Posts From July, 2014

"Out of sight, out of mind" Financial Philosophy. How cookies taught me to be better with my money. 

By: Gabrielle Leach
July 31, 2014 Categories: saving

Cookies are great. My will power is not. The other day I sat down with a roll of Oreos while I was watching late night TV. As Jimmy Fallon was telling his jokes I was sitting comfortably on the couch blissfully eating my cookies, until I sadly realized I had only one left. Unsure how I had managed to eat an entire sleeve of cookies I rationalized with myself about the final one:

If I eat it, I would have no cookies for tomorrow.

But it is only one cookie, and cookies are there to be eaten. After all I will probably get more cookies in the future.

But I know that it is bad for me to eat all of the cookies, and I know I am going to regret this when I wake up tomorrow.

Oh well, YOLO, after all I’m young, and it’s not that big of a deal

I gave into the little devil on my shoulder and of course the next morning I saw the cookies again as I stepped onto the scale. It’s funny how bad decisions tend to remind you that you’ve made them. I wanted to fix this problem so that I would be unlikely to easily give into temptation again. I then went down to the pantry and hid the rest of the Oreos. Out of sight, Out of mind. It was at this moment that I realized I rationalized eating that last cookie the way I rationalize spending my money.

“Out of sight, Out of mind” philosophy can be applied to cookies, as well as finance. If you’re like me, and have moments of impulsive weakness, you may see some irregularities in your monthly spending.  Opening up a second bank account, separate to the one you regularly use, can really help you save up an emergency fund. Sometimes seeing a lot of money in one account can make you feel as though the money is there to spend. By separating the money into two different accounts, you can save money with out realizing it.  

Currently I have an account at a credit union as well as a traditional bank. I use my traditional bank account regularly but I keep my emergency fund with my credit union because they offer better rates and have a very low minimum balance, so I wont get charged if I have to use everything in the account. Each month I automatically put a piece of my paycheck into my second account for my emergency fund. I find that this system gives me the ability to control my money and the peace of mind that comes with financial security.

While eating the last cookie isn’t nearly as dangerous as spending your last dollar, the same philosophy can still be applied to help you manage your will power. Cookies are great. Overindulgence is not. By understanding your financial weaknesses and utilizing different tactics to most effectively manage your money, you can afford to buy your cookies, and eat them too.

The Fitness-Finance Connection 

By: Gabrielle Leach
July 09, 2014

Many people strive for the same goal—to have their scales weigh less and their wallets weigh more. But could improving ones physical fitness provoke positive signs fiscally? Recent studies have shown a connection between living a healthy lifestyle and managing healthy finances.

More Exercise = More Productivity
Increasing your daily exercise can lead to an increased performance at work allowing you better opportunities for raises and promotions. A study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM), illustrates that workers who engage in moderate exercise have higher work-quality and better job performance than those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. According to the study, physically fit employees get along better with coworkers, take fewer sick days, and often perform more work, using less effort. This means that getting in shape could lead to increased productivity and career growth.

Less Doctor Visits
Getting sick can ruin your day and your budget. As healthcare costs increase, it is important to lower your risk by creating a healthy lifestyle and getting daily activity. Dr. Brian Martinson one of the JOEM study's lead investigators, explains that the study showed that increasing physical activity to even moderate levels was associated with declines in annual health care charges of $2,000 on average. Exercise is also a known stress reliever and can reduce your risk of getting diseases that require long-term treatment (and long-term costs), like diabetes. 

Self Discipline is Important
It isn’t news that maintaining a healthy diet and a balanced budget requires serious will power. Some researches hypothesize that by monitoring the intake of food and exercise, one will begin to analyze other areas of their consumption. The same amount of self-discipline that is required to schedule workouts and count calories can be transferred over to limiting impulsive spending and sticking to a monthly budget.

Unhealthy Habits Can Kill…Your Wallet
Costly vices like drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes can really add up. According a study done by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2009, the average American consumer spends $49,638 each year. Of this total 0.9% is spent on alcohol and 0.7% is used to purchase tobacco products. Today, the average annual amount spent on cigarettes is close to $2,000. Eliminating unnecessary purchases can free up funds to be reallocated or saved for better use. Cutting out junk food and needless snacking can also help save some serious cash.

 

The correlation between being physically and fiscally fit is still being studied, although it’s clear a relationship exists. Leading a healthy lifestyle with moderate daily activity can improve your job performance and prevent illness. By evading sickness you can have more free time and can make better decisions about your future. This is why many employers are starting new fitness incentive programs.

While this does not mean that getting in shape will make you a millionaire, it can help teach you the habits necessary to lead a financially healthy lifestyle.

 

Credit unions are non-profit cooperative financial institutions that believe in fair and honest banking and are dedicated to the financial well-being of their members. They are able to provide superior service because they don’t report to shareholders, making their members their number one priority. To find the right credit union for you and receive more information visit www.bankingyoucantrust.com. To receive other financial articles, tips, or advice, follow our Twitter account @BankingYouTrust and find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bankingyoucantrust.

New Jersey credit unions will be represented at the Belmar 5 Mile Run this Saturday, July 12th and supporting the runners with refreshments. Visit our table to grab a bottle of water and information on how a credit union can help you live a well-balanced financial life. 

Lessons I’ve Learned About Being Broke in my 20s 

By: Gabrielle Leach
July 02, 2014 Categories: college

The fall semester of my junior year in college, I was saving all of my money to afford studying abroad in Barcelona for the spring term. While this was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, it also emptied out my piggy bank.

For the first time, I knew what it was like to be dead broke. I had only two dollars in my savings account and only $34.52 in my checking; $36.52 was all of the money I owned in the world. Thankfully, I am in a much better state financially, however, learning how to save my money maybe one of the greatest life lessons I ever learned.

I made a list of the 10 most important things I’ve learned from being a broke college kid.

1. It is possible to live off of oatmeal, grilled cheese, and leftovers for an entire semester.
While options of a meal plan are preferable to my empty kitchen cabinets, meal plans tend to be really expensive and often overpriced. I decided I would save some money and try on my chef’s hat. I would go grocery shopping with a list to avoid buying unnecessary items. I always opted for the store brand product because it was cheaper, and I would use my store loyalty card at the register to take advantage of the in-store coupons and promotions they offered. Because I lived alone, I would make one big meal and bag the leftovers for the rest of the week. Since many of the pre-made frozen dinners at the grocery store are loaded with fat and sodium, I made both my wallet and my scale happy.

2. Don’t go shopping if you can’t afford to buy anything.
I made this mistake when I first arrived home from Europe. My friend wanted to go to the mall to get a new dress for her graduation. It was months since I last saw her and even though I had no money in my account, I thought it sounded like a good way for us to hangout. As much as I love my friend, being at a store that’s filled with beautiful things, none of which I can afford, was torture. It made me feel so poor, and it tempted me to buy things I didn’t need with money I didn’t have. 

3. Live below your means.
As a waitress, I make a whopping $2.15 an hour, plus tips. Budgeting with an unsteady income is challenging, but it’s not impossible. Evaluate your priorities and prepare an emergency stash in case one week or month is slow and you still have bills. If you can’t afford to go out and drink every night, don’t.

4. Don’t rely on one income stream.
The way I look at it, if you only have one job, you are only one step away from being unemployed. I currently have three jobs. I am a waitress and I have two summer internships. It’s difficult to manage everything and I don’t have very much free time, but I am finally starting to accumulate enough money for a savings account. As much as working can suck, it’s the only way to make money and gain a valuable network for your future.

5. Moving back in with Mom and Dad is not the worst thing in the world.
I always love seeing my parents, but when I am home for an extended time period, I begin to travel back in time to high school where I have a curfew and chores. Living with them again, however, is allowing me to save my money much easier, with the added benefit of a fully stocked fridge and laundry service. I don’t mind vacuuming a few times a week if it allows me to be one step closer to financial independence.

6. Sales are a very beautiful thing.
I have so many clothes already in my closet that spending full price on something seems a little ludicrous. I still love to get new things, but by shopping at outlet stores, and going to stores like Marshalls and TJ Maxx, I can get what I need without spending my entire paycheck for the week. That being said, you are never saving money when you purchase items just because there is a great sale. You are still spending money even if it’s a good discount. Bottom line: if you don’t need it, don’t buy it.

7. A credit card bill will ALWAYS come at the end of the month.
Credit is not free money. Don’t spend anything on a credit card that you can’t afford to pay at the end of the month. Many credit card companies prey off of young college kids and sell low minimum monthly payments. Do not fall into this trap. Pay off all of your debt and avoid the obscene interest charges that follow. Once you lose your credit rating, it is very hard to build it back up.

8. A simple budget can save you a lot of financial heartbreak.
Knowing how much you make compared to how much you spend can be eye opening. I didn’t realize how much everything was actually costing me until I sat down and crunched the numbers. The amount of money I spent a week on “miscellanous” items was twice as much then I had originally planned. I evaluated my purchases and tried to find ways I could reallocate the money I was misusing. Eventually, I came up with a budget that was flexible enough to accommodate my erratic income and my impulsive spending. Any money that I budgeted to spend but didn’t use would be placed in a separate account that I could use for fun purchases. Using apps like Mint.com are a great way to keep track of your personal finances as well as create a personalized budget.

9.The diploma alone won’t get you a job.
It’s a sad fact that you can spend $100,000 on a college education and still graduate with no job. It’s even more unnerving when many entry level positions require two to three years of experience in the industry. Internships are the best way to gain experience and build a professional network. Paid or unpaid, the more internships you have, the more interested employers will be in you when it’s time to graduate. Use all of your resources to find the right internships for you, including asking family and friends and applying online. Something my mother always told me about applying for jobs was, “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.”

10.Only YOU have the power to change your life!
No one likes to work crappy jobs. If you are unhappy with your life, change it. We live in an age where almost all of the information we could ever need is available with the click of a finger. Use it. Learn everything you can. Now is the time that we set our work ethic and behaviors for the rest of our lives. You, and only you, have to decide what you want and go for it. Anything you want to be is possible.

Everyone has a different strategy when it comes to managing his or her money. There is no one way for everyone. If you are looking for a student or automotive loan, explore all your banking options. You may find better rates at credit unions rather than traditional banks, which could help you avoid massive student debt. Having a goal in mind, like becoming debt free, can help steer you on the right path to a promising financial future. 

 
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