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.

Cash Flow Budgeting: A Fast, Flexible Way to Fix Your Finances

You’ve heard it from a million places: Budget your money! Make a firm plan and stick with it. It’s the pathway to prosperity!

For many people, though, that advice just doesn’t resonate. They feel constricted by a budget. Keeping cash in separate envelopes makes them feel like they can’t have a life. It takes too much planning and too much rigid denial. They break their budget and sometimes wind up in serious financial trouble.

Other people have an inconsistent cash flow, making creating and keeping a budget difficult. Maybe they’re freelancers who work gig-to-gig. Maybe they’re in commissioned sales. Maybe their hours fluctuate from month to month. Whatever the reason, it’s hard to make a detailed plan when your bottom line changes every month.

The answer isn’t to give up on budgeting. The collective wisdom, that monitoring your expenses and income streams is the way to stability, still holds true. It might just require a different approach to budgeting: cash flow focus.

Cash flow focus is the strategy used by most businesses. They pay their fixed costs, and whatever is left is used to grow the business. You can manage your finances the same way. Just follow these four steps:

1. Automate your savings. Even if you disregard everything else in this article, implementing this one tip can be life-changing. Figure out how much of your income you can save, and then take that out as soon as you get paid. You can set up monthly transfers from your draft account to your savings account. You can also divide the money between the accounts on a per deposit basis. How you choose to do so is less important than doing so.

Like the saying goes, pay yourself first. This savings provides you the flexibility to cover big expenses or make major purchases on your schedule. It’s the single most important step in any budget, but it’s even more important with cash flow budgeting.

When you automate your savings, you remove the money you saved from consideration. You can’t spend it; you’ve already spent it on savings. The importance of this kind of savings will become more clear once you see this budget in action.

2. Pay your needs and your priorities. Make a list of your essential expenses each month. Include your rent or house payment, your car loan, and your utilities. Also include your student loan payments, your insurance, and other necessary expenses. These are your “fixed costs.” They get paid after your savings contributions are made.

Next, make a list of your priorities. Include your charitable contributions, vacation savings, and retirement account contributions. These are your “growth expenses.” They get paid after your fixed costs.

If you don’t have enough money to make these bills, you don’t need a better budget. You need to lower those bills or increase your income. No amount of spreadsheet magic will change that bottom line.

It’s helpful to automate savings for these expenses, too. That way, you never get caught short on these bills. Transferring this money to a check-only draft account can be a helpful way to ensure you don’t spend it.

3. Spend the leftovers. This message may sound peculiar for personal finance advice. Remember, though, that you’ve already automated your savings. What you’re spending here is the leftovers – the extra that’s left at the end of the month.

 Spend this money however you like – don’t worry about putting this much in entertainment and that much in travel. Just keep track of how much you’ve spent so you don’t accidentally overdraft your account.

This approach allows you to go out or indulge in a latte. You don’t have to worry about including it in your budget. Your spending habits might change as the month goes on, just like a business. If you know there’s a big outing before you get paid again, you may want to save some money for that. You don’t need to say that you can’t go because you didn’t budget for it.

4. Roll over what’s left. If you have worked in a big business, then you have seen departments desperately spending at the end of the fiscal year. Departments buy cases of pens and paper, knowing that they will lose whatever they don’t spend. Fortunately, you’re more flexible than a big business. You don’t have to spend it all. If you have money left over at the end of the month, then you have more to spend the next month.

If you have a month with slightly higher expenses, you can cover it from a previous month’s slightly lower expenses. Your spending will change from month to month, as might your income. So long as you keep the former smaller than the latter in the long run, you’ll be fine.

That’s what cash flow budgeting is about: flexibility. You don’t have to write your non-budgeted spending purposes in stone. You don’t have to mess with cash envelopes or other strategies. You can spend when you have money and save for when you don’t.

DoverPhila Federal Credit Union can help if you’re thinking about adopting a budget. A friendly, knowledgeable financial counselor can walk you through the savings tools you need. You can automate your savings, flex your spending, and build toward financial security. Members can call 330-364-8874 or stop by the credit union’s main office on Fillmore Avenue in Dover for more information.

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!

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.