04 Nov

A Budget Savvy Holiday Gift Guide for Everyone on Your List

The holiday season is fraught with excess. Overeating, overdrinking and overspending can lead to headaches, regret and a depleted bank account. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Just because you are frugal doesn’t mean you have to forego giving altogether or buy gifts for your friends and family at dollar stores. You can choose meaningful, local gifts for every personality on your list. For this budget  savvy holiday gift guide we selected local experiences and handcrafted items that recipients will appreciate and cherish long after Christmas.

Budget Savvy Holiday Gift Guide for:

The Foodie 
  • Denver Dining Out Passbook – $34.99- This is a good deal since it was $99 when it was first issued. The recipient has until 7/31/16 to use 2 for 1 deals from restaurants like DiFranco’s and our personal favorite Gaetano’s.
  • Cooking Classes from the Kitchen Table in Greenwood Village. Classes are usually $80-$95 with many including 5 course meals and wine. Plus you gain practical knowledge and a memorable experience.
The Philanthropist with Style

Threads Worldwide – A Denver based company that partners with fair trade cooperatives in twelve countries to create beautiful jewelry and accessories. Shop online here.

The Practical Philanthropist

Oxfam – Browse their online catalog and pick out a unique, symbolic gift. The best part is that your selection will benefit an individual in need. Gifts include a goat, a school meal program for one child, mosquito nets, etc.

The Sports Fan

Get them Season tickets to the Mammoth! There are nine home games and prices start as low as $80 for season tickets. It’s fast paced, high scoring, and you’re cheering on a local team.

Outdoors Enthusiast

Buy an Annual State Parks Pass for only $70 per vehicle. The Annual Pass can now be purchased at any time of year and is valid for a full 12 months of use.

Up for Anything Types

Buy them a Class with Dabble. Offerings are in person in the Denver metro area and include classes like: holiday wreath making, glassblowing, screen printing, and even beginning blacksmithing.

Tech Guru

Further their knowledge or help them get a jump on a new career with a class from the Colorado Free University.

The Police Officer

A Swiss Army knife with add-ons like a light, seat belt cutters, and window punches. Here’s one choice that is bound to come in handy. Or a good electric travel mug so that no matter how busy they are their beverage will stay the same temperature.

A Stressed Out Parent

An offer to babysit coupled with a restaurant gift certificate would be very appreciated. Another idea is a certificate for house cleaning from a professional such as 5280 Housecleaning or Maid Complete.

Congratulations! You’ve covered a lot of ground with this budget savvy holiday gift guide.

You can’t drive on an empty tank and you can’t be your best self without a little reward, right? Remember that with our Holiday Loan Slideby you can skip loan payments in December. Complete the coupon in this month’s newsletter (Dispatch) and turn it in to a branch as soon as possible to free up more holiday cash!

05 Oct

Use these Apps to Save Money on Eating Out

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer expenditure surveys, the typical household spends $2,625 each year, or around $219 per month on food outside the home.

Do you know how much you’re spending on eating out? One way to find out is to download a month’s worth of spending into an excel format. You can sort the vendor name alphabetically and quickly add up any restaurant names.

Those in higher income groups spend more on restaurants — around $370 per month — and those in the lowest income groups spend less, at around $104 per month.

Here are a few signs that you’re spending TOO much. Also, don’t forget that all beverages consumed outside the home should also be included

  • You spend more at restaurants than you do on groceries.
  • Your restaurant tab rivals your housing costs.

We don’t want to take away all of the fun of going out to eat so we’re listing our two favorite apps to save you money at restaurants. We selected these since they have the largest amount of restaurants to choose from and for ease of use.

Restaurant.com

Their website states, “Save up to 50% at 62,000 restaurants.” so you can be assured they have plenty of matches in most cities and decent sized towns.

How it works: You purchase a $25 gift certificate for $10, but they often run promotions where you can buy the same $25 gift certificate for just $2 or $3. $25 worth of food for $2.

Ease of use: You can search by restaurant name, cuisine type, city, or zip code. Why so cheap? You are accepting their restrictions:

Each restaurant has their own set of restrictions. Some of the most common are:

  • Minimum purchase ($35 or $50)
  • Dine-in only
  • Not valid Friday or Saturday night
  • Alcohol does not count toward minimum purchase
  • Not valid toward tax or tip
  • Limit 1 per table
  • Not valid with any other offers

Based on a search of Denver, CO – there were 68 restaurants within 5 miles, and 88 within 10 miles.

We recommend asking around or looking up the restaurant on Yelp before you buy.

Groupon – Your first step is to click on Categories and select “Food and Drink”, then “Restaurants.” You can filter by category, distance, price, or click on “Map” to see what is close.

As of 10/4/16, there were 147 matches. Groupon also regularly does special “Today Only” or “3 day deals” where the discounts are even deeper. As of 10/4/16 there is a Groupon-a-thon where certain restaurants deals are even cheaper. One example of a deal is a voucher good for $20 at Jack-N-Grill that you can purchase for $13 or a $40 voucher for $25.

So, go ahead. Charge up that phone, download that app, put on a nice shirt and go out to eat. If you use these apps you may be able to eat out for less than a home cooked meal.

03 Oct

The Easy Way to Use Coupons

Admit it. Using coupons seems like a lot of work. You’re busy and question whether the effort is worth it. Should you spend your precious time chasing after deals, visiting multiple stores, and only buying things when you have a coupon for them? We get it. Buying something that you never intended to buy only because you have a coupon is counterproductive. But if you follow our guidelines, using coupons can be convenient and save you both money and time.

First, you need to gather your coupons. There are four main sources:

  • newspaper inserts – can be manufacturer or store coupons
  • store’s website – you must print
  • mobile apps
  • store coupons – emailed or snail mailed

Which ones you use depends on your comfort level with technology and whether you can remember your printed coupons.

Easy Way to Use Coupons at Grocery Stores in Colorado

King Soopers will double manufacturer coupons of $0.50 or less while those worth $0.51 – $1.00 in savings will be redeemed for $1.00, and manufacturer coupons over $1.00 will be redeemed at face value.

At Sprouts, the number of coupons per transaction is unlimited. Sprouts coupons can be combined with a manufacturer’s coupon, unless stated it cannot be used in conjunction with any other coupons or offers. When purchasing a single item, Sprouts accepts one manufacturer coupon. They do not double coupons. Bonus tip: Because their weekly prices run from Wednesday to Wednesday, you can save the most in the middle of the week when the ads overlap.

Safeway is store dependent regarding doubling of coupons, so it’s best to ask at your preferred store. “Double coupon” promotions do not apply to any internet or digital coupons except for applicable internet printed manufacturer coupons.

Trader Joe’s has great deals to begin with and does not offer an app or mobile coupons.

At Walmart, you can’t double coupons, but they will price match.

Easy Way to Use Coupons at Hardware/Home Improvement Stores in Colorado

Most Ace Hardware stores are independently owned. Many will price match but you’ll have to ask the manager. If they do, they most likely follow these guidelines:

If you find a lower price on an identical item, at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s, just bring in their current ad and Ace will match their price.

If Home Depot or Lowe’s is offering a percent off discount, Ace will match the final net price the competitor is offering.

Home Depot – If you find a current lower price on an identical, in-stock item from any retailer, they will match the price and beat it by 10%. Just bring the ad, printout or photo with you to the register.

Lowe’s – If you find a lower everyday price on an identical item at a local retail competitor, just bring in the competitor’s current ad, and they’ll beat their price by 10%. If a competitor is offering a percent off discount, they’ll match the final net price.

In future posts, we’ll discuss other types of online coupons and daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social.

Save on!

26 Sep

Can You Avoid Impulse Buying and Still Have Fun?

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!

11 Sep

Dollars and Cents for Parents to Be

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

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.

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18 May

Adulting: Choose a Budget

You know you need to choose a budget and you’ve avoided it long enough. In this post, let’s look at a few different budgets to see which one might suit your life. Regardless of how comprehensive a budget might be, if you’re not detail-oriented, you probably won’t stick to it. So choose a budget option that you think will work for you. Also, unless you are a stick-in-the-mud, cutting all the fun out of your budget is a recipe for failure. It’d like planning to eat kale for every meal and expecting to stick to your diet. Not gonna happen.

The first step in creating a budget is to set a goal. What are your financial goals?  Do you have debts to pay off?  Are you saving for something in particular like a trip? Do you simply want the peace of mind that comes with accurately tracked expenses?

Choosing a budget from one of the methods below is a good place to start. You may decide to slightly change it to meet to your individual needs.

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20 Oct

Budget Hack – DIY Halloween Costumes

Halloween is two weeks away and you are without a costume. How does this keep happening every year? Instead of scouring picked over racks of costumes that are more flammable than fashionable, why not save money, gas and frustration and make your own? RMLEFCU is here to help you strategize, save and still have style. Our goal is to prepare you for that happening party, or let’s face it, the kids on your block who you’ll be handing out candy to.
For Couples: Why not go as Rosie the Riveter and Uncle Sam? It is very easy to find red, white and blue gear, especially since the 4th of July is in our rear window. Try Big Lots, Goodwill, and ARC thrift stores.

Uncle Sam: you will need a long white beard and a tall hat and a red bow tie. If you don’t have a long white beard you can always snip a bit of your dog’s fur and tape it to your chin. In all seriousness, the haircare aisle in any big box store or Walgreens carries hair extensions in any color and they are only a few dollars. 
Uncle_Sam_(pointing_finger)
For Rosie: you will need to don bright red lipstick, knowingly flex your biceps and a pull off a polka dotted kerchief or bandana for your hair. A blue shirt is also a must. 
We-Can-Do-It-Rosie-the-Riveter-Wallpaper-2-AB
Since we’re a credit union, we thought costumes with a money angle would be appropriate. There is a central theme through many of these: hair. Think Donald Trump, Daddy Warbucks and Cruella DeVille, all of whom have very distinguished hairstyles. Read More

10 Aug

Budget Hacks for Your End of Summer Road Trip

  • RMLEFCU Budget Hacks for a Summer Road TripGas Prices often rise in the summer. The reasons are numerous. More people are traveling by car this time of year = increased demand. Also, there are summer and winter blends of fuel and the former is more expensive as it uses different additives and refineries have to shut down before they process it. Gas is averaging around $2.70 a gallon for regular right now in the Denver area but consider yourself lucky since gas was near $3.69 a gallon last year at this same time.

Solution: Pack light, leave early, check your fluids and air pressure, and don’t speed. These steps will help you increase your fuel efficiency. Read More

24 Jun

4 Things You Must Do To Build Your Credit

Build your credit score RMLEFCUWe know you’re a trustworthy, reliable person. Anyone who has ever met you can tell right away that you fulfill obligations and that your word is as “good as gold.” I have bad news and more bad news. First, the price of gold is dropping and second, your reliability and trustworthiness, at least to people who might lend you large sums of money to buy a car or a home, relies on three little numbers – your credit score.

So, what are 4 things you need to do to build your credit?

  1. Get a credit card. First check out RMLEFCU’s visa cards. We have a couple options available depending on whether you want better rewards or a lower interest rate. If you’re unable to get an unsecured credit card, look into a gas card or store card. We would suggest if it’s a store card, to get one at a place where you normally do your shopping. For example, check out Target or Wal-Mart store credit cards. With Target you’ll get 5% off with every purchase, no shipping if you shop online and you’ll have 30 extra days to return items. With Wal-Mart, when you first open your account and spend $75 at Walmart.com, you’ll save $25. You’ll also receive 5 cents off per gallon at participating Wal-Mart gas stations. Bonus: Neither card has an annual fee.
  1. Pay your card IN FULL and ON TIME each month. We know what you’re thinking, isn’t this two things in one? “Paying in full” is like the peanut butter to the jelly that is “on time.” They are best when they are done together. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to carry a balance to build an awesome score. If you absolutely cannot pay it in full, always pay the minimum balance.

To make sure you are never late, set up an automatic payment. If for some reason that option is not available, ensure you have some kind of reminder, handwritten or electronic, to pay the bill each month. Thirty-five percent of your credit score is determined by your track record with making on-time payments on your bills.

There are a couple of myths out there about building credit that, like cockroaches, are hard to kill. Carrying a large balance will help boost your score and so will closing old accounts you don’t use. Doing either of these can really HURT your credit, so avoid them at all costs. Little known fact: Fifteen percent of your credit score is based on the length of time you’ve maintained a credit account.

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