Friday, October 30, 2009

Revitalizing Downtown--Plaza Project

11/21 Update: See the Journal article on BID opponents' petition drive to halt tax.

Plans have been presented to the RC Council for a centrally-located, multi-use plaza called Main Street Square, designed to make downtown a destination year-round. This is one of several recommendations in a series provided by consultant Roger Brooks who was hired to advise business leaders on giving RC a brand identity. Funding sources for recommendations discussed include but are not limited to private sources, 2012 funds, and creating a Business Improvement District. Another aspect of the recommendations include parking.

What businesses pay under the BID Plan and how much will they pay? See recent Journal articles for more information.

Rapid City Journal articles, city council minutes and the presentation from Destination Rapid City are available here for you to learn more about this project.

Create Guidelines for Your Children's Allowance

On a recent trip to a thrift store, my daughter pleaded with me to buy her a small bag of doll clothes. I told her that I would pay for the clothing if that’s what she wanted and that she could pay me back when we got home. (She has a small cache of gifted money that she’s been ferreting away.)

As pleased as she was with her new purchase, she was even more excited to pull the dollar bills from her own wallet to repay me. For weeks, she told anyone who would listen that she got to spend her money on doll clothes.

We’re admittedly newbies when it comes to allowance and children, so we’ll no doubt be learning as we go, but we have hashed out a general philosophy that we plan to follow. First, we won’t give our children money on a whim while we’re at a store; we believe that doing so can undermine the discipline an allowance can impart. Instead, we plan to give our children a set weekly allowance at home and explain what they will be responsible for purchasing with their own money.

Second, we won’t make an allowance contingent upon completing household chores. We feel that our children should contribute to our household simply because they are part of our family. Down the road, this will prevent them from thinking they’re off the hook with chores if they decide that getting an allowance isn’t important to them.

Third, we won’t force them to save a certain amount of money each week, nor will we discourage them from buying what they want. Instead, we hope to let experience be their teacher. We’ll discuss the value of setting goals and saving to meet that goal and the rewards of giving to worthy causes, but we’ll let them decide how to spend what we give them.

Finally, we realize that there’s no question that our children will make “money mistakes” along the way, but we hope they’ll learn to make trade-offs, anticipate spending needs, and understand that instant gratification is not always best—or even possible. These are all lessons that are easier (and a lot less painful) to learn when youth is still on your side.


Monday, October 26, 2009

CCCS/BH classes

Below is the weekly schedule of free classes at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills. All classes unless otherwise noted will take place at our NEW location at 2310 North Maple Ave (behind the Rushmore Mall, next to Slumberland).

Tuesday, October 27
CheckWise  6-8pm 

Wednesday, October 28
Credit When Credit Is Due  6-9pm  Lesson 1-6

To register for either of the above classes, please call 605.348.4550. And remember, all classes are free of charge. Tell a friend!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bank On Rapid City- Exciting New City Initiative!

For a look at some of the more recent information available CLICK HERE. Bank On Cities is an intiative of the National Leage of Cities. Other cities which currently have a Bank on program include San Francisco and San Antonio

The goals of Bank On Rapid City are to facilitate and encourage partnerships within the community that will make mainstream banking and lending available to everyone wishing to use it and to provide the tools that will help residents make better financial decisions, utilize credit responsibly, and maximize their financial security through increased earnings, savings and investments. The Rapid City Council discussed this intiative on April 22, 2009. To learn more about the local discussion, take a look at the City Council Minutes for that date.

Bank On is a program that will educate people on:
· how to handle their finances in a way that allows them to keep more of them for themselves,
· how to make better spending choices,
· and how use credit responsibly.
The program encourages people to save money for unexpected life happenings and goals that help them increase their net worth.

Bank On Rapid City is part of the city’s existing efforts to promote family financial stability. The City of Rapid City, non-profit organizations and lending institutions have been working together on financial empowerment projects for the community since 1994 when the first homebuyer’s education course was created and provided to the community. The City has adopted the Strengthening Families for Better Outcomes for Youth and Children Platform. The Mayor appointed and leads a task force to identify the top priority needs and gaps in services, develop plans to address the issues, set goals and track accomplishments.

RCPL Knowledge Network will continue to add information for this exciting new City initiative.

Greener Rapid City

Rapid City has a long list of successes in making a substainable "Green" city. A few of these successes include...

yard waste and plastics recycling, water rates encouraging conservation, energy conservation through use of public and alternate transportation, walkability through complete streets, use of LED lights in traffic signals and solar flashers at schools, and the farmers market...(by Karen Gunderson Olson, Rapid City City Council Posted: Tuesday, July 7, 2009 11:00 pm Rapid City Journal)

Far from complete - the greening of Rapid City will continue as new possibilities emerge in the future. For a look at some of the more recent information available CLICK HERE.

Keep connected here at the RCPL Knowledge Network as we provide new resources and information.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Downtown Parking

Downtown parking proposals have been the subject of much discussion in recent months. Presentations have been made about the proposed parking plan and public comments have been taken. The Downtown Revitalization Task Force began work on a downtown parking plan in 2007. The goal of the plan was to generate additional revenue for improvement and expansion of downtown parking while meeting the needs of current users. The Task Force took public comments on the proposed plan, titled ordinance 5479, on June 24, 2008 and then approved the plan on June 27, 2008 It was presented to the city council on July 21, 2008. More comments were taken later and more presentations were made in 2009. The issue has been one of controversy and public discussion since it was first proposed and a final plan has not been determined. Click here to view links to meeting minutes, the proposed ordinance as well a proposed revision, public comments, and current and proposed parking maps.

CCCS classes for week of October 19

Below is the class schedule for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills for the week of October 19. All classes are FREE of charge and take place at our offices unless otherwise noted.

Wednesday, October 21
Make Your Move...Guide to Homeownership 6-9pm Lessons 6-9

Thursday, October 22
Make Your Move...Guide to Homeownership 8am-4pm Lessons 1-9  Ellsworth AFB

Our office is at 111 St Joseph Street, although please note that we have purchased a building and will be moving locations effective Monday, October 26. Our new building is located at 2310 North Maple Ave, behind the Rushmore Mall and next to Slumberland. Call 348.4550 to register for one of the above free classes.

The Anatomy of a Financial Decision

Take four car seats, paraphernalia for the kids that sit in those car seats, a robust basset hound, and two parents and you get one very tightly packed minivan. They don’t call it a mini-van for nothing, after all.

This leaves us at the fork in the road; do we keep the van we already have, the one that’s paid for and the one whose history we are familiar with? Learn to pack more efficiently and train the dog to squeeze into the spot at the front of the van? Or do we take a leap and buy a newer, roomier van that can better accommodate us and our growing family (and one that offers those handy captain’s chairs so that siblings cannot touch one another)?

It’s probably no surprise that my husband and I do not take debt lightly. For us, debt always introduces what I call “living requirements.” In other words, when debt means you have to keep your job, steer clear of any and all financial emergencies, and change your lifestyle in order to make payments, you now have instituted living requirements. We believe that debt always presumes upon the future. So we have to decide if we’re ready to take on a payment that presumes our financial situation won’t experience a significant change during the term of our loan.

To be fair, we already live with some of these requirements because we carry a home mortgage, but as we consider an auto loan, it necessitates shifting those living requirements in order to pay a new monthly debt. Are we ready to modify our financial priorities to pay for what really amounts to a want?

Add to this the hassle of test-driving new vans, negotiating a deal, securing financing, paying for sales tax, shelling out more for insurance coverage, and dipping into our savings account to make a down payment. It’s no wonder that making financial decisions can be tricky, even exhausting.

As of the moment, here’s what we know. First, we’ve become good friends with an online auto loan calculator; it’s a fantastic tool for playing around with numbers and seeing just how much we could end up paying each month. Second, we agree that we won’t finance the van for more than 24 months and know that our bank is willing to lend us the money we need at a rate of 6.5%. However, a quick click to a local credit union’s website shows that we can score a rate of 4.8% if we finance through them. Third, we know that our insurance rates would increase $120 a year and we’d have to have an extra $200 or so on hand to pay for the sales tax.

We also know what the new-to-us van books for, the trade-in value for our old van, and how much we can comfortably afford to pay each month. What we don’t know is if we’re willing to take on a new debt, even a relatively small amount, for the sake of greater comfort. While we recognize that it isn’t uncommon to have a car payment, we have made it a goal to pay off all non-mortgage debt, and we aren’t eager to make a payment again.


Friday, October 16, 2009

This Christmas, take a hint from Laura Ingalls Wilder

As a young girl, I can remember darting home from the bus stop to catch the last thirty minutes of Little House on the Prairie. I was smitten with Laura's long braids (What little girl in the 70's wasn't?) and enamored by domestic life on the Ingalls' homestead. Some thirty years later, I've found that I still enjoy those early episodes, including one depicting the Ingalls' first Christmas at Plum Creek.

As the story of their Christmas unfolds, the house fills with the feeling of secrets as everyone contemplates how to pull off the perfect Christmas gift. In a Gift of the Magi sort-of-way, clandestine plans and projects intersect. Caroline dips into the savings she has squirreled away to buy fabric that is destined to become a much-needed dress shirt for Charles. In the meantime, Mary takes a temporary position with a local seamstress, where she too is sewing a shirt for Charles (in the very same fabric that Caroline has chosen).

Laura trades her much-loved pony to buy a cook stove for her mother, while Charles works on making a saddle for Laura. And Charles tries to make a trade with the shopkeeper to buy the cook stove for Caroline, only to be told that it has been sold to someone else.

The moral of the story, so to speak, is one that I think we can all apply today, especially as we draw nearer to the holiday season. Budgets are bound to be tighter than ever this year as we still grapple with the effects of the recession. Still, if ever there were a silver lining to an economy gone south, it is a new consciousness that has risen among consumers, a consciousness that has people thinking about what matters most to them.

And what is the moral of the story as I see it? The very best gifts are those that challenge us. The gifts exchanged among the Ingalls family required time, sacrifice, and ingenuity. Laura gave up something that she loved. Charles learned a new skill. Mary completed her chores and made time to work on the side. Caroline saved money for months to buy the fabric.

In mid-October, you have the flexibility to draw on the resource of time when it comes to gift-giving. Can you gather those yellowed and tattered family recipes and compile them into a cookbook for all the family members on your list? How about trying your hand at making crab apple wine with the fruit you've picked? Or maybe you could rekindle your love of carving and craft handmade ornaments for those on your list.

Perhaps it's time to record all your favorite memories to create a keepsake for your loved ones. Dig out the knitting needles from the bottom of the closet and make a slue of colorful new scarves. Make a memory blanket from cherished pieces of clothing. Refinish a worn dresser. Put a photo book together of your annual family reunion.
Time is still on your side. Mix in a little sacrifice (which could include sacrificing some of your time) and some ingenuity, and you're sure to have gifts that are a joy to give and that won't leave you scrambling when December 25 rolls around.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

CCCS of the Black Hills is Moving!

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills will be moving to a new location in their newly remodeled building behind the Rushmore Mall, next to Slumberland. Our offices will be closed to the public October 22-23 for the move, and we'll reopen for business on October 26.

Our new address is 2310 North Maple Avenue.

Expectant Parents Can Keep a Budget Intact

Even after four children, I find myself drooling over images of beautifully-styled nurseries: the hand-painted murals, frothy bed linens, custom lighting, and the coordinated accessories. Devoid of clutter, and notably the babies who room there, these spaces become idyllic little worlds unto themselves.

For all their beauty, though, these nurseries illustrate the power of marketing to suggest that baby must have "x," (the jogging stroller, swanky baby hammock, the designer diaper bag) when what baby really needs is quite simple: love, food, diapers, warm clothing, and a safe place to sleep and to travel. This isn't to say that I'm not thankful for many of the extra comforts--from swings to floor gyms--that can help make parenting easier, but I believe that it's important for expectant parents (and expectant grandparents) to be able to distinguish between a baby's needs and the parents' or grandparents' wants.

For as much as babies change a household, they are babies for so short a time that it's wise to take the long view when it comes to providing for their needs. For example, you might consider skipping the changing table and adding a pad to a sturdy dresser that stands at a comfortable height. Or perhaps you might opt instead for stashing a washable pad and diapers in the place where you spend the most time.

When decorating a nursery, consider looking for ways that the room can grow with baby. A painted armoire outfitted with hanging bars and shelves can help to corral all the baby flotsam and jetsam and can later house toys or art supplies, even become a mini library or media storage center. As tempting as it can be to run with a gender-based decorating theme, try sticking to basic designs and colors. A blue and chocolate brown room with punches of orange will suit a boy or girl, and it won't suddenly seem too babyish when your little one morphs into toddlerhood. It also gives you the ability to choose items ala carte, so you won't be shelling out for a pricey coordinated nursery set. And you can easily have a sibling room in, or reuse the same bedding when another little one comes along, without having to redecorate.

You'll want to ensure that they meet current safety standards, but you can score cribs and other baby gear through classified ads, online auctions, and at garage sales. Choose a sturdy stroller that will grow with baby; you may even want to consider heading straight to a double stroller if you plan to have children that are close in age.

Newborns grow quickly, so quickly, in fact, that they often outgrow clothing before they even have a chance to wear it, and they use some baby accessories for just a few months. So as cute as those little duds can be, avoid buying too many newborn outfits.

Children bring much joy, no doubt, but they also bring added expenses that can last two decades or more. I encourage you, whether an expectant parent or an anxious grandparent, to take the time to differentiate between your wants and baby's needs.


Monday, October 5, 2009

CCCS/BH class schedule

Here is Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills' class schedule for the week of October 5. All classes take place at CCCS: 111 St. Joseph Street, Rapid City, 57701

Tuesday, October 6
Housing Recovery 6-8pm

Wednesday, October 7
Credit When Credit Is Due 6-9pm Lessons 7-12

Thursday, October 8
Credit When Credit Is Due Ellsworth AFB 8am-4pm Lessons 1-12

All classes are FREE of charge!

Spotlight on Rapid City Public Library Resources: the Career Library

The Career Library database at the Rapid City Public Library is a great tool to start planning a job search. It has career profiles, assessements, quizzes, and planning materials for both the job market and college. So whether you're going back to school or hunting for a new career, check out the Career Library. The video below is a quick tour of the resource.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Four Ways to Break Credit Card Dependency

I opened my first credit card account fifteen years ago when I was preparing to take a month-long backpacking trip across Europe. At the time, I would have described myself as a cautious credit card user. I kept careful records of all my spending and was prepared to pay back the balance in full when I returned home. Nevertheless, despite my good intentions, I didn't pay off the bill when it arrived. I reasoned that it might be wiser to preserve my savings and opted to make smaller payments instead.

Those savings went to pay a deposit on my first apartment after graduation, and my credit card balance remained fairly stable, as I typically only made the minimum monthly payment.

When I decided to go to graduate school, I charged my tuition and books. And while I worked on my degree, I lived on a small assistantship stipend that didn't cover much beyond my basic living expenses. So, as you might guess, my credit card balance continued to grow--even if ever-so-slowly.

I then got married, and we often made impulse purchases using the very credit card that still held the balance from my trip to Europe. I "needed" new clothes for my teaching job--slide that card. We funded a small bathroom renovation and charged a family vacation, among other things.

We never made a late payment, and despite all the charging that was going on, I can never recall our balance exceeding $3,000. In retrospect, though, I realize that we had become credit card dependent, believing that if our budget got tight, or if that some amazing deal came along, we could always use the card.

I imagine that my story isn't that much unlike others who find themselves surprised or worried by their growing credit card balance. Credit cards aren't the problem, though, as they are simply one of the many financial tools available to consumers. It's how you choose to use that tool that matters. Once you become dependent on a credit card, it can be difficult to kick the habit.

We no longer carry a credit card balance, but getting to that point meant that my husband and I had to get serious about using our credit card wisely. It was almost as if we had to retrain our brains.

First, we had to stop thinking, "There's always the credit card." In other words, we recognized that we couldn't use our credit card to supplement our income. Instead, we started an automatic savings transfer to build an emergency fund and called a moratorium on using our credit card to fund impulse purchases.

Second, we had to redefine an "emergency." Christmas gifts are not an emergency. New tires for the car, not an emergency either. Christmas comes every year and tires inevitably wear out; we had to plan for these and other kinds of expenses.

Third, we began to keep track of everything we charged during a given month and immediately accounted for that money by subtracting it from our budget. Now when the bill arrives, there are no surprises and no scrambling to pay the account in full.

Finally, we realized the true cost of using credit, both emotionally and monetarily. It simply didn't feel good to know that we were spending money without making a plan to repay it. Plus, we recognized we were diverting money to fees that we could be saving to get more of the things we wanted.

If your debt level is rising each month, or even if it is largely unchanged, I encourage you to take an honest look at hoe your credit card habits might be contributing to the problem. Follow the steps we took, or seek help from a certified consumer credit counselor.