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Prepare For Your Next Holiday Adventure

It’s the beginning of holiday travel season, here are some tips to ensure that your car and your family are prepared for your next holiday adventure.

  1. Schedule a checkup. Schedule any necessary service such as oil changes or tune ups. A vehicle in top shape will have a better chance of staying reliable and efficient. 
  2. Stay charged. Check your battery to make sure it’s strong and has clean terminals.
  3. Check your tires. The tires should have a good amount of tread left. The easiest way to measure this, if you don't have a gauge, is to hold a quarter upside down in the tread. If the top of George Washington’ head is visible, you need new tires to ensure traction in all weather conditions. Make sure the tire pressures are set to the figures that are printed on the placard on the driver’s door jam.
  4. Check your brakes. Have your service center inspect your car’s brake pads to make sure they aren’t worn or need replacing.
  5. Be prepared. Bring supplies in the event of an accident or medical issue. Stock your car with an emergency kit—especially a flashlight, blanket, first-aid kit, and some basic tools. Also, bring water and extra snacks, just in case.
  6. Pack smart. Check your vehicle’s load capacity to make sure you aren’t putting too much weight in the car. On most new cars, the total weight you can carry is printed on the door placard inside the driver’s door jam. Be aware that fuel economy is reduced with extra cargo.
  7. Track it. Your cell phone or even portable GPS system will help you get where you’re going, making it easy to find gas stations or restaurants along the way. Traffic-enabled devices can warn of roadway congestion, and all units can assist in finding an alternate route.
  8. Kid prep. If you’re driving with kids, make sure you pack enough snacks, water, games, videos, and music to keep them comfortable and occupied during your journey.
  9. Be patient. During busy travel times expect to hit traffic. It may make sense to drive late at night or early in the morning to avoid the rush and ensure you get to your destination on time and with minimal stress. Make sure you count on stops for refreshment and restroom breaks, and time your fuel stops to ensure you don’t run low.
  10. Be safe. Make sure you are driving safely and follow the rules of the road. 

How to Create a Monthly Budget

Does the word budget send chills up your spine? It shouldn’t. Budgets allow you to have some control over what you spend. A monthly budget can help you to decide how to spend your money, plan for your future, pay off existing debt, and save a few pennies each month by reducing wasteful and impulsive purchases. To create your monthly budget

  • Categorize your expenses.

    When you begin setting up a monthly budget, start with big categories before breaking your budget down into smaller expense categories.

  • From your list of expenses, develop two separate budget lists, one for essentials and the other for extras.

    Within each general budget category, some items are essential (the mortgage or rent payment, electric bill, and groceries); others are extra (new furniture, gifts, and pizza delivery).

  • Look through these lists to find flexible budget expenses where you can cut back.

    Put a star next to these flexible items so you can identify them.

  • Estimate what you spend.

    Go through your checkbook and any other receipts or records you’ve kept over the past few months so you can track how much you actually spend on both essentials and extras.

  • Add up your budget essentials list and the extras list separately.

    By keeping the lists separate, you can make cuts more easily, if you need to.

  • Subtract the essentials total from your monthly income and, if you have money left over, subtract the extras total from that amount.

    If you still have money left over, great! Look into a savings or investing plan (talk to your bank or a certified financial planner for help setting up a plan).

  • If your extras list takes you into negative numbers, start looking for places to cut back.

    You can also trim from the extras list to put more money toward debt repayment if that’s a high priority in your financial picture.