December 9, 2017 Beth Ann Tabak See all posts in Budgeting See all posts in Money-Saving Tips Shop smart and save for the Holidays The holidays are in full swing, and shopping days are running out. I know what you’re thinking: It’s too late to score deals and save money. Don’t worry, there are still steps you can take to cut costs even if your shopping has only just begun. Let’s review some of those steps as well as explore year-round measures that can help put you at the top of your financial game next year. First, let’s see where your money goes and take a quick dive into the fundamentals of budgeting. Before you can really start to save money, it’s important to know where your money goes. Start by recording your purchases over a one-month period. Evaluate your spending patterns during that time as well as what influenced your decisions to spend. Review everything from bills to lunches, and take into consideration what you have to buy versus what you want to buy. Then, cut the excess and reassign some spending money to benefit your bottom line. For example, if you forgo your daily coffee for a month, can you pay off a bill more quickly? The same goes for the holidays. Organize yourself by writing down everything that you will need to buy in the coming weeks – food, gifts, wrapping paper – you name it. Assign a dollar amount to each item. If the overall cost is higher than what you have to spend, look at what you can trim. KOFE (Knowledge of Financial Education) makes this easy by offering an expense planning worksheet in its Holiday Survival Guide. Second, let’s look at sticking to your budget and shopping smart. If you have your list and budget assembled, start comparison shopping by reviewing weekly advertisements, taking advantage of last-minute online shopping deals, and the free shipping that comes with it. KOFE’s Shop Smart and Save* guide recommends making two trips before buying: one to compare prices and another to buy. While this might not be possible this close to the holidays, it’s a good rule of thumb during the rest of the year. It can be applied to everything from finding deals on groceries to getting a better rate on car insurance. When you do begin buying, keep your receipts and track your costs. Try not to spread your spending over too many credit cards. It can cause you to lose track of costs and exceed your budget. If you do use a credit card, try using one that offers rewards, such as the 7 17 Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card with the ScoreCard Rewards program. Pair your card with mobile apps that offer coupons, discounts and cash-back for serious saving power. And, even though it’s easy to do this time of year, don’t impulse-buy. Remember that list we talked about earlier? Buy only the items on that list. Your wallet will thank you later. Now, let’s look at being savvy year-round to save money, pay down debt and be ahead of the curve next holiday season. Even minor tweaks can help you save money. For example, switching to energy-efficient lighting can cut your energy bills quickly. If you replace your five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with ENERGY STAR® rated items, you can save $75 each year. Cutting back on dining out is also a time-tested way to save. Planning and preparing meals in advance can help you avoid impulse dining decisions, such as picking up carry-out or fast food. You can also save money by re-evaluating your cell phone plan to make sure you are using one that best fits your budget and lifestyle. Before you buy an item, consider whether it’s something you need to buy brand-new. Are you able to buy at consignment shops or invest in a pre-owned or rebuilt item? Then, make sure that you apply any money that you have saved toward debts or bills before spending it on something else. Before you know it, you’ll be on track for a successful financial future. For a more in-depth look at how to Shop Smart and Save, please visit: www.717cu.com/KOFE. Once you proceed to the KOFE site, select financial publications from the KOFE Table drop-down menu. 7 17 has partnered with KOFE (Knowledge of Financial Education) to provide free financial education tools to help support members’ long-term financial health. Resources include publications, videos and more. Plus, you have free access to financial coaches, seven days a week!