Christmas Club accounts a CU differentiator: Mont. league

December 12, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (12/15/14)--It may seem like an old-school approach to financial preparation, but the tried-and-true "Christmas Clubs" promote planning, prevent debt and encourage budgeting for the holiday season. Still popular with consumers, they are also a savings product that distinguishes credit unions from other financial institutions.

Tracie Kenyon, president/CEO, Montana Credit Union Network, encouraged credit unions to provide members Christmas Club accounts as a savings option whenever possible.

"Christmas Clubs are a simple and effective way to budget for holiday spending that members will appreciate," she said. "Christmas time is all about love and shouldn't be clouded by a stressful financial situation. This is just one of the many ways credit unions can assist in strengthening the economic health of the communities they serve."

SEG FCU, Laurel, Mont. with $13 million in assets, is one of many Montana credit unions to offer a Christmas Club account that earns a dividend monthly. The account is automatically paid out to members Nov. 1 every year. It's a service members use and appreciate because it's simple, said Janice Lehman, the credit union's president/CEO.

The average U.S. adult will spend $780 on the holidays this year, according to a Gallup survey. Experts say financial stress silently eats away at consumers' well-being, but most of the time is unnecessary and avoidable, with some planning.

Before making yet another commitment that affects the wallet this year, the league suggests doing volunteer work for a local nonprofit. Another idea is to make homemade certificates for sharing a skill such as lawn mowing or snow shoveling, or offering to share knowledge such as teaching someone to weld or knit.

And, if it's too late this year and the accounts are drained or maxed-out, make a commitment to plan for next year, the league recommended.

Kenyon recommended that consumers try to focus on the values associated with the holiday season "because that's where the magic lives. Don't dampen the festive energy with money trouble, because much of the time the memories are intangible--celebrations, traditions and sentiments shared--not a material item adorned with a bow."