Couples and Money: Truth or Friction?

Money is one of the most sensitive topics couples face. Disagreement over spending and saving habits is one of the most frequent causes of friction in a relationship. Truthful, frank discussion and mutual financial planning can go a long way to resolve the tension.

BUDGET: A DIRTY WORD?
Does the mere mention of a budget start your teeth grinding? For many, it evokes the same enthusiasm as going on a diet – in this case, a money diet. Begin by changing your focus. Agree with your partner to create a spending plan. Agree to review it and adjust it periodically. A plan is adjustable and should suit your lifestyle, not imprison you.

The first step is to carefully track expenses. Save every receipt for a month so you have a clear picture of your spending. Be open about your spending. In a relationship, silence is not golden.

SET SAVINGS GOALS
“Pay yourself first” is the first rule of financial success. Agree to commit a percentage of your take-home pay to savings. Ten percent is a good place to start. Increase the amount as you can. Maximize contributions to retirement or 401(k) plans where an employer provides matching funds.

Need a retirement plan? Check out these savings options that are customized to your needs.

DISCUSS BIG EXPENDITURES
Agree to consult with each other about purchases that are more than a specific amount (such as $200). Keep an agreed-upon amount of cash of your own in an individual account. Each of you should have money to spend on small indulgences with no questions asked. Agree in advance on what types of expenses are personal. For example, is a magazine subscription personal or part of your overall spending plan? Deciding in advance will leave little room for argument later.

Thinking about making a large purchase? Ask yourself these questions first.

Additionally, don’t criticize each other in public about money. Keep financial discussions private. Review your plan periodically. Every year or so, sit down to determine if your goals have changed or if your plan needs adjusting. You’ll avoid the type of arguments most couples find themselves in by keeping these simple guidelines in mind.

Feeling overwhelmed? Consider sitting down with one of our free, on-staff financial counselors for a fresh perspective.

Seven Steps to a Mid-Year Financial Check-Up

It feels like you just packed away the holiday decorations yesterday, but believe it or not, 2019 is already half over. As we sail into the season of barbecues and beaches, take a few minutes to give yourself a mid-year financial checkup. A small investment of time can spur important changes that can affect your financial wellness for the rest of 2019 or even for years to come. 

Use the seven steps detailed below to guide you through your checkup. 

Step 1: Revisit Your Budget 
Remember sitting down in December and crunching all those numbers? There’s no need for such a detailed job again, but take some time to review your monthly budget. Are you sticking to the planned budget for every category? Are you overspending in some categories or under-spending in others? Do you need to adjust your allotted budget in some areas or maybe trim your discretionary spending across the board?

Review your spending over the last few months and make any necessary changes so your budget can continue working for you. Be sure to account for any significant life changes that may alter your financial needs, such as a marriage, the birth of a child, a divorce, or a job change. 

 You will avoid falling into a mindless spending trap and you will be taking proactive steps toward staying on top of your finances for the rest of 2019 by reviewing and adjusting your budget.

Step 2: Anticipate Large Expenses 
Now that you’ve updated your monthly budget, take a moment to list any large expenses you anticipate having in the next six months. This can include household appliances that may need replacing, expensive car repairs that will likely become necessary, or an anticipated medical expense that is not fully covered by insurance. 

Once you have this information in hand, determine which spending category you will take the money from to cover these expenses. Do you have a rainy-day fund that can pay for one or several of these costs? Can you use the money in your emergency fund? Make the decision about sourcing this money now so you don’t make the wrong choices when you’re stressed and pressed for time in the future. 

If you do not have enough money set aside for these expenses, build a savings plan into your monthly budget now so you have the funds available when you need them. 

Step 3: Review Your Tax Withholdings 
Review your tax withholdings to see if they need any adjusting. If taxes and numbers are not your thing, ask your accountant for assistance with this step. Your goal here is to pay the perfect amount so you’re not hit with a huge tax bill at the end of the year but also not lending the government your money interest-free. 

Step 4: Check Your Credit Score 
Your credit score is like your money grade, indicating the degree of your financial wellness and responsibility. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for your free credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. 

If your score has gone up in the last six months, you’re doing great! Keep up the good work. 

On the flip side, if your score has dropped, review your report in detail. Are there any errors you’ll need to contest with the Federal Trade Commission? Is there a credit card bill or another line of credit you’ve been neglecting that is dragging your score down? Are you having trouble remembering to pay your monthly bills in a timely manner? Take the necessary steps to fix your score today by setting up an automatic payment on some of your bills, by lowering your credit utilization rate by paying with plastic less often, or by sitting down with one of our free financial counselors.

Step 5: Review Your Investments
Now is the time to review and adjust all of your investments. This includes your contributions to your retirement funds or savings certificates at DoverPhila Federal Credit Union. Make sure you are maximizing your contributions when possible and that your other investments are performing according to plan, adjusting as necessary.   

Step 6: Tackle Your Debt 
List every single outstanding debt you carry, including credit card debt and loans. Designate one debt to tackle first, either choosing the one that carries the highest interest rate or the one with the lowest balance. Next, work on a plan to get rid of your chosen debt, being careful not to neglect the others. See if you can trim your budget or boost your income in any way to increase your payments on this debt. Once you’ve paid it off, move to the next one on your list so you’re on your way to a debt-free life. 

Step 7: Review Your Financial Resolutions and Long-term Goals 
Which financial resolutions did you jot down at the end of 2018? What are your dreams for the future? Did you want to start socking away another $200 a month? Is your goal to retire comfortably at 55?

Take some time to review these goals and to determine whether you are indeed taking the steps necessary for making them happen. If you’ve been neglecting them for the first half of 2019, create a plan for working toward them for the rest of the year. Remember: With determination and proper planning, nearly any financial goal is possible! 

Now that you’ve given yourself a thorough financial checkup, you can kick back and enjoy the sweetness and the sunshine of the season, guilt-free. Click here for more tips and tools to help maneuver your finances in the right direction.

Step 2 of 12 Towards Financial Freedom: Don't Dig Yourself Deeper

When you’ve dug yourself deep into a pit, the only way to get out is to stop digging. This month, focus on not racking up more debt. Stop using your credit cards. Skip your weekly trips that usually have you buying too many non-essentials.

Instead, start brown-bagging your work lunch and brewing your own coffee. Get into the habit of spending only on essentials so you can make real progress toward paying down that debt. Click here if you need some tips for cutting expenses.

Don’t forget to make the minimum payments on every line of credit and loan you have open. Neglecting your debt will only pull you deeper into the pit.

 Feeling overwhelmed? No worries; we’ve got you covered! Sit down with one of our free, on-staff financial counselors. They can help suggest ways of saving more and spending less so you can be one step closer to financial freedom. Call today at 330-364-8874 and ask for Katy Steinebrey or Fred Weingarth.

Want more information on managing debt? Check out our interactive library through Banzai by clicking here.

Sticking to Financial Resolutions

Ohioans, like most Americans, entered 2019 hoping to better their finances, but many have likely already fallen off track.

In an Ohio Credit Union League 2019 consumer survey, 69 percent said their New Year’s resolution was to get on a budget. That statistic isn’t surprising; many Americans looked critically at their financial situations as they headed into 2019. Statista, a platform providing statistical data on a variety of topics, polled 2,000 people about their New Year’s resolutions in early January. The survey found financial goals were the fourth most-popular New Year’s resolution, falling just behind dieting, exercising, and losing weight. 

Americans had good intentions to get their finances in order in 2019, but that doesn’t mean they’ve necessarily stuck to their new budgets. According to research commissioned by GuideVine, a service that matches people with financial advisers, 70 percent of Americans with a budget struggle to stick to it.

And it’s not likely that making your budget a New Year’s resolution will make keeping with it any easier. According to the Ohio Credit Union League survey, 79 percent of Ohioans make incremental improvements toward keeping their resolutions each year, but fall short of keeping them. Another 14 percent have never kept a New Year’s resolution.

The average American doesn’t fare much better. According to a study of 1,450 Americans by Vitagene, 88.6 percent reported they’d likely keep their resolutions for a year or less. Another 36.6 percent of respondents said they usually keep their resolutions for a month or less, meaning they’d be off track by February.

Although your train may have gone off track, all hope is not lost. Here are some tips to help you attain your resolution of getting down to business, paying off bills, buying a house, opening an IRA for retirement, or getting on a path to better financial stability. 

  • Use a budgeting tool. A successful budget must be recorded somewhere. DoverPhila Federal Credit Union offers Banzai, an award-winning financial literacy program that has user-friendly budgeting tools such as calculators, simulated games, and an interactive library with educational articles. Consider budgeting apps such as EveryDollar and YouNeedABudget if you’re looking for more mobile options.

  • Be realistic about spending and saving. Don’t set goals you can’t realistically achieve with your budget. Trying to spend too little or save too much each month could create frustration, which will increase the likelihood that you will dump your budget altogether. Instead, map out incremental changes you can make that will add up to big financial gains over time.

  • Keep goals in mind. Reminding yourself how you would ultimately like your money to work for you can help with exercising control over impulsive spending habits. Consider making your goals visual if you have a hard time picturing your long-term goals when you are tempted to splurge. Try keeping a picture of your ideal retirement in your wallet or a list of all the reasons you want that new car stuck to the fridge. 

  • Reward yourself. It is important to keep long-term goals in mind, but rewarding yourself for small budgeting wins along the way will keep you feeling positive about your budget. The more positively you feel toward a task, the more likely you are to continue performing it. After you reach certain budgeting goals, treat yourself to a small splurge. You earned it!

  • Seek help. Consider asking for help if you are struggling with sticking to a budget. Sometimes, aid can come in the form of a family member who shares household finances. Other times, however, you may require an expert opinion. DoverPhila Federal Credit Union offers free financial counseling to members and is always happy to aid with budget set-up and maintenance.

DoverPhila Federal Credit Union is here to help you reach your financial resolutions. Call the credit union at 330-364-8874 or visit your local credit union for more information.

5 Scams to Avoid on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be great fun – but they can also put you at great risk. Scams abound on the weekend that heralds the holiday shopping season, and you don’t want a phishing scheme or a bogus bargain to turn you into a Grinch. 

Here are five scams to look out for as you brave the frenzied crowds while trying to snag the best deals after Thanksgiving. 

1. BOGUS CRAZY DEALS 
An iPhone X retailing at just $12? A pair of Ugg boots for $9? These deals sound insane because they are. And yet, thousands of people fall for these scams. And, of course, once the scammers have your credit card information, they’ll use it for their own shopping spree – on your dime. 

Be smarter: Don’t believe any advertised price that is ridiculously low. 


2. GIFT CARDS FOR CHEAP 
In the weeks before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you might see an explosion of gift cards being sold at online marketplaces for a fraction of their real value. These cards are usually stolen from their real owners, who will likely report them lost. The card will be disabled and you’ll have spent your money on a worthless piece of plastic. 

Be smarter: Don’t buy any super-cheap gift cards 


3. BAIT AND SWITCH
 
Want to win a brand new iPhone X? Just fill out a form with your personal details, and you might be the lucky winner! Your personal details and a site whose authenticity you can’t verify are two things that should never meet. The sweepstakes is just the scammer’s bait to get at your information. 

“Bait and switch” scams can happen offline. Retailers advertise deals so amazing that you’ll find yourself travelling across town to grab the bargains. Once you reach the store, though, you’ll be told those items are sold out, but you can check out what they do have in stock. You may be offered similar, but inferior, products and cheap knockoffs, or nothing you’re interested in at all. These scams are a waste of your time and money. 

Be smarter: Don’t enter any sweepstakes or believe advertisements for heavily marked-down prices on sites and stores you’re unfamiliar with. 


4. DELIVERY PROBLEMS
 
If you receive an email claiming there’s been a problem with the delivery of one of your purchases, be wary. You may be asked to click on a link or download an attachment to arrange an alternative delivery date. Ignore these emails; they’re likely to be scams. If you have a problem with the delivery of your purchase, contact the seller or company directly. 

Be smarter: Never download anything or click on a link from an unverifiable source. 


5. WIRE TRANSFERS
This Black Friday and Cyber Monday, use your credit card. It offers you the most protection against purchases that don’t turn out to be what you expected. A debit card can be a good choice, too, if you’re only shopping at stores and sites you trust and frequent often. 

Never agree to an online purchase demanding payment via money order or wire transfer. These are favorites among scammers since they are similar to paying with cash – once the money has changed hands, there’s almost no way you can get it back. 

Be smarter: When frequenting unfamiliar stores and sites, use your credit card. 

Be an educated shopper this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and outsmart scammers!

How to Choose the Correct Credit Card for You

Choosing the best credit card for your lifestyle can have a considerable impact on your overall financial health.

In an Ohio Credit Union League 2018 consumer survey, 73 percent of respondents stated they use at least one or two credit cards every month. Of those who regularly utilized credit cards, 39 percent carried up to $1,000 in credit card debt. Another 30 percent owed between $1,000 and $5,000. According to the Ohio Credit Union League’s Quarterly Performance Summary (2nd Quarter, 2018), the average credit card balance held at Ohio credit unions was $2,142.

Ohioans are right in line with national trends as 71 percent of Americans have at least one credit card, according to The Motley Fool. About 18 percent of Americans have three or four credit cards in their wallet, and those cards tend to carry debt.

With the possibility that their credit cards could carry significant debt, it’s not surprising consumers want to shop around before choosing a card.

The majority of respondents in the Ohio Credit Union League consumer survey, about 44 percent, said they look for the best interest rates and lowest fees in their credit cards. According to Experian, most Americans shop for credit cards with a similar mindset; 54 percent seek out a card with no annual fee, while 40 percent look for a low-interest rate. It’s not all business, though. Another 45 percent of Americans and 32 percent of Ohioans said perks, including points for travel, discounts, and other rewards, could influence them to apply for a card.

Americans might have clear motivations for seeking credit cards, but that doesn’t mean they’re easily finding the cards that suit their needs. Although consumers know they should shop for the best deals, according to the Experian survey, 69 percent of Americans said they feel researching the correct card is too time-consuming. Another 61 percent said they become overwhelmed by the number of options available, and 57 percent said it’s too difficult to tell which card would work best for them.

Still, the majority of respondents in the Experian survey, 64 percent, said they believe their perfect credit card is out there, they just haven’t found it, yet.

Don’t let stress over choosing the best credit card deter you from using plastic to pay. Here are tips for finding the perfect credit card:

  • Check your credit. Higher credit scores are more likely to be approved for credit cards with better perks, while those with lower scores may need to shop around more. It’s best to begin the research process knowing your score, rather than being declined for the credit card you want after searching. Federal law entitles you to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. AnnualCreditReport.com is a federal- authorized site where you can find your score.

  • Figure out what type of credit card you need. Consumers can choose between cards that help improve limited or damaged credit, cards that save money on interest, and cards that earn rewards. Additionally, some consumers choose cards to transfer a balance from an existing credit card. Be sure you’re choosing the card most beneficial to your current situation. Check out the credit cards offered at DoverPhila Federal Credit Union.

  • Decide how likely you are to carry a balance. If you know your credit card will carry debt you won’t be able to pay off right away, you should search for cards with low annual percentage rates. Otherwise, you could end up with card payments that don’t fit into your budget and that drag out longer than expected. Make sure you know how much you can realistically afford to pay in finance charges each month and shop around accordingly.

  • Read all the fine print. Thoroughly research and understand how your potential credit card will fit into your budget. You may be attracted to a card because of its 0 percent APR introductory offer, but make sure you understand how long that offer lasts and what you’ll be paying in finance charges once that rate changes. Some cards also include annual fees, late fees, and foreign transaction fees you should be aware of before you apply. Be sure you understand everything about your new card so you can use it as wisely as possible.

  • Look to a credit union. DoverPhila Federal Credit Union offers competitive rates on credit cards that are tailored to your spending habits, along with reward programs.

Learn more about how DoverPhila Federal Credit Union can help you make a savvy credit card choice. Visit any DoverPhila location or call 330-364-8874 to speak with a credit union member service representative.

DoverPhila Partners with Area Organizations to Offer Financial Literacy Program

DoverPhila Federal Credit Union is partnering with OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County and United Way of Tuscarawas County, Inc. to offer a financial literacy workshop for area residents.  “Master Your Money – Simple Tips to Improve Cash Flow” is scheduled for Thursday, August 2nd from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County located at 1260 Monroe Street in New Philadelphia. 

The workshop offers easy, straightforward techniques to achieve financial goals. Topics include tackling expenses, increasing savings, and improving credit. Attendees have the option of bringing their own financial information to the workshop to create a personalized spending plan.

“Financial difficulties due to lack of employment and or other employment related issues are what many of the customers we serve face each day.  Through this collaboration with United Way of Tuscarawas County, Inc. and DoverPhila Federal Credit Union, we hope to assist area residents with tools and information to help them become financially stable and achieve financial independence,” said JoAnn Breedlove, COO of the Workforce Initiative Association and OhioMeansJobs Centers in Stark and Tuscarawas Counties. 

“The United Way of Tuscarawas County is pleased to collaborate with OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County and the DoverPhila Federal Credit Union,” said Robin Waltz, President of United Way of Tuscarawas County, Inc. “Bringing together organizations with common missions and goals is a win-win for the Tuscarawas County community.”

For further details, contact OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County at 330-364-9777. Pre-registration is suggested, but not required.

Seven Ways to Spring Clean for Extra Cash

When that first delightful spring breeze starts blowing, you know it’s time to get your house in shape.

The warmer weather and the brilliant sunshine pouring through your windows can fill you with boundless energy. You’re going to banish those dust bunnies! Every piece of useless clutter must go! You are on a mission to turn your home into a sparkling palace that is completely free of junk. But there’s more than just a neat house awaiting you at the end of all that hard work. Here’s how you can spring clean your way to riches – well, almost. You won’t become a millionaire from your junk, but you’ll put some spare cash in your pocket just by taking a few extra steps while clearing out the clutter. And that’s always a good thing! 

Trade in your electronics.
Gather all those old gadgets and devices you no longer use and bring them to your local electronics store. They’ll likely offer you a gift card for your treasures. Some larger chains, like Best Buy, run a retail-collection program to help you responsibly dispose of old electronics, giving you the chance to earn a gift card. 

Get cash at the consignment store.
Your outdated clothing might be someone else’s idea of high fashion. Bring your old clothing to a consignment shop to see what they’re willing to buy from you. You can also search for consignment chains, like Plato’s Closet or Clothes Mentor, or look up online consignment shops like ThredUp, Tradesy or Poshmark.

Trade in your video games.
If you’ve got a serious gamer at home, consider trading in your old games at GameStop. You’ll get store credit while getting rid of that huge pile of video games!  

Sell old books.
Look up local bookstores that buy back books and bring your collection of old books to them in exchange for cash. If you’ve got a stack of textbooks lying around, sell them online on BookFinder, Cash4Books or eCampus. 

Sell your expensive electronics.
If you’ve got older smartphones or laptops that are in decent condition, they should be able to fetch you a pretty penny. Try selling your stuff on Gazelle.com. They offer free shipping, and once your item is officially logged by the company, you’ll get paid via check, gift card, or PayPal. It’s an easier, faster option than selling on Craigslist or e-Bay. 

Get cash for unused gift cards.
Do you have a pile of gift cards you’ll never use? There are loads of sites that offer a gift-card exchange. Though you may not make back the full amount, you’ll usually score a decent offer. 

Try your luck at giftcard.com, giftcardgranny.com, or tradya.com and fatten up your wallet with greenbacks instead of useless cards. 

Donate to charity.
Donating unused clothing, toys or electronics to charity might be the most worthwhile way to get rid of clutter. As an added bonus, donating goods to charity will earn you a tax deduction, so long as you keep your receipt. 

Spring cleaning is a chore that has to be tackled with lots of energy, time, and hard work. With a bit of extra planning, you can earn some cash in return for the work. 

Want more cash-saving tips? As a member of DoverPhila, you qualify for exclusive discounts and benefits on products and services that you use every day through Love My Credit Union Rewards. Credit union members have already saved nearly $2 billion with Love My Credit Union Rewards discounts. So if you are looking for more ways to save, then check out www.lovemycreditunion.org.

Surviving the Holidays with Your Sanity Intact

With crowded stores and an ever-growing list of people to shop for, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and to overspend on your holiday shopping. No worries, though; we’ve got you covered! Read on for pre-and post-holiday tips and have yourself a jolly December without breaking the bank.

 6 Pre-Holidays Tips

1. Revise your gift list
Chances are, lots of the people you exchange gifts with would be relieved to be taken off your list. Talk to co-workers and acquaintances about just exchanging cards this year, or make a deal to only exchange homemade or inexpensive gifts. This way, you can focus on buying special gifts for those closest to you instead of generic gifts for everyone you’ve ever met.

2. Organize a Yankee Swap or Secret Santa
Still got a mile-long list? Try one of these creative solutions! A Yankee Swap or a Secret Santa activity saves money and stress while adding a bit of intrigue to any party. Everyone involved only needs to bring a single gift – and it’s always fun. Set a reasonable price cap on gifts so no one walks out with a candy cane while the person next to them hauls off a flat-screen TV.

3. Bake holiday treats
Reduce the financial weight of the season by whipping up your own holiday treats instead of buying gifts. It’s hard to find the perfect gift, but no one turns down a tin of homemade holiday cookies!

4. Make a budget and stick to it
We all plan to stick to a budget this holiday season – make this the year it really happens. Set an absolute limit to how much you will spend on the holidays.  This will encourage you to plan your spending rather than grabbing impulse items as you shop.

5. Make use of holiday deals….but don’t get distracted
When prices drop, we sometimes go wild, snatching up random items because we don’t want to miss out on those “crazy, low holiday prices.” Make use of these deals by buying items on your list at a discounted price – but don’t buy things you don’t need.

6. Rethink giving
Instead of running to the mall again, think of other ways you can give that will make the world a better place and truly brighten someone’s holiday. It’s the perfect time of year to volunteer at local soup kitchens, homeless shelters and charity organizations.

2 Post-Holiday Tips

1. Use those gift cards
Gift cards are a typical holiday gift, but they’re often forgotten and unused. Put your gift cards in your wallet and spend them creatively.  If you’re not a fan of on-the-go coffee, use your Starbucks gift card to pick up ground coffee beans to use at home.  Rent a movie with your iTunes card.  Whatever it might be, just use those gift cards!

2. Re-gift
You’ll probably wind up with a bunch of gifts you don’t want.  Hold onto them; many gifts can be re-gifted next year or used as birthday gifts throughout the year.