competitive auto financing programs, a simple phone call can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. Give us a call today. You’ve got nothing to lose—except months of unnecessary interest payments!

10 Tips for Selling Your House Fast—and for Top Dollar!

When you’re trying to sell your house, you want to do it as quickly as possible. But did you realize you only have six seconds? Your house may be on the market longer than that, but that’s not what we’re talking about. Homebuyers generally make their purchase decisions based on first impressions, and real estate experts estimate those impressions are formed within the first six seconds—three from the curb and three from the entryway.

If you’re going to win over a prospective buyer, you’ll have to get their attention quickly to convince them that your house is their next home. Yes, location is key. And yes, price matters. But with a few strategic preparations, you can make your property as attractive and inviting as possible. By doing so, you’ll set it up to sell sooner rather than later.

10 Ways to Prepare Your Home to Sell ASAP

  1. Think like a buyer.

    It can be tempting to present your home in a way that highlights the aspects you like the most. The problem with this approach is that your favorites are just that—your favorites. Potential buyers won’t be looking at your house through the lens of nostalgia. Help them see your home as a blank slate where they can form their own identity.

  2. Focus on curb appeal.

    It’s incredible what a tidy lawn and freshly mulched flower beds can do for a house. Most buyers will drive by your property before deciding whether or not to take a closer look. A house that looks welcoming from the street stands a much better chance of selling quickly.

  3. Freshen up your front door.

    If curb appeal is a friendly invitation, a freshly painted front door is a cheery welcome. Every buyer who looks at your home will most likely enter through the front door, so giving it a new coat of paint can cover up any scuffs and dings that have shown up over time. This small step will help the house look livable—not lived in.

  4. Make basic repairs.

    If you’ve lived in your home for any amount of time, there are probably a few problems you’ve learned to live with. Chipped paint, missing fence boards, leaky kitchen faucets, flickering lightbulbs…these are just a few of the minor inconveniences that you might overlook on a daily basis. They’re also the little details that could make your house less attractive to a buyer. Make the simple fixes. You’ll be glad you did.

  5. Stay neutral.

    If you personalized your house by using vibrant colors in each room, it might be a good idea to repaint. While you might love bold colors, there’s no guarantee the next owner will. Painting the walls in neutral colors will let potential buyers observe the overall house without getting hung up on whether or not they like the colors you chose.

  6. Make it less “you.”

    While we’re focused on the interior, make a special effort to remove decorations and knick-knacks that reflect your personal tastes and identity. No matter how friendly and familiar they may be, family photos will make buyers feel like their visiting someone else’s house. You want them to feel like they’re spending time in their own.

  7. Clean and declutter.

    You don’t have to channel your inner Marie Kondo, but clearing clutter will not only make the house look cleaner, it will make it feel bigger. And when it comes to cleanliness, there’s no such thing as too clean. When you think things are finally clean enough, go over them once more. Buyers will notice.

  8. Use some common scents.

    It goes without saying (or at least it should) that you should do your very best to eliminate offensive smells like pet, laundry, or cooking odors. If you want to increase your chances of selling your house, go a step beyond deodorizing and introduce a pleasant scent. Candles, essential oils, and fresh-baked cookies can do a wonderful job of creating a welcoming environment for house hunters.

  9. Stage strategically.

    If you can’t afford to hire a professional real estate stager, you can still arrange each room to highlight your home’s top features. While each room matters, pay particular attention to the living room, the master bedroom, and the kitchen. These are the three rooms where the new owners will spend most of their time, so staging them well is a small task that can make a big difference.

  10. Hire a real estate agent.

    If you want to sell your home as quickly as possible, enlisting the help of a professional is a smart way to accomplish your goal. Experienced realtors know the local market, and their expertise can help you sell your house faster and for more money. Selling a home on your own might sound like a good idea, but when you consider that a real estate agent can handle the marketing, negotiations, and legal details, their commission can be money that’s well spent.

Potential home buyers want to walk through a house that feels exciting and new. They also want it to feel like home. Following the tips listed above can help you give them exactly what they’re looking for. And the faster you make that happen, the sooner those buyers will give you what you want—a house with a SOLD sign in the yard!

Medical Expenses Have Gone Crazy. You Don’t Have to Do the Same

In the United States, healthcare has grown into a $3 trillion industry. That’s $3,000,000,000,000. That’s a lot of zeros—so many that for most of us, the number doesn’t even seem real. But if we break it down to a personal level, that means the average American spends more than $11,000 per year on healthcare costs. If that doesn’t sound troublesome, consider the fact that the annual cost of healthcare for a family of four tops $28,000. With the median household income coming in at $63,000 per year, that means the average US family can wind up spending more than 40% of their annual income on medical-related expenses. That’s steep.

Even with employer-provided health insurance, which covers roughly 56% of the US population, the employee contribution and out-of-pocket deductibles can leave families buried under an avalanche of medical debt. It’s hard to understand how an industry responsible for personal care can seem so unconcerned when it comes to the financial state of its patients. But with a growing number of hospitals being operated as investor-owned, for-profit businesses, return on investment often seems more important than compassionate patient care.

Difficult Times Call for Creative Approaches

As medical bills continue to climb, the corresponding rise in medical collection agencies only perpetuates the healthcare industry’s callous reputation. In a conversation about the cold, impersonal nature of medical collections, Elizabeth Rosenthal, author of An American Sickness, observed, “…to them [collection agencies], a bill is a bill is a bill. They don’t care if it’s for somebody’s heart transplant…or if someone spent a lot more money on a Rolex watch that they couldn’t afford.”

Over the last few years, medical bills have become the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that GoFundMe campaigns have become one of the most popular ways for consumers to cover their medical costs. According to GoFundMe statistics, approximately 250,000 fundraising campaigns are established on the platform every year just to pay for medical expenses. The $650,000 generated by those campaigns points to a significant problem in the healthcare system.

If you’re one of the thousands of Americans struggling to keep your head above water as medical bills flood in, you might feel helpless. And while there are no magic solutions that can make legitimate medical debt disappear, there are a few steps you can take to stay afloat. If you haven’t run into medical debt yet, these steps might be able to help you avoid the frustrations so many others have experienced.

3 Ways to Keep Your Medical Expenses in Check

  1. Review Your Bill
  2. When hospital or doctor bills show up, it’s natural to skip right to the “Total Due.” It’s natural, but it’s not necessarily the best way to approach the statement. Glancing at the amount due could leave you feeling helpless, confused, and overwhelmed. Before you send any money, take time to review every line item listed. Due to complex medical billing codes, it’s not uncommon for incorrect or duplicate charges to wind up on the bill. If you notice discrepancies or questionable entries, it is your right as a consumer to ask your insurance company or medical provider for an explanation. The dispute process may be lengthy, but it’s better than paying for medical services you never received.

  3. Consider a High-Deductible HSA
  4. If you and your family are in relatively good health, a Health Savings Account (HSA) can be an excellent way to secure medical coverage while keeping your insurance premium under control. Traditionally available through employers, insurance companies, banks, or credit unions, HSAs allow you to set aside money from your paycheck to be used specifically for medical expenses. These accounts feature higher deductibles than traditional insurance plans, but they make up for that by allowing account holders to deposit funds on a pre-tax basis, which can provide some savings and stress relief.

  5. Create an Emergency Fund
  6. Setting aside $1,000 in a savings account is a smart way to protect yourself against life’s unpredictable twists and turns. Minor illness and occasional doctor’s visits certainly qualify as unexpected expenses, so an emergency fund can help you address sudden medical needs without derailing your budget. If you decide to follow the previous suggestion and secure a high-deductible Health Savings Account, you may want to boost your emergency fund to a level that would cover your deductible. While this adjustment will likely take more work to establish, knowing you’re able to cover your entire deductible in the event of a medical emergency provides enough peace of mind to make it worth the effort.

Current medical expenses are astronomical; that’s a fact. And while it will probably take an industry shake-up to make any lasting changes, it doesn’t make sense to worry about things you can’t control. The steps we’ve outlined may not solve all your problems or eliminate all your medical debt, but they can go a long way toward helping you feel like you have a little more control. That’s a step in the right direction.

Save Money by Taking Your Spring Cleaning to the Next Level!

Now that March has gone out like a lamb (a waterlogged lamb in many parts of the country), Springtime is here, and that means it’s time for that beloved annual tradition—Spring Cleaning.

In surveys conducted by the American Cleaning Institute, responses indicate that as many as 91% of Americans and 96% of Millennials engage in spring cleaning, so it seems safe to say we’re all in this together.

As you open the windows and begin your routine of washing, sweeping, dusting, and decluttering, the goal is to spruce up your home’s interior while eliminating things you no longer need. When done correctly, spring cleaning can actually make you happier and healthier. So, it makes sense to be as thorough as possible. This year, while you’re busy cleaning your fixtures and furniture, it might be a good idea to update some common household items to more energy-efficient options. A more efficient home is an investment that can save you money all year long, and we’re pretty sure lower utility bills will boost your mood as well!

Simple Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient This Spring

  • Energy-Saving Power Switch
    By completely cutting off all power when an electronic device isn’t in use, these plug-in adapters reduce the costly effects of “vampire energy.” While the term sounds scarier than it should, vampire energy refers to the power that still flows to a device even when it is turned off. These handy switches can be purchased online or in your local hardware store for $10 or less. And with prices that low, your return on investment can be quite substantial.
  • Low-Flow Showerhead
    According to a research project conducted by the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the average American shower lasts for just over 8 minutes and uses approximately 17 gallons of water. The average flow rate works out to be roughly 2.1 gallons per minute (gpm). By switching to a low-flow shower head that reduces usage to 1.25 gpm, you can save an average of $32 per year per person. For a couple, that means $64 in savings each year—especially impressive considering that most low-flow showerheads can be purchased for $10-15.
  • Smart Thermostat
    The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, shop, and even do our banking. Now, thanks to smart products like the Nest Thermostat, it appears that it has also changed the way we save on energy-related expenses. While the initial price of a Nest will set you back approximately $250, the average annual home energy savings of $150 per year means you’ll recoup your investment in less than two years. After that, the savings just continue to add up.
  • Energy Audits
    Not sure where to begin? An energy audit can help! Depending on your location, energy audits can cost anywhere from $250 to $600. And while that might seem like a lot to pay up front, the potential savings can make it worth the investment. During a professional energy audit, efficiency experts utilize specialized tools to identify areas where your home may be using excessive energy, which, in turn, can help you pinpoint which improvements will make the biggest difference. To find an energy auditor and prepare for an audit, check out these helpful tips.

 

Throughout this article, we’ve talked about a few relatively low-cost ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency. But maybe you’re thinking a little bigger this spring. If you need a little more incentive to make big-ticket improvements like installing new windows, updating your HVAC system, or adding solar panels, federal tax incentives may provide just the push you’re looking for. Usually available in the form of rebates, these incentives are designed to encourage homeowners to update their home systems to be more energy-efficient and sustainable. If you’ve been thinking about making some major energy-saving upgrades around your house, don’t forget to see if they qualify for valuable government incentives. When it comes to saving energy and saving money, every little bit helps!

Should You Keep Separate Checking Accounts When You Get Married?

You found “The One.” You popped the question, and they said “Yes.” You both said, “I do.” Your honeymoon was incredible. Now, you’re back to reality and settling into your new life together. Suddenly, you’re faced with a wave of everyday decisions you hadn’t previously thought about. Who sleeps on which side of the bed? Which toothpaste should you buy? Whose parents will you visit at Thanksgiving? What about Christmas? Some decisions are trivial, but other dilemmas feel far more important. But then, when that first monthly bill shows up and you have to decide who pays it, you come face-to-face with one more crucial decision: Should you combine your finances and get a joint checking account?

For years, financial advisors and relationship gurus have sparred over the potential dangers and benefits of joining two individual bank accounts into one. The most challenging part of this debate is that both sides appear to make valid points, which can leave you and your spouse wondering what to do. Before we go any further, it’s important to remember that just as each person in a marriage is a unique individual, every relationship is different. And while it’s wise to seek counsel and take advice, you’ll ultimately need to figure out what works best for you. In the points to follow, we’ll set out to share a few perspectives that can help you determine the best way for you to build a financial foundation that works for your family.

The Case for Separate Checking Accounts

In an interview with CNBC, David Back, co-founder of AE Wealth Management, advised, “You should have your own account, both of you. It’s absolutely critical, especially for women, that you keep money in an account that’s yours that you control.” Citing the fact that almost half of marriages end in divorce, Bach and other like-minded financial professionals point to the fact that not only do separate accounts allow each individual to maintain their own financial identity; they also make it easier to divide assets if the relationship dissolves. If both spouses agree, the practice of keeping separate accounts can also serve to reduce the number of disputes over spending decisions. By allowing each person to manage the finances they bring into the relationship, this approach depends on the mutual trust that each person is managing their money in a financially responsible manner. And in a marriage, that kind of trust is essential.

The Case for Joint Checking Accounts

While many agree with the practicality of married couples maintaining separate bank accounts, several studies at the University of California suggest a completely different approach. Though financial independence may be a key factor in maintaining a sense of autonomy, the UC study indicated that marital happiness might be easier to achieve if both partners agree to combine everything—including bank accounts. After reviewing the results of their studies, the school’s researchers shared the following observation, “It is important for couples to perceive their possessions and financial goals as shared, and our research identifies one practical way to facilitate this: merging bank accounts.” While happiness is a subject that extends beyond the bounds of traditional financial advice, it is worth noting that your financial practices as a couple can have a powerful impact on your relational success.

The Case for Compromise

As with most things in marriage, figuring out your finances will probably involve some give and take. While some couples can thrive with separate bank accounts, others will find far greater satisfaction by pooling their resources in a joint account. However, if you’re still not sold on either idea, there’s room for compromise. It’s entirely possible for couples to have separate personal spending accounts and maintain a joint account for shared expenses like rent, insurance, utilities, and such. While this strategy requires a little more leg work and the need for open, consistent communication, that’s not a bad thing. After all, whether it’s in relation to finances or just married life in general, fine-tuning your communication skills is always a great idea!

 

Check Your Finances Before Changing Jobs

Jobs are funny things. As soon as you get one, there’s a temptation to start thinking a different job could be better. Sometimes people find themselves stuck in a role that doesn’t fit their personality or skill set. Other times they love their job but believe a change would provide the opportunity to earn more money—and in turn, more peace of mind. Whatever the reason, if you’ve been part of the workforce for more than a few months, you’ve probably spent more than a few minutes wondering if a new job might be the secret to a better life. And if that’s the case, statistics indicate you’re not the only one.

According to the US Department of Labor, the average American changes jobs 12 times during their career. So, if you haven’t tested the job market yet, the law of averages seems to indicate you will eventually. And while job transitions are relatively common these days, it’s still important to approach each change with careful consideration. Not only will the new role involve learning new skills, working with new people, and establishing a new routine, it will also require significant financial planning—at least in the transition period. So, how can you set yourself up for success while transitioning to a new endeavor? By making sure your finances are in order; that’s how.

5 Financial Tips to Remember When Considering a Job Change

  1. Check your savings. If you already have another job lined up, your savings may only need to tie you over until your new paychecks start rolling in. This might sound like a minor concern, but depending on the payroll schedule for your former company and your new employer, it’s entirely possible you could go a month or more between paychecks. If you’re leaving your job without another already lined up, you’ll need enough savings to cover expenses until you accept your next job offer. If you have the luxury of transitioning on your own time frame, aim to have six months’ worth of expenses in a savings account.
  2. Trim your expenses. Admittedly, cutting expenses is never a fun topic of conversation. However, operating on a leaner budget (at least for a little while) can make your career transition far less stressful. So, before accepting a new job offer, take time to review your monthly budget and see if there are any belt-tightening adjustments you can make. Cut back on morning lattes, meal prep at home instead of buying lunch at a restaurant every day, or binge a Netflix series instead of going to a movie at the theater. You’ll be surprised how quickly little savings add up—and those savings can help you bridge the financial gap between jobs.
  3. Review the compensation package. It’s natural to look at a job’s salary when trying to determine whether it’s a better opportunity. This is a good place to start, but there’s more to it than that. Does the prospective employer pay an hourly wage, salary, or combination of base plus commission? Do they cover a portion of employee insurance costs or do they pay the entire premium? Is the new employer’s PTO plan equivalent to the one you’d be giving up? Be sure to compare the entire compensation package instead of just comparing the annual salary.
  4. Account for relocation costs. If your new job will require you to relocate, it’s always a smart idea to look at the cost of living in your new location. A $10,000 per year raise is nice, but if you’re going to spend an additional $15,000 in housing expenses each year, the new job could cause you to fall behind financially. If you need help comparing living expenses, cost of living calculators can be extremely helpful. State income tax rates can be another location-dependent variable worth considering. Fortunately, there are online tools to help with these calculations as well.
  5. Don’t leave money behind. If your current employer offers 401K or other retirement savings accounts, be sure to make arrangements to take those funds with you. This might seem like a no-brainer, but the fact that orphaned 401K accounts total an estimated $1 trillion indicates it’s easier to overlook than you might think. When it comes to these employer-sponsored retirement plans, employees have three options when changing jobs: 1) roll over funds to a 401K plan with the new employer, 2) roll over the funds into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), or 3) withdraw the funds. It’s worth noting, however, that withdrawing the money usually incurs a steep penalty. To determine the best approach for your money, it’s always best to consult with a financial advisor at your credit union.

 

If you’re currently contemplating a job offer or just dreaming about what it would take for you to make a change, spend a little time crunching the numbers. To make your comparisons a little easier, the career planning experts at The Balance Careers offer a variety of helpful resources on their site. Once you’ve completed a thorough assessment of your potential job offer, contact one of the financial representatives at Scient Federal Credit Union. We can help you analyze your current finances, identify the best retirement rollover plans, and find ways to maximize your money in order to make your job change as smooth as possible.

Make Spring Cleaning Pay Off This Year!

People sure do like their stuff. Whether it’s the latest tech gadgets or knick-knacks that have been passed down through generations, the things we own hold a special place in our hearts and homes. So, when our possessions pile up, as is their tendency, what’s the logical thing to do? That’s right—rent a self-storage unit. What? That’s not the answer you were expecting?

According to a report by Sparefoot, one out of every 11 Americans pays for storage space to keep their overflowing belongings. That’s right, not only are people finding additional ways to store their things, they’re paying good money to do it—$38 billion a year, to be exact. Spending money to stow away various items you don’t need and will probably never use—seems silly doesn’t it? We agree. In fact, we think springtime is the perfect season to do the exact opposite.

Clean house. Cash in.
Over the past few years, de-cluttering has seen a spike in popularity, thanks in large part to proponents like Joshua Becker and Marie Kondo. While experts like Kondo preach the soul-cleansing benefits of getting rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy,” we recommend doing it for an entirely different reason. Cash. Cold, hard cash.

Don’t get us wrong, we big fan of the physical and emotional perks that come from cleaning house, but we also believe that making a little extra money would make you feel pretty good too. If you’re inspired but unsure where to start, we’ve compiled a helpful list of everyday items that carry solid resale value and the best ways to sell them.

Electronics
Maybe you just upgraded to a new laptop, and you’re wondering what to do with your old (but not that old) one. Perhaps you switched mobile phone carriers and didn’t bother trading in your previous phone. Or maybe you’re staring at a CD/DVD/video game collection that has gotten way out of hand. Before you throw your hands up and your electronics out, see if you can sell them online through services like:
Decluttr
Gazelle
Swappa

Clothing
Do you have a closet full of outfits you never wear? Have you changed your style but held onto all your old accessories? Did you purchase a new pair of shoes only to realize you already had an identical pair in your collection? Whether you’re creating a capsule wardrobe or just freeing up some space in your dresser drawers, you’d be surprised how many people would be willing to buy your gently used items. Millions of people have made some extra money by selling clothes and accessories via apps like the following:
Poshmark
Tradesy
Vinted

Miscellaneous
Let’s face it; some things just don’t fit in neat and tidy categories. But that doesn’t mean they’re worthless. There’s an old saying that suggests “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” That doesn’t mean your stuff is trash, it just means that things you no longer use may be incredibly valuable to someone else. So, before you throw out that vintage nine iron, that dusty old vinyl collection, or your great aunt’s set of decorative collector plates, try listing them for sale on the following sites:
OfferUp
Craigslist
Facebook Marketplace

Once you’ve completed your spring cleaning, minimized your possessions, and made a little money in the process, you might be wondering what to do with your newfound cash. Whatever you do, resist the urge to go right out and buy more stuff! That will just start the problem all over again. Instead, why not contact your credit union and ask them how to make your money work for you? Our team of financial specialists can help you assess your current financial situation and determine how to take smart steps towards a brighter financial future.

Valentine’s Day on a Budget: How to Find Love & Laughs for Less

When it comes to the topic of Valentine’s Day, public opinion seems to be split. Some people love everything about it. Hearts, roses, candy, flowers, Cupid—you name it, they’re here for it! On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find Valentine Scrooges who consider February 14th a day like any other. They’re convinced the celebration and fanfare are nothing more than Hallmark-sponsored money grabs. To be fair, these positions are extreme.

If you’re like most people, you probably enjoy spending the romantic holiday with your special someone, but you prefer to celebrate without spending a ton of money. Good for you. There’s nothing more attractive than someone who plans a financially responsible Valentine’s date. OK, maybe a few things—but you get the point. If you’re looking to create an inexpensive, fun-loving Valentine’s experience you’ll remember for years to come, we have a few suggestions you might enjoy.

  • Dress up and dine in.
    At first, this suggestion may seem like complete nonsense. Why would you go through the trouble of getting dressed up if you’re not going out in public? Because there’s a strange, yet undeniable appeal to doing something that doesn’t make sense to anyone else, that’s why. So, go ahead—go big. Glam it up. Suit and tie. Gown and heels. The more overdressed, the better. Whether you cook for yourself or order your favorite takeout, the food choice isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you’re both ridiculously overdressed for the occasion. And that’s the point.
  • Dress down and hit the town.
    Like the previous idea, this one involves an unexpected combination of date attire and meal selection—but with a completely different twist. Before the big date, you and your date head to the nearest thrift store (you can shop together or separately) and buy a complete outfit for the other person, spending no more than $10 in the process. The clothing selections can be as tacky and outrageous as you please—the tackier, the better. The only catch is that you both have to wear the outfits to dinner at a nice restaurant, no questions asked. If you play this one right, not only will you save money and enjoy your date, everyone around you will probably get a kick out of it as well.
  • Dollar store gift challenge.
    You and your date can play this one a couple of different ways. The first approach involves heading to the closest dollar store and seeing who can find the single best/craziest/funniest/most ridiculous gift for the other person. The second option involves setting a spending limit and seeing who can rack up the most entertaining gift collection. (No need to go above $10. After all, it’s still a dollar store.) For a little additional fun, take some selfies with your newfound treasures, and share your pics on social media using the hashtag #DollarStoreScore. After your adventure, head out and grab some dessert. Since you did your Valentine shopping at the dollar store, you’ll have plenty left to cover a sweet treat or two.

Whether you use the tips above or come up with a clever idea of your own, being smart about your Valentine’s spending goes a long way towards ensuring your day is filled fun-loving memories instead of expensive mistakes. And when you’re wondering what to do with all your savings, don’t forget to stop by and see us – We’re happy to help you find ways to make that money work for you. And let’s be honest, long-term financial stability is sweeter than a $10 box of chocolates could ever be!

Brace Yourself: Santa Shock is Coming

Let’s talk about Santa Shock, shall we? No, not the “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus” kind. For this conversation, we will use “Santa Shock” to refer to that icy sense of regret that creeps in when you open those first post-Christmas credit card bills. If you’ve ever blown past your self-imposed holiday spending limit, you know exactly what we’re talking about.

The realization that you racked up additional debt can be an isolating frustration—something you’d rather keep to yourself, but it might help to realize that roughly 77% of Americans admitted to crashing through their respective financial barriers just like you. We know, we know. You don’t want to celebrate other people’s bad decisions, but when it comes to financial challenges, misery may not love company, but it kinda likes having it around.

You overspent. Now what?

Let’s face the facts. Once the gifts have been opened, the holidays have passed, and the bills roll in, your budget may be a little tighter than you’d like. When you’re faced with those oversized balances, it can be tempting just to make minimum payments and figure out your finances later. But thanks to those pesky credit card interest rates, that approach not only makes the problem last longer, it also makes it more expensive. This year, why not get creative and recover from Santa Shock as quickly as possible?

3 Practical Tips for Paying Off Holiday Debt

If you want to pay off your holiday debt sooner rather than later, try these simple ideas to free up some funds and get your budget back on track:

Cut cable. Since the average cable bill is roughly $107 per month, this step doesn’t require much of an explanation. Unless you’re in the middle of a long-term contract with early termination charges, canceling your monthly cable subscription can save you more than $1,000 per year—more than enough to pay off all or most of those holiday debts. And with affordable streaming options like Netflix and Hulu, you can still keep up with many of your favorite shows.

Closet clean out. If you got new clothes for Christmas, you have to make room in the closet, right? Instead of packing them away, gather up your gently used items and try to sell them online. Apps like ThredUp, Poshmark, OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace make it incredibly easy to reach thousands of potential buyers without leaving the comfort of your home.

Meal prep for a couple of months. Everybody has to eat. There’s no way around that. And while dining out is convenient, it can also end up costing you more than you realize. Depending on where you live, a single meal at a restaurant can set you back $10-12. If you go to a restaurant more than once a day, you may be spending far more than you need to. By planning ahead and preparing meals in advance, you can save on dining costs and redirect some of your food budget toward your credit card balances.

We’ve already established the fact that it’s fairly common to go over a holiday budget. However, sometimes we get carried away with the yuletide spending and wind up over our heads financially. If you find yourself deep in debt and unable to find a way out, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Our team of financial specialists can help you assess your current situation and then recommend the best programs, products, and solutions for your specific needs. With our help, you might even be able to avoid Santa Shock altogether next year!

Get in touch with us to see how we can help.  

5 Ways to Up Your Money Game in 2019

By now, most people have made their resolutions for self-improvement in the new year. While the most popular resolutions tend to focus on physical health, the start of a new year is also a perfect time to prioritize your financial wellness.

Ready to get started? Read on.

5 Ways to Up Your Money Game in 2019

  1. Make a Budget and Stick to it. Budgeting is one of most effective ways to manage your money. Creating and monitoring a budget allows you to track your expenses, adapt to changes, and achieve your financial milestones. Budgeting can also help you save for emergencies and plan for the long run – including retirement.
    Use our online budget building tool to break your budget down into simple, easy steps and get started.
  2. Build Your Emergency Savings. Unexpected expenses happen more often than we like to think. According to a 2018 Bankrate study, more than half of Americans are not financially prepared to cover the costs that come with emergencies, such as illness, job loss, or even home and auto repairs.
    Get more information on the immediate steps you can take this year to start and grow your savings.
  3. Plan for Your Retirement Now. Less than half of Americans take the steps needed to set themselves up for a secure retirement. While saving for the future is easy to put off in favor of more immediate needs, the earlier you start, the more opportunity you’ll have to grow your savings over time.
    There’s no better time than now to start planning for retirement. Learn about options, like IRAs and 401(k) plans, with our free retirement education.
  4. Get Ahead of Your Taxes. Taxes are confusing, and many people get bogged down by complex terms and lengthy paperwork. However, your taxes don’t need to be a source of anxiety. In fact, getting ahead of your taxes can reap many benefits, including lowering stress and having early access to a refund for year-long planning.
    Make filing your taxes a breeze with tips from our five-minute interactive learning module.
  5. Take Control of Your Credit. Your credit score can have significant impacts on your financial security and flexibility. Many people have never had the opportunity to learn what a credit score is, what factors impact a credit score, and what actions they can take to make sure their score is healthy.
    Take a few minutes to understand the factors that impact your credit score and you’ll be well on your way to building a more secure financial future. 

Access our entire library of financial education topics at scientfcu.everfi-next.net