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Your Money in Today’s World

Expert Tips for Spending, Saving, and Borrowing Smarter

While 2020 has been a year of rapid changes and speedbumps, Elements Financial is here as a trusted source of financial advice. Our credit union believes in ensuring our members and community are well equipped to successfully maneuver their financial journey.

Recently, three members of our Business Development team discussed trending financial topics and tips for keeping money in your wallet during turbulent times. If you missed the stream, head over to our Facebook page to watch this Elements Live broadcast.

We’ve identified best practices for spending, saving, and borrowing smarter:

SPENDING BEHAVIORS

During the recent stay-at-home orders, many have experienced a shift in their traditional spending habits. While some spent less money since their spending options decreased, others experienced financial hardships such as job loss or reduced hours that led to forced spending cuts. Here are two of our favorite ways to track your spending and find places to trim your budget:

Swipe Challenge

Do you find yourself swiping, inserting, or tapping your credit or debit card often? If so, our experts recommend you try the Swipe Challenge. How does it work?

  • Keep a log of every time that you use your credit or debit card for one week.
  • After the first week, add up the number of total uses. Subtract any essential purchases such as a utility or cell phone bill that you may have used your card to pay.
  • Then, set a goal for the next week to cut down your number of ‘swipes’ by 25-50% and keep another log of your spending.

This challenge will put spending patterns at the forefront of your mind and help you determine which purchases are essential and which could be eliminated. After reducing your number of debit or credit card swipes, be sure to take any excess money and put it in your savings or use it to pay down debt.

Two-Week Spending Journal

Our financial wellness team recommends that you keep a two-week journal of all of your spending if you’re looking to cut down your budget. From grabbing your morning coffee to ordering a late-night snack for delivery, keeping a log of each purchase get a grasp on your spending habits and better understand wants versus needs.

Download a template for our Two-Week Spending Journal that guides you to categorize your spending into four categories:

  1. Fixed Expense: This is an essential expense that typically costs the same amount each time that it is paid. An example is the cost of a rent or mortgage payment monthly.
  2. Variable Expense: This is an expense that occurs regularly but may adjust in cost each time that you pay it. An example would be an electric bill that is based on usage. 
  3. Periodic Expense: This type of expense occurs somewhat regularly but does not happen consistently every week or month. An example is paying your auto insurance twice per year.
  4. One-Time Expense: This expense is something that does not occur on any kind of schedule and will likely never be the same again. An example of this is buying dinner from a fast food restaurant.

Once you list and categorize your expenses for two weeks, consider your options for reducing your spending. Our experts discuss strategies for trimming your budget in our Slash Your Spending Advice article. 

Download our Two-Week Spending Journal

SAVING BEHAVIORS

It’s more important than ever to have money tucked away in savings. However, a savings account without categories can be difficult to manage. We recommend that you divide your savings into these three buckets to avoid spending it on unnecessary expenses:

$1,000 Emergency Fund

This should only be used in the case of a completely unexpected emergency, then replaced as quickly as possible. You would use this cash if you had a situation arise such as a flat tire on your commute to work.

3-6 Months of Expenses

This should only be accessed if you have experienced a significant financial difficulty that has left your income lower than usual. Hopefully, you won’t need to use this cash but if you were to lose your job or be forced to work reduced hours – this cash could supplement.

Diversified Long-Term Investment Strategy

This money is set aside to prepare for your future. It’s important to contribute to this category to have savings for long-term goals including retirement or major purchases such as a new home. You’ll want to devise a careful and individualized plan for these funds, so utilizing the knowledge of the LPL Financial Advisors at Elements Wealth Management can be a useful resource.

One of the best ways to kick off your savings is with the 52 Week Savings Challenge. Download a copy of this document and cross off an amount every week. By the end of one year, you’ll have $1,000 saved to put in your emergency fund. Then, continue the challenge and add money to your other savings accounts in future years.

Download our Fifty-Two Week Savings Challenge

60% of Americans do not have the money saved to take care of a $1,000 unexpected expense.

- Todd Shickel | VP, Business Development

BORROWING BEHAVIORS

Taking out loans for major purchases can help you buy items like a home or car without draining your bank account. Want more money in your wallet? Ensure that you’re getting the best rates and deals each time you apply for a new loan. Additionally, you can borrow smarter by continuing to monitor the rate environment and your credit score to see if you qualify for better rates even after opening the loan. In many cases it makes sense to complete a loan refinance to save on your monthly payments.

Rate Adjustments

Watch for rates to drop or promotional rates to be announced before considering a refinance of your mortgage or auto loan. You can explore the competitive rates that Elements offers on our Rates page. Contact our team to inquire about saving money from a refinance today!

Monitor Your Credit Score

Your score, ranging from 300-850, tells lenders how likely you are to repay your bills and impacts the interest rates that you’re charged. Monitor your score in Elements Online Banking and as you work to increase it, see if you qualify for a better interest rate on your current loans.

Calculate Your Savings

If you’re curious about saving money on your loans, consider using Elements Calculators to quickly preview an estimate of what your monthly auto, mortgage or credit card payments would be at our credit union.

Consider a Balance Transfer

Credit cards typically have the highest interest rate of any lending product. If you carry a balance on your card, consider completing a balance transfer and moving the amount you owe to a lower interest rate. Compare Elements credit card options to learn about how a balance transfer could save you from paying extra interest in the future. 

Have questions? Our credit union is here for you. Contact Elements Financial for support in all aspects of your financial life. 

Learn more about your money in today’s world from a previously live broadcast of Elements Live. Click here to watch our 20-minute seminar on Facebook.

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