Your guide to family events, stories and news in Western Wisconsin.

3 Smart Ways to Minimize Student Loan Debt

Earning a college degree can certainly get you ahead of the game, but student debt can set you back many steps. Here are three tips to help you minimize your student debt.

1. Search for scholarships and grants

Scholarships and grants are considered “gifted” money and typically do not have to be repaid. They are available through the federal and state government, your college, and local organizations. Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to be considered for federal grants and visit for more information about other scholarship and grant opportunities.

2. Borrow only what you need

Borrow only what you need. Oftentimes, when you receive federal aid, you will receive more money than you actually need based on the estimated cost of attendance. Accept only what you actually need to cover the cost of schooling and try not to use the borrowed funds to cover cost of living unless necessary. If possible, pick up at part-time job to cover your living expenses.

3. Understand the terms

Before you sign the promissory note for your federal aid, actually read and seek to understand the terms. Understand how interest accrues, how repayment works, the meaning of “deferment” and “capitalized interest,” and know your rights.

On a Vacation Budget? Try Campgrounds and Cabin Rentals

In need of a summer vacation, but don’t have months to plan or a big budget? No problem. Head to the great outdoors! Reserve a nearby cabin or campsite for a weekend getaway without the months and months of planning and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get a little R&R.

1. Campgrounds

On average, it costs anywhere from $16-33 per night to camp at a Wisconsin State park, forest, recreation area or trail property. For a complete list of fees, visit Other costs include fuel, food and shelter. When choosing a campground, consider the amenities such as a swimming pool, hiking trail and playground.

2. Cabin Rentals

Maybe camping in a tent isn’t your thing. You can still get away and relax all while staying within a budget by renting a cabin. Cabin rentals cost a bit more than campgrounds, ranging anywhere from $100-400 per night, usually with a minimum of a 2- or 3-night stay. Planning your stay for mid-weekdays may help to lower the rental fee. Amenities often include a kitchenette, Wi-Fi and additional privacy. For local cabin rentals, visit and watch cabin rental pages on social media for last minute openings and deals!

Set SMART Goals: Make Them Specific and Achievable


When setting goals, consider setting SMART goals – goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. Goal setting can be applied in schools, businesses, and even your personal life. So, let’s take a closer look at the meaning of each letter of the acronym.

Specific: Clearly spell out what it is you are going to do. This part of the goal-setting process answers the “what,” “where” and “how.”

Measurable: Define specific criteria that can be used to measure your progress toward meeting your goal. Example: Save $500 by July 1.

Achievable: Goals should be challenging, but achievable at the same time.

Relevant: Make your goal relevant and important to you. This part of the goal-setting process answers the “why.”

Time-bound: A specific deadline/time frame should be identified as to create urgency for the goal to be met. This part of the goal-setting process answers the “when.”

Which goal(s) do you want to tackle first? Perhaps it is to save money. AmericaSaves can help you get started with more information about saving for emergencies, retirement, a car and so much more! –Jen Bailey

8 Family Financial To-Do's

Presented by Tim Carlson & Bob Dillon of WESTconsin Investment Advisors.

1. Think about deductions. If you have made a great deal of money in a given year and have the option of postponing a portion of the taxable income until the following year, that may bring some tax savings.

2. Can you maximize your retirement plan contribution at the start of the year? If you can do it, do it early – the sooner you make your contribution, the more interest those assets may earn.

3. Required Minimum Distributions? Retirees over age 70½ must take RMDs from traditional retirement plans. Make sure you are aware of the deadlines.

4. Transaction? Did you (or will you) sell any real property this year? Start a business? Receive a bonus? Sell an investment held outside of a tax-deferred account? These moves may have an impact on your taxes.

5. Charitable gifts? Remember, if you make charitable contributions this year, you may claim the deductions on your return.

6. Mortgage payments? Can you make a January mortgage payment in December, or make a lump sum payment on your balance? If you have a fixed-rate mortgage, a lump sum payment may reduce the loan amount and total interest paid.

7. Life changes? Did you marry or divorce? You may want to change beneficiary designations and/or take look at your insurance coverage. If your last name is changing, you will need a new Social Security card.

8. Do not delay – get it done. Talk with a qualified financial or tax professional.

Tim Carlson may be reached at (800) 924-0022, ext. 7219. Bob Dillon may be reached at (800) 924-0022, ext. 7218.


2 Easy Ways for Your Kids to Stash Away Money

Does your child have money laying around home?  Remove the temptation of them spending it on unnecessary items and consider utilizing that money to save for their future.

1. Open a Savings Account

Opening a savings account is easy to do and can hold your child’s money in a safe place while at the same time earning them dividends to add to their balance.  You can put money into the savings account at any time for that future vehicle they may want, or to help pay for college or any future needs that may arise.

2. Open a Share Certificate

Opening a Share Certificate will lock your child’s money away for a certain period of time so that they can only have access to that money once the Certificate matures.  It is easy to set up and can earn them higher dividend rates than a regular savings account.  Check with your credit union on how much funds are required to open a Share Certificate – you may be surprised! 

What better ways to put your child’s money away, help secure their future, and teach them about saving money!

Brought to you in part by:

WESTconsin Credit Union »