Smart Financial Holiday Shopping Tips

It’s that time of year again.  The time of year where stores display all of their “best deals of the year,” and we as consumers are urged to spend, spend, spend.  If you aren’t careful, holiday shopping can get even the best of budgeters in a bind.  That’s why you have to be smart and intentional with your holiday shopping.  Here are a few ways to stay smart and spend wisely over the next month.

Have a Game Plan

The first tip to being smart with your holiday shopping is to have a game plan.  If you are being budget conscious this holiday season, a game plan will keep you from spending extra money.  Make a list of everyone you need to buy gifts for.  Write down how much you are wanting to spend for each particular person.  If you have any ideas of what you want to buy them, include that on your list too.  This sounds simple, but you would be surprised at how many people don’t take the time to do this and then end up overspending.  If you stick to your game plan, you will be spending your money wisely this holiday season.

Compare Prices

Now that you have your plan in place, it’s time to do some research.  Compare prices of the items you want to buy with different stores to find the best possible price.  You can do this through all the sales ads you get in the paper, or you can download an app like Flipp, which has all the sales ads in one place on your mobile device.  If you are out on the go and happen to see something you want to buy, you can always go to Amazon or download a price check app on your phone so you can compare prices on the spot in the store.  However you go about it, the point is to look at all the stores to get the best price before buying your gifts.

Use Cash Over Credit

It’s a proven fact that people spend more money when using their credit card rather than cash.  It has something to do with the mentality of actually having to hand over the paper bills versus blindly scanning your card through a reader.  So if your holiday shopping goals revolve around sticking to a budget or spending your money more wisely, then it is best to use cash for every gift you buy.  You will automatically be held accountable for what you spend because you will have to produce the actual money at the register.  Another perk to using cash to buy everything is that you won’t have any pesky credit card bills hanging around long after the holidays are gone.

Sign-Up For Emails

If you do a lot of shopping online, signing up for emails can be a great idea.  Most of the time, if you sign up for an email list on store websites, you will get a coupon delivered immediately to your inbox.  However, many people don’t sign up for them because they hate getting tons of “junk” mail from companies after the coupon is used.  If using your personal email address makes you uncomfortable, just set up an alternate email address that is solely for online shopping.  Direct all the emails and coupons to that address, and you won’t have to bog down your regular email with lots of junk.  You can check the alternate address every once in awhile to see if there are any more sales, deals, or coupons, but you won’t have to worry with it every day.  

Look Ahead To Next Year

The easiest way to stay on budget is to have room in your budget to spend.  If you plan ahead all year for the holidays, you will be way ahead of the game.  WCU offers a Christmas Club Savings Account that can help you toward your holiday goals.  With a Christmas Club account, you can get a certain amount automatically taken out of your checking account each month and put in a special savings account just for the holidays.  When the holidays roll around, you are given all the money in your account to spend on holiday gifts.  It’s an easy and effective way to save up for the holidays without even really noticing it.  Since it is spread out over the whole year, you won’t have to come up with a bunch of money come November to buy gifts.  Stop by your local WCU office to find out more about the Christmas Club.

Spending money wisely around the holidays isn’t hard, you just have to put some intention behind your actions to get the ball moving in the right direction.  With a little research, a game plan, coupons, and sales you will be on the right track for the holidays in no time!

Tips for Job Hunters

If you’ve ever had to look for a job you know that it can be a rough task sometimes.  It either seems like no one is hiring for the type of work you are looking for, or people are hiring, but no one is hiring you.  Job hunting can be time consuming and frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  Here are some tips for a smoother and more efficient job hunt.

Polish Your Resume

First things first, make sure your resume is up-to-date and polished.  With all the technology available now, it’s more important than ever to make sure that your resume is tailored to the specific job you are applying for.  If you are submitting an online job application, using keywords that specifically apply to the job description will help you get past the first round of automatic filters that it goes through before someone actually reads it.  If you have a lot of things to put on your resume, consider shrinking it down to the things you think will make the most impact for this specific job you are applying for.  If you are applying for several different types of jobs, your resume could look slightly different for each one depending on what kind of job it is.

Google Yourself

The next thing you want to consider is how you appear online to someone who has never met you.  You do this by simply running a Google search on yourself.  See if you look like someone you would want to hire from your pictures, social media posts, and news articles.  If you don’t necessarily like what you see, remove those items or set your social media profiles to private.  You can be assured most employers looking to hire are going to be stalking candidates online, so it’s best to get ahead of the game.

Network, Network, Network

Networking is vitally important in a job search.  The old saying, “It’s all about who you know,” is absolutely correct.  It’s always been this way, but now there are more tools for job hunters to take advantage of when it comes to networking.  Social media is a big tool for networking.  Simply make social posts announcing that you are looking for a job, tell what kind of job and where you are looking and more than likely, someone will give you a contact they know.  

Additionally, there are also online places where recruiters go to specifically look for new hires.  Job sites like Indeed.com, ZipRecruiter, Simply Hired, Monster, Career Builder, Mighty Recruiter, and even LinkedIn are sites where you can search available jobs in your area of interest and even apply online for some of them.  Employers will scour these sites looking for promising candidates, so it is important to make sure that you are looking at them too.

Another way to network is just by good old fashioned cold calling.  Call up a place you would like to work and question them about their job openings and employees.  Get to know someone in the organization that will vouch for you if a job becomes available and you apply.  Usually, if you know someone on the inside, your chances of getting hired improve.

Always Follow Up

When you send a cover letter and resume and don’t hear back within a week or so, follow up with the company.  Don’t be shy to contact them. It will show that you care about the position and that you take initiative.  If the position has been filled or they aren’t interested, they will let you know.  It’s important to keep track of where you applied and how long it’s been since you submitted your application so you can remember to follow up.  Also, if you get an interview, follow up the next day with a thank you note.  It can be an email or a written note, but leave them with a good taste in their mouth by being polite and thanking them for their time.

Finding a great job takes being proactive and putting yourself out there.  It can be tough, but it’s well worth the reward of landing a great job.  So, next time you are on a job hunt, try out some of these basic tips and see if they can help you find your dream job.

 

5 Ways to Get Started Eliminating Debt


For some people, debt can be a very big burden.  They get to a point where they feel like no matter what they do, they can’t get out.  So many people carry around this burden, paying only the minimum payment, and they don’t know how to get ahead enough to get the ball rolling on their debt situation.  But there is good news!  With a little bit of planning and a whole lot of self-discipline, you can get out of your debt.  Here’s five steps to take to start paying off debt quicker.

Stop the Debt

This may seem like a no-brainer, but the first step to getting out of debt is to stop adding to the debt.  For some people, this may be easier said than done.  A lot of people are in debt because they use credit cards or personal loans to make ends meet when their paychecks fail to do so.  They have more expenses than money, so they just get by on credit.  If this is your situation, you are going to to have to start living below your means.  Cut out as much expenses as you can to get your expenses to where you can cover them with your income, and stop adding to your debt.

Other people might live beyond their means, not out of necessity, but because they like extra things or experiences.  If this is your situation, just stop spending the extra money.  If you are truly serious about getting out of debt, you have to stop adding to it.  Just stick to this rule: if you have to charge it on credit, you can’t afford it.

Establish a Budget

Now that you have stopped adding to your debt, it’s time to take a look at your finances.  Setting up a budget and sticking to it will be your key to debt elimination.  Budgeting doesn’t have to be a complicated process, just write down your income and subtract your expenses from it.  If you find that you don’t have enough at the end, it’s time to start figuring out how to take out some expenses until you reach a total you can work with.  Make sure to schedule some extra money towards debt repayment in your budget if you can.  Sure, you can pay the minimum payments and still get out of debt, but the process will take a lot longer than if you were to find room to schedule extra payments toward debt in your budget.

Snowball It

If you’ve heard of Dave Ramsey then you know what the debt snowball method is.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, a debt snowball is where you write down your debts starting with the smallest amount and going up to the largest.  Once you have assessed the totals of all of your debts, you work toward paying the smallest off as quick as possible.  In the process of paying off that debt, you are still paying off the minimum payment on the other debts.  So then, when that debt is paid off, you add what you were paying on that previous debt to the next one along with the minimum payment you’ve been paying.  So with each larger debt, you are tacking on the previous payment amount plus the minimum on that debt.  By the time you reach your larger debt, you are paying way more than the minimum amount, thus you will pay off your debt faster.  It’s a very simple way to get a hold of your debt without actually spending extra money out of your budget.

Windfalls

A “windfall” is a term used for a time when you may come into an unexpected or unplanned amount of money.  Say you get a large income tax refund, a settlement from a will, or even just finding a $20 bill on the street.  Anytime you get some money that you weren’t planning for in your budget counts as a windfall.  The most tempting thing to do with a windfall is treat yourself to something fun.  A vacation, a special meal out, or an item you may not normally buy yourself–that’s what most people like to do with the extra money. But what if you put all that extra money towards your debt repayment plan?  Sure, it’s boring now, but think about how good it will feel to get out of your debt you’ve been working so hard on.  A windfall, even a small one, can help you get to your goal faster by speeding up the debt snowball.

Making Extra Income

If windfalls aren’t really in your immediate future, the next best way to speed up the debt repayment process is to make a little extra money.  This can happen in many different ways.  If you are hard core, you can get a part-time job to make extra.  If time doesn’t allow that, then look at what you have to work with.  Can you de-clutter your home and sell the extra clothes, toys or furniture you no longer need?  Do you have any special skills or talents that you could use to work a little from home to get some extra money?  If you play a musical instrument you could teach lessons.  You could tutor kids after school, become a virtual assistant or do data entry from home, or even start your own photography business.  Whatever your hobbies or passions are, see if you can turn them into a way to make a little money on the side.  Take all this extra income and put it all on your debt.  When you are debt free, then you can assess the situation and see if you want to continue your money making efforts for fun or if you want to call it a day on your side hustle.

These tips are just a few of the things you can do to get going on your debt repayment plan. If you can find ways to pay more than the minimum payment and stay self-disciplined enough to stick to the budget and the pay-off plan, you will be out of debt in no time.