Financial Education exclusively for Northrop Grumman employees.
Planning a vacation is exciting, but it can also be daunting when it comes to budgeting. However, with some smart strategies and careful planning, you can enjoy a fantastic vacation without breaking the bank. One of the most effective ways to save money for travel is by creating a vacation account. Additionally, here are five budget travel tips that will help you make the most out of your vacation without overspending.
- Create a Vacation Account: Open a separate savings account specifically for your travel expenses. This will help you stay organized and motivated as you watch your savings grow. Set up automatic transfers each month to ensure you consistently contribute to your vacation fund.
- Travel During Off-Peak Season: One of the easiest ways to save money on your vacation is to travel during off-peak season. Flights and accommodations are often much cheaper during this time. Additionally, you'll avoid large crowds and have a more relaxed vacation.
- Use Rewards Credit Cards: Rewards credit cards can help you earn points that you can redeem for flights, hotels, rental cars, or other travel-related expenses. Research different credit cards to find one that aligns with your goals and spending habits.
- Be Flexible: Being flexible with your travel dates and destinations can save you a lot of money. Look for deals on flights and accommodations and consider visiting less popular destinations. You might be surprised by the hidden gems you find.
- Set a Realistic Budget: Set a realistic budget for your trip and stick to it. Research the average costs for flights, accommodations, food, and activities in your desired destination. Make a list of your must-do activities and prioritize your spending accordingly. Remember, the goal is to have a great vacation without breaking the bank.
Managing our finances is an important aspect of our daily lives that can significantly impact our mental well-being. The way we handle money, budget, and plan for our financial future can have a profound effect on our mental health. Financial stress and mental health are closely intertwined. Financial difficulties, such as too much debt, living paycheck to paycheck, can cause chronic stress, anxiety, and depression. Such stress can negatively affect our relationships, sleep patterns, and overall quality of life. Conversely, good financial health can reduce stress, increase confidence, and improve our mental well-being.
Here are some key tips for mindfully managing your financial well-being to support your mental health:
- Create a budget: Establishing a budget is a fundamental step in managing your finances mindfully. A budget helps you track your expenses, plan for savings, and make informed financial decisions. By creating a budget, you can gain control over your finances and avoid impulsive spending.
- Practice mindful spending: Mindful spending involves being intentional about your spending habits. Before making a purchase, ask yourself if it aligns with your financial goals. Avoid impulsive spending and take the time to evaluate your needs versus wants. Practicing mindful spending can help you make informed choices that improve your financial well-being.
- Save for emergencies and future goals: Building an emergency fund and saving for future goals, such as retirement or a down payment on a home, can provide you with financial security and peace of mind. Set specific savings goals, create a plan to achieve them, and regularly review your progress. Having a financial safety net can reduce anxiety and secure a brighter future.
- Seek professional financial advice: If you're uncertain about your financial situation or need help creating a budget, consider seeking help from a professional. Financial advisors can provide expert guidance and help you develop a comprehensive financial plan. Having a clear financial plan can reduce uncertainty and improve your mental well-being.
- Practice self-care: Taking care of your mental health is crucial for managing your financial well-being. Practice stress-relieving techniques, such as exercise, meditation, and spending time with loved ones. Make time for hobbies and activities that bring you joy and seek support from others, if needed.
- Practice gratitude: Thinking positively and having a grateful mindset can greatly impact your financial well-being and mental health. Focus on what you have rather than what you lack, and practice gratitude for any financial successes.
In conclusion, managing our financial well-being is crucial for our mental health. By creating a budget, practicing mindful spending, saving for emergencies and future goals, seeking professional financial advice, practicing self-care, and cultivating gratitude, we can promote positive financial wellness and support our mental health. Remember to prioritize your mental health and seek support when needed. Taking these small steps towards mindful financial management can lead to a happier, healthier, and more financially secure life.
Your credit score plays a crucial role in your financial life, from determining the interest rates you pay on loans and with credit cards, to influencing your ability to secure housing. However, many people do not fully understand how credit scores are calculated or how to improve them. Below are 5 tips for improving your credit score.
Check Your Credit Report Regularly:
One of the most important steps in managing your credit is to regularly check your credit report. Errors on your credit report can negatively impact your credit score. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus per year, so make sure to take advantage of federal law.
Pay Your Bills on Time:
Payment history is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score. Late payments can have a negative impact on your credit score. Make sure to pay all your bills on time to avoid any negative effects on your credit.
Keep Your Credit Utilization Low:
Credit utilization is the amount of credit you use compared to your credit limit. A high credit utilization ratio can negatively impact your credit score. Try to keep your credit utilization below 30% of your credit limit.
Keep Old Credit Accounts Open:
The length of your credit history is also a factor in determining your credit score. Closing old credit accounts can shorten your credit history and potentially lower your credit score. Even if you don't use the account regularly, it's a good idea to keep it open.
Be Cautious When Applying for Credit:
Applying for new credit can also impact your credit score. Each time you apply for credit, it generates a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can lower your credit score. Try to limit the number of new credit applications you submit, especially if you are planning to apply for a major loan, like a mortgage.
Learn more about managing your credit and finances through NGFCU’s Financial Wellness partner, BALANCE.
This publication is only intended to be used for general informational purposes. Consult a tax professional for the most current data and/or personal advice.
Are you expecting a tax refund? Over 80% of Americans receive an average of $3,090 in money back for the end of the tax year. Some look at it as fun extra spending money. However, receiving a big refund is usually not as beneficial as it may seem. By getting money back you are not only lowering your take-home pay, but you are also “loaning” the government interest-free money for the entire year.
If you are getting a big tax refund, consider changing your withholding exemptions so less tax is withheld from each paycheck. You can then invest that cash throughout the year in a dividend-bearing account or use it to pay bills.
But… if you are like most Americans and receive a refund this year, make the most of that money with these 10 ways to use your tax refund.
10 Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund
- Pay down high interest loans and lines of credit. Almost all interest rates on loans and lines of credit are higher than returns from investments. So, paying off those loans before making other investments makes sense.
- Fund your retirement account. Even if you have set up direct deposits to your retirement account, it helps to make other contributions from time to time.
- Invest it. There are many options for investing. You can choose to invest in low or high-risk investments, but even investing in a safe term account can yield a return. (Of course, do your research first before making any investment decisions and talk to licensed investment professionals like an NGFCU wealth advisor)
- Open an emergency account. Many Americans do not have money set aside for emergencies. A tax refund can be a great start to an emergency fund. Experts recommend that it should eventually total between three to six months’ worth of essential living expenses.
- Pay for repairs. Maintain your assets so you save money in the long run. Keeping your car up to date on oil changes, new tires, or annual home maintenance can help prevent costly damage repairs down the road.
- Start a personal growth fund. Investing in your emotional or physical state, or even investing in continual education for career growth is always a wise way to spend your money. Whether it’s paying for a gym membership or a cooking class, you’ll feel the reward of this type of investment fast.
- Make an extra home mortgage payment. Though you won’t feel the benefit immediately, doubling up on a mortgage payment now can save you months of mortgage payments later. Especially if you have a higher rate.
- Donate to a charity. Giving back to the community is a wonderful way of supporting a cause that you are passionate about. In most cases a portion of your donation can be tax-deductible too.
- Open a college savings plan for your child. A four-year, out-of-state college education can cost on average over $100,000. For the most part, withdrawals are completely tax-free when used for higher education purposes.
- Plan a vacation. If you are comfortable in your financial status and can afford some luxury, take a trip you’ve been dreaming of. Reward your hard work with an experience versus material items. Experiences are fulfilling, and memories with loved ones last forever.
Receive a complimentary financial checkup from an NGFCU representative and start discussing your options.
Have you noticed your monthly expenses always seem to equal whatever salary you’re making, even after you get raises? This is called “lifestyle creep” and it can detour you from your financial goals.
When people get a raise, they typically think they now have extra money to spend versus having more money to put away and save.
One tip to avoid this is to divert any future raises directly into savings. While you wait for your raise here are 5 tips that can help you cut your monthly expenses.
- Make a Budget. Start with major categories, like rent or mortgage, utilities, transportation, meals, clothing, and entertainment. Try and break it down even more to find items that are easy to reduce. Some people are surprised how much they spend at their coffee shop of choice. Even making coffee at home one day a week is a good start to help save some extra cash.
- Lower Your Mortgage Payment. The biggest monthly expense for many people is their home mortgage. If you haven’t examined your loan since you bought your home, it’s quite possible that you could save a lot of money – both now and over the life the loan – if you refinance at a lower interest rate. You could also extend the loan term to pay the loan over a longer period, thus lowering your monthly payment (though this may increase the total interest that you pay over the life of the loan). It could be worth taking some time to crunch the numbers and see if you can save on your monthly payment.
- Get an Insurance Checkup. A lot of people just get car insurance and stick with it until they are in an accident and realize how much it costs them. You could save some money by looking at some other insurance companies or even changing your current plan. With more people working from home insurance companies are reducing monthly fees since the car is not on the road as often but you need to contact your insurance company to see how much they will reduce your monthly bill. Also, ask about insurance bundle discounts.
- Examine Your Auto-Payments. Putting your regular bills on auto-payment can help so you do not get any late fees on your bills. However, if autopay causes you to keep paying for items or services you don’t really need or use, it’s no bargain. A few common culprits include unused gym memberships, subscriptions to magazines that aren’t read, and cable or satellite TV plans that include loads of premium channels that are rarely watched.
- Cut the Cord. Let’s face it, not many people use landline phones anymore. Some people still have them though and they aren’t being used. This is an easy expense to cut out since you already have a cell phone bill. If you really need your landline, consider a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) plan that provides phone service over the Internet. It is a lot cheaper (free in some cases) than traditional land line service.
A New Year means a fresh start. Begin your year productively with new financial goals. Everyone can improve on their financial wellness, but we don’t always know how. What is financial wellness? Financial wellness refers to an individual’s overall financial health and your relationship with money.
Here are 8 ways to promote a healthier financial lifestyle:
- Set and commit to a budget. Write down all your monthly expenses and compare it to your income. This is an easy way to know exactly how much money you have left over each month for savings.
- Save money consistently. Most financial institutions allow you to easily set up automatic monthly withdrawals from a checking account to an account created strictly for savings. Try and put a set amount into an account that typically has a higher return rate such as a Money Market account.
- Setup an Emergency Fund. Ideally you want to have 3-6 months of expenses set aside for emergencies, but that is not realistic for many of us. To start, saving just one month of expenses is easier to do, yet still makes a big difference.
- Know the due dates of bills. Set up automatic payments so you never miss a bill or get penalized with a late payment fee. Get used to tracking your bills as well so you know how much you need each month to pay these off. Be confident with your finances and make sure you have enough funds to pay off your charges.
- Set up alerts in your accounts. No one likes to pay overdraft fees on their accounts. That’s why many financial institutions let you set account alerts to notify you when your balance is getting low. This alerts you to take steps and avoid unwanted charges.
- Set up Card Alerts. Most of us have a harder time managing money when it all goes to a piece of plastic. Many financial institutions have card controls to set spending limits or gives you notifications when you spend above a certain amount. Paying cash or never spending more than what you have saved in your account helps as well.
- Pay off debts in small bites. If you have a lot of debt, start with the smallest amounts first. Tackling smaller debt first will give you confidence for the larger balances. Typically, you can consolidate most debt into one bill as well which can reduce the amount you spend on your overall interest rates.
- Avoid paying only the interest on your bills. If you are paying only interest on your bills, the borrowed amount itself will never get smaller. Try and pay as much of your bill as you can, including paying down the balance.
The winter Holidays are here. Are you ready?
These plans may include a celebration, shared feasts, and gifts. Though the reason for celebrations varies, one thing that remains common is the cost. So here are a few planning tips that can help ensure the holidays don’t cause more debt than memories.
A Pew Research study showed that 69% of Americans enjoy time with friends and family more than gifts during the holidays. By implementing a few of these strategies, you can spend more time with your loved ones and less worries with buyer’s remorse.
- Start with a plan in mind. Saving small amounts monthly will minimize the need for debt later. Pro Tip: For future holiday seasons, open a holiday savings account now and set up a monthly auto payment to make saving easy. Some financial institutions even have special holiday savings club accounts, specifically for this purpose.
- Make lists and stick to them. Take a lesson from Santa and make a gift list for your loved ones. Pro Tip: If you have a budget in mind, communicate it to avoid over-budget requests.
- Make your gift a creative one. Handmade gifts come straight from the heart and should not be overlooked. Pro Tip: Look for sales at your local hobby shop to create something special.
- Compare in-person and online shopping prices before purchasing. Pro Tip: Many brick-and-mortar stores will price match online competitors.
- Manage expectations for the children in the house. This helps shift the focus back to the true meaning of the holiday and is also a teachable moment of the value of money. Pro Tip: Give your child a gift budget and ask them to find a fun gift within it.
- Get creative with wrapping gifts. Be unique and repurpose things around the house. Pro Tip: Colorful ads mailed to your home make fun bows, and newspapers can be a fun way to wrap a gift.
- Make the holiday meal a potluck. A costly part of hosting is food expenses. Make it fun and have everyone bring their favorite side dish. Pro Tip: A fun potluck tradition could be a bake-off challenge. Let the children be the judges.
- Be flexible and plan for travel in advance. Booking travel 60-90 days out can significantly cut costs. Pro Tip: Sign up for free apps that alert you when travels deals are happening.