For many Americans, spring is a time to clean, sort and tidy up around the house. As you dust your shelves and rid your home of clutter, consider setting aside some time to organize your finances.
“The arrival of spring motivates people to renew their surroundings, and what better way to focus that momentum than to check off everything on your financial to-do list?” asked Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “Taking stock of your finances and planting the seeds of new saving habits today will go a long way toward alleviating pressures on your pocket throughout the year.”
The American Bankers Association recommends these five tips to help you refresh your finances:
- Evaluate and pay down debt. Take a look at how much you owe and what you are paying in interest. If there are better rates available now, consider requesting a lower credit card interest rate or refinancing your mortgage. Begin paying off existing debt, whether that’s by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first.
- Review your budget. A lot can change in a year. If you’ve been promoted, had a child, or become a new homeowner or renter, be sure to update your budget. Determine what expenses demand the most money and identify areas where you can realistically cut back. Develop a strategy for spending and saving and stick to it.
- Check your credit report. Every year, you are guaranteed one free credit report from each of the three bureaus. Take advantage of these free reports and check them for any possible errors. Mistakes can drag down your score and prevent you from getting a loan, or cause you to pay a higher than necessary interest rate.
- Sign up for e-statements, paperless billing and text alerts. Converting to paperless billing will help keep your house—physical and financial—more clean and organized, and will help protect you from fraud.
- Set up automatic bill pay. By signing up for automatic bill pay, you’ll never have to worry about a missed payment impacting your credit score. You can set it so that money is withdrawn from your checking account on the same day each month.
Resource information provided by the American Bankers Association
It’s hard to believe there are only 8 days left until Christmas! For many people, it is important to take time during the holiday season to give to those who are in need. Donating to your favorite cause can be fulfilling, but it’s important to ensure that your gift reaches the intended source. Follow these tips to become a savvy charitable giver this holiday season:
- Give To an Established Charity
Unfortunately, there are fraudulent charities that will take advantage of your goodwill. To avoid this situation, ask for written information about the charity, including name, address and telephone number. A legitimate charity will give you information about their mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your contribution is tax deductible. Find a charity with a proven track record for providing aid.
- Designate Your Gift
Some charities allow you to specify exactly where your gift is headed, either to a specific orphanage, to purchase school supplies or to a geographic area in need of relief. By designating or earmarking your gift, you control where your donation goes and whom it helps.
- A Proactive Giver is a Smart Giver
Wise givers don’t give on an impulse or to the first organization that comes along. Smart givers take time to identify the causes important to them. Contact a charitable organization, find out their mission and what type of aid and programs they offer. Work with charities that have targeted outcomes for their giving.
- Benefits to You
A donor’s primary motivation may be altruism, but everyone knows there are great tax benefits for those who give. A donation to a qualified organization may entitle you to a charitable contribution deduction. Remember a contribution to a qualified charity is deductible only in the year in which it is paid, and all charities do not qualify for a charitable contribution deduction. Always ask for a receipt and save them for tax time.
- Consider Giving Your Time
Four out of five charities report using volunteers. Volunteers are the foundation of many charitable organizations. If you can’t afford to donate money, consider donating your time. Common volunteer duties include: stuffing envelopes, feeding animals, tutoring, building homes, serving as a museum docent, counseling those in crisis, selling tickets or answering phone calls.
Visit these other sites to find out more on charitable giving:
Resource information provided by the American Bankers Association
With Labor Day behind us, most colleges are underway with the fall semester. The American Bankers Association encourages college students to get an early start on securing their financial future. Check out these eight tips on how to avoid expenses now and reduce financial burden upon graduation.
- Create a budget. You’re an adult now and are responsible for managing your own finances. The first step is to create a realistic budget or plan and stick to it.
- Watch spending. Keep receipts and track spending in a notebook or a mobile app. Pace spending and increase saving by cutting unnecessary expenses like eating out or shopping so that your money can last throughout the semester.
- Use credit wisely. Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit. Use it, but don’t abuse it. How you handle your credit in college could affect you well after graduation. Shop around for a card that best suits your needs.
- Lookout for money. There’s a lot of money available for students — you just have to look for it. Apply for scholarships, and look for student discounts or other deals. Many national retailers offer significant discounts for those with a valid student ID.
- Buy used. Consider buying used books or ordering them online. Buying books can become expensive and often used books are in just as good of shape as new ones. Dedicate some time and research to see what deals you can find.
- Entertain on a budget. Limit your “hanging out” fund. There are lots of fun activities to keep you busy in college and many are free for students. Use your meal plan or sample new recipes instead of eating out. If you do go out, take advantage of special offers that occur during the week, like discount movie ticket days or weekly restaurant specials.
- Expect the unexpected. Things happen, and it’s important that you are financially prepared when your car or computer breaks down or you have to buy an unexpected ticket home. You should start putting some money away immediately, no matter how small the amount.
- Ask. This is a learning experience, so if you need help, ask. Your parents or your bank are a good place to start, and remember—the sooner the better.
For more tips and resources on a variety of personal finance topics such as mortgages, credit cards, protecting your identity and saving for college, visit aba.com/Consumers.
Rainy-day funds, savings for college, or just making your rent payment can all be made easier with a budget. Although a simple and oftentimes overlooked strategy, budgeting your finances will help make the difference in managing your money. Putting together a household budget requires time and effort. Stock Yards offers the following steps to create a budget:
• Be a Spending Sleuth. Track every penny you spend for a month. Keep receipts and write everything down. This will be an eye-opening experience and will help you see where you can cut back.
• Count Your Money. Determine the total amount of money coming in. Include only your take home pay (your salary minus taxes and deductions). Your income may also include tips, investment income, etc.
• Itemize, Categorize, and Organize. Review the records and receipts you’ve been collecting over the last month. Categorize your spending using a budget sheet. You can utilize the free templates in Microsoft Excel to create a budget sheet that is fit for you and your family.
• Achieve Your Goals. Set a realistic financial goal and develop your budget to achieve that goal. Subtract your monthly expenses from your monthly income. Find ways to cut spending and set limits on things like entertainment expenses.
• Save, Save, Save. Make one of your financial goals to save a certain dollar amount each month. Start an emergency fund if you don’t already have one. You never know when you may need it.
• Stick to it. Keep track of your spending every month. Update your budget as expenses or incomes change. Once you achieve your financial goal, set another.
Resource information provided by American Banker’s Association.
As the holidays quickly approach, the American Bankers Association is encouraging consumers to plan ahead to avoid excessive debt in the New Year.
“Develop a plan in advance of the holidays, and be sure to check it twice,” said Frank Keating, ABA’s former president and CEO. “Assessing your finances and spreading out your holiday spending are terrific ways to avoid starting the New Year with debt you’ll regret.”
Below are seven holiday spending tips from ABA to help consumers have a financially happy New Year:
- Plan ahead. Before you start shopping, develop a realistic budget. Consider your income, subtract your normal monthly expenses and then add any savings to whatever cash is left over. If you need to use your credit card, think about what you can afford to pay back in January.
- Keep track of other costs. Don’t forget costs beyond gifts, like postage, gift wrap, decorations, greeting cards, food, travel and charitable contributions.
- Make a list and check it twice. Keep your gift list limited to family and close friends, noting how much you want to spend on each.
- Shop early, spend carefully. Avoid shopping while rushed or under pressure, which can lead to overspending. Make sure to comparison shop online first, or download an app that lets you compare prices before you buy anything in a store. Before you head to the cashier (or online checkout), make sure your purchase is within the budget you set.
- Avoid traps. Finding a spectacular sale on something you’ve been wanting can easily throw you off course. Stay strong and stick to your budget. And don’t apply for store credit cards you don’t need just to get a one-time discount.
- Use credit wisely. Limit the use of credit for holiday spending. If you must use credit, use only one card, preferably the one with the lowest interest rate, and leave the rest at home. Pick a date when you can pay off your holiday credit card bills, and commit to paying off the balance by that time. Be sure to check statements for unauthorized charges and report them immediately.
- Save your receipts. Not only will you need them for possible returns, you’ll need them to keep track of what you’ve spent and to compare with your credit card statement. Knowing how much you spent will help you plan for next year, too.
Keating noted that banks are committed to helping consumers responsibly handle credit and save for the future.
“Banks offer a wide menu of options to help you save for the holidays and other expenses,” said Keating. “Ask your banker about a customizable savings plan, such as a Christmas account that enables you to set aside money throughout the year for your holiday spending.”
For more information on managing your money – as well as a variety of other personal finance tips and resources – visit aba.com/consumers.
Resource Information: American Banker’s Association
It’s never too early to start teaching children the basics of finance. As the summer draws to an end, take the opportunity to explain to kids what they can do with that extra cash they may have earned. Whether they spent their days mowing the lawn or selling lemonade, it’s the perfect time to teach your child financial lessons that will last a lifetime. Here are some teachable moments to help you get started:
• At the bank. When you go to the bank, bring your children with you and show them how transactions work. Get the manager to explain how the bank operates, how money generates interest and how an ATM works. Click here to view all of Stock Yard’s locations.
• On payday. Discuss how your pay is budgeted to pay for housing, food and clothing, and how a portion is saved for future expenses such as college tuition and retirement.
• At the grocery store. Explain the benefits of comparison shopping, coupons and store brands. Emphasize the value of the purchase, and include wants versus needs.
• Paying bills. Explain the many ways that bills can be paid: over the phone, paper or by check, electronic check or online check draft. Discuss how each method of bill pay takes money out of your account. Be sure to cover late penalties, emphasizing the importance of paying bills on time.
• Using credit cards. Explain that using a credit card creates a loan that has to be repaid. Share how each month a credit card statement arrives in the mail with a bill. Discuss the features of different types of cards, such as ATM, debit and credit cards.
What are some ways you teach your children money management? Comment below!
Resource Information: American Banker’s Association