26 Sep

Can You Avoid Impulse Buying and Still Have Fun?

avoid impulse buying

We have to understand the beast before we can slay it, right? Impulse buying occurs anytime you buy something you did not plan for. It is characterized by thoughts, sometimes internal, other times spoken out loud, perhaps to a disapproving spouse, that include phrases like:

  • “But it was on sale!”
  • “Life is short and I’ve always wanted one of these.”
  • “I’ve been really good for so long, it was time to treat myself.”

Why do we buy things we don’t need? An affinity for self-destructive behavior? Hardly. No one wants to be in debt.

While research is split about the psychology of why we do it, it makes sense think about impulse buying as no different than eating something unhealthy. Let’s be realistic, you can’t eat healthy all the time and you can’t stick to a budget 100%. We eat when we’re either happy or sad and the same applies to our spending behavior.

Now that we’ve addressed that it’s emotional, it’s important to remember that both genders are guilty. Three out of four adults in this country make impulse purchases, according to a new survey by CreditCards.com “We found that men and women impulse shop about the same amount, but the way they feel and how much they spend are different,” said CreditCards.com senior analyst Matt Schulz.

  • Men were significantly more likely than women to spend serious money on an unplanned purchase. While just seven percent of the women said they had spent $500 or more, 21 percent of the men did. Men also made more impulse purchases of $1,000 or more.
  • Women tend to keep their impulse purchases small, under $25.
  • Men are more than twice as likely to make an impulse purchase when they’re intoxicated.
  • Women are twice as likely to buy impulsively when they are sad.
  • Women are more likely to regret making an impulse purchase: 52 percent of the women vs. 46 percent of the men said they experienced buyer’s remorse at one time. Stop impulse buying. It can be done.

Now that we’ve identified what impulse buying is, identified that emotions have an effect on whether we do it, and acknowledged both men and women are guilty, time for some tips!

  1. Always use a list! This is not limited to grocery shopping. There is a certain big box store, orange in color, where one purchase miraculously turns into many items you never knew you needed.
  1. Don’t bring your kids with you. If you have to, practice different ways of saying no, or use bribes of things that don’t cost money that you can do as soon as you leave the store.
  1. Find alternative activities for when you’re feeling stressed, sad, or overwhelmed. Recreational sports? New workout routine? Home improvement project?
  1. Put the item down if you are only buying it because it’s on sale or it’s 2 for 1.
  1. With the exception of the grocery store, try to avoid using a cart.
  1. Remove saved credit cards in shopping apps. Apps that come to mind are Amazon and Groupon.
  1. If it’s a big purchase, try to institute a 3 day rule where you spend that time thinking about it, weigh it logically against the rest of your financial needs and goals, and consider if you really need it.

RMLEFCU is here to help you avoid impulse buying and save more of your money. However, we can still acknowledge that all work and no play makes life pretty dull. Try a few of these tips and let us know how you avoid impulse purchases. We can save more and avoid guilt together!

14 Sep

Avoid Making a Big Money Mistake with these Questions

avoid big money mistakes

The best way to avoid a money mistake is to question big-ticket items fully before committing. Asking yourself these questions will help you help you maintain your financial health by avoiding unnecessary debt. If it doesn’t relate to heating your home, drying your clothes, keeping your house dry, or getting you to work – the purchase is likely not one you MUST make.

This brings us to the first question in our series that you’ll want to answer.

1. Is it necessary? Can you function in your day to day life without it?

We realize we’re being strict, but a narrow view of necessities is key to maintaining control over your finances. You may have guessed from the introduction that we consider a new heater, a dryer and a car to be necessities. Boats, vacations to Tahiti, and kitchen renovations are typically not.

2. Can you borrow? Buy used?

Use Facebook or Nextdoor to put a call out. Examples of things you might be able to borrow include phones and laptops. They are necessary for us to maintain our jobs but if we don’t have the money to buy them new, one option would be to borrow or buy a sparingly used phone or laptop from a friend. Furthermore, while you wouldn’t borrow a dryer, you might make due without one for the summer months by hanging up your clothes to dry outside, using a neighbor’s, or going to the closest laundromat until you have saved up enough to buy your own.

Some items are harder to borrow, like a car or truck. Having a reliable vehicle to get you and your loved ones to where they need to go is important. RMLEFCU is proud to partner with AutoTrek for honest car buying advice. They are offering the following incentives to RMLEFCU members for used and new cars:

  • $100 gas card
  • Discounted prices on 2017 models
  • Exclusive access to 50,000 used models online and over 100 on their lot

3. Shop around if possible and pay attention to reviews.

The Internet and social media make it so much easier to Google the specific brand and model of many big-ticket items and find out who has the best price. A little research can save you a lot of money.

4. Can you do it yourself? Do you have the time? Are you handy?

Be honest not only with how capable you are, but with how much time you are willing to give up to fix or replace the item yourself. YouTube videos can be useful to show you how to properly cut a mango, but hanging drywall may be best left to a team who has done it before.

We have mentioned starting an emergency fund in many of our articles. If you don’t have one, here’s a few reasons why you should. Thankfully, RMLEFCU offers a service called Courtesy Pay that will allow check, debit and ACH items to be paid up to $1,000 by allowing your checking account to go into the negative; rather than returning the overdraft item. This will help keep you out of debt in case you have any financial emergencies.

Speak with a RMLEFCU employee about our current AutoTrek promotion and Courtesy Pay today!

11 Sep

Dollars and Cents for Parents to Be

financial advice for new parents

Financial Advice for New Parents

We won’t bore you with the oft-quoted figures of what it costs to raise a child until their 18th birthday. We feel it’s counterproductive to scare you and we think those estimated figures are wildly inaccurate anyway. It’s expensive. Let’s leave it at that. *Note that we are not factoring in any college related expenses for this post.

Let’s start from the beginning. The moment you discover you are going to be spending many weekends at home, aka, you’re expecting, dig out your health insurance paperwork and find out what maternity expenses are covered and what is not taken care of. Specifically ask questions like:

  • What’s the procedure for adding your new baby to your plan?
  • Will the plan cover your newborn’s nursery stay? Remember that your newborn’s hospital bill will be separate from your own. Typically, a health insurance plan will provide coverage only if you enroll your child for dependent benefits within 30 days of birth.
  • Will the plan cover the costs of a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stay for your newborn?

Read More

17 Aug

5 Bills To Negotiate

bills to negotiate

Are there bills to pay? Or are there bills to negotiate? You decide.

What explains our aversion to price negotiation? Maybe its the ugly sounding words used to describe it. One example is “haggling” which means “to bargain in a petty, quibbling, and often contentious manner.” A second choice is “quibbling” which sounds like some kind of  crying/dribbling/quivering lip maneuver.

If you ignore your notions about bargaining and open up to its possibilities, it can pay off in spades.

After all, if we ignored William Shatner’s suggestion to “Name our Price” we would miss out on low airfares and car rentals.

We are not useless pawns in the economic process. Speak up America! Start negotiating where you’ve never negotiated before. What is the worst that can happen? Two little letters: N-O. You’re no worse off if you pay the asking price, but if it works in your favor, your bank account will thank you.

5 Bills to Negotiate:

Mortgage Rates:

Mortgage companies will quote you a rate when you ask, but that doesn’t mean you need to stick to that rate. If your credit is good or you can put down a hefty down payment, you may have enough leverage to negotiate a lower rate and save thousands.

Read More

10 Aug

Save on Back to School Expenses

school expenses

Although it’s not news to parents, back to school costs are nothing to sneeze at. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Back-to-School Spending Survey of 6,500 consumers, the average family with children in grades K-12 planned to spend $630.36 on clothes, electronics and school supplies this year. Regardless of whether you have overspent, underspent, or kept to a budget, we have a few back to school shopping tips for kindergarten through college graduation that you may be able to incorporate into your spending (or saving) repertoire.

Students in any grade or year – Shop out of season. Shopping post-season sales and clearance racks is a great way to build up you or your child’s wardrobe on a budget. Take inventory to determine exactly what pieces you or your kids will need for the upcoming year, and then organize your budget around what you still need to buy. Keep a look out for winter coats, boots, and jackets in late February, and summer clothing in late August. If you have one, shop where your Student ID gives you a discount.

Read More

02 Aug

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – How to Save on Summer Travel

save on summer travel

Want to Save on Summer Travel?

The way we look at it Fall starts on September 22nd, so you have 51 days left of summer to take a summer trip. We’re determined to save you money on the different modes of transportation you’ll use to get there. In no particular order, here are ways to make your money go further when booking a flight, taking a train and reserving a rental car.

Planes –

It used to be all about waiting until the last minute to find deals. But with all of the low cost carriers and an increase in the number of people flying, you’re better off booking in advance. We recommend Kayak and Skyscanner. Both are comparison websites that perform all of the data digging to get you the best deal and tell you whether to buy now or wait. According to Kayak’s blog, “The lowest average domestic airfares are found 21 days prior to departure while international airfares are at their lowest point 34 days out.”

  • Fly on unpopular days: Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
  • Sign up for email alerts from airlines you fly regularly. Consider creating an email address or a filter for emails like this so as to not clog up your regular email account.
  • After you book, watch the fare – remember that you have 24 hours to cancel with most airlines. Some airlines like Southwest will let you cancel and rebook anytime before you check in.
  • Be willing to fly out of a regional airport. Bonus: Sometimes the parking is free, or at least cheaper, which helps to balance out the gas money you used driving there.
  • Fly Southwest – they are the only airline that allows a free checked bag, two in fact.

Trains –

Why would you book a train ride when air travel is so much faster?

Maybe it’s because the prices are more stable than airfare, you’ve saved up more vacation days so scrambling back is unnecessary, and it’s a more scenic way to see this great country. Any of the headaches that air travel gives you (long security lines and cancelled flights) are avoided with train travel.

Check out Amtrak SmartFares. There are new rail deals every week, available for travel Tuesday through Friday.

Trains have great discounts. Military personnel and their families and AAA members save 10%. Students save 15% no matter if they are full or part-time, undergraduate or graduate. If you are a veteran, you can save 15% with a card. Have little ones? Kids always pay half of an adult fare.

Sign up for Amtrak alerts to be in the know about new deals.

Read More

21 Jul

How to Bounce Back from a Personal Financial Crisis

piggy_bank

There is no agreed upon definition of what constitutes a “personal financial crisis.”

A few examples might be:

  • Taking a pay cut with a different job
  • Unexpected repairs to your home or car that aren’t covered
  • Credit card debt that is eating up your income and not allowing you to save
  • You’re facing bankruptcy
  • You or your spouse has been laid off

Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Federal Credit Union understands that a personal financial crisis is personal to you. However, we have a few suggestions of ways to tackle a financial setback that are widely applicable – whether the crisis was of your own doing, or beyond your control.

  1. Try to recognize if your emotions are taking over. It sounds hokey but positive thoughts lead to positive actions, while negative thoughts usually lead to negative action. If you have negative feelings about what has happened, you are likely to make a decision based on an emotion like fear, shame or anger.

Our attitudes towards money are shaped early in life, or develop without having much formal education. Everyone knows someone who seems to be constantly plagued by money problems.

People who believe that money is something within their control are the ones who become more successful in how they manage their finances.

  1. Look for pro-active solutions and don’t give in to the fear of making the same mistake or another financial setback. One antidote to fear is as much research as possible. Before starting to look for work, do your research and determine what you need to be earning in a new job to support your lifestyle. If there is some way you can increase your skills or better your negotiation techniques to secure a higher salary – do so. In the short term, think about what you can immediately cut from your monthly budget. Simple things like eating out less can help you get through a tough time.
  1. Check out a few books about money. – You’re busy – we get it – but if you have a few moments each day for social media – you can skim a few of these books.
  • Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Vicki Robin
  • The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
  • Start Late, Finish Rich: A No-Fail Plan for Achieving Financial Freedom at Any Age by David Bach
  1. Pare down a few of your non-necessities.

A few examples are: eating out at restaurants, movie theater tickets, a gym membership, outdoor gear.

Alternatives: Use coupons to eat out (restaurant.com, Groupon). Watch movies and TV on Amazon Prime, Hulu or Netflix or go to a cheap theater like Elvis Cinemas in Denver. Rather than a gym membership, explore free or low cost fitness apps on your cell phone or move along to free videos on Youtube.com like the Fitness Blender series. To save money on shopping, borrow items when possible, or buy used or from outlets.

  1. Be cautious about credit counseling companies. Credit counseling is an alternative to bankruptcy. These companies have you pay them and they in turn pay your creditors, having negotiated a payment plan and schedule. It’s not all bad but you should do your research first.

Advantages:

You avoid filing for bankruptcy.

You consolidate your bills into one monthly payment, for a period that lasts usually three to five years.

Your credit score should stay the same as when you enroll.

You’re forced to follow a strict monthly budget and live within your means.

Cons:

Reports from researchers show a 50/50 success rate.

Most lenders will not lend to you until your counseling period ends and you have re-established some credit. This will take a few years.

Similar to bankruptcy, credit counseling may impact how potential employers view you.

Nobody is born with superior financial knowledge. It is a learned skill and one that takes assessment and constant practice. RMLEFCU has dedicated personnel to help you in a financial crisis. You may call (720) 458-6660 to learn more. We also offer an in-house financial planner, Deborah Wilson, who can be reached at 720-855-4128. Call to schedule a free consultation and gain peace of mind.

22 Jun

5 Things to Do When Buying in a Seller’s Market

homebuying in Denver

When you’re buying a home in a seller’s market put yourself in the mindset of a contestant on an episode of the Amazing Race. Success depends on being resourceful, keeping a positive attitude, and managing your resources.

Thankfully, Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Federal Credit Union can offer their members competitive rates and advice in the form of these five MUSTs before you start looking on Zillow, Redfin or your favorite local realtor’ website.

  1. Get your financing in order.

    In short, pay down your debts, have money earmarked for a down payment and check your credit report so there are no surprises.

    1. Pay Down Debts – Pay the most expensive first. This is the bill with the highest interest rate. Consider moving your balance from one credit card to another with a 0% interest rate, but be faithful with your payments before the 0% offer expires.
    2. Down Payment – Aim for 10-20% of the purchase price.
    3. Credit Report – Order your free one here. Get all three at once. Check for late payments and make sure they are not erroneous, especially recent late payments. If your name is common, make sure that the address noted is correct. If you see something that shouldn’t be there, call the creditor whose name appears alongside the disputed information.
  1. Get a low interest loan.

Here’s where Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Federal Credit Union can help. From now until the end of June we can offer 125%* for 30 year and 3.25%* for 15 year loans. There’s no requirement for private mortgage insurance and we’re offering extremely low origination fees of 0.5%.

  1. Be willing to look in different areas and during the weekday.

If there’s a great house out there but you’re only able to view it on the weekends, you might lose out. Buying in a seller’s market means meeting the realtor at the first opportunity. Having a manageable commute is important, but be willing to look for homes in areas you haven’t considered. Arvada and Lakewood are our picks if you want to live closer to the mountains.

  1. Be flexible with the closing date!

Summer and Fall are busy and maybe you have dates in mind that would be less than ideal for moving. Sorry to say, you need to make it work for the seller when you’re buying in a seller’s market. What matters most ultimately is the price you end up paying – and getting a home that works for you. Don’t get hung up on dates.

  1. Shorten your lists of must haves.

You may think you have to have air conditioning, but a swamp cooler can do just fine in this area of the country. Be open to a corner lot, replace the kitchen cabinets yourself, and don’t get stuck on the existing paint colors. Certain characteristics are non-negotiable: school districts, number of bedrooms for each child (bunking brother and sister together for the “perfect house” is not recommended). Save your long list of must haves for a buyer’s market that will eventually happen. If anyone has any guesses of when, let us know.

Buying in a seller’s market is difficult, but not impossible. Stay tuned for more home buying advice from RMLEFCU.

*Annual Percentage Rate. With approved credit. Some restrictions may apply. Applications must be submitted by June 30th, 2016 to qualify for the promotional rate and origination discount.