Dishonesty and disagreements related to money are common

Nearly half of all participants (47%) in the January online poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC) responded that disagreements about money are most likely to cause the greatest stress in their relationships.

Disputes about money management can begin as early as the first date, but they become lethal to relationships when they go unaddressed. As the years go by, what could have started as a constructive conversation about finance becomes a heated battle over who is right. Observations become accusations, and trust becomes suspicion. Growing levels of mistrust can lead to financial infidelity, which registered on the survey as a top stress point for 25% of the respondents.

The NFCC recommends that couples press the pause button before things spiral out of control and have a constructive conversation about money. “Most people have a different approach to money management than their spouse or partner. Left unaddressed, those differences can lead to the end of the line for many couples. Understanding those differences means having honest discussions early in a relationship so the rules are mutually accepted and the financial goals are clear. No matter the differences or challenges, the best approach is to start communicating early” said Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the NFCC.

Financial counselors at The Village Financial Resource Center recommend the following guidelines for couples:

  • Be honest with yourself and each other when it comes to financial matters. As financial challenges appear, work together to address them directly instead of ignoring problems and wishing they will resolve themselves.
  • Establish money rules for the relationship and hold each other accountable. Discuss what will be jointly managed and set rules for making independent spending decisions.
  • Don’t conceal debt or sources of income from each other. Financial infidelity should be taken as seriously as any other form of cheating. Adhere to a policy of financial transparency to strengthen trust in the relationship.
  • Set a time and place where financial matters can be discussed on a regular basis, free of distractions.
  • Keep the tone of the conversation casual, and remain open to what each other has to say.
  • If a disagreement should go unresolved during a conversation, take a moment to find acceptable ways to compromise or consider revisiting the issue after a short time-out.
  • If a financial mistake is made, couples should work together to find solutions without assigning blame. Be willing to accept a fair share of the responsibility for the problem and the solution.
  • When tracking joint financial goals, understand that changing circumstances require a degree of flexibility from both partners in a relationship.
  • Understand that a single financial setback impacting one person ultimately affects the entire relationship, no matter how large or small the issue.

Often, money issues may reveal deeper problems in the relationship that require outside intervention. Sometimes, it helps to seek advice from a relationship counselor if matters cannot be resolved through normal communication. The same is true for the financial side of the equation. Seeking advice from a Village financial counselor can help address challenges and restore financial health, making it easier to focus on other aspects of the relationship.

Call The Village Financial Resource Center at 1-800-450-4019 to make an appointment.


5 tips for building up savings

Americans are finding more satisfaction from saving money than spending money, according to The Gallup Economy and Personal Finance poll. Their results indicated that, on average, Americans prefer to save (62 percent) versus spend (34 percent).

However, the poll also found that people are not acting on this desire. So the looming question is: How can we become savers? Here are some tips.

  1. Have a budget and stick to it. While most of us hate the idea of a budget, it is an important part of the saving process. For example, if your expenses are equal to, or exceed, your income, savings will require additional effort and other issues will need to be addressed. Having a budget will help you determine how much you have available for savings.
  2. Review your budget for discretionary expenses you could reduce. Review your spending habits to find problem areas. Once you’ve identified where you are spending your discretionary income, evaluate its impact on your budget, and, ask yourself if you’d be willing to eliminate some of these items from your budget to free up more income for saving.
  3. Set Goals. Without a specific goal in mind, saving becomes more burdensome. For example, if you are saving for something specific, such as a down-payment on a home, new vehicle, family vacation, you will likely be more successful because you have a tangible goal. If you want to boost your general or ‘emergency’ savings, you can still set a goal. Maybe it is to save 3 months of your income, or maybe it is a specific dollar amount you’d like to save. Having a specific goal gives you something to work toward, rather than the ambiguous, “It would be nice to have some savings.”
  4. Separate your savings from your spending money. Whether you keep your funds in a bank or operate on a cash basis, co-mingling your savings and spending money can be too much of a temptation to spend. Separating your savings and spending money makes you less likely to dip into your savings. You will also typically find satisfaction in hitting certain milestones in savings. So even if you occasionally pull funds out of savings, you won’t want it to dip below that milestone. If you mix everything together, those milestones are not as obvious.
  5. Save first, not last. It is common for people to save whatever is left at the end of the month or pay period. But operating in this fashion results in significantly less savings, if any. If you feel like you have more funds available (because it shows in your checking account balance) you may be more tempted to make impulse purchases and less likely to comparison shop. When you remove the amount you’d like to save at the beginning, you begin to live on less. We’ve all had those months where something unexpected happens, such as car repairs or unexpected medical expenses, and we find a way to trudge through the month and make ends meet. Saving first operates under this same principle. Once you’ve proven to yourself you can make it through the month with less money in your budget, by taking the savings out first, you will find you can still get by.

No one ‘accidentally’ saves money. It is a conscious effort. By implementing some saving strategies intentionally, you will see your savings grow. Typically starting is the hardest part. Once you experience the satisfaction of a growing savings account, continuing to save will become easier.

Jenna Boerger is a certified financial professional at The Village Financial Resource Center. For more information about FRC, visit or call (800) 450-4019.






5 tips to pare down your Christmas list without looking cheap

The holidays can be a social landmine. There are so many emotions and expectations tied up in gift-giving. Rather than risk offending someone, we often go overboard and end up with a gift list nearly as long as Santa’s.

Whether your budget is stretched thin or you have had it up to here with Christmas commercialism, here are five ways to reduce the number of gifts you’re giving without looking like a skinflint.

1. Start with the low-hanging fruit. I’m talking about the people you give to out of habit or obligation. The nephew you haven’t seen in three years who never says thank you for the holiday check? Cross him off the list. The neighbor who moved in 2008 and is your Facebook friend now? They don’t need a gift either.

Likely, many of the people who fall into the casual acquaintance category aren’t expecting a gift and won’t even notice if you stop mailing them the annual fruitcake. Well, your nephew might notice there is no check, but that’s his fault.

In the event you do get caught off guard with a present from someone you crossed off your list, it is always a good idea to have a couple of relatively inexpensive, but nicely presented, gifts at the ready. For example, soap that is beautifully wrapped with a sparkly bow, a bottle of wine in a gift bag, or goodies such as jam or candies can make great presents. If you don’t need them for Christmas, you can repurpose them for other occasions later in the year.

2. Tackle the family and office Christmas party. Now let’s move on to the family and office parties. The gift-giving expectations run the gamut during these events. Some parties may not include any gift exchange, while others operate under the expectation everyone will be gifting to everyone else.

If yours falls into the latter category, it’s time to rein in the madness. The key is to
find a couple of like-minded people on your side. If you have a co-worker living
on a tight budget, they could be your ally. The cousins with three or four kids each
could also be looking for a way to pare down their lists.

Once you have a couple of people who are ready for a change, approach the person in charge to propose an alternative. It could be your boss, the HR director, or the grandma who hosts the holiday party each year.

Be sure to stress you have loved past parties but budgets are really tight this year (or your kids have too much stuff) and would it be possible to do something different. Secret Santa arrangements are one option, but my favorite is a gift exchange such as a white
elephant game. Not only does every participant only need to bring one inexpensive gift,
it also gives the family/office something to do rather than talk about the weather for two hours.

3. Consider the creative use of cards. On your holiday list, you may have some people you appreciate but don’t interact with on a regular basis. These people may include the postman, your co-workers the next department over, or the custodial…

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Consumers don’t need make-believe Halloween fears since real financial fears haunt

Scary costumes and haunted houses can be fun one night of the year, but dealing with real-life financial fears on a daily basis is no treat. However, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® Financial Literacy Survey revealed that 71% of respondents admit to having financial worries.

Sharing the top spot on the list are concerns about a lack of savings, equally divided between not enough savings for everyday emergencies (16%), and not enough money for retirement (16%).

Other top worries included the following:

  •  Not surprisingly, fears related to either losing a job or not being able to find a good-paying job was second on the worry list (13%).
  •  Worries associated with debt held the third spot (7%), and included concerns about not being able to pay credit card debt, student loan debt, a monthly vehicle payment or existing medical debt.
  •  Four percent of respondents worry about not being able to afford health insurance.  Four percent also have concerns about their credit score and access to credit.
  •  Rounding out the list were fears that their personal financial situation is out of control, not being able to afford to send children to college, not having a good overall understanding of personal finance, losing a home to foreclosure and potentially having to file bankruptcy.

“Admitting financial fears is the first step toward resolving them,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC.  “The next step is taking action to resolve the problem.  NFCC certified financial counselors have experience addressing financial fears and are well-equipped to help consumers find answers and solutions that replace their fears with financial peace of mind.”

6 steps to budget your way to your financial goals

By Maryalene LaPonsie
Money Talks News,

Regardless of whether you want to save more, spend less, or finally take that trip to Tahiti, a budget can get you there.

Step 1: Set Your Goals
The first step in the budget process is simple. Ask yourself: What do you want your money to do for you? Here are some ideas to get the wheels turning.

• Do you want it to buy you a vacation?

• Do you want it to buy you a house?

• Do you want it as a security blanket in the bank?

• Or would you merely be happy if it would pay the bills each month with a little left over?

Budgeting can help with each and every one of these goals. In addition, by having a concrete goal, you increase your chances of sticking to your budget. Some people even create dream or vision boards with photos representing their goal to motivate themselves.

Step 2: Track Your Expenses
Next, you need to get a handle on where you are already spending your money. This step is important for two reasons.

1. It can help identify leaks in your budget, such as the $100/month you’re spending on fast-food breakfasts.

2. It can help you make a realistic budget. If you are currently spending $800/month on groceries, budgeting for $500 is probably setting yourself up for failure.

The old-fashioned way to track expenses is to collect your receipts and keep a log of every penny you spend for the next month. However, you can make the process much simpler by signing up for an online money management tool like PowerWallet or Mint. These services track your expenses automatically and neatly categorize them for you. Best of all, most of them don’t cost you a dime.

Step 3: Write It Down
Now that you’ve tracked your expenses, you can use those amounts as a guide to create a written budget. Whether you use an online tool, Excel spreadsheet, or a notebook and pen is up to you, but you want to have your budget recorded in a location where it can be easily…

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Money challenge: I challenge you all to “Pull an Alicia” for one month

By Alicia Kellebrew
NFCC Certified Financial Professional
The Village Financial Resource Center 

Is there a particular type of behavior that is so closely linked to you that your family and/or friends say “I’m going to pull an (your name here)” if they’re going to do something similar? Some of these behaviors might be silly (like purposely mismatching your socks), annoying (like being obnoxiously loud), or forgetful (like misplacing your keys). Others might include more self-preservation types of things like repurposing things you already have around your home or frequenting thrift stores and garage sales for the items you need.

In my circle of family and friends you will often hear the words “pull an Alicia.” When I first heard that phrase I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered or slightly offended. So what does “pull an Alicia” actually mean? “Pulling an Alicia” is (simply put) finding the most cost-effective ways to do the things you have to and want to do. For instance, if you know eating out is your primary source of entertainment (I really should find another one!), then you take note of any specials, deals, coupons, or discounts that are available. This may mean planning ahead, eating a little later than normal, splitting a meal, carrying around loyalty cards, or even creating a separate email account that you use strictly for joining your favorite establishments’ “e-clubs” and getting their coupons that way. Did you know that if a person knows what they are doing they can eat for free for almost the entire week of their birthday?! What could be better than that?

So what are the keys to “pulling an Alicia?”

  1. Be aware of how much things cost and how long it takes you to earn the money required to do or purchase what you want.
  2. Always keep your eyes and ears open for deals.
  3. Refuse to pay full price if you know you can get it for less.
  4. Be flexible about how and when you do things. If you know that doing something sooner than usual or later than usual or trying a different location will save you money, do it!
  5. Know what you are willing to pay and stick to it.
  6. Carry your coupons and discount cards with you (all the time). If you don’t and you are truly “pulling an Alicia,” you will go back home to get them.
  7. Don’t be embarrassed by your efforts to save money. Sure, some people will think you are strange, but deep down they are probably pretty impressed.
  8. Find out about good deals or sales and share the news with others so they can save a few dollars too.

The last time I was home with my family I reminded them about a few discounts they forgot about. In the two days I was home, I saved them about $10. I laughed and said, “You know, we should put the money I save you in a jar!” And they said, “You just want to do that so you can have it!” I don’t think they believed me when I said I just wanted to see how much money can be saved in a month by putting my methods into practice.

So now, I officially challenge you to “pull an Alicia” for a month. Find a jar or box or envelope and stash all the money you save. If you don’t deal in cash, just keep a running tab in a notebook or on an index card. Or, if you want to get really fancy you might even write it out in your money journal.

Afterwards, please share in the comments section of this blog how much money you saved and some of your best savings ideas. Who knows? By the end of the month, your family and friends might be referring to your money-saving techniques as “pulling an (your name here).”

I don’t know about you but if people consider me to be a smart money manager, I consider that to be a compliment!

About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.






Financial counselors provide financial essentials checklist for the college bound


Many young adults are leaving home for the first time, yet remain ill-prepared to independently manage their personal finances. This is predictable considering that less than one-half of U.S. states mandate a course in personal finance as a requirement for high school graduation. Further, the 2014 National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC) Financial Literacy Survey revealed that the majority of adults say they learned the most about personal finance from their parents, which is true whether mom and dad possess good or bad financial habits. Proving that parents may not be the best teachers of personal finance, more than four in 10 survey respondents, 41 percent, gave themselves a C, D, or F on their grasp of personal finance. Therefore, it should be no surprise that many young adults smart enough to get into college remain ignorant of even the most basic financial skills.

“Whether it’s off to work or off to college, parents put a lot of time and money into preparing their child to leave home, but often neglect the basic life skills associated with personal finance. With just a few weeks until the young adult children will head out the door, the time is now for a crash course in personal finance,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC.

Counselors at The Village Financial Resource Center, an NFCC member agency, provide the checklist of basic knowledge everyone living on their own for the first time needs to possess in order to start off on the right financial foot.

• Start with budgeting. Learned early, the discipline to live within a budget is a skill that will pay benefits for a lifetime. Parents should be transparent with their child about how much money is available for expenses and jointly create a workable monthly budget. Once on their own, students should track their spending to know where their money goes and stay in control of spending. This can be accomplished by tracking on paper, using a budgeting computer program, or a smartphone app. The method isn’t important, but knowing how the money is being spent is.

• Understand basic banking. Even those who do not write many checks each month need to understand the importance of recording transactions in their check register and promptly balancing the bank statement. Along with checks, ATM withdrawals and debit card purchases should be recorded in the checkbook after each use, with a running balance tallied …

Read the full article on The Village Financial Resource Center website.

Vintage vid: The Village Financial Resource Center in the 1980s

A look at The Village Financial Resource Center from a 1980s video about The Village. There are some awesome 80s clothes and facial hair herein to be sure … Enjoy! If you’re struggling with financial problems, have money questions, or just want to get your family off on the right fiscal foot, The Village Financial Resource Center is here to help. Call (800) 450-4019 or visit

Christmas in July? It could save you money … big time!

Did last year’s holiday shopping bust your budget? You’re not alone. According to a Gallup poll, the average American ponied up $96 each day in December 2013. This was discretionary spending, in addition to everyday expenses. Come January, you have to wonder how many people got hit with credit card bills they couldn’t pay.

We’re fewer than five months away from Black Friday. Let this be the year you choose
a saner approach to holiday spending. Just a few basic strategies will help you spend less
and enjoy more.

Your plan should begin with an honest assessment of how much you can afford to spend. Some people add up last year’s tab and add 10 percent—easy, right? Be honest: You might not actually have been able to afford it. Maybe it took months to pay off, or maybe it sidelined your efforts to build an emergency fund or save for a summer vacation.

What you can afford should translate to “what you can pay for at the time,” whether that’s cash as you go or a credit card paid in full each month. But here’s the beauty part: If you start shopping now (more on that in a minute), you won’t be a nervous wreck come
late November.

In fact, you may be all done before you’ve snapped the wishbone come Thanksgiving. Personal finance expert Mary Hunt says that an early start can keep you from “buying emotionally” vs. being…

Read the full article on The Village Financial Resource Center website.

The Village Financial Resource Center is a nonprofit community service organization that provides confidential financial guidance, counseling, money management education, and debt management assistance to consumers. If you’re struggling with money problems or just need some financial guidance, we’re here to help via phone, online, or in person. More about us…