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June 2019 E-Newsletter

How To Take The Heat Off Your Summer Budget

piggy-bank-166513010.jpgSummertime brings more than sunburns and barbecues — it can also send your monthly expenses through the roof. But with a little work now, you can enjoy the hot season and avoid pinching pennies in the fall.

“Ideally, one saves a little bit of money in each of the cooler months and then spends down those funds in the summer,” says Michael Schupak, founder of Schupak Financial Advisors in West New York, New Jersey. But, if you’ve failed to plan your budget that far ahead, all is not lost.

Saving on travel
Plan vacations wisely, paying for as much as possible in advance. Lodging, transportation and entertainment in many cases are less expensive when booked ahead. And getting started early means there will be less scrambling for money later.

If you’re down to the wire and don’t have enough money for a big trip, visit family who’ll put you up or plan a staycation this year. Crashing on a relative’s couch or being a tourist in your town may not be a dream vacation, but it is still a break and can give you a head start on saving for next year’s trip.

Saving while at home
On the homefront, find out if your utility company offers a flat rate plan. This can spread power, heating and cooling costs across 12 equal monthly payments, eliminating spikes on your bill caused by more people, like school-age children, being at home during the day in summer.

Older children home for the summer may spend their days raiding the fridge. Couponing is one way to save on groceries, but it can take a lot of effort to see measurable payoff. Instead, encourage your kids to cook and limit convenience foods — those that are easy to eat mindlessly — on your shopping list.

If you are looking for supervised activities for younger children, an overnight summer camp or full-time day care, generally the most expensive choices, aren’t the only options. If you didn’t budget for these big-ticket items, look for local day camps, which are often run by religious or community organizations and parks departments and are a fraction of the cost of child care.

For next year, Schupak recommends estimating how much expenses climb in the summer and setting aside — through automation, if possible — a portion of each paycheck for a summer fund. 

The article How To Take The Heat Off Your Summer Budget originally appeared on

How Being Neighborly Can Save You Money

NeighborsScott King is the guy with the chainsaw. When neighbors need to hack down a stump, they borrow his, rather than buy or rent one. His friends in the Dallas neighborhood of Sparkman Estates help him, too. He borrows Shelby’s ladders, Mark’s spare bike parts, Carl’s tiller and Ryan’s fertilizer spreader. It costs him nothing — just the time it takes to walk to the neighbor’s house and maybe enjoy a beer while he’s there.

Sharing a chainsaw is one of many ways you (and your neighbors) can save money. Get to know the people around you, and they may feed your dog while you’re away, recommend an affordable plumber or give you their extra umbrella. So start connecting.

Ways to connect with neighbors

Friendly waves and “how-you-doings” can certainly lead to fruitful friendships. But to expand your network and money-saving opportunities, check out these free online forums:

Facebook groups: Search for groups specific to your neighborhood, in which neighbors may share items and services they’re giving away or selling.

The Buy Nothing Project: Check whether your community has a Buy Nothing Project Facebook group, in which members post items they want to give away, lend or share without any money or services exchanged. To see whether your neighborhood has a Facebook group, visit and browse groups by location.

The Freecycle Network: This forum emphasizes keeping items out of landfills, so members give away unwanted items, rather than pitch them. Search to find a group near you.

Nextdoor: This is an app and private social network for your neighborhood in which members share information, give and receive recommendations and post items they’re selling or giving away. Search to find your neighborhood.

How to save money

Try these tactics using the forums above or through in-person interactions.

Get free (or discounted) stuff
You may be surprised by what people are willing to give away, often because they’re moving or don’t feel like reselling or returning something. Marcello Orlando, lead moderator of the Freecycle Network group in Somerville, Massachusetts, has received a couple of laptops, two couches and a window air-conditioner unit through Freecycle.

Paige Wolf, who started Philadelphia’s first Buy Nothing Project Facebook group, will often ask her neighborhood group if anyone is giving away what she’s about to buy in her online shopping cart. “A lot of times, if you ask, someone will be like, ‘Yeah, I have a sofa for you,’” she says.

Wolf rarely buys clothes for her kids, either, thanks to the group. “My kids outgrow their clothes — their clothes go in the group. My kids need clothes — I ask for them on the group,” says Wolf, who is also the author “Spit That Out!: The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids in the Age of Environmental Guilt.”

Neighbors give away items on Nextdoor, too, but unlike Freecycle and the Buy Nothing Project, they also sell them. These sales can yield bargains compared to other sites, says Annie Barco communications manager of Nextdoor. That’s because Nextdoor verifies users’ addresses, she says, which may help sellers trust buyers with a deal.

Get trusted recommendations (and maybe discounts)

Whether through a community Facebook group, Nextdoor or word of mouth, a personal recommendation can save you from hiring someone who overcharges and underperforms.

Nextdoor surfaces recommendations for many kinds of businesses and service providers, including neighbor-vetted electricians, roofers and carpenters. Sometimes you can even get a locals-only deal, Barco says.

Share goods and services

Whether you coordinate online or in person, sharing services can save you and neighbors money, too. For example, as kids go back to school, Barco has seen neighborhood parents organize carpools, nanny-shares and babysitting duties through Nextdoor. And Wolf belongs to a Facebook group for locals who feed each other’s dogs and cats for free while owners are away.

In addition, sharing goods you use infrequently (like a chainsaw) can save you money, as well as space in your home, garage or shed.

Extra perks of leaning on neighbors

Buying less stuff — whether through sharing or reusing neighbors’ goods — helps both your wallet and the environment. So does giving away your old things. “You’ll feel good, because you’re helping someone else and also reducing landfill waste,” Orlando says.

And you may feel good for another reason: By participating in the Buy Nothing Project page, “we get to actually know our neighbors,” Wolf says, adding: “It fosters so much gratitude.”

The article How Being Neighborly Can Save You Money originally appeared on Nerdwallet.

Business Corner: Why You Shouldn’t Start a Business Right Out of College, and Why You Should

founder_800-x-400-700x350.jpgWhen she graduated from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business in 2007, Jess Lively already had eight years of entrepreneurship under her belt, having started a small business at age 15. Rather than launch a corporate career, Lively decided to run her online jewelry company full time.

Lively is part of a growing group of college graduates who skip job applications in favor of starting a business once they earn their diplomas. From 2010 to 2013, 45% of business school graduates started their own companies — nearly double the percentage between 2000 and 2009 — according to a study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Of course, the decision isn’t right for everyone. There are many details to consider including business planning, marketing and financing. (Coulee Bank's Business Banking Team is here to help you answer any questions.)

Here are three pros and three cons of starting your own business straight out of college.

CON: No guaranteed paycheck.
A paycheck certainly would have paid the bills, Lively says. But she enjoyed the flexibility of self-employment and worried a traditional job would tempt her into climbing the corporate ladder.

“I didn’t trust myself to not climb the ladder if it was there,” Lively says.

Her jewelry business wasn’t her ultimate career goal; it was a way to support herself while she pursued a passion: building a lifestyle brand. She launched a blog in 2009 and was eventually able to quit her jewelry business to run her lifestyle business full-time. She has a blog, a podcast and an online course called “Life With Intention,” and is working on a book.

PRO: If there’s any time not to have a paycheck, this is it. Those who start a business in their 20s have a higher capacity to take risks and time to make mistakes. Even if the business fails — half do in five years, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration — the lessons learned can be applied to a next venture. Without the responsibilities of a family and a mortgage, there’s less riding on a business’s failure, says Don Lewis, assistant director of Startup Aggieland, the student accelerator at Texas A&M University in College Station.

“There’s no other time in your life when you have so little to lose,” Lewis says. “The price of failure is cheap.”

CON: It’s lonely. Those who choose entrepreneurship post-college may feel isolated from friends who are enjoying the comforts of a 9-to-5 job with a steady paycheck. Although there’s a growing number of business school graduates starting companies, 20-something entrepreneurs are still a minority; the “peak age” for starting a company is around 40, according to the Kauffman Foundation.

Jason Dorsey, co-founder of millennial research firm the Center for Generational Kinetics, worked long hours — including Friday nights — as he was launching his entrepreneurial career. It was scary and lonely, he says.

“You’re choosing to do something that many other people only dream about or read about,” Dorsey says.

PRO: You have access to resources from college. Recent college graduates can leverage their alumni groups and relationships with professors when they start their businesses. But don’t assume people will support your company just because they share your alma mater, Lewis says. “People are going to buy from you because you have value,” he says.

“People want to support you, but not just because you’re an Aggie or a Hoosier.”

CON: Financing can be a challenge. Getting access to capital is a challenge many small-business owners face, but it can be particularly difficult when you’re saddled with student loans. There are fewer new small businesses in areas of the country where student loan debt is high, according to a July 2015 working paper by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Dorsey was $50,000 in debt in 1997 when he dropped out of the University of Texas in Austin to write and self-publish his first book, titled — somewhat ironically — “Graduate to Your Perfect Job,” which spawned his career as a millennial researcher and speaker. He didn’t qualify for a bank loan, so he funded the publishing through credit cards, vendor financing and borrowing from family. To save money, he dined on samples at the grocery store and ramen noodles.

PRO: It’s a good way to learn fast. Although Dorsey doesn’t have a college degree, he believes he’s learned everything he needs to know by wearing the many hats of an entrepreneur: financier, accountant, marketer, manager.

“Even if your business doesn’t succeed,” Dorsey says, “you have a view of how business works that is a massive asset.”

This article, Why You Shouldn't Start A Business Right Out Of College, And Why You Should, originally appeared on Nerdwallet

Coulee Investment Center: Volunteer Vacations

They could be among the most memorable journeys you take.

Travel with a difference: the essence of the volunteer vacation. You take the trip, you help make the difference for others, and perhaps you see the world differently as a byproduct. If you are thinking about combining travel with some service, there are things you should know.

Know the various options. If you’re traveling solo, you’ll commonly work alongside locals on a community-organized project, and live in dorm-style lodging with other participants. If you have a young family, a homestay may be arranged with a host couple or family, or personal accommodations could be scheduled for you; the service aspect can often be tailored to the interests and abilities of the kids. Animal lovers often work in shelters or in conservation management programs.

How can you book a service vacation? Travel agents and tour companies guide the way. You can even book one through groups such as REI, Discover Corps, Global Volunteers, and the Sierra Club. Some hotels and resorts will give you a huge discount if you are part of a volunteer effort. Be sure to ask what percentage of your fees will go to the local community (and not to organizational overhead).

Some trips emphasize tourism with a bit of volunteering. Often people can only volunteer for a day or two, not a week or month. A new class of vacations responds to that reality. Agencies such as Namu Travel, specializing in trips to the Caribbean and Latin America, structure trips this way; Carnival is even doing this on its cruises to the Dominican Republic.1

Have financial questions? Shari Hopkins, our Certified Financial Planner, will provide you with financial guidance through every stage of your financial journey.

1-, “Giving Back While Getting Away: 3 Volunteer Vacation Trends”, September 28, 2016

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Insurance products offered through LPL Financial or its licensed affiliates. Coulee Bank and/or Coulee Investment Center are not registered broker/dealers and are not affiliated with LPL Financial.