Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to start saving money, or to start spending a little more wisely? The best way to save money for you and your family’s future is to create a budget.
Most people cringe at the thought of sitting down and going over their finances, but budgeting doesn’t have to be scary. Even if you think you are in good financial standing you may be shocked when you sit down and go through the numbers. A budget will help you monitor your flow of money and get rid of unnecessary spending, saving you money each month, so what’s there to lose?
Here are 7 easy steps to begin setting your budget.
Step 1. Sit Down Together
Get together with your significant other to calculate the total amount of money you each have coming in each month. From there you will be able to more accurately know where you can cut spending and start saving.
Step 2. Find Out Your Essential Spending Costs
When you begin to sit through and work out your family’s budget, it’s important to start by writing out all of the essential spending your family does each month. This will include payments for your mortgage, rent, bills, insurance, auto loans, student loans, schooling, daycare, food, prescriptions, and essential groceries and clothing.
Step 3. Find Out Your Non-Essential Spending Costs
Next, you will write all costs that may not be essential, but you would like to keep putting money towards them each month. If you have any non-essential spending that you don’t use anymore this would be a good time to start cutting that spending out to help you save. Non-essential monthly spending could include just about anything, like streaming services- Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, or Disney +, etc., subscription and other services like Amazon Prime, Adobe Creative Suite, Dollar Shave Club, Stitch Fix, etc. It could also include any club or gym memberships, extracurriculars, etc.
Step 4. Set Aside Extra Cash to Pay off Debts
By paying off your debts more quickly you can get yourself in better financial standing for the future. To do this start, use the money that is left that you have calculated from your essential and non-essential spending, and start by paying a little above the average monthly payment on your credit cards. Do this every month until you get the balance low enough to completely pay them off. It doesn’t have to be much, a few extra dollars here and there will still get you closer to paying debt off than the minimum payment. You can also do this with your other loans, like your car or home, as well. You can either do this with multiple debts or choose one debt to pay off at a time; it depends on you and your preference and financial situation.
Step 5. Set a Limit for Extra Spending
Setting Limits may be hard at first, but when you sit down and calculate your average cost at the grocery store or your weekly retail therapy, you may find out that you are overspending. Set a reasonable limit for yourself when you go shopping, one that fits into your budget, and stick to it. Bye overspending.
Step 6. Leave Yourself Some Room
A common mistake in budgeting is not leaving room for events that take place throughout the year like, Holidays, Birthdays, Weddings, Back to School, Baby Showers, etc. If you have an event coming up, know to keep a little bit of extra money out to put it towards. Even if the event is your family going out to eat once a month, remember to leave yourself some room. One of the best ways to do this without overspending is to take out a cash deposit and put it in an envelope to use on that date. That way it is out of your account, you have a spending limit, and the rest can go towards your savings.
Step 7. Determine How Much You Can Save
Once you have all of your spending calculated, you can then determine how much you can save each month. Assuming that some of your payment already goes into your 401k, it’s important to also contribute a personal savings account every month or every paycheck. Think of your personal savings account as a nest-egg for you and your family in case of emergencies. It is wise to contribute enough money into this account until you have reached an amount that could support your family’s essential needs for at least 6 months. Do not pull out of this account.
If you would like to start a savings account that you want to attribute money towards each month for additional life events like college, home-ownership, your own wedding, engagement rings, renovations, family trips, vacations, etc. open a new account, a new one that doesn’t include the nest-egg savings you have built, and start contributing what you can until you have reached your goal.
BONUS TIP: Track Your Spending
To stay on track is to monitor your spending. You should track every dollar moving in and out of your account. There are hundreds of budgeting apps that can help you, or you could just make it a point to look at your online banking at the end of each day. Tracking all of the cash flow in real-time will help you cut out costs that aren’t necessary or that you may not use as often as you think you do. This will also help you monitor your account for any suspicious purchases or accidental charges.
Budgeting doesn’t have to be scary, and if you get the math wrong on your first month that’s okay. Fix some spending/saving and try again, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments where they are needed. It’s your money, find whatever works for you and your family.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
As 2020 comes to a close, so does a great career for Debbie Hunter-Ellis AVP- Customer Service Manager. Debbie celebrated her 40th anniversary with California Casualty in July and at the end of this year will celebrate her much-deserved retirement.
We recently had the pleasure to (virtually) sit down with Debbie and discuss her life and her career at California Casualty. Here’s what she told us:
“I was born in Natchitoches, Louisiana home to the 1989 hit movie “Steel Magnolias”. I was raised in a military family and lived most of my life in Northern California.San Jose State University, home of the Spartans, is my alma mater. I graduated with a BA degree in Business Management. During college, I worked in the Career Center where I was responsible for organizing the on-campus interviews for graduates seeking employment with corporations in the Silicon Valley and Bay area region. This is where I came across California Casualty, who was recruiting college graduates. The family-owned business and their willingness to hire and train graduates fresh out of school was an attractive attribute.”
Debbie applied and soon started off as a Customer Service Representative in San Jose, where she learned about automobile and home insurance, and how to service customers on their policies.
After eight years in her Customer Service role, she was promoted to Customer Service Supervisor which quickly transitioned to a Customer Service Team Manager. At that time, she moved with California Casualty and had the honor to take part in the opening of our Colorado Springs Service Center.
Debbie said, “The opening of the Service Center was a rewarding experience. As a Customer Service Team Manager, I contributed to the development of processes and procedures, recruiting, guiding, and developing employees while meeting the customer and the company expectations.”Debbie managed a team of 10 – 15 Customer Care Specialist for over 20 years. And each year her team excelled at providing quality customer experience to California Casualty’s affinity group members. “The Customer Service Team Manager position is where I established a solid foundation for continuous learning and leadership development.” she said, “Furthermore; this provided the opportunity for the Customer Service Department Manager where I have been in this leadership role for the past 7 years.”
It’s a very great and rare occurrence when an employee reaches a milestone as great as their 40-year mark. When asked about her past four decades with California Casualty, she said, “I have seen and experienced a lot of positive change during the past 40 years. We have really achieved great heights! It is rare to say you have only worked for one company in your career. I’m humbled and grateful for the amazing opportunity and experience with California Casualty.”
Debbie said she will miss the unique culture that has developed over the years, but the strong relationships and the day-to-day interactions with the Customer Service Management Team and employees will never be forgotten.
And the Customer Service Department will never forget the impact Debbie has had on them. Debbie’s friends and peers, Vice President of Customer Service, Daphne Pavone, and Senior Customer Service and Agency Services Team Manager, Bianca Odom, had a few parting words they wanted to say to, and on behalf of, Debbie as she gets closer to her well-deserved retirement day.
“Debbie Hunter-Ellis is a wonderful person and an amazing co-worker. She cares about her colleagues and has spent her career focused on delivering quality customer service and developing her people. Debbie’s calm and professional demeanor makes her a natural ‘go-to’ for an additional and balanced perspective. I consider Debbie a colleague and a friend. Thank you, Debbie, it has been a true joy working with you! I wish you all of the best in this new chapter of life. -Daphne”
“Ever since I joined the Customer Service Team, Debbie has been a great mentor and friend. She has always been a leader that has demonstrated good judgment and sets an example for others to follow as she is hard-working, fair, honest, dependable, and understanding. I appreciate Debbie more than I could ever express and I’m sad to see her go; although I’m also very excited for this next step in her life. Congratulations Debbie! We will miss you! –Bianca”
In retirement, Debbie plans to spend her days traveling, enjoying outdoor activities, and exploring creative endeavors.
Enjoy every second of it, Debbie, you’ve earned it! We will all miss you and wish you the best. You’ll always be a part of the CalCas family; thank you for 40 years.
Every year, Impact Teen Drivers and California Casualty offer enrolled students, ages 14 to 22, the opportunity to win prizes for their original works (creative writing, video, graphic design, or music) showcasing creative solutions for preventing the #1 killer of their peers –reckless and distracted driving.
Distracted driving is anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, mind off driving, or keeps ears from being alert to surroundings. Commonly referred to as accidents, these crashes are actually 100% preventable.
The Create Real Impactcontest is a proactive movement to reduce poor decision making and inattentive driving by 16 to 19-year-olds that has become an epidemic. Empowering messages from young people urging their peers to adopt safer driving attitudes and avoid the tragic result of bad choices behind-the-wheel can save lives.
The Fall 2020 Create Real Impact contest winners were recently selected.
Prizes are awarded by a panel of qualified judges based on the following weighted criteria: 25% concept/creativity; 25% execution of the idea; 50% effectiveness of the message emphasizing solution(s).
The following students will receive $1,500 Grand Prize educational grants for their entries:
Impact Teen Drivers was founded in mid-2007 by the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, California Casualty, and the California Teachers Association. The organization has emerged as a leading non-profit organization dedicated to reversing the pervasive yet 100% preventable crisis of teens killed in car crashes. ITD’s mission is to develop, promote, and facilitate evidence-based education and strategies to save lives and reduce injuries and fatalities caused by reckless and distracted driving. To learn more visit www.ImpactTeenDrivers.org or send an email to email@example.com
This article is furnished by California Casualty. We specialize in providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
The Holidays are over, and that means it’s time to find room for all of the new gifts that you received over the holidays. The easiest way to keep track of all of your possessions is creating- and continually updating- a Home Inventory.
A Home Inventory is a list of the valuable objects that you have inside of your home.
It may sound like a waste of time, but this list will be your saving grace if there is a fire, destructive storm, or if someone breaks in and steals your belongings. Without one, many people have a difficult time pinpointing or recalling everything that might have been destroyed or taken, and unfortunately, that can delay homeowner claims or keep you from getting your full compensation.
So, when the New Year rolls around make the time to take inventory of your home and all of your new treasures. It’s easy! Just go room by room and document:
Personal Care Items
Kitchen items and appliances
Beds and linens
Don’t forget to take pictures of the exterior of your home as well -photos are best from all angles- including the landscaping and any decks or porches- and also take note of everything in the garage, attic, or basement, like holiday ornaments, lawn and yard equipment, tools, etc.
You can choose to write everything down, but we suggest to use photo/video documentation of your belongings. To make the whole process easier on you we’ve created a Household Inventory Checklist that walks you through each possession you may have, so you don’t forget anything- you can even document the value. Just attach your photos to the document or put them in a folder on your phone and you are good to go! Click here for the checklist.
Trying to tally up what needs to be replaced is not something you want to do in the event of a claim, so taking the time to complete an inventory will be more than worth it. You can even use the time to get rid of the old and make room for all of the new!
As we head into the most wonderful time of the year, cybercriminals are gearing up for their busiest season. And this year, with so many of us working and schooling from home, they are counting on a bonanza of unsuspecting online targets.
While you are carefully crafting your holiday gift list (and checking it twice!) these criminals are perfecting their cyber scams, online fraud schemes, and identity theft plans.
So before you join the millions of others searching out those perfect stocking stuffers, check out these 10 tips to protect yourself and your family online.
1. Secure your home network – Use strong passwords and WPA2 or WPA3 encryption (see tips here to secure your network). Change your router/modem’s default name and pre-set password.
2. Update your antivirus software – Antivirus software is always being updated (thanks to a continuous stream of new threats) so make sure yours is up to date on all your household’s devices.
3. Use a password manager – Create strong passwords on all your devices and use a password manager to keep track. Consider using two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of protection.
4. Update your devices – Operating system and software updates often include security updates. Make sure your computers, tablets, and phones are all updated. Turn on auto-updates so you don’t have to think about it.
5. Use one or two credit cards and monitor them – Using just one or two cards for your holiday shopping will make it much easier to track purchases and spot any fraud early on. Some lenders will even alert you when your card logs transactions that are out of your normal spending pattern and ask your permission before completing the purchase. Mobile pay options such as Apple Pay or Google Pay also offer good protection because they use secure tokens instead of an actual card number.
6. Only shop reputable websites – Big brands and companies are more likely to have strong security on their sites’ transaction platform. But no matter the website, if a link, landing page or online shopping cart looks suspicious, log off immediately.
7. Watch for phishing – Phishing spikes during the holidays. These emails and texts usually look like they’re coming from a source or company you know. They typically ask for sensitive information such as personal or bank information and ask you to click on a link or attachment. Remember that government agencies and reputable companies will never ask you to send sensitive information this way. Delete these messages without clicking on anything. If you’re on the fence about its legitimacy, you can open a separate browser and log in to your account fresh – or call customer service to double-check.
8. Be smart on social media – If you’re headed out of town during the holidays, don’t post plans or info publicly on your social channels. This could make your home vulnerable to a break-in.
9. Be savvy with donations – Many people generously open their wallets during the holidays to help those in need or causes they support. If you’re planning on donating this year, be extra cautious. Stick to reputable, well-known charities. Contact them directly to donate, rather than clicking on a link or giving your information over the phone.
10. Watch your front porch – More online shopping means more deliveries. Bring packages in as soon as possible so they don’t tempt thieves. Neglected packages may also make it look like you’re out of town, making your home a target for burglars.
Make sure all family members are on board with, understand, and carry out the above tips before logging on to find those hot holiday deals. This includes kids and teens who are at home and on screens all day – and who usually aren’t as savvy about security and scams. For more safety tips, check out our articles here and here.
If you’re a California Casualty member, take comfort in the fact that you’re automatically enrolled in ID theft resolution services — which provides free help if you are ever the victim of identity theft. Learn more about the services here.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
Reducing your home energy usage is good for several reasons. First and foremost, it keeps money in your pocket. But it also lightens the load on local power grids and the environment — a win-win all around.
Try some or all of the 12 steps below to save on your energy bill while staying cozy and comfortable in your home. They’re easier than you think!
1.Let the Light Shine In
Use the sun’s heat (bonus: it’s free!) to your advantage! Open curtains and blinds on your south-facing windows during the day to let the heat in and then close them at sunset to keep it in.
2. Leak-Proof Your Home
Inspect your home for leaks (get tips from energy.gov on detecting air leaks here). Often invisible, leaks can wreak havoc on your energy bill. Use weather stripping and caulking to seal leaks and keep warm air inside. While you’re at it, insulate your ducts, which can be a significant source of heat loss.For windows that you rarely use during winter, get plastic window kits to further leak-proof.
3. Bump the Temp Down
Just by setting your thermostat a few degrees lower, you can immediately begin saving. Consider installing a programmable thermostat for even more time- and energy-efficiency.
4. Pay Attention to Your Water Heater
Water heaters account for about 17 percent of a home’s energy use – adding up to about $400-600 per year for the average household. Bring that down by:
using less hot water
setting your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees F.
buying an energy star model when it comes time to replace it
washing clothes in cold water
installing low-flow showerheads and faucets
5. Check the Fireplace
When not burning a fire, keep the damper closed. Consider installing tempered glass doors and an air exchange system that blows warm air back into the room. Check the seal on the flue damper and make sure it’s tightly sealed. Finally, add caulking around the hearth. If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the flue.
6. Maintain Your Heating System
Have a professional check and tune-up your heat pump or furnace once a year. This could lead to big savings. Make sure they also replace any clogged filters, which can make your furnace work harder, thereby raising energy costs (you can also check and replace filters yourself).
7. Close Unused Vents
In rooms that are rarely used, fully or partially close the vents to redirect heat to other rooms.
8. Use Ceiling Fans
Everyone knows heat rises, which means the air you’ve paid to heat rises and collects at the tops of rooms. This can be especially costly in homes that have high ceilings. Use your ceiling fans to push warm air downward – just make sure they’re set to run in a clockwise direction.
9. Check Your Insulation
If your attic doesn’t have at least 11 inches of insulation, you’ll most likely lose heat through the upper level of your home.
10. Recycle That Hot Air
After cooking, leave the oven door open a crack to let the heat help warm the house. Bonus? You get to savor the delicious smell of those cookies, baked goods, or dinner a little longer.
11. Space Heaters
Portable heaters are a good cost-saving option if you and your family are hanging out in one room for any length of time, or if you’re the only one home and are stationary (like working in a home office). But remember to use caution whenever using space heaters – according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, these heaters cause more than 25,000 residential fires per year. Follow the heater instructions carefully and always unplug them when not in use.
12. Bundle Up
Sweaters, socks, and cozy blankets really do make a difference.
By making a few tweaks in your home and modifying some behaviors, you’ll begin to see cost and energy savings in no time.
Get a $25 gift card when you complete an auto quote with a representative.
*Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. One gift card per household, per year. Offer not valid when a California Casualty policy is already in force. Offer not valid in FL, GA, MD, NC, ND, TN and UT.
Offer not available to United MileagePlus® Members.