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Are This Year’s Gifts Going to Be Usable for Next Year’s Holidays?

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All over the country, gift items are on clearance right after the holidays. Gift wrap, holiday cards, pre-packaged gift baskets, toys and housewares will all be cheaper than ever. Consider setting aside a corner of your basement or other room as a gift alcove. Next year, not only will you have saved money, but much of the shopping will already be done before you even begin to think about it.

Make the Nice List with Your Credit Card Use

It’s that time of year again. He’s making a list and checking it twice. Of course, we’re talking about the major credit bureaus! The holiday spending season begs the question: how to pay for all that joy?

It’s tempting to turn to plastic to help finance the holiday season. The average American plans to spend $812 on the holidays this year, more than most people have just sitting around or in their savings.

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Let’s look at some “naughty” and “nice” ways to use your credit cards during the holidays.

Naughty: Financing gift-giving with credit

If you don’t have the money to finance your gift-giving, it’s tempting to pull out a credit card. People tend to overspend when using plastic: a recent study of consumer behavior shows shoppers using credit cards spend nearly 20% more.

Nice: Paying for holiday travel

If you’re traveling for the holidays, it’s prudent to pay for it using credit. Most major credit cards offer insurance for rental cars and extra cancellation policies for flights in case of last-minute changes. Using a credit card to make reservations at hotels and other book-ahead services also can prevent a hold on your account as a deposit.

Resist the impulse to take frivolous upgrades. Keeping a clear budget will enable you to pay off that credit card bill next month and avoid finance charges.

Naughty: Guilt spending

The holidays are full of messages that connect spending to caring. Advertisers encourage us to make emotional decisions, rather than spending what we can afford. Credit cards make this easier by letting you postpone paying for the gift.

Instead of telling someone you care with borrowed money, express your feelings with a thoughtful message and an affordable gift.

Nice: Spending rewards on holiday purchases

If you use a rewards card throughout the year, now is the time to cash in those points. Most card issuers offer discounts on two things everyone needs this time of year: travel and gift cards. Picking up gift cards this way can make last-minute gift-giving easier.

How do you manage your holiday spending? Are there secret tricks to keep those costs down or techniques you use to keep you within your budget? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

Christmas Without Stress – How to Control Holiday Spending

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and celebration. For too many of us, it’s also a time of great financial stress. How can you give gifts, balance the need to spend AND not put yourself into a financial bind?

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Make a plan.
Because it’s so easy to spend on impulse, set a maximum amount to spend — and then dial that number back a bit. Create a gift list with the dollars to spend on each recipient. If the total is too high, refine the amounts and recalculate. Repeat until you land in your spending comfort zone.

Make gifts by hand.
If you have more time than money this year, handmade gifts are an ideal solution. Indeed, it’s more than ideal – a store-bought gift isn’t always appreciated for very long. A handmade gift frequently is kept and treasured for a lifetime.

Send cards.
Cards are cheaper than gifts. Cheaper still if you create them by hand. And cheaper still if you give them in person to people you see regularly (to skip the cost of postage).

Open a Holiday Helper Account.
Back before everyone had a credit card, people joined Christmas Clubs at credit unions to set aside money each month for 11 months. Then, at Christmas time, they used the money – with interest earned – for holiday spending. You can open a Holiday Helper Account at City CU, for Christmas 2018 or create your own Christmas Club simply by adding another savings account and contributing to it regularly throughout the year.

Keep it simple.
Remember – the first Christmas was quite modest. They didn’t even pay for a room at the inn. There’s nothing wrong with a quiet Christmas at home with your family. Indeed, there’s a great deal about that idea that gets it exactly right.

A Great Christmas for A Lot of Kids

City CU had an amazing collection in the month of November. With your help, we collected over 270 toys for Buckner Humanitarian Aid. This special collection — along with a $500 donation to Buckner — will help keep the magic of Christmas alive for a child in need.

On December 20, families in need can receive holiday decorations for their home, toys to let their child know how special they are and food so that their hearts and tummies are full.

City CU also collected for our local families in Gainesville, Sherman and Waxahachie.

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“We are so thankful to City CU for this. A great Christmas for a lot of kids.” – Buckner Humanitarian Aid.

Together we made a difference and, just as Buckner Humanitarian Aid thanks us, we THANK YOU for your continued support through our 75th Anniversary’s efforts to give back to our communities.

Thursday Thought

How much of your self-image is based on how you look and how much of it is based upon your income?

Self-image

We all know the value of a human being is intrinsic. At the same time, we tend to judge ourselves (and others) by external factors such as looks, careers and wealth. Which of these factors are most important to you? Are there other factors you consider in your assessment of people — and of your own self-assessment?

Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter.

3 Ways to Stay on Top of Your Finances While On-the-Go

Cell phone, mobile phone, smartphone, iPhone — whatever we call it, it can be as distracting as it is helpful. One way it’s super helpful is keeping you close to your finances.

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1.) Say goodbye to security woes

Despite all of the data breaches in the past few years, mobile banking actually is a fundamentally secure platform. Data transmitted from your phone to your provider is heavily encrypted. In most cases, if you lose your phone, it can be remotely deactivated and passwords usually aren’t even stored on the device.

2.) Check your balance any time

Rather than waiting for your paper statement or booting up the PC to check your account balances, you can view transactions while waiting for a movie or in line at a restaurant — and stay vigilant against unauthorized account access.

The convenience of mobile banking also can keep you from making costly mistakes. You can see if your monthly rent has been withdrawn from your account to avoid the costly fees associated with an overdraft.

Errors like accidental overpayment, duplicate payments are caught and fixed more quickly when you’re viewing your account more often.

3.) 24-hour-a-day instant access

Can’t remember if you paid a bill? Use our mobile app to check your balance and transaction history. See if a payment has cleared. Make sure your balance is safe.

Mobile banking won’t replace traditional, face-to-face interaction. There always will be a place in credit union service standards for human interaction. What mobile banking apps offer is a wonderful supplement to those high-quality services: convenience, top-level security and blissful peace of mind are all available from your pocket, anywhere in the world.

How Not to Bust Your Holiday Budget

According to a T. Rowe Price survey, more than 50% of parents will aim to get everything on their kids’ wish lists this year. Many of these parents will be paying for these gifts for months, or even years, afterward.

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There’s a better way, and it’s simple: Create a budget, and make informed decisions about your spending before you hit the shops.

Short-term effects

Tipping your budget just a bit every once in a while isn’t a disaster. But the spending hangover many parents face after holiday shopping is too large to be easily forgotten.

Over half the parents surveyed will pay for their holiday gifts with credit cards. Just 61% of them plan to pay off their spending within three months, and 16% say they will pay it off over the course of six months or more. That’s half a year spent catching up on holiday spending!

Think carefully this shopping season before you drop another item into your cart. Is this gift really worth trimming your budget for the next three – or six – months?

Long-lasting effects

Eleven percent of parents use money from their retirement accounts, 14% have taken funds out of their emergency savings and 11% have taken out a payday loan.

While their kids may be delighted with their loot, parents can be paying for it for longer than they think.

Taking $500 out of a 401(k) at age 35 translates into giving up $6,000 that was earmarked for retirement. Parents are forking out additional taxes and penalties to gain access to the money, and are also losing the opportunity for that money to grow.

Life Lessons

There’s nothing quite as exciting as unwrapping a present. Kids wait all year for the holidays, and as their parents, you want to make them happy. Aside from the financial drain, purchasing every gift your kids have their hearts set on teaches them a host of lessons they’re better off without. Do you really want your kids thinking they can always have everything they want? Do you want them to feel that everything they own must always be the best and most expensive?

Be proactive

Try saving up for the holiday season throughout the year. While it may be too late for this year, it’s never too early to start thinking about next season. Sign up for our Holiday Helper Account, and put money aside each month!

How will you fund your holiday spending? Do you plan to buy your kids everything on their lists? Why or why not?

For more financial tips, visit our Education page.

6 Ways to Know You’re Using Your Credit Cards Responsibly

Credit cards are an important financial tool, but they need to be used responsibly. Here’s how to know you’re okay.

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  1. You can easily pay more than just the minimum payment each month.
  2. You don’t rely on your credit card for everyday purchases.
  3. You are using less than 30% of your credit limit.
  4. You never take out cash advances.
  5. You use it mostly for large, necessary expenses.
  6. You read all the fine print in every letter you receive from your credit card company.

In what ways do you use your credit card? Share with us on Facebook and Twitter!

Shopping for Savings

Thrifty gift-giving may sound like an oxymoron. After all, how can you be prudent when the holiday season has you buying gifts for everyone on your list? Fortunately, there are many ways you can spend less and enjoy more about the true meaning of the holiday.

Celebrate these three tips and save on your shopping!

  1. Draft a List
    Smart shopping starts with a list of all your recipients. Organize friends and family into groups based on cost level and jot down ideas for possible presents. When you hit the mall, stick to the list and check price ranges for each person before buying that cute but expensive cashmere sweater for your roommate. Oppose the urge to grab a gift that is outside your budget. Remember, your friends understand you don’t have a fortune to spend, and it’s the meaningful value of your gifts that counts most!
  2. Small but Sentimental
    Chances are, your camera is loaded with snapshots of friends dancing to the latest tunes, sharing a laugh over lunch, or just hanging around campus and enjoying the weekend. Put those photos to good use and check out websites that let you create personalized products such as photo calendars, mugs, magnets, mouse pads, note pads and more! Buying in bulk for all your friends will help you save even more money, and you’ll be creating keepsakes they’ll treasure forever.
  3. Shop the Sales
    You may not be a fan of the Sunday paper, but hidden among all that news is a valuable coupon and advertising section where your favorite retailers, chain stores and local outlets include special discounts and market mega sales. Of course, even if you’re not into in-store shopping, you can always check out online sites for the latest deals on holiday gifts. Use your favorite search engine as a tool to help you quickly compare prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal on the best gifts.

Visit our Education Page for more tips on saving!

Thanksgiving Reflection

It’s easy to focus on the things we lack and therefore forget to count our blessings. This Thanksgiving, make a list of the top 5 things you are truly grateful for having in your life. Imagine living without those things and appreciate how blessed you really are. If that includes certain individuals – friends, family, coworkers – take a moment to drop them a line by email or text to let them know they are appreciated.

Thanksgiving-reflection
Share your Thanksgiving gesture on our Facebook or Twitter page.