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Getting Beyond the Tough Times

Many consumers establish a budget as a planning tool. It is especially important to look at your finances and have a plan when your income decreases. By understanding the money you earn and spend, you may be able to make changes to help you through the tough times. Reviewing your expenses and income together can help you identify expenses you may be able to cut, reduce, or delay and make sure you have enough money to pay for things that are a priority. 

How do I create a plan or a budget? 

Your income and expenses are two parts of your budget that can change over time. A budget is a great tool to help you track your income and expenses and allocate money for spending. Putting it together in one place can help you make sure you are not spending more than you are earning.

Be sure to look at the expenses you need to pay annually or semiannually, such as taxes or insurance premiums, and include them in your plan. Update your budget to include all your income, including wages, bonuses, and other possible amounts. Update your list of expenses as they change, including utilities, mortgage or rent payments, car payments, food, and entertainment. It is helpful to consider any anticipated expenses, like education costs, to see their potential impact and prepare for the change. Online personal finance management tools or mobile apps can help you create a budget and make it easier to stick to your budget. 

Are all the expenses I’m paying for automatically each month worth it?  

Some expenses you put on automatic payment may look small but can add up over time. Review your account statements for expenses that charge regularly. Check to see whether you still get value or need these products or services. You may be able to cut costs and save. 

What is “paying myself first?”  

Saving money may seem impossible when funds are tight, but consider opening a savings or money market deposit account to regularly set aside money for unexpected events. Treat your savings like a bill and pay yourself first, even if it doesn’t seem like much. You will be surprised at how consistently saving a seemingly small amount of money will add up over time.

How do I use credit wisely?  

While building a credit history is important, understanding how to manage credit is equally important. Make your loan payments on time. Avoid using your credit cards impulsively and charge only what you can pay off in the following billing cycle as much as possible. When you use your card to make purchases, you won’t be charged any interest if you pay the balance in full by the monthly due date. Carrying an unpaid balance on your credit card will result in interest charges. The Truth in Lending Act gives you certain protections when you use your credit cards and loans. Paying your loans on time and other parts of your credit history will often determine whether your financial institution will approve your application for a loan and/or determine the interest rate you will pay for the loan.