Women's Knit Boots Pull On TAOFFEN nstnvd1135-New Shoes

Blog

Save Money by Taking Your Spring Cleaning to the Next Level!

Now that March has gone out like a lamb (a waterlogged lamb in many parts of the country), Springtime is here, and that means it’s time for that beloved annual tradition—Spring Cleaning.

In surveys conducted by the American Cleaning Institute, responses indicate that as many as 91% of Americans and 96% of Millennials engage in spring cleaning, so it seems safe to say we’re all in this together.

As you open the windows and begin your routine of washing, sweeping, dusting, and decluttering, the goal is to spruce up your home’s interior while eliminating things you no longer need. When done correctly, spring cleaning can actually make you happier and healthier. So, it makes sense to be as thorough as possible. This year, while you’re busy cleaning your fixtures and furniture, it might be a good idea to update some common household items to more energy-efficient options. A more efficient home is an investment that can save you money all year long, and we’re pretty sure lower utility bills will boost your mood as well!

Simple Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient This Spring

  • Energy-Saving Power Switch
    By completely cutting off all power when an electronic device isn’t in use, these plug-in adapters reduce the costly effects of “vampire energy.” While the term sounds scarier than it should, vampire energy refers to the power that still flows to a device even when it is turned off. These handy switches can be purchased online or in your local hardware store for $10 or less. And with prices that low, your return on investment can be quite substantial.
  • Low-Flow Showerhead
    According to a research project conducted by the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the average American shower lasts for just over 8 minutes and uses approximately 17 gallons of water. The average flow rate works out to be roughly 2.1 gallons per minute (gpm). By switching to a low-flow shower head that reduces usage to 1.25 gpm, you can save an average of $32 per year per person. For a couple, that means $64 in savings each year—especially impressive considering that most low-flow showerheads can be purchased for $10-15.
  • Smart Thermostat
    The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, shop, and even do our banking. Now, thanks to smart products like the Nest Thermostat, it appears that it has also changed the way we save on energy-related expenses. While the initial price of a Nest will set you back approximately $250, the average annual home energy savings of $150 per year means you’ll recoup your investment in less than two years. After that, the savings just continue to add up.
  • Energy Audits
    Not sure where to begin? An energy audit can help! Depending on your location, energy audits can cost anywhere from $250 to $600. And while that might seem like a lot to pay up front, the potential savings can make it worth the investment. During a professional energy audit, efficiency experts utilize specialized tools to identify areas where your home may be using excessive energy, which, in turn, can help you pinpoint which improvements will make the biggest difference. To find an energy auditor and prepare for an audit, check out these helpful tips.

 

Throughout this article, we’ve talked about a few relatively low-cost ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency. But maybe you’re thinking a little bigger this spring. If you need a little more incentive to make big-ticket improvements like installing new windows, updating your HVAC system, or adding solar panels, federal tax incentives may provide just the push you’re looking for. Usually available in the form of rebates, these incentives are designed to encourage homeowners to update their home systems to be more energy-efficient and sustainable. If you’ve been thinking about making some major energy-saving upgrades around your house, don’t forget to see if they qualify for valuable government incentives. When it comes to saving energy and saving money, every little bit helps!

Women's Knit Boots Pull On TAOFFEN nstnvd1135-New Shoes

Should You Keep Separate Checking Accounts When You Get Married?

You found “The One.” You popped the question, and they said “Yes.” You both said, “I do.” Your honeymoon was incredible. Now, you’re back to reality and settling into your new life together. Suddenly, you’re faced with a wave of everyday decisions you hadn’t previously thought about. Who sleeps on which side of the bed? Which toothpaste should you buy? Whose parents will you visit at Thanksgiving? What about Christmas? Some decisions are trivial, but other dilemmas feel far more important. But then, when that first monthly bill shows up and you have to decide who pays it, you come face-to-face with one more crucial decision: Should you combine your finances and get a joint checking account?

For years, financial advisors and relationship gurus have sparred over the potential dangers and benefits of joining two individual bank accounts into one. The most challenging part of this debate is that both sides appear to make valid points, which can leave you and your spouse wondering what to do. Before we go any further, it’s important to remember that just as each person in a marriage is a unique individual, every relationship is different. And while it’s wise to seek counsel and take advice, you’ll ultimately need to figure out what works best for you. In the points to follow, we’ll set out to share a few perspectives that can help you determine the best way for you to build a financial foundation that works for your family.

The Case for Separate Checking Accounts

In an Super explosion Women's Anti Slip Chelsea Boot Pull on Short Elastic Waterproof Ankle Rain Boot, David Back, co-founder of AE Wealth Management, advised, “You should have your own account, both of you. It’s absolutely critical, especially for women, that you keep money in an account that’s yours that you control.” Citing the fact that almost half of marriages end in divorce, Bach and other like-minded financial professionals point to the fact that not only do separate accounts allow each individual to maintain their own financial identity; they also make it easier to divide assets if the relationship dissolves. If both spouses agree, the practice of keeping separate accounts can also serve to reduce the number of disputes over spending decisions. By allowing each person to manage the finances they bring into the relationship, this approach depends on the mutual trust that each person is managing their money in a financially responsible manner. And in a marriage, that kind of trust is essential.

The Case for Joint Checking Accounts

While many agree with the practicality of married couples maintaining separate bank accounts, several studies at the University of California suggest a completely different approach. Though financial independence may be a key factor in maintaining a sense of autonomy, the UC study indicated that marital happiness might be easier to achieve if both partners agree to combine everything—including bank accounts. After reviewing the results of their studies, the school’s researchers shared the following observation, “It is important for couples to perceive their possessions and financial goals as shared, and our research identifies one practical way to facilitate this: merging bank accounts.” While happiness is a subject that extends beyond the bounds of traditional financial advice, it is worth noting that your financial practices as a couple can have a powerful impact on your relational success.

The Case for Compromise

As with most things in marriage, figuring out your finances will probably involve some give and take. While some couples can thrive with separate bank accounts, others will find far greater satisfaction by pooling their resources in a joint account. However, if you’re still not sold on either idea, there’s room for compromise. It’s entirely possible for couples to have separate personal spending accounts and maintain a joint account for shared expenses like rent, insurance, utilities, and such. While this strategy requires a little more leg work and the need for open, consistent communication, that’s not a bad thing. After all, whether it’s in relation to finances or just married life in general, fine-tuning your communication skills is always a great idea!

 

Check Your Finances Before Changing Jobs

Jobs are funny things. As soon as you get one, there’s a temptation to start thinking Womens Sandals PVC Cross Tied Ankle Strappy High Heels Party Dress Sexy Sandals. Sometimes people find themselves stuck in a role that doesn’t fit their personality or skill set. Other times they love their job but believe a change would provide the opportunity to earn more money—and in turn, more peace of mind. Whatever the reason, if you’ve been part of the workforce for more than a few months, you’ve probably spent more than a few minutes wondering if a new job might be the secret to a better life. And if that’s the case, statistics indicate you’re not the only one.

According to the US Department of Labor, the average American changes jobs 12 times during their career. So, if you haven’t tested the job market yet, the law of averages seems to indicate you will eventually. And while job transitions are relatively common these days, it’s still important to approach each change with careful consideration. Not only will the new role involve learning new skills, working with new people, and establishing a new routine, it will also require significant financial planning—at least in the transition period. So, how can you set yourself up for success while transitioning to a new endeavor? By making sure your finances are in order; that’s how.

5 Financial Tips to Remember When Considering a Job Change

  1. Check your savings. If you already have another job lined up, your savings may only need to tie you over until your new paychecks start rolling in. This might sound like a minor concern, but depending on the payroll schedule for your former company and your new employer, it’s entirely possible you could go a month or more between paychecks. If you’re leaving your job without another already lined up, you’ll need enough savings to cover expenses until you accept your next job offer. If you have the luxury of transitioning on your own time frame, aim to have six months’ worth of expenses in a savings account.
  2. Trim your expenses. Admittedly, cutting expenses is never a fun topic of conversation. However, operating on a leaner budget (at least for a little while) can make your career transition far less stressful. So, before accepting a new job offer, take time to review your monthly budget and see if there are any belt-tightening adjustments you can make. Cut back on morning lattes, meal prep at home instead of buying lunch at a restaurant every day, or binge a Netflix series instead of going to a movie at the theater. You’ll be surprised how quickly little savings add up—and those savings can help you bridge the financial gap between jobs.
  3. Review the compensation package. It’s natural to look at a job’s salary when trying to determine whether it’s a better opportunity. This is a good place to start, but there’s more to it than that. Does the prospective employer pay an hourly wage, salary, or combination of base plus commission? Do they cover a portion of employee insurance costs or do they pay the entire premium? Is the new employer’s PTO plan equivalent to the one you’d be giving up? Be sure to compare the entire compensation package instead of just comparing the annual salary.
  4. Account for relocation costs. If your new job will require you to relocate, it’s always a smart idea to look at the cost of living in your new location. A $10,000 per year raise is nice, but if you’re going to spend an additional $15,000 in housing expenses each year, the new job could cause you to fall behind financially. If you need help comparing living expenses, cost of living calculators can be extremely helpful. State income tax rates can be another location-dependent variable worth considering. Fortunately, there are online tools to help with these calculations as well.
  5. Don’t leave money behind. If your current employer offers 401K or other retirement savings accounts, be sure to make arrangements to take those funds with you. This might seem like a no-brainer, but the fact that orphaned 401K accounts total an estimated $1 trillion indicates it’s easier to overlook than you might think. When it comes to these employer-sponsored retirement plans, employees have three options when changing jobs: 1) roll over funds to a 401K plan with the new employer, 2) roll over the funds into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), or 3) withdraw the funds. It’s worth noting, however, that withdrawing the money usually incurs a steep penalty. To determine the best approach for your money, it’s always best to consult with a financial advisor at your credit union.

 

If you’re currently contemplating a job offer or just dreaming about what it would take for you to make a change, spend a little time crunching the numbers. To make your comparisons a little easier, the career planning experts at The Balance Careers offer a variety of helpful resources on their site. Once you’ve completed a thorough assessment of your potential job offer, contact one of the financial representatives at Great Meadow Federal Credit Union. We can help you analyze your current finances, identify the best retirement rollover plans, and find ways to maximize your money in order to make your job change as smooth as possible.

5 Ways to Save for Summer in 5 Weeks

Summer vacation. During your elementary, middle, and high school years, those two magical words meant three months of freedom! No school, no waking up early, no early bedtimes. It was your annual reward for grinding through the previous nine months of academic pursuits. Yet somehow, summer always managed to fly by faster than it was supposed to!

Now that you’re an adult, your summertime respite has probably shortened considerably. Instead of three months, you might get a week away—maybe two, if you’re lucky. But just like when you were young, you always wish your time away could last just a little bit longer. It seems like no matter how old you get, summer vacation still holds a special kind of magic.

There’s still time to save for summer vacation!

But even with all the sun-kissed nostalgia that makes summer vacation a lifelong treat, there’s one thing that can ruin the fun faster than a thunderstorm at the swimming pool: vacation-related debt. Summertime memories are fun to recall, but it’s not nearly as fun to receive monthly reminders that you’re still paying the price for that fun—plus interest.

If you’re like most people, summer usually sneaks up on you. You start the year with good intentions, but somewhere along the way you forget to set aside money to cover your vacation plans. With summer only a few weeks away, you might be wondering whether it’s possible to save enough money to cover this year’s vacation. We’re happy to report that it’s absolutely possible! It will take some discipline, but you can do it. Here are five tips to help you get started.

Five Quick and Easy Ways to Save for Summer Vacation

  1. Create a savings plan.
    Sometimes, the easiest way to save money is to identify the ways you’re currently wasting it. By creating and following a sensible budget, you’ll be able to pinpoint the areas where you’re spending too much. For the next five weeks, do your best to eliminate frivolous expenses and only spend money on things that are essential. You’ll be surprised how quickly your savings add up.
  2. Find fun for free.
    Just because you’re saving for summer doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun in the meantime. But it does mean you might need to find some different activities. Movies, dining out, and entertainment can add up quickly. The average cost of dinner, drinks, and movie tickets for two comes in at around $100, so, imagine how fast you could pile up the savings if you decided to cook at home, stroll through a park, play some board games, or browse at a bookstore instead!
  3. Resist the convenience tax.
    We’re all busy. Sometimes it’s just easier to pay for convenience. Whether it’s drive-thru coffee on the way to work or take-out food for dinner, shelling out a few extra dollars can save precious minutes throughout the day. But if you’re trying to save money for summer, you might want to pause these practices. When you consider that you can save $3 per day just by making your morning cup of coffee at home, the money-saving benefits of this step are ridiculously clear. (And don’t worry, we’re only talking about five weeks. You’ll be back to that extra-hot-triple-skinny-no-foam-half-caff latte in no time.)
  4. Hang onto that tax refund.
    If you’re expecting a tax refund this year, well…you’ve probably filed your taxes already. That means either your refund has arrived already or it’s on the way. As tempting as it can be to celebrate your sudden cash infusion with a big purchase, it might make more sense to hang onto that money and use it to pay for your upcoming summer vacation. Yes, that’ll require a little discipline, but enjoying a fantastic, debt-free vacation is worth it!
  5. Cash in on your spare time.
    OK, so maybe this tip isn’t technically about saving—but it can be. If you figure out how to earn a little extra money, that gives you even more chances to save. (See? Told you it could be about savings.) Once you’ve maximized your creative saving methods, it never hurts to earn a little extra money. Side jobs are a great way to make quick cash, and thanks to apps like Nextdoor, Taskrabbit, and Gigwalk, finding work is easier than you think.

 
If you’re saving for this summer, it’s probably going to feel like an all-out sprint. But with a little advance planning, next year’s summer savings won’t have to be quite so stressful. Here at Great Meadow Federal Credit Union, we offer convenient vacation savings accounts that let you automatically deposit a little money from your paychecks throughout the year and withdraw the funds just in time for your stress-free summer vacation. Call us or visit one of our branches in person to learn more about these specialized savings accounts.

Make Spring Cleaning Pay Off This Year!

People sure do like their stuff. Whether it’s the latest tech gadgets or knick-knacks that have been passed down through generations, the things we own hold a special place in our hearts and homes. So, when our possessions pile up, as is their tendency, what’s the logical thing to do? That’s right—rent a self-storage unit. What? That’s not the answer you were expecting?

According to a report by Sparefoot, one out of every 11 Americans pays for storage space to keep their overflowing belongings. That’s right, not only are people finding additional ways to store their things, they’re paying good money to do it—$38 billion a year, to be exact. Spending money to stow away various items you don’t need and will probably never use—seems silly doesn’t it? We agree. In fact, we think springtime is the perfect season to do the exact opposite.

Clean house. Cash in.
Over the past few years, de-cluttering has seen a spike in popularity, thanks in large part to proponents like Joshua Becker and Marie Kondo. While experts like Kondo preach the soul-cleansing benefits of getting rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy,” we recommend doing it for an entirely different reason. Cash. Cold, hard cash.

Don’t get us wrong, we big fan of the physical and emotional perks that come from cleaning house, but we also believe that making a little extra money would make you feel pretty good too. If you’re inspired but unsure where to start, we’ve compiled a helpful list of everyday items that carry solid resale value and the best ways to sell them.

Electronics
Maybe you just upgraded to a new laptop, and you’re wondering what to do with your old (but not that old) one. Perhaps you switched mobile phone carriers and didn’t bother trading in your previous phone. Or maybe you’re staring at a CD/DVD/video game collection that has gotten way out of hand. Before you throw your hands up and your electronics out, see if you can sell them online through services like:
Decluttr
Gazelle
Swappa

Clothing
Do you have a closet full of outfits you never wear? Have you changed your style but held onto all your old accessories? Did you purchase a new pair of shoes only to realize you already had an identical pair in your collection? Whether you’re creating a capsule wardrobe or just freeing up some space in your dresser drawers, you’d be surprised how many people would be willing to buy your gently used items. Millions of people have made some extra money by selling clothes and accessories via apps like the following:
Woman Slippers PU Leather Foot Orthotic Sandals Summer Casual Comfy Breathable Flat Heel Beach shoes
Tradesy
Vinted

Miscellaneous
Let’s face it; some things just don’t fit in neat and tidy categories. But that doesn’t mean they’re worthless. There’s an old saying that suggests “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” That doesn’t mean your stuff is trash, it just means that things you no longer use may be incredibly valuable to someone else. So, before you throw out that vintage nine iron, that dusty old vinyl collection, or your great aunt’s set of decorative collector plates, try listing them for sale on the following sites:
OfferUp
Craigslist
Facebook Marketplace

Once you’ve completed your spring cleaning, minimized your possessions, and made a little money in the process, you might be wondering what to do with your newfound cash. Whatever you do, resist the urge to go right out and buy more stuff! That will just start the problem all over again. Instead, why not contact your credit union and ask them how to make your money work for you? Our team of financial specialists can help you assess your current financial situation and determine how to take smart steps towards a brighter financial future.

Let the Taxpayer Beware: Learn to Spot Six Common Tax Scams

Now that your W2s and miscellaneous tax documents have arrived, tax season is officially in full swing. While it’s easy to get lost in optimistic daydreams about your tax refund and all you’re planning to do with it, it’s important to remember that scam artists are probably dreaming about what they could do with your refund as well.

After reaching an Unm Women's Stylish Low Cut Pointed Toe Dressy Low Chunky Heel Lace Up Pumps shoes, tax refund fraud has been declining thanks to significant enforcement efforts by federal, state, and private agencies. While these statistics are encouraging, they also highlight the ongoing need for caution and vigilance. So, before you file your 2018 taxes or pay someone to file for you, we want to remind you about six of the most common tax-related scams happening today.

  • Phishing Emails

This one is relatively easy to spot. Why’s that, you ask? Because the IRS doesn’t initiate communication with taxpayers via email. So, if you see an email from the IRS pop up in your inbox—even one that looks remarkably official, don’t bother opening it. For good measure, go ahead and mark it as spam before deleting it. Emails of this type have only one goal: to trick you into clicking a fraudulent hyperlink or responding with sensitive personal information.

  • Phishing 2.0

In 2018, the IRS reported a new twist on traditional phishing scams. In the new approach, fraudsters hacked the systems of legitimate tax professionals, stole tax returns containing personal details, and then deposited funds directly into taxpayer bank accounts. After those deposits hit the bank, the criminals posed as the IRS or collection agencies and contacted account holders demanding a resolution to the error. The goal of these scams is not to simply regain the money deposited “in error,” but to get the victim to share account details that can be used to access the account at another time. If you find yourself with an unexpected deposit in your bank account, the IRS offers helpful instructions here.

  • Phone scams

Though they come via phone call, these scams are essentially the same as phishing emails. The difference lies in the fact that con artists can spoof IRS phone numbers in an attempt to convince unsuspecting people to answer the call. Once the phone call is underway, the person on the other end claims to be an IRS agent and tries to get the individual to confirm private account details in an attempt to “resolve the situation.” If they don’t get the results they’re hoping for, the fraudsters may even follow-up with phone calls where they impersonate law enforcement officials and threaten legal action. To avoid accidentally divulging personal details, it’s best to ignore these calls completely. Just as the IRS doesn’t initially contact taxpayers by email, they also don’t initiate official communication by phone either.

  • Refund Theft

This type of scam takes place at the intersection of identity theft and financial fraud. Using a variety of tactics, criminals obtain taxpayer social security numbers and file fraudulent tax returns in their name—often claiming substantial refunds. Since this happens without the knowledge of the victim, it only comes to light when their legitimate tax return is rejected due to a previous return already filed under the same social security number. While the IRS is committed to resolving these issues when they happen, the process can be long and tedious. To safeguard yourself against tax refund theft, IRS officials recommend obtaining an Identity Protection PIN, also known as an IP PIN. Instructions for securing a PIN can be found on the official IRS website.

  • Shady Tax Prep Services

Since an estimated 79 million Americans use paid tax preparation services, there are considerable opportunities for dishonest preparers to abuse the system. One of the most common scams involves a preparer illegally inflating an individual’s refund and collecting a percentage of the taxpayer’s refund instead of a flat fee. Many times, the problem isn’t identified until after the refund has been issued and the preparer’s fee has been collected. In these scams, the preparer is long gone by the time that the problem is identified, and the taxpayer is responsible for handling the audit on their own. While the practice of a tax preparer charging a percentage of refund isn’t technically illegal, you’re better off avoiding this type of arrangement and opting for a flat-fee service instead.

  • Public Wi-Fi Scammers

It seems like this one should go without saying, but we all use a reminder from time to time. The public Wi-Fi at coffee shops, libraries, and bookstores can be great for hopping online to browse social media, but it’s terrible for filing your taxes. Not only can these unsecured networks be accessed by almost anyone, but dishonest scammers can also set up hot spots that look like the establishment’s Wi-Fi and intercept logins, passwords, and personal information. So, if you’re filing taxes electronically this year (and considering the fact that approximately 90% of taxpayers filed electronically in 2018, you probably are), do yourself a favor: file at home from your personal computer and your secure Internet connection.

As with most financial scams, these can be simple to sidestep as long as you know the signs to look for. If you observe questionable practices or have additional tax-related concerns, you can find helpful instructions here on the official IRS website.

If you are receiving a federal or state tax refund this year and want to make the most of your money, please contact us here at Great Meadow Federal Credit Union. Our financial specialists can help you assess your financial situation and show you all the beneficial programs and products available to you as a credit union member. Call, email, or stop by a branch today!

Fancyww Women Ankle Short Booties Suede Martin Boots shoes Zipper Boot

Unm Women's Comfy Glitter Rhinestone Open Toe Slip On High Heel Wedge Slide Sandals

Picture the following scenario: After months of research and planning, you take the plunge and buy a new car. Once the financing is secured and your auto insurance is in place, you’re ready to hit the road. You’re so excited about your sparkling ride that you’re not even worried about the fact that most new cars depreciate by as much as 10% the moment you drive them off the lot—and up to 20% in the first year. That’s a financial fact, but you’re too busy enjoying that new car scent to get bogged down with details like that.

Now, imagine that after just a few weeks, you’re involved in an accident that badly damages, or worse yet, totals your car. (Don’t worry—unlike your car, you emerge from this imaginary situation without a scratch.) Fortunately, you did the responsible thing and secured good auto insurance. Once all the proper claims have been filed, you find out that insurance will only cover your car’s market value—which, due to the depreciation, is several thousand dollars less than the amount you owe on your auto loan. If only there were a type of loan protection that would help you make up that difference. Fortunately, there is. It’s called Guaranteed Asset Protection—GAP, for short.

What is GAP?
GAP coverage is an optional protection plan offered with auto loans or leases, and depending on the plan coverage limits, it effectively waives most of, if not all, the remaining balance on your loan. While your auto insurance plan’s comprehensive and collision policies cover your vehicle’s value in the event that it is totaled or stolen, GAP coverage is designed to ensure you don’t get stuck making payments on a car you no longer own.

How do I know if I need GAP coverage?
While the product makes good financial sense for some, not everybody needs to get a GAP policy. According to the financial experts at NerdWallet, there are a few basic guidelines that will help you decide whether GAP coverage is right for you. You should strongly consider adding a GAP policy to your auto loan if you:

  • Made a small down payment on a new car, or none at all
  • Agreed to a loan term longer than 48 months
  • Drive a lot, which reduces a car’s value more quickly
  • Lease your car
  • Bought a car that depreciates faster than average

Where do you get GAP coverage?
While a variety of companies provide GAP coverage for consumers, it often makes the most sense to obtain the protection plan from the same financial institution that financed your vehicle purchase in the first place. In many cases, a credit union makes the most sense. If you already financed your vehicle through a dealership, keep in mind that many GAP programs are refundable up to a certain number of days. This means that should you decide to refinance your auto loan through a credit union, they may be able to help you get a refund on your original GAP plan and secure a new plan at a lower cost.

Not only are credit union GAP plans traditionally less expensive than those available through finance companies, they can also be added to your loan at any time (vehicle age and mileage limits apply). Securing coverage through the financial institution that services your loan reduces the need to coordinate communication between multiple parties. It also increases the likelihood that you can put the frustrating accident experience behind you sooner rather than later—and that peace of mind is priceless.

If you have questions about Guaranteed Asset Protection or want to know how to add it to your existing auto loan, contact a financial representative at Great Meadow Federal Credit Union. They can help you review your current financing situation and determine whether GAP coverage is right for you.

Valentine’s Day on a Budget: How to Find Love & Laughs for Less

When it comes to the topic of Valentine’s Day, public opinion seems to be split. Some people love everything about it. Hearts, roses, candy, flowers, Cupid—you name it, they’re here for it! On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find Valentine Scrooges who consider February 14th a day like any other. They’re convinced the celebration and fanfare are nothing more than Hallmark-sponsored money grabs. To be fair, these positions are extreme.

If you’re like most people, you probably enjoy spending the romantic holiday with your special someone, but you prefer to celebrate without spending a ton of money. Good for you. There’s nothing more attractive than someone who plans a financially responsible Valentine’s date. OK, maybe a few things—but you get the point. If you’re looking to create an inexpensive, fun-loving Valentine’s experience you’ll remember for years to come, we have a few suggestions you might enjoy.

  • Dress up and dine in.
    At first, this suggestion may seem like complete nonsense. Why would you go through the trouble of getting dressed up if you’re not going out in public? Because there’s a strange, yet undeniable appeal to doing something that doesn’t make sense to anyone else, that’s why. So, go ahead—go big. Glam it up. Suit and tie. Gown and heels. The more overdressed, the better. Whether you cook for yourself or order your favorite takeout, the food choice isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you’re both ridiculously overdressed for the occasion. And that’s the point.
  • Dress down and hit the town.
    Like the previous idea, this one involves an unexpected combination of date attire and meal selection—but with a completely different twist. Before the big date, you and your date head to the nearest thrift store (you can shop together or separately) and buy a complete outfit for the other person, spending no more than $10 in the process. The clothing selections can be as tacky and outrageous as you please—the tackier, the better. The only catch is that you both have to wear the outfits to dinner at a nice restaurant, no questions asked. If you play this one right, not only will you save money and enjoy your date, everyone around you will probably get a kick out of it as well.
  • Dollar store gift challenge.
    You and your date can play this one a couple of different ways. The first approach involves heading to the closest dollar store and seeing who can find the single best/craziest/funniest/most ridiculous gift for the other person. The second option involves setting a spending limit and seeing who can rack up the most entertaining gift collection. (No need to go above $10. After all, it’s still a dollar store.) For a little additional fun, take some selfies with your newfound treasures, and share your pics on social media using the hashtag #DollarStoreScore. After your adventure, head out and grab some dessert. Since you did your Valentine shopping at the dollar store, you’ll have plenty left to cover a sweet treat or two.

Whether you use the tips above or come up with a clever idea of your own, being smart about your Valentine’s spending goes a long way towards ensuring your day is filled fun-loving memories instead of expensive mistakes. And when you’re wondering what to do with all your savings, don’t forget to stop by and see us – We’re happy to help you find ways to make that money work for you. And let’s be honest, long-term financial stability is sweeter than a $10 box of chocolates could ever be!

Throw a Super Bowl Party That Doesn’t Break the Bank!

Now that Christmas and New Years are behind us, it’s time to plan for the next big holiday. That’s right—Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner! As the NFL’s top two teams prepare to battle at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the festivities leading up to the game will clearly show that the NFL has spared no expense in trying to make Super Bowl LIII the greatest championship game in history. When it comes to planning your Super Bowl party, we suggest taking a different—and slightly more sensible—financial approach.

8 ways to throw a budget-friendly Super Bowl party

If you’re looking for some ways to host a Super Bowl party that’s as frugal as it is fun-filled, here are a few of our favorite suggestions.

  1. Start with a financial game plan.  Sounds better than “make a budget,” doesn’t it? Since Super Bowl parties are all about football, it makes sense to prepare like a coach. Setting a spending limit before you shop will help you stiff-arm the creative displays and impulse items at the grocery store. To quote Super Bowl-winning QB, Russel Wilson, “The separation is in the preparation.”
  2. Team up with a co-host. Since football is a team sport, why not recruit a co-host to help you plan your party? Not only can the two of you share the cost of food and decorations, you’ll be able to split the stress of planning as well. Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it?
  3. Digital invites over classic invitations. Sure, Pinterest is packed with clever ideas for intricate Super Bowl invitations, but you know which detail those posts forget to mention? Postage costs. Rather than sending out old-school invites, create a Facebook event and share it with your friends or jump over to Evite.com, where you can design and send online invitations for free!
  4. Downplay the decorations. Let’s face it, even though extravagant decorations might make impressive Instagram posts, people aren’t coming to your Super Bowl party to marvel at your elaborate sandwich stadium and coordinated team napkin displays. Don’t overdo it with the decorations. Dollar store party supplies are perfect.
  5. Generic snacks: The Real MVP. Your guests will probably be snacking from the pre-game festivities to the post-game trophy presentation. What they won’t be doing is critiquing the subtle flavor undertones of your chips and pretzels. So rather than springing for brand name snack foods, grab the store-brand counterparts, serve them in a giant bowl, and kick back knowing you have money left in your food budget.
  6. Encourage crowd participation. Food and drinks are usually the most expensive part of a Super Bowl party—especially if the beverages are of the adult variety. A pot luck meal plan and BYOB policy are great ways to ensure refreshment costs are divided evenly and everyone is guaranteed to have at least one dish they’ll enjoy.
  7. Save big with Super Bowl promos. If you decide to provide all the food for your party, you might as well look for the best deals. Keep an eye on your local grocery store flyers, as they routinely run special sales on traditional party food. If you’re trying to stay out of the kitchen, our credit union is proud to support many restaurants and businesses in the local community, and many of them offer money-saving party promos. Feel free to ask us for recommendations!
  8. Make post-game meal plans. You plan, prepare, and present a spread of tasty food for your guests. Then, when the game’s over, you have to figure out what to do with the leftovers. Fortunately, game day favorites like burgers, chili, and sandwiches can make delicious meals for a few days after the big game. This makes meal planning easy and lunch costs less expensive.

 

With a little creativity and some careful planning, it’s entirely possible to throw a great party without throwing away money in the process. Whether you use all these ideas or just a few that work for you, following these tips will help you host a winning party without spending more than you should.

Fact vs. Fiction: What Really Impacts Your Credit Score?

When it comes to credit scores, it can seem like everyone’s an expert. Ask a random group of people what factors affect your score the most, and you’ll likely get a different response from each person. And the most frustrating part is they’ll probably all be right—and wrong.

Credit scores are calculated based on a variety of factors, so they tend to feel like a secret code. Fortunately, this code is easy to crack. All you have to do is separate fact from fiction. Once you understand the specifics of how your score is determined, it will be easier to sort through all the misinformation.

Focus on the Facts

There are three primary credit reporting bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and Transunion, but the most trusted credit ratings come from the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO). While some lenders and creditors look at a combination of scores from the various reports, the FICO score is widely considered the most reliable. According to FICO experts, your credit score is calculated based on five main categories:

  1. Payment history (35%) – Creditors want to be sure of two things: You pay your bills, and you pay them on time.
  2. Amount owed (30%) – To maintain an ideal credit score, aim to keep your overall debt under 30% of your total available credit.
  3. Length of credit history (15%) – Lenders want to see consistency in credit management. This category looks at how long you’ve had established accounts. The longer, the better.
  4. Credit mix (10%) – Credit scores factor in a wide range of accounts, from credit cards and retail accounts to mortgages and installment loans.
  5. New credit (10%) – Opening new credit accounts isn’t always a bad thing but applying for several all at once can have a negative impact on your score.

Six Common Credit Score Myths:

Checking your credit hurts you. – When you apply for a new loan or credit card, the lender runs a credit inquiry. Too many of these inquiries in a short period can cause your score to dip. However, checking your own credit doesn’t damage your rating. In fact, many credit card companies allow account holders to view their FICO scores for free because regular monitoring is an effective way to spot fraudulent activity or identity theft.

Your income level matters. – While your income certainly influences your ability to pay your debts, it doesn’t factor into your score. Credit reports may list your current and former employers, but that information holds no bearing on your score.

Your education or occupation is important. – It doesn’t matter whether you went to an elite university, community college, or dropped out of high school. Your credit score measures your ability to manage debt, not your educational pedigree. Same goes for your job. Gainfully employed, under-employed, or unemployed, you can still build a good credit score.

Closing a credit card will help your score. – Even if you pay off a credit card, closing the account can hurt you more than it helps. If you’re worried that you might misuse the credit, destroy the card—but keep the account open. The available credit and length of credit history will reflect positively and help you in the long run.

Quick fixes can help bad credit. – Yes, it is possible to Unm Women's Elegant Wear to Work Office Dressy Round Toe Platform Slip On Medium Block Heel Platform Pumps shoes—but you don’t have to pay someone else to do it for you. Because most credit repair relies on sensible, strategic steps applied over time, you can handle it on your own. Rather than paying a credit repair service, use the money you save to bring past due balances up to date or pay down your overall debt.

Avoiding all debt will help you keep a good credit score. – Your credit score is a metric that measures your ability to manage credit—not avoid it. If you don’t have any credit accounts, there’s nothing to measure. That being said, just because you qualify for credit doesn’t mean you have to max it out. You’ll help yourself more by using your credit strategically and paying off your balance each month.

While this list covers some of the most common credit score myths, there are countless others. By focusing on the facts and ignoring anything that doesn’t line up with them, you’ll find it easier to manage your credit with confidence.