Every year so many people resolve to get their finances in order. It’s an awesome goal – if you can stick to it, which most don’t.
Follow along as we break this seemingly impossible goal into small weekly challenges that you can easily do in a week.
You can start at any time, even in March or July. Just do one task per week and you’ll be on your way to having a handle on your financial life. You’ll be surprised how easy it is!
OK, let’s do this thing already.
Set a financial goal or 3 and then follow along all year with Heartland Credit Union’s 52 weekly financial resolutions. Each week it’s an easy bite-sized action item to keep you on track toward meeting your goals!
PS – welcome to your best year yet!
Lose the paper. Go Digital. Here’s how:
- Make a list of bills or monthly expenditures. Every invoice and monthly statement.
- Set up each one for digital delivery. Break it down and do it over this week – a few each day.
This will help you get a handle on your monthly expenses. No more avoiding that pile of mail that may or may not have overdue bills in it. Setting up digital delivery will trigger an email reminder so you can pay bills on time.
PS – paperless is better for the environment. We all know that but look at you – doing it and saving the world. You rock!
This week we’ll lay the foundation of a little something called Making Life Easier So I Can Get Back To Fun Stuff. 2 easy steps this week:
- Download the Heartland Credit Union Mobile App
Apple App Store Link
Android Google Play Store Link
- Sign up for Heartland Credit Union’s Online and Mobile Banking. You can complete the registration process on your desktop here OR do it in the Mobile App. Once you log in to one, use the same credentials for the other.
Voilà! You now have access to your accounts and a bunch of tools no matter where you are!
These tools make life easier by saving you time (no more going to the branch to deposit a check!), and by automating tasks, like regular transfers and payments.
PS These platforms are pretty intuitive so you’ll quickly get good at using these tools because… well….let’s just say it out loud: you’re amazing.
It’s time to dream a little. Set three financial goals for this year. It’s totally ok if you have no idea how you’re going to achieve them, but they should be fairly realistic. We’re going for success and we want real wins. Get really specific.
Good examples could be like:
— Pay off my Discover card
— Cut down how much I spend eating out by 25%
— Save $5000 for a 2024 dream vacation to the Caribbean
— Open your own hair salon
— Buy a hybrid or electric car
— Raise my credit score by 20 points
Take some time and think about what needs to happen in your financial life so you can feel like you’re getting ahead and then write down those goals. Post it on your computer or refrigerator so you can keep your eye on the prize. OR if you’re the crafty type, make a vision/dream board, bedazzle the heck out of it.
PS Get some glitter pens, they’ll change your life. Financial stuff is way more fun with lots of sparkle, Sunshine.
It’s that time of year again. When all these pesky tax forms start arriving in your mailbox or email – 1099this and 1095that. Ugh, not only does tax season give folks the heebie-jeebies, it’s just downright overwhelming. Whether you do you taxes yourself (bless your optimism and courage) or pay someone to do them for you (saving most of us from needing to file an extension) we all need to be organized. So let’s relax and take it one step at a time.
This week’s task is to corral your documents which will help you feel on the ball – because you WILL BE! Folders can be tangible paper or digital online ones – you do you.
You’ll need two folders. The first one is for those 2022 documents that are currently flooding your inbox or mailbox. This will also be a handy place to store your completed returns after you file them. The next folder is for 2023 documents. Look at you planning ahead! Now every time you get a tax related receipt, like for making a donation you can stick that receipt right in the 2023 folder, greatly reducing the runaround at this time next year.
Once you have your two folders, gather your 2022 documents so you’re all set to either ship them off to your tax person, or sit down and do them yourself, once you have everything you need.
PS While you’re doing this step, relax and throw out some good vibes to the tax-refund gods. Couldn’t hurt, right?
It’s been 6 weeks and you’re still doing this! Still taking small weekly steps to improve your financial situation – go, you!!
This week we’re prepping to set up a budget. Ah! Don’t run. I know you’re thinking “I’ve tried this before and it never works.” Well, darlin’ this is same, same but different. Different because it will happen in tiny steps, like you’ve been doing. You can do small steps.
All you have to do this week is start wrapping your big brain around the IDEA of creating and sticking to a budget – tracking spending, charting income and expenditures. I know you’re getting sweaty but hang in there. It’s only a mental exercise this week. Each day, pay attention to where you’re spending money and on what. Just notice. Start thinking about your income stream. Dream about sexy spreadsheets. Picture yourself working a successful budget – you look good, don’t you?
Next week we’ll do some work, but it will be a gentle small task, because you can do those.
PS You are anything but same, same so give yourself a little pre-budget-I-can-do-this pat on the back.
Hey Sugar Sprinkles, it’s time to start prepping your budget! In this step you’re going to look at your income and determine your 50/30/20 amounts.
- 50% is for mandatory expenses that you absolutely need to survive – such as: rent, utilities, minimum debt payments, and groceries, etc.
- 30% is for discretionary expenses that you don’t NEED to survive like Starbucks, new clothes, travel, gifts, donuts. Wait! For some of us, donuts are in the mandatory expenses category, amiright? Sorry Sprinkles, they really have to stay here with the wants. And so does your music and video streaming services AND EVEN (this will be harder to believe than the donut madness, so maybe sit down) your cell phone. Gulp. Ok, well… maybe that can be up for discussion at a later point. Let’s keep an open mind.
- The last 20% is for savings and paying down debt – yay!
Now figure out what amount of your net paycheck (after-taxes) will be for needs (50%), wants (30%) and how much is for saving and paying down debt (20%).
Here’s an example: your bi-weekly net income is $1996. So 50% is $998 for needs, 30% is $598 for wants and 20% $400 for savings and reducing debt.
Some of us have talents other than math, so use this handy 50/30/20 CALCULATOR from our friends at Kohler Credit Union.
Hang on to these figures. We’ll put them to work soon.
PS Sprinklicious, you deserve a donut – it doesn’t matter from where – there is no bad donut. Well, maybe plain cake ones. Who picks those on purpose?!? Srsly.
This week we will think about things differently and start tracking expenses. Here is a super simple expense tracking google sheet.
After clicking the link and opening the Google Sheet MAKE A COPY of the file in order to input your info. If you don’t, the document is VIEW ONLY and it won’t be useful. Once you have your own copy it’s time to begin entering EVERY expense you have each day. You can access Google Sheets on your computer, tablet or phone, so no excuses, Sunshine. Set an alarm for yourself twice a day to input expenses, if it helps you remember to do it. Once you have a couple of expenses logged, scroll down to line 100 and you’ll see them totaled up.
If you don’t like this Google Sheet, search “Best expense tracking apps” and you might find a tracker that works better for you. The trick is to make it easy for yourself. You’ll be more likely to stick with it.
You can also go back over bank and credit card statements to see where you have been spending in the past and add in those expenses as well.
You want a pretty accurate number for your expenses once we create your working budget, so keep tracking week after week for a few months. Try to make it a habit each day.
Extra credit – copy your expenses to the second tab (at the bottom) and start dividing them into categories like groceries, gas, gifts, treats, school supplies, etc.
PS Examining your spending habits and expenses can cause anxiety and stir up hard feelings. Be extra kind to yourself and remember these efforts will HELP YOU get where you want to be. It doesn’t matter how you got here. And it doesn’t say anything about your character – we think you’re awesome! You dare to think about things differently. You win.
While you’re still tracking your expenses (from Resolution #8) and kicking some booty, BTW, we’ll do an easy but powerful task this week. It’s time to set yourself up for a joyful holiday season!
One of the easiest and best things you can do for your financial life is open a holiday savings account and contribute a little at a time, throughout the year. This little tiny step will make you so happy, you won’t even believe it. Most of us spend a bunch of money each year on holiday gift-giving. Sometimes we use credit cards and then spend the rest of the year paying that back. This is kind of like that but in reverse and it’s way better on your credit score.
1. Open a special-purpose holiday savings account.
2. Set up an automatic deposit so you can build the balance bit by bit every time you get paid. This is super easy to do in Online or Mobile Banking.
3. the best part: Do nothing else all year except keep your mittens off that stash.
4. On November 1, transfer your stash to your checking account and – like magic – it’s available for shopping!
How do you figure out how much to set up for your automatic transfers? Set yourself a limit of how much you want to spend ($xx per person, or a total amount) and divide it by the number of paychecks you’ll get between now and November 1.
PS Don’t let this step pass you by. The feeling of accomplishment you will have at the end of the year, knowing you’re spending cash or “cash” (via your debit card), is ahhhhmazing. Santa got nothing on you, Snickerdoodle.
This week take a deep breath and try out a type of budget called Zero Sum. This method is great for folks who feel like they live paycheck to paycheck or if all your big expenses come due close to the same date. This tends to leave you feeling like you have no money for half the month and lots of money for the other half. This method will balance things out.
Zero sum budgeting means that your income minus your expenses will equal zero. Every dollar will be accounted for. Your expenses will include savings, paying down debt, and any place your money goes.
Add up your fixed expenses for the month (like rent/mortgage, cell plan, car payment, insurance, etc.) and divide it in half. Next time you get paid, transfer that amount to a special purpose savings account as a holding place until you have the other half and can pay the expense.
The amount that’s left after you subtracted half your fixed expenses from your paycheck is your “spending money”. This is for your variable expenses like groceries, gifts, gas, etc. If you have leftover “spending money” when you get your next check, put it in savings or use it to pay down debt.
Do the same thing with the following paycheck. This time you’ll have the full amount in your savings holding account that you need to pay your fixed expenses.
Here is a spreadsheet that you can use or modify. Before you can customize it go to File<make a copy.
PS You’re doing this for YOU. Your time is NOW. Keep in mind that budgets are fluid, Lovely. You don’t want it to feel scratchy and stiff with no flexibility, because that is hard, if not impossible, to stick to.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
Like, anyone. Not your showoff sister in her new Lexus, or the guy in front of you at Starbucks with the fancy, non-salt-stained loafers in the middle of winter.
You don’t need to live up to anyone’s standards but your own. There are lots of ways to have a happy, successful life. And making smart choices and achieving your personal goals are likely contributing factors.
It doesn’t matter WHERE you find yourself, at this moment, on your financial journey. And it really doesn’t matter HOW you got here. This is where you are. And we’re glad you’re here, you’re in the right place.
Your situation is yours and yours alone. Accept where you’re at and OWN IT. Cast all guilt aside. It won’t help you get where you want to go. Practice positive self-talk.
PS THIS is your starting line. And you’re going to win this race, honeybunny. Yes, you are.
It’s time to try another budgeting method this week. This one uses cash envelopes or the digital equivalent: special use savings accounts. The envelope method requires you to cash your paycheck and then divide the cash into envelopes for different spending categories.
Go back and look at your 50/30/20 amounts. This method works well for the 30 part of that budget – your variable categories like groceries, gas/electric, clothing and gifts.
Estimate how much you will need for the month in each category and put that amount of cash in each envelope. Every time you have an expense in that category, use the cash from the envelope. Whatever you have left in each envelope at the end of the month can go towards saving or paying down debt.
Buttercup, you might be thinking: CASH? Don’t be silly!! Just use savings accounts like envelopes: as containers to hold the money until you need to spend it. Open a special use savings account for each category. Instead of cashing your check, transfer the amount you’ll need to each account. When you spend it, you transfer it back to your checking. This method takes a lot of attention. You’ll likely want to check your account and move money daily if you have a lot of expenses. But it will make you more aware of what you’re spending which helps you stay on track.
Try not to move money between containers. Estimate category expenses as accurately as possible. This will help you stick to and work your budget.
Do you see how this is all pulling together now? You are making great strides towards having total control over your financial future. Be proud.
PS If you decide to try the envelopes, get out your glitter pens and make them fun and fancy!
Are you seeing spreadsheets in your dreams yet?
We’ve been talking a lot about and practicing budgeting. We’ve tried a Zero Sum budget and the cash envelope/savings account method. There are a bunch of free spreadsheets on the internet if you search for them. Here is a collection of Google templates: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/0/?ftv=1 OR if you prefer Excel, here is a bunch of templates for that: https://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/budgets.html.
If you’re still having a hard time getting a budget off the ground, try some face-to-face assistance from Heartland Credit Union’s financial coaches. They can help with several things including BUDGETING! Imagine how great it would be to get a personalized budget and someone who cares about your success. Call 800.363.3944 to make an appointment or stop in any branch and ask for the financial coach. They can even meet with you virtually at any Heartland Credit Union location.
No excuses. Nope. You can’t quit already. You committed at the New Year to take things step by little step to improve your financial situation or get closer to reaching your financial goals. You can do this! We’re here by your side. You just have to reach out.
PS When other things in your life feel out of control, a strong, solid budget can help you feel more steady. It’s easier to keep your eye on your goals and see yourself reaching them! Hang tough, things will get easier, Snow Angel.
There are several ways you have influence over your budget and they all fall under two main categories: increasing your income or decreasing spending. This week we’ll look at one way to decrease spending: negotiate your bills. Ooof, this sounds like exactly no fun at all, right? You probably don’t want to seem pushy and be firm. But just think of this as a business. Not personal.
If you could save some money each month, wouldn’t that be worth a little discomfort? Over the long haul, it sure is, Wild Child. Your “business” is getting YOU ahead financially and only one person has that job – YOU!
Here are some easy steps to help you negotiate a bill. You could start with your cable/internet bill.
- Research competitor pricing to give you leverage during negotiations.
- Call customer service and let them know you’re trying to save some money. Ask if they’ve got any promos or discounts available at the moment.
- Mention competitors’ pricing if the representative doesn’t offer any discounts.
- Be polite but firm and explain that you’ve been loyal and would like to continue using their services, but need a better price.
- Ask about hidden fees and ask if they can be waived or reduced.
- Follow up after negotiating. Review your next bill to ensure that the agreed-upon discount or promotion has been applied and if it hasn’t, contact customer service to get it right.
PS Negotiating your bills can feel like a battle, but remember – the worst that can happen is they say no, and you’re right back where you started, but with the satisfaction of knowing you got out of your comfort zone and tried!
Hey cupcake, this week we’re looking at more ways to curb spending – this time around food. We all know these basic tips even if we don’t practice them, we know them. Maybe this is just the reminder you need to put a few into practice. Here are the typical tips for saving money on your food budget:
- Plan your meals
- Shop smart
- Cook at home
- Reduce food waste
- Use coupons and loyalty programs
- Grow your own food
To put a little frosting on your cake here are some not-so-known tips:
- Switch to a plant based diet: beans, lentils, and grains are often less expensive than animal based products. Fruits and vegetables can also be less expensive if you buy them in season and in bulk.
- Host a potluck: Instead of going out to eat with friends, host a potluck where everyone brings a dish to share. This saves money and allows you to try new foods and recipes.
- Join a food co-op: Food co-ops are member-owned grocery stores that offer natural and organic foods at discounted prices. Members volunteer their time or purchase shares in the store.
- Participate in a food swap where people gather to trade homemade or homegrown food items with each other such as baked goods, preserves, or produce from their gardens.
Try to put 2 or 3 of these tips into your routine and you’ll start saving money right away.
PS Don’t forget that while you’re doing these bite sized financial improvement steps week after week, to treat yourself – maybe with cake!?!? Yummm.
Keep going, you’re doing AWESOME! Resolutions 16-30