My Mini Road Trip Saving Habits

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You could call me a true Portlandian. I enjoy spending my free time out being active, finding the best gluten free restaurants, and doing samplings at local breweries. Although this city is filled with the best food, brews, and scenery (in my opinion), one of my favorite attributes that Portland has is its close proximity to other great places in Oregon and Washington. I love to be able to take a little weekend getaway, so when a sorority sister of mine recently bought a house in Seattle and invited me to her house warming party, I knew I wanted to make that weekend trip up north. As I go on these weekend trips often, I couldn’t help but notice a common theme when I am planning: saving money. Here, I wanted to share with you all our money saving plans for our upcoming mini road trip:

1. Fill up at our local gas station! Aside from enjoying the comforts of not getting out of the car, if we fill up before we leave, we will avoid that “Where is the closest gas station?” issue. You all know what I am talking about, that point where you can no longer drive around looking for the cheapest gas, but what is most conveniently located right off of the freeway, and often times, those are the most expensive. Filling up the gas tank before we leave will not only save us money, but time.

2. Although we could stay with our friend both nights, we decided that we wanted to be Seattle tourist for the day and most of those activities are located right downtown, so staying one night in the city was important to us. To help those costs we booked our hotel for the night on Groupon. I know that there are many horror stories out there about booking hotel deals on Groupon (my neighbors were one week away from a trip to Hawaii when the hotel closed because of Groupon sales) but I have found that doing your research on the hotel, and reading the fine print can really pay off. On Groupon, a nice hotel located in downtown Seattle was $89 (pre-tax) and when I checked Orbitz I was looking at $189 (pre-tax). We are excited to be close to all of the action of downtown, avoid taxi fares, and have a reasonably priced hotel in a normally expensive city.

3. I am a self proclaimed foodie, so this becomes a big expense for me when I travel. I am one of those people who just wants to try everything there is to offer when I am in a new location. One of the best ways to do this is by taking advantage of the growing trend of food carts! Between now and the time for my trip, I am looking forward to scoping out the food cart scene in Seattle and following their social networks to see where they are parked when I arrive.

Now that I have shared some of my money saving habits when visiting a new city, what are some of yours?

Basha Gitnes
Marketing Specialist

The Change in My Pocket

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When I arrive home at the end of the day, I walk into my bedroom, reach into my pocket and drop the change I find there into a small cup on my dresser. Does this sound familiar? Do you have a similar routine at the end of your workday? As I stared at the pile of miscellaneous coins one morning a few months ago, I thought about how much this small change would add up to over the course of a year. Answer: $100. This is the tally of an average of $.40 per day over the course of a full year that I regularly deposit into the small cup on my dresser.

Most of us use a lot of alternative payment methods like debit cards, checks, credit cards, and electronic payment systems. The change in your pocket may not add up to as much if you are less likely to pay with cash. I would gamble that even with the diminished use of cash, that the change you save over the course of a year would add up to more than you would expect.

“Finding” $100 made me think about how I could use the money for something that I value. Instead of letting the coins slip through my fingers for my next latte, I decided to make use of this accumulated bounty for something very special. I took that $100 and made a contribution to my favorite charity.

My gift made me feel good – much better than the latte would have.

I Resolve to…..

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Does your New Year’s Resolution involve how you manage your money? Nothing is more aggravating than deciding on a New Year’s Resolution….except of course, when you fail soon after setting a resolution. Here are some money savvy New Year Resolutions you can keep and feel proud to share next year.

  1. Set up or increase your 401k contribution- Less than half of those that have access to an employer sponsored retirement plan actually contribute towards it. Resolve to start or increase your 401k contributions and your future self will thank you. What is nice about this resolution is that once you make this change with your employer, you are set and are sure to have this be the one year you do not fail to follow through.
  2. Start tracking where your money is going- This is so much easier than you think. Several banks and credit unions now offer software as part of their online banking, which will track your spending and categorize it for you. Ever wonder how much you spend each month on gas? These programs will tell you with the click of a button. If you find that your online banking does not allow this try Mint.com.
  3. Pull your credit report- You are entitled to one credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies each year. Your credit can affect several facets of your life including, obtaining a job, getting a loan and even how much you pay for your car insurance. Make sure your credit report is accurate by going to annualcreditreport.com and pulling your credit report.

The key to any resolution is to make it become automatic or a habit. The more automation you can put behind your New Year’s Resolutions the more success you are bound to experience.

 

Care to share your resolution for 2015?

Melody Bell
Executive Director

Financial Beginnings Welcomes Two New Board Members

Financial Beginnings welcomes two new board members

PORTLAND, Ore., December 5, 2014Financial Beginnings, a Portland-based nonprofit that provides financial education programs, is pleased to welcome Michael Harper, an Agent for State Farm, and Adrienne Prevost, a student at Portland State University, to its Board of Directors.

harper pictureMichael Harper is a native of Illinois, born in Chicago in 1957, and is a graduate of North Park University.  Harper played basketball for the Portland Trail Blazers during the 1980-81 and 1981-82 seasons and spent the following six seasons playing in Europe. Harper has been active in the community as a Portland School district employee, businessman and spokesperson.  He is an active member of the Southwest Rotary and has been selected as a Royal Rosarian.  Currently, he is a Commissioner on the State of Oregon Commission on Children and Families and a Board Member with Western Oregon University Foundation. As an Agent for 19 years with State Farm Insurance Companies, Michael is excited to serve on the board of Financial Beginnings.

Harper said, “I have been a long time supporter of Financial Beginnings and have had the opportunity to be in the classroom myself. This is a great organization and I am looking forward to continuing my support in a more involved way.”

 

AdrienneAdrienne Prevost is a senior at Portland State University working towards her Bachelor of Arts degree in Finance. She became involved with Financial Beginnings after taking Melody’s Personal Finance course at PSU. She then became a volunteer, intern, and joined the Program Committee. In June 2014 she received a Dean’s Award for Community Engagement at Portland State for her recruitment and retention work at her internship.  After graduating in June 2015 she plans to go for her Master’s degree in Financial Analysis. In her spare time Adrienne enjoys reading, hiking in the gorge, and running.

 

Prevost said, “I am ready to jump right in on the Financial Beginnings board! This is an amazing opportunity for me to continue to give back to an organization that has influenced me and my education.”

 

About Financial Beginnings

Formed in 2005 and based in Portland, OR, Financial Beginnings is a nonprofit organization that provides free financial education programs throughout the Pacific Northwest.  Financial Beginnings’ largest program educates youth and young adults in the basics of personal finance through visits to schools or community groups.  Financial Beginnings’ courses incorporate all aspects of personal finance to provide individuals the foundation needed to make informed financial decisions. More information is available at www.financialbeginnings.org.

 

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My First Experience Presenting Financial Beginnings’ Programs in Spanish!

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When I started my internship at Financial Beginnings, in addition to the outreach I was doing, I also wanted to present Financial Beginnings programs in the classroom. I wanted to learn as much as information as possible to be able to share it with everyone else, and as a college student I wanted to learn more about personal finance. I have been able to experience all these opportunities and currently have the pleasure of teaching Financial Beginnings first ever programs in Spanish.

Minterbridge Elementary is the first school to have the Financial Footings program in Spanish and I want to share my experience with you as the volunteer presenter. The first time I walked into the classroom I felt anxious and nervous. However, as I continued teaching, I saw the children’s happy faces of learning something new every day. The children had many questions and loved playing the budget game. The budgeting game teaches them about positive and negative numbers, or in financial terms, expenses vs. savings. When I walked out from the room, I noticed they started asking even more questions about savings. As an intern I had the pleasure to experience this opportunity and would encourage you to get involved, especially if you are bilingual. Financial Beginnings needs bilingual volunteers who are willing and excited to teach their programs in the community.

 

Margarita Gonzalez
Spanish Program Intern

Is Your Mouth Getting You in Trouble?

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Not because you said the wrong thing, but because you do not take care of your dental hygiene?

Today I went to my dentist for my bi-annual cleaning and check-up. The dental hygienist commented that my teeth are great. She asked if I flossed daily, yes. She then asked if I use an electric toothbrush and I again replied yes. She said my dental care was apparent and I had a pleasant visit with little discomfort while I got my teeth cleaned.

When it comes to dental work, I am a baby. I have only had a few fillings in my life and all were in adulthood. When I got my wisdom teach taken out, I had them knock me out because I could not stand them working in my mouth.

As I was getting my teeth cleaned today I thought back to several years ago when I did not have dental insurance. I could not afford dental insurance for 2-3 years and did not get regular cleanings and check-ups. When I went to the dentist for the first time after the break I found I needed several filling and went through a very uncomfortable year of getting my teeth back into good health.

Taking care of your teeth and visiting the dentist regularly can save a lot of money and discomfort down the road. Preventative care is much less expensive than treatment needed later due to issues. Also, there are arguments made that poor dental hygiene and heart disease are related.

I decided to do some research on what individuals who cannot afford dental insurance can do to maintain their teeth. The Oregon Dental Association provides resources to the community on free or low-dental care available.

Leave the trouble you have with your mouth left to those times when you have “put your foot in it”.

 

Melody Bell
Executive Director

Groupon: Such a Deal!

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For about six months I was a dedicated Groupon purchaser. I was so excited to get my daily email with the special deals around Portland. It was the ultimate impulse purchase for me. Sign onto my email account, click on the latest Groupon email, pick one of several colorful, intriguing icons, and Bam! I had a very low cost massage, or tickets to an event, or fill-in-the-blank deal that I was going to enjoy.

I enjoyed several interesting adventures – a sushi dinner, a hockey game, a film festival. After a few weeks, I realized that I had amassed quite a few Groupons that I hadn’t used. These were great deals. What was wrong with me? I needed to get planning and inviting friends to join my on these wonderful Groupon-adventures.

Except that I didn’t. The deals were great, but they didn’t always mesh with the available times when I wanted to go on the adventure. Or my friends didn’t share my enthusiasm for the two-for-one tickets to a GermanFilm Festival. The cost of the ticket became market price when this happened.Or worse, I no longer had the same level of enthusiasm for the adventure andleft it to languish in my Groupon account.

I finally unsubscribed. Since that time I have actually saved money on my entertainment because I am paying only for the things I really want to do instead of being wooed by the colorful icons on the Groupon email.

Anne Lee
Director of Operations

Savings Builds More than Wealth

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As Financial Beginnings’ Development Director, I am constantly seeking new research about the importance of financial education. As a mom, I continually look for opportunities to enhance my child’s future. Recently, I stumbled upon new research that addressed both.

A recent study provided yet another reason to encourage children to start saving money at a young age. This research, from the Center for Social Development, found that “youth who have a bank account in their name, regardless of the amount in that account, are seven times more likely to attend college than youth with no account.”

The Journal of Family and Economic Issues explains this as the “assets effect,” whereby “personally controlling their savings inspires a deeper appreciation for what they need to do financially and behaviorally to get into college,” noting that “the simple act of saving motivates children to strive harder.”

Depositing money into their own savings account, the Journal explains, helps children feel a sense of control over their future. This psychological effect ignites a cycle of positive and aspirational behaviors.

So how can parents make the most of the assets effect? For starters, they can help their child open a savings account in his or her own name. Banks and credit unions all provide some type of custodial savings account for even the youngest of children. My son opened his savings account at Umpqua Bank when he was just a few months old; his signature was a little sloppy but hey, so is Jack Lew’s.

Secondly, parents can help their child determine how much of his or her earned of gifted income should be deposited into this account, and assist their child in making regular, physical deposits. Making regular deposits to my son’s account has kept me honest in making regular deposits to my own account as well.

Lastly, watching a savings account grow, regardless of by how much, provides a tangible tool for teaching their child about interest, budgeting, and basic money management. A savings account can also provide the framework for discussing goal-setting in general, as well as educational and career goals. As the old adage states, if you don’t know where you are going, you probably won’t get there.

Kristin Monahan
Development Director

 

Interview with Clackamas County Federal Credit Union

We spoke with Mary Greco, President of Clackamas Federal Credit Union and her two staff members, AVP of Marketing,Luke McMurray, and Administrative Assistant Jennifer Kraxberger to discuss financial literacy.

Can you tell us a little about Clackamas FederalCredit Union?
57 years ago citizens in Clackamas County created the credit union to serve workers and public service employees. The Credit Union is still headquartered in Clackamas and has grown to more than 25,000 members, served by 84 employees in six branches.

What makes Clackamas Federal Credit Union special?
Our mission is taking pride in making a difference by supporting the financial success of our members. We also strive to support the communities we serve.

Why does Clackamas Federal Credit Union support Financial Beginnings? Why is financial education important to your company?
We believe that everyone needs to understand how to prepare financially for the future. When people borrow money, we want them to understand everything about the loan – how they are being charged and what the requirements are. I personally believe that financial literacy is very important and should be taught from first grade through college.

Why did you decide to partner with Financial Beginnings?
Financial Beginnings will help us reach our members and people throughout the county. We want people to learn how to save and make their lives better. Saving is the first step to a successful future. The Financial Beginnings curriculum provides the consistent and unbiased message to students that we think is critical.

In addition to supporting Financial Beginnings, does Clackamas Federal Credit Union have any current or planned programs,initiatives, or resources to increase financial literacy?
We provide workshops throughout the year. And we are going to be teaching classes at Clackamas Community College using the Financial Foundations curriculum created by Financial Beginnings.

In your opinion, what is currently the most critical finance-related topic that needs to be addressed through education?

Mary: Saving is the most important. People don’t know how to save. They seem not to understand that they can start small and build. Instead, they set a goal beyond their means and then become discouraged.

Luke: Budgeting is critical. People need to have a plan and follow it.

Jennifer: I think people need to understand how to live within their means and not try to keep up with their neighbors. Saving and budgeting – those are the most important elements in financial literacy.

Welcome to the World of Debt. Do You Know What You Are in for?

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I grew up watching my mother work her way through college. I was 10-years old when she achieved her bachelor’s degree. I grew up with good grades and I was always under the assumption that I would go to college. I think my parent’s assumed I would also. Still, with my parents having to spend the first 10-years of my life not only raising my older brother and myself, but also baring the time and expense of my mother going to college. I am not sure, but I believe she graduated with no student loan debt.

I have always been self-driven and would take initiative to do the things I wanted to do. I decided four years in high school was too long for me, so I graduated in three. During my final year of high school I began taking all of the required standardized tests, filling out the college applications and doing all of the normal high school senior activities. My parents were involved in this process, but I definitely ran the show.

When it came time for me to start making decisions and viewing the financial aide offers provided to me from several universities, it all seem to become very clear to everyone that this was real. I was proceeding through this process assuming that my parents would be paying for whatever college I chose, we never actually had a conversation confirming this.

I don’t quite remember all of the details of how I and my parents realized that we had very different expectations regarding how my college would be paid for. The outcome became that they paid for me to attend Portland Community College. I remember seeing the financial aid offers coming in and the amounts outlined for loans that both I and my parents were expected to take out to pay for college. I am glad that I did not agree to any of them because looking back I realize that I was not ready to accept that responsibility.

My parents paid for the first couple of years of my college (I took the 6-year plan) and eventually towards the end I bit the bullet and took out loans so I could quit my job and finish out the last bit full-time. I was fortunate that I left with only $12,500 in student loan debt, $5,000 of which was a loan from my grandparents (the interest rate was quite good). By the time I did take out debt, I had an understanding of what it meant and what my responsibilities were as a borrower.

The average student loan debt an undergraduate leaves school with is now approximately $30,000, plus an additional $10,000 in credit card debt. Many of these students had the same belief that I did, that college was just the assumed next step. Now, more than when I was in high school, students are brought up that student loan debt is also assumed.

What can we do to better prepare students to understand this process and how the decisions they are making now to get to and through college will affect their post college life? 

Melody Bell
Executive Director