5 Money-Saving Trends We Love

stockvault-man-putting-money-into-a-piggy-bank127720You know that old newspaper adage: “If it bleeds, it leads?”

The same is true of personal finance news: The headlines love to bleat about all of our (collective) bad money habits: “Workers Saving Too Little to Retire!” “Mortgages Underwater!” “Student Debt Crisis Looming!”

It’s enough to make you want to crawl in your piggy bank and hide.

But, luckily, in addition to people cutting their expenses by $1,000 a month or paying off $15,000 of debt, there are a lot of good money trends going down. In fact, we’ve identified five new ways people all around us are saving: On their cell phones, their grocery bills, even their 700 (and counting!) cable channels.

Have you adopted these habits yet? We guarantee you’ll be happier if you do.

1. We’re Getting Rid of Stupid Cable Channels.

From 2001 to 2011, the average cable TV subscriber’s monthly bill has nearly tripled, from $48 to $128 per month. But we all know we’re really only watching our favorite five channels, anyway—why should we pay for more?The available solutions to this dilemma could save you $50 to $120 a month, depending on what you’re willing to sacrifice.

The first option is a cable plan that gives you only channels you want. While larger cable providers, such as Time Warner, Verizon and Cablevision are still in the early stages of considering offering this kind of package, a company called Aereo has already put it into practice. Aereo created a remote antenna that provides service to channels such as CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC and more, for a maximum of only $80 a year. (For the record, despite cable protestations, two judges so far have ruled that the service is legal.)

Or, you could cut out cable altogether. Five million households now operate without cable services and are considered “Zero TV” households. That’s only 5% of the U.S. population, but it’s double the number that had in 2007. Their abstinence doesn’t mean they’re missing “Breaking Bad”—they’re tuning in via internet or cell phones, using sites such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon.

2. We’re Seeing Through Cell Phone.

Did you know that U.S. families spend an average of $139 a month on cell phones? That’s $1,668 a year, and a creep up from the $127 per month we were spending in 2009.

It’s not so much the calling and texting that’s the problem: When we have data, we use it, and when we use too much, we pay. It costs $10-$30 per megabyte of data past our allowance. But now, we’re starting to see through those confusing cell phone bills, and spending less on your phone has become downright trendy.

There are the tried-and-true tricks for reducing data usage, like disabling push notifications, using Wi-Fi instead of 3G and consolidating phone lines into a family plan (although that isn’t the right fit for everyone).

Then there’s the really cool stuff: At SaveLoveGive.com, a free site started by a former Verizon employee, you plug in your phone number and the service analyzes where you’re overspending. It’s saved more than one user $1,000 a year, and the company estimates that 80% of us overspend on our cell phone bills by an average of $200 each year. How much could you save?

3. We’re Saving on Food.

Have you been spending less at restaurants? Most Americans are, says a 2012 poll by Harris Interactive, which found that 71% of respondents choose to save money by cooking more rather than going out. A full 57% say they now consider dining out a luxury.

And how much can firing up the stove save you? The average restaurant meal costs about $12.28, while a home-cooked one will set you back $5.93—well under half the price of eating out. Taking into account that the average family dines out 4-5 times per week, that’s about $2,554 per person in a year spent on eating out—in addition to grocery bills. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American family of four spends $610-$1,203 per month on grocery bills, the higher end of which maxes out to $14,436 per year.

It’s not hard to see the cost savings of eating in—and there are ways to save even when you eat at home. Read about how one woman saved her family $600 a month on groceries, how another regularly reduced her bill by 50-70%, or take our free checklist: I Want to Cut My Grocery Bill.

This article was written by Alyssa Goldman and originally posted at learnvest.com on May 14, 2013. Read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

Youth Catch the $ave Wave During Credit Union Youth Week, April 20-26

During the week of April 20th, WESTconsin Credit Union will be highlighting the importance of helping youth become excellent money savers in recognition of National Credit Union Youth Week. This year’s theme, “Catch the $ave Wave™,” highlights tips and resources available at the credit union to boost good habits and “hang ten” on the save wave.

WESTconsin offices are celebrating Youth Week by hosting several on-site and off-site financial literacy activities within each community. Families are encouraged to stop by their local WESTconsin office for games, learning activities and treats. Kids who bring in a deposit will receive a fun color-changing cup filled with goodies. Complete details, as well as valuable online resources, are available at westconsincu.org.

Whatever young surfer savers are saving for, WESTconsin can give them the tips they need to Catch the Save Wave™. Here are just a few that can help them get started:

  • For pre-school children, show them how to sort different types of money into piles by color and size.
  • Play grocery store while teaching how to comparison shop and pay using a pretend cash register.
  • As kids get older, let them know what things cost by sharing sales receipts and bills that you receive for items or services you’ve purchased for them.
  • If you decide to pay your kids an allowance, include them in the decision by discussing amounts and what they should use their allowance for. One idea is to have children set aside parts of their allowance for spending, saving, and sharing. Clarify what you’ll pay for and what they should be responsible for. For example, when you’re at the movies, maybe you agree to pay for the movie ticket, but the Milk Duds are on them.
  • As kids reach high-school age, clarify what you will pay for and what your children are responsible for. For example, your kids may want the newest cell phone that comes with a really high price tag. Establish your spending limit. If they still want the more expensive version, have them make up the difference. Often, once the responsibility of paying for items is on kids, the “latest and greatest” aren’t so important.
  • Bring your children in for a visit at any WESTconsin Credit Union office where we have more ideas to help you raise financially savvy kids.

By teaching kids from an early age on how to save for their goals, they’ll have one of the most difficult aspects of saving under their belt by the time they’re adults—being a consistent saver.

The 7 Worst Money Mistakes Married People Make

Everyone knows that disagreements over money can cause a huge amount of stress in a couple on laptopmarriage. However, money may be more important than we think. A recent study out of Utah State University shows that couples who report fighting about money at least once a week are 30% more likely to divorce than those who only argue about it a few times a month.

So, if you want to stay married, it’s clear that it’s important to get the money thing right. Below are some of the mistakes likely to make the financial side of your married life much more difficult.

1. Forgetting the “Money Talk”

Couples need to talk about money, starting before they’re even married. They need to be upfront about how much they make, what their expenses will be, what their investments look like, and how much debt they have. It’s also helpful to discuss how they see finances working between the two of them. Will they have a joint account? Do they prefer to keep private accounts and each take on a portion of the expenses?

While many couples these days do talk about money before marriage, it’s important to continue doing so afterwards. Many of the things that happen in life will change your financial situation, and it’s important to keep in communication about those. Everything from having kids to changing jobs to buying a house can cause major flux in your overall financial position, and communication is the best way to avoid conflict in these areas.

2. Not Figuring Out Your Spending Philosophy

Different people spend differently. Some need to be able to spend so that they feel like they have some freedom. Others don’t want to spend because that makes them feel safe. Whatever your point of view on spending, it’s almost certain your spouse’s will be at least a little different. So talk about these things and come up with a plan you can both agree to.

Some couples keep separate “spending” accounts. Others put a cap on spending, saying that no one person will spend more than a certain amount without talking to the other. Do whatever works for you, but do something!

3. Putting Kids Before Anything Else

While it’s natural to want to take care of our kids, it can be a mistake to put them before everything else, especially when it comes to money. There are many ways to do this. For instance, some people are continually bailing out older children, helping them out of financial difficulty. However, this can end up bankrupting mom and dad. Instead, offer to help in other ways, maybe offering meals or a bed to sleep in while they are repaying their debt.

You should also save for retirement before you save for college. While both are important, there will likely be other ways to pay for college (like student loans, scholarships, grants, or your student working his or her way through), but retirement is pretty much a “save now” sort of deal. If you get your retirement well on its way to being funded, then you can start saving for college.

4. Lying to Your Partner About Money

About a third of the population admits lying to their spouse about money. This can mean going on shopping sprees that you don’t tell them about, and sometimes even involves hiding receipts and credit card bills to continue the deception. However, when it finally comes out (and it nearly always does), this feels like betrayal to the lied-to spouse — even equaling the betrayal of learning a partner has cheated.

If you have hidden things from your partner in the past, it’s important to bring them to light voluntarily, rather than letting your spouse find out on their own or from someone else. If you haven’t hidden things, resist the temptation to start now. Even if you break the rules you’ve imposed on yourself or spend too much, tell your spouse. Honesty won’t fix your mistake, but it will keep you from compounding it with more lies.

This article was written by Sarah Winfrey and originally posted at wisebread.com on March 13, 2014. Read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

WESTconsin Credit Union Announces Board of Directors

Gerald Wolf

Gerald Wolf

WESTconsin Credit Union recently held its Annual Membership Meeting on April 1, 2014. Greg Lentz, Chief Executive Officer, presented complete financial reports and discussed company highlights of 2013. This year marks the seventy-fifth year WESTconsin Credit Union has been in business serving the financial needs of members.

Dale Dahlke

Dale Dahlke

Members in attendance participated in the election process of three Board of Directors’ positions.

Those serving another three-year term are Gerald Wolf of rural Elmwood, WESTconsin member since 1993 and active board director since 2005; Dale Dahlke of Knapp, WESTconsin member since 1995 and active board director since 2005; and Todd Leipnitz of Menomonie, member of WESTconsin since 1986 and active board director since 2008.

Todd Leipnitz

Todd Leipnitz

WESTconsin Credit Union has been serving members since 1939, and membership is open to anyone who lives or works in the Wisconsin counties of Barron, Buffalo, Burnett, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Rusk, St. Croix, Sawyer, Taylor, Trempealeau, and Washburn, or the Minnesota counties of Anoka, Chisago, Dakota, Goodhue, Isanti, Ramsey, Wabasha, and Washington, with a $5 minimum deposit in a Membership Savings Account. Credit unions are financial institutions owned by their accountholders, and member funds are federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) up to at least $250,000.

9 Tips to Cut Your Grocery Bill by Up to 50 Percent

shutterstock_124003261Food is one of those variable expenses that can definitely hit your budget below the belt. I mean, have you seen the price of beef lately? According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. household spent about $4,000 on groceries in 2012.

The good news is that couponing, shopping sales and making a list aren’t the only ways to save a substantial amount of money on your grocery bill.

1. Buy generic

What’s the point of buying the high-end version of the product if the generic one is comparable in both quality and taste? That’s exactly why you should give those generics a shot, and save between 20 and 50 percent on your grocery bill while doing so.

I was once a Froot Loop junkie until I discovered that the Walmart brand not only tastes better, but is half the price.

And with store brands, you can also rest assured that you’re not wasting money, as most grocers offer a money-back guarantee on their products if you are not satisfied. So why not give it a shot? You may just be in for a treat.

2. Store food properly

Storing your food in the most effective manner possible will extend the food’s shelf life and significantly reduce the number of trips you make to the grocery store each month. You can butter cheese to prevent mold, store perishables in smaller quantities in durable, air-tight containers, and freeze meats.

3. Shop strategically 

Just like everything else in life, saving big bucks on your grocery bill requires that some sort of strategy be implemented.

For instance, you should never go to the store hungry because you will be tempted to buy all sorts of junk food and other items that look good. Instead, fill up your food tank before heading out so you don’t need to resist the urge to give in to your cravings.

If you’re a member of a warehouse club, take advantage of the bulk offers on the items that you consume frequently. The Sam’s Club in my neck of the woods offers a jumbo box of oatmeal for $8.99, which is what I used to spend for two small boxes each month. But thanks to what I like to call the “mega-pack,” we are still eating away three months later.

4. Check the bottom racks

Manufacturers pay for shelf space, and they sometimes cover the cost by passing it on to the consumer. When you’re grocery shopping, take a moment to look at the lower shelves for the cheaper products that you may have been overlooking in the past.

This article was written by Allison Martin and originally published at moneytalksnews.com on February 24, 2014. Read the article in its entirety by clicking here.