Your relationship with food is probably pretty complex. In addition to sustenance, you may use food for comfort, gathering with others, distraction or pleasure. When you really commit to tracking your food expenses as part of putting together a spending and savings plan, you realize food can be a complicated part of your financial life too. While meals are of course a necessity, take a look at your food-buying habits. Odds are that there’s room to save.
Eliminating “extra” expenses like dining out or buying pricey steaks is a good place to start. But also keep in mind that a successful food-purchasing plan isn’t just about cutting things out. It’s also about understanding your habits.
Going out to lunch at work
You may grab “a quick bite” at work because it’s easy. But it might actually take you less time at home to put together the same meal. Then you get to spend more of your lunch period at work relaxing, going for a walk or reading a book. Or you could just spend the time thinking about the hundreds of dollars you will save this year by brown-bagging.
Convenience store or check-out aisle buys
If you actually look at the prices, you realize that the mark-ups on the quick-grab items near store cash registers are incredibly high. But that’s just the thing. Stores realize you don’t stop to examine and consider prices in those situations. If you find yourself reaching for a pack of gum or some candy as you are about to check out, instead, make a commitment to stock up ahead of time and keep these items in your car or your purse or your desk. By buying them online or at a bulk retailer, you could pocket a bunch of extra dough.
The fast burger or taco for $0.99 sounds like the perfect recipe for our modern sensibilities; we want food in a hurry and we don’t want to pay a lot. While the speed of delivery may be enticing, the end price may not be all that great. Consider: how many times have you gone to a fast food restaurant and ordered just one thing? The advertised item may be under a dollar, but when you add on a drink and fries or another side order, the costs add up.
Shopping when you are hungry
It’s silly to think that you are always going to shop on a full stomach. So instead of feeling like you need to plan all your grocery shopping excursions in tandem with meals, just be aware of why you are putting each item into your cart. Are you reaching for that plastic canister of candy rope because it’s a part of your spending plan or because your blood sugar is a little low?
“High end” grocery stores
You may like to go to the more expensive grocery in your area because they have a few specialty items that you can’t find at other stores. That is certainly understandable. But make sure those items aren’t available for a lower price at your regular grocery first. They may be tucked away in a place you hadn’t thought to look. Also, even though you might go to the more expensive grocery store for a few specialty items, doesn’t mean you have to pay a higher price on the regular items; try to just purchase the specialty items there.
Buying prepared items
Any financial coach worth their salt will tell you that cooking your own meals instead of buying prepared meals saves you mounds of cash. But also think about the fruits and vegetables you buy. Fruit medleys or even individual chopped fruit packages can cost much, much more than just buying the fruit in its whole form. Same goes for salad mixes. Is it really worth the extra money to have someone cut up your fruit or mix up some greens for you?
Failing to plan
If you are one of those people who wander around the grocery store until they find some things that look yummy, you are probably paying more than the list makers of the world. In a perfect world you would plan out your meals for a couple weeks and create a shopping list based on that. But at the very least, try to formulate a list of necessities. Allow yourself one impulse buy if that helps you stick to the plan. Remember that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
If you plan your dining experience with meat as the centerpiece, you are not alone. It’s a common tactic. But it doesn’t have to be an all-the-time way of looking at meal construction. By sometimes substituting in tofu, beans or legumes as your protein source, you can save significantly at checkout time.
Brand name insistence
There are certain consumer items for which you can make an argument that brand name goods are a better choice. But that isn’t generally the case with food. Lima beans are lima beans, whether the name on the can is the one you heard on TV or it is completely new to you.
Making money-smart choices about your food purchases doesn’t have to mean denying yourself the things you love. Instead, think of using these tips to get all the food you like, while giving yourself extra money to spend on things you enjoy.
Do you have serious white-knuckle moments once or twice a month, waiting to see if your money will last until you get paid again? If so, you’ve probably looked for ways to avoid this stress. You’ve worn your expense tracking pencil down to a nub and you regularly see spreadsheet columns in your dreams. It just doesn’t feel like there’s anything left to cut. While you may feel like you’ve exhausted all options, there are certain steps financial counselors point to time and again as overlooked ways to give yourself some cash flow breathing room.
Check your tax withholdings
Do you get a big refund every year after completing your taxes? If so, you are loaning the government money that could serve as your financial cushion. Talk with your human resources person and/or your tax pro to devise a plan to get more money in each paycheck and less in your return.
The more, the money merrier
You probably have some relatives you just can’t see living with. On the other hand, there are likely some who could become pleasant housemates. Splitting rent/mortgage payments with a family member may not have been your original plan, but doing so can really help you get a leg up on your savings.
Do you insist on soaking up as much sun as possible in the summer? Or are you a big-time winter sports participant? If you’re like most people, there is a time of year when you end up spending more time outside the home engaging in favorite activities. Identify which season you spend the least time on the couch and eliminate your cable package during this time. You may even find that you don’t need to go back to it.
Having an extra job year-round might not sound appealing, but there are jobs you can pick up for a limited engagement that could help you sock away a little extra cash. Wrapping packages around the holidays or greeting visitors at a tourist attraction could bring a high reward-to-commitment ratio.
Communicate openly and honestly
If you are part of a couple, getting ahead is going to take teamwork. With a tight budget in place, you may find yourself wanting to carve out your own little hidden piece of the pie or keep some spending decisions secret, fearing that you otherwise won’t have any of your own fun money. This kind of behavior tends to be counterproductive since the off-the-books spending isn’t figured into your plan and can easily snowball. Work together to create a spending plan that allows you to each have your own discretionary treats.
Setting goals is a must for financial success, but you also need to use those goals regularly to help you frame spending decisions. Get in the habit of asking yourself whether each and every purchase is in line with not only your budget, but your goals too.
Mind the mindless
As the saying goes, you are a creature of habit. You pick up that magazine in the check-out aisle, you grab that coffee on the way to work and you instinctively choose the name brand wheat bread at the grocery store. While they may seem like harmless expenditures, these unexamined spending choices can really cost you over the course of a month.
Save your raises
The warning used to be that you “spend what you see” – meaning that if you have money in your checking account, you’re going to spend it. However, these days a more apt phrase would probably be that you “spend what you see and then a little more.” Don’t use a raise or a bonus at work as a reason to spend more. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to save and get yourself off the hamster wheel of money worries.
Avoid late fees
Don’t fall into the trap of sticking your head in the sand to avoid thinking about your dwindling accounts. Most financial institutions now offer free online banking and mobile account alerts. By staying in touch with your accounts, you give yourself a greater chance of avoiding the downward spiral that can begin with insufficient funds fees.
All across the personal finance blogosphere are stories of regular folks who saved big by cooking more and opting for fewer restaurant or prepared meals. An often ignored tip is that not only do the savings come from the cost of the food, but also in the entertainment category. Turning the process of preparing a meal into a fun activity for family or friends can be just as pleasurable as a night out at the movies or concert. So get your ingredients, put on some fun music, and start saving!
Death to debt
High-interest unsecured debt is one of closest friends of the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle. And by friend we mean no-good, jerky enabler. If you’re just continuing to make minimum payments on your debt, you’re never going to get to strong financial footing. Look for ways to aggressively slash away at your debt and free up money for savings.
Perhaps most important in the process of getting off the “just scraping by” treadmill is to stay positive. There are certain to be methods you try that aren’t going to work. However, by continuing to hammer away at improving your situation, eventually you will find techniques that get you to a healthier money lifestyle.
In the coming weeks you will receive a new LGWFCU VISA credit card in the mail. Your new VISA credit card replaces your current LGWFCU VISA card, and will be ready to activate and use on Monday, February 22, 2021.
Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming LG&W Federal Credit Union VISA credit card upgrade:
If you have recurring charges and payments, once the new VISA card is activated, you MUST notify any companies that automatically bill your credit card. Provide them with your new VISA card number and expiration date. Examples of these charges are gym memberships, Netflix, insurance, utilities, etc. This information should be updated on or after 2/22/21.
Note: On conversion day, February 22, 2021, you may not have full access to your available credit line. We suggest making large purchases the day before or the day after the conversion.
We are excited to provide our members with this new, improved LG&W Federal Credit Union VISA credit card. We appreciate your patience during this conversion. Please reach out to us at 901-680-7995 if we can answer any additional questions. We are here to serve you!
We are pleased to announce that LG&W Federal Credit Union will again offer four $1,500 scholarships for qualifying high school seniors attending a college, university, or approved vocational school in the fall of 2021. The credit union scholarship program was created in 2008 to help young members with the financial challenges of higher education.
Scholarship applicants must submit a completed application and one-page essay (typed, double-spaced) to LG&W Federal Credit Union located at 1616 Whitten Road, Memphis, Tennessee 38134 on or before March 1, 2021 to be considered. Scholarship selection will be based solely on the essay, which will be judged by a Scholarship Selection Committee on content, creativity, and clarity.
Holiday spending is often a spending plan-buster. The expenses can be numerous: presents, wrapping paper, cards, decorations, food, and travel, to name a few. Yet very few people have an unlimited holiday budget. If you do not have the funds to buy everything you want, there is no need to despair. A little bit of creativity and energy can get you through the holidays without draining your wallet.
Why spend $75 to buy a scarf if you can knit it yourself with $15 yarn? Making your own gifts is a great way to save, since supplies usually cost less than the finished product. Not only are homemade gifts cheaper, but many people appreciate them more than store-bought gifts because of the effort that goes into making them.
Are you not an experienced crafter? No problem. Writing a letter describing what the person means to you or framing a memorable photo are ways to give personalized gifts without having to break out a glue gun. Baking is another option that is easy for most people to do. Standard cookies or brownies can be dressed up with sprinkles and ribbons in holiday colors.
Offering your services is a great cost-saving gift, since it only costs time. Why not offer a free night of babysitting to your sister with three kids or a month of lawn-mowing to your parents? Think about what service you want to offer, and create a coupon that the recipient can redeem at a later date.
Now that you have taken the time to choose economical gifts, you probably do not want to spend $50 wrapping them. Skip the fancy wrapping paper and bows, and look around the house to see what you can use. Do you have a newspaper? (The comic section is an especially suitable choice.) Computer paper? Shopping or supermarket bags? Cheap craft supplies, such as glitter and paint, can be used to decorate plain surfaces.
It is not uncommon for store cards to cost $4 a piece – or more. If you sent cards to 20 people, that would cost you $80, not including postage. Creating your own cards can help you save, but resist the temptation to buy the pricey supplies that pepper the scrapbook aisles of craft stores. If you create and send cards electronically, you avoid spending money completely. You can make your own or use one of the many free services online. If sending electronic cards is not your thing, consider trimming your mailing list. You can probably skip sending cards to your third grade teacher and the second cousin who you never see.
Like with gift-wrapping, you can avoid buying decorations by seeing what is lying around the house. Making a garland out of popcorn is a classic holiday decoration. Pine cones and acorns – available in abundance in many parts of the country – provide a perfect seasonal touch. If you are really craving store-bought decorations, consider waiting until after the holidays to buy. Most stores will be selling them at a deep discount, and you can use them next year.
If you host holiday dinners or parties, you may find yourself spending a significant amount of money on food. Potluck dinners are an easy way to shift the burden of buying all of the food off of you. However, if you do not want to ask your guests to bring food, there are other options. Consider eliminating a full dinner and just providing appetizers and desserts or avoiding expensive items, like meat and wine. Look for where you can buy the cheapest food. Often bulk stores are cheaper than regular supermarkets, but not always.
Airfare is generally more expensive during the holidays, since that is when everyone flies. If you want to celebrate with far away family, why not have a “holiday” dinner during an off-peak time of the year, when airfare is cheaper? Whenever you fly, being flexible can usually help you save – you probably won’t have to spend as much if you fly at night or have a layover.
You do not need to spend a lot of money to have a good time. By being creative with your purchasing and not straining your finances, you cannot only celebrate during the holidays, but afterward as well.
The recent scandal at Wells Fargo has left many consumers uneasy. When over 5,000 employees were fired for stealing from customers, it makes you wonder, “How secure are my finances?” Meanwhile, data breaches at major retail chains like Target and Home Depot aren’t uncommon, making shopping almost seem dangerous. It’s critical, then, that we take extra steps to monitor our money. Here’s how:
Watch your account activity
It sounds obvious, and yet it remains one of the most important ways to protect yourself. Check your bank and credit card accounts regularly and make sure there are no unusual transactions. This rule especially applies if you recently shopped at a store that experienced a data breach.
Check your credit report every four months
Technically, you can only access a free version of your credit report once a year. However, there are three credit-reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). So if you time it right, you can order a free report every four months or so. Watch for any unfamiliar accounts and contact the creditor to dispute inaccurate information.
Set up alerts
If you bank online or through an app, many companies let you set up alerts, which can help you detect fraud as soon as it happens. Messages via text or email can alert you to significant or unusual account activity. Whether it’s a large withdrawal or your credit card balance rises above a certain level, you’ll get an immediate notification. Use LG&W Federal Credit Union's CardValet app as a way to check activity on your debit card.
If you’ve worked for many years, you may be ready to start a new, more relaxed phase of your life: retirement. However, before giving your employer your final notice, understand how Social Security retirement benefits work for you.
What are Social Security Retirement Benefits?
Social Security retirement benefits are monthly payments made to workers who have paid Social Security taxes and earned Social Security credits. Most people earn the maximum of four credits per year. Credits are based on how much you earn.
At the time of this writing, you would receive one credit for each $1,360 you make, up to a maximum of four credits a year. Each year the amount of earnings needed for credits goes up slightly as average earnings levels increase, so be sure to check www.ssa.gov for the most current numbers. Also important: the number of credits you need in order to receive retirement benefits depends on your date of birth.
Benefits Plus Savings
Bear in mind that Social Security benefits are only meant to make up part of your retirement income. When planning, the general rule of thumb is you will need about 70 percent of your pre-retirement earnings to maintain your current standard of living. Social Security retirement benefits generally replace only about 40 percent of that sum.
So where should the remaining 30 percent come from? Savings (such as money you’ve set aside in a 401(k), 403(b), IRA, or other investments), and if your company offers it, a pension plan.
Effect of Retirement Age on Benefits
The age you begin to receive your benefits determines how much you get each month. The longer you wait, the bigger the check:
Full Retirement. Full retirement age for people born before 1938 was age 65. However, due to greater life expectancies, the full retirement age has increased to 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Retiring at this age will ensure the retiree receives full benefits.
Early Retirement. Regardless of your full retirement age, you may start receiving benefits as early as age 62. If you retire early, though, your benefits will be permanently reduced based on the number of months you receive checks before you reach full retirement age. Early retirement gives about the same total Social Security benefits over a lifetime as full retirement, but in smaller monthly amounts, since they take into account the longer period they will be paid out.
Delayed Retirement. Many people continue to work past their full retirement age. If you do, your Social Security benefits can be increased in two ways: (1) Each additional year of work adds another year of earnings to the Social Security record. Higher lifetime earnings may result in higher benefits; (2) Benefits will be increased by a certain percentage (depending on your year of birth) if you delay retirement. The increase ends at age 70.
How Much Can Be Received
Benefit amounts are based on earnings averaged over your working career. Therefore, the higher your lifetime earnings, the higher your benefits will be. There is no need to guess what your benefits will be either. The Social Security Administration is required by law to provide a personalized benefit estimate to each worker once per year.
In most cases you do not have to pay taxes on Social Security benefits. They only would be taxed if you have substantial income in addition to your Social Security benefits.
Who May Receive Benefits
Retirement benefits are for both you (the person who worked and earned credits) and for qualifying members of your family. Visit This includes
Did you know that a prospective home buyer will make a judgment about your house within the first 30 seconds? When a potential buyer initially drives up to a property, the first thing they notice is the home’s ”curb appeal".
According to the National Association of Realtors’ Remodeling Impact report, curb appeal is very important to attract buyers. To ensure your home makes a great first impression, you’ll want to hone in on a few key areas, focusing on details that entice prospective buyers to want to come inside the house.
Spruce up your front door. The front door signals to prospective buyers what to expect before walking inside. Clean, fresh paint or stain, nice hardware, and security features will leave a positive impression. Consider upgrading your front porch light. The front entrance should have all clutter removed and colorful plants in pots to draw attention to the entry.
Give your landscaping an extra boost. Trim bushes and trees to make them have clean lines and look good. Get your lawn and garden in order by edging around sidewalks and driveways, and add fresh mulch to your flower beds. The yard should be well-manicured (more than mowed!) to keep a clean look as prospective buyers drive by.
Freshen up your home’s exterior. Power wash the sidewalk, porch, driveway, and any other areas of the house. Examine the brick, stone, or siding carefully and if there are stains and grime that need to be removed, power wash those areas as well.
Spot check your windows. Wash off any cobwebs and grime, and touch up areas that need a fresh coat of paint. If your budget allows, shutters and trim can add a welcoming layer of beauty to your home’s exterior.
Remove any junk or clutter. It’s easy to collect clutter you don’t even realize you have. Perhaps you’ve been given garden rocks or outdoor sculptures over the years. The gifts might mean a lot to you, but they can create a cluttered look in your landscaping. If you’re planning on listing your home, remove these items and look at your house through the eyes of a first-time visitor.
There are numerous inexpensive ways to enhance your property’s curb appeal. With a little tender loving care, your home will be one of the most attractive houses on the block. When assessing the exterior of your house for upgrades, think about it this way–when people pull up to your home, they should say to themselves, “I can picture myself living in this house.”
Tennessee's Tax-Free Holiday Weekend is the perfect time to stock up on back to school items and more! During this time, clothing, school supplies, and computers and other qualifying electronic devices may be purchased tax-free. Items sold online are also tax-free. Spending caps are applied on specific items.
LG&W Federal Credit Union has many online and digital options to help our members access their money without going to a branch.
Easy, secure, and free online banking allows you to view account activity and transfer funds between accounts, along with these features:
Our Mobile Banking app connects your smartphone or other mobile device to use Online Banking from practically anywhere. Mobile Banking also includes Remote Check Deposit where members can take a photo of a check to directly deposit in an account. Mobile Banking is a free app available for iPhones and Androids.
>> Link to Mobile Banking
Surcharge-free ATMs give members access to more than 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs across the country through the MoneyPass ATM Network and CO-OP Financial Services Network.
>> Link to more information on ATM Networks
Our BALANCE Financial Guide is dedicated to helping you balance life’s important decisions.