Although it’s back to school for my kids this week, our focus today will be on the total solar eclipse, which hasn’t been seen in the U.S. since the year I was born! Solar eclipse glasses were a hot back to school item this past week. Some school districts have bought thousands so that their students can witness it. As soon as the eclipse is over, focus will be back to school for students along the Wasatch Front.

If you are a high school senior or you have a child who is a senior, it’s time to start making plans for after high school graduation. If you are planning on going to college, it will soon be time to shop around for colleges and find the right fit for you and for your future plans.

Looking back, there are some things I wish I had done better in preparing for college, and I hope to help some high school seniors do better than I did.

Regret #1: Applying for one school

I only applied to Utah State University because that is where I wanted to go with my best friend. When discussing college with my high school counselor, he said that based on my ACT score and GPA, I should qualify for an academic scholarship at USU. That sounded good to me, and I planned on it. A few months later, I found out that I didn’t receive a scholarship. My ACT score needed to be a 27 instead of a 25. By the time I found that out, it was too late to retake the ACT or to apply for other colleges. I don’t blame the counselor. Based on who applied that year, the index score for scholarships must have been raised. I realized that it was my responsibility to know that there was no guarantee of a scholarship. It would have been wise to have some options.

Advice #1: Apply to three colleges

Although my kids are young, we’ve started to introduce them to different universities by visiting them for different events. My brother attended Brigham Young University, and we spent the day with him visiting a museum there and walking around campus. My oldest two kids also participated in a volleyball camp there. My sister is studying at Utah State University, and we visited her. We want to visit our friend at Southern Utah University and have her show us around. I’ve taken my kids to Weber State University, where Ty and I both attended. My parents introduced me to college campuses through football. My dad loved Cougar Football, so he took us to as many home games as possible. My kids have been introduced to the University of Utah by their aunt who attended there, and also by college football.

I did attend USU, and I loved my experience there with my best friend. Financially, my grandparents and parents helped me pay for it, and I worked. However, If I had applied to other schools, I could have had more options so that when I found out that I hadn’t received the scholarship, I would have had a backup plan. I had a friend who attended a different school for a year, and then she transferred to USU. Her transfer scholarship was a great idea, and it made me aware of some of the options available if you don’t receive a freshman scholarship. The transfer scholarship just took into account her GPA from the first year of college. If the ACT wasn’t as high as you’d like it to be (like mine- I ran out of time), this is a great option. So, I still could have ended up at USU. Also, after my first semester at USU, I received an academic scholarship for the next year based on the 1st semester’s grades, which I didn’t know about. If you don’t get a freshman scholarship, hope isn’t over for an academic scholarship!

Regret #2: Not preparing financially for college

I really didn’t think about paying for college until the summer after high school graduation. This put strain on me and my family. If I could go back, I would have started saving earlier.

Advice #2: Shop around for colleges

This will really help you come up with your top three choices! When you are shopping around for schools, ask how much each item costs, and voilà, that it is the start of your financial plan. Once you know how much you can expect to pay, you can figure out how you will pay for it. We have already started talking about paying for college with our young children.

  • Tuition & Fees
  • Housing — If you’re moving out of your bedroom in your parents room, how much will your apartment cost?
  • Food — This is another major expense for students. As you tour the cafeteria, ask about the cost of meal plans. What are other options (like apartments with kitchens)? What’s the average spent on that?
  • Transportation — Are there campus shuttles included with your fees?

Colleges have past data for all of these costs, which makes them predictable, and the college you are researching can give you average amounts for all of these costs so that you can prepare for how to pay for them.

Once you have a total amount of what it will cost, you can make an informed decision about where to go. If you can’t afford the school that you were hoping, it’s okay to say that. That’s a great starting point to make decisions and look at all of your options:

  1. Start at a local, cheaper school that you could fund with a part-time job, and focus hard to get great grades the first year. Transfer scholarships are sometimes easier than freshman scholarships.
  2. Find a way to earn what you need to attend the school you want — jobs, etc. You still have time! You can work your way through. One of my favorite movies is Rudy, an inspirational show about how “Rudy” Ruettiger wanted to attend the University of Notre Dame. He overcame incredible obstacles to become a student and football player at Notre Dame, and he inspires us to do the same.

Happy College Shopping! I hope this is an adventurous fun time for all high school seniors! What are your plans? How are they going so far?

Our family has started shopping for school supplies, and it was a little crazy with four kids helping me. School supplies and fees can cost hundreds of dollars, especially for teenagers. So, for this post, I planned on writing about budgeting for school expenses, but then I realized that I had written a post about that last year, which you can read here. Since I didn’t want to write that same post, I felt stuck with writer’s block.

A few weeks ago, my sister and I drove past our Elementary and Junior High schools on the way to visit our Grandma. It seems so long ago that we were headed back to school at those two buildings. Shortly after that drive, I received a Facebook invitation for my 20th High School Reunion.

As I headed back to high school for our alumni reunion, a lot of thoughts came flooding in. Some were regrets. Some were memories of my best friends and what we did. Since it was the first reunion I have attended, I didn’t know what to expect. Except for being hot, it was great. I visited with classmates way past the time the reunion was supposed to end. I learned a lot from going back to school!

Lessons Learned from Going Back to High School

Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life."

In 20 years, a lot of things have changed in our lives. People have come into our lives: spouses, kids, in-laws, friends, neighbors, etc.. People have gone out of our lives: some of our classmates have passed away and our energetic principal Earl Heninger passed away over five years ago. Many of us have had family members pass away. Some have married. Some have divorced, Some have experienced severe health challenges. Some earned degrees. There have been job changes, relocations, and changes in hairstyles.

Every change in our life affects our finances. Budgets that don’t allow for change won’t work because change is inevitable. We can all plan on having changes to our plans, and that’s okay. As high school students, we were prepared for life, but we didn’t know exactly what life would bring us. We had to become flexible enough to handle change. Flexibility in your finances allows you to learn from a mistake instead of giving up on your financial plan and budget. Flexibility this month allowed for that $10 library fine. Flexible budgeting allowed me to buy new fish after ours died. Many events in life are unpredictable. Once we accept that, we can decide on how to respond financially.

Teachers can be our mentors.

Teachers have been so important in my schooling. I think they are the most important part of school. I wish they could have been at the reunion. I’m sure they have a lot of stories about our class of ‘97. My history teacher was so excited about history that it made me love European history too. I wish I had told her that. A good teacher makes so much of a difference! My art teacher loved art so much that I enjoyed it even though I wasn’t an artist. I had one teacher that didn’t care about us. We were his last class, and he really just cared about retiring. I didn’t learn much from him. He was gone as much as he possibly could be gone without getting fired.

Everyone you meet can teach you something.

Teachers are not just the paid professionals who stand in front of the class. Everyone we meet can teach us. Coaches, parents, friends, and neighbors are all teachers. Our peers can also teach us. Every classmate had a story of when they had to be strong and courageous. Our mascot was a warrior. Each of these classmates have had to be a warrior in some aspect of their lives. I loved seeing this part of my classmates. They are inspiring me to keep facing and overcoming challenges. I wish that in high school I hadn’t categorized anyone, but instead had seen what I could learn from each one of them, and what I could teach each of them. I wish I could see the courage and strength that they were developing to use when life’s storms hit them.

This applies to our finances too. It’s so important to have a good financial mentor because they inspire you to manage your money well — even if you don’t like to manage money. My grandpa was a good mentor to me. He taught me to work, give, save, and invest. Friends, neighbors, and family have been mentors to me. Many of them have taught me some simple things like save every raise that they received, pay off debt, and invest. Financially, we gain courage and strength by doing the little and simple things like tracking and gauging budget accounts. Finances have ups and downs. I would personally love to have a steady climb of income that always goes up, but these mentors have taught me that finances and life are more like roller coasters — they have a lot of ups and downs. These mentors have taught me to do the simple things in our finances in order to handle the ups and downs.

Much of our learning isn’t formal education.

Every experience teaches us something and can help us. I discussed feeling regrets as I thought back to my school days, but I decided that as long as I learn from those experiences, I never have to regret an experience. Now that we’ve all been adults a for a while, life has taught us a lot.

Much of our financial learning comes through life lessons. We learn about finances by living our life. We learn from trying and making mistakes. As long as we learn, we don’t have to feel regrets. We can take those financial lessons and help teach them to others.

The most important thing about going back to school isn’t buying the school supplies or learning the most facts. It’s about learning from everyone you meet. It’s about becoming strong enough and flexible enough to handle whatever life brings. It’s about learning to adapt to changes. It’s about learning from every experience you go through. We can apply all these lessons to our finances. What are some lessons you have learned since graduating from high school?

There are a couple of less known national days coming up this week: Parent’s Day and Tall Girl Appreciation Day. I’ve decided to celebrate both, but I’ll just discuss Parent’s Day here. Parent’s Day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of July and was officially made a national day during President Clinton’s presidency. From what I’ve read, Parent’s Day was meant to be a combination of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I’m sure thankful for all those who parent my husband and me: our moms and dads, and also all the mentors who have parented me. I’m thankful to experience parenting four great kids.

Some of the best opportunities for me to teach my children come through everyday experiences.

Parenting Lessons Learned at the Grocery Store

Fidget spinners are the newest toy around our home. After my oldest son bought one, all of the other kids wanted to have one. Even after they had one, they wanted another one each time we saw them for sale. I didn’t want them to buy fidget spinners because my kids get distracted from what they are doing when they play with fidget spinners, but I let my two youngest children bring their money and buy one. This is one of the many purchases my kids have made, which I don’t agree with, but that’s okay. I want them to get to learn from the shopping experience, and they can only do that if they are allowed to spend some money in a way that they want to spend it.

I admit that I don’t always take my kids shopping. It can be an exhausting, embarrassing, and a time consuming task. It always takes longer, and I always spend more money that I otherwise would, but children can learn so many lessons through everyday shopping. Here are a few:

Math Skills

As long as we have a patient cashier, we get a chance to learn math skills. The cashier at Smith's Marketplace was great. He told my children how much they owed for their fidget spinners. Each spinner cost $6.50. Then, I helped my son and my daughter count $7. I asked them if $7 was more than $6.50. I explained that the cashier owed them some change. It made me realize how many math skills are involved in purchasing, which is why I try to allow them to do this quite regularly, even though it can be an exhausting experience.

Responsibility and Economic Skills

Kids are exposed to so many economic concepts by earning and spending money. Even though my kids bought fidget spinners, they saw plenty of other things that they wanted to buy. I explained that since they chose to buy fidget spinners with their money, they didn’t have any money left to buy the other things.

On another shopping trip, my daughter spent her money on treats. I asked her if she was sure, and she said, “Yes.” But at the last store, she got upset because she didn’t have enough money left to purchase a tiara that she saw. I explained that she didn't have enough money because she had already spent it on other things. She responded, “But I didn’t know that there was going to be a tiara, and I really want it.” I taught her about “opportunity cost” by saying, “If you spend your money on candy, you don’t have money for tiaras." (By the way, junk food is another example of an item that is difficult for me to allow them to buy. Kids already eat so much of it, but I want them to get to make choices, so I allow them to buy junk food with their money instead of mine.)

Patience and Delayed Gratification

My five-year-old daughter often wants me to pay for items that she wants, so she begs me to transfer money from her bank account. I refuse, and I tell her that she needs to get her money and spend it. She always forgets about the item that she wanted to buy because she didn’t even want it until she saw it.

Kids aren’t the only ones who learn patience. Tantrums usually follow this reply, so as the mom, I get a dose of patience too.

Self-Reliance

As my children paid for their fidget spinners, they gained confidence. They proudly paid for their own toy and told the cashier about it. It’s exciting to watch them learn this skill. Sometimes they hesitate and look to me, and I encourage them to do it. Although it took more time that it would have taken for me to buy everything, the experience of watching them grow was worth it.

I am thankful for my parents. My dad gave me opportunities to work. He had a variety of jobs, and one of them was to fix up houses and sell them. I remember helping him clean up those houses.

My mom often took me shopping and allowed me to learn. My mom is a bargain shopping queen, and she can find amazing deals. One day while shopping at an outlet, we found some jeans for sale for five dollars! The only problem was that we couldn’t try them on, but I couldn’t pass up a good deal. When I got home, none of them fit quite right. By shopping with her, I learned to find these deals, and I also learned that it’s only a deal if it’s something I really like.

I’m thankful to grandparents who gave me the chance to learn self-reliance through using money. My grandparents have always been super frugal. They lived through World War I and learned not to waste anything, but they gave us generous birthday and Christmas gifts. I teased them at the time that the only unfrugal ways that they spent their money was to give it to us grandkids, but now I realize that spending is an important skill to teach our children. Through it, we learn so many life lessons.

What lessons did your parents teach while you were shopping?

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.

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

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.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017 11:18

Shop Smart At Target!

Are you a regular at Target? If you love the store’s wide layout and great discounts, you’ll want to know this money hack! Target has a simple system for all markdowns. When the last number of a price is an eight, that item’s price may later be reduced further. If the last digit of the price is a four, that’s the lowest it’ll go. So, if you see a must-have sweater on sale for $19.88, don’t throw it in your cart just yet! Hold off a little bit and maybe you’ll get an even better deal.

Target also has a weekly system to determine which categories of items go on sale, as follows:

Monday: electronics, accessories, kids’ clothing, books, baby, stationery

Tuesday: women’s clothing, pets, food items

Wednesday: men’s clothing, health, beauty, diapers, lawn and garden, furniture

Thursday: housewares, lingerie, shoes, toys, sporting goods, décor, luggage

Friday: auto, cosmetics, hardware, jewelry

What was the best deal you ever found at Target or any other retail store? Share your story with us in the comments!

Published in Blog

Growing up, my family loved watching sports together. My younger brother wrote down all of the players' names and kept track of their stats as the games were played. I hadn't seen a Jazz game for a decade until Ty's boss gave us tickets earlier this year. We sat on the fourth row and were so completely entertained that my kids didn't fight or complain at all! It's exciting for our Utah Jazz to advance in the playoffs and play the Golden State Warriors! But, the most important statistics to us individually don't have much to do with the NBA playoffs.

Have you seen the classic game of Family Feud? Why do the family teams care what the “survey said.” Because, if the families guess the responses that were the most common answers, they can win the prize money. In a personal finance class I just taught, we took a financial quiz. I read a lot of financial surveys to prepare for this class. Three of the statistics from these surveys impacted me the most. More importantly than finding out what the surveys said, is to find out what you think about these statistics!

Survey #1 says ... “About half of Americans could pay for an unexpected expense that cost $500-$1,000.”

Could you cover an unexpected expense that cost $1,000? We’ve had a whole lot of rainy days here in Northern Utah the past couple of weeks. We don’t know when, but we know that it will rain. I don’t mind being wet, but I don’t like feeling cold, which always follows my getting wet. We have regular financial storms too. We don’t know when they will hit, but we know that they will hit. An emergency fund protects my family from getting rained on and being left in the cold financially. There are different opinions on how much an emergency fund should be. Because of the emergencies my family has experienced, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with an $1,000 emergency fund, but it’s a great place to start. Do you agree with having an emergency fund? If you were surveyed about having an emergency fund, what would you say? Has an emergency fund ever helped you work through changes in your life? Does an emergency fund matter to you?

I am a fan of having an emergency fund for many reasons, but I’ll share the most recent experience with our emergency fund. My husband Ty changed jobs 6 months ago, and we had a two month waiting period to enroll in the new employer’s health insurance plan. Ty’s employer generously offered to reimburse us for the cost of the COBRA health insurance coverage for the two month waiting period. However, we had to pay for the insurance first before it could be reimbursed. Our emergency fund allowed us to pay for that insurance coverage. When we were reimbursed, we deposited the money back into the emergency fund so that it will be there the next time that we need it. The emergency fund relieved and prevented a lot of stress for us. I recommend an emergency fund to you because it has helped my family adjust to life's changes.

Survey #2 says ... "About half of Americans have retirement savings."

Again, it doesn’t matter whether this survey is accurate, it matters what is true for you. Do you have a retirement savings account? Are you saving regularly for retirement? Just like the rain is sure to come in springtime in Utah, retirement is going to happen as we age. If you don’t have retirement savings, or if you haven't saved as much as you wished you had, it’s not too late to make a plan and work towards retirement.

Am I saving for retirement? Yes! Have I saved enough for retirement? No, but we are making progress. With so many financial emergencies and financial pressures, I understand how retirement can slip into the background of your finances. My husband and I try to keep them in the forefront and make retirement a priority for our family, but to be honest, sometimes we have to cut back our retirement savings. Our retirement contributions increased when our income increased and decreased when our income decreased. Although I’m not retired, I have mentors and friends who are retired. They advise me to save for retirement throughout my working life, and I trust them. I believe in saving for retirement!

Survey #3 says ... ”Nearly half of [parents] admit to not talking about money and finances with their kids on a regular basis.”

Do you talk about money with your friends and family? If you have children, do you give them opportunities to save, share, and spend money? Do they understand that a $20 bill is worth much more than a $1 bill? My kids may think that I talk with them too much about money. I talk about it all the time because we use money all of the time.

My 5 year old daughter and I ran a lot of errands this past week. I told her we were going shopping and encouraged her to bring her Hello Kitty purse and five dollars. On the way to the store, she told me that she wanted a ball. I let her spend her money as she wanted. At the first store, she bought some cotton candy. The price rang up higher than the price listed. It turns out that the cotton candy was in the wrong spot on the shelf. I asked her if she still wanted it. She bought the overpriced cotton candy, and she was excited that she still had money left. At the next store, she saw the bulk bins of salt water taffy in the middle of the isle and bought that. She used her last few quarters to ride the Clifford ride at the front of the store. Although it was hard for me to watch her spend money on candy, I let her experience spending her own money.

I think she learned a lot that day. By going on the Clifford ride, she learned what a quarter looks like. (The machine only took quarters.) Even though I didn’t agree with her spending choices, I felt proud of her for learning what a quarter was and being able to spend money on her own. At the last store, she saw a tiara that she wanted badly, and I explained that she had enough money at the beginning of the day to buy the tiara, but she didn’t any left. She replied, "But I didn’t know they would have this.” We talked about figuring out what she wanted and then not getting distracted by other items.

Surveys are just one tool to find out how our personal finances are going. Are the statistics from these surveys true for you?

As you cheer for your favorite NBA team, I hope you think about the most important financial statistics for your life.

Wednesday, 05 April 2017 11:44

Getting The Most Out Of Youth Accounts

Managing money is a foundational life skill. There are so many factors involved and so many open-ended questions at play. How much should you be saving? When is it worth spending more? How do you keep spare change from burning a hole in your pocket? It takes years of discipline and training to perfect this skill, and ongoing self-control to maintain it.

That's why it's best to give your kids a head start on money management and saving. As a parent or guardian, remember that the lessons you plant today will take root and blossom, enriching your child's life for years to come.

Here at Wasatch Peaks Credit Union, we understand the enormity and difficulty of this task. In honor of National Credit Union Youth Month, we're focusing on ways to help make this process as smooth and as simple as possible.

Wasatch Peaks is proud to offer specialized savings accounts that are designed just for kids.

We know that different ages and stages have different needs. That's why we offer MONEY MOO$E™ Kids Club Accounts, for children aged 0-12, as well as Young Members Accounts for teens aged 13-17.

Our youth savings accounts offer no monthly service fee and no minimum balance to earn rewards to help you teach your child that saving money always pays.

We're more than just a place for your kid to keep their money, though. We also want to help your young ones learn all about money management. To do that, we go out of our way to make banking fun and kid-friendly. When your child has an open Kids Club Account with Wasatch Peaks they also have free access to fun kid websites, online games, MONEY MOO$E™ Kids Club Peaks Passbook™, prizes, and more.

When adolescence overtakes childhood, kids need a sense of independence and autonomy. We get this. That's why youth members are eligible for a Free Visa® Debit Checking Card! Learning responsible saving habits at an early age will prepare your kids for a sound financial future.

Ready to open an account for your child? Does your child already have one? Read on for three steps to take for ensuring your child gets the most out of a new or existing account:

Set a goal

Now that your child's money will be sitting in an account instead of a piggy bank, let her use this opportunity to save up for something big. Sit down with her and discuss what she'd like to save for. You can create a long-term goal, like saving up for college or for a first car. Also establish a short-term goal, like a new gaming console or a hoverboard.

Set a date for your goals, and then set up a savings calendar for illustrating how much money needs to be saved each month to reach the intended target by the designated date. Discuss ways to add to the savings, being sure to include money from birthday gifts, summer jobs, allowances and chores.

Bank together

Whether your child is a first-grader or a lanky teenager, if this is their first time owning an account, they'll need you to show them the ropes.

Always bring your young child along with you when you stop by Wasatch Peaks to deposit his savings. Show him how it works and let him see the account balance growing. If your child asks you to withdraw money from his account, make sure he sees how this translates into a dip for his savings.

For teens, you'll need to walk them through that first deposit and withdrawal. When they've probably got the hang of it, it's time to take a step back and let them be on their own. They'll feel like a million dollars managing their account independently.

However, share with your teen that every swipe of their debit card also means a dent in their account balance. Also be sure to warn kids of all ages about security. They should know to never share their account information with anyone, and to keep their debit card in a safe place.

Monitor your child's activity

Don't aim to be a helicopter parent, but do keep an eye on your child's account. If he's depositing a lot less than planned, ask him where his money is going. Speak to him about money management and impulse purchases.

Remember: Every financial lesson you teach your child today equips them with money management skills for a lifetime.

How do you maximize the benefits of having a youth account for your child? Share your best tips and techniques with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.redwoodcu.org/personal/savings/youth-accounts
https://www.cefcu.com/personal/save-and-spend/youth-accounts.html
https://www.americafirst.com/accounts/savings-accounts/youth-accounts.cfm
http://www.bankrate.com/banking/checking/teen-checking-account-5-smart-moves/nts.cfm

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