Category Archives: Money Possible Participants

Money Possible Produces Debt Destroyers

Debt Destroyers photo all participants-no logoRaquel, Fredica and Lisa and Bryan made it. Sixteen weeks of rigorous budgeting and saving and heavy financial lifting.

OK, maybe not that intense…but our three families did make a commitment, met with a financial counselor and made major changes in their financial life. And lived to tell about it.

Here’s what they learned:

“Say no to frivolous spending.”
“Live within your means.”
“Don’t overwhelm yourself with credit.”

Each participant started out with a different financial issue. Lisa and Bryan wanted to bulk up their retirement savings. Fredica needed to control her spending. Raquel’s payday loans were spiraling out of control.

But the outcome for the three was the same: a lighter debt load, and more importantly, less stress in their lives.

The takeaway is that financial stress can cause problems in your daily life…which is in line with this recent survey that says employee financial problems or stress can reduce worker productivity.

What did our participants accomplish in 16 weeks? Here’s the skinny:

Financial Literacy is a family affairLisa and Bryan

  • paid off four of their credit cards
  • learned the difference between needs and wants
  • involved their children and developed a family budget

credit cardsFredica

  • stopped using credit cards
  • is paying down her existing credit card debt
  • learned to live within her means, and work with what money she does have

emergency money jar - compressedRaquel

  • paid down 30 percent of her debt
  • is current on all her bills and has stopped using payday loans
  • started an emergency fund

If you only remember one thing from this post, remember this: Your household budgets and finances are up to you. It’s a life-long process, not just something you can do once and be done.

But don’t feel like you need to do it alone. Get help from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service or a credit union. Financial education is a primary focus of Kansas credit unions, and credit unions nationwide. Credit unions promote financial fitness, and their goal is to make your financial life easier. Get started on your own by downloading the Money Possible Workbook.

Thank you to Lisa and Bryan, Fredica and Raquel for sharing their stories for the world to hear. Using a public venue to air your dirty laundry can be intimidating. These three credit union members took it in stride to promote the importance of financial literacy, and learned a little something along the way.

Money Brain

money brainThere’s “mommy brain,” “senior moments” and “blonde moments.”

Well…now there’s “money brain.”

Experts say being a spender or saver depends on your brain. What you’ve been taught at home has something to do with it too, but in this post, we’re talking about that gray matter between your ears.

Recent research shows that while parents do have an effect on your financial habits, your brain’s chemistry plays a role too.

We won’t bore you with case studies, focus groups and medical gobbledygook, but here’s the deal: some of you get a thrill from instant gratification (buying that super cute pair of shoes NOW) and some of you get excited by “the deal” (think shopping sales or seeing your savings grow).

Think about it: When you get a free meal, doesn’t it taste better? Or if you find those super cute pair of shoes HALF OFF, aren’t they all that much cuter?

If you want to read the research, read The Psychology of Money-How Spending and Saving Habits are Programmed in Your Brain or The New Science Behind Your Spending Addiction.

Now that you know “you can’t help spending” … well, actually, you can…but if you feel you are one of those people like our friend Fredica (who had a spending problem, but now realizes she can control it) here’s some tips:

  • Use cash. The simple act of seeing the dollars can help. A credit card is just a plastic card, right? You can’t see the money being spent until it’s too late (and $300 later).
  • Use an ATM or branch office to withdraw your money, and make sure you get a balance inquiry. This helps you see your dwindling account.
  • Never “put it on my tab.” Pay as you go so you keep track of how much you are spending. Wait…the only place we know of where you say “put it on my tab” is a bar, and you shouldn’t be wasting money there anyway.
  • Don’t be swayed by “the big sale” or sales people! Remember that Friends episode when Joey bought all that stuff for his new apartment and racked up a major credit card bill?

Ross: What… what’s that?
Joey: It’s my VISA bill. “Envelope one of two.” That can’t be good.

No Mr. Tribbiani, it’s not good.

Don’t buy things because they’re on sale. Buy them because they are a need.

  • Know the difference between needs and wants. Read this “Needs vs Wants” from a recent post.
  • We’ve said it before. Tell someone you are trying to control your spending. A good friend will stop you from buying too much. A great friend will buy it for you. JUST KIDDING. Don’t think we want you to be a charity case. A great friend will help you and may even suggest a financial counselor at a credit union or non-profit agency.

No matter if you are a spender or a saver, you brain has a lot to do with your money smarts, as well as the habits you learned early on in your fiscal career. The bottom line is all about control, and we know you can control your brain. Well, most of us can.

It’s a Family Affair

Financial Literacy is a family affairFinances are one of the leading causes of friction in family households.

Money can cause divorce.

It ruins the lives of your children (just ask any teenager who is denied money by a responsible parent).

It even causes jealousy with friends and neighbors, because we are all trying to keep up with the Joneses (who, by the way, are broke.)

This is where you can turn it around. Make money a regular conversation in your house, and not a fight. Your kids need to know what is going on. And don’t worry, your friends and neighbors don’t care what you do or don’t have. They just care that you’ll offer them a slice of pizza and a beer when you ask them to move that massive TV that you really shouldn’t have bought in the first place.

In our last post, we reported that adults aren’t making the grade in their financial knowledge. Don’t let this trickle down to your kids, or their kids, and their kid’s kids. Studies have shown the skills and habits you learn as a child, stick with you into adulthood. Don’t let debt be a habit in your family.

Sit down and really talk about your budget. Show your kids what amount is coming in, and what must go out. Kids need to learn now that they can’t always get what they want…and neither can you.

Lisa and Bryan showed their teenagers that more was going out than was coming in. They talked about the difference between needs and wants.

Their kids are fully on board. Even keeping Lisa and Bryan in check when they are out and about.

“Do you really need that purse, mom? Or do you just want it?”

Raquel’s family didn’t realize why she needed those payday loans. After a good discussion, they are helping with the budget and making sure everyone knows where the money is going.

Fredica already told us her children were looking out for her. As self-described impulse buyer, her kids were already on her. “Just because you have a coupon, doesn’t mean you buy it.”

But how can we teach our kids and families about money management, when many of us are struggling ourselves?

  • Make financial literacy a priority in your household, and take it seriously.
  • Prepare a budget and stick to it.
  • Determine where you are a wasteful spender and Shut. It. Down.
  • Talk honestly about needs and wants and respect your children and other family member’s opinions too. Let them each choose a splurge item, unless it’s a trip to Hollywood for them and their five friends to celebrate turning sweet 16. Giving your children and others the power to choose will help keep them on board.
  • We’ve said it before. GET HELP! Many financial institutions like credit unions offer financial literacy assistance. Just watch this nifty interview with one of our super cool Kansas credit union financial counselors. And if your children are old enough, bring them with you! It will improve your household financial knowledge and may even strengthen your relationship with your kids.

Your financial knowledge helps you no matter where you are in life. It can help you live better and healthier, and ensure your children have a better, healthier future too.

Controlling Impulse Spending.

Hot Deal! Best Sale!Impulse spending will wreck your budget faster than the Ellen selfie went viral at the Academy awards.

Impulse spending (or impulse buying) is an unplanned decision to buy a product or service. Stores are notorious for placing items “just so” to increase your impulse spending.

Fredica knows that she is an impulse buyer. She knows she buys things she doesn’t need, just because it might be on sale or she has a coupon. She’s not alone.

The lure of impulse spending.
Did you know 90 percent of the time you go shopping you end up buying something that wasn’t on your list?

Yes, 90 PERCENT!

A survey showed that impulse buyers waste an average of $200 per month on items they don’t need.

But who can resist the lure of temptations like this: “Buy a bag of chips and get a jar of salsa for free.” Neither items are on your list, but hey, free salsa!

Or this: “Buy three 12 packs of soda for $12 OR one for $5.” NO ONE really “needs” soda. But here in ‘Merica, we do!

Retailers know that 88% of impulse buys are made because something is on sale. And 14% of impulse buys are food items, but something you probably didn’t need in the first place.

Impulse spending creates cluttered houses, busts our budget and packs on the pounds.

Plan to shop.
Retailers, especially grocery stores, rely on consumers to make impulse purchases. That’s why it’s super important to PLAN to shop. In fact, impulse buying increases 23% if the trip itself was unplanned!

Make a list and (this is the important part) STICK TO IT.

Planning to shop and sticking to only the items on your list can reduce impulse spending.

Take control.
We know it’s hard to control spending. Here’s our favorite ways to take three tips to help:

Give it 48 hours. If you still need that item, you can go back and get it, but only if it is in your budget. Chances are, you won’t.

Calculate how many hours you have to work to buy that item (really only works for larger purchases).

Go on a spending freeze. A spending freeze is where you don’t spend any money for a designated amount of time. Before you freak out and think you can’t do it, even a few days can help. A two-week spending freeze is common, but some people even try a month. Just Google “spending freeze” and you will find plenty of resources to get started.

Controlling your spending is hard, especially when it looks like everyone else is throwing money around like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. The ability to purchase things online doesn’t help either. Click, click, done! Congratulations! You just spent $78 on shoes you don’t need.

Take control now. The only person who can change your behavior is you.

Just Say No.

Just Say NoThe word “No” kinda gets a bad rap. Parents of young children grow weary of saying it. “Just say no” was the 1980s ad campaign for the war on drugs. We feel bad sometimes when we say it; like when you are asked to do something you really don’t want to do, or don’t have the time, yet feel obligated to say yes.

Saying no is no fun.

The word yes is much more positive, like that Home Alone Macaulay Culkin fist pump YES!

But when you are talking about your finances, saying “yes” can be much worse than saying “no.”

Just ask Lisa and Bryan. They want to reduce their debt and save for retirement. They are saying “yes” to things, when they should be saying no. Especially to family and friends.

It’s hard to say no to those close to us, or even our co-workers and neighbors. But if you are trying to stick to a budget, save for retirement or whatever, “just say no.”

No to Sonic runs. No to that new movie that just opened today. No to the soda at the ball game. (By the way, if you said no to just those three things, you’d have an extra $20 to save.)

But how do you come across without sounding like a Debbie Downer or a Party Pooper?

It’s simple. Tell people you are trying to stick to a budget, save money, save for retirement, whatever. People who care about you, won’t put you through the ringer for wanting save for a rainy day.

You’ve got to stand your ground. And don’t you dare feel guilty about saying no. It’s like peer pressure for adults. It’s like keeping up with the Joneses. There will also be someone with the newest gadgets, eating at the fanciest restaurant, taking the coolest vacations. Get over it. Just say no.

Here are three ways to say no:

  1. Keep it simple.
    You don’t need to explain the heck out of why you can’t (or don’t want to) go the latest flick. Just say “another time.” Or “I’m busy that night.” Even a casual “It’s not in the budget this week” should do the trick.
  2. Offer something else.
    “Instead of going out to a movie, let’s rent that one we’ve been wanting to see, and have a movie night at my house.” You are still spending time with them, just in a different way.
  3. Say “I don’t” instead of “I can’t.”
    “I don’t go to movies in the theater,” is different than “I can’t go to movies in the theater.” A change in terminology can be the difference between staying within your budget, and blowing it to bits.

A couple of good hardy “nos” and you’ll be a pro at it. You’ll feel better about your decision, and your budget will be saying YES!

Don’t Be Such a Waste

Wasteful spendingDon’t be such a waste. Wasteful spender that is. Financial experts estimate Americans spend 10%-15% of their income on unnecessary items. (Read: Things you don’t need!) Or things like fees or services charges that are certainly avoidable.

We asked our Money Possible participants what they found they waste money on.

Fredica brings up a common one: cell phone. She says her monthly payment could be lower.

Lisa and Bryan admit wasting money on things like a soda at the gas station, or food and drinks at sporting events.

Fredica, Lisa and Bryan are in good company.

Unnecessary bills, fees, or or simply paying for a service you don’t need is at the top of the “money down the drain” list. So are “extras” at entertainment venues, like popcorn at the movies. At $5 a bag, that’s enough to pop your wallet!

Wasteful spending items can include any or all of the following, and can really add up:

  • Memberships you don’t use (gym, Sam’s club)
  • Late fees (pay your bills on time!)
  • ATM service charges (use your financial institution’s ATM. Credit unions have a network of surcharge free ATMS…7,000 of them! Or at least take out a big chunk of money so you don’t have to use the ATM every week)
  • Services you don’t use (check your bills – don’t use call waiting on your landline anymore? Who does? Get rid of it!)
  • Unlimited data on a mobile device (only text your teenage daughter? Use a limited data plan to save money)
  • Junk food (eat before you go!)

Need more money wasters? How about drinks and dessert when eating out? Those alone can tack on an extra $20 on your restaurant bill…and an extra $4 in tip…so really an extra $25! Sheesh!

Here’s another, and it sounds stupid. But you can waste $100 a year on electronics that are plugged in when not in use. Just don’t pull the plug on that annoying clock that you have to set every time the electricity goes out. It’s not worth it.

And by all means, pay those dang bills on time! Get your act together, organize your household expenses and budget and never pay a late fee. It’s just money down the drain.

Need more?
Yahoo Finance: Ways to Waste Your Money

Budgeting: Not as hard as it looks!

Budgeting: Not as hard as it looksWhy is it that the right thing to do is always the hardest? Like not eating that double fudge chocolate brownie warm from the oven. Like breaking up with that person whose laugh drives you insane and you know it just won’t work out with. But when it comes to budgeting, you can’t use the old ‘it’s me, not you’ excuse.

So why don’t we do it? Is it because we don’t like to see the hard reality staring back at us? Or that it takes a little thought and planning? Whatever the reason, we promise you that making and sticking to a budget isn’t as hard as it looks. (Check out the ‘Basic Money Management’ section of our Money Possible Workbook)

Our participants are well on their way to destroying their debt. But guess what? They all started by making a budget. While some were budget newbies, others had tried before.

Lisa and Bryan said, “We did have a budget before. However, it was hard to stick to when unexpected things would show up.” We know, how can you plan for the unexpected? Having a little cushion in your budget will help keep you on track for the long haul.

Fredica and Raquel never had a structured budget.

Fredica, “just mapped out what was owed and the due date.” That’s a good start, but planning for the future requires long term budgeting and goals.

Raquel’s method was, “to pay with what you have and pay the most important things, rent, utilities, medicines, daycare, etc.  I think the hardest part is trying to find and figure out EVERYTHING that you owe, and what to start with first.” Getting everything down on paper (or the computer) makes your budget tangible. From there, you can begin determining what next steps to take to destroy your debt.

So here are three easy steps to get you started:

  1. Identify how you’re spending your money now.
  2. Evaluate your current spending and set long-term financial goals.
  3. Track your spending monthly and adjust if necessary.

Join our participants and follow along – you, too, can be on your way to destroying your debt. As for your relationship woes, just do it already! It really isn’t you, we promise.

View the television segments.

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