I stayed up late Saturday night writing this post, and I heard the fireworks that were going off around the neighborhood. Those sounds reminded me about the 24th of July holiday, and I thought about our holiday memories. We often go to the rodeo and the parade in Ogden. This is the first time that my husband will have this holiday off work. Because it is a holiday that celebrates the pioneers settling Utah, and it isn’t celebrated in other states, my husband usually had to work. His past employer’s customers were out of state, but his current employer has given them the holiday off work.

So, I usually celebrate the 24th without my husband. One year, my kids and I planned to celebrate it by watching my brother run the Deseret News Marathon and then watch the 24th of July parade in Salt Lake. It was about an hour drive from my home. Ten minutes into our ride on the I-15, the rear passenger tire on my van blew out. A kind Utah Highway Patrolman came by and changed my tire for me. That tire blowout completely changed our plans that holiday. Instead of making it to the race’s finish line, we went to Discount Tire to purchase a new tire and then out to brunch. As I watched my kids eat their kids meals, I thought about how much our plans had changed for that day. Plans guide and direct us but sometimes circumstances are out of our control.

Don’t give up when plans change

Budgeting is making financial plans. We set out to do certain things with our money, but a lot of unseen circumstances change our plans. Budgeting is a constant struggle for me, which is why I blog about it. Blogging keeps me accountable to keep budgeting — even when the plan completely changes. Financial flat tires include getting sick, losing a job, illness, etc. This summer we’ve had a lot of changes to our financial plans. One of my sons has struggled to learn to read and do math, and I felt tutoring would be helpful. Our starter went out on our car. We thought the problem was fixed, but on Thursday night, the car wouldn’t start for my husband, and he called me to come and rescue them. Although we can't predict these things, we can adjust our plans to work with them. My family has relied on our emergency fund to help us get through these changes in plans. We haven’t given up on the budget, but we also have not stressed about the financial detours.

Learn from the detours and change

We can learn from these detours and change so that we are better prepared for the future. As the patrolman was changing the van's tire, I was thinking about how I could have prepared better. I could learn more about car maintenance, check the fuel pressure more often, pay closer attention to how the car drives and check my tires when I suspect a flat — especially when I'm in a hurry. Recently my Toyota Sequoia showed a warning light, which I didn’t recognize. I googled it and found out that it was a tire pressure warning. That surprised me because I had just had the tires rotated. It was inconvenient for me to have the tire pressure checked because I was taking a group of youth to Salt Lake that day, but I had learned from the experience a few years prior. I am grateful to that warning light. I went to Big O Tires, and it only took a few minutes for my tires to be checked. The technician said that the tires’ pressure was all over the place. I asked him questions to learn about why that happens. He explained that the change in weather could have done that. He was so kind, helpful, and fast. I was very grateful that I had taken a few minutes to do that so that we could have a safe ride.

Keep practicing and following the plan

When circumstances are out of control, we don't have to throw away the plan, but we will have to make adjustments and allowances for emergencies and other unforeseen events. The more we budget, the better we get at it, and the more we learn. As we celebrate the journey that the pioneers made, we can keep on our journey. They had so many obstacles and changes to their plans. They had sickness, deaths in their families, broken wagons and handcarts. There are many similarities between their journeys and our journeys. We can keep going like they did. We can keep stepping forward in our financial journeys.

How do you celebrate the pioneers on the 24th of July? What have you learned from them?

On June 25th, my mom sent a us a text asking if we knew what was was in 6 months? I figure it out. Mom is on top of Christmas shopping and planning. She gets her shopping done early every year. I always admire that she doesn’t stress about the holiday, but I often feel overwhelmed and don’t think I can do it. I’ve had Christmas ready early just once, so like almost every post I write, this topic is one that I am struggling through. With the weather hitting triple digits last week, and with crazy busy summer schedules, I know that Christmas is not on a lot of minds right now. I thought about changing this post, but there are some great reasons to start thinking about and planning for Christmas:

  • You can get better deals! Over the weekend I made a cheesecake and was reminded that when I plan ahead I can get a better deal. (I didn’t plan ahead, but if I had, I could have bought the cream cheese on sale or in bulk.) That purchase wasn’t a big one, but Christmas purchases can be. My mom shops sales throughout the year and can get the best possible price on the gift that she is buying. Black Friday prices can be the best prices of the year. This past year a lot of my friends gave their families annual passes to Lagoon for Christmas, and the best deal for those passes was on Black Friday.
  • Shopping early relieves a lot of stress during Christmastime. While I was stressing last year about finishing my shopping, my mom was relaxing. She avoided the lines at the post office by sending packages early to my siblings who live in other states. I wanted to relax but time was running out. I remember feeling uncomfortable chest pain caused by the stress. Pain can motivate me to change though!
  • You can have a more meaningful Christmas! Instead of fighting crowds and traveling in the cold weather, you can be home making traditions with your family. What are your favorite family traditions? We love decorating the tree. Another way to make Christmas meaningful is to make homemade gifts. I’m not crafty, but I am creative, and sometimes I think of the best gifts at the last minute when I have run out of time to do them. Also, my young kids love to make things, but kids need time to make their creations. So, I’m going to encourage them to start thinking about what they want to make for their Christmas gifts this year.
  • You can drink hot chocolate and play games with your family over Christmas break instead of shopping. Window shopping can be fun, but aimlessly walking up and down aisles isn’t any fun for me. In other words, you’ll have peace around Christmas time, which is what Christmas is about for me.
  • Selection is better! I’ll admit, there are some items that are only sold during Christmastime. Last week I was shopping for some makeup for my kids upcoming play, and the cashier told me that the only time they sell kids makeup kits is during Christmas. But, there are a lot of gifts that have a better selection throughout the year. For example, bikes go on sale in the spring. One year we decided to give our family camping gear for Christmas. We didn’t find good deals or good selection because we shopped in the fall. Please learn from our mistake, and if you want to buy a spring or summer item, shop during spring or summer.

Are you convinced to shop early? Please share why you are or aren’t convinced.

I’m determined to have my Christmas shopping done early by doing three things:

Set a goal!

Since there are so many stresses, getting ready for Christmas early had to become a priority for my family. My goal is to be done by Black Friday. Since I don’t like crowds, and I didn’t need what was usually on sale during Black Friday, it was a disappointment, but now that so many Black Friday sales are available online, I’m totally onboard with shopping on Black Friday for a few things. One good thing about stores putting Christmas items for sale after Halloween is that Christmas shopping can be done early.

Budget what you need to buy and how much will it cost.

I know this financial exercise can be painful, but it is so important because it’s the key to relieving stress during the holiday season. Plus, it gets easier each year you do it. We started doing a detail budget for Christmas in 2015. It’s a spreadsheet, so I just copied and pasted the information for 2016 and 2017. Christmas shopping is pretty similar from year to year. I usually buy for most of the same people. There are minor changes, but once you’ve done it, you can tweak the next year and it is a lot easier that the first year. Your presents will be more meaningful. Here’s a personal example. My mom’s side of the family always had their Christmas party on Christmas Eve. I remember one year as a teenager that I used my gift of money that I received from that party to buy my brother’s Christmas present. I remember I got him a CD holder at one of the few stores that were still open. I’m sure I didn’t get a great deal, and I didn’t get a really meaningful gift. When I run out of time, I buy gifts like that ... just to buy a gift, and I don’t like doing that.

Budgets help me do what’s best for our family. I mentioned that a lot of my friends bought Lagoon passes, and they are loving them, but Lagoon passes were not the right choice for my family. My husband and I don’t love amusement parks. We have only gone to Lagoon once together since we’ve been married (almost 14 years). Although we had a good time, we would much rather be at a national park than an amusement park. When I buy passes like this, I want to get my money’s worth, so if I had bought a Lagoon pass, we would be going more that we would otherwise go just to get our money’s worth, and I don’t want to do that. So, we bought a pass to an aquarium instead. I’m able to feel happy for my friends because Ty and I intentionally chose what was the best option for our family’s personality and ages of our kids. I enjoy my friend’s pictures and stories without feeling envious or left out.

Budgeting helps me figure out how much money we will need. Finding money for Christmas is the hardest part for me about shopping early. There are so many other financial pressures that make it a challenge to save the money early for Christmas, which is why I chose to publish this post during extremely hot weather. (It helps me to be accountable.) I don’t have an solution wrapped up for you that will magically make money appear. We all have to figure it out, but by thinking about it, we get so much closer to finding an answer to this dilemma than we will by burying our heads in the sand. Besides, the sand is way too hot for that!

One idea is to use extra income that you receive to pay for Christmas. This is what we try to do, although I also considered working part-time. What other ideas do you have? I would love to hear what you are able to figure out because it will probably help out someone else. Another idea is to use a Christmas Club account to automatically save for Christmas.

Shop while I’m running other errands or shopping for other items online.

Finding extra time to be shop can be hard! So, by starting early, I can shop a little at a time and multi-shop. Since my Christmas list is in the back of my mind, when I see one of those items for a good price, I can buy it. If you know what you are looking for, you can look while you’re shopping for other things. We are going to give our kids carry-on luggage, so when i was shopping for groceries at Costco, I walked by the luggage and started pricing it.

Although these are simple suggestions, they can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s our plan for Christmas:

1. Goal: Be done by Black Friday!

We want to give an experience — a trip to visit my sister’s family who lives in Alaska. My family is planning a family reunion there next summer. Everything will be that theme. Luggage and tickets.

When others share what they are doing, it helps me come up with ideas. So, I hope this helps!

2. Budget

Christmas 2017   Amount
Family Luggage 600
Ty   50
Nat   50
Jackie basketball warm up suit, book 50
Wes book, 50
Tommy   50
Chloe book, swim toys 50
Parents   100
Murray draw   25
Service Angel tree? 50
Neighbors use grocery budget 0
Teachers Make lotions 50
Stocking Stuffers use grocery budget 0
Christmas cards/ letters, stamps Smilebox Christmas slideshow 50
Decorations Tree Permit 25
Grandmas   50
Miscellaneous   100
travel use gas budget 0
Total   1350

 

Do you have suggestions to improve my budget?

We put Christmas music on the other day and my kids asked to put it on again. (I haven’t yet though!) I don’t mean to mislead you into thinking I’m not on top of everything. I’m not. I do plenty of last minute things, but I’m trying to start thinking about Christmas along with everything else.

Do you know exactly what happened on July 4, 1776? What do our Fourth of July celebrations commemorate, and why?

The Reason We Celebrate July 4

July 4, 1776, is the date written on the original Declaration of Independence, even though it wasn’t signed until Aug. 2 of the same year. July 4 was the day in which the Continental Congress officially agreed and approved the final edits to the document that Thomas Jefferson wrote. It declared the words that would establish a new nation, independent of Great Britain’s control.

Thirteen American colonies were already at war over oppressive taxation, but residents weren’t consistent in their opinions and their efforts until the words of the Declaration united them and gave them a foundation for the Revolutionary War victory in 1783. Because the Declaration was also understood to be the first formal statement by any group of people asserting a right to choose their own form of government, it was a significant document for all citizens of the world, not only for the colonists.

Although it was called Independence Day as early as 1791, the Declaration of Independence wasn’t always celebrated on July 4 with a vacation from work and fancy fireworks. In fact, the United States Congress didn’t make it a holiday for federal employees until 1870, nor did lawmakers pass additional legislation to make July 4 a paid federal holiday until 1938.

During the Revolutionary War, July 4 was commemorated with 13-gun salutes (representing the 13 colonies), official banquets for the Continental Congress and their families, and parades and shows for the troops. Ships at sea were draped with red, white and blue while in port and at sail, and General George Washington reportedly ordered a double ration of rum for his fighting men to celebrate.

One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was John Adams, who wrote the following in a letter to his wife, Abigail: “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Celebrating July 4 at Home

Today, we certainly have our modern pomp and parade, shows, games, sports, guns, bells and bonfires to celebrate July 4. But we also have jet fighter salutes at airshows and choreographed fountains and fireworks exploding over lakes, rivers and harbors throughout the country. John Adams probably could never have imagined the majestic displays we take for granted now.

Whether you enjoy a road trip with your family or stay home to barbecue by the pool, you can plan a Fourth of July that’s fun for everyone. In some parts of the U.S., you can even celebrate with your own patriotic fountains and fireworks. Start by contacting your local fire department to learn the rules for purchase and use of fireworks in your area, and to ask if you’ll need a permit to use them. Then, stop by your local retailer to check out their light show fountain kits to complete your patriotic display.

Celebrating July Fourth in Washington, D.C.

If you’re planning to join the crowds gathering in our nation’s capital in Washington, D.C., here are some suggestions for a budget-friendly but unforgettable Fourth of July:

  • See the real deal, the original 240-year-old Declaration of Independence that’s located in the National Archives, north of the National Mall at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., and meet the Founding Fathers in a lively reenactment.
  • Find a good spot on Constitution Avenue before the National Independence Day Parade begins at 11:45 a.m. between 7th and 17th streets. An authentic Revolutionary War Fife & Drum Band as well as top high school bands from across the country provide the sights and sounds of freedom.
  • Stop by the National Portrait Gallery at 8th and F St. NW, Washington, D.C., to see the official, painted portraits of all 43 presidents of the United States, and to hear presidential reenactors telling stories of their time period in history.
  • Catch “We The People,” a 20-minute film at the Smithsonian American History Museum, on Constitution Avenue NW. It chronicles the history of Independence Day, starting from its birth in 1776.
  • Drive about 30 minutes south of Washington, D.C., to immerse yourself in George Washington’s Mount Vernon home along the Potomac River. Savor ice cream, fireworks and music from the Revolutionary War era all day long.

Where will you celebrate July 4 this year? Are you planning a gathering at home, or traveling to visit friends, family or national historic sites?

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Day_(United_States)
http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/july-4th
http://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-declaration-of-independence/fourth-of-july/
http://www.military.com/independence-day/history-of-independence-day.html
http://experience.usatoday.com/america/story/best-of-lists/2015/07/01/fourth-of-july-fireworks-usa-cities/29524219/
http://magazine.foxnews.com/celebrity/17-patriotic-movies-watch-over-fourth-july-weekend
https://washington.org/ways-celebrate-independence-day-washington-dc

Published in Blog

A couple of months ago, I was thinking about how similar eating and spending are. Although I planned my spending, I wasn’t planning what I ate, and I realized that was silly because I already knew how. So, I decided to apply budget my eating. Before doing this, I thought that I was healthy. I started trying out different apps to track my eating. As I tracked, I realized that I didn’t eat as healthy as I thought that I did. A lot of little things, like mayo and snacks, added up. Last week I put on some jean shorts, which I hadn’t worn for a year. A year ago these were very comfortable, but this year they fit very tight! One of my friends called these my “gauge jeans.” As soon as I put them on, I knew I had gotten bigger over the last year.

The same principles of physical health apply to financial health. We have to have a gauge that lets us know when we are keeping within our budget. We can think we are doing fine but unless we are really tracking it and gauging it, we won’t know until we incur overdraft fees, denied debit cards, or other negative consequences.

Can you imagine driving your car without a fuel gauge and trusting your general feelings that you are fine since you filled up the tank recently? That may work for a while, but eventually you would probably run out of gas. I like to keep the gas tank in my car half full, but the other day I looked down and it was almost to the E! If I hadn’t had my gauge, I probably would have thought that there was plenty of gas, but we had driven more than usual, and we hadn’t filled up the tank.

When Ty and I first started budgeting, we didn’t gauge our spending, and every month we overspent. I only reviewed our spending at the end of the month. After a few months of doing this, I realized that we needed to have a spending gauge — like our car’s fuel gauge. I needed to know how much I had left in my groceries and repairs budget. Although I could still overspend, I would be aware that I was overspending. Our car still run out of gas even with a fuel gauge, but the gauge makes you aware of what will happen. On holidays and vacations, I know I’m going to spend more than usual because I have tracked it, so I have to allow myself more calories and more money during those times. Tomorrow, being the Fourth of July, will be one of those times. I can allow more and still use my gauge.

Noom Coach, which is the app I’ve been using for tracking my eating, works well for me personally because I can relate to it. It even calls my eating plan a “budget” and it has a gauge built in gauge. The other day it told me, “1576 calories left in budget.” I’m not a nutrition expert, but I do know enough to know that nutrition is more complicated that just calories. I'm just simplifying the analogy in order to illustrate my point. Tracking and gauging my spending and my eating make me so much more mindful than when I don’t track and gauge them. If I consistently overeat, my pants are going to get tighter and tighter until they don’t fit anymore. If I consistently overspend, my debt will increase and money will become tight.

It’s easy to say, “I’m frugal.” It’s a general statement and anyone can say they are frugal because they can easily compare themselves to others who spend a lot more that they do, but as you track and gauge your spending you may find you are overspending. A lot of small purchases can really add up.

I struggle with self-discipline, so a gauge helps me realize what’s going on. Gauging can’t force me to stop spending or stop eating, but it lets me know what I am spending and helps me to be more mindful of what I’m doing. If I’m wise, I won’t go past the “empty” mark on our gauge, because doing so will make me run out of money and be forced to call for help or refuel (earn more).

There is no magical app that can force you to be financially fit, but apps can be so useful. I love to try out new financial apps! What’s your favorite app for managing your finances? If I haven’t tried it, I will.

Did you know that Wasatch Peaks Provides access to the Peaks Money Manager app? I’ve been trying it out. Here are a few things that it helps me do.

  • Keep track of all my accounts. I can put all your financial accounts into this so that I have a picture of your financial situation. Simplifying your finances helps to understand them.
  • Track net worth. Tracking networth motivates me. When I don’t feel I’m making progress, I can look at my net worth and realize that I have paid down debt and increased my net worth.
  • Set goals. Again, it’s nice that everything can be in one spot.
  • Budget. The Money Manager program tracks my spending. I can then use that information to set up your monthly budget.
  • Alerts. Peaks Money Manager sends alerts when you are running out of money in a category. This is a spending gauge. This is especially helpful if you pay for almost everything electronically.

Do you gauge your spending? If so, how?

Q:

Summer always puts a big strain on my budget. There are so many extra expenses! I've been looking for a way to get through these months without racking up a huge credit card bill, and one option I'm considering is Skip-a-Pay. What do I need to know about this program?

A:

Summertime brings loads of expenses that can bust any budget. There are family vacations that put a serious strain on your wallet, costly camp fees for the kids and dozens of other expenses that may not always be part of your usual financial planning.

Many people wonder how they'll get through these months. Fortunately, Wasatch Peaks offers an exclusive break from your loan payments during this costly time of year. Now that sounds like a dream vacation!

Skip-a-pay is a program that allows members to skip a monthly loan or credit card payment during an especially tight financial season. Most credit unions offer this program during the holiday season, and again during the summer. Members can choose to skip a payment once a year. There is usually a small fee attached to the payment omission.

Specific criteria must be met to qualify for skip-a-payment. The program is generally only allowed for loans with terms that are 12 months or longer, have been open for at least 9 months and have a good payment history of 6 or more months. Some credit unions allow payment omissions on most loans with the exception of real estate loans. Others only allow the payment break on fixed, closed-end consumer loans like auto and signature loans. Some do not allow it for credit cards and lines of credit. Nearly every credit union requires you to be up to date on your loan payments, and for you to have sufficient funds in your checking account to cover the nominal associated fee.

At our credit union:

  • There is a $25 fee per loan payment skipped
  • Only one payment may be skipped in July, August or September
  • Skips exclude all real estate (including HELOCs) and VISA payments
  • Loan must have been opened prior to May 1, 2017 and made at least one payment
  • Loan must be current and in good standing
  • Interest on the loan will continue to accrue
  • Payment will be added to the end of the loan
  • Paid-ahead loans are excluded
  • Any insurance on the loan will expire on its original expiration date

If you are considering skip-a-payment, speak to a member representative for full details. Additionally, here are some important points to consider before you decide to skip a payment:

1.) Breathing room

The primary benefit of choosing to skip a payment is quite obviously, the extra cash flow. During an expensive time of year, you might not make it through the month without resorting to swiping your credit card - and paying high interest on every purchase you make. By opting to skip a large payment on a loan or credit card, you'll free up cash for your daily expenses so you don't finish the month in the red. Summertime is so much sweeter when you're not sweating about your bills!

2.) Longer loan term

It's important to remember that by skipping a payment, you're lengthening the life of your loan. True, you're skipping a payment now, but you'll need to make that up one day. You're essentially moving this month's payment to the end of the loan.

3.) Accrued interest

While you won't be racking up credit card bills with high interest rates this month - thanks to the extra cash you'll have - you will be billed for interest on the skipped loan or credit card payment. You'll need to pay that up at the end of the loan term. This means you'll end up paying a bit more in interest during the life of the loan.

Did You Know?

  • Many people fall out of the habit of making their monthly payments when they choose to skip just one payment. Payment history influences credit scores most, putting you at significant risk of hurting your score if you skip a payment without your lender's permission. Remember: this is a one-month-only deal! Be sure to make your payments next month.
  • The popularity of skip-a-payment programs plunged at the turn of the millennium. They are now offered almost exclusively by credit unions, with very few banks still offering them.
  • If you feel like you could use skip-a-payment every month, you may be in financial trouble. Speak to a Wasatch Peaks member representative for advice on money management, debt counseling and budgeting tips. We're always here to help!

Want to hit the road without worrying about bills? Call, click or stop by Wasatch Peaks Credit Union today to learn about our skip-a-payment program. Take a break from your loans!

Have you ever taken advantage of your credit union's skip-a-payment offer? Why or why not? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://blog.credit.com/2015/12/wait-some-banks-let-you-skip-payments-during-the-holidays-131160/
http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2015/12/03/the-perils-of-skipping-loan-payments-this-holiday-season
https://www.servicecu.org/mobile.asp?MPID=819

Published in Blog

Summertime is vacation time! Someone seems to be on vacation at any given point in the summer. I love vacations! Some vacations consist of camping trips. Others are more exotic vacations. Where do you want to go on vacation? I often wonder how others pay for big trips — especially unexpected trips. Have you also wondered this? I would love to hear what you do. Here are a few ideas that my family does:

1. Retained Earnings

This is a fancy accounting term for savings. I like to have a plan for everything in life, but it’s just not possible. So, I plan and prepare as much as possible and then I try to have some flexible savings. Sometimes we don’t know exactly what vacation opportunities will come up, so having some retained earnings allows us to take advantage of these opportunities. It is also fine to turn down a vacation that we can’t afford, but I would rather find a way to be able to afford it and enjoy it. My daughter had the chance to visit family in Alaska with only a few weeks notice. She had savings, and we had some money budgeted for general vacations, which is how we paid for her to go. That worked out well, but now our family has a chance to go to Alaska in a year. This is a much bigger and more expensive trip because there are six of us going this idea won’t work for us.

2. Save Monthly

We have a budget category called vacation, and we put some money into it each month. Since most of our trips have been inexpensive, this has worked well for us. We try go to a family cabin once a month. For those trips, we use some money from our grocery budget to pay for food, and we use money from our transportation budget to pay for travel. So, we don’t have to dip into our vacation money for those trips. If you like to travel, but don’t have a specific destination in mind, regularly putting money into a savings account might be the solution for you. That way, when friends or family invite you to go on vacation, you’ll be ready. Wasatch Peaks Credit Union has resources to help us do this. The Christmas Club Savings Account is one tool that can help you save for your dream vacation by providing a separate account for you to automatically save each month.

3. Irregular Income

We all have received unexpected income. This could be in the form of a gift, inheritance, commission, or bonus. We don’t have control over the timing of this income, but when it comes, unexpected money can be used for vacationing. When our family receives a gift, there are usually many expenses which compete for that income, so we have to prioritize and pay for the top priority. Sometimes tax returns can also be unexpected money. My goal is to not have a tax return because it ties up our money, but last year our income was lower than I expected and we overpaid taxes, so we received a return. I budgeted it for vacation, which is also going to be our Christmas present (see #4). I don’t like to have more tax withheld than necessary, but it is a forced savings account.

4. Give a Vacation as a Gift

We don’t need or have room for anymore stuff around our home, so we are going to start giving our kids trips for Christmas and birthday gifts. (Most of our trips are local and don’t require flying.) We do hope to fly more in the future. We are giving our family a trip to Alaska next year so we can attend a family reunion there. Even though we don’t leave for a year, we will need to pay for airfare ahead of time. This is a challenge for our family. My husband and I have been discussing how we will pay for this since we need more than the amount that we usually spend on Christmas. Do we borrow from savings that we have set aside for emergencies and a car? Vacations are not usually an emergency, but it is a challenge to pay for a vacation before you actually go on the vacation. I’ll let you know how it turns out in a future post.

My parents gave our family a trip to Hawaii for Christmas when my step-dad retired. It was an amazing trip, and we wouldn’t have been able to go without it. We really appreciate their generosity and hope to be able to do this in the future for our children and grandchildren.

5. Pay Down Debt

Although this suggestion won’t immediately allow us to travel more, eventually it will. As debt is paid down, the freed up money becomes available for trips! We have been working on paying down debt so that we free up the money used for debt payments. I don’t recommend borrowing money for trips because that does the opposite: it ties up money.

6. Earn More Money

While our kids are young, we decided to stay close to home and explore Utah, but as they get older, we would like to go farther, and these trips cost more. I’m considering go back to work to pay for some of the trips which we would like to take in the future. We dream of going to Spain, South Africa, Norway, and other international destinations. These are going to cost a lot and we don’t have room in our current budget to pay for these, so one option we are considering is for me to go back to work.

Which one of these ideas have you used to pay for vacations? What are some other ways that you have paid for vacations?

Thursday, 22 June 2017 13:48

Financial Tips For Single Parents

Smart money management is always important, but it can take on more urgency for those who are without a partner. Whether you're divorced, widowed, or single by choice, single parenting brings unique budgeting challenges.

Marilyn Timbers, a Connecticut-based financial advisor, says of having to raise a child on one income: "Children are a joy, but they do not come cheap." The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes in a report that it costs an estimated $241,080 for a middle-income couple to raise a child to age 18, and some single parents have to shoulder that responsibility alone. Even if child support is adequate - unfortunately nearly 50% of that support is never paid - you'll do yourself a favor if you think ahead about financial matters as a single mom or dad.

Estate planning is your first priority, according to Lisa Hay of Ascend Financial. It's essential to make arrangements for your children should you become incapacitated, and this means spending time on two documents that no one enjoys thinking about: a will, which specifies a guardian for your children and how you'll pass assets down to them; and a "power of attorney," which gives someone the legal right to make decisions on your behalf if you're unable to do so.

You may also want to set up a trust. A trust is a legal structure in which your assets can be held for the children. It is overseen by a trustee. And check with your employer to see if it offers a disability benefit. Generally, you will get a reduced income amount when you claim disability - anywhere from 50% to 70% of your salary. "Your income is your most important asset," says Tom Morrill, owner of Morrill Insurance Group. Insuring it can be especially crucial for single parents who don't have a second income to cover a gap.

Hay also says be sure to have life insurance. What you purchase will depend on your finances, but a term policy is most economical because it's a straightforward death benefit. A healthy 33-year-old woman, for example, would pay roughly $240 a year for a 20-year term, $500,000 life insurance policy. This would get your child through college should something happen to you.

Health insurance is "the number one insurance need for a single parent," according to Morrill, who considers life insurance a close second. People often complain about the cost, but if you're uninsured, a serious medical procedure or hospital stay can be disastrous to your finances. And, of course, losing a job or becoming ill is still more catastrophic as a single parent than as part of a two-income couple. A recent Harvard study revealed that 62 percent of bankruptcies were caused by medical debt. You can comparison-shop for policies at your state's marketplace or at HealthCare.gov.

Along with the rest of your boring-but-necessary financial thinking, don't forget about tax breaks. If you're a single parent, you should probably file as head of household (not as single) because you'll often pay less and get to claim a higher standard deduction. You can also claim exemptions for yourself and each qualifying child. You also might qualify for the earned income tax credit, the child and dependent care credit (if you pay someone to care for your kids), and the child tax credit.

As far as day-to-day household operations, here are a few more things to keep in mind:

  • Credit cards - In The Financial Guide for Single Parents Workbook, Larry Burkett warns single parents that, while credit cards may seem like an easy way to fill in the gaps of a decreased income, it's wise to avoid using them as much as possible.
  • Shopping in general - Many single parents have to make lifestyle adjustments after a divorce or the death of a spouse. You may need to consider moving or changing your spending habits. Burkett notes that lots of people like to go shopping to cheer themselves up, but the added debt you'll incur will only make you feel worse. This even applies to groceries, which are an expensive part of the budget. Plan that trip carefully, too, so you can better avoid impulse buying.
  • Holidays - Guilt causes many single parents to overindulge their children, even if they can't afford it. This is especially true during holidays and birthdays. Be sure to set designated amounts for gifts, and stay within the budget.
  • Ask for help - Check with your credit union for financial advice. And there are many nonprofit organizations with programs specifically designed for single parents.

Whatever your income, it's important to give yourself a safety net, because emergencies happen. Put aside a little bit of money from each paycheck to set up an emergency fund for car repairs, broken refrigerators and other realities of life. As a general rule, experts recommend having six months' worth of non-discretionary expenses in an account that is separate from the one you use for daily expenses. That could be a savings account or possibly a low-risk investment account.

Bucket budgeting can help, says Jan Cullinane, author of AARP's The Single Woman's Guide to Retirement. That means creating four different accounts: one for fixed monthly expenses such as food and bills, another for long-term expenses like retirement or replacing appliances, a third for emergencies and a fourth for discretionary spending.

"Put the appropriate amount of money into the first three, and whatever is left is your discretionary or 'fun' spending," says Cullinane. "If there is nothing left for that month in the 'fun' bucket, you simply go without - you don't dip into the other buckets. Harsh, but necessary."

And it's more doable than you'd think. One study asked people if they could save 20 percent of their income. Most respondents said no. But, when asked if they could live on 80 percent of their income, most said yes. "Be aware of how you frame questions to yourself," Cullinane says. "You might be surprised."

Have you faced tough questions and financial circumstances as a single parent? What were the most useful solutions you found?

SOURCES:
Published in Blog

Tomorrow is officially the first day of summer! A few years ago, our family decided to explore Utah. Even though Ty and I have lived here for almost 4 decades, there are so many places that we hadn’t visited. Just last week we went to Bountiful Lake and the Jordan River OHV Recreation Area, which were both new to us. My husband gets a lot of ideas for these adventures online. Utah's Adventure Family is a great resource for finding activities. Here are some factors to consider while making your summer plans:

Costs for equipment

We participated in Free Fishing Day and had so much fun that we’ll probably make it a yearly tradition. However, “free fishing” day cost us about $100 in order to gear up: tackle box, poles, bait etc. What gear are you going to need? Include that in your budget. Plan ahead. You might be able to borrow the equipment to try out something new. Afterwards, my father-in-law told us that he had five fishing poles just sitting around that we could have used. My neighbor said that a few years ago when he stopped fishing that he gave away $500 worth of fishing equipment. So, borrowing equipment could be a great way to try an activity out.

Cost of travel and food

Summer activities can increase your food and fuel cost. These costs can add up. Are you going to have enough money in your transportation budget, or do you need to plan to spend more for these activities? One time we went to a free entrance day at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake. Even though the entrance was free, there was the cost of food and travel. What are you going to eat? Are you going to bring a picnic or buy food at your destination? How much will that cost?

On another outing, we went to Wasatch Mountain State Park and packed a picnic, but left our cooler bag sitting in the kitchen. So, if you pack a lunch, don’t leave it on your kitchen floor! If food and fuel costs are substantial, I budget it as part of a vacation or recreation. If these costs are minimal, I pay for them out of my groceries and transportation budget categories. What do you do?

Entrance Fees

Triathlons, Marathons, and Ragnar races are popular summer activities in Utah. Most of them cost a fee, but you can watch the races and cheer on the runners for free. We have gone to the finish line of the Ogden Marathon and the Top of Utah Marathon to cheer on friends and family. This was a really inspiring activity. It’s a fun atmosphere with music and crowds. Our city always holds a 5K as one of the activities for Cherry Days celebration. I signed the kids up for Clearfield’s kids triathlon. Plan for these fees. They can cost hundreds of dollars, but if that’s what you want, budget them in.

Seasons

Some events are free or cheap in the wintertime and others are free or cheap in the summertime. For example, the free day we attended at the Hogle Zoo was held during the winter. My daughter’s 2nd Birthday fell on a free day, so we took Grandma and enjoyed the day at the zoo. The weather was perfect, and it was a great time.

Other places offer summer deals for the family like bowling and summer movies. We have done both of these and had a great time. Some days are too hot, rainy, or windy for outdoor activities. These are great options for those days.

Is it indoor or outdoor? Will it be crowded?

I don’t like to go to crowded places. We’ve done several RAMP Summer Saturdays. It’s a great way to try out some of these activities. Nature Center was not busy because it was an outdoor activity. If it’s an outside activity, the crowds are not as big of an issue as it is for an inside activity, but large crowds do create longer wait times, and it is never fun to wait for a long time.

Free events in Utah

There are so many free events in Utah that I can’t list them all, but here are a few!

• This Is The Place on Huntsman Day — We haven’t done this one yet, but it sounds neat.

Free Entrance Days to Utah National Parks — We love the National Parks in Utah!

4th Grade Free Pass — As part of the Every Kid in the Park initiative, families with 4th graders are offered a free Annual Pass to the National Parks. This is awesome! We didn’t know about this and had already purchased a National Parks Annual Pass when my oldest entered 4th grade, but this fall my son will be a 4th Grader, and we are planning on signing up for this pass! These passes are available on September 1st. Seniors can buy a LIFETIME SENIOR PASS for $20. I tell this great deal to everyone I meet who is in 62+.

Science in the Parks & Arts in the Park — Weber State University teams up with many community organizations to provide these two activities. I found out about these last year, and I wish I would have found out about them sooner. My kids made music, and explored science activities. Each week these are held at a different park, so we also got to try out new parks. It is a great program.

Water Play Dates — Some of the best summer activities are simple ones like running in the sprinklers and going on picnics to the park. For younger kids, splash pads are great. We met friends for a picnic at the Harrisville City Splash Pad.

Movies in the Park — North Ogden holds free summer movies in Barker Park. They post them on North Ogden Recreation Facebook Page. My oldest kids went with Ty to see Harry Potter last week. Check with your cities. Many are listed on Coupons for Utah website. We have several neighbors who set up movies in their backyard. One of them bought an inexpensive screen and projector. The other one uses a sheet to project the movie. This is such a fun activity for the neighborhood.

Reading Programs — We’ve been library shopping since our city library is under construction for at least a year. I’m so impressed with the free activities offered by the library. They have a reading program for kids, another one of teens, and a reading challenge for adults. There is story time for English Speakers and Spanish Speakers. We need a little quiet time every day, and kids need to keep learning in the summer. Utah's Adventure Family suggests several summer reading programs. Even some school libraries have summer activities.

RAMP Summer Saturdays — We’ve tried the BSA Ropes course through this program. It was cool!

Utah State Parks — They are celebrating their 60th Anniversary and have done some great events for free. We went to a winter festival at Wasatch State Park. They provided snowshoeing, snow biking, and cross-country skiing for free. Plus, they fed us lunch. We went to the winter festival at Bear Lake State Park and watched a polar bear plunge. There was a raffle, and my husband won a free snowmobile rental. That was great! Recently we went to the opening of the OHV park and watched the motorcyclists ride and do jumps. You can find out about these on the Events Calendar. Check back often for updates. It seems like a month at a time is posted. There is an event the end of this month at Goblin Valley State Park. If you haven’t been there, I highly recommend it! This is one of our favorite state park campgrounds. It’s clean and nice and is tucked in the middle of the rock formations.

Hikes — Utah is a goldmine for hiking trails. I won’t even try to name them all here, but Jump Off Canyon, Waterfall Canyon, Adams Canyon and Lake Blanche are a few of my favorites. You will never run out of hiking trails in Utah!

Mark your calendar for these entrance fee–free dates in 2017:

• August 25: National Park Service Birthday
• September 30: National Public Lands Day
• November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend

If you are camping, reserve your site early! Tourists come from all over the world to see our National Parks.

I offset some of the free activities with some that cost. I’ve spent most of our summer activities budget (some was to pay for activities later in the summer though).

Camps

There are so many camps offered in the summer time. There seems to be one for almost every activity.

I heard about the Ogden School District Summer Programs for the first time this year. The cost is very reasonable. My kids are doing a theater camp, which is incredible. There are camps for every interest. I just heard about a Patriotic Camp. Many cities and schools offer camp and summer programs, so you can check with your local areas. My kids have done a sport’s camp through our city. Boy scout & girl’s camps are also a lot of fun for teenagers. What have been some of your family’s favorite summer camps?

Utah State Parks

Junior Ranger Programs are free and available at many state & national parks. It’s a great program for families to learn about nature. Some of these can even be done at home! It does cost to enter the state parks. We bought a year pass, and we sure got our money’s worth.

Bike Rides

Several friends have recommended I ride the trails at Snowbasin. That sounds like a lot of fun.

What are some of your favorite summer activities? Which activities do you plan to try for the first time this year?

Although I write about personal finance, no financial topic is independent. So, I am really writing about life, death, and everything in between through a financial perspective. Memorial Day includes all of these. My husband and I have birthdays near Memorial Day, and we celebrate our lives. We also celebrate the lives of those ones who have died. My grandpa passed away on May 31st ten years ago. We visit his grave and my dad’s grave and remember them. I’ve been told that life is short and passes quickly, but the last few years I’ve actually experienced that: my babies aren’t babies anymore, my grandmas are some of the last ones living in their families, our parents retired, and kids I babysat have their own children. Now, I realize that life goes quickly.

What does the Memorial Day holiday include for you?

Memorial Day Vacations

Our entire married life, we have had a tradition to go to Bear Lake over Memorial Day weekend. This is how we celebrate our birthdays. My husband doesn’t ask for much for his birthday, but he does ask to go to Bear Lake every year. We have made so many memories on these trips. We look forward to this trip every year. This year, we really need a vacation at the end of the school year.

How do you celebrate life on Memorial Day?

Memorial Day Traditions

When I was a child, we spent Memorial Day with my Grandma and Grandpa. I remember sleeping over at their house. Then we would take flowers to the gravesites of our deceased family members. It was a simple and meaningful holiday tradition.

Memorial Day Sales

Many stores have sales on Memorial Day weekends. I’ve already received a dozen emails notifying me of sales this week. Holidays can be popular for yard sales (when the weather is good). I’ve noticed that the Memorial and Labor Day Sales often extend several days past the actual holiday. If you are planning to purchase anyway, you many want to include this into your holiday budget.

For example, a couple of our kids need new mattresses soon. Also, we are looking for a propane fire-pit. I’m hoping that we find a good deal around this holiday. Sometimes I can find sales by shopping around holidays. Last year, there was a baby shower held in December for my sister-in-law. I was able to shop the Black Friday Sales to find a gift for my nephew. Items from his baby registry were on sale, and free shipping was offered, so I was able to get her a lot more with the money I wanted to spend than I would have been able to buy shopping regular prices. I want to do this more often.

If you have the storage space, you can buy clearance items for next year’s holiday. I personally don’t have the storage space to do this, but my mom does and I have benefited from her purchases. Last year she found some Easter decorations on sale at the end of the season. She saved them, gave them to me, and I appreciated them. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t decorate for any season, but the kids really enjoy having decorations. They think it’s fun.

Celebrating

Since life gives us plenty of unexpected expenses (like a new starter for our car this week), I try to plan the expected ones.

Holidays, including the summer holiday, can break our plan if we don’t include them. What are your traditions for Memorial Day? How much does each of these activities cost? Answering those questions will help you enjoy your holiday and summer- especially if you are new to budgeting. These events have "broken my budget" because I didn't prepare for their cost.

I hope that you have a fun relaxing hoiday that comes from following your holiday plan.

I’m still cleaning walls. This job seems to be neverending, but one good result is that I've lost all desire to upgrade to a larger home. (I don't want any more walls to clean.) Last week I had to move the couches in the front room so that I could get to the walls. Underneath the couches was a big mess. I thought it would take me a few minutes to clean the front room, but it took several hours! My kids had shoved items under and behind the couches instead of throwing and putting the stuff away. I hadn’t realized that area was even getting cluttered because the clutter hid beneath the couch. I found broken junk, dirt, books, socks, shoes, and a lot of pens. Now I know why I can’t ever find a pen!

Like the couch, financial clutter is often unseen. It can be an overwhelming mess that we don’t want to uncover. I’ve observed so much pain result from cluttered finances. I hope the next few suggestions are helpful if you are feeling overwhelmed with finances.

Sort out the mess

To be honest, I felt like throwing away everything that was underneath the couches. I almost did but if I had, I would have caused other problems. It’s hard to know where to start when you’re in a mess. Financially, we can also feel like giving up. It’s not a fun feeling. When I help a family make a budget, the first thing we do is to sort through the bills and the income. We examine one financial item at a time and figure out how much is due, when it is due, and how it will be paid. This is such a simple idea, but I’ve seen people change from feeling overwhelmed to feeling hopeful. It’s not hard to sort through bills, but it is time-consuming so the next suggestion can be helpful.

Get a budgeting mentor

I have had several exercising friends over the years. It helps so much to have them exercise with me. It is helpful when they know about weight equipment and nutrition. But, even when they don’t, it helps to have someone to exercise with me. Finances can be the same way. Sometimes it just helps to have someone alongside you. It could be a spouse, friend, parent, or sibling. It really just needs to be someone who cares about you. If they have financial background, it can be helpful, especially if they are working on financial goals. We can all find someone who doesn’t mind helping us because it helps them too. It helps them to be motivated. It helps them to serve. So, it’s good for everyone. My cleaning buddy was my five year old. When she stayed with me, it was helpful. When she left, it was much harder.

Commit to your finances

That was not the first time I cleaned under the couch. In fact, my husband had cleaned behind it recently. We were both amazed at how quickly it became cluttered. Unless our family changes the habits that caused the clutter, the problem can recur. Clutter can easily come back. Financially, I have seen this happen. Oftentimes, we are making big changes, so it’s going to take more than one time. Just like exercising, each day we need to find motivation to do it. We also need to do this with our finances.

No matter how cluttered your finances may seem, you can work through it and remove the clutter. It’s such a peaceful feeling that is worth the effort.

×
Have a minute?  Take our quick member survey