Category Archives: Statistics

Super simple plan to save $63 this month

Super simple plan to save $63.54 this monthAccording to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), nearly 60 percent of Kansans do not have a rainy day fund. That’s a whole lot of umbrellas we’re going to need in a downpour.

And 21 percent of us spent more than we earned last year!

This is probably why 30 percent of Americans are in debt collections.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s a super simple plan to save $63 this month.

Just save.
Set a savings goal of $1.25 per week: $5 per month.

Generic vs. name brand.
Buy generic spaghetti sauce: $1.98 per month.
By switching from Classico spaghetti sauce to Wal-Mart’s Great Value spaghetti sauce, you can save $3.78 per month (based on using 66 oz of spaghetti sauce per month).

How we came up with $1.98 per month:
Classico: $3.82 for 44 oz, 0.08 per oz
Great Value: $3.50 for 66 oz, 0.05 per oz
If you use 66 oz per month, you’ll spend $5.28 per month using Classico or $3.30 per month using Great Value. Using a generic brand will save you almost $2 per month just on one item!

On-time payments.
Make your payments on time: $34.18 per month.
This one should be a no-brainer. The typical bank in Kansas charges $34.18 in late fees.

Lunch.
Twice a month, swap eating out lunches with brown bag lunches: $11.38 per month.
This is based on the Big Mac meal at McDonald’s which is $5.69 per meal. Here’s another example: If you ate out twice for lunch at Applebee’s, you’ll spend $16.98 (based on the cost of the classic + signature option lunch combo).

Dinner.
Order water instead of a soft drink twice during your dinners out this month: $4 per month.

Use a credit union.
Use a credit union instead of a traditional financial institution: $7 per month.
On average, a consumer can save $84 per year simply by using a Kansas credit union (or $159 per household). Divide $84 by 12, and you’ve saved $7 a month. And those late fees? If you bank at a credit union, you’ll reduce your late fee from $34.18 to $24.56, a savings of $9.62.

  • Total savings per month: $63.54.

Seven Debt Warning Signs

7 Debt Warning SignsCNNMoney reports “Americans have a debt problem.”

Yeah, well, we could have told you that.

Every third person in America  owes so much in payments, that their account is considered “in collections.”

The good news is the debt might only be $25. The bad news is the average amount owed is just over $5,000, with some debts as high as $125,000. The super duper bad news is delinquent debt can put your credit score in the toilet…for years…even if you’ve paid off the debt. And a wrecked credit score can hurt many things from employment opportunities to securing loans.

While it may seem that your debt crept up on you, there are warning signs…here are just seven of them:

  1. You hide bills from others.
  2. You use a credit card for most purchases, and only pay the minimal balance.
  3. You have little or no savings.
  4. You believe that checking account overdrafts are a normal part of everyone’s financial life.
  5. You don’t know what your living expenses are because you have never tracked your spending.
  6. The loss of a job in the household would cause an immediate financial crisis.
  7. You borrow money from payday loan offices, pawnshops, or title loan companies.

More debt warning signs included in the Money Possible workbook. (pdf, page 13)

Need help getting your debt under control? Consider a credit union, where some offer financial education programs and have financial counselors on staff, or contact your local non-profit credit counseling agency like Kansas Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

A “C” in Financial Literacy

One room schoolhouseSchool is so lame. Having to do what teacher says, all those dumb assignments, and who looks at your grades anyway?

April is Financial Literacy month, and a recent survey shows adults give themselves a “C” or lower when it comes to their financial knowledge. Not exactly making the honor roll, are we?

Here’s what the survey revealed:

  • Forty-one percent of adults gave themselves a grade of C, D or F on their knowledge of personal finance.
  • More than half of respondents (61 percent) admitted to not having a budget. This is the highest percentage in six years.
  • About a third (34 percent) carry credit card debt month to month, and 15 percent roll over more than $2,500 in debt per month.
  • Top concerns are not enough in emergency or retirement savings.

So basically, we are AT BEST a “C” student. We don’t have a budget. We carry credit card debt and we don’t have money for emergencies or retirement. And here’s the best (worst) part: Adults are spending MORE than in previous years, with only 29 percent saying they spent less than last year.

People: Get a hold of yourself!

First, watch this:

Financial education is what this campaign is all about. Our participants are learning that with proper budgeting, mindful spending and saving, and financial organization, you can beef up savings, pay down loans, stop impulse buying….and be on your way to financial health. The result of this knowledge? Living with less stress.

Here are a few more tips:

Spend less than you earn.
Period.

Make goals.
Goals can create actions plans that help you stay on track.

Be realistic.
Start small. Eliminate one lunch out and save $10 a week. Trim $20 from your grocery bill. Then SAVE that $30 or apply it to one of your debts.

Consider your financial institution.
Kansas credit unions can save you $30,000 over your lifetime simply by using them as your primary financial institution. Most offer seminars or classes, some even have a person right on staff to help you. Credit unions are local establishments with a fierce loyalty to the their communities. Search here for a Kansas credit union, or visit asmarterchoice.org to find one nationally.

You can do it. We know you can. Make a commitment now to get control of your finances.
Download the Money Possible workbook. Call a financial counselor. Google it. Watch a video.

Strive for that “A” … that spot in the National Honor Society. Don’t you want your own “I’m an honor roll student” bumper sticker?

Poll results: What is Your 2014 Financial Goal?

Our informal poll results are in:

2014: What is your financial goal poll results

More than a quarter (27 percent) of respondents goal is to pay down credit card debt. That’s a biggie…the average household owes more than $7,000 on their cards, and 15 percent of us roll over more than $2,500 in credit card debt per month.

Twenty percent said the goal was to save for a milestone like college, a new baby or retirement. Did you know the average college graduate owes $35,000 in debt in 2013? Or that you’ll spend about $10,000 on a baby in the first year alone? Or that you’ll need eight times the amount of your ending salary to retire? Things to think about…

Only 13 percent are saving for a “big ticket item” like a house, car or much needed vacation.

This is the big one…almost half of you (40 percent) want to build your emergency savings.  You are in good company. Roughly 75 percent of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, , according to a recent survey released by Bankrate.com.

Fifty percent of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27 percent had no savings at all. People…this is not good. All households should have at least three months of living expenses saved.

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.

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

It’s America Saves Week!

America Saves Week February 24-March 1, 2014
America Saves week
(February 24-March 1, 2014) is an annual event promoting good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

Although the week focuses on saving, it’s a good reminder for you to take a long hard look at your financial plan (or lack of) and determine a game plan for you or your family.

According to a recent survey by America Saves, most Americans still face savings challenges. Only 35 percent of respondents were making “good” or ‘excellent” progress in their savings goals. That means two in three adults are making no progress or “fair” progress in their savings needs. Come on people…we need to switch those around!

Saving money is essential for your financial health. You can’t pay down debt if you don’t have any money left over at the end of the month. You can’t build up a solid cushion of money if you are constantly trying to manage your bills. It’s  like the hamster in the little hamster wheel…spinning around but not going anywhere.

Start with this post: 54 Ways to Save Money. Surely you can find something you can do…there’s more than 50 tips!

Here’s two of our favorites:

  • Reduce credit card debt by $1,000. That $1,000 debt reduction will probably save you $150-200 a year, and much more if you’re paying penalty rates of 20-30%. (Read more about credit card debt and the amount of money people throw away on interest fees)
  • Take the amount the item costs and divide it into your hourly wage. If it’s a $50 pair of shoes and you make $10 an hour, ask yourself, are those shoes really worth five long hours of work? It helps keep things in perspective. Maybe retail stores should start putting that information on price tags?

Credit unions are another good place to start. Many have financial counselors at your beck and call, who can put you in the driver’s seat of a good financial plan, and definitely not one that will have you running in circles. Credit unions focus on financial literacy and people, not making money. As not-for-profit organizations, any profit they make goes back to the people who use the credit union. Here is more information about credit unions.

In the meantime, stay tuned because we’ll be unveiling our participants next week.