Budgeting for the Holidays – Part One

The holidays will be here soon and they are a “season”, not just a singular day or event; and, there can be several events! There may be parties and celebrations where you are expected to bring a dish, and/or provide a gift(s) and also meet family and friends out for lunches and dinners. The costs add up!

The holiday season can also include other celebrations such as birthdays, anniversaries or even weddings. Finally, winter is the time where added expenses can come into play such as higher utility (e.g., heat, electric) bills, and unexpected car expenses like batteries and tires that need replacing.

How do you cover these expenses without completely exhausting your budget and getting yourself in post-holiday debt?

Consider several of the suggestions below to help reduce the expense and stress of the holiday season. Ideally, an early and clear plan communicated to your family and friends can help a lot!

  1. Have the list of WHO you will shop for and stick to it! Make agreements with your family and friends as to WHO you will buy for and HOW MUCH you will each spend. It’s very tempting to want to buy “a little something” for others, especially items under $20, but it adds up fast!
  2. If you have large extended family or circle of friends, pick ONE name for each group.
  3. Discuss possible family gifts that you all will enjoy. Start collecting change as a family starting each early each year (January) to help reduce the cost of bigger family gifts. If your children have part-time jobs, ask them for $2-5 a paycheck to help support a significant family gift.
  4. Shopping for items (e.g., at a spring craft show, summer fairs) throughout the year makes a BIG difference! There are sales all year round! It is just a little pre-planning to build your gift inventory throughout the year.
  5. Buy items for your food pantry early, ideally when they are on sale or when you have more spare funds. If your extended family knows you bring a signature dish every year, consider buying non-perishable ingredients early on and then place them in a separate storage area for the holidays. 
  6. Buy food staples at discount stores such as Aldi, Save-A-Lot and Price Rite.
  7. Buy food items in bulk, if possible.
  8. Don’t feel obligated to attend EVERY holiday invite you receive.
  9. Open a separate bank account to systematically save for the holidays. Set aside a manageable amount of money for a bank or credit union account that is offering a high interest rate such as a money market account or a short-term (e.g., 3-6 months) Certificate of Deposit so you have your money in time to shop without incurring any penalties.
  10. Consider making or even baking some of your gifts. Personalized gifts are very memorable. Add a small ($5-$10) gift card if you like.
  11. Shop at small businesses in your area that may have unique and reasonably priced gifts.
  12. Try not to get too caught up in Black Friday deals. Many times, people spend far more on other items than they actually save by battling the crowds and spending a lot of time and gas.

Keep a look out for Budgeting for the Holidays Part Two coming soon!

If you’re dealing with high interest debt payments as well, see what you can save with Parachute’s Debt Management Plan https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/dmp-calculator/

Would you like to meet one-on-one with one of our Financial Counselors to talk specifically about your budget? Check out our Financial Coaching Session https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/services/credit-budget-counseling/#financial-coaching  or call 716-712-2060.

Family Savings Strategies

Family savings efforts can be a great way to reach your financial goals faster and easier. By working as a family team, you can motivate each other, build stronger family ties, and benefit from shared resources.

Here are some ideas to get you started!

  • Set goals common to all. The first step is to get everyone on the same page and agree on what you want to save for. This could be a short-term goal, such as a family vacation, or a longer-term goal, such as buying a boat or even a home! Once you have a common goal, you can start to develop a solid plan to reach it.
  • Create a budget. Once you know what you’re saving for, you need to create a budget that will help you reach your goal. This will involve tracking all your income and expenses to see where your money is going and identify areas where you can cut back. Then you can direct your newly found savings toward your family’s goals.
  • Open savings accounts for all family members. This helps everyone feel included and provides great lessons and good money practices for younger children and teens. 
  • Automate savings. One of the best ways to save money is to automate your savings. This means setting up a recurring transfer from your checking account to your savings account each month. This way, you’ll be saving money without even having to think about it. If you have teenagers or young adults who earn a paycheck, they can automate their savings too into a savings account through direct deposit. If you have younger children, they can earn a weekly allowance and place, at least part of it, in a savings account.
  • Set up family savings challenges. A family savings challenge is a fun and motivating way to save money. There are many different types of savings challenges available online, so you can find one that’s right for your family. For example, you could do a 52-week savings challenge, where you save a different amount of money each week. Or you could do a no-spend challenge, where you commit to not spending any money on certain things for certain periods of time. Make it fun and competitive. 
  • Have family savings meetings. Once a month or so, sit down with your family and discuss your savings goals and progress. This is a good time to re-review your budget, make any adjustments as needed, share tips, stay motivated and celebrate your accomplishments.
  • Make saving money fun. For example, you could have a family competition/contest to see who can save the most money in a month or award small prizes for the most creative way to save. Or you could reward yourselves with a special treat when you reach a savings goal.
  • Save change. Use cash whenever possible and save that change in a jar or other space labelled with your goal such as “2025 summer vacation trip.”
  • Consider selling items. Each family member could contribute some unwanted items to a group garage or yard sale to help fund the family goal. Children could host a lemonade stand. Teenagers and young adults could babysit or offer to rake leaves, shovel snow or run errands for neighbors to earn extra money.
  • Reward good grades or reading goals. Consider contributing more funds to the family savings pool if your children attain certain grades in school or read a certain number of books outside of school. 
  • Consider savings matches: If your younger children or teenagers or young adults save $5, consider a 100% ($5 contribution) or 50% ($2.50) match so their savings grow faster and they are encouraged to save even more!   

By following these suggestions, you can develop strong family savings strategies and reach your financial goals and future plans faster!

Parachute Credit Counseling offers group financial education and one-on-one services to help you budget your money, get out of debt, understand and build your credit, and more! Call us at 716-712-2060 or visit us at www.parachutecreditcounseling.org

If you’re dealing with high interest debt payments as well, see what you can save with Parachute’s Debt Management Plan https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/dmp-calculator/

Women and Money

Women may face unique challenges with money due to a number of factors. Such factors can make it more difficult for women to achieve their financial goals and obtain financial security. These factors include: 

  • Pay gap: Women still earn less than men for doing the same work. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, currently women earn 82 cents for every dollar that men earn.
  • Lack of retirement savings: Women are more likely than men to be single and not have a partner’s income to help them save for retirement. They are also more likely to take extended time away from work to care for children or ill or older family members. This can impact their overall savings rate, their retirement savings rate and Social Security contributions.
  • Debt: Women are more likely than men to carry debt, particularly student loan debt. Consider this also in light of the pay gap (see above). This can make it difficult for them to save for other financial goals, such as retirement or a home.
  • Lack of financial literacy: Women may be less encouraged to gain a basic understanding of financial concepts, such as investing or budgeting. This can make it difficult for them to make sound financial decisions.
  • Societal pressures: Women may feel pressure to confirm to societal expectations and may use larger portions of their income on clothing, accessories, dry cleaning, shoes, beauty routines (e.g., hair and nails) and more. 
  • Women live longer: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the life expectancy for women in 2023 is 80.2 years, while the life expectancy for men is 73.3 years. This means that women can expect to live 6.9 years longer than men. This means they need their savings to be larger or last longer.
  • Living single, longer: More women are living single longer than men. In 2019, 34% of women ages 18 and older were living without a spouse, up from 28% in 1990. Meanwhile, 29% of men ages 18 and older were living without a spouse, up from 24% in 1990.
  • Under-presentation of women in finance professions: According to a 2022 report by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), women make up 26.8% of the workforce in the U.S. investment industry. This is still significantly lower than the 49.7% of women in the overall workforce. One factor is the lack of female role models in the industry.

These challenges can make it difficult for women to achieve financial security. However, there are a number of things that women can do to overcome these challenges, such as:

  • Negotiate their salaries: Women can and should negotiate their salaries and seek out career coaching and/or mentoring to help with such processes. They should also be aware of the pay gap and consider this as they make job and career decisions.
  • Start saving early: Women should start saving for retirement as early as possible, even small amounts are helpful. They should also take advantage of tax-advantaged retirement savings plans, such as 401(k)s and IRAs.
  • Pay down debt: Women should focus on paying down debt, especially high-interest debt, such as credit card debt. This will free up more money to set aside funds to save and even invest.
  • Automate savings: Make savings as consistent and easy as possible by having a set amount taken out of each paycheck for emergency funds and future financial goals, such as buying a home.
  • Encourage finance careers: More girls and young women can be encouraged to study finance. More female-friendly workplaces can be created in the industry.
  • Get educated: Women should educate themselves about financial concepts, such as budgeting and investing. There are *many* resources available to help women learn about money, such as books, magazines, podcasts, websites, and financial counseling services such as Parachute! Spending at least 1 hour a week learning basic money matters is really helpful!

If you’re dealing with high interest debt payments as well, see what you can save with Parachute’s Debt Management Plan https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/dmp-calculator/

Would you like to meet one-on-one with one of our Financial Counselors to talk specifically about your budget? Check out our Financial Coaching Session https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/services/credit-budget-counseling/#financial-coaching  or call 716-712-2060.

“Stretching Your Budget When Money is Tight” – Part 2: Tips for automobile, transportation, and other general expenses

The majority of households will all likely go through periods where money is tight due to unexpected expenses, a significant life or job change, a medical hardship, inflation/increased prices, and much more!  Here are some simple, but not insignificant ways, of stretching your dollars further. Small amounts of savings do add up!

Automobile/Transportation

  • Organize errands/trips so that you are not backtracking and using more fuel.
  • Be sure you have a competitive rate for your auto insurance. Bundle renters or home owner’s insurance with your auto.
  • Get regular oil changes and use regular unleaded gas, unless not recommended for your automobile.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated.
  • If you are having trouble making car payments, consider downsizing your car or talk to dealer about refinancing for lower monthly payment. This will extend loan and result in more interest being paid but will help out in the short term.
  • Take turns driving with your children’s friends’ parents.  
  • Independent mechanics often charge less than dealers for auto repairs and maintenance.  Ask friends and family members for recommendations.
  • Ask mechanic about using re-constituted parts.
  • Consider buying a pre-owned, certified car.
  • Set a weekly fuel budget and stick to it by limiting unnecessary trips.
  • If tires need replacing, check out pre-owned, quality tires.
  • Vacuum and wash/wax your own car.
  • In nice weather, walk shorter distances or ride a bike.  

General Tips/Other

  • Put off wants (versus needs) for a few paychecks.
  • Use your public library.
  • Consider skipping having your nails done for a few weeks or months.
  • Wait for tax returns for needs that can wait or for future wants. 
  • Plan vacations at least a year in advance to save for them gradually. Travel off season.
  • Look for free and low-cost entertainment events such as outdoor festivals and concerts, parks, hikes.
  • Check out local high school and college performances and events.
  • Attend movies in the afternoon at matinee prices.
  • Temporarily pause cable and other streaming services.
  • Buy clothes off season.
  • Go to consignment shops to either get cash for clothes you already have or to buy new items.
  • Borrow or trade tools and equipment with neighbors, family members and friends.  
  • Check out estate sales, garage sales and flea markets.
  • Go to local Goodwill, Salvation Army and Savers stores.
  • Know what you have at home before you buy more clothes. Many people buy items they forget they have.
  • Look on Facebook Marketplace or Nextdoor for discounted or free items.
  • Look at “scratch and dent” rooms at furniture stores.
  • Consider painting or staining furniture instead of buying new.
  • Consider pre-paid cell phone plans as they often cost less.

If you’re dealing with high interest debt payments as well, see what you can save with Parachute’s Debt Management Plan https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/dmp-calculator/

Would you like to meet one-on-one with one of our Financial Counselors to talk specifically about your budget? Check out our Financial Coaching Session https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/services/credit-budget-counseling/#financial-coaching or call 716-712-2060.

“Stretching Your Budget When Money is Tight” – Part 1: Tips for food, groceries and dining out expenses

The majority of individuals will likely go through periods where money is tight due to unexpected expenses, a significant life or job changes, medical hardships, inflation/increased prices, and much more!  Here are some simple, but not insignificant ways, of stretching your dollars further. Small amounts of savings do add up! Part 1 will focus on food, groceries and dining out.

Groceries

  • Plan your meals for one week ahead, if possible. Be sure to inventory what you already have at home to avoid buying items that you do not need.   
  • Make a grocery list to cover meals and stick to it!  Plan the aisles you will go down when shopping, and try and avoid the others. You can get a store directory ahead of time to plan your route.  
  • Avoid multiple trips to the grocery store. This counts down on gas and the temptation to buy more than you can afford.
  • Comparison shop by cost per ounce/pound, etc.
  • Avoid shopping when you are hungry, tired, or in a hurry. Also, try to avoid bringing a number of other people with you.
  • Calculate your costs with your phone, or using an app while shopping so there are no surprises at the register.
  • Consider ordering groceries online and utilizing curbside pick up to avoid going into the store to prevent buying items you don’t need.
  • Buy in bulk the items that you are sure you will use; such as paper products, hygiene products, etc.
  • Buy store or generic brands.
  • Only use coupons for those items you are sure you will use. Many times, food and groceries are purchased because we have a coupon, but then they are thrown out.
  • Plan some meatless meals that are still high in protein (e.g., cheese, peanut butter, legumes).
  • Meals do not have to be “standardized”.  Kids may love pancakes for dinner!
  • Involve the family! Making dishes such as a casserole, lasagna, enchiladas, etc. together on a weekend can produce leftovers for part of the next week.
  • Consider growing a family garden of fruits and vegetables. If neighbors grow fruits and vegetables, trade or exchange with them.
  • Go to a farmers’ markets.
  • Consider discount grocery stores.
  • Check out your local dollar stores for items like toothpaste, shampoo, etc.  
  • Ask for grocery store gift cards for holidays gifts and birthdays.

Dining Out

  • Make dining out a treat, and limit to special days.
  • Look for establishments that offer specific days when kids can eat free.
  • Share meals
  • Ask if you can order from the kid’s menu.
  • Ask for senior citizen or retiree discounts, if applicable.
  • Cut in ½ (or less) the number of times you go out to eat per week (e.g., grabbing coffee, fast food, lunches).
  • Don’t order beverages or alcohol when dining out. Eat dessert at home, or just go out for dessert.

Would you like to work on your individual budget plan with one of our knowledgable counselors? Contact Parachute today to schedule a one on one appointment! 716-712-2060 https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/services/credit-budget-counseling/#financial-coaching

National Financial Freedom Day: A Day to Celebrate Financial Independence

National Financial Freedom Day is observed on July 1st every year. The holiday aims to raise awareness about financial freedom, which is the ability to afford the kind of life you desire without having to worry about financial constraints. There are many things you can do to achieve financial freedom, such as:

  • Pay off debt. This is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your financial situation. The less debt you have, the more money you will have available to save and invest.
  • Build an emergency fund. This is a savings account that you can use to cover unexpected expenses, such as a car repair or medical bill. Having an emergency fund will help you avoid going into debt when unexpected expenses arise.
  • Invest for the future. Once you have paid off debt and built an emergency fund, you can start investing your money. Investing can help you grow your wealth over time and reach your financial goals. There are many different ways to invest, so you can choose an option that is right for you. Some popular investment options include stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.

Achieving financial freedom takes time and effort, but it is possible. By following these tips, you can take steps to improve your financial situation and achieve financial independence:

  • Create a budget and stick to it. This will help you track your spending and make sure you are not overspending.
  • Live below your means. This means spending less money than you earn.
  • Save money regularly. Even if you can only save a small amount each month, it will add up over time.
  • Invest your money wisely. Do your research and choose investments that are right for you.
  • Be patient. It takes time to achieve financial freedom. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results immediately.

National Financial Freedom Day is a day to celebrate your progress and to recommit to your financial goals. We at Parachute are here to help you do just that! Give us a call at 716-712-2060 to schedule an appointment to speak with one of our skilled counselors who can help you determine steps you can take to achieve financial freedom and live the life you desire!