Posts

Top Tips for Helping Customers Plan a Cost Effective Vacation

Drew Furnari | Financial Coach | The Financial Clinic

 

Summer is vacation season, and while going on a trip may not be a top priority for customers, it can actually be an amazing financial goal. Positive habits, like saving and budgeting, are often built into the trip planning and booking process; and because traveling is nowhere near as expensive as it once was, the goal of going on a trip can be achieved sooner than say the longer-term goal of buying a house. Setting shorter-term goals help bolster customers confidence, and the reward of a vacation encourages them to keep their new positive financial habits.

Once your customer feels they are ready to book their trip, figuring out travel arrangements, accommodations, and activities that fit into their budgets, can seem like a daunting and expensive task. Luckily, traveling and booking travel is not what it used to be. With the help of technology, it is possible to book trips online without the help of a travel agent, and there are more cost-effective options than ever. 

Here are some tips to help keep the cost of a dream vacation down.

 

Travel Arrangements

Travelers tend to assume distance is what determines how expensive a flight is. While distance is a factor, it also depends on how busy the route is. For instance, there are many flights from JFK (New York City) to LAX (Los Angeles), and many airlines to choose from, making it easier to find a relatively inexpensive flight. Meanwhile, Nantucket is much closer to New York City, but it’s a less busy route and can be expensive. Websites like  SkyScanner or Kayak help you see different flights from different airlines and airports all on one page. This allows travelers to compare prices and experiment with different flight connections, airlines, dates, and times. 

Accommodations 

Apartment shares such as Airbnb or VRBO, allow people to rent rooms or whole apartments. While the room or apartment may not have the same perks as a hotel, the accommodations are often more affordable. It goes without saying there can be a downside to this type of lodging. Be mindful of the unit you are renting and look at the reviews. 

Activities

Many museums and attractions have designated evenings where admission is free. Planning a visit during those dates and times gives travelers the opportunity to see important cultural touchstones and to get a bit of free entertainment during their trip. Local tourism websites and centers are a  great way of finding out about free activities happening in the area.

Timing

Summer is peak travel time because it is when the kids are out of school and many families are taking their vacations. If a customer doesn’t have kids or is not planning on taking their children on a trip, traveling during the Fall or Spring can offer many more cost-effective options depending on the location. 

 

Setting a financial goal is an important step in the coaching process. Travel is a goal that you may hear from your customers, and we urge you to encourage them to start working towards their dream trip as a way of building positive, long-term financial habits. Additionally, there are several mental health benefits to traveling. Studies show that a change of scenery can be a huge stress reliever. Share some of these tips with your customers to help them get the most out of their trips. 

Say NO to New Year’s Resolutions and YES to Financial Solutions!

Bridget Tate | Manager of Service Delivery | The Financial Clinic

Now that the ball has dropped and we have rung in the New Year, it’s time to get excited for a clean slate and 365 days to make this the best year ever. Many of us have started our annual list of things we will change this calendar year: joining the gym, saving money, traveling more. You made your resolutions and promised yourself and everyone around you that you would follow through this year. Now that January is upon us, your momentum is strong, and your willingness to reach your goals is at the forefront of your mind, you hope that this year will be different. What if, instead of hoping that the changes will stick, I could guarantee to you that they will? How? Easy. By showing you how to plan out some solutions instead of setting resolutions.

Resolutions are firm decisions to do or not do something. When making a resolution for the New Year, we often find ourselves vowing to start behaviors that will have a positive impact on our lives or to leave behind behaviors that are no longer serving us. And while it is always a good idea to take steps towards self-improvement, the decision in and of itself is not an actionable step; hence, 80% of New Year resolutions not being reached. In contrast, a solution is a means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation. A resolution with no solution is just a decision without a plan.

Before you do anything else, you need to identify what you are striving towards. If you need help setting the right financial goal, remember that goals are reached by understanding your values and identifying what is passionately important to you. Worksheets, like Identify Values Wheel, and other tracking methods will lend you, the additional support you may need. 

Set yourself up for success by identifying barriers that have kept you from reaching your goals in the past and be open to new solutions for overcoming those barriers. Changing behaviors and attitudes toward your financial goals will result in actionable goal wins that will lead to sustainable financial victories. What Barriers do you foresee impeding you reaching your financial goals? The table below lists common barriers and solutions. Copy and fill in the table below with your own barriers, then use the solutions provided to get you started on overcoming them.

[table id=1 /]

If one of your barriers is staying motivated, here are some additional solutions:

  • Use positive statements like I can or I will
  • Journal or video journal the highs and lows of your progress
  • Re-evaluate your goals regularly
  • Schedule weekly or biweekly self-reflection time 
  • Celebrate and give yourself pats on the back when you observe behavioral changes
  • Break long-term goals up into short-term goals: 30 days, 60 days

Once you have compiled your list of past barriers, map out a plan that addresses the challenges and pitfalls to achieving your financial goals. Your best lessons learned are always prior attempts that resulted in an incompletion. Think of those past attempts as a trial run on your method. Even in these “failed” efforts, you can find successes and learn valuable lessons that you can bring to the table this time.

Now you have a goal, a solid plan, and tools to get you started you can begin to work towards making 2019 your most financially secure year yet! Have fun, get creative, and most importantly, give yourself a high five for starting 2019 with a solution.

Setting S.M.A.R.T Goals for a Happy and Healthy Financial Future

By Andy Collado | Financial Coach | The Financial Clinic

Customers have a wide variety of reasons why they come to me for help: budgeting, improving their credit score, managing their debt, and a variety of other presenting issues. But ultimately they are looking for help in achieving their goals.

Drawing these dreams and aspirations out in color can be difficult. When confronted with adversity, our first response is usually to face the urgency in front of us, but that instinct can blind us to the great planning work we are all capable of. This is why it is extremely important to understand the motivations that push us forward.

  • What will you gain from solidifying your budget?
  • What will a high credit score allow you to do?
  • What is your debt holding you back from achieving?

In this blog post, I will go over how to take a step back from the front line and rise above your present situation to see not only the whole picture but also, that goal on the horizon.

Every journey starts with one step, but first, we need to know where we are going. Whether we notice it or not, we are constantly inundated by people talking about goals. Whether it’s articles, podcasts, top ten lists, social media posts, or even calls from mom comparing you to yet another cousin, the constant barrage of goal talk can make it hard to hone in on what you want, and shift your focus to other people’s goals. And while it is not bad to take inspiration from others, what those goals lack is the personal motivation that comes from aligning your goals with your personal values.

Generally speaking, life can be broken up into eight different categories, based on values: Finance, Material Goods, Community, Family, Spirituality, Health, Career, and Fun. Rank these in order of importance to you, and don’t worry, it is perfectly fine to list fun as first! Then look at them individually, with a critical eye, and gauge your level of satisfaction. Are you 25% satisfied, 50%, or maybe 100%? For those that don’t hit the century mark, ask yourself ‘what would it take make me feel 100% percent satisfied in that area of my life’? Once you have done all of that it’ll be time to get S.M.A.R.T.

Your goals should be:

  • (S)pecific
    You need to eliminate all vagueness by asking yourself, why do I want to do this? Is it because it helps me acquire or achieve something else? Keep going until you get to what you want for its sake alone.
  • (M)easurable
    Make sure you can track your progress, that way you can celebrate when you hit a new milestone!
  • (A)chievable
    We may want to play in the NFL, but if you are a middle-aged man with bad knees, that may not be in the cards for you. Be sure that your goal is possible within your personal situation.
  • (R)elevant
    Your goal must be passionately held and important to you. Hopefully, we have already confirmed this by making sure your goals are aligned with your values.
  • (T)ime Based
    Give it a deadline. When do you want to complete this goal? The deadline can change if need be, but we need one. This helps keep you accountable.

At this point, you have aligned your goals to your values and sent them to school to find themselves. Now we must pause for a second and start moving backward. You have your goal; but how do you get there?  Ask yourself what is the step you will take right before achieving your goal. Then keep going until you get back to where you are today.

Let’s say you want to buy a home, the step before that is finding a home to buy. Before that? Knowing what you can afford. How do you know your price range? You calculate the cost of the mortgage and other housing expenses into your budget. How do you do that? You figure out how much you can put down and get pre-qualified for a mortgage. So on and so forth, until you figure out how much you need to and are able to save per month for the down payment, and what steps you need to take to improve your credit score. By working your way backward from your goal, you are able to lay out all of the steps you need to accomplish to make it happen. Before you know it, you are in the red zone, the last ten yards are just you following the plan that has already been laid out. Throughout this process, it is perfectly normal to not know what the next step is, or how to even begin the research. A financial coach can help you identify those goals, strategize your path, and break everything them down into small manageable chunks so you are not feeling overwhelmed.

By focusing on one step at a time you build the momentum and willpower needed to complete your goal. Each time you complete the process of turning your dreams into technicolor reality it will get easier and you will be that much closer to living your best life. Now’s the time to get to work, find out what matters to you, lay down the plan, and to get it done. You can do it!