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Keep Your Budget on Track for Winter and the Holidays

Now that fall is in full gear, it’s just a matter of time before winter expenses are on the horizon. With heating bills, car care, new winter boots and holiday gifts, it’s easy to let spending spiral out of control without a budget. UW Credit Union has tips and tools to help you prepare for the winter months and maximize your budget.

Be in control of your finances with a personal budget
You can keep your finances in order and plan for winter expenses with a monthly budget. Track expenses with a spreadsheet or an app on your smartphone to record daily spending. Once you start to identify how much money is coming in and where your money goes, it’s easier to itemize expenditures and make adjustments.  UW Credit Union can help you reach your savings goals with a savings goal calculator, so you can track your spending over the year.

List your net income, then make a list of typical fixed expenses, such as mortgage, utilities and car payments to determine how much you need to spend. Next, include variable expenses such as gas and groceries.

Determine your goals to keep the season’s expenses in check
Finally, add expenses that you expect to occur in the winter, such as snow removal, heating bills or gifts. Once you know your spending habits for the season and determine which categories they fall in, you’ll be able track where your money is going and assess if the spending fits your long-term goals, like contributions to a rainy-day fund, saving for a vacation or retirement.

UW Credit Union has convenient online money management tools available to help you track your budget and make better spending decisions. For example, categories, notes and labels can help identify transactions like specific monthly payments, food and auto expenses. You can add information for transactions and label spending by family members or event.  This makes it easy to set aside funds, set goals and keep track of your budget.

Be ready for the holidays with a savings account
Since the holidays tend to have the year’s largest expenses, reserve a fund for gift-giving to make sure the holiday season doesn’t break your budget. An easy way to do this is to open a second savings account just for holiday shopping and contribute a set amount each month in preparation for the holidays.

To plan how much to contribute to your reserve fund, decide on a spending limit and a price range for every person on your list. Make a list of all holiday expenses, including cards, decorations and wrapping paper. Contribute regularly to the account to see your holiday savings account grow. Planning your spending for the season will help you stick to your budget and keep you in line with funds allocated for holiday spending.

Manage money with tools that keep you organized
Web Branch has several tools to help view and monitor your spending. The Dashboard allows you to view a visual report that outlines the type of spending by the categories you’ve assigned. For example, spending on your home, food and dining or on your vehicle.

You can also view your monthly statement to see a more detailed list view of spending, including merchant information and a chart that lists spending by category, as well as over time. Check your account balance and make sure you don’t overspend by viewing pending payments, income and expenses in the Account History.

Avoid a winter budget blow out by expecting the unexpected
You can avoid expenses that chip away at your budget by being intentional with your money. There are a variety of affordable ways to be ready for unexpected winter expenses. Build winter expenses into your budget like winter activities and clothing purchases. Prepare your home for winter conditions by contacting your utility provider to learn how to make your home more energy-efficient, use weather stripping and keep your thermostat dialed back by a few degrees. Keep your car well maintained to be ready for changeable conditions.

You can adjust your budget during the year by cutting back on discretionary spending. Cancel cable, dine out less, shop at discount stores or stick to cash purchases. Reduce your spending in one category to put the money towards a higher priority that meets your personal goals. Most important, have an emergency fund as a cushion for unexpected expenses.

Monitor your account to maintain your budget
Keeping a close eye on transactions is another way to protect your budget. Make sure your finances are safe when shopping online and in stores this holiday season. Our online tools can keep you organized in addition to protecting your account with security features. Opt-in to receive Card Transaction Notifications to know when transactions post, when checks clear and when deposits occur that are over a certain amount that you’ve selected, helping to keep track of spending in addition to identifying fraud.

You can even confirm transactions while you travel with Mobile Travel Verification. Updates will be sent to your mobile device to confirm purchases made outside of normal spending areas. You can enroll through Web Branch or our App to receive these messages.

Don’t want to log into Web Branch? You can manage your money with free text banking on your mobile phone.

UW Credit Union has the tools you need to keep a close eye on your budget and monitor your finances this winter season. With a little planning, you’ll be prepared for winter spending and see your money grow all year long.

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