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Spring Cleaning Your Finances

As people thankfully lose sight of winter and gratefully greet the onset of pleasant spring weather, many individuals, families, and homeowners are turning to the old tradition of spring cleaning. Spring cleaning is the time for families and homeowners to set themselves to work at giving their home a sufficient, quality and deep cleansing.

Spring cleaning is the time for families to take an inventory of their possessions, clean out the winter’s clutter, and get reorganized. While these principles are usually applied to physically cleaning out the home, this year a family may wish to consider applying the same principles of spring cleaning to their personal finances.

Save Big Money With Generic Products

And as long as the subject of spring cleaning is fresh on the minds of family members, a family might as well start their financial spring cleaning by saving money on their actual spring cleaning supplies. One of the best ways to save money on household cleaning supplies is by buying generic or off brand cleaners.

Generic brands, store brands, and off brand cleaners, as opposed to the well-known name brands, can be found at discounted prices and overall cheaper costs for the same basic cleaning ingredients that the more expensive name brands include in their cleaners. Buying generic cleaners over name brand cleaners has been shown to save consumers up to thirty eight percent on cleaning costs.

Take Advantage of Coupons and Sales

In addition to buying generic brands, a shopper can save money on spring cleaning supplies by being aware and looking out for discounts and coupons on cleaning supplies at local markets and grocers. Choosing to buy discounted cleaning supplies can be better accomplished by planning ahead for the upcoming cleaning projects.

Beyond saving money for the physical spring cleaning of the home, a family can take their spring cleaning ambition into cleaning up and revitalizing their finances. In some ways, spring cleaning the family’s finances is a very literal cleaning process, what with the various important documents and financial paperwork that will need reorganizing.

To keep better track of one’s finances, and thereby become more effective with their finances, a simple but clear organizational process is typically required. This can be either physical hard copies of important documents that will need to be organized in a clear manner or a digital organization of online or electronic documents.

It’s Time to Go Paperless

As a part of this, a family can greatly improve their organization of financial documents if they will shred those documents that can be found online. For example, if the family receives their monthly bank statement in the mail and online through an online banking system provided by their bank, then the need for the monthly mailed copy is superfluous.

In this situation, a family can contact their banking institution and ask that their monthly banking statements be sent to them through email or posted on their online account. In this way, a family can cut the clutter of monthly bank statements from their hard copy financial documents and thereby become more organized in their financial records. In addition to getting statements from your bank online, it’s also possible to sink your bank account with most of the popular budgeting apps that are on the market.

It is important for family to remember, however, that while they are going through their financial documents they should have a paper shredder on hand. Sensitive information such as birthdays, social security numbers and bank account numbers may be present on unwanted paper documentation and can be stolen, yes stolen, from the trash and used by identity thieves to wreak havoc on a family’s finances.

While some feel that hard copy financial records are more secure than online records from those who would steal their information, the truth is that with modern firewalls and protective servers in use by financial institutions a person’s records are much safer in electronic form than they are in a hard copy paper form. Because of this, as part of this year’s financial spring cleaning, a family may wish to consider talking with their banking institution about switching all that is possible into an electronic form of record.

Spruce Up The Family Budget

Lastly, a family that is undertaking the project of a financial spring cleaning will probably want/need to refurbish and revise their family budget. Budgets are vastly important tools for a family to use in order to stay financially secure and stable.

But the usefulness of a budget immediately decreases if a family chooses not to abide by the financial guidelines they have set out for themselves. Additionally, an outdated budget can lose its effectiveness quickly as fluctuations in family income or needs arise.

While performing their financial spring cleaning this year, a family might want to consider taking another look at their family budget. Revising where needed and reaffirming their commitment to living with a budget will add to the family’s financial success in the coming year. As always, when you start to focus on budgeting it’s important to stick to your budget and work towards your financial goals but also understand that things come up.

As you work on financial spring cleaning this season understand that there might be times when you come up a little short, if you find yourself in that situation Check City has several services that can help get you through until your next Payday such as cash advances or pay day loans.

Saving Money with an Emerging Family

Emerging families have a lot of worries and expenses. Monthly bills can take their toll of a paycheck as can school supplies, children’s clothing, auto repairs, and the ever needful diapers. Not to mention the sizable food costs that a family of just three can run up.

Because of these and other necessary costs, a small and growing family will need to budget their finances wisely. Crafting and creating a budget will be the first and foremost step for a growing family to reach stability with their finances.

The topic of how to create and maintain a proper budget has been covered and thoroughly explained in other posts on the Check City blog. These budgeting posts can be found by searching for ‘How to Budget’ on the Check City blog or by clicking here.

Even with a functioning budget, however, a growing family may want to take additional steps to save money from month to month. For those growing families who wish to save more money every month, consider the following few suggestions on how to save on common expenses.

By practicing smart consuming, an emerging family can save a few more dollars on everyday items than they typically would. And by saving a few extra dollars here and there, a family can reach financial stability earlier, even amidst the fiscal pressures of a developing family.

Food Costs – In case the average consumer has not noticed or has not been informed, the average cost of food for American families, including growing families, has steadily increased over the recent years. Economic and agricultural issues have attributed to this consistent rise in food costs.

The price of food stuffs is obviously subject to additional change in the future. However, whether this change will be a decrease in costs or an increase in costs is only something that can be projected short term.

The uncertainty in the food industry is therefore something that developing families and individuals across the nation should be taking into consideration while planning their monthly budget. Notwithstanding, One of the necessary priorities of a family’s monthly budget is the cost of food.

Food costs are and should be an integral part of any family’s budget and should be given priority over most other expenses. To help a family in determining what food expenses should be expected from month to month, the United States Department of Agriculture has published a monthly report on the average food costs that a family can expect to pay in order to provide their family members with balanced and nutritional meals.

In this monthly report, called the Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, the USDA provides average food costs of four differing amounts of available budgets ranging from thrifty to liberal food costs. For a family of four persons, for example, the USDA finds that it will take an average of around $500 a month to provide quality and healthy meals under the restraints of a thrifty budget.

With this in mind, a family can see the importance of not overspending on food costs. Avoid high food costs by shopping wisely and looking for discounted food items and those things that can be purchased in bulk. Using small payday loan from Check City may also be one way that a family can get in the black enough to maintain a stable food budget.

Therefore, first way to save a few extra dollars every month (or maybe every week depending on the size and appetite of your family) is to create sufficient meal plans and stick to them when purchasing groceries. As discussed, food costs around the nation have seen significant increases over the past decade and look to continue their upward trend.

By planning and preparing for every meal before heading to the store, an emerging family can ensure that they only buy those food items they need to make the meals they desire. A family can consider planning these meals around the sales that are occurring at the local grocery store.

By shopping for food and planning meals according to the discounted food items at the store, a family can ensure that the cheapest meals are being planned and purchased. The practice of using coupons and sales to plan meals will result in a family saving even more money on food costs.

Utility Bills – Besides the family’s food costs, the monthly utility bill is the most costly expenditure that developing families face on a consistent basis. But utility bills and the use of energy affect more than just home owners; they also affect those individuals and growing families that rent a home or apartment.

Because of this additional monthly cost of utilities, there is an increasing need by people in all types of living situations, but by emerging families in particular, to save money every month by limiting their utility bills. By decreasing this expenditure, a family or an individual can save potentially hundreds of dollars per year.

The most direct and simple way to cut utility bill costs is by using less of those utilities than a family normally would. For example, by turning the air conditioning up in the summer and the heater down in the winter, a family will be able to save hundreds on the electrical bills every year.

But for some, this practice of regulating the thermostat still isn’t enough to save them the cash they want. And for others, the prospect of not having their room temperature at a specific degree of comfort is out of the question.

Luckily there are other ways in which to save on utilities that have nothing to do with the temperature in the home. Simple conservation efforts can be taken elsewhere in the home that will likewise provide a home with the utility saving practices that are desired.

Some of these practices include switching off appliances whine not in use, turning off the water while brushing one’s teeth, and making sure that the lights in unused rooms are switched off. Saving a little energy every day by practicing these habits will add up over time to save a family a significant amount of money on utility bills.

For those who wish to save even more money and be more cost effective in their utility spending, consider hiring an energy company professional to perform an energy audit on your home. An energy audit will find ways specific to your home that will not only save energy but make energy use in the home more effective thereby reducing overall usage without losing the benefits of energy consumption.

Auto Repairs – Driving in the winter is fundamentally different that driving in the summer or on dry roads and, unfortunately, there are a plenitude of individuals who do not know how to safely manage their vehicles during the winter months. Cars skid across lanes of traffic or veer too wide on turns as their speed and momentum hit slick asphalt causing minor auto accidents seemingly daily even after winter has ended.

Fixing these minor or even more significant accidents brought on by icy roads and poor drivers can cost a family hundreds of dollars. Auto repair is typically an expense that most young families are hesitant to pay due to the fact that it will severely impact their budget.

And in some cases, because other needs such as paying the electric bill or buying diapers for the baby takes precedence to fixing the car, necessary repairs to a vehicle can be put off. Do not let this happen to you.

Instead of letting dangerous conditions exist on your vehicle due to a lack of funds to repair it, consider using a payday loan from Check City to help pay for the repair cost. Payday loans from Check City are a small and safe loan offered by Check City that will give a family the small boost to funds that they need to make ends meet should an auto accident tip the budget.

A payday loan, as stated above, is a small to medium size loan that is typically due at the time of your next payday. This form of loan enables extra funds to be available to the family without incurring excessive interest payments as the entire loan can be paid off at your next payday.

Using a payday loan from Check City can keep you and your family in the black when unexpected auto repairs tips the scales on the monthly budget. Once the repairs have been made, the budget can be renewed and the loan paid off with the next paycheck.

Using Networks – Networking with other families in your similar situation can also help to mitigate the costs of a young family. Family friends can help each other by setting up a support system that will save money by trading for services such as babysitting, lawn care, carpooling to and from school, etc.

Smart Shopping – Lastly, a

young family can save more money annually by putting extra thought into all of their major purchases. Some expensive items, like a personal home computer or laptop, will be needed by the family for numerous reasons but this does not mean that the family should consign themselves to the associated high costs. A little extra research into the quality and various prices of such needed but expensive items will ensure the family is getting the most for their dollar.

By being wiser with food costs, the home’s utilities, unexpected costs like an auto repair, and using family connections, friends, and other resources, a young and growing family will be able to save money month to month and reach financial stability sooner.

6 Steps to Budget for Success

What does it take to make a budget work? Does it come naturally? Are some people born with a pen and paper in hand, ready to follow a strict financial schedule until they die? Or is it something acquired?

Many people struggling with money ask these questions of the world. They look around them and see people so easily living their lives. They buy the things they want and always seem to have enough. It’s always been that way for them. They are just simply blessed with a natural self-control. For all anyone knows, they have everything figured out. It’s easy to envy that image. It’s easy to want what they have. What’s hard to swallow is that you will never be able to experience the financial self-control that your “image” possesses.

That’s not to say that you will never experience great self-control in regards to your finances. Indeed, if you create a fair budget, and practice very hard at it, you will one day reach a similar financial situation as the people you envy. You may never allow yourself to see your success though, because you weren’t born with it. The image of the people you look up to will always overshadow your own success, if you let it.

That image is a false example. The people that you see that seem to have been born with the money-budgeting mindset are often not as good as you think they are. They make mistakes like you all the time. No one is perfect at keeping a budget 100% of the time. Your financial idols are no exception. If by some miracle they are, then either they are well-off, have almost no financial obligations, or are simply not living a full or healthy lifestyle. The point of this explanation has not been to discourage you from making a budget–because not even the best can keep one up all the time. The point is to show you that you should never be discouraged from trying again. You can adjust and keep to a budget, why not give it a shot?

Create a Balanced Budget

Whether you currently have a budget or not, you should follow these steps.

1) Take out a piece of paper and list out every recurring source of income you currently have. If you have a regular paycheck coming in, then list out how much you expect to earn every month. If you sell clothing on Etsy, create a monthly average income expectation (subtracting money to set aside for taxes) and write that down. The key is to find recurring income items that you can count on seeing from month to month. Periodic income you get from the random garage sale should not be included as it can’t be counted on to make ends meet every month. Those additions will be nice, unexpected gifts to the savings account.

Once everything is listed out, add the income sources together until you have one total amount you will see at the end of the month.

2) Turn the paper over and list out every recurring expense you expect to see over the next month. This includes payments to any loans taken out (student, mortgage, etc.), average prices of utilities, subscriptions (TV, internet, phone, magazine, etc.), insurance policies, etc. Anything that sends you an invoice to be paid at the end of every month should be included here.

This section should not include expenses that can change from month to month. For example, the amount of gas you use, food you eat, and entertainment you purchase can all vary from month to month based on your decisions. You decide how much money to dole out for each of these things on a day to day basis. They are not to be considered recurring expenses because you shouldn’t assume an amount just yet. Call them variable expenses and save them for later.

For now, focus the organizations that are sending you a monthly bill. List how much you have to pay them each month and add them together.

3) Subtract your total recurring expenses from your income and find out how much money you have left over. If you’re already in the red, then you can expect trouble in the coming months. Either you need to find another source of income to help out, or cut some of your expenses.

Adding Another Line of Income

Taking on another job can be tiresome. It is an easy solution to your problem, but not the most sustainable, especially if you don’t choose your hours.Other options include talking to your spouse about taking on a part-time job, looking for a higher paying job yourself, or selling a craft or service on the side. Consider your circumstances and find a way to add another line of income.

Cutting Expenses

Although things like a mortgage and utilities can’t be cut without serious consequences, that TV subscription isn’t needed. Neither is the landline or internet when it comes down to base survival needs. Magazines are available online and other subscriptions have viable alternatives. For example, you can watch your favorite TV shows on the internet just hours after they air live. If you can’t live without seeing it while it’s happening, visit a friend’s house who will also be watching it. You don’t pay the bill, but get your show.

Cut financial obligations to places that really don’t matter to survival. You can add them back in later if your income increases. Assuming that your income is sufficient to meet your recurring expenses, continue onto step 4.

4) Take what’s left over and write it at the top of a new piece of paper. This is how much you have left to pay for food, savings, gas, school, hobbies, etc. Everything you plan from now on will be bound to this number, so be careful.

Henry David Thoreau said that all you need in life is food, shelter, clothing, and fuel. Providing that food is at the very front of that list, you should start with that first. Look at your past food bills and determine how much you spend to eat on average. Include in this number money spent eating out or buying snacks. Write your total down.

Your shelter is taken care of back with your recurring expenses, so move on to clothing. Take an inventory of what clothes you have and what you need. Then think about how much each of these are going to cost. Write that number off to the side of the paper. Then track how much new clothing you bought in the past 12 months. Find out how much that cost you and plan to spend a similar amount in the coming year. Write that number down under the food total.

Your fuel is taken care of with the recurring expenses as well, so continue working through things like gas, money for savings, cleaning supplies and other things that you purchase on a regular basis. Total how much you spend for these things on average and list them below the food and clothing numbers. If there’s anything that you need right away (like the clothes you set to the side) put those numbers off to the side to be used later). When you’ve thought of everything, add them all up and circle the answer.

5) Subtract that circled answer from the “left over income” that you put at the top of the page. If you’re in the black then celebrate, because things are going better than expected. If you find yourself in the red, then look into either increasing your income or cutting your expenses again.

If you’re in the cutting mood, then try some of these ideas, if not, then find a way to increase your income and skip to step 6. These expenses are a bit easier to cut than the recurring ones. Decreasing them all by $5 or $10 can translate into huge savings over the month. Evaluate each item and figure out where you can cut expenses down and by how much. If you’re still struggling to get the ink to change from red to black, then look for creative solutions to cut more.  Make a plan to eat out less or only buy things that are on sale. Do what it takes to reduce your expenses. Once you’re in the black, move onto step 6.

6) Double check all that you’ve done. If you’ve reached this point and you’re in the black, then you’ve just created a budget for yourself. You’ve carefully calculated every increase and decrease in your financial situation every month. You have created an expected amount of money to spend for everything and you have goals to live up to. The only thing you can do now is live by your goals. Do not spend a penny more than what your budget allows in the coming month, even if it hurts. Don’t do it. You will learn self-control if you hold yourself to it. You will strengthen disobedience if you let yourself slip. Give yourself consequences and don’t make exceptions. You’ll be a good budgeter in no time if you stick to your guns.

Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t know the whole story. Focus on your budget and your needs; those are the only things that will matter in the long run.

One last note, start adding in those needs you wrote off to the side. This isn’t officially a step since it shouldn’t be a part of a monthly budget. Now that the budget is complete, come up with a solution while you’re thinking about money. Find a way to afford those things and move forward. As you’re working on building your budget it’s important to understand that unexpected expenses will come up, that’s how life is. If you find yourself in a situation where you are in need of a short term loan, let Check City know and we can help you out.

Teaching Your Children How to Budget

Leading By Example

As a parent, you have an incredible opportunity to teach your children and teens how to budget, live within their means and even save. In order to set the best of examples, make sure you practice good money management skills so you can pass on these necessary life skills to your kids! If you aren’t setting a good example, chances are your kids will not learn how to manage their money well.

If you teach your children to be thrifty now, you can help keep them from making money mistakes that can haunt them in the future.

Budget Wisely

Begin by showing your children your budget sheet, and how it all works. Show them what each column means and what expenses go under which column. As you share your budget, it’s important you stay calm and in control. If you convey a sense of equilibrium as you teach, your kids will learn to trust their feelings about money and not spend out of fear.

You might consider making fun and informative trips to the bank to help your kids open a savings account. You can even have a banker talk to your kids about how money works. By including your children in your budget, you can help them feel included and like they’re more a part of what is going on. Banks often have balloons and candy for youngsters who are in the bank with their parents, so these types of things can help your children feel comfortable inside the bank.

Groceries

You can also let your kids help with the grocery shopping. Give them a budget for a meal, and help them choose the ingredients so they can successfully buy and create a meal for the family. As they get more comfortable with budgeting, you can add extra budgeting challenges. Eventually, you can help your kids understand how much money it takes to feed the family on a monthly basis. By introducing your kids to the idea of a food budget, you can also introduce them to an entertainment budget and help them understand when $120.00 shoes just aren’t in the budget.

As you shop, you can have your kids add up each item, to better their budgeting and how much items cost. Discuss with them the idea of generics vs name brand. If you have an item that you are willing to spend full price, help them understand that an occasional splurge is okay.

You might also enlist your kids in coupon and bargain hunting. You can introduce them to the excitement of the chase.

There are many differing opinions among parents about how allowances should work. Some parents believe that children should only receive an allowance if they’ve done some form of work for it, such as household chores. Other parents think it is best to give their children a small allowance each week, and then leaving it up to each individual child to decide whether to save or spend what they receive. Still, there are other parents who believe that children should get a part-time job as soon as they are old enough. Obviously, there is no right answer as to how to navigate the allowance situation with your children.

Make Budgeting Fun

Something to remember throughout all of your budgeting talk with your children is to keep it light and make it fun. Kids respond much better to learning when they have a fun activity or game to associate it with. Games like Monopoly and other money-related games can help your kids learn about money and budgeting using only cash in a fun and lighthearted way. Another major thing to focus on when teaching your kids about money is the importance of short and long-term goals.

It is important that you emphasize the importance of planning ahead, for big purchases or even retirement. Talking to them about saving for specific things that they want can help them work towards a goal. When they eventually earn enough to purchase the item that they wanted, it solidifies in their mind that they are capable of saving and that it is possible to buy the things they want. Teaching your children how to budget when they are young will help them become more financially wise and well-rounded adults.

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