6 Ways to Pay Less at the Pump

With gas prices still rising nationwide, the pain at the pump is real. There isn’t much you can do about the price of gasoline, but there are ways you can pay less at the pump. Here are six ways to save on gas.

1.      Use cash

Many gas stations offer a discount for paying cash, sometimes up to 20 cents per gallon. This can quickly add up when pumping a full tank. Just be careful to have the cash handy when you need it, as you don’t want to lose all those savings to ATM fees if using machines not connected to your credit union.

2.      Use a rewards program or credit card

If you don’t like the idea of carrying around tons of cash, but you still want to save at the pump, consider getting a rewards program or credit card. Tread carefully though; not all of them actually benefit the consumer. Find out about a possible annual fee, a rewards cap, membership requirements and the exact redemption value of each reward point before signing up. As an Olean Area Federal Credit Union member, you can opt for the Extra Rewards program when you have the Visa Platinum Credit Card.

3.      Check your tire pressure

According to the US Department of Energy, a  well-inflated tire can save you 15 cents a gallon by boosting your gas mileage by 3%. Check your tires regularly to ensure they’re always inflated. To make this easier, consider springing for a tire pressure gauge that will automatically monitor the health of your tires. 

4.      Use a gas-tracking app

In 2022, there’s no need to search for the gas station with the best-priced gas. There’s an app for that! Popular gas-tracking apps include GasBuddyUpside and Waze. Using the gas station that’s right near your home or workplace might be easy, but taking the extra time to find one that sells gas for less can save you a bundle.

5.      Purchase a club membership

If you don’t already have one, this may be the time to buy a club membership. Costco, Sam’s Club and Walmart Plus all offer discounted gas exclusively to members. Of the three, Costco tends to feature gas for the lowest price, up to 34 cents less per gallon than a typical gas station. In today’s gas-crazy climate, that’s a huge difference. Of course, you’ll want to find out how much a club membership will run you before joining.

6.      Buy gas at the right time of day

If you pump gas during the midday hours, after the sun has been beating down on the gas reservoir all day, the gas has likely expanded. This means you’ll be paying the same price for less-dense gas, which won’t last as long. Pump when it’s cooler outside, typically during the morning or late evening hours, for the densest gas.

Use these tips to help save on gas despite the rising cost of fuel.

Financial Lessons You Can Learn from Fantasy Football

With summer winding down and autumn creeping in, are you ready for some fantasy football? Drafting the best team and guiding them toward the championship takes knowledge, dedication, skill and talent. But fantasy football is much more than just a super-absorbing hobby. You can actually learn a lot about money management and growing your wealth from the game. Here are five financial lessons you can learn from fantasy football.

1.      Do your research

Knowing which NFL players to “draft” to your team on your league’s draft day is crucial. If you sail into this uber-important day unprepared, you’re essentially setting yourself up for a miserable season. During the weeks leading up to draft day, the true fantasy football pro is listening to podcasts from training camps, researching potential trades and learning about past performances of many players. 

In personal finance, the rules are similar. When choosing a place or company to sink your money into, you’ll want to do as much research as possible and ask lots of questions to ensure success and alignment with your values

2.      Diversify

In fantasy football, it’s important to diversify your team and to draft players who excel at various positions in real life. This helps to ensure as many wins as possible. In finance, diversification is even more important. You’ll want to spread your investments over a mix of whole-market funds, securities and savings accounts. The more exposure your portfolio has among various asset classes and markets, the more protection it has against market volatility and inflation.

3.      Keep your investments private

To a true fantasy football addict, there’s no conversation topic as exciting as the team they’ve drafted and the wins they’re racking up. But to the uninitiated, there’s no conversation topic that will put them to sleep faster than your fantasy football league. Find like-minded fans to talk shop with, but otherwise, you’re best off keeping your observations and insight on the game to yourself.

Investments are similar. You don’t want to be the drag of the party, the office or the block. Talk about your stock performance with your partner, your financial advisor and maybe your mother. Otherwise, keep it to yourself.

4.      Assess your financial health throughout the year

A real fantasy football pro will monitor the performance of their players in real life. There will always be players getting injured, teams that change their strategies and players who have down seasons. You’ll need to keep an eye on what’s happening so you can make the best decisions about adding potential players on the waiver wire going forward. 

To achieve and maintain true financial wellness, you’ll also need to monitor your budget, savings, spending habits and more throughout the year. Review and assess your money management every few weeks for the best results. 

Fantasy football is so much more than an addictive hobby! Fantasy football can teach you financial lessons for life. 

Step 8 of 12 Steps to Financial Wellness – Know When and How to Indulge

Living a life of financial wellness means being happy with a lifestyle that’s within your means, but doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re lacking. At the same time, financial wellness means money choices are governed by discipline and not by emotion. So how do you strike a balance between the two?

Here’s how to indulge responsibly. 

Live with a budget

To do this, track your spending for three months. Next, make a list of all your expenses and list your income in a parallel column. Tally up your totals and assign a realistic dollar amount to each expense. Going forward, be sure to only spend within the allocated amount for each expense category. 

Leave room in your budget for “just for fun” purchases

As you work on building a budget, leave room for the occasional treat. The exact amount will vary by income level, lifestyle and personal choice. However, wisely choose an amount you can easily afford without feeling deprived. 

Review your savings

Before giving yourself permission to indulge, make sure you’re setting aside some of your monthly income to savings. Ideally, short-term savings should be enough to keep you afloat for 3-6 months if you have no source of income. Long-term savings should be sufficient to support your retirement and any long-term savings goal you may have. 

Choose your “treats”

Everyone’s got a personal vice or three. Take a look at where your non-discretionary money went over the last month and highlight the more expensive impulse buys. Hold these purchases up to these questions:

  • Did this purchase bring me happiness or positive energy the day I bought it? How long did that feeling last?
  • Did this impulse buy blow my budget?
  • Does thinking about this purchase now fill me with joy, guilt or something else?

Use the insight about your indulgences to help you make better money choices in the future. 

Lose the guilt

Once you’ve decided how much you want to spend each month on indulgences, it’s time to let go of guilt. If you’re spending responsibly, there’s no need to eat yourself up over an impulse buy you could have done without. As long as you’re keeping these just-for-fun purchases within your budget, you can maintain your financial wellness.

Cash, Credit or Debit – How Should I Pay?

Q: When paying for my everyday and occasional purchases, should I be using cash, credit, or debit?

A: Some purchases should be paid for with cash, some with a credit card and others with a debit card. Let’s take a closer look at each method and when they should be used.

When should I use cash?

Some retailers offer discounts for paying in cash, making it the wise go-to. Also, if you have a tough time sticking to your budget when shopping, it can be helpful to only take along the cash you plan to use. Finally, some small businesses only accept cash payments. 

On the flip side, cash offers no purchase protection and should not be used for large purchases. Also, cash leaves no paper trail, so it may be difficult to track expenses. Finally, cash always carries the risk of being lost or stolen. 

When should I use my credit card?

Credit cards are the double-edged sword of personal finance. Credit card debt is a leading cause of consumer debt. However, owning credit cards and using them responsibly is a crucial part of your credit rating

Credit cards also offer two primary advantages: rewards and purchase protection. Many credit cards can earn rewards as you spend on them, so it earns you something for your use. The purchase protection a credit card offers also makes it the ideal choice for paying for large purchases. In addition, using a credit card and making on-time payments can help boost your credit score while also making expense tracking easy. 

Ideally, credit cards should only be used to cover fixed or steady payments and for purchases you know you can pay in full when the bill is due. 

When should I use my debit card?

Debit cards allow you to track your spending and help you stay within budget since you can generally only spend what you have. In addition, if your card is lost or stolen, you can cancel it and/or close the connected account. 

Debit cards can be a great choice for everyday purchases of any kind. At Olean Area Federal Credit Union, you can actually earn rewards with your debit card if you have a myRewards Checking account! Learn more here: https://www.oleanareafcu.org/personal-accounts/checking-accounts/rewards-checking/

Use this guide to help you choose the right payment method in every situation. 

Should I keep Cash at Home?

Q: I’m seeing posts on social media about keeping cash at home during rapid inflation. Is this a good practice?

A: Keeping large amounts of cash in envelopes, kitchen drawers or stuffed under the mattress is not recommended during times of high inflation – or any time. 

Why is it a bad idea to keep cash at home?

While it’s perfectly OK to keep some cash at home, storing a large amount brings two big disadvantages:

  • The money can be lost or stolen. Hiding cash under the mattress or anywhere in your house always carries the risk of being misplaced, damaged or stolen. Unfortunately, there is no way to trace or reclaim lost or stolen cash. 
  • The money isn’t growing. When cash doesn’t grow, it loses some of its value. This is especially true during times of high inflation. The current inflation rate is 8.5%. This means, if you’d keep $1,000 at home for the next year and inflation stays at 8.5% during that time, your cash would be worth only $985. Of course, if inflation rates increase, the loss would increase as well. 

Where is the best place to keep cash?

Here are some places you may want to keep your cash at this time:

  • Savings account. A savings account is a secure place to keep extra funds. When you open a savings account at Olean Area Federal Credit Union, there’s no risk of your money being lost or stolen. 
  • Precious metals. Precious metals, like gold, silver and platinum, have proven to hold their value even in times of inflation and a volatile stock market. 
  • Share certificates. A share certificate is a savings account that’s federally insured, has a fixed dividend rate and a fixed date of maturity. The fixed dividend rate will remain unaffected by the fluctuating national interest rate.

Inflation is high, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to hoard your cash at home. Follow the tips outlined above to find the perfect place to park your cash. 

12 Steps to Financial Wellness Step 7: How to Pay Yourself First

“Pay yourself first” is a catchphrase that refers to prioritizing your personal savings above other expenses. To achieve it, savings should be a fixed line on your budget that happens every month without fail. 

Here’s how to pay yourself first.

1.      Review your spending

Take a clear look at your spending. If you already have a budget, this will be as simple as reviewing the column which lists all of your expenses, including your discretionary spending. If you don’t have a budget, track your spending over several months to identify your primary expenses and to find the average amount of money you spend each month. 

2.      Set short- and long-term saving goals

Short-term savings, or funds you want to be able to access in the near future if necessary, can be allocated to an emergency fund. Experts advise having three- to six-months’ worth of living expenses set aside in an emergency fund in case of a sudden, large expense and/or loss of employment. 

Long-term savings should include funds you can afford not to touch for several years or more. Your long-term saving goals can include your retirement, as well as a down payment on a home, a new car, a sabbatical from work or any other super-big expense.

Narrow down your short- and long-term goals, then attach a number to each savings category.

3.      Set a timeline for each savings goal

Now that you have a number for the amount you want to save, you’ll need to work out a realistic timeline for meeting those goals. It’s best to give first priority to your emergency fund, but at the same time, it’s a good idea to start saving for retirement today so compound interest has an opportunity to work its magic. To that end, you may want to allocate the bulk of your monthly savings to your emergency fund until you meet your goal. Once your emergency fund is full, you can divide your savings more evenly between your short-term savings and long-term savings. 

4.      Calculate how much you’ll need to save each month 

Take your total for each goal, and divide it by the number of months in your timeline. For example, if you’ve decided you want to have an emergency fund of $24,000 established in four years’ time, you’ll divide $24,000 by 48 months to get $500 a month. This is the amount you’ll need to set aside each month to reach your goal in time. Do this for each of your goals. 

5.      Automate your savings

Once you’ve got your savings plan ready to go, it’s best to make it automatic. You can set up a monthly transfer from your credit union checking account to your credit union savings account or share certificate. This way, your savings will grow even when you forget to feed them.

Congrats–you’ve mastered the art of paying yourself first!

New Year, New Money Habits: How to Stick with It in 2022

Spend less, save more, pay down debt — how can you make 2022 the year you actually stick to these and other financial resolutions? To help answer that, we’ve compiled a list of tips. 

Set measurable goals

Don’t just resolve to be better with money this year. Set realistic, measurable goals to help you stay on track and ensure you’re making progress. To make it easier, keep those goals SMART

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant

Time-based

Spend mindfully

Creating a budget can take some time and lots of number crunching, but the real challenge of financial wellness is sticking to that budget. And one reason many people don’t keep to their budget is because they spend money without consciously thinking. 

Resolve to be more mindful about your spending, which means thinking about what you’re doing when you pay for a purchase of any kind. You can accomplish this by taking a moment to think about what you’re buying and how much you’re paying for it. Gain a little more awareness about your spending by staying off your phone while completing in-store transactions.

Partner up with a friend

It’s basic psychology: When we have to answer to someone, we’re more likely to stick to our resolutions. Choose a friend who’s in a similar financial bracket as you and has a comparable relationship with money. Ideally, they will also have the same resolve to set and stick to those financial resolutions together. 

To make it even easier, use a money management app, like Mint, to help track your spending, find your weak areas, and stay accountable for your friend. 

Write it down

In an era where some people can go without touching a pen and paper for days, writing down New Year’s resolutions can seem obsolete, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. The act of putting your financial resolutions into writing will help to imprint them on your memory. Plus, you’ll have a list of your resolutions to reference throughout the year to help keep you on track. 

Sticking to your financial resolutions isn’t easy. Follow the tips outlined above to make 2022 the year you get your finances into shape

How do I Raise my Kids to be Financially Independent Adults?

Q: How do I help my kids become financially independent grown-ups?

A: Teaching your kids how to be financially independent will help smooth the transition into adulthood. It will also give them what they need to stay financially stable throughout life.

Here are some tips for raising kids to be financially independent adults.

Start with basic budgeting

Introduce your children to the concept of earning money and spending mindfully when they’re young, and build upon that as they grow up. Preteens can watch you work on an actual budget, and teens can even assist you in creating a budget for a large expense, like a family vacation. You can also help kids create a budget for how they plan to spend their own money.

Split the costs of “must-have” items

If your children are like most kids, they’re asking you for trending items they claim they must have; from a pair of designer jeans to the latest fad toy they insist everyone else already has.

A great compromise is to have your child pay half the cost of expensive trending items. They’ll likely quickly see that a “must-have” really isn’t when you’re footing half the bill.

Teach them about credit cards

If your child sees you using a credit or debit card often, teach them what’s behind that card. Show them your credit card bill when it arrives and talk about how you need to pay for all those expenses during the month, plus the possible interest. Teach them about debit cards, too, explaining how money is withdrawn from your checking account each time you swipe the card. You can also give older kids a quick rundown on credit scores, how they work and why they’re so important.

Talk openly about what they can expect in terms of support for the future

When your child is mature enough to talk about the future, discuss how much financial support you plan to offer while they attend college, immediately after graduation and into their adult years. Ask about their plans as well, paying attention to when they anticipate being financially independent.

You can bring up the topic of career paths, too. Help your child determine a basic budget for the lifestyle they plan to lead and assist them in narrowing down their career choices until they have just a few that will support their future life. Talk about student loans, too, and explain how crippling debt can be.

If you haven’t already, consider opening a Youth Savings Account for your child at Olean Area Federal Credit Union. This way they can get hands on experience with a financial account and understand the importance of putting money away. If they get an allowance, or are gifted money at some point, you can encourage them to put a certain percentage in their account. Stop by one of our branch locations, contact us,  or call 800.854.6052 to discuss opening a Youth Savings Account.

Use the tips outlined above to help raise your child to be a financially independent adult.

Why You Need to Be Financially Fit

You give your abs a daily workout, but are you neglecting those money muscles? Here’s why being financially fit is super-important and how you can overcome common barriers to financial wellness.

Financial wellness: a ripple effect

Managing money responsibly will affect many aspects of your life:

  • According to a recent study by AARP, financial problems are the second leading cause of U.S. divorces.
  • Mental health. Money stress can severely affect your mental health, causing depression, restlessness, anxiety and more.
  • Physical health. Stressing over finances can directly impact your physical health, leading to recurring symptoms like headaches, fatigue, insomnia, high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Work life. Money worries can make it difficult to focus at work, which can also bring down productivity levels and hamper career growth.

What are the leading causes of money stress?

According to a survey by Credit Wise®, 73% of Americans rank money issues as the top stressor in their lives. Here are the top causes for financial stress:

Barriers to financial wellness and how to overcome them

Unfortunately, there can be barriers that make it difficult to get and keep financial wellness. First, because it hasn’t been taught in school until recently, many people lack basic financial knowledge necessary to manage money responsibly. Second, many mistakenly believe that budgeting and saving are time-consuming and tedious. Finally, some consumers have fallen so deeply into debt they’ve lost hope of ever pulling themselves out.

Here are simple steps you can take to get financially fit:

  • Get educated. Check out financial literacy blogs, personal finance books, podcasts or online classes to learn about money.
  • Have the money talk with your partner. It’s important to be on the same financial page as your partner. Talk openly and honestly, being careful not to be judgmental, and discuss your individual and shared money goals. Then, come up with a plan to reach them together.
  • Pay all bills on time. If you can’t take aggressive steps toward getting out of debt just yet, be sure you’re making at least the minimum payment on each credit card bill.
  • Create a budget. Giving every dollar a destination makes it easier to spend mindfully and cut down on extraneous expenses.
  • Start saving. Every dollar counts, and once you get the ball rolling, you’ll be motivated to pack on the savings until they really grow.

Let’s get those money muscles into shape! Follow the tips outlined above to stay financially fit at all times.

Preparing Financially for a New Baby

Congratulations! You’ve expecting a new baby and you’re breathless with excitement — and nerves. A baby means big changes, and a part of those changes is lots of new expenses. How will you pay for it all?

We’ve got the tips you need to prepare financially for a new baby.

Pay down debt

Don’t let your debt grow along with the baby bump. It’s best to get your finances in order to make it easier to manage all new expenses and prepare for your child’s future. Make a plan today to kick that debt for good!

Adjust your monthly budget

Babies don’t come cheap. When your little one arrives, you’ll need to spring for gear and furniture, a new wardrobe, diapers and possibly child care as well. Most of these expenses will be ongoing, so it’s best to make room in your budget for these new items before your child is born.

Set up a baby account

All those expenses can be overwhelming, but if you break them down into bite-sized pieces, they’ll be easier to manage. Why not set up a separate savings account for all baby expenses? You can automate these savings by setting up a monthly transfer from your paycheck or checking account to your “baby account.”

Estimate prenatal care and delivery costs

It costs how much to have a baby?

Some folks can pay close to $10,000 in prenatal costs and delivery. Of course, these amounts do vary by location and insurance provider, but it’s a good idea to work out exactly how much it will cost you to have a baby so you aren’t in for an unpleasant surprise after the baby is born. Start saving now!

Start saving for college

Believe it or not, your little one will, one day, be all grown up and ready for college! This can mean paying a small fortune in tuition. The sooner you start saving for your child’s college education, the easier it will be to save. You’ll spread the costs, and also give those savings the best chance at growth.

Consider opening a 529 plan before your child is born where your college savings can grow tax-free.

How to Make a Vacation Budget You Can Keep

Summer is here, and it’s time for your getaway!

While it’s great to get away for some fun in the sun, sticking to a budget is a must, even when on vacation. This year, attack your vacation with a financial plan you can actually keep by following these tips:

Rethink vacation

Before you start working on a vacation budget, consider an alternative to a conventional getaway that can provide an escape from real life without the prohibitive price tag.

  • Staycation. Spruce up a spare bedroom with scented hand towels and mini soaps and shampoos to give it a hotel feel. Sleep there during your “vacation” and spend your time trying out local attractions, festivals and restaurants you’ve always wanted to experience.
  • Swap houses. Have friends or family who live out of your area? Ask about switching houses for a week. Then, you can all get an inexpensive vacation.
  • Camping. If you have camping gear or can borrow it from a friend, camping can cost next to nothing. It can also be a fantastic way to enjoy a rejuvenating break from the grind of life.

Create a budget

If you just gotta splurge on a typical getaway, here’s how to create a realistic budget:

  1. Review your savings. If you’ve been steadily saving up for this vacay, you’ll know how much you have to spend. If you haven’t saved anything, consider an unsecured loan through your credit union and/or saving up until your vacation by trimming your discretionary expenses.
  2. Prioritize. Before assigning dollar amounts to categories, pick what’s most important to you while on vacation. List your priorities from most to least important for future reference.
  3. Assign dollar amounts to big-ticket items. Choose and price a destination. Set aside money from your budget to cover what it takes to get there, as well as accommodations.
  4. Divide and conquer. Now, assign a realistic dollar amount to your remaining categories. Include food, tickets to entertainment venues and attractions, gifts and souvenirs, transportation costs, and pack in some “miscellaneous” money for unplanned expenses.

Stick to your budget

Now comes the hard part: sticking to your budget while on vacation.

First, consider using cash. You’ll be forced to stick to your budget with no way to overspend. Just make sure you plan for how to keep it secure at all times.

Next, make advance reservations when you can. This way, you have fewer spending choices for when you’re actually on vacation.

Finally, keep a copy of your vacation budget handy while you’re away so you can pull it out whenever you come up against a spending challenge.

Don’t let your budget go on vacation!

Post-Pandemic Money Moves

Mask mandates are going away and restaurants are opening again. Finally, life is going back to normal! Here are some forward-thinking money moves to make as you adjust to post-pandemic life.

Review and adjust your budget

Pandemic budget rules were unique, as people cut down on costs, like dining out and updating work wardrobes, but spent more on things like at-home entertainment. Others may have had to adjust their spending to help them coast during a stint of unemployment. The pandemic may have also shifted something in people’s mental list of needs and wants, as they found they can live with a lot less than they’d thought.

As you adjust to post-pandemic life, take some time to review and tweak your monthly budget. Be sure to incorporate any changes in income, as well as a readjustment to pre-pandemic spending or changed priorities.

Rebuild your savings

If you are one of the many Americans who were forced to dip into savings, or even to fully drain them, during the pandemic, create a plan to get your savings back on track. Tighten your spending in one area until you’ve built up an emergency fund that can keep you going for 3-6 months without an income, or use a windfall, such as a work bonus or tax refund, to get the bulk of your emergency fund in place.

Once your emergency fund is up and running again, continue to practice basic saving habits, such as setting aside 20% of your monthly income for savings, or whichever approach you prefer.

Rethink your long-term and short-term financial goals

The pandemic has prompted lots of people to reevaluate their goals. Take some time to rethink your long-term and short-term financial goals, then adjust your savings and budget accordingly.

As you move through this step, be sure to consider any long-term goals you may have put on hold during the pandemic. Have you stalled your contributions to your retirement accounts? Have you been making only the minimum payments on your credit cards? If any of these apply to you, be sure to revert your savings and debt payments back to pre-pandemic levels as soon as you can.

Spend with caution

It’s perfectly fine to enjoy a shopping spree in celebration of a return to pre-pandemic norms, but spend with caution.

First, prepare to encounter inflated prices wherever you go. Gas prices have jumped, and the cost of many consumer goods has spiked. If you planned on purchasing a big-ticket item like a new car, consider waiting until prices cool off.

Also, you may be eager to make up for lost time, but no number of nights out on the town will bring back the months you spent at home. To avoid irrational overspending, set up a budget before you hit the shops and only spend what you’ve planned.

Tips for Recent Homebuyers

Becoming a homeowner is a major milestone. There’s a thrill in owning your own place, and you’ve got a new, large investment to maintain. Successful homebuyers are those who can perfectly balance that new freedom and responsibility.

There are several upcoming firsts for recent homebuyers. Check out these common homeowner situations, and you’ll be prepared for a possible setback.

1.       Something major breaks

As a renter, if the refrigerator breaks, the landlord repairs it. In contrast, when something like an appliance or major system breaks in your home, you’ll be responsible to fix it.

If you’re counting on homeowner’s insurance or a home warranty to cover you, check your policies carefully. Most home warranties end at the walls of your house, and insurance won’t cover damage outside of a disaster. If your home needs significant work, you’ll probably be covering the costs yourself.

Consider practicing self-insurance. Start a home repair and renovation fund, and build major expenses into your monthly budget. These expenses become manageable when spread out over the course of several months. Expect to spend 1-4% of the value of your home in repairs and maintenance annually.

2.       Costs increase

When considering a budget in your new location, housing costs aren’t the only thing likely to increase. If you’re moving from a smaller apartment into a larger home, utility costs will rise. If you’re moving into an older house, appliances won’t run as efficiently.

Additionally, transportation costs may rise if you’ve moved further away from work. A larger kitchen might encourage more cooking and entertaining, increasing the grocery budget. Lawn maintenance costs may appear on your budget for the first time.

During your first month as a homeowner, document your new living expenses so you can budget for them properly. If, after a month, you see that your expenses are too high, you’ll have an idea about where you can make cuts.

3.       Tax bills come due

Property taxes can wreak havoc on your budget. While many mortgage companies include these costs in your regular mortgage payment, other homeowners are responsible to pay them at tax time. If that’s the case for you, it’s important to determine what your tax bill might look like.

The U.S. average property tax bill is under $3,000, or $250 per month. Here also, setting the expense aside monthly instead of paying it in one shot makes it manageable.

4.       Maintenance requirements increase

There are dozens of things around the house, such as smoke alarms and toilet bowl seats, that decay with time. Some of these objects can damage your house if they don’t work properly.

Make a list of chores that need to be done monthly, weekly or annually. Keep a spreadsheet so you know the last time maintenance was performed on major items in your home. As always, it’s a good idea to fix little problems before they turn into big ones.

Teach Kids to Set Savings Goals

Your child wants a new longboard ($200) or the latest basketball shoes ($120), but it’s just not in the budget this month — or for the next three months. Rather than a flat-out “no,” work with your child to set savings goals and then help them reach them. Here’s how:

Identify the goal

If your child has an item they’d like to purchase, the goal amount would be the purchase price. If the item is exceptionally pricey, offer to match their savings once they get halfway there. Setting a reasonable goal amount will help them see when the end is in sight and provide more motivation to reach the goal.

Make a plan

What will they do to reach the goal? Sit down with your child and discuss ways to earn the money. Do they have a part-time job? Babysit? Are there additional chores they can do around the house to earn more money? Get creative! Together, figure out how much money they can save each week or month and how long it will take to reach their goal.

Set money aside

Make sure your child has a savings account or another method for savings. Spending can often be quite tempting if the cash is easily accessible. If your child is serious about saving, make sure they have a place to put the money away.

Olean Area Federal Credit Union offers a Youth Savings Account that will help your child get the most out of their savings! Learn more by clicking here.

Follow through

Once your child has reached their savings goal, follow through and allow them to purchase what they saved for. And if you agreed to match their savings, make sure you’re ready to do so, too.

Giving your children the knowledge and help to reach a savings goal is a life lesson that they will carry with them throughout their adult lives. You might even be surprised. Once your child has reached their savings goal, they may decide that the item they originally wanted to purchase isn’t worth the work they put into it and use those savings even more wisely.

Saving Smarts

For the responsible adult who thinks about being prepared for the future, savings are a fixed expense that is built into the monthly budget just like car payments and insurance. For most people, though, this habit does not come naturally. It needs to be acquired and practiced. Teach your kids those saving smarts now when they’re young to help make it a lifetime habit they’ve already mastered by the time they hit their 20s.

The Goal

Give your kids a clear understanding of why saving is crucial to financial wellness and how to make it happen.

Pointers to cover:
  • Why putting money aside each month is crucial
  • How interest and compound interest work
  • Long-term vs. short-term saving
  • Reasons to save

Conversation starters

For kids under age 9:
  • Let’s say you’ve only got $15 and you want to buy a drone that costs $65. You get $5 a week as your allowance. How can you buy that drone?
  • When did you wait for something and find that it was more enjoyable because you waited for it?
  • Can you think of some things that Mom or Dad saves up for?
  • If you earn 10 cents for every dollar you save, how much money will you earn by putting away $5?
For kids over age 9:
  • Are you saving up for anything important?
  • Can you think of some things that Mom or Dad saves up for?
  • Have you ever had to pay for something unexpected? How did you come up with the money?
  • Some things we save for are short-term goals, and others are long-term goals. Can you name some of each kind of goal? How will we save differently for each kind?
  • Do you think it’s smart for Mom and Dad to keep money they’re saving under the mattress? Why or why not?

If you haven’t already, consider setting up a Youth Saving Account for your child, and help them put these saving smarts into action!

For more youth-geared financial activities, visit our Activities & Resources page.

Getting the Most Out of Youth Accounts

Managing money is a foundational life skill. There are so many factors involved and so many open-ended questions at play. How much should you be saving? When is it worth spending more? How do you keep spare change from burning a hole in your pocket? It takes years of discipline and training to perfect this skill, and ongoing self-control to maintain it.

That’s why it’s best to give your kids a head start on money management and saving. As a parent or guardian, remember that the lessons you plant today will take root and blossom, enriching your child’s life for years to come.

Here at Olean Area Federal Credit Union, we understand the enormity and difficulty of this task. In honor of National Credit Union Youth Month, we’re focusing on ways to help make this process as smooth and as simple as possible.

Olean Area FCU is proud to offer a specialized Youth Savings Account that is designed just for kids. You can learn more about it by clicking here.

Ready to open an account for your child? Does your child already have one? Read on for three steps to take for ensuring your child gets the most out of a new or existing account:

Set a goal

Now that your child’s money will be sitting in an account instead of a piggy bank, let her use this opportunity to save up for something big. Sit down with her and discuss what she’d like to save for. You can create a long-term goal, like saving up for college or for a first car. Also establish a short-term goal, like a new gaming console or a hoverboard.

Set a date for your goals, and then set up a savings calendar for illustrating how much money needs to be saved each month to reach the intended target by the designated date. Discuss ways to add to the savings, being sure to include money from birthday gifts, summer jobs, allowances and chores.

Bank together

Whether your child is a first-grader or a teenager, if this is their first time owning an account, they’ll need you to show them the ropes.

Always bring your children along with you when you stop by Olean Area Federal Credit Union to deposit their savings. Show them how it works and let them see the account balance growing. If your child asks you to withdraw money from their account, make sure they see how this translates into a dip into their savings.

For teens, you’ll need to walk them through that first deposit and withdrawal. When they’ve probably got the hang of it, it’s time to take a step back and let them be on their own. They’ll feel like a million dollars managing their account independently.

However, share with your teen that every swipe of their debit card also means a dent in their account balance. Also be sure to warn kids of all ages about security. They should know to never share their account information with anyone, and to keep their debit card in a safe place.

Monitor your child’s activity

Don’t aim to be a helicopter parent, but do keep an eye on your child’s account. If he’s depositing a lot less than planned, ask him where his money is going. If your teen is maximizing his daily ATM allowance, speak to him about money management and impulse purchases.

Your teen’s daily withdrawal limit may need occasional adjustment, so keep a careful watch on spending to see if any modifications are needed.

Remember: Every financial lesson you teach your child today equips them with money management skills for a lifetime.

All You Need to Know About Savings Accounts

Looking for a safe place to grow your money? Look no further than the savings accounts at Olean Area Federal Credit Union!

Here’s everything you need to know about our savings accounts.

Opening a savings account

Stop by one of our branches or visit the Olean Area FCU website to open a Share Savings Account. You’ll need basic identifying documents and information along with a minimum initial deposit of just $5. If you’re looking to maximize your earnings on a higher balance, you can open a Money Market Account and earn dividends once you reach a $2,500 balance.

Accessing your funds

If you need to make a withdrawal from your Share Savings, visit a branch location to do it in person, visit our drive-thru or you can access your funds via our 24-hour ATM. You can utilize our E-teller or MobileCU to transfer funds between accounts.

Many financial institutions restrict the number of monthly withdrawals members can make from their savings accounts. At Olean Area Federal Credit Union, you have unlimited withdrawals from your Share Savings Account! We just hold $5 as your membership interest in the credit union.

If you use a Money Market Account, you are limited to six withdrawals or automatic and telephone transfers each month. This total also includes auto transfers if the account is linked as an overdraft privilege account to cover your checking account. However, you can have unlimited in-person and mobile transfers/withdrawals.

NOTE: Due to hardships associated with COVID-19, there is currently NO LIMIT to the number of transfers members can make whether they are automatic or not (It is unknown when this restriction will go back into place).

Fees and penalties

Banking partners may charge a nominal monthly maintenance fee for savings accounts, but these can generally be avoided by meeting specified account requirements. Savings accounts at Olean Area FCU have no monthly fee.

Bank and credit union members may be penalized for going over the withdrawal limit on savings accounts. If you go over the six-withdrawal limit in your Money Market Account, your account will be subject to closure by the credit union.

If you overdraft an account, you will be charged the standard NSF fee of $25 for all returned items. At Olean Area Federal Credit Union, you can sign up for Overdraft Privilege, linking your Savings to your Checking to prevent overdrafts. There is a $2 fee for automatic transfer from Savings to Checking to cover an overdraft.

Higher earnings rate

One of the most advantageous features of a savings account is its interest/dividend rate, which is nearly always higher than the rate of a checking account in that same institution. According to the NCUA , in December 2020, the average checking accounts rate for credit unions was 0.08% APY. The average rate for savings accounts was 0.11% APY.

Explore our Share Savings rates by clicking here, and our Money Market rates by clicking here.

Safety and security

Your money is always safe at Olean Area FCU. Our credit union is federally insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration. The funds in your savings account will also be protected from the fluctuations of the stock market.

A savings account can be an excellent place for keeping and growing funds you may need to access in an emergency. Call 800.854.6052, click, or stop by Olean Area Federal Credit Union to open your account today!

Building A Financial Future Using the Building Blocks Approach

How do you choose what financial information to impart to kids? What’s really important? Perhaps surprisingly, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the most important money lessons actually have nothing to do with money. That’s the central theme of its new report, Building Blocks to Help Youth Achieve Financial Capability. This report, available online from the CFPB, breaks down financial literacy into three skills: executive function, financial habits and norms, and financial knowledge and decision-making. This conclusion comes from a fusion of educational research and social psychology, and it’s an important guide for parents.

The Building Blocks Approach

Financial knowledge and decision-making are the most often included elements in financial literacy. It’s the stuff you know. Financial habits and norms are the behaviors and conditions children come to expect. Some of this can be taught, but it’s mostly a matter of observation and socialization. Kids pick up these habits and norms from watching their parents and other adults.

Most importantly, the skill of executive function can be developed even at ages when most financial knowledge cannot. Executive function is the ability to control impulses, make and stick to plans, direct attention and other related tasks. New psychological research suggests that these are all skills where a form of training is needed; the more we practice paying attention to something, the better we’ll get at it. Best of all, this ability can be developed at any age.

Executive function, in addition to being the most teachable skill in the report, is also the most important. Kids with developed executive function skills will find it easier to learn new information and practice new skills while also positioning themselves for future success. Of all the factors summarized in the report, kids with strong executive function skills tended to have the highest levels of financial satisfaction.

Interested in improving executive function? Here are a few of the report’s recommendations.

1. Practice delayed gratification

Offer young children the choice between a small treat now and a larger one after a short period of time. Slowly increase the time increment between choice and reward. This helps to develop the skills involved in deferring instant gratification in favor of larger rewards later.

2. Planning at playtime

Before a play session, ask your child what toys he or she wants to play with in the next block of time. After your child is done playing, ask him or her to reflect on how well the plan worked. This helps develop long-term planning skills and creates intrinsic rewards for sticking to a plan.

3. Involve your children in plan-making and deciding

Wherever possible, encourage your children to participate in making plans for the household. They might get to pick one night’s dinner, or pick from a few family activities for a Saturday morning. The experience of making decisions, whether in a financial context or not, will help develop those executive function skills.

Spring Clean Your Finances

Are you ready to make your finances sparkle? Here are six ways to spring clean your money matters:

Sweep out your budget

It’s time to shake the dust from your budget! Pare down your spending until your budget’s looking neat and trim.

Freshen up your W-4

If you received an especially large refund this year, you may want to adjust the amount you withhold. The IRS’s tax withholding estimator can be a useful tool to help you determine the perfect number.

Deep clean your accounts

Do a Marie Kondo on your finances and get rid of any accounts you no longer need. For instance, are there dormant accounts at a financial institution you no longer use, or a 401(k) from your old job? Consolidate it. A minimalist approach to your finances will make it easier to manage your accounts, give your savings a greater chance at growth and help you avoid fees for unused accounts.

Toss out your debt

If you’ve been stuck on the debt cycle, make this spring the season to break free.

First, trim your budget, designating any extra funds for your debts. Next, choose a popular debt-busting approach, such as the avalanche method, in which you pay off debts in order from highest-interest to lowest, or the snowball method, where you start with the smallest debt and then move up your list. Going forward, maximize payments to the first debt on your list, making sure not to neglect minimum payments on the other debts. Before you know it, that debt will be gone!

Dust off your saving habits

Get into the habit of maximizing your savings with a tangible financial goal. You can also make savings an itemized line in your budget so you have funds set aside for this purpose. Finally, automate your savings by setting up a monthly transfer from your checking account to your savings account.

Make your investments sparkle

It’s time for a spring cleaning for your investments! Check if your allocation strategy is still serving you well, whether you need to adjust your diversification, and if your retirement accounts are on track for your estimated retirement timeline.

Follow our tips to make your finances shine!

How Much Money Should I Keep in My Checking Account?

Most of us use our checking accounts on a daily basis. Every swipe of a debit card, every bill we pay and every personal check we write takes money out of our checking account.

But, how much money should we be keeping in these super-convenient accounts? Let’s find out.

What’s your magic number?

It’s best to have one to two months of living expenses in your checking account at all times. Some experts suggest adding 30 percent to that for an extra cushion.

To determine your exact living expenses, track your spending over several months, including all bills and discretionary spending.

Why keep that much money in your checking account?

Here are three reasons you want to keep your checking account well-padded at all times:

  1. Avoid overdrafts. Even high-income earners can miscalculate their spending and end up with an overdrawn account. Why risk being charged overdraft fees for every transaction when you can easily avoid them? Here at Olean Area Federal Credit Union, you can sign up for overdraft privilege to help you avoid embarrassment and a merchant fee.
  • Provide a cushion for pre-authorization holds. Some merchants place a pre-authorization hold on your debit card until the transaction completes. These holds can reduce your available checking account balance by up to $100 per hold. Keeping your account well-funded allows you to comfortably accommodate the holds without fearing a negative balance.
  • Keep liquid funds available. A robust checking account means access to cash is just an ATM transaction away.

Can I be keeping too much money in my checking account?

Having an overstuffed checking account may mean you’re missing out on higher returns you can earn if you were to keep those same funds in a Olean Area Federal Credit Union Money Market Account or in a Share Certificate.

Once you’ve determined exactly how much money you should be keeping in your checking account, look into other options for the rest of your funds. Speak to a Member Service Representative at Olean Area Federal Credit Union to learn about our savings options to find out which is right for you.

If you dare

Now that your checking account numbers are worked out, you may want to consider an unconventional way of making money management simpler: Open two separate checking accounts.

Here’s how it works. You’ll open a second Olean Area Federal Credit Union Checking Account, and when your paycheck clears, transfer all the funds you need to pay your bills into your second account. If you have any bills linked to your previous checking account, be sure to update the information before they are due. This way, you’ll be paying all of your bills from one account. Best of all, with two accounts, you’ll be able to tell exactly how much spending money you have left each month without doing mathematical gymnastics.

It’s budgeting made simple!

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