Tag Archives: financial fitness

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.


Are you looking for more financial tips? What if you could get paid to learn about finance? Well, now you can. USAgencies Credit Union has partnered with Zogo, an app where users earn money while they learn about money. Download the free app using code “USACU”, and earn while you learn about finance!

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

Take Control of Your Money in 2018

A Credit Union Can Help You Become Financially Fit

Joining a gym, finally taking your dream vacation, or planning to spend more time with the family this year?  Why not make financial fitness one of your New Year’s Resolutions, too?  It’s do-able, and the first thing on your list should be to join a credit union.

Because credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives, you’re a member—and an owner. Unlike for-profit financial institutions that must pay stockholders, credit unions return benefits back to you, the member. That means you pay lower fees, and get lower interest rates on your loans and credit cards.

Nearly two million Oregonians are member-owners of credit unions. Here’s how that helped their financial fitness last year: *

  • Collectively, their Beaver State credit unions delivered $180.5 million in direct benefits right back to them.
  • That’s an advantage of $107 that each member enjoyed because they banked with a credit union.
  • Every Main Street household with a credit union member, saw benefits of at least $203.
  • Consumers who got their new car loans from an Oregon credit union, are saving an average of $251 in interest during each year of a 60-month, $25,000 loan.
  • The interest rate that Oregon credit unions charge for credit cards, is as much as 5.4 percent lower than rates that profit-driven financial institutions are charging. That means Oregon’s credit union members spent $29 million less of their hard-earned money on credit card interest rates, than bank customers spent.
  • Credit unions cooperate. Most network their ATMS, meaning members have access to their money as they travel. They can use the ATM at almost any credit union, and they don’t have to pay those annoying fees!

*Source: Informa Research comparing not-for-profit and profit-driven financial institutions’ interest rates and fees in the 12 months ending June 30, 2017; National Credit Union Administration and Credit Union National Association.


Still not a member of USAgencies Credit Union? Join today!

Already a member, but know someone who could benefit from membership? Refer them to USAgencies and you’ll both be eligible for our Refer-a-Member drawing. 

Get Creative! Ways to Lower Holiday Spending

From our friends at BALANCE

Holiday spending is often a budget-buster.

The expenses can be numerous: presents, wrapping paper, cards, decorations, food, and travel, to name a few. Yet in these tough times, few people have thousands of dollars to spend. If you do not have the funds to buy everything you want, there is no need to despair. A little bit of creativity and energy can get you through the holidays without draining your wallet.

Gifts
Why spend $75 to buy a scarf if you can knit it yourself with $15 yarn? Making your own gifts is a great way to save, since supplies usually cost less than the finished product. Not only are homemade gifts cheaper, but many people appreciate them more than store-bought gifts because of the effort that goes into making them.

Are you not an experienced crafter? No problem. Writing a letter describing what the person means to you or framing a memorable photo are ways to give personalized gifts without having to break out a glue gun. Baking is another option that is easy for most people to do. Standard cookies or brownies can be dressed up with sprinkles and ribbons in holiday colors.

Offering your services is a great cost-saving gift, since it only costs time. Why not offer a free night of babysitting to your sister with three kids or a month of lawn-mowing to your parents? Think about what service you want to offer, and create a coupon that the recipient can redeem at a later date.

Gift-wrapping
Now that you have taken the time to choose economical gifts, you probably do not want to spend $50 wrapping them. Skip the fancy wrapping paper and bows, and look around the house to see what you can use. Do you have a newspaper? (The comic section is an especially suitable choice.) Computer paper? Shopping or supermarket bags? Cheap craft supplies, such as glitter and paint, can be used to decorate plain surfaces.

Cards
It is not uncommon for store cards to cost $4 apiece – or more. If you sent cards to 20 people, that would cost you $80, not including postage. Creating your own cards can help you save, but resist the temptation to buy the pricey supplies that pepper the scrapbook aisles of craft stores. If you create and send cards electronically, you avoid spending money completely. You can make your own or use one of the many free services available on the Internet. If sending electronic cards is not your thing, consider trimming your mailing list. You can probably skip sending cards to your third grade teacher and the second cousin who you never see.

Decorations
Like with gift-wrapping, you can avoid buying decorations by seeing what is lying around the house. Making a garland out of popcorn is a classic holiday decoration. Pine cones and acorns – available in abundance in many parts of the country – provide a perfect seasonal touch. If you are really craving store-bought decorations, consider waiting until after the holidays to buy. Most stores will be selling them at a deep discount, and you can use them next year.

Food
If you host holiday dinners or parties, you may find yourself spending a significant amount of money on food. Potluck dinners are an easy way to shift the burden of buying all of the food off of you. However, if you do not want to ask your guests to bring food, there are other options. Consider eliminating a full dinner and just providing appetizers and desserts or avoiding expensive items, like meat and wine. Look for where you can buy the cheapest food. Often bulk stores are cheaper than regular supermarkets, but not always.

Travel
Airfare is generally more expensive during the holidays, since that is when everyone flies. If you want to celebrate with far away family, why not have a “holiday” dinner during an off-peak time of the year, when airfare is cheaper? Whenever you fly, being flexible can usually help you save – you probably won’t have to spend as much if you fly at night or have a layover.

You do not need to spend a lot of money to have a good time. By being creative with your purchasing and not straining your finances, you can not only celebrate during the holidays, but afterward as well.

Energy Saving Tips for the Holidays

From our friends at BALANCE

The holidays can be an energy guzzler.

The Christmas lights are hung and turned on 24/7. The oven is busy baking gingerbread cookies, yams, turkey, etc. The whole family is at home and turns on all of the lights…and the television…and the computer. Between driving to stores to buy gifts and attend holiday dinners and parties, the car gets double its normal use.

Not only is all of this excessive energy use bad for the planet, but it drains your wallet as well. However, there is no need to turn off the lights on holiday cheer. Here are five easy ways you can reduce your energy consumption.

Skip the Christmas lights.
Instead of using Christmas lights, why not use decorations that don’t need to be plugged in, like garland and ornaments? But, if you just can’t live without them, consider purchasing LED Christmas lights, which use about 80-90% less energy than conventional ones.

Turn off your household lights.
With people typically on vacation during the holidays and friends and family visiting, lights tend to get turned on more. However, you do not need to eat in the dark to save energy – just walk around periodically to make sure that the lights are not on in empty rooms. Also remember to unplug items that drain energy even when they are off, like computers, televisions, and cell-phone chargers (when you are not using them, of course!).

Don’t drive more than you need to.
Instead of visiting the mall multiple times, try to buy all of your gifts in one trip. Draining your gas tank shopping can be avoided if you buy on-line, but sometimes the shipping fees are more than what you would have spent on gas driving to the mall. If you need to travel a long distance for a celebration, consider carpooling. You may not want to spend an extra 45 minutes with Aunt Marie, but you can ask her to pay for half of the gas.

Turn down the thermostat.
Heating is the highest energy expense in most homes, so not having the heater at full blast could save you hundreds of dollars. Certainly, you do not want the house to feel like a freezer, but why not try lowering the temperature a few degrees and putting on a sweater? (You may have received an ever-so-stylish one in holidays past!) When guests are over is often a good time to turn the thermostat down since crowded rooms tend to be warmer than empty ones.

Avoid excessive appliance use when cooking and cleaning.
You can use the oven more efficiently by cooking multiple dishes at the same time. Wait, but what if you have a pie that bakes at 400° and bread that bakes at 350°? You may be able to get away with baking them both at 375°. Or, if you only have a small amount to cook, use a more energy-efficient toaster oven or microwave instead. When washing dishes, consider doing it by hand, or, at the very least, only turn on the dishwasher when it is full.

By being conscious of and reducing your energy consumption, you can enjoy the holidays without breaking out in a sweat when January’s energy bill comes.