Let’s face it. Life is full of obstacles, emergencies and trying times that require money. If your furnace blows or you lose your job, do you have cash tucked away to help you through? If the answer is no, this article is for you. That’s because, today, we are talking emergency funds.
What Is An Emergency Fund?
It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a cash reserve that you set aside for unplanned expenses and emergencies. This might include something minor like a trip to the doctor, a blown tire or an unexpected school expense. It might be for something major like making up for lost income or a catastrophic health diagnosis.
Why Do I Need It?
Even a minor financial shock can set you back and cause debt to accumulate. Debt has a lasting effect and sometimes negative impact on a family or individual’s finances.
How Much Should I Save?
If you’re living paycheck to paycheck or have an erratic pay schedule, setting aside even a few dollars can be challenging. That’s why it’s best to start with your own savings goal. A good aim for that initial goal is $1,000. However, most experts agree that you should ultimately aim for three to six months of expenses. Even if your initial goal is just a couple hundred dollars, having something to fall back on will be helpful.
How Do I Build My Emergency Fund?
There are a few approaches you might take:
Save those windfalls. Tax refunds and overtime income make great seed money for an emergency fund.
Pay yourself first. Figure out how much you can feasibly save each paycheck and transfer that amount from your checking to savings before you do anything else. Setting up an automatic transfer to take place on payday is a great way to make sure you are saving toward your goal.
Take on a side hustle. Cut grass in your neighborhood this summer or deliver pizzas on the weekend, there are a number of ways to pick up a few extra bucks a month.
Set aside extras. If the electric bill is lower than you anticipated, save the money – even if it’s just a few bucks!
Sell something. A yard sale is a great way to make some money while clearing out clutter. Have an extra car that you don’t need? The proceeds could go a long way toward preparing you for an emergency.
It may take you a while but having some extra money in the bank will help you avoid debt and give you peace of mind. Even if your goals start small, having that savings when you need it will make a difference!
Need more inspiration? We have written about looking for ways to cut costs. Click below to read more on how you can trim expenses to save more money!
Being a small business owner is a tough job! That’s why we feature a different small business in our Small Business Spotlight every month. Today we learn about a new restaurant in Bremen and the journey the owners had to take to get there.
Ever wonder what goes into opening a small business for the first time? The folks at Rushcreek Pub & Grub have a tale for you!
“I wish I still had that text!” Tara Bobo exclaimed. It was late and Tara was settling in for the night. “Basically I got this text as I’m lying in bed that says something like ‘I want to own a bar/restaurant.’ That’s all it said. It was from my brother Chad.”
With that one statement grew an idea and Tara and her brother Chad Ashbaugh began the journey of opening a family owned business. This was not a lifelong dream for either of them. It was simply a desire to serve the people of their community with a place to gather, have a good meal and enjoy great times.
After that initial text, the siblings engaged in many conversations where they hashed out some basic wants and needs, allowing room for this crazy idea to take form. It had to be family friendly but also serve as a gathering spot for friends and entertainment. A pub and grub, if you will.
Tara and Chad began researching locations and eventually found the perfect spot: a well-known brick building at the busiest intersection in Bremen. It’s known in the area as a former car lot, an old restaurant and home of the Fraternal Order of Eagles. It was the ideal spot.
The only problem? They didn’t know who owned the property or if it would be for sale. As it turns out, the struggle to find answers would be a common theme throughout their journey. As first time business owners, the pair would go on to learn everything about running a restaurant from the ground up.
After connecting with the property owner, their offer was quickly accepted and the wild idea of this endeavor had suddenly become a reality.
Bremen had been a dry town since just after Prohibition was repealed in 1933. That is, no alcohol was sold or allowed inside of businesses within the village until a vote of the residents changed that in 2018. While business are now permitted to serve alcohol, the new law did not mean that every business is inherently able to do so, according to Tara.
She credited finding the right people who could help them navigate acquiring a liquor license. It was a stranger in local government who helped. “I just happened to talk to the right person on the right day – I wish I had her name – at the Board of Elections and she really knew her stuff. She was able to help us out and guide us more than she knows and we were able to get things moving.”
Tara’s daughter Brooke took the lead and got the petition signatures needed to have the issue on the ballot. It passed.
Meanwhile, Chad had begun working on the physical space. He gutted the building, starting from scratch so they could give their ideas room to grow. Tara said that it was intimidating, to say the least. “Chad redid it all on the weekends and I stayed away,” she recalled. She was busy with her career in health care, hesitant to take the plunge completely into the world of entrepreneurship. “I was initially resistant to open. I lacked the confidence in knowing what I was doing as a new business owner, and I just wasn’t yet all-in.”
That’s when another of those “right people” entered the scene and the apprehension began to subside. Local business owner Scott Pletcher connected with Tara and Chad. He used his experience with small business operations and the restaurant industry to guide them through challenging decisions regarding space, logistics and equipment. “He was great. He really knew his way around. Again, he was just the right person for us and a huge help in all of this!”
With the remodel nearing completion, Tara left her healthcare position so she could devote her attention to this crazy adventure they now call Rushcreek Pub & Grub.
“We hired 29 people right away. Shout out to Samantha and Kia, who’ve worked in the industry a long time and helped us with the front of the house operations,” Tara said.
While it was still trial by fire, a friends and family night gave them some needed experience before the big opening. Taking an eyes-wide-open approach, they learned quickly what worked and what needed improvement. They brought in someone to consult on the kitchen work flow and were still making changes shortly after they opened.
And just like that, it all came together and the family business has been moving full steam ahead ever since.
“It’s a true family affair – we’ve had the whole family here helping at different times. Nieces and nephews, inlaws, sister, kids, they’ve all helped along the way in every manner,” she said.
The family Christmas was even held at the restaurant. “We were still new and trying to get this business going so we just held Christmas here. Mom even decorated the tree we had in here,” Tara recalled fondly. “And then we opened up for business that evening!”
Rushcreek Pub & Grub features beautiful rustic industrial style décor that complements the historic brick building. Sit-down and high-top tables join a full bar while a private party room and a full patio are available for outdoor dining and socializing. Combined with a menu of creative appetizers, soups, salads, and sandwiches, it’s truly fit for families and the community.
As they fine-tune operations and grow, they are developing a following for their specials and events as well. They host musicians on the weekends and have held trivia and bingo nights. Some bike nights are planned and Wicked Wing Wednesdays were recently introduced. The back room can be separated into a private space and is able to be used as such. It can also be rented for private events.
“Chad could have bought a bar or restaurant anywhere. There were opportunities. But they weren’t here. We’re community oriented. We want to be here serving our people, our community,” Tara stated, emphasizing the importance of being in this exact location not out of necessity, but desire. “We’re here because we want to be here.”
VCNB is pleased to welcome Heather Boothe back to the bank family. Heather was recently named the new Branch Manager at the bank’s founding location in McArthur.
The Vinton County resident began her banking career in 1996 when she started with the bank as a part time teller. She worked her way up to full time employment as a teller, a customer service representative and eventually Head Teller. In this role, she took on added responsibility and got to serve her customers in an expanded capacity when she began providing some new account services as well.
In recent years, Heather has expanded her banking knowledge with positions at other financial institutions in the region. These experiences have given her an in depth knowledge of banking through positions like universal banker and assistant branch manager. This knowledge and experience will serve her well in leading the team in McArthur.
Yet her heart always was with her roots at VCNB. “I have always loved this bank. This is where I got my start. Bob Will was my first boss and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. He saw things in people and valued people. He valued customers and he taught me to do the same. I want our customers to know they’re more than an account number or a face in line. They’re our neighbors and friends and we will take care of them like we would our own family,” she said.
Heather is a Meigs County native who enjoys travel and the Cincinnati Bengals. She has one grown son, Alec Boothe. She looks forward to becoming more involved and representing the bank in the community. “I love the way our bank gives back to the community and I’m looking forward to being a part of that,” she said. “That’s the thing about community banking. We love our community and the people in it.”
Stop by the bank in McArthur to see Heather and to welcome her home.
While it has been some time since Suellen Nice served VCNB customers as a teller in McArthur, she has long been an anchor behind the scenes and helping a different kind of customer – her bank coworkers – through her role in Human Resources. Much to the dismay of many of her coworkers, the 34 year veteran of the bank will wrap up her VCNB career on February 25.
Suellen began her career at VCNB in 1984 as a receptionist. Her degree in Secretarial Science from the University of Rio Grande made her a great fit for this position answering phones, typing, helping with Jeanie cards and all manner of responsibilities that kept the workday interesting. She left McArthur for a few years and then returned to the bank in 1988 where she tried her hand as a teller, working in McArthur’s old back lobby where customer traffic was constant and the pace was fast. She then returned to receptionist and secretarial duties and also helped out as a New Accounts officer at one time, but found her calling when an opportunity opened up in Human Resources in 1996.
While her duties are varied, her biggest focus involves payroll and benefits administration. Over the years, she has also been a friendly face who welcomed new employees to the bank. As the person who helps employees solve problems and answer questions related to their health care and retirement related benefits, Suellen is known for her problem solving skills and for being a helpful resource. “It gives me a sense that I can help people. It’s my job to try to make things right and I like that I can make life easier for people,” she explained. “Being here for 34 years, I know who does what and who to turn to for answers or help. I enjoy being that person for my coworkers.”
When asked what advice she has for someone new to a job, she encouraged patience and a willingness to learn. “Don’t expect to know everything in a short period of time. Ask questions and learn as you go and remember that you aren’t expected to know everything on the first day. Be willing to listen and learn and you’ll be fine,” she said.
Suellen looks forward to spending more time with her family. Her husband Keith is retired and she’s excited to spend more time with her grandsons who are 6, 2 and 1. She also enjoys reading, antiques, puzzles and travel. “I have no plans other than spending more time with my grandsons but I look forward to the freedom to do what I want,” she smiled.
Even though she looks forward to the freedom that retirement affords, she said that leaving wasn’t an easy decision. “I love my job so it was definitely a hard decision but I think the timing is right. I will miss the people more than anything because I’ve become close to so many people here and I’ll miss those interactions.”
Suellen plans to celebrate her last day quietly with her coworkers in McArthur.
Each year older adults lose billions of dollars to financial exploitation. Defined as the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property or assets, elder financial exploitation is a devastating crime that is becoming increasingly common according to the American Bankers Association (ABA).
It not only impacts an elder’s financial situation, but often takes an emotional toll as well. Victims of such abuse frequently experience intense feelings of fear, depression, anger, and humiliation. In turn, abused elders may be at risk of poorer health outcomes and increased mortality relative to their counterparts. Fraudsters prey on elders because as a whole, older adults possess more financial assets than other demographics.
Seniors tend to own their own homes, have accrued savings over their lifetimes, generally have better credit and tend to be more trusting of others relative to younger populations. Consequently, criminals have engineered specific scams, such as the grandparent scam and other impostor scams, to target America’s elderly.
Here are some examples of crimes against the elderly:
Cemetery/Funeral Scams – Criminals read obituaries and call survivors claiming the deceased owed them a debt to extort money from living relatives.
Charity Scams – Con artists reach out and claim to be from an organization with a carefully crafted name. They ask for a donation to obtain access to financial information, such as credit or debit card numbers. They often pop up after disasters. Others falsely state that they fundraise to support veterans.
Check Fraud – Con artists send people money via check, claim they overpaid, and then ask the victim to send part of it back. But, the original check was fraudulent, so the victim ends up sending their own money to the criminal.
Health Insurance/Medicare Scams – Scammers either pose as Medicare or health insurance representatives to obtain personally identifiable information from elders or provide unnecessary services at makeshift clinics and then bill Medicare to ensure they can keep the money.
Homeowner/MortgageScams – Scammers may send fake, but professional looking letters to people on behalf of their county offering to reassess their home values for a fee to address their tax burdens.
Imposter Scams – Fraudsters may call or send text messages impersonating government officials to manipulate elders into sharing sensitive information. Alternatively, they may pretend to be family members in an emergency situation and claim they need money right away. Scammers may also pose as technology support representatives to offer to fix non-existent computer issues to capture personal information and have seniors pay for useless services.
Online Fraud – Criminals pose as romantic interests on social media platforms or dating websites to exploit older adults out of their life savings. Elders may receive emails asking them to update or verify their personal information from a seemingly legitimate organization, but if they click the links, they will be providing sensitive information to criminals.
Lottery/Sweepstakes Scams – An older adult may receive a message indicating that they won a foreign or domestic prize or lottery, but are required to pay a fee to access their “winnings.”
Telemarketing/Phone Scams – An elder may receive calls from fraudsters indicating that they found a large sum of money and would split it if the elder would provide or pay a smaller sum of money.
Sadly, while these scams are targeted toward older Americans, nearly anyone can fall prey to criminals who are looking to take their money and identity. Share this information with your friends and family to help them protect themselves. Follow us on Facebook and Linkedin for infographics and more. Thanks to the ABA for providing VCNB and other member banks with this valuable information.
We like to shine a spotlight on the unique businesses and hardworking nonprofit organizations doing good things in our communities. We do this every month and hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoy bringing them to you.
When the Ashville Food Pantry announced last year their plan to build a new facility, they expected the fundraising process to last three to five years. Little did they know what was to come. Not only did they raise the funds quickly, they were under roof and serving the community just in time for Thanksgiving.
How did they do it so quickly?
With the support of their community and contributions from the most unexpected sources.
That support came via everything from dollars and dimes to a large anonymous contribution to in-kind donations. While the cost of the project was estimated to come in around $250,000, the showing of respect and support for their mission in the community was priceless.
Director Kris Smith and Board members Ron Delucia and Ed White simply shook their heads when asked how they raised all that money so quickly. “We never dreamed that the fundraising would go so easily. We expected it to take years, not months,” Kris said. “It started with a talk at the Civic Club where I’m a member. I asked the club to donate $7,500 and they donated $10,000. I was floored but it gave me the confidence to start asking more. So now I’m the town beggar,” she exclaimed.
They said that many community members gave their stimulus checks while others gave what they could spare which maybe was just a few dollars.
Those donations came in fast and furious including many in the form of labor and supplies. Ed took the lead on overseeing the construction and said he was amazed at how it all came together. “It was kind of a shock when things just started rolling. We have a great team and everyone does their part to help.”
Columbia Gas donated the gas tap while other donors provided the water and sewer taps and one kind individual gave $50,000 anonymously. The excavation, concrete floor, paving and downspouts were all donated allowing the project to come in under budget and with a little cash to spare.
Ed was very thoughtful about some of the decisions they made when it came to materials and functional design. He is eager to point out the small details that make the place run smoothly and the things they were able to do to make the utility bills less costly. “The space just makes a lot more sense and we have plenty of space for storage but it’s more energy efficient too.”
In fact, he said the new facility has been a game changer for the volunteer board and staff and for how they are able to serve their clients.
The food pantry was started in 1982 by Katie Dum and Inga and Pastor David Koch of the First English Lutheran Church. Representatives of local churches make up an executive board that oversees the operation of the food pantry which was previously located in a home that is owned by the church. That house was not equipped for the food pantry’s growing needs as it lacked the room to store, sort and bag the massive amounts of supplies needed each month.
Size limitations caused donation day to take place outside even in the cold of winter. There was no easy way to move the client bags out of the house other than one bag at a time.
Today, a roll up door makes it easy to bring in large shipments of donated items for sorting. Tall metal carts glide easily over the concrete floor and reinforced heavy duty shelving provides ample space for storage. The building is handicap accessible and equipped with a bathroom. Cold storage units were purchased with grants from South Central Power giving the food pantry the new luxury of on-site freezer and refrigerator space.
All three readily admit that having everything on one floor and the carts for moving supplies have been a blessing for their aging volunteer force. “We can load 48 bags on each cart and it’s much easier on our backs,” Ron explained.
The food pantry is run entirely by volunteers and even the director’s position is unpaid.
They do two distribution days every month. The bags include staples including canned soup, fruit and vegetables, peanut butter, cereal, pasta and sauce, tuna, ramen noodles, jelly and mac and cheese. The first forty bags also include a dozen eggs, cheese and bread. Clients are eligible to receive one bag of supplies each month.
At Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas the bags include special foods for holiday meals. For example, at Thanksgiving clients receive a turkey and a disposable pan to cook it in along with all the fixings for a traditional holiday dinner.
They also give fresh produce each time and clients can receive produce on both of those distribution days. Ron and other volunteers take turns picking up a truckload of produce each month from the fairgrounds in Circleville. The produce donation varies each month but may include celery, potatoes, zucchini, sweet corn, berries, carrots or whatever is in season at the time.
While the produce comes from the Mid-Ohio Foodbank the rest of their donations come from local businesses, schools, churches and individuals. In fact, the schools had a fill the bus campaign at their Homecoming game in September. Not only did they fill one bus, they were able to fill two school buses with donations. Individual classes get in on the action with cereal drives or canned food drives throughout the year. Panera in Canal Winchester even helps by donating day old bread. The partner churches have regular food drives as well, each one assigned a specific kind of food that is most needed at the time.
“It’s incredible because all we have to do is say that we are low on cereal this month or that we need mac and cheese and people always step up to help. This community gives and gives, maybe sometimes when they don’t have it to give. They’re good to us, they’re good neighbors,” Kris said.
The Ashville IGA donated the Thanksgiving turkeys and sells the food pantry eggs and cheese at cost. In December, County Line Meats donated a pound of ground beef for every order placed that month and encouraged their customers to donate a pound as well. In all, they were able to deliver 110 pounds of ground beef to the food pantry at the first of the year.
While they do collect basic information from each client, they do not require proof of income to receive these food donations. They point out that their clients are using the food pantry as needed rather than simply because it’s there. In fact the average client comes just seven to eight times a year. “They’re not coming just because they can get something for free or to take advantage. They’re coming when they truly need to and we’re just glad to be here to help,” Kris said.
She explained that their largest client base is the age 65 and up group. “Many of them are alone and they rely on us to help them through the month. Their spouse has died and they have lost a good part of their income but they still have the same rent and electric bills. Their cost of living doesn’t go down and buying food often is at the bottom of the list because they’re choosing between food and medicine,” she explained.
Ron affirmed that the need is real. “We have people tell us they don’t have any food at home and that this will really help. They have tears in their eyes and they don’t argue with what they get, they don’t complain. They always seem to be glad to see us and we’re just as glad to see them,” he said.
They have a delivery schedule that reaches homebound people in the community. For those folks who can’t get out to shop, they also provide some necessities like laundry detergent and toilet paper. For individuals with pets, the food pantry accepts donations of small pet food as well.
For all the wonderful generosity toward the food pantry, February and March tend to be slower months for donations even though the need is year round. They invite anyone who wishes to help to consider that winter is a time when food pantries tend to need assistance the most.
“We couldn’t be more grateful for the community and for all they have done for us. When we were here building, neighbors brought water and meals and cookies over for the guys working. People have given in ways we never imagined,” Kris said.
It is clear that the food pantry and its volunteers are there simply to be good neighbors. “We aren’t here to judge or to make someone feel bad because they’re here for a helping hand. We’re just here to be that helping hand,” Kris explained.
Ron added “I think the Lord would be really happy with what we’re doing to help others.”
The Ashville Food Pantry serves the residents of Teays Valley Local School District with food assistance and emergency food. They also provide limited financial assistance for housing and utility needs. Want to help? There are bins on the front porch for dropping off food donations after hours. Monetary donations can be made via credit card and PayPal at this link or by sending a check payable to Ashville Food Pantry to 20 Church Street, Ashville, Ohio 43103.
Want to get involved? They are always in need of volunteers to help with all manner of work including sorting donations, packing bags and helping with giveaway day. Keep up with their news, events and needs by following them on Facebook or call 614.687.2442 for information.
The cost of groceries is on the rise and that’s a tough blow to the budget if you’re not prepared. Some traditional ways to cut costs include shopping sales, couponing and trying generic brands. What else can you do? We have some ideas to help you dig a little deeper into your food shopping habits and save some money.
1. Plan Before You Go. Check online for your favorite store’s weekly sales and plan meals around the bargains. If you know you need seven dinners, seven breakfasts and some leftovers for lunches, make a list of what’s on sale that you like to eat. For example, if they have rotisserie chicken and potatoes on sale, plan to have chicken with a baked potato and a veggie for dinner that night. A chicken sandwich will keep you full for lunch the next day. For dinner the next night, use up what’s left of that chicken to make soup, chicken pot pie or even add some barbeque sauce for sandwiches. Potato soup is filling, easy and reheats great. Two sale items can be combined with other things and reworked into a few meals with some simple planning.
2. Shop Once. Every trip to the store will cost you more than you think it should. Even if you run in just to pick up a loaf of bread, you’ll end up spending more than planned unless you have better willpower than we have. That’s because stores are designed to make you walk past lots of good stuff to get to the necessities. Before you know it, that $3 loaf of bread is going home with a dozen donuts, some chocolate milk and boxed mac and cheese. Plus you’ll have sticker shock because you spent ten times more than planned.
3. Be Prepared. Keep some quick foods to grab when you’re tempted to hit the drive-thru. We don’t always want to go home and cook, especially when we’re tired from the day, hungry and the drive-thru line is inexplicably short. Keep frozen pizzas or some skillet meals that can be ready in minutes. Ten dollars in frozen pizzas will be cheaper than $40 worth of take out.
4. Embrace Frozen Produce. We all love having fresh produce around but it isn’t always cost effective. Fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak and flash frozen so many are more delicious than the fresh. Skip the expensive steam in the bag products and experiment with steaming, roasting and air fryer preparation just as you would with fresh vegetables. Frozen fruit is great in smoothies and muffins, can be heated for a delicious pancake topping and is good just to thaw and eat as you need it.
5. Cut Back On Snacks.That bag of Doritos is way more expensive today than it was a few years ago. Try making popcorn, shopping generic brands or even opting for a healthier snack like peanut butter on toast or carrots with dip. Also, avoid waste by finishing one bag of snacks before opening another one. This is especially hard if you have kids in the house so try creating a special snack box just for them.
6. Look For Cheaper Cuts Of Meat. Chicken legs baked in barbeque sauce are delicious. Buy a cheaper cut of steak to cook in the Crockpot with some gravy. Buy a small ham to slice for sandwiches instead of expensive lunchmeats. Shop the sales and stock up your freezer as your pocketbook allows.
7. Have Breakfast For Dinner. Nothing comes together as quickly, cheaply or deliciously as pancakes and scrambled eggs. Add some frozen berries to those pancakes and you’ll have a meal that’s even pretty to eat. Plus, when you’re talking dollars per ounce, eggs are a cost effective way to get in some protein!
8. Audit Your Fridge. Saving money on food is about curbing waste as much as it’s about finding the best price. How much food gets thrown away in your house every week? Look through the fridge every couple of days to identify anything that’s at risk. If there’s a lot, put out all those leftovers buffet style. If there’s a little, take it in your lunch. Odds and ends of vegetables and meats go well in soups, omelets and pot pies. Surplus zucchini is great shredded and used as filler in meatballs or in delicious muffins. Google how to use up leftovers and be amazed at what you’re wasting.
9. Be Smart About Drinks. We all like our favorite fizzy drinks, fancy coffee creamers and sugary sports drinks but these costs add up and they have no nutritional value. Drink more water and save the fun drinks as a treat.
As you can see, a big part of saving money on groceries involves thought, planning and simply using what you have. It isn’t hard work and it gets easier to do with experience. You don’t have to adopt all of these changes at once to be successful. Choose one or two to try right now and keep working at making improvements as you can.
We tend to think of cost cutting measures as things like clipping coupons or making sacrifices. What if we told you that you could save money simply by being better organized? Here are some traits of organized people and the takeaways that might help you.
Organized people pay their bills on time.
They tend to know how much money they have, what they owe and when it’s due so they are prepared to pay their bills on time. That means they have a budget, keep track of their bills and often use things like Online Bill Pay at VCNB to guarantee they don’t miss anything.
Organized people know what they own.
Do you ever buy something only to get home and realize you didn’t need it after all? How many bottles of cinnamon do you own? Clean out your closet and take stock of how many black t-shirts you own or how many pairs of jeans are languishing on the shelf because you simply don’t wear them or even know if they fit.
Organized people waste less money on food.
They tend to rotate their stock so that the oldest canned goods are easy to reach in the cupboard. They can see at a glance what’s in the freezer so they don’t forget about the leftover soup they froze and need to use soon because they marked the container and made it easy to find.
Organized people know how to work in batches.
They tend to organize their life so they can run all their errands in one neighborhood at the same time. If they have to drop off their kids for tutoring, they will grab groceries on that side of town and fill up the gas tank while their kids are learning. They avoid driving just to do one thing.
Organized people buy less stuff.
An organized person can tell you that life is easier when you are organizing less. That means they tend not to bring home a lot of extra stuff whether it be planned or on impulse. They remember to pack lunch the night before so they don’t have to eat out or to carry a refillable water bottle so they don’t have to hit the vending machine.
Organized people have more time.
Ok, so this is less about money than quality of life but we believe that’s important too. Batching errands and having less stuff to care for frees up a lot of time to do things you might enjoy more. Besides, what’s that old saying? Time is money.
If you overspent over the holidays, you are not alone. Surveys show that more than one in three Americans racked up debt buying gifts, plane tickets and party supplies to celebrate this Christmas. After a long season of excess, the decorations are now gone, the wrapping paper thrown away and all that lingers is the massive credit card bill.
So, now what?
The last thing you want to do is just pay the minimum payment on your bill. In fact, when your statement comes, study the section that tells you how long it will take to pay off your balance by paying just the minimum payment. Depending on what you owe, it will be years and maybe decades.
Instead, you need to add up all that you owe and form a plan of attack.
Dedicate yourself to paying off that debt so that it doesn’t snowball into a heaping amount of interest. Get your spouse to buy in to the notion that Christmas pay off needs to be the priority before other spending.
Add up how much you actually owe.
Form a plan of attack to pay it off fast. The longer it lingers on your card, the more you’ll pay in interest.
Well, that sounds easy, right?
It clearly isn’t as easy as 1,2,3. In fact, let’s take a closer look at how to form that plan of attack.
Update your budget to reflect Christmas Debt as a new line item. Don’t have a budget? Now is the time to make one. You need a clear picture of how much money comes in, how much goes out and where it goes. Need help? Find links at the bottom of this article to help you get started.
If your budget is tight, look for ways to cut costs or to make more money. Most households waste money somewhere. It could be through behavioral choices like eating out too much or letting impulse buys get out of control. It could be on big bills like car insurance. Research these expenses by requesting a new quote from your insurance agent or consider refinancing your home if you feel the mortgage payment is too high. Can’t cut costs? Look for a side hustle to help you bring in some extra bucks and knock out that debt quicker!
Stay focused on the reward of knowing you accomplished this goal and that you are about to eliminate that debt.
Once you’ve paid off this Christmas, don’t stop there! Take all that money that you have been applying to your debt to save for next Christmas. Wouldn’t it feel amazing to pay cash for Christmas 2022 this year? Open a VCNB Passbook savings account and set up automatic transfers to guarantee you’ll save the money. When October rolls around and we open our VCNB Christmas Club again, be sure to sign up for this special savings account!
VCNB Resource Guide
Find useful tips and instructions for getting started with your budget and with finding ways to save money!
Let’s talk spending. More importantly, let’s talk about not spending money.
Did your holiday spending get out of control this year? Maybe you spent more than you planned. Maybe you didn’t have the money at all but knowingly decided to take on the debt and pay it off later.
How often do impulse buys make it into your cart?
Do you know how much disposable income you would have if not for the impulse spending, restaurant meals and credit card debt?
We ask these questions because many American consumers have no idea where their money goes. That’s because they have a habit of mindlessly buying things that are “just a few dollars” or of overspending even when they know they shouldn’t.
If you can relate, you may be a good candidate for a No Spend Challenge. A No Spend Challenge is exactly as it sounds. You make a game out of not spending extra money for a period of time.
The Do’s and Don’ts
Do set a start and end date. Many people aim for a month but you might test the waters with two weeks. If you are ambitious, go for two or three months.
Do pay your bills. That means mortgage, utilities, car payment and all the other regular budgeted bills you pay to keep yourself under roof and your life functioning.
Do buy the groceries you need. This means stopping to consider whether you’ll actually eat that celery or if you’re buying it out of habit. Buy the things you need and limit the things you don’t need this month. Instead, eat out of your pantry and freezer to get rid of some things nearing expiration.
Do pay for transportation expenses. Whether it’s a tank of gas or a bus pass, you still need to find your way to work and school.
Do seek medical care when needed. This challenge isn’t an excuse to skip dental check-ups or to neglect a medical problem.
Do take some time to think about all the things you buy in a typical day or week that don’t fit into the above categories.
Don’t take on new luxury bills. Now is not the time to sign up for a new streaming service.
Don’t buy food you don’t need. Do you already have a cupboard full of cereal at home? You don’t need that box of Lucky Charms.
Don’t eat out for fun. This is hard for many but we often eat out because we’re too lazy to cook or because it sounds like a good idea. Put the family to work making a meal together with ingredients you already own. We can’t be the only ones whose mother told them they didn’t need a Happy Meal “because we have food at home!”
Don’t buy single serve drinks and snacks at vending machines and gas stations. Remember all that food you have at home? Pack some of it for a snack. It’s way cheaper and you may find some healthier, cheaper alternatives to the pack of gummy bears.
Don’t shop for fun or for things you don’t need. That means no new clothes and shoes just because they’re on sale. Did your kid hit a growth spurt? If they need a new pair of shoes, go for it but remember you’re there to buy for your growing child and not for yourself.
See where we are headed with this? If you commit to only buying the necessities for a month or even just a pay period, you will probably be surprised to see how much you have left in the bank at the end.
The best No Spend Challenges are personalized. You may have some rules to bend. For example, there’s no time to cook between work and your college night classes so you grab fast food on the way. Just budget for those allowances and don’t go overboard.
If you have other people living with you, get them involved. Make it a family affair. Your young children may be better at holding you accountable than your spouse because kids often get rules like these better than grown-ups do and they don’t mind shaming you when they catch you red handed.
You may even make it a game and set a goal or a reward. If you hit a savings goal or if you don’t eat out, you get to go to your favorite restaurant at the end.
Most of all, find ways to help you not feel deprived. Remember the commercial that entices us to buy because “we all deserve nice things?” You don’t have to keep buying to have a good time. Make brownies and popcorn for a movie marathon with the family one night. Invite friends over for a game night and ask everyone to bring a snack to share. Brush up on a hobby, go for a walk, visit a free museum, hit up the library, hold a photo shoot with your phone or call a relative to chat instead of spending of money.
There are tons of free ways to spend your time. In fact, if you want to reinforce how much extra stuff you own, spend some time cleaning closets and cupboards, purging unneeded and unwanted stuff that you’ve accumulated. It may discourage you from going out and buying more!
Want to do a No Spend Challenge? February is a great time to test the waters since it’s just 28 days. Then again, why not start today?