Tag Archives: budgeting

5 Reasons We Overspend (and How to Overcome Them)

We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s that I-gotta-have-it urge that overtakes us when we see a pair of designer jeans. Maybe it’s that shrug as we reach for the $6 cup of overrated coffee that says “I deserve this.” Or maybe it’s that helpless feeling as the end of the month draws near and we realize we’ve outspent our budget — again.

What makes us overspend? Let’s take a look at five common reasons and how we can overcome them.

1. To keep up with the Joneses

Humans are naturally social creatures who want to blend in with their surroundings. When people who seem to be in the same financial bracket as we are can seemingly afford another pair of designer shoes for each outfit, we should be able to afford them, too, right?

The obvious flaw in this line of thinking is that nobody knows what’s really going on at the Joneses’ house. Maybe Mrs. Jones’ expensive taste in shoes has landed the family deeply in debt and they are in danger of losing their home. Maybe her Great Aunt Bertha passed and left her a six-digit inheritance. Maybe all of her Louboutins are cheap knockoffs she bought online for $23 each.

Break the cycle: Learn to keep your eyes on your own wallet and to ignore how your friends or peers choose to spend their money. Develop a self-image that is independent of material possessions. Adapt this meme as your tagline when you feel that urge to overspend as a means to fit in: Let the Joneses keep up with me!

2. We don’t have a budget

recent survey shows that 65% of Americans don’t know how they spent their money last month.

When all of our spending is just a guessing game, it can be challenging not to overspend. We can easily assure ourselves that we can afford another dinner out, a new top and a new pair of boots — until the truth hits and we realize we’ve overspent again.

Break the cycle: Create a monthly budget covering all your needs and some of your wants. If you’d rather not track every dollar, you can give yourself a general budget for all non-fixed expenses and then spend it as you please.

3. To get a high

Retail therapy is a real thing. Research shows that shopping and spending money releases feel-good dopamine in the brain, just like recreational drugs. David Sulzer, professor of neurobiology at Columbia, explains that the neurotransmitter surges when people anticipate a reward — like a shopper anticipating a new purchase. And when we encounter an unforeseen benefit, like a discount, the dopamine really spikes!

“This chemical response is commonly called ‘shopper’s high,’” Sulzer says, likening it to the rush that can come with drinking or gambling.

This explains the addictive quality of shopping that can be hard to fight. When life gets stressful, or we just want to feel good, we hit the shops or start adding items to our virtual carts.

Break the cycle: There’s nothing wrong with spending money to feel good, so long as you don’t go overboard. It’s best to put some “just for fun” money into your budget so you can make that feel-good purchase when you need to without letting it put you into debt.

4. Misuse of credit

Credit cards offer incredible convenience and an easy way to track spending. But they also offer a gateway into deep debt. Research shows that consumers spend up to 18% more when they pay with plastic over cash.

Break the cycle: When shopping in places where you tend to overspend, use cash and you’ll be forced to stick to your budget. You can also use a debit card with a careful budget so you know how much you want to spend.

5. Lack of self-discipline

Sometimes, there’s no deep reason or poor money management behind our spending. Sometimes, we just can’t tell ourselves — or our children — “no.”

Scott Butler, a retirement income planner at the wealth management firm Klauenberg Retirement Solutions in Laurel, MD, explains that it takes tremendous willpower to say no to something we want now.

“One of the big reasons people overspend is that they don’t think ahead,” Butler says.

Too often, we allow our immediate needs to take precedence over more important needs that won’t be relevant for years — such as a retirement fund or our children’s college education. We simply lack the discipline to not exchange immediate gratification for long-term benefit.

Break the cycle: Define your long-term financial goals. Create a plan for reaching these goals with small and measurable steps. While working through your plan, assign an amount to save each month. Before giving in to an impulse purchase or an indulgence you can’t really afford, remind yourself of your long-term goals and how much longer your timeframe will need to be if you spend this money now.


Check out our Money Management tool for all your budgeting needs. Questions? Connect with us at 503-275-0300 or info@usacu.org.

What to Do with Your First Paycheck

As part of the changes you’re gearing up for in the months after you graduate, you’re poised to enter the working world as a long-term employee, perhaps for the first time in your life. As you prepare for this transition, you might have dollar signs dancing in your head while you dream of what you’re going to do with your first paycheck.

Before you start planning a one-in-each-color shopping spree at the mall or a weekend in Vegas, check out our list of responsible things to do with your first paycheck.

Start an emergency fund

Your first step when earning a regular salary should be to start an emergency fund. According to financial experts, it’s best to have 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses socked away in case you are unable to work for any reason. Otherwise, an expensive emergency or surprise layoff can force you into debt that can take years to recover from. When working out a budget, set up a plan for building your emergency fund in as short a time as possible. Once it’s fully funded, you can use that money for other savings.

Open a savings account

If you haven’t already done so, open a savings account at USAgencies Credit Union and start putting away a small amount of money into it each month. There are several schools of thought regarding how much of your monthly income to earmark for savings, with most experts recommending that you set aside 20 percent of your paycheck. If you can’t afford to do that right now, especially as you work on building your emergency fund, it’s still crucial to put away as much as you can, simply to build the savings habit. You can use these savings for long-term goals, like buying a house or a new car within the next few years, and short-term goals, like a summertime getaway or a large purchase, like a new entertainment system.

Start saving for your retirement

Your retirement might still be light-years away, but the sooner you start planning for it, the less you’ll have to put away each month. Plus, you’ll have a bigger nest egg when you quit working.

First, speak to an HR representative at your workplace to ask about a 401(k). Many companies will match your contributions up to a set amount. These funds are not taxed until you withdraw them, so any money you contribute from your paycheck is almost like free money.

If your company doesn’t offer 401(k) contributions, you can also look into opening an IRA on your own.

Make a payment toward your student loan

Before you can claim the rest of your money as your own, you’ll need to make at least the minimum monthly payment on your student loan. If you haven’t started your job immediately after college, you may have already made the first few payments toward your student loan debt. But, whether this is your first payment or not, it’s best to maximize the amount you pay toward debt each month. Keep in mind that student loan companies, like credit card companies, are out to make money. The simplest way for them to do that is to keep you in debt for as long as possible by making it easy to pay only the minimum monthly payment. Beat the system by increasing your payments to the maximum amount you can handle.

Budget wisely

Now that you’ve gotten all of the boring stuff out of the way, you’re free to spend your money as you please. Establish responsible spending habits by setting up a workable budget that incorporates all of your fixed expenses and your non-fixed expenses. With careful planning and an eye toward the future, you can enjoy your new status as a responsible, working adult.


Need help getting started? USAgencies Credit Union is here for you. Connect with us today at info@usacu.org or call/text 503-275-0300.

Tracking Holiday Spending Keeps Seasonal Stress Down

The holiday season is upon us, and this year will be very … different. But we’ve got plenty of ways for you to enjoy the season while on a budget.

Nothing is more heartwarming than seeing your loved ones’ faces light up when they open that perfect gift you (err, Santa) gave them.

Tyler’s new bike, Olivia’s new tablet and that gift card to mom and dad’s favorite steak place all add up to wonderful holiday memories… until the credit card statements show up.

The holidays will look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why most people will try even harder to make the season brighter for others. But, you don’t have to dip into Tyler and Olivia’s college savings to create a special time for everyone!

The most important thing to remember is to plan ahead: Have a set spending amount for gifts, wrap, entertaining, donations and travel.

Make a list and check it twice

Many are struggling financially this year, so it will be no surprise to those outside your family if your gift-recipient list is shorter this year. Once you trim your list, make those who got the cut a holiday treat or handmade token. It really IS the thought that counts.

Once you have your list complete, figure out a realistic amount to spend on each person. Jot down a couple of gift ideas in your price range for that person.

Try our Money Management tool in Online and Mobile Banking to keep your spending in check. You can use it to track regular monthly budgeting and spending, and it will help you to make sound decisions when it comes to holiday purchases.

Shopping

Due to the pandemic, holiday shopping is already in full swing. Most people want to avoid crowds, so they are already hitting the malls. Retailers are well aware of this trend, and are offering pre-Black Friday sales and discounts.

Spreading out your holiday shopping over several weeks also makes it easier on your budget. Always shop with a list and keep track of your spending. As you buy your gifts, subtract from your total budget.

In addition to shopping the sales and collecting coupon codes for online purchases, know when to buy. December is the best time to buy cars, appliances, winter clothing and electronics. Also, know how much items cost before a markdown to know if you’re really getting a deal.

It is expected that online shopping will increase by 35% this year because shoppers don’t feel comfortable being in stores. Some states still have restrictions limiting retail establishments’ capacity and store hours.

If you’re shopping online, order early and expect delays in shipping. Increased shopping during the holidays will affect already-strained delivery companies. To avoid shipping delays and higher shipping costs, shop at stores that offer “buy online, ship to store” service. This service is free at most retailers, some of which offer curbside pickup.

Get the best deals on cards, decorations and gift wrap during the days right before and after Christmas. Discounts of up to 75% off can shave a lot off your holiday budget for next year.

Entertaining

Still reeling from the pandemic, most folks will host smaller holiday gatherings this year, which will save tons on food, treats and adult beverages. Many people are still working from home, so work parties and gift exchanges also will be virtual or postponed, keeping cash in your wallet.

If you’re hosting guests, keep costs down by asking everyone to bring their favorite side or dessert and include festive recipe cards with the chef’s name.

For the adults, serve a warm mulled wine or holiday punch or make one festive signature cocktail.

Use DIY decor featuring natural items, like holly and pine cones. Gather the kids and go on a hike to find outdoor holiday decorations. Not only will it save you money, but it will also give you some stress-free outdoor time with your family.

Save more by partying without plastic. Disposable plates and dinnerware are not great for the environment or your budget.

Travel

If you must travel home for the holidays, don’t forget to figure in other incidentals beyond gasoline and the cost of a plane ticket.

If you’re traveling by car, gas prices have luckily seen a steady dip. Still, the GasBuddy app can help you find the best prices for gasoline wherever you are, and you can even pay from the app. Don’t forget to figure in tolls and any emergency costs that may come up.

If you’re flying, consider baggage fees, parking and shuttle costs and the expense of ground transportation once you arrive.

And don’t forget Fluffy! You’ll need to pay someone to take care of your furry friends. The Rover app can help you find pet care options near your home.

Charitable giving

The holidays are a time for goodwill toward all. But if your budget cannot accommodate a monetary donation, volunteer your time. If you are able to make a financial donation, be sure to check that the charity you are supporting is legitimate by consulting Charity Navigator.

Keep your holidays dollars in check, and you may have some holiday spirit left over even after the last elf is packed away and the January bills start rolling in.


We at USAgencies Credit Union wish you all a happy, healthy and stress-free holiday.

The Importance of Being Financially Fit

Are you ready to stretch those financial fitness muscles? We hope so, because it’s time to get financially fit!

Being financially fit means living a life of complete financial responsibility. The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), also known as the Financial Health Network, defines four basic components of financial health: Spend, Save, Borrow and Plan. These components reference everyday financial activities. As such, every choice you make in terms of these four activities either builds or detracts from your financial fitness. Like physical fitness, you can beef up those fitness muscles a little bit more each day.

Being financially fit is crucial for a well-balanced, stress-free life. Here’s why (and how):

Expand your financial knowledge

A financially fit person is constantly broadening their money knowledge. They read personal finance books and blogs, attend financial education seminars and are aware of the evolving state of the economy. This enables them to make monetary decisions from a position of knowledge and power, leaving much less up to chance or luck.

Stick to a budget

A financially fit person knows that tracking monthly expenses is key to financial health. They are careful to set aside money from their monthly income for all fixed and discretionary expenses and to stay within budget for each spending category.

Minimize debt

A financially fit person is committed to paying down debts and seeks to live debt-free. Constant budgeting, ongoing financial education and planning ahead enables them to make it through the month, and through unexpected expenses, without spiraling into debt.

Maximize savings 

A financially fit person prioritizes savings. In fact, savings is a fixed item on their monthly budget instead of something that only happens if there’s money left over. This allows them to think ahead and build a comfortable nest egg or emergency fund. In turn, having a robust safety net means sleeping better at night knowing there’s money available to cover unexpected expenses or a change in life circumstances.

Maintain complete awareness of the state of your finances

A financially fit person knows exactly how much money they owe, the accumulated value of their assets and the complete sum of their fixed and fluctuating expenses. This awareness takes the stress out of money management, allowing them to make better financial choices.

Maintain a healthy credit score

A financially fit person knows that an excellent credit history and score is a crucial component to long-term financial health. They are careful to pay all bills on time, hold onto their credit cards for a while and to keep their credit utilization low. This enables them to qualify for long-term loans with favorable interest rates, which saves them money for years to come.

Help your money go further

A financially fit person does not waste large sums of money on interest charges for purchases made using borrowed funds via credit cards or loans. They live within their means and only use these resources for purchases they can actually afford, or for large, long-term assets, like a car or a house. This means they have more funds at their disposal to help build their wealth through savings and investments.

Create concrete financial goals

A financially fit person has long-term and short-term financial goals. This enables them to keep their focus on the big picture when making everyday money choices, empowering them to actually realize their financial dreams.

Achieve financial independence

A financially fit person is independent. They don’t rely on loans from friends or family members to get by, and they don’t need to pay with plastic at the end of the month because they ran out of money. Their well-padded emergency fund means they don’t depend on their monthly income to put bread on the table, either. By sticking to a budget, prioritizing savings and maintaining an awareness of their finances, they are strong, secure and completely independent.

Being financially fit means living a life without battling anxiety about getting through the month or stressing about the future. You can achieve financial fitness by committing to making choices in each of the four components of financial health (spend, save, borrow, plan) that are forward-thinking and help to build your financial wellness.


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Connect with us today at 503-275-0300 or email info@usacu.org to learn more.

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