4 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill


If you buy the groceries in your home, you know that food prices seem to get higher every time you go to the store.  For someone on a budget, it can make grocery shopping time very stressful. Fortunately, there are things you can do to lower your grocery bill without compromising the quality or taste.

Plan, Plan, Plan

It seems like the words “meal planning” are all over the internet lately, and within good reason:  planning your week of meals ahead of time has proven to lower your food costs. Why? It’s because planning out everything in advance helps you not throw every item you see into your cart.  With a properly planned out shopping list, you know approximately how much you will spend before you even get to the store. This helps you stay on budget and rids you of the temptation to buy too many “extras”.  You can plan your grocery budget and eat well all week–all because you put a little thought into it beforehand.

Also, as part of your planning, make sure you never go to the store while you are hungry.  If you are ravenous by the time you get to the store, everything you see will look appetizing, and you will end up buying too much.  So eat a good snack and make a list, and your grocery shopping will go much smoother.

Know Your Prices

Part of sticking to your grocery budget is to know your best prices.  Do you know the best price for a pound of ground beef? How about the best price for a gallon of milk?  If you always have an idea of the lowest price you’ve seen for certain items, you will always know if your store is charging too much for that item.  

How do you know when prices are good or bad?  You shop the weekly sales. Get out all the grocery store ads from the newspaper (or online using an app like Flipp) and go through and find the items you are looking at buying.  This will help you determine what to buy where. If you dislike the idea of going to several different stores, find the one that has the most items you want to buy at the cheapest prices and go there.  Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you build your meal plan around the sale items that week for the stores you choose. Shopping the sales ensures that you can eat well on a budget.

Rewards and Coupons

You don’t have to be an “extreme couponer” to enjoy the benefits of coupons and grocery store rewards.  Only cut out the coupons for the items you need, or take advantage of the digital coupons many stores now have.  If your favorite store has a rewards card, make sure you sign up for one. You often get special prices and even extra coupons for things you buy if you use your rewards card.  

There are also apps like Ibotta that give you cash back for buying certain items.  You just download the app, select your coupons and then upload your receipt, and it adds money to your account.  Once you reach a certain amount in your account, you can cash out and get that money back. It’s just another easy way to save money on groceries.

DIY

Perhaps the easiest way to save a little money on your grocery bill is to stop buying convenience foods and do things yourself.  Don’t buy that small bowl of cut up pineapple for $5–instead, buy a whole pineapple for $3 and get double the amount of fruit. Sure, it’s not easy to cut up, but you get more for less this way.  This goes for any pre-packaged convenience food. It’s usually always cheaper to do the work yourself than to buy it already done. Of course this method takes more time, but if you are serious about saving money, it’s the only way to go.

Saving money on groceries isn’t rocket science–it just takes some organization and planning.  If that doesn’t come natural to you, don’t worry! The more you practice shopping sales, looking for coupons and meal planning, the easier it becomes.

When to Take Money from Your Emergency Fund


Emergency funds are a great essential to have in your life if a financial crisis ever hits you or your family.  When you have money put back specifically for emergencies, you have a peace of mind that many people don’t have because they haven’t planned that far in advance.  Having a separate savings account set aside for financial disasters will keep you from having to worry about money during the actual emergency. But what actually constitutes an emergency?  

If something is affecting your health, you could count that as an emergency.  Health care costs can be astronomically high if your insurance won’t cover your bill.  Emergency Room trips, hospital stays, med-flights or unexpected purchases of medication or medical equipment would all qualify as events in which it would be appropriate to take money from your emergency fund.

Car problems or repairs can also be costly in some situations.  If you find yourself needing a new transmission or your engine fixed, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in repairs.  This would be another situation in which it would be ok to take from your emergency fund.

Perhaps the biggest reason for an emergency fund would be to have money in place in case you or your spouse ever lose your jobs.  That’s why the rule of having 3-6 months of expenses is thrown around in financial well-being conversations. If you were to lose your job, you would have 3-6 months to look for a job because you have the money to live on in your emergency fund.  That way, you can take your time and not feel like you have to take the first job that comes along because you need the money right then.

It needs to be said that your emergency fund should be separate from your other savings accounts.  You don’t need to mix the two. It’s important to save for other things as well as emergencies.

So what isn’t an emergency?  Basically anything else not mentioned above.  Things like gifts for birthdays or holidays, items on your “want” list or shopping sprees definitely do not qualify as emergencies.  Likewise, expenses that can be planned for do not qualify as an emergency either. You know your mortgage is due the same time every month–just like most of your other bills.  If you can’t pay your bills out of your paychecks, you need to look at getting a budget and downsizing a bit to a lifestyle you can afford. Taking money from your emergency fund for non-emergencies will only hurt your financial health efforts in the future.

So next time you think about taking money from your emergency fund, ask yourself if it is a true emergency.  If it doesn’t qualify, you don’t need to pull the money from your emergency fund.

5 Ways to Build Your Emergency Fund


Do you ever feel daunted by the task of building up your emergency fund?  The recommended “fully stocked” emergency fund is 3-6 months of living expenses for your entire family.  If you don’t have a lot of extra money, that can be a big undertaking. Here are a few practical ways you can build up your emergency fund without sacrificing your sanity.

Cut Expenses

First things first, if you don’t have a lot of extra income to save up consistently, it’s time to cut expenses.  If you are serious about building your emergency fund, you will have to make some sacrifices to get it to where you want it to be.  Making a budget and sticking to it will help you find areas where you can cut back and still be able to save money for a rainy day.

Setting Goals

Setting a weekly or monthly emergency fund savings goal is a great way to break down the total amount you want to save into a tangible, realistic target.  If you are overwhelmed with the thought of having to save 3-6 months worth of expenses, then this strategy will work well for you. Take your overall savings goal amount and divide it by 12.  Is that divided amount a reasonable amount you can save in one month? If not, break it up further. By breaking it up into sizeable chunks, you will be able to systematically meet your goal over time and not worry about how you are going to save such a large amount of money.  Any goal can seem attainable when you sort it out over time.

Make Money

Another way to save money quickly is to make more of it.  Is there some way you can get a side hustle to make a bit more money each month?  Do you have a skill that can be monetized on the side? Maybe you can get a part-time job temporarily until your goal is met.  If you are serious about reaching your savings goals for your emergency fund and cutting back expenses isn’t really getting you anywhere, it might be time to make a little extra.  All the money that you make from this side job should go straight into the emergency fund. Don’t use it for anything else until you reach your savings goals. This approach can expedite your emergency fund status to “fully stocked” in no time!

Keep Change

Do you pay for a lot of things in cash?  If so, you probably have a lot of change and dollar bills floating around your wallet, purse or pockets at any given time.  Next time you find yourself with lots of extra pocket change, dump them all into a jar. Once the jar is full, deposit that money into your emergency fund.  While this approach to saving won’t make you rich quick, it still will help you along the way. Use this savings method in addition to some of the others to really get your emergency fund in place quickly.

Tax Time

Do you get a sizable tax refund every year?  If so, put all of your refund into your emergency fund.  For some people, that could equal almost one month of expenses all at once!  Putting your tax refund into your emergency fund can really give you the quick boost you need to keep you going on your savings journey.

Building your emergency fund doesn’t have to be a chore.  Watching your savings account grow can actually be fun when you are fully invested in making it happen.  If you just take some time and employ these few tips, your emergency fund will be fully stocked and your peace of mind will be worth all the work.

Everything You Need to Know About Emergency Funds

Have you ever thought about what would happen if you had a real financial emergency in your life?  Do you have enough money in the bank to cover your potential expenses?  If you have an emergency fund plan in place you do!  Here is everything you need to know about having an emergency fund.

What?

An emergency fund is an account set aside to save money specifically and only for true emergencies.  Unexpected health expenses, job loss and vehicle emergencies would fall into the category of things that would make good use of your emergency fund.  Of course, you hope you never have to use it, but when you do find yourself in a financial crisis, if you have an emergency fund in place the peace of mind is worth it.

Why?

Well, as we stated above, if you get into a deep financial problem, you will have the money set aside to cover the expenses.  Many people who don’t have money saved in an emergency fund find themselves in a bind and end up having to take out loans or put their expenses on credit cards, which only magnifies their financial issues.  This is a vicious cycle, and it is very hard to break the cycle once you get going in it.  If you are someone who is serious about getting out of debt, it’s important to have an emergency fund in place, because you will have a hard time doing so if financial times get tough.

How Much?

As far as how much to save–it really depends on your financial situation.  If you have a lot of debt to pay off, or if you are living paycheck to paycheck, you might only want to save $500 – $1000 at first.  That way you will have something to fall back on if something major happens. If you are in decent financial shape, but don’t have much savings, you might want to consider trying to save 3-6 months worth of living expenses in your emergency fund.  That way if you suddenly lost a job, you would have enough money to live on for 3-6 months while trying to find another job without any panic.  As with any financial situation, you know how much you can reasonably put back into savings.  In this situation, some is definitely better than none.

Where?

So where do you put your money?  A WCU savings account would be the perfect place to keep your emergency fund.  It’s easy to access online with our home banking and mobile app.  It’s also easy to access while traveling (in case something happens) with our Shared Branching Network all over the country.  A savings account is just accessible enough that you can get to it in a hurry if need be, but not as easy as keeping the money in your checking account or in an envelope in your bottom drawer.  You don’t want it to be too convenient to where it is tempting to dip into it in non-emergency situations.

So that’s the case for an emergency fund.  It’s something everyone should consider having in their lives, no matter what their financial situation.  When you plan for emergencies, you will navigate through life’s troubles with much less panic–especially over your finances.

 

Top 5 Reasons Credit Unions are Great

Credit unions have been around a long time, but what makes them different from regular banks?  Well, as it turns out, there are quite a few differences. Credit unions are unique and they offer many benefits that banks simply can’t due to the nature of their business model.  Here are the top 5 reasons to choose a credit union over a bank:

  1. Credit unions are owned by the members, not stockholders.  If you are a member of a credit union like WCU, then you are part owner of the credit union!  The whole reason for the credit union to be in existence is to assist the financial well-being of the members that own it.  That’s it!

  2. Credit unions return their profits to their members in the form of lower rates and fees and new products and services.  Since they are not-for-profit entities, everything they make goes back to you–the member-owner.

  3. Credit unions almost always have lower interest rates on credit cards and loans than traditional banks.  Right now at WCU, you can get an auto loan for as low as 2.00% interest. Awesome rates like that can be done through credit unions because the profits are funneled down to the members instead of stockholders pockets.

  4. Overall, credit unions rate higher on the customer satisfaction scale than traditional banks.  This is because the operators of credit unions are members of the community in which they serve.  Since they are dedicated to serving the best to the financial needs of the community, they are more apt to treat each member with the quality of service they wish to receive themselves.  You are being served by your neighbors, so the atmosphere seems more like a big family.

  5. Since your credit union is owned by the members and operated by fellow community members, credit unions are dedicated to serving their community.  Credit unions are often involved in many local community events, because that is where their heart lies. Without the community, credit unions would cease to exist.  That’s why they make serving the community through local events and charities a priority.

As you can see, credit unions aren’t in the business to make as much money as possible.  They are in the business of serving the community and helping their members find success in managing their financial business.  At WCU, we treat our members and community like a family, and we would love to have you join us!