Credit Unions: Better Banking Option Your Family?

Not happy with your bank? It may be time to switch. Learn how credit unions work and see if they’re a better banking option for you!

Move Your Money to a Better Banking Option

Where you bank matters. For most families, their checking and savings accounts are the foundation of their financial system. When it's not working, it just makes everything harder.

We know because we’ve had some really bad experiences with a few of the big banks.

Whether it was poor customer service, needless fees, and minimum balances requirements (even though the interest rates they were offering were abysmal), we just felt like it was a headache and chore dealing with them.

Years ago we decided to move our money to where we could get great service and get perks like better rates with savings. One of the places we picked was a credit union, specifically Coastal Credit Union. We’ve been happy with switching over, but the focus today is not on us, but on you.

It doesn’t matter to me whether you choose a community bank, credit union, online, or yes, one of the big players. I just want you to be happy where you bank. Seriously.

Which is why I’m happy to have Emily Nails, VP of Cooperative Strategies and Executive Director of the Coastal Credit Union Foundation on the show today.

Not only are they a sponsor of this podcast, but they’ve also been our credit union for over ten years.

In this episode, we’ll get into:

  • how credit unions work
  • the benefits that credit union members can enjoy
  • how credit unions benefits their communities

Let’s get started!

Resources to Easily Manage Your Money

Your money should be working as hard as you, but managing it should be easy. Here are some of my favorite tools and resources to stay on top of your finances!

If you’d like to chat more your money system, please join us in our private and free Facebook group – Thriving Families.

We’re families looking to support and help one another out. Hope to see you there!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! Come check out Coastal today if you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better.

As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first and foremost including an annual loyalty bonus.

We've been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

Credit Unions: Better Banking for Familes?

Elle Martinez: For those who maybe are not familiar with the differences between a bank and a credit union, could you kind of go over those ways that they're different, but also They offer a lot of the same things, and I think there's a kind of confusion about

Emily Nails: that. Yes, that's a great kickoff point. A credit union is a not for profit business model, whereas a bank is a for profit business model.

That's the big glaring difference if you're looking at just the businesses as a whole. When you get into a credit union, we're actually set up In the business model of a cooperative, which means that the members, those people that we serve actually own the organization.

A cooperative business model is for the people that we are serving, we don't have shareholders. As you said earlier, we are not nickel and diming everyone. I love that we are not because those [00:01:00] people that we serve and use our products and services are actually the owners of the organization. It's a really unique opportunity to technically have ownership in an organization.

Elle Martinez: Just to kind of hammer in on that point of the business model, and yes, I was mentioning nickel and diming, but really the business model behind banking is they have to answer to their shareholders, right?

There's always this responsibility in a sense, whether you know, that's your business model or not of making sure that it is profitable, that they're hitting their goals and there's target their targets and their expectations.

What Advantages Does a Credit Union Offer to Members Compared to a Bank?

Elle Martinez: But with a cooperative, they answer to the members. It seems kind of small, but I know I've been a Coastal member for over ten years and I've noticed a difference with a lot of type of like with the better interest rates, I've noticed on both sides with the savings. You guys have been pumping that up.

I'm excited because I mean if there's going to be a upside to this higher interest rate period. It's at least, my savings is making some money on that. But then also on the other side is the mortgage, I noticed you guys have really competitive rates.

We have our current mortgage with Coastal and that really is that reflection, like you mentioned, if the shareholder, so the money isn't going to someone who owns the stock. It's the members in the community. I think a lot of people don't really appreciate, that's something that credit unions just based on the models can do.

Emily Nails: That money doesn't go to the stakeholders that goes back to the owners in the form of those types of benefits, better rates, better savings, better products, better services.

We align ourselves with the communities that we serve, so we look at what the needs are for those communities and for those members and we provide those solutions. Cooperative business model is around solutions for those groups of people.

You typically find in cooperative business models the members or the owners or the users basically are finding a solution that works best for them. That's a really unique way of looking at the credit union.

On top of that, the cooperative business model has cooperative principles that we follow and those cooperative principles align across industries. So, whether you're looking at a food cooperative, a credit union, an electric cooperative utility telephone any of those, we all have these principles.

There are original seven cooperative principles and now in North Carolina, we've adopted an eighth cooperative principle.

These principles really outline how we can help our community and help our membership be the best opportunity and sustainable and helping our community education, all kinds of great things that really lead us and how we drive our organizations.

Elle Martinez: I do want to talk a little bit more about how you're educating members because I think that is a fantastic resource for a lot of people, but just taking a step back talking about the services that you offer. I know, different credit unions they put their energies different ways, but coastal and a lot of credit unions nowadays.

From the customer member side, you don't see much of a difference. Like the app, I use the app constantly. I work from home. I do a lot of direct deposit, digital deposits, but I still have clients that send me checks. And so it's just easy to, do the check deposit right through the app. Can you talk about that?

Cause I think a lot of people think, ‘Oh, credit unions are a little behind', and I think more and more credit unions, especially Coastal, maybe a little bit about its history, is they're pretty innovative and a lot of things that we need to do we can do already.

Coastal Credit Union's History

Emily Nails: Definitely. So, Coastal was originally the IBM Credit Union so we came from some really impressive folks that started a credit union in a broom closet in one of the IBM branches.

They started this because there was a problem to solve – they needed access to financing. They needed to find a way that they could lend money to each other so they created this credit union to solve that problem.

From there, we have actually, at Coastal, been really innovative with our technology and our offering. A lot of times, people have this misconception that credit unions are behind the times.

I'm not sure if that came originally just because it was a grassroots effort to start these organizations. But really, Coastal does take innovation and creativity and thinking outside the box really to the next level.

With our tellers are housed in one location, and you can go into any of our locations and speak to a teller virtually gives us the opportunity to not only save our members money by, one of the biggest costs associated with any type of organization is salaries.

We have a very streamlined way of having our members see a teller, but also through our different digital offerings, where we can go out into different communities and help out with the solutions that these folks need, the products that they need. So we do look like a bank, but we're a credit union. We're a cooperative.

Financial Education for Credit Union Members

Elle Martinez: For a lot of families at the end of the day, it's like, ‘can I just take care of what I need to with my finances?' and ‘can I get the deal that I need – whether it's savings or a mortgage?' I think if credit unions are not on people's radars, they should at least, try see what's available, especially here in the triangle with Coastal.

But I do want to talk about some unique benefits. The first one is besides the website and the app, Coastal has like an education center. you guys have on YouTube, you got seminars and a lot of things on that. Can you kind of talk a little bit more about what Coastal offers and then also why it's so important to have that for the members?

Emily Nails: Definitely. One of our cooperative principles is education, training, and knowledge. And that not only applies to our internal employees and board members and volunteers, but that applies to our membership and making sure that they're educated in budgeting, saving wealth management, mortgage, you know, home ownership.

Coastal really believes in affordable housing and providing that opportunity to everybody and. With our education offerings, you mentioned some of them.

We have some online that people can do as a stealth self study opportunity, but we also have different departments inside the credit union that will come out on site and do trainings, interactions, things with different groups, depending on the audience.

Just briefly, we have a wealth management division that will come out onsite and assist with, what does retirement savings look like? What does investments look like? What do you need to set up all of these different aspects of future planning.

We have our mortgage and our real estate department here in site, so we can go out and talk about. What is a first time home buying program? What opportunities are out there to get grant money or to get home buying assistance money for those first time home buyers? We have realtors on site that help us, find where the best places to look for different ownership opportunities.

We [also] have a community impact team. I might be biased because I'm part of it, but we have a team that goes on site to schools and does a program called the reality of money where these students get an adult profile and they have to make life work. They might be just given as a student right now, but they actually have the light bulb go off about how expensive it is to live the life.

There's a statistic out there that there are people living and earning over $100,000 dollars a year and they're still living paycheck to paycheck because they don't know how to budget that money. So that's really a critical thing to understand that it doesn't matter where your salary falls.

It matters how, you know, how to spend that money or save that money and invest in yourself for the future.

Taking Care of Coastal Members

Elle Martinez: I think that's important because Especially within the last few years, I think besides of course, taking care of the essential, you know, banking options, we are more aligning towards, putting our money, spending our money, saving our money for things that are important to us and our values and community supporting the community is absolutely one of those concerns of ours.

For us as a family and that was something I noticed during the pandemic with coastal that I really appreciated, right? It wasn't just like a slogan. We take care of our people, but I saw like loan modifications.

I was getting emails as a member of just Coastal being proactive, ‘How can we help?'

Emily Nails: Did you get the email out during the pandemic, offering toilet paper?

Elle Martinez: I may have missed that one, but I wouldn't be surprised. It was really helpful because I actually had friends and family that are coastal members, and I was like, did you check your email?

It really was a relief. But besides taking care of members. Another thing I really respect about coastal is the focus on the community, like the money and again. I know with the credit unions, how it's structured. The money is not going just to shareholders.

It's coming back to the members. It's coming back to the community. Could you tell me a little bit about some of the programs the foundation's doing with the community coastal is working with and why it's such a priority?

Emily Nails: Definitely. So with our Coastal Credit Union Foundation, we have this 501(c)3 arm of the credit union, the philanthropic arm, and we have a couple different focuses that we have for granting non profits in our communities to make a bigger impact.

So those areas are affordable housing, like I said earlier, that's a huge focus for us. It's a need in our area.

Financial well being, which comes anywhere from the education side to just being able to have an account and understand that account and use it to the maximum benefit of the member. And then the last 1 is access to resources.

I like to call this our catch all bucket, but we have, like, a really soft spot for food insecurity. Around that access to resources and making sure that, you know, we are assisting nonprofits that are making this impact in our community. So we have sixteen different counties that we serve around the triangle area, and the foundation really focuses on organizations that are, you know, aiming to solve these 3 areas of funding.

We go out, we meet with these people, we grant money, But it doesn't stop there. We then bring those organizations along with us for the ride, because we also have a really big emphasis on employee volunteerism. This is critical in a cooperative. Giving back of our time, talents, and our treasures is something that we believe in and building a community requires that.

We then bring our nonprofits in and make sure that they have all the, you know, help they need in volunteer hours. So we have an internal opportunity for our staff to sign up for these different volunteer hours throughout the year. And so every employee gets 8 paid hours to go out and volunteer throughout the year at whatever organization they choose.

They don't have to choose from one of ours, but we definitely provide our employees with opportunities that are maybe outside of their, you know, normal day to day to go out and volunteer with these nonprofits. Then the next step to this is that we bring those folks together to network and connect with other foundations.

In the spring, we hosted a philanthropy summit. And it was hosted alongside some other credit union foundations, as well as some other for profit organizations who have foundations as well.

We bring in all these nonprofit leaders to not only network. Amongst themselves, but also meet the leaders of these other foundations to give them access to more grant opportunities and more opportunities to create a bigger impact.

That was done in the spring and we'll have another 1 here in the fall. And these are different ways that we really show that we care about the communities that we're serving.

We have this cooperative mission vision value that we want to make sure our members are being taken care of in the best way we can.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in 4 weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Open Enrollment: Health Insurance

Open enrollment season is here and I want you to be prepared. Learn what you need to know so that you can choose an affordable healthcare insurance plan that covers your family's needs!

Finding Affordable Health Insurance

How would you like to help set up your finances for this next year so that it runs smoother and that you are gonna be hitting your money goals faster?

That might very well be the case if you take time to carefully to go over your options with Open Enrollment.

I know it might not seem like the most exciting thing when you get that packet, but you can have a huge and significant win with your finances if you take the time to really research your options and make sure that you're maximizing your benefits.

With open enrollment, there are going to be so many Health insurance is typically the biggest decision families worry about, and understandably so.

Health insurance can be expensive.

A recent health employer benefits survey found that the average premium for family coverage is $22,463 per year– that includes what your employer pays. However, most only a percentage of your health insurance costs.

On average, employees are paying $6,106 year for premiums for their family plans. Now you add in copays and your deductible and it can be pricey, well you can see how important it is to find the right health insurance plan for you.

You might feel like we did – trying to strike a balance.

On one hand, handing over that much money month after month when we basically use it for annual well visits seemed like such a waste.

But we didn’t want to be under covered either. Have you’ve seen those bills from the doctor’s office or hospitals?

If you’re fortunate, your HR department will have prepared a side by side analysis, comparing the major components of your different options.

Still, depending on your family’s particular needs such as dealing with a chronic health issue, you may have dig through that digital or paper packet to find answers about whether or not a specific things is covered.

So how do you sort through things? Today we’re dive into some of essential things you need to know so you can work together as a family and find the best option for you.

In this episode we discuss:

  • exactly how copays, coinsurance, deductibles, and more work so you know what coming out of your pocket and what's covered
  • compare how typical base plans work versus high deductible health plans
  • the ins and outs of health savings accounts

We have a lot to cover so let’s get started!

Resources to Build Better Family Budgets

If you’re looking to start or revamp your budget so you can reach your family and financial goals faster, check out some of these resources below!


If you’d like to chat more your money system, please join us in our private and free Facebook group – Thriving Families.

We’re families looking to support and help one another out.

Hope to see you there!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today.

We’ve been Coastal members for a few years have been happy with their services.

Did you know that Coastal offers a Health Savings Account? If you have a high deductible health plan, you need to take advantage of an HSA.

Find out more about what Coastal offers here!

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in 4 weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Raising Money-Smart Kids

Teaching kids about money doesn't have to be boring! Discover how to make learning about finances fun and engaging for your children!

Teaching Kids Smart Money Habits

As parents we want to prepare out kids so when they decide to go off on their own, they’re equipped with not just the essential life skills, but also have wisdom on knowing when and how to use those skills.

Believe it or not, part of showing them the ropes is teaching them about money.

Because if we don’t, they’ll have a much harder time pursuing their goals because they’ll be weighed down by the consequences of bad money habits such as carrying a massive amount of debt.

Sadly carrying debts seems to the case for many Americans as I was reviewing some numbers from The Motley Fool about average debts.

  • Average credit card debt $5,733
  • Average personal loan debt $11,281
  • Average monthly new car payment $736
  • Average monthly used car payment $523
  • That’s a lot of baggage to carry

Here’s the thing, though – how do you start those lessons?

It really is a family project. We have a big role as parents, but others in our circle can also be a wonderful help with getting our kids smarter with their money.

Paul Vasey is on the show to talk about how. He’s financial educator and the creator of Cash Crunch Games which is all about helping families have a fun time learning about finances through games. He also recently published a book – Raising Money-Smart Grandkids.

As you can guess from the title is focused on the grandparents, but most of those topics apply to parents as well.

In this episode we get into:

  • the power of conversations and games in shaping your child's financial mindset
  • how to navigate discussions about budgeting, saving, and making choices within a limited budget
  • creative ways to engage your kids in hands-on experiences that make learning about money fun and relevant to their lives

We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

Resources to Build Better Family Budgets

If you’re looking to start or revamp your budget so you can reach your family and financial goals faster, check out some of these resources below!


If you’d like to chat more your money system, please join us in our private and free Facebook group – Thriving Families.

We’re families looking to support and help one another out.

Hope to see you there!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! Come check out Coastal today if you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better.

As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first and foremost including an annual loyalty bonus.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Join our coffee group ☕: Get access to exclusive behind the scenes videos, chats, and more!
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in four weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Juggling Parenthood and Family Finances

Are you a parent trying to juggle your family's budget while still enjoying life? We’re going to walk you through how to find a balance with raising your kids, managing your money, and have fun!

Parenting on a Budget: Strategies for Juggling Kids, Money, and Happiness

When you’re a parent, it can sometimes feel like there are so many demands on your finances and times. As we raise our kids, we may have to deal with daycare, school trips, extra curricular activities, family vacations, saving for college or trade, the list goes on and on.

Oh wait, you’re also expected to save for your own retirement.

It feels like a lot, right?

The pressure we feel from others or that we put on ourselves can make it seem like the price of parenthood is too much.

While we do have more responsibilities as we raise our kids, there are some real joys with it. The trick is find a way to identify your family’s particular priorities and manage your money in a way that balanced and fits the particular season of life you’re in.

Which is why I’m so glad Melissa McCollough from Coastal Credit Union is here to join us.

Not only is she the Digital Marketing Manager behind Coastal’s blog, but she’s also a mom who knows firsthand the juggling act of parenthood.

I love someone in the trenches chatting with me about making this work well.

In this episode we get into:

  • common challenges parents and families face when it comes to budgeting, and how to get through them
  • effective strategies for saving money on kid-related expenses without sacrificing quality or experiences
  • tools and resources, both online and in your community, that can make it easier to stay on top of your money so you have more time with your kids

So, whether you're a parent looking to navigate the complexities of family finances or simply curious about the art of budgeting, this podcast episode is a must-listen.

We have a lot to cover, so let’s dive in!

Resources to Build Better Family Budgets

If you’re looking to start or revamp your budget so you can reach your family and financial goals faster, check out some of these resources below!


If you’d like to chat more your money system, please join us in our private and free Facebook group – Thriving Families.

We’re families looking to support and help one another out.

Hope to see you there!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! Come check out Coastal today if you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better.

As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first and foremost including an annual loyalty bonus.

How to Prioritize Your Family Budget and Still Enjoy Life Now

Elle Martinez: I think a lot of people think, ‘okay budgeting, taking care of the kids…how's that exciting?’ But I think first of all, we need to talk about what a budget is is basically a plan for your money for what's important for you, prioritizing.

To make sure, of course taking care of the bills, planning for the future, but enjoying life now.

A big challenge with parents is' I want my kids to enjoy the time, they have growing up. I have financial goals that I'm trying to do'. And it's like, okay, which one do I do first? How do I get started?

You work over at Coastal, you see things on the blog. You are putting out a lot of fantastic material for families. I want to start there. What mistakes do you see a lot of parents and families making when it comes to creating those budgets?

Melissa McCollough: I think a lot of the times, I don't know that I'd use the word mistakes necessarily, because I think that that puts a lot of pressure on families to be perfect, and nobody's perfect, and everybody is, I think a lot of people struggle with this idea of budget and family life.

We all want to give our kids the best. We can't always make that happen, and it becomes stressful.

I think that there are just some little things that people can adjust in their budget and in their time when they're planning out these things to help them be more successful and achieve the results that they would like to achieve.

Uncover the Hidden Truths of Your Spending Habits

Melissa McCollough: I think the first one can be a little time consuming, unfortunately, but it's really understanding the true cost of your current lifestyle and all of the things you want to accomplish, whether it's in like just for the summer.

For the holiday season for the year for five years for 10 years, whatever your scope is really taking the time to understand what that is going to cost you.

Luckily to help you figure out what you're spending right now, where all your money is going, there are a lot of apps that you can use that will just do that for you.

Take advantage of those. I think Mint is one of the most widely used ones and it connects with multiple different institutions.

I would definitely start there and utilize those types of services to help you figure out. What you're spending and more importantly, what you're spending it on because I think that will give you a really good basis for some decision making on priorities.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, I have to say that's an eye opener for good and bad, right? When you look at the expenses.

Melissa McCollough: It's scary when you have to force yourself to get real with how much money you really spend and where you spend it. I think that's the scary part, right?

But it's also exciting in that it provides you opportunities to figure out what your priorities are, right? Because sometimes we have values that we try to align to our priorities, but then when you look at what you're spending, you realize that maybe that's not what you value at all.

Maybe it's something different and that can be scary, but you can work through it and using those apps to your advantage to take some of that mental load off of your plate can really help you get clear about. Where you are financially right now, because it's important to understand that before you can move forward.

Elle Martinez: Just from personal experience and chatting with people in the community, I think there is something empowering, like saying, Hey, here's where we spend and just having that conversation, as a family, did we get value out of this?

Like you were mentioning, maybe we say we love traveling and you discovered that. You don't have to travel as far. Like North Carolina has some great destinations. We just got back from Lake Lure and Chimney Rock.

That was fairly inexpensive and nice long weekend as a family, or maybe you want a pricier vacation. You like those all inclusive ones. You don't know until you look at the numbers and say, ‘Hey, you know what? This is important for us. So maybe we can cut back on here. Cause it wasn't as good as we thought, but we can kind of redirect it in a different way.’

Here are five engaging headlines for parents about the importance of communication with finances:

Strengthening Your Family and Finance with Money Chats

Remember, open communication about finances can lead to healthier relationships and better financial outcomes for the whole family.

Melissa McCollough: Absolutely. I think it's a really good conversation starter between partners as well. I think that's another place where people get stressed out and they shut down and they fail to communicate with each other. We already know that money is a huge stress in partnerships and in families as well.

Trying to figure out where you are. It's not just about you anymore. It's about everybody who has access to your bank account, right? And that is a stressful conversation to have, but hopefully you can find ways to to do that together and like make it like a game plan for two people to challenge each other to really pay attention to what you're spending money on and come to that conversation with no judgment.

Because I think that will really help people be able to connect and understand your true family values, right? And once you can figure out what your family values and what your spending is telling you, you can make good decisions going forward together.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. I'm a big believer in working as a team because that momentum when both of you on board, try to get that and then depending on how old your kids are, they can help out.

I have a middle schooler that she wants to buy a lot of things. And I said, that's fine. It can come out of your allowance or you can earn some more. And when they really want something, they can get pretty creative with that.

Tips to Help Kids Learn to Manage Their Money

Melissa McCollough: Absolutely. And there are great apps available too, that you can utilize as a family to help keep, to help with some of those things that older kids would like to do as well, some financial freedom for them.

I think Greenlight is one of the bigger ones that is used widely in the industry at that. You can give them a budget or an allowance and then they can choose what they would like to do with it. It's really great way to teach them about money and get them involved in that process as well.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, I know. And maybe I'm dating myself. When I was growing up they would come to the school like once a month, and it was a bank or a credit union.

You do the deposits, you put it into your savings and then you would have to balance, you would have to fill that paper out. Now everything's digital, but yeah, there are apps for that. There's programs so your kids can have that practice.

I know we've done a couple of like day trips. It was interesting the first couple times where I gave my oldest cash and I said, okay, this is our snack and lunch money for like a trip to the zoo.

I was so surprised because I thought she was going to spend it all in five minutes. She was just trying to save it because I said, whatever is left over, you can just keep. And she just was like, are you going to eat she told her sister? Are you going to eat that? No, you're not going to get the whole meal.

You're only going to get a piece of a meal because we're not going to waste anything. It's funny giving them that experience how different it feels for them. I definitely appreciate that.

Prioritizing Kid-Related Expenses

Elle Martinez: With a lot of families there's so many different kid related expenses. If both work outside the home daycare, huge expense. And then your kids are older extracurricular activities with their interests and family vacations are kind of into the mix.

Do you have any tips on prioritizing, cause you like daycare, if you have to pay for it, you have to pay for it, but like the others balancing it and finding the space in your budget for that?

Melissa McCollough: Sure. So I am in the daycare phase myself. I have a two year old and daycare is ridiculously expensive. I know that my son's teachers, they work hard and they do good work and they deserve to get paid, but that is a big expense. I do know that.

Some tips there if anybody is in the daycare bucket, like I am take advantage of the tax credit that is available, right? I think it's up to, I think if it's $3,000 per child per year, up to 6, 000. And it's all dependent on your income, how much you would get back. So that's a good one for that.

If your company offers an FSA you can contribute to that. I think it's up to 5, 000 annually that can help alleviate some of the tax burdens associated with daycare. Those are two good options.

When it comes to extra curricular activities for older kids in particular that I think, gosh, I think back on when I was a kid and think my parents, gosh, they drove us around, didn't they?

That is something that I think is really important to consider, too. It's not just how much it. it costs for your kids to sign up and get all the equipment. It's also your time, right? Because you have to be able to, if you work, you have to be able to get out of work and get them to that location, hang out for an hour or so, bring them back.

It's usually not just once a week. It's like twice a week. I think you got to budget your time there as well, but some really good ways to help say for those things is to really talk with your kids about what they value and their priorities as well. Like get them involved, because if you ask a kid, what do you want to do?

They want to do everything, right? But do they really want to do everything? No, they don't.

They don't want to get up early on Saturday morning. I think it's important to get them involved in that conversation and really find out what they enjoy doing if they don't enjoy music extracurriculars outside of school, maybe that's not a priority for you.

You got to have those conversations with your kids and figure out what they might like to do. Then you have to do your research and figure out how much is it really going to cost for them to do this type of thing. I do think that social media can offer some really great advice and some help on that part too.

If you reach out to your communities, your friends, your family even. Like my neighborhood that I live in has a very active social media group where people post questions all day, every day, and there'll be moms that have been in the trenches, they've done that before, they can tell you exactly how much it costs, and they've got the equipment in your garage if you want to buy it from them. That's another great way. It's a great way to save some money, particularly if they've never done it before you're not sure if they're going to like it.

O ne of my favorites. I have two favorite things. One is the memberships to like the zoo or to kids museums. Those offer a really great benefit because not only can you have something you can plan on the fly with your kids, you could go to the zoo, go to the whatever the museum is, but those memberships usually come with discounts that you can apply when you travel.

So if you go to like, like I'm a member of the North Carolina Zoo. And my zoo membership gets me discounts into other zoos across the country, which is super cool. And my son is two and he really enjoys animals. So when we travel, we try and find other zoos that we can go to. We get a discount to get in.

That's another way to save a little bit of money there. And the museums are the same way. Sometimes they, depending on which one you join and. You can get discounts to other museums and sometimes museum events across the country as well, depending on where you live.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, that's a good reminder with the museums because here in Raleigh, we have a lot of really good options. We also, like you mentioned, we have events here that going back to your idea. Are they really interested? Is you can try it out. I know bug fest is coming up in the fall.

Things like that, are you really interested? Or it's like a one time thing or a special event, you can always fit that in usually pretty well, but if it's something they're really interested in, then, you know, okay, maybe we should invest, like you mentioned, not just the money, but the time.

Those are some really good, tips. Now you've mentioned using discounts and with your membership, do you have any other? You know, balancing, giving your kids that experience, you know, doing activities with them but saving money without sacrificing the quality?

Melissa McCollough: Sure. I do think that there are a lot of though there are some resources available that I would definitely encourage people to look into so that you can participate and have as much fun as possible without breaking your budget.

Elle Martinez: I think, first of all, a lot of the first. Like people that I would reach out to you, honestly, it's your HR benefits coordinator. You know, it seems a little weird. Yeah, tell me more.

Melissa McCollough: A lot of companies have deals. With other organizations, whether it's for travel or, you know, they sponsor local events. And a lot of times, your HR benefits coordinator, you know, has that benefits package that you probably looked through when you first joined and never thought of it again.

That can get you a discount not only on daycare, but maybe for concert tickets. Maybe for different memberships, gym memberships, and maybe even. You know, for travel car rentals and things like that. So I think that's a really good one to utilize.

The same thing for your alumni organization. If you have a really strong alumni organization, people who went to college with you, they want to help you. They want to see you succeed. And so does your university, right?

A lot of times they broker deals with big Hotel chains, airlines, car rental places. And you can get a discount just because you went to a certain school. So I definitely check out those two places as well.

My third one would be your local library libraries across the country have so many untapped resources from different types of events. Like, our local library is having a Bluey related party, and I don't know, my kid is in the Bluey phase, so that might be something we might have to check out. But they also offer streaming services for kids and adults. You can get movie library, they have a movie library.

You can also get educational, like online tutorials, like Khan Academy type stuff. So those are some really great resources to check out. They only take a few minutes to look into, and you can get a lot of different types of perks and discounts and, and resources that you need almost for free.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, I will vouch definitely for the local library.

They have a lot of good events. I have like the middle schooler and then I have an elementary school girl and they have arts and crafts for the younger ones, the story time, but they've also done like dance lessons, different cultural, like taste different snacks from around the world. They bring in experts.

That is like a couple of hours of really good fun. They get to meet other kids in the neighborhood, in the area. And it's usually free, all you have to do is register. Sometimes not even that you just show up and it's a really good opportunity here, especially in Wake County. So thanks for that reminder.

Melissa McCollough: Of course and parents get an opportunity to meet other parents as well, right? So, we live in a really transient area. People are moving in all the time and they don't know anybody.

It's a really great way to give your kids something really enjoyable to do and you can participate with them. But you can also meet other people who are just like you, who are looking for things to do and, and you might make a friend out of it.

Importance of Build Your Family’s Emergency Fund

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. Before we wrap up, Melissa, you do some really good work at Coastal Credit Union with the blog, because we're talking about helpful resources for families. And do you mind talking a little bit about some of the topics that are on there in case, besides raising kids, other concerns and questions that families have about money?

Melissa McCollough: Sure. I think a lot of families probably have concerns about emergency funds. I think that's a really hard one for a lot of people, not because it's difficult to set up the fund itself, but to actually allocate resources to that every month, particularly if you have competing priorities is really, really challenging.

A lot of experts will tell you to put three to six months worth of savings into that emergency fund. And when you look at your budget, that can, that's a lot of money, right? I know that's a challenge, but the tip there is really to get one started at Coastal. You can open up like a special savings account or something like that as part of your membership and just contribute as much as you can.

Little by little $10 here, $5 there, a hundred dollars, whatever. It's in your budget to help build that up so that when there are emergencies, you do have a place to pull from and you don't have to stress about that. Yeah. I think that that's probably, that is a big one.

Estate Planning

Melissa McCollough: The second biggest one I think is, unfortunately, tragedies happen and children outlive their parents at some point in time.

Making sure that you have your will all sorted out and making sure that those resources are allocated to your children and their future appropriately. That's a tough one to get through, but it is super important to do that. It'll set your families up for success in the future, and hopefully no tragedies.

You don't have to worry about it.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I mean, planning ahead. I admit like when we went through, it's like, Oh my goodness, I don't want to think about it, but I will say after you get it done, there is a peace of mind that you're like, okay, should something happen?

Or even if it's a matter of like taking care of, like if you're at the hospital and in the last couple of years with COVID if you had those things ahead, your durable power of attorney, Your advocate and everything set up. It's one less thing to stress over.

And I will point out I love what you're doing at the coastal blog. You guys have so many different topics. I know you do have those saving and buying a house. That's a concern, especially here in Raleigh. It seems like a hot market, any little advantage helps.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Join our coffee group ☕: Get access to exclusive behind the scenes videos, chats, and more!
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in four weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

10 Fun Monthly Money Challenges to Try

Are you looking to have some fun while saving up for your goals? We'll explore ten monthly money challenges that you and your family can try out!

Taking On Monthly Money Challenges

As I mentioned last week, there's a wonderful opportunity for you to reset things with your finances and have a big win with your family and financial goals. There's three full months or 15 weeks, depending on how you want to look at it left in the year.

You can knock out some really big goals in that time. One thing that can help you out with that is monthly money challenges.

We got a variety of challenges that we're going to cover today that can help you develop new habits and routines. You can use that money to put towards whatever goal you're working on.

There are some great challenges you can do throughout the year like the 52-Week Savings Challenge and the 365-Day Nickel-Saving Challenge, which I’ll include in the show notes. There are also wonderful weekly challenges you can take on too.

However for this episode, I want to focus on monthly goals. I feel like that's a big enough chunk of time where you can effectively knock out something. And it gives you enough flexibility that if you're having a bad week, you can still finish up on a high note.

In this episode, I’m going to cover:

  • the psychology monthly money challenges
  • go over the different types of money challenges you can take on
  • highlight ten money challenges

We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

Resources to Build Better Budgets

If you’re looking to start or revamp your budget so you can reach your family and financial goals faster, check out some of these resources below!

If you’d like to chat more your money system, please join us in our private and free Facebook group – Thriving Families. It’s a group Andy, Andrew from Family Money Plan, and myself run as a team.

We’re families looking to support and help one another out.

Hope to see you there!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! Come check out Coastal today if you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better.

As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first and foremost including an annual loyalty bonus.

We've been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

The Psychology Behind Monthly Money Challenges

Monthly money challenges can be an effective way for families to save money and work towards their financial goals. There are a few reasons for that.

When we set a specific goal for ourselves, such as saving a certain amount of money each month, it gives us a sense of clarity and direction. This can be especially important for families with kids, as it provides a tangible way to work together towards a common goal.

In addition, monthly money challenges can help us develop new habits and routines. By consistently setting aside money each month, we can create a sense of discipline and control over our finances. This can lead to long-term financial success and stability.

Finally, monthly money challenges can be a fun way to engage with our finances. By gamifying the process of saving money, we can make it more enjoyable and rewarding. This can help us stay motivated and committed to our financial goals.

Overall, monthly money challenges can be a powerful tool for families looking to improve their finances. By understanding the psychology behind these challenges, we can maximize their effectiveness and achieve our financial goals.

10 Money Challenges to Explore

We have three full months or 15 weeks left in the year, depending on when you start, you can knock at two, maybe three challenges.

if you break it down, there are basically two types of challenges.

  • challenges where you are breaking a bad habit (or at least becoming more aware)
  • challenges where you’re building a good habit

Within these challenges, you have ones where you can drop the challenge for a bit and be fine – like the cancellation challenge I’ll mention in a bit or it’s something you set up and can continue.

But what which ones should you choose?

My piece of advice is try out a mix of these. You may discover which challenges are a better fit for you and your family. You can then take with in next year and build from there.

Let’s go over the challenges!

Monthly Money Challenges to Help Have Control Over Your Spending

Cash for Eating Out

First up, let's talk about eating out. Chances are it’s a big expense in your monthly budget. Those quick lunches with coworkers seem small, but they typically add up to more than you estimated.

Something that can help you curb your spending is using cash. Try setting aside a certain amount of cash each week for eating out. This will help you stay aware of what you’re spending and minimize breaking the budget.

No Spend Challenge

Another great challenge is the no spend challenge. This one is pretty self-explanatory – simply challenge yourself and your family to not spend any money on non-essentials for a specific amount of time, like a week or a month.

Cancellation Challenge

Next up, the cancellation challenge. Sit down together and look at all of your subscriptions. Cancel as many as possible. You might be surprised at how much money you can save each month!

Monthly Money Challenges to Help You Save for Goals

Vacation Savings Plan

If you have a vacation coming up, try creating a focused and fun way to stash away cash for your next trip. There are plenty of vacation savings plans available online that you can tailor to your specific goals.

$1 Bill Save

Another easy challenge is the $1 bill save. Every time you get a one dollar bill as change, put it in your savings envelope or jar. It may seem small at first, but it can add up quickly!

$1000 in Three Months

If you’re looking for a bigger challenge, try saving $1000 in three months for your next family vacation. You can do this by saving exactly $84 per week. It may seem daunting at first, but it’s definitely possible!

Key Takeaways

Before we wrap up, I want to focus on a few key takeaways. I picked up from preparing this episode.

  1. Be specific with your goal and your why. Many of these goals, especially with the saving ones are wrapped around some goal whether it’s specific amount or something like a vacation. It sounds simple, but these can be powerful motivators, especially if you have an ambitious goal you want to tackle. Use that to your advantage.
  2. Automate your financial system. I’ve been writing and podcasting about personal finance for over years, please believe me when I tell you this one tip is a game changer. If you are saving for a goal, schedule those transfers!
  3. Keep it fun. Personal finance shouldn’t feel like a chore. I get there are parts we’re not excited about – paying bills – but if you plan things out,

If you want to get started with your budget, make sure you’re a part of our community!

Besides resources for each episode of the podcast, I also share extra tips and tools to make simplifying your money, home, and life easier.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Join our coffee group ☕: Get access to exclusive behind the scenes videos, chats, and more!
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in four weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Photo Credits: Othmar Vigl

Five Ways to Make Managing Your Money Easier

Today we’ll go over five steps on how to reset and achieve your big family money goals for before the year wraps up!

How to Reset and Reach Your Family and Financial Goals

It’s the first full week of September. How are things going of you this year so far?

Looking back at 2023 so far, it’s honestly been a year of ups and downs for us.

Summer break for example had us taking two family trips around North Carolina which we certainly needed. Unfortunately my mom was in the hospital in the first part of July so our focus was on her for a few weeks. Thankfully she’s doing better now.

Honestly, though, I cut back on projects and some work I had planned here on the site and podcast. I also feel a bit weird saying this on the podcast, but yeah, I wasn’t as diligent as I usually am with finances.

Here’s the thing though – for the most part we’re still on track for our goals.

How?

As we have tackled our family and financial goals like saving down debt, saving for emergencies, and investing, we’ve developed habits and a financial system that has made it easier to stay on our goals. Cause I really do believe that there are times you need to give your family attention. If you have your financial system up, you can feel less stressed and better able to handle life’s curveballs.

I’d like to show you some ways you can manage your goals if you ‘re in a similar situation, where your focus hasn’t been on your finance because of family obligations.

The good news? You still have sixteen full weeks before this year is over. There is still plenty of time for you to make progress on your family and financial goals!

Resources to Build Better Budgets

If you’re looking to start or revamp your budget so you can reach your family and financial goals faster, check out some of these resources below!

If you’d like to chat more your money system, please join us in our private and free Facebook group – Thriving Families. It’s a group Andy, Andrew from Family Money Plan, and myself run as a team.

We’re families looking to support and help one another out.

Hope to see you there!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! Come check out Coastal today if you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better.

As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first and foremost including an annual loyalty bonus.

We've been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

Five Ways to Make Managing Your Money Easier

Whether you’re the spreadsheet king or queen or more the big-picture person, I think we can all agree that we want to streamline our finances so you can focus on the people and things that matter to us.

You can really dive into the weeds with finances and debate the minute, but if you’re looking for big wins not only with your money but your marriage, here are 5 things you need to focus on.

#1: Develop Laser Focus on Your Goals

Don’t try to work on all your expenses across the board. You can burn out quickly trying to slash multiple expenses at once.

I think one reason systems like Dave Ramsey’s baby steps are so effective is that they have you laser focus in on one step or goal at a time.

You begin with a starter emergency fund, then it’s all in with paying down debt, then you can fully fund your savings, and so on.

While you don’t have to be as gazelle intense as some people are – it can actually backfire with getting your spouse on board – having a priority can be powerful.

Want to optimize your spending? Try monthly challenges with one thing. Give the cash envelope a go next month.

I want you to build better habits, not go for quick wins that get undone by the next month.

If you’re pressed for time, there are options like Trim that can save you money by canceling subscriptions, finding deals with insurance, or negotiating with your cable bill.

Just focus on one thing at a time each month and by the end of the year, you’ll have some big wins.

#2 Align Your Budget with Your Goals and Priorities

If the idea of making a budget makes you break out in hives, then you have to switch things up.

Typically when someone is complaining about a budget, there are a few key reasons. The root of it for many is that there’s no room in the budget for what matters to you. It’s so strict, you can’t any fun with things.

And while that might look like a good idea on paper – you think you’re going to get out of debt faster or hit your goal sooner – it’s usually an exercise in frustration.

Sustainable is the way to go and for most couples, it’s a process and one of the best budgets to get you started on that path is the 50/30/20.

As you probably figured out, your money (net income in this case) goes into one of three ‘buckets’ of expenses.

  • 50% Essentials: This covers your ‘needs’ like rent/mortgage, food, utilities, and necessary transportation.
  • 20% Financial Priorities: This money is allocated for your future such as investing for retirement and taking care of important money goals now like having an emergency fund and paying off your debt.
  • 30% Wants: These are your lifestyle choices. What do you two enjoy?

#3: Automate Your Budget and Keep Tabs on It

A simple trick that’s helped us is scheduling the bills to come out 48 hours after the deposits gone in.

You can use track your progress with apps and options such as:

  • Empower – If you have a ton of accounts between you, this makes it easy to sort them out.
  • Tiller – Love how easily you can customize it based on your unique budget.
  • Mint – If you’re looking to get a handle on your budget, Mint is a very visual way to see what’s happening.
  • You Need a Budget –

Don’t forget that along with bills, you want to automate things like your debt snowball or if savings if that’s your goal.

#4: Go on Regular Money Dates

Why do I talk about money dates so much? It’s because they work!

Pretty much every couple whose paid down debt, saved a significant amount, or is on the path to financial freedom does this.

They may call it something else (like Andy and Nicole with their budget parties 🙂 ), but the idea is the same.

Having a regular time where you’re in a relaxing and low key environment to get together to discuss your dreams and your money

It can be a night out at one of your favorite restaurants or you’re just in the backyard relaxing with a glass of wine by the firepit.

Wherever and however you have your money date, you want to make sure you look at the goals you’ve created together (your WHY) and then review your numbers.

Knowing your budget, your monthly cash flow, and net worth is smart.

If you’re not sure how to start or even begin the conversation about finances, pick up my Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money.

I take you step by step through money dates, with conversation starters and ice breaks. I also share a 4-week plan to get you two on the same page with money.

#5: Take on Monthly (or Weekly) Money Challenges

Sometimes when you're tackling big goals like knocking out massive amounts of debts or saving up for early retirement, it can be a bit boring and repetitive.

Money challenges are a fun way to keep focused on your target while mixing things up.

If you have a weekly or monthly challenge it gives you something that the two of you can kind of competitively work on together.

We used them a lot the early part of our financial journey, especially when we were paying off our debts.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Join our coffee group ☕: Get access to exclusive behind the scenes videos, chats, and more!
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in four weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Photo Credits: George Milton, Taryn Elliott, and Max Andrey

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