Angelique Buchanan has a weakness for Starbucks.
“My husband and I made an agreement that I would only get Starbucks twice a week. I’m trying to get him to potentially go to three or four,” the branch manager of Citizens Bank in Fairless Hills said during “Your Income and Expenses,” a financial literacy webinar hosted by JEVS Human Services.
She brought up her expensive caffeine habit to make a point: She didn’t realize how much she was spending until she forced herself to cut back.
“I’m saving about $20 a week. That’s a big deal. I mean that’s $80 a month, $100 a month,” she said. “I’m just putting that money into our savings account every day I don’t get a Starbucks.”
During “Your Income and Expenses,” Buchanan covered how to keep track of money and expenses, including different types of income, taxes and bills. Understanding one’s income can be especially tricky for freelancers, seasonal workers and workers with side hustles because money comes in irregularly. The rise of online commerce also means that anyone, including salaried workers, can make irregular or unpredictable income by selling items on platforms like Facebook Marketplace.
Common financial wisdom holds that making a budget is the best way to keep track of spending and saving, but Buchanan recommended taking it a step further if you struggle to stay on top of your finances. An expense diary, or written log of your spending habits, can be helpful for people looking to find areas where they can exercise more financial control.
Keeping track of payments can help spenders avoid fees, loss of services and damage to credit as a result of paying bills late. For those who pay their bills by mail, recent delays at the United States Postal Service make it especially important to be on top of payment schedules.
Buchanan recommended filing taxes as early as possible this year. While this is generally sound advice, it’s especially important for those counting on a tax return for 2020.
“I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot, with everything going on with the impact payments and the stimulus payments, and they are saying that the IRS is a bit lagging,” she said.
The ultimate goal in tracking income and expenses, she added, is making sure your finances align with your goals and values, whether it’s paying off debt, saving for emergencies or buying a new car.
“Your Income and Expenses” was part of a series of financial wellness seminars created by JEVS and Citizens Bank. When JEVS sought a partner to help host the programs, it reached out to the bank, with whom there’s a longstanding corporate partnership, to see if there were volunteer experts who could help. The two groups worked together to build the curriculum.
“The goal of the sessions was to provide important financial literacy information to our job seeking clients,” said Kristen Rantanen, senior vice president of communications and public affairs at JEVS.
Topics of other webinars in the JEVS series included protecting identity to reduce the risk of senior financial exploitation, disaster preparedness and recovery, building a credit score and the pros and cons of owning a business. Two sessions were designed specifically for the needs of people 55 and up, but were open to the general public regardless of age.
Most of the topics are relevant at any time, and JEVS has offered similar sessions in the past. However, Rantanen said JEVS wanted to offer the sessions now because financial issues often go hand-in-hand with unemployment, a result of the current economic crisis.
“Many in our community are struggling with job loss and facing financial hardships right now,” she said.
Rantanen said the webinars were part of the JEVS mission to help job-seeking clients, who often face other financial challenges along with unemployment.
“Over the years, we have found that clients have needs beyond the specific challenge that brought them to JEVS in the first place,” she said. “We have staff in many of our programs that help clients connect to public benefits, help with budgeting, understanding the importance of credit and savings and other financial empowerment issues.”
The last JEVS webinar, which is about owning a business is at noon on Feb. 4. Registration is at jevshumanservices.org/finance0204.