Summer 2020: The Season of Road Trips

I think we can all honestly say that the summer of 2020 will live in our minds forever.  Staying close to home, reducing vacation costs and staying healthy have been the goal for all of us this summer.  Whether you are planning a family road trip, a trip for two or just driving solo, we’ve put together a few tips to help you prepare for the road.

Get Your Feet Wet by Taking a Day Trip first.  If you are planning an extended road trip, we suggest you get your feet wet by planning a day trip close to home.  This will give you an indication of what you’ll need to do to prepare.  For example, how many snacks you will need and how much hand sanitizer you will go through in a day.  Your one-day trip will help you get an idea of what to expect for your longer trip.

Get Your Car Ready for the Road.  AAA published a helpful checklist to help you make sure your vehicle is as ready for your road trip as you are.  It’s especially important this year, as availability of service might be limited, and few outside contacts are desirable.  If your own vehicle is not the best option for a long road trip, why not rent one that’s bigger and more fun to drive?  Picture yourself in a cute red convertible for rolling down Highway One or a sturdy SUV for tackling mountain roads.  Or, you can opt for a sleek luxury car for a smooth, stylish ride.  No matter what rental company you decide to work with, be sure to review their cleanliness policies, along with pickup, return and pricing. 

Plan Your Route and Keep it as Simple as Possible. Preparation for any road trip is essential but especially important during the Coronavirus pandemic.  Limit the number of places you visit and make a note of rest areas that may be closed so you can plan your stops appropriately.  Also, as tempting as it may be to visit as many landmarks and quick stops along the way, keep your list of must-sees short to avoid additional exposure to large groups of people.  Visit the Roadtrippers website for assistance in planning your route.  Know your roads, highways, and freeways to avoid detours and unexpected closures.  Your local AAA can provide up-to-date road information and directions.  

Gear Up.  Make a list of items that you’ll need and want along the way.  Stock the cooler with all your snacks and beverages.  Pack a travel kit, including masks for everyone plus a few extras, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, isopropyl alcohol wipes for phones, travel laundry detergent to wash fabric masks, and a thermometer.  It is also advisable to include an extra cell phone charger, first-aid kit, blanket, flashlight, basic tools, jumper cables and gloves.

Don’t Take a Vacation from Safety.  Keep yourself and others traveling with you healthy during your summer road trip by following CDC guidelines.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; washing your hands frequently; keeping six feet of physical distance; and wearing a face covering.  Car and RV travel are considered lower-risk options.

Research Ways to Save.  While taking a summer road trip can reduce your vacation expenses, it still won’t be cheap.   A little research could help you find great deals on hotel stays and attractions.  See what businesses are offering travel deals online and use an app like GasBuddy to help you make the most of your fuel.

Make Safer Purchases.  It’s always a good idea to bring a little cash on your trip, just for emergencies.  It’s also prudent to rely on your credit or debit card for your expenses on the road.  Remember, these cards add extra protection against theft and fraud while making it easier to track your spending. 

Monitor the Coronavirus Spread.  As your road trip gets closer, be sure to watch for COVID updates from the communities you plan to visit.  Some of your destinations may have adjusted hours or close on certain days for increased cleaning measures.  

We would be remiss not to mention that safe travel isn’t just the responsibility of hotels, restaurants and popular destinations.  Heeding state and local laws are imperative in keeping yourself and others safe.  We will all need to modify our behavior and make adjustments, so travel is possible this summer and for the rest of 2020.

So, if the open road is calling you, play it safe for a truly memorable summer road trip.

Protect Your Financial Health During and After the COVID Crisis

As we are all painfully aware, the Coronavirus has altered many aspects of our lives.  People are working and studying from home and shopping and intermingling in ways we never would have expected one year ago.  Simultaneously, millions of people have suffered a significant loss of income at an alarming rate through pay cuts, decrease in work hours and layoffs and furloughs.  These reductions came in response to the stay-at-home orders as businesses and other organizations were forced to close their doors.

The uncontrollable household debt and a continuing health crisis has a lot of individuals and families strapped for cash and need to learn how to manage their debt now and after the health crisis comes to an end.

If you find yourself in debt as a result of the COVID crisis, don’t despair, because there are many steps you can take to effectively deal with your debt.  Dealing with your debt now will put you in an even stronger position when the economy starts its recovery.  There’s no time like the present to buckle down by getting organized and start dealing with your debt in a few easy steps.

You need to know what you owe.

Create a list of all your creditors, your balance with each, your current interest rate and your payment schedule.  This list will allow you to decide how to eliminate your debt over a specific period of time.  This may also be a great opportunity to summarize your recurring monthly bills in an effort to see if there are any areas you could cut or reduce your expenses.

Act swiftly

Contact your creditors to explain how the health crisis has affected your ability to meet your monthly obligations.  There is no shame in asking them for some type of financial assistance.  When you understand your options, you will have the tools you need to help manage your debt.  Now is also a good time to research lower interest rates, balance transfers or other payment options that can help you confront your debt.

Make your payments in a timely manner

Your on-time payment history is the leading contributing factor to a respectable credit score.  Payments 30 days in arears or more negatively affect your credit score.  So, if you’re late, but within that 30-day period, pay up now before it is reported.  Even if you can only pay the minimum, it’s important to pay on time.  The other important reason to pay on time is the impact the late fees will have on your budget and overall debt.  Try automating your payments which can eliminate paying late fees.

Prioritize your debt

Pay off high-interest loans first.  This is called the debt avalanche theory.  This payment method will minimize the burden of compounding interest on your monthly payments.  By using this methodology, you make minimum payments on all but your highest-interest credit.  Once you’ve paid off your first balance, you move on to the second-highest interest rate, and so it continues down the line.

If you are daunted with the size of your balances, maybe a different tactic can be utilized.  Check out the debt snowball method.  

Don’t take on any unnecessary new debt

As you walk through your debt management process and your credit score improves, you can become a target for credit card companies to entice you with new cards with introductory rates.  Stay true to your debt management plan and in time it will work.

Pay yourself first

Make yourself a line item in your monthly budget and pay yourself.  Start by creating an emergency fund to deal with sudden expenses without falling back to credit cards.  Once you have a healthy emergency fund, focus on your retirement goals.  

If you follow these simple steps, you will be in a stronger financial position when the COVID crisis comes to an end or when another crisis comes around.  You’ll be in control of your debt instead of your debt being in control of you.  Talk to us and take advantage of allU.S. Credit Union products and resources.  Unlike the big banks, we’re committed to protecting the financially vulnerable.  If you need some personal guidance on how to navigate these challenging times, we’re here to help.  Ask about our Recovery Loan, skip-a-pay options, and payment extensions.  Always remember the health and success of your credit union depends on our members and your financial health is our number one priority.  So, let’s wash our hands and get down to business.