Archive for Holidays

8 Ways to Beat the Holiday Stress

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‘Tis the season to be merry-except sometimes, it’s not.

While the entertainment industry would have us think the holidays are always full of good cheer, lots of laughs and warm feelings, the reality can, unfortunately, be otherwise.

Sometimes, all that frenzied consumerism, party-hopping and crazy schedules can bring out the worst in the people we love. Other times, a challenging life situation, such as a recent divorce, death in the family or financial struggles, are painfully magnified when everyone around you seems to be in such wonderfully high spirits.

No one wants to be the Grinch on Christmas. So, if you tend to feel stressed or down when the holidays roll around, here are eight tips to help you turn that frown into a genuine smile.

1. Watch the buck

Nothing kills the holiday cheer like a mountain of debt. Stick to a budget when doing your holiday shopping and only spend what you can actually afford. Be extra careful not to overspend as the holidays draw near, and you’re experiencing pressure to finish your shopping in time. If you find yourself running low on funds, consider arranging a gift exchange, like a Secret Santa, or giving some homemade presents this year.

2. Give back

The holidays can sometimes leave us feeling down because of all that emphasis on the perfect gifts. Opening up a present is always a thrill, but giving to others creates lasting joy. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, one of the best ways to reduce stress is to give back to your community.
Beat the stress this season by sharing holiday cheer with those who are less fortunate. There are so many ways to spread joy! You can bring some toys to the children’s ward at the local hospital to brighten up a sick child’s holiday. Use your time off from work to volunteer at a soup kitchen. Dress up your family in their ugliest Christmas sweaters and holiday hats before visiting the closest nursing home to put a smile on the residents’ faces.

When you give, you always give most to yourself.

3. Stick to a schedule

Part of the holiday experience is enjoying late nights and/or early mornings. Sometimes, though, all that lazing around and lack of quality sleep can make stress levels soar. There’s no need to be a stickler for your regular routine on the holidays, but it’s a good idea to keep some sort of schedule. Make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye, and if a physical workout is part of your daily routine, don’t neglect it over the holidays. You’ll always feel better when you’re taking care of your body. And, if you’re mindful about your habits, you may not even have those extra pounds to work off in January!

4. Party smart

Cheers! Can I pour you another glass of … soda?

If you like to party, you can end up getting sick over the holidays. All that heavy drinking and loading up on refined carbs can really do your body in. Do yourself a favor this year and watch what you imbibe. Enjoy a glass or two of your favorite alcoholic beverage, but try to keep the drinking to a minimum. Similarly, it’s OK to break your diet over Christmas, but it’s best not to go overboard. You don’t need to feel bloated and sick to enjoy the holidays. Keep the stress out by treating your body well.

5. Delegate

Are you hosting a crowd this Christmas? Guests can be great fun, but all the extra work can bring your stress levels through the roof. Here’s the good news: You don’t have to do it all! There’s nothing wrong and there’s everything right with asking for help. Don’t feel bad about having your guests and family members pitch in with cooking and cleaning. They’ll feel better, too, when they’re sharing the workload. Plus, everything is easier when there are more hands on deck.

6. Take some “me” time

Whether you’re a closet introvert or you just need some time alone each day, the nonstop partying and a house full of guests can get to you after a while. It’s always a good idea to take care of yourself, and in the chaos of the holidays this need is often neglected. Consider running out to get yourself a manicure, taking a solitary half-hour walk or just locking yourself in your room after a long and loud day to savor the peace and quiet. You’re not being an antisocial snob if you need your “me” time; you’re just being human.

7. Give up the guilt

If you tend to overanalyze every interaction you have with family and friends, you can really beat yourself up over the holidays questioning everything you’ve said. Try to relax and to let go this season. So long as you’re reasonably pleasant and agreeable, you can give yourself a break.

8. Lower your expectations

A common cause for holiday stress is unrealistic expectations. It’s best not to build huge castles in the air by keeping your expectations to a minimum. There will probably be some minor, or even major, stressors this holiday, and not everything will turn out exactly as planned. All of that is OK. If you don’t expect perfection, you won’t be struggling with mountains of disappointment this holiday.

Beat the blues and put the cheer back into the holidays this year!

Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas from all of us here at Section 705.

Sources: 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/life-without-anxiety/201212/10-tips-surviving-the-holidays
https://www.symptomfind.com/health/holiday-stress-management/
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/holiday-stress-tips_b_790222
https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/parents-holiday

Financial Tips For Single Parents

Single parenting brings unique budgeting challenges.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that it costs an estimated $241,080 for a middle-income couple to raise a child to age 18 – and many single parents 

shoulder that responsibility alone. Even with adequate child support, it’s smart to be proactive about financial matters as a single mom or dad.

Mother going over bills with young daughter

Estate planning should be your first priority. It’s essential to make arrangements for your children should you become incapacitated. Draw up a will, designating a guardian for your children, and a “power of attorney,” giving someone the legal right to make decisions on your behalf.
 
Consider setting up a trust – a legal structure that is overseen by a trustee, in which your assets can be held for your children. Also, ask your employer about disability benefits. Generally, you will receive a smaller income when you claim disability, however, ensuring even partial income is crucial for single parents who don’t have another source of income to cover a gap.
 
Taking out a life insurance policy is equally important. The policy you purchase will depend on your finances; a term policy is most economical because it offers a straightforward death benefit.
 
Health insurance is essential. Premiums may be sky-high, but if you’re uninsured, a serious medical procedure can be financially crippling. Comparison-shop for policies at your state’s marketplace or at HealthCare.gov.
 
Don’t forget about tax breaks! If you’re a single parent, file as head of household. You’ll pay less and claim a higher standard deduction – you can claim exemptions for yourself and each qualifying child. You also might qualify for the earned income tax credit, the child and dependent care credit, and the child tax credit.
 
Here are a few more tips for daily financial decisions:

1.) Credit cards

While credit cards may seem like the obvious solution for filling the gap created by a second income, they’re also the number one way to spiral into a life of debt.

2.) Shopping

Single parenting is tough. While retail therapy may be a tempting salve to pull yourself out of a funk, the added debt you’ll incur will make you feel worse. Plan all shopping carefully and avoid impulse purchases.

3.) Holidays

Guilt causes many single parents to spoil their children, even when they can’t afford to. This is especially true during the holidays and for birthdays. Set designated amounts for gifts, and keep within the budget.

4.) Ask for Help

Check with Section 705’s certified financial counselors  for financial advice. There are also many non-profit organizations with programs specifically designed for single parents.
 
Emergencies happen. Whatever your income, it’s important to give yourself a safety net. Put aside a bit of money from each paycheck to set up an emergency fund for car repairs, broken refrigerators and other unexpected expenses. It’s best to have six months’ worth of non-discretionary expenses saved up for emergencies.
 
SOURCES:
 

Help! I Overspent On Christmas!

Buyer’s Remorse after Christmas?

It’s easy to go overboard for Christmas. Giving extravagant gifts to your family members seems like a great idea…until you’re facing a huge credit card
bill in January.
 
However it happened, approach this problem rationally. Blaming yourself is pointless; the important thing now is to right yourself financially.
Fortunately, you’re not facing this alone. Section 705 Federal Credit Union is here to help. Check out these four ways you can patch up your finances and have things right before summer.

1.) Budgeting adviceYour CU: personal loans, budgeting advice, debt counseling, and refinancing major purchases.

It’s very tempting to make only the minimum payments on the credit card you used to buy Christmas. Unfortunately, it’s also the best way to ensure you’re in debt for every Christmas to come.
 
Making minimum payments on credit cards prolongs the length of time you’re in debt and spikes the total amount you pay, adding an extra $175 to a $10,000 balance at 21% APR.
 
What you need is an aggressive debt repayment plan. Instead of looking to pay the smallest amount possible, identify the most you can afford to pay. Section 705 FCU can help with informative guides and worksheets on household budgeting.
 
Commit to an extreme budget until you make headway on the debt. Coming up with an extra $35 or $50 a month is tough, but it’s the easiest way to get things moving.

2.) Refinancing major purchases

If you splurged on one or two major purchases, it may not be credit card debt you’re facing. Slick car dealers offer crazy-sounding incentives to entice people to give cars for Christmas. Unfortunately, when you realize you’re in over your head with a car payment, there’s no undoing the deal.
 
Section 705 Federal Credit Union can help. Our auto and other major purchase loans often feature rates that are better than dealerships. You may need to finance the purchase over a longer term, or you may need to restructure the loan to pay less now. Either way, you’ll find more favorable and flexible terms at with us than you will at the dealer.

3.) Debt counseling

Does reading those credit card statements fill you with despair? The credit union can help you make sense of them.
 
Make an appointment to speak with a debt counselor through Section 705. You’ll learn about your rights and responsibilities and create a realistic plan to pay off your debt and avoid falling into the same trap next year.

4.) Personal loans

Instead of making dozens of minimum payments, focus your debt into one manageable plan through a debt consolidation. Amazingly, taking this step can save you money in the long run by lowering your interest rate and monthly payment commitment.
 
Collateral isn’t necessary. All you need is some basic personal information and a willing partner. Our loan specialists can help you organize and simplify your payments, working toward a debt-free life.
 
 
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Boating On A Budget

Boating on a Budget: Staying Afloat Without Drowning In Debt!

pelican on a lakeBoating on a budget? Is there such a thing? Louisiana is truly “Sportsman’s Paradise!” With so many bodies of water, many would LOVE to spend your spare time unwinding on a boat that you own. Some boat-owners like to joke that “boat” is an acronym for “bring on another thousand.” This can be an expensive hobby, but also a rewarding one. Let’s look at a few ways to save money while keeping your dream boat from becoming a nightmare.

1.) Avoid stuff labeled ‘marine’

Retailers know people who own boats tend to have a little more disposable income and expect to spend a lot for maintaining their watercrafts. This leads them to inflate prices on boating rope or boat window cleaner. In many cases, conventional products for land craft will do the same job just as well for quite a few dollars less.

2.) Find a ‘boat buddy’

If you’ve got friends who are heading to the same lake, see if you can split trips. You can take them around on your boat, then they can do the same for you. Not only will this let you both experience being captain and first mate, but you’ll also spend half as much on fuel.

3.) Get gas beforehand

This isn’t about a baked bean dinner the night before an excursion. Instead, think about the marina prices for fuel. They’re likely considerably higher because marina operators know they have a captive audience. With a 15-gallon spare tank, you can make the trip to a land-locked gas station and save a few bucks on fuel (one of the biggest expenses of the weekend). However, if the gas station sells gasoline with ethanol in it, pay attention to what you are buying. Many gasoline-powered engines (especially older models) were not built for E15, which could damage the motor.

4.) Do your cooking on the water

Sandwiches can get boring and bait shop hot dogs are expensive, not to mention unhealthy. Instead of those options, look to step up your cooking game on the boat. A single burner electric hot plate is all you need for stir fries, taco fillings, and other simple dishes. A little bit of planning can help you be more sophisticated. Bring wings and buffalo sauce, cook them up in the skillet, and have your favorite bar food on the water! Make sure you do the chopping beforehand and keep the ingredients in plastic containers in the cooler. Also, only do your cooking at anchor in calm waters.

5.) Cut down on the alcohol

Beer and boating seem like such a natural fit, but the cost of all those cans really adds up. Worse yet, you could end up with a serious criminal matter on your hands. Boating under the influence (BUI) enforcement is usually higher on holiday weekends like the 4th of July. Getting a ticket could cost you hundreds of dollars or even your freedom! If you’re out in the sun, be sure to drink plenty of water, and designate at least one sober boat driver. Driving a boat under the influence is just as dangerous as driving a car under the influence.
 
Stay safe, and have a great time on the water!
 
SOURCES:
 
 
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Why is Halloween Important to Children?

Importance of Halloween for Children!

Halloween Candy

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/halloween-candy-chocolates-nuts-1014629/

Can you feel it in the air? It’s almost Halloween! It’s time for costumes, ghosts, spooky movies, candy corn, and most importantly for the kids out there, it’s time for trick or treating. Sometimes, it’s easy for adults to forget just how important that one night is for our kids, at least until they get their costumes on and lose their minds with excitement. Once they’re running and giggling and hoarding their chocolate, it’s pretty clear what a big deal it is for children.

Your kids probably can’t tell you why it matters so much. If you try to ask why they’re excited, the question seems so silly to them they’ll probably just reply “candy,” unless they’re a little older, in which case they’ll still only say “candy,” but do so in a tone of voice that indicates a plethora of contempt at your questioning.

Here’s why it matters: Your kids are, in many important ways, the poorest people you know. They don’t really own anything. They have clothes and toys, but they have little control over what they own. Even if they receive an allowance, kids at trick-or-treating age don’t have the mental capacity or personal experiences to really understand saving or thinking about tomorrow.

They’re poor in other ways, too. If you have a really bad day and you can’t even look at the kitchen, you might decide to head to a local Italian restaurant for a passable spaghetti dinner. If they have a long day, they get to eat what is put in front of them. For most kids, the most control they have over dinner is deciding how much ketchup to put on their plate. No wonder they use so much of it.

If you get a chance, go watch kids under seven while they’re at school. One of the most common games entails the tearing up a piece of paper and writing “birthday” on each slip. Then the kids hand out tickets to their birthday party. Note: it does not matter how long it is until their actual birthday. Children are too poor for calendars. Why do they care so much about their birthday party? Because once a year, they get to take control. They get to decide who to invite. When you don’t own anything, that one day takes on special importance.

Halloween is important for the same reason. Once a year, kids get an enormous payday. They get candy, which is the universal currency of childhood (retaining value at a level the European and Chinese central banks must envy), and they get so much that it can consume their whole lives. Some kids are good at rationing, and they make it last until Thanksgiving. Other kids have been waiting for the late-October Bacchanal all year, and they’re going to finish the whole pile before bed; oral hygiene can take a hike for the evening.

This might be the perfect time to talk to your kids about budgeting, and making the pile last. It might be the time to show them how grownup paychecks work, and “tax” their pile. It might be the time to explain the relationship between labor and income, demonstrating that the more houses they visit, the more candy they earn. They also observe that some givers are more generous than others.

Or perhaps this might not be a time for kids to learn about money. They’re distracted, and every word you say is preventing them from getting to their candy. This might be a time to stop yourself from teaching them about money, so you can learn about your kids. What does candy mean to them? Why does owning things matter so much? If you ask them to share their candy, are they thinking you are taking away their candy? Do they make trades to get their favorites, and if so, are they good negotiators? If you’re really interested in helping the kids develop good money habits, Halloween is a way to clearly demonstrate ideas, but it’s also a time to see how much they know on their own.

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