4 Steps for Buying a Home in Today’s Economy

Whether you’re a regular news junkie or you rely on your better half to keep you updated on the latest, you’ll get the same conflicting messages about the state of today’s economy. One day you’ll hear about rising wages, and the next day you’ll read about the lagging growth in the GDP, or Gross Domestic Product.

The only thing certain about today’s economy is that it is uncertain. While things look relatively stable now, no one can guarantee what the next few years will bring.

Fortunately, you don’t have to give up on the home of your dreams because of a fluctuating economy. Read on for four steps you can take to make sure your money – and your house – are completely safe regardless of what’s going on.

1.) Maximize your down payment

The magic number for down payments has been established at 20% of the home’s value. Those who can’t afford to plunk down that much money, though, will often put down a much smaller amount.

If you can’t come up with a down payment worth at least 5% of the home’s total value, UCCU can help you get access to some of the down payment assistance programs out there. Call, click, or visit a UCCU branch for more information on what programs might be available for you.

2.) Get less than you qualify for

If you’ve been hoping to qualify for a more expensive home, you may be planning to push the limits of your mortgage approval. In fact, it’s best to buy a house that comes in well under your approved limit, allowing you to maintain a lower debt-to-income ratio. This will give you breathing room and keep your mortgage payments from dwarfing your monthly budget.

Also, if the economy worsens and you feel the effects, you’ll have a smaller mortgage payment to scrape together each month.

The good news is that with UCCU you’re going to get more house for the same payment when compared to getting a mortgage through a conventional bank or mortgage lender.

3.) Pick the right Realtor

Here’s how to cut through the hype of the real estate market and find the Realtor that is truly best for you:

  • Speak to recent clients. Ask about their level of satisfaction and their overall experience with this agent.
  • Look up the licensing of your prospective agent. You should be able to easily find this information online.
  • Choose a winner. A Realtor who has been recognized for their excellent work is one you want working for you.
  • Research how long the agent has been in the business. You don’t want the rookie Realtor who’s building their experience through you.
  • Check the current listings under the Realtor’s name. Are they in the same price range as the house you’re hoping to buy?

4.) Look for red flags

A professional inspection before signing on a home is a given, but did you take a careful look around? You don’t want any unpleasant surprises after you’ve moved in.

Check for the following:

  • A sturdy roof.   Do the shingles look like they’re going to give way in a few years? That can translate into expensive repairs. If you like the house and don’t mind replacing a faulty roof, use it as a negotiating point to get a lower price.
  • Efficient heating and cooling systems. These can be costly to fix and replace, and inefficient systems can really hike up your utility bills.
  • Strong structural components. Most sellers will give their house a new coat of paint before showing it to buyers, but don’t be fooled. If the foundation is weak, the best paint job won’t cover it up. Check beneath the surface for strong pipes, wiring, and insulation.
  • Overall functioning of the home. Don’t be shy; try out everything in your potential new home. Open doors and windows, turn on every faucet, flick each light switch, flush toilets and taste the water. If you find any major problems, you may want to give this house a second thought. If you don’t mind a handful of minor repairs, remember to use these as a negotiating point.

Don’t forget to call, click, or stop by a UCCU branch to learn about our fantastic programs on home loans and mortgages before you start your search. We’re here to help you with the finances as you find the home of your dreams!

Your Turn: Did you recently purchase a new home? What did you wish you’d known before you started on your search? Let us learn from your experience; share your wisdom with us in the comments!

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Presidents on Your Money (Infographic)

How much do you know about the cash you carry and the figures on them? Here’s an infographic to help you know more:

This comes from NerdWallet.com, a website that helps people find low rates on credit cards, savings and checking accounts, scholarships, and other things.

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Intro To Investing – Dividends

Intro To Investing – Dividends

Most people dream of being able to make a stable income just from investing the money they have now. One of the easiest ways to do this is through dividends – one form of return you can receive on your investment dollars.

Dividends are the payments companies make to their owners, who in this case are their stockholders. Here’s a helpful analogy to make it clear.

If you and a friend built a chair using lumber you purchased for $10 and you sold that chair for $50, you’d each take home $20. The “company” in this case is you and your friend, who are working together. Whoever paid for materials would be reimbursed out of the sale of the proceeds. The rest of the money would be the company’s earnings and the company would pay you both, as owners.

Things aren’t so straightforward with stocks and dividends, though. You’re an investor in the company, so you’re essentially loaning the company money (or are buying someone else’s loan). The company might use that money to pay employees, buy raw materials, improve their machinery or expand their business. In exchange for that loan, the company agrees to pay you a set amount, called a dividend. Dividends can pay out monthly, quarterly, semiannually or annually.

There are a few other keywords to know when looking at dividends. First, recognize the difference between dividend yield (a percentage) and payable dividend (an amount of money). Payable dividend is the amount of money the company pays per share. If a company pays 32 cents per share, and you own 100 shares, your dividend will be $32. The yield is the payable dividend divided by the stock price. This lets you know what percentage return you’ll get on your investment.

Be careful when shopping for stocks that offer a high dividend yield. Often, companies looking to attract investment will take steps to lower the price of their stock by increasing the percentage yield without changing the payable amount. A company that pulls these kinds of tricks is often not in the best financial position, and your dividend money could dry up in a hurry.

The second set of terms is pay date, ex-date and announcement date. The pay date is the date on which the company will pay out the dividends. They’ll deposit money in your brokerage account or mail you a check on that date. The “ex-date” is short for excluded dividend date. If you were a shareholder on the ex-date, you are entitled to dividend payments. If you sold before that or bought after that, you don’t get dividend payments. The announcement date is the date at which the board of directors announces they’ll be paying a dividend. Such an announcement will include a pay date, an ex-date and a payable dividend amount.

Dividend investment strategies differ from growth strategies in two key ways. First, growth investors try to get in on the ground floor of an emerging stock, while dividend investors are usually buying shares of established companies that have strong track records. Second, growth investors have to sell their shares to receive their investment gains. Dividend investors want to hold their shares as long as possible to keep getting those dividend payments. While growth investment offers more risk, it also has the potential of offering a higher reward. Growth stocks generally increase in value faster than dividends increase.

Fortunately, the UCCU Financial Group is ready and willing to help you navigate through the complexities of investing. Visit uccufinancialgroup.com, or contact Steve Lloyd at lloyds@peakfns.com , 801-223-7502, to learn more about how you can maximize your investment portfolio.

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3 Reasons to Refinance Your Car Loan

Some bills can’t be changed. For other bills, though, a little legwork can make a big difference in your monthly payment. Your car payment is a great example. Refinancing your vehicle loan can lead to a lower monthly payment, a shorter payment term or both! It depends on various factors, including the value of your vehicle, how much you owe and your credit standing.

Read on for three common life changes that might mean it’s a good time to refinance your vehicle.

1.) Your credit rating improves

The biggest factor determining your auto loan status is your credit score. When your lender builds a loan package, they pull a credit report as a central part of that process. That number determines your interest rate, whether you’ll pay an insurance premium and what other fees your lender might charge.

Keep a copy of the documents your lender pulled. That can let you see if your credit score has improved. Nine months of steady repayment can boost your credit score, resulting in a less costly loan.

If you didn’t have much credit history when you purchased, refinancing can do you a world of good. Interest rates as high as 18% are common for new borrowers. Just a few months of solid payments may cut that rate in half.

2.) You didn’t shop around initially

Many people feel railroaded throughout the car-buying process. They choose a car, and then are told the price, the monthly payment and everything else. It’s almost like the lender for your car loan is predetermined.

Dealers usually have a smaller range of lenders with whom they exclusively work. Those lenders have limited exposure to competition, so they can charge higher fees and rates. Do your own comparison shopping. Dealer rates can be 1 to 1.5% higher than those offered at smaller lenders, like credit unions.

If you’ve never shopped around for a car loan, it’s worth doing now. Do your shopping inside a 15-day period, though; multiple checks on your credit could negatively impact your credit score.

3.) You need to change your monthly payment

Your financial situation may have improved since you bought the car and you can now afford to pay more per month. You’ll save money in the long term by doing just that. Shorter-term loans usually have lower interest rates. Also, you’ll pay off the overall balance on your car faster.

If money is tight, consider refinancing for a longer term. Although you’ll pay more in interest, you’ll reduce your monthly payment and save the money you need now. You may also be able to reduce the monthly payment if your credit score has improved, interest rates have dropped or if you’re getting a better rate from another lender.

Your Turn: How do you save money on your car payment? Let us know your best tips and tricks in the comments, and don’t forget to stop by Utah Community Credit Union to find out how refinancing can improve your financial life!

SOURCES:

http://www.bankrate.com/loans/auto-loans/10-steps-to-your-best-deal-on-a-car-loan/

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/long-improve-credit/story?id=33695732

https://www.learnvest.com/knowledge-center/ask-credit-karma-how-does-my-auto-loan-refinance-affect-my-credit/

https://www.creditkarma.com/article/refinancing-credit-effects

http://www.bankrate.com/auto/5-situations-when-it-makes-the-most-sense-to-refinance-your-car/

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Road Trip On A Budget

It’s spring break season! In a few weeks, college campuses will empty out and highways will fill up with students blowing off a semester’s worth of steam while road tripping to great vacation destinations. For many students, this might be the first time they’ve taken a vacation without parents to help plan (and pay for) it. For a newbie, it can be quite a challenge.

Worry not, road warrior! Here are a few ways you can save some green on your next four-wheeled adventure. Try these three savings tips!

1.) Budget beforehand

If there’s one rule of financially savvy vacationing, it’s this one: Make a budget before you hit the road. It can be easy to justify an ever-ballooning budget. A few dollars here and there can quickly turn into one big expense, and it’s one you could be paying for long after the semester’s over.

Instead, take control of your spending by giving yourself a realistic goal of how much you’ll spend. If you end up a few dollars over, you can make up the difference much easier than if you were to later find out you massively overspent. Making a budget also gives you an idea of how much you need to save between now and the start of your grand adventure.

 

2.) Feed your future

Gas station food might be an attractive option after you’ve spent all day on the road, but it’s not always the best plan. In addition to the cost, such food is generally fried and unhealthy. You probably don’t want to spend the first few days of a great vacation sweating off a pound of fried cheese! Beyond the food, spending money on bottled beverages can do some quick damage to your budget.

As much as possible, prepare your snacks before leaving. Even if that means just putting snack-sized bags of chips together out of a big bag and filling a cooler jug with water, the cost savings are well worth the time. If you’re feeling more on top of things, consider packing bread and sandwich fixings to save on roadside lunches. If you plan on stopping at restaurants for dinner, consider shopping ahead of time at a gift card exchange site where you can grab other people’s Christmas rejects for a fraction of the price, or check Groupon for good restaurant deals in most cities across the US.

 

3.) Vet your vehicle

Nothing will influence the roadtrip experience more than your choice of vehicle. This is where you’ll be for several hours a day, so you’ll want to make sure it’s as comfortable as possible. Beyond a thorough cleaning, consider what maintenance tasks you’ve been putting off. Get a tire rotation and an oil change before you leave to avoid having to pay for expensive repairs on the road.

Finally, you’ll also want to make sure all the legalities are covered. Make sure your insurance is current and you know where your card is located. Call your insurance company to make sure you’re covered if someone else is driving your car. Confirm that your plates are current and that you know where all your important documents are. Taking these steps can prevent an expensive and time-consuming ticket!

Your Turn: What are your best road trip savings tips? Let us know in the comments about how you keep the costs down on your highway adventures!

 

SOURCES:

https://www.thetravelingpraters.com/practical-tips-save-money-next-road-trip/

http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/06/05/8-money-saving-tips-to-jump-start-a-summer-road-trip

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/7-tips-for-a-frugal-hassle-free-road-trip-3.aspx

http://www.businessinsider.com/10-money-saving-tips-for-the-penny-pinching-roadtripper-2012-6

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Rising Interest Rates: What Do They Mean For You?

Home

If you read financial headlines, you’ve no doubt seen the news that the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates. These headlines can be accompanied with all sorts of hyperbole about the end of the stock market, the boom of bonds or any of a dozen other possible predictions. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when there’s this much information and so much of it is conflicting. Let’s set the record straight on what rising prime interest rates mean for you and your:

  • Adjustable-rate Mortgage
  • Portfolio
  • Savings
  • Debt

The prime interest rate is the rate that the Federal Reserve charges financial institutions to borrow from it. It influences a lot of other financial prices. Many of these are only of concern to investment bankers, professional investors and other economic enthusiasts. Here are some key ways the prime rate hikes can affect you!

1.) Get out of your ARM

Many people opted for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) when interest rates were historically low. These mortgages often have much better rates for an introductory period, usually five years, before they adjust to a new rate. That new rate is determined in large part by the rate the Federal Reserve charges.

The Federal Reserve is planning to continue to increase interest rates as the economy continues to improve. This means the rate on your ARM may go up as well. Worse yet, the rising rates could make your monthly mortgage payment unpredictable, putting you in a bit of a budget bind. Fortunately, you can refinance your mortgage into a fixed-rate loan and take advantage of still-low interest rates. You may still be able to secure a low rate on a 10-, 15- or 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. As interest rates continue to rise, your fixed-rate mortgage will stay the same, meaning your savings will increase as time goes on.

2.) Balance your portfolio

The historically low interest rates over the past six years have done wonders for the stock market. Because companies could borrow at affordable rates, they could expand rapidly. That expansion fuels growth in stock prices.

As interest rates rise, that credit availability will decrease. Companies will find it more difficult to expand, and their growth will slow. This slowing of growth may lead to a decline in stock prices.

However, as interest rates rise, bond rates will also increase. That will lead to an increase in their price as more investors chase those rates. Individual investors need to ensure their portfolios are properly balanced to take advantage of changing market conditions. Speaking to a financial adviser to ensure your assets are where they need to be will help keep your investments growing at a healthy rate.

3.) Save more

The Federal Reserve interest rate also affects the rates that financial institutions are able to offer account holders. As it becomes more expensive to borrow from other institutions, it’s more profitable for those institutions to “borrow” from their members in the form of certificates and savings accounts. As interest rates continue to rise, it’ll be increasingly more profitable to sock your money away in an interest-bearing account.

If you’ve been putting off opening a certificate or increasing the deposits in your share account, now is an excellent time to consider it. With a 12- or 24-month certificate, you can take advantage of rising interest rates while still leaving yourself the flexibility to re-invest once interest rates rise again.

4.) Refinance your debt

The service charges on several kinds of debt are tied to the prime rate. Notably, credit cards and private student loan rates may increase as the prime rate continues to climb. That makes now a great time to think about refinancing.

Take advantage of currently low interest rates with several strategies. A home equity line of credit can help bundle your high-interest, unsecured debt with your low-interest mortgage. A personal loan for refinancing can also help secure a better interest rate. Other options exist, and the sooner you speak with a debt counselor or other financial professional, the better off you’ll be.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the financial terminology surrounding news events like rate hikes. That’s why it’s best to have an advocate in your corner to help you figure out what to make of a changing economic landscape. Utah community Credit Union can do just that. Call, click or stop by to speak to a member services representative about how you can take advantage of this opportunity and put yourself on the path to financial wellness.

Find your nearest UCCU location here: http://www.uccu.com/home/uccu/locations

Your Turn: Got questions about rising interest rates? Leave your questions in the comments. Or, if you’ve got a handle on all things economic, share your wisdom with others!

Sources:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/consumers/2017/01/19/bit-bit-rising-interest-rates-making-impact/96560462/
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/your-money/increases-in-interest-rates-on-savings-accounts-remain-slow-to-materialize.html?_r=0
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2016/12/28/what-2017-may-mean-your-personal-finances/95736736/

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Tomorrow's Millionaires: Don't Bust the Budget!

Girl Shopping Facebook

This challenging activity is the perfect way to constructively fill those bitterly cold winter weekends.

Did you ever wish there was some way to get your fashion-conscious 11-year-old to realize all those things she’s asking you for actually cost money? Try this activity with your child this weekend, and your wish will be granted!

Take your child on a trip to the mall and give her a task: She can purchase a specific item she’s been asking for (a new pair of boots, a gym bag, etc.) with a set amount of cash. She cannot spend a penny more than that amount, and cannot ask you for that item again this season. Tell your preteen that you’re only going to accompany him around the mall – you will not tell him which store to choose for making the purchase, or which item to buy. As an added bonus, allow your child to keep any change left after buying the item. The freedom to spend as he pleases will thrill your child, and the offer to keep the change will motivate him to spend as little as possible.

On the way to the mall, give your preteen a quick briefing on what to look out for when choosing the item – things like quality, overpriced brand-name merchandise, hiked-up seasonal items, etc.

Then, as promised, keep your mouth closed as you accompany your child around the mall and watch in amazement as he learns invaluable lifetime skills such as comparison-shopping, saving, peer pressure and more. It all happens in one productive afternoon at the mall!

Your Turn: Have you given your child a budget for a specific item and then watched with pride as he or she carefully calculated every penny to make the perfect choice? Share your success (or your own lessons learned) with us!

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How to Build Good Credit in College

Credit - 1MB

You have most likely heard people talk about the importance of having good credit. It’s also likely you were never taught what “credit” even means or how to improve it. Let’s face it, you probably didn’t learn about it in high-school, and you probably didn’t learn it in college either!

Simply put, credit is your ability to buy things now, based on the trust that you will pay for it later. Of course, you can cross your heart and hope-to- die that you will pay for that 70-inch TV later, but without a proven track record, no one can believe you.

Credit is developed by consistently fulfilling that obligation on time (like your monthly credit card bill, car payment, mortgage payment, etc.).  Credit is expressed on a numerical scale from 300 – 850 (850 being a perfect score).

Don’t worry, no one is perfect, but the optimal score that banks and credit unions want you to have is about 720-740. The higher your score, the more a financial institution can trust you. What this means for you is higher trust equates to better benefits.

You might be tempted at some point to simply ignore the whole credit game altogether and go through life on your debit card. I know I was, and sometimes I still am! However, poor credit scores can make health, car, and life insurance more expensive. It can become difficult to get a cell phone contract or even an apartment!

Good credit is important to avoid problems while moving through life, but it is absolutely necessary to progress financially. You don’t want to live in your parents’ basement for the rest of your life or drive that beater multi-colored Honda Civic your dad drove while he was in college. Good credit is necessary to make big purchases like a that 70-inch TV, a new car, or a house.

Okay, so it’s important, but what should you even do?  Here are 3 things college students can do to build good credit.

1. Get a credit card. 

Get a credit card and stay on top of it. Getting a major credit card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover) helps get your credit score into the 700’s and enables you to apply for car loans, house loans, and others.Try to find a credit card that offers no annual fee that also has a low interest rate.

Use your first credit card to pay for small, frequent purchases like gas and groceries instead of big purchases like a mattress or the TV. Using the credit card for the frequent little purchases makes it easier to pay off every month because that is money you would spend no matter what.

What if your credit is too low to even get a credit card? Don’t worry, there’s a way out of that.

Most banks and credit unions offer secured credit cards. Secured credit cards are low limit credit cards meant to help those with bad credit recover. They are similar to prepaid credit cards – you pay a certain amount to open the card, that amount is now your credit limit.

Then you pay off the balance like any other credit card, allowing you to rebuild your credit. That amount you paid to open the card in the first place is the collateral the institution holds in case you fail to make payments. That is how the institution protects itself.

Utah Community Credit Union offers a special “Build Good Credit Loan” for those looking to recover from bad credit or strengthen the credit the already have. To learn more, come into to any of the 15 locations http://www.uccu.com/home/uccu/locations.

2. Keep debt low 

When you have a credit card, keep the balance well below the limit. Most financial institutions recommend staying below 70% of the credit limit, but staying around 30% of the credit limit is optimal.

You may have heard the term “maxed out my credit card.” Maxing out a credit card means using your credit limit, and this can make it very difficult to pay off. It can also get the credit card locked, which will deny any further use until it is paid off.

Keeping the balance low (by paying it off frequently) shows that you are living within your financial means and that you could handle more responsibility (like a car). Credit Cards will have a minimum monthly payment required on all standing balances. Be sure to pay more than the minimum amount in order to pay off debt faster.

Tip: If you are unable to afford the minimum monthly payment, you have taken on too much debt and need to curb your spending.

If you already have a credit card, you are paying it off, and you are keeping the balance low, the next step is to get another credit card. Two credit cards working to improve your score is better than one. The same principles apply to the second credit card as the first. Keep the balance low and pay it off every month on time.

Don’t become a credit card collector- don’t get a second credit card and then never use it, an inactive credit card can actually push your credit score down.  You could buy a pack of gum, then pay it off that next day and the credit card will stay active and keep building your credit.

Many credit cards offer special benefits like miles or points for airline ticket purchase and other products; shop around a bit to find the best one. Start your search by visiting the UCCU credit card page here: http://www.uccu.com/home/loans/visa

3. Stay consistent 

Stay at the same job for longer periods of time. Financial institutions want to see reliability and stability. If they see that you change jobs every couple months, you will look too risky. While still in school, it is not uncommon to change every 5-6 months. After college, however, it is best to stay for at least 1-2 years.

Stay in one place. Again, the goal is stability and reliability. Moving apartments every few months looks risky. You could be moving for perfectly legitimate reasons, but the creditors won’t know that. Frequent moving could indicate inability to pay rent, as well as other financial irresponsibility.

Of course, the most important way to stay consistent is to pay all bills on time and in full. Late payments on things like utilities, phone bill, credit card, and other loans can all negatively impact your credit score.

Your turn: What are some other tips and tricks for building good credit? Be sure to share this article with your friends and family so they too can progress financially!

By Kelby Gatrell

Kelby Gatrell is the Social Media Marketing Intern at Utah Community Credit Union. He currently attends Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and is double-majoring in Business Marketing and Russian Studies.

Sources

http://www.uccu.com/home/loans/visa

http://www.wikihow.com/Build-Good-Credit

How to Build Credit

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Best Times to Buy 2017

Sales Calendar

When you’re mulling over a major purchase, the right price can often tip the scales. If you’re patient, willing to research and time your buys just right, you can save quite a bit of green. Here are the best things to buy during each month for the rest of the year!

February: Prepare for winter

Now’s a great time to take stock of your existing cold weather gear. If you’ve got a coat that’s seen its final winter, now’s a great time to replace it. Retailers are looking to clear out the last of the season’s merchandise to make room for spring clothes, so you can snag a deal on thermal clothes. You can also find a bargain on heaters and humidifiers to make your house more comfortable.

March: Get in shape

If you’re looking to reboot your New Year’s weight loss resolution, March is a great time to pick up exercise equipment at a discount. Treadmills and ellipticals are past their peak buying time, so retailers are looking to get rid of them. Sports equipment, like golf clubs and athletic wear, are also facing deep discounts.

April: Tech out!

Japanese manufacturers’ fiscal year ends in March, so they’re typically ready to roll out new product lines. If you’re OK with being a year behind the latest and greatest, you can pick up a fully functional digital camera, laptop computer or big-screen TV in April. Tax refund-themed sales may also make it cheaper to upgrade your technological goods.

May: Around the house

Now that the weather’s getting nicer, many home improvement shops will begin running sales on tools and other supplies. It’s also graduation time, which means dorm-stocking essentials will get some discounts. Check out basic pots, pans and cooking appliances in May.

June: Think thrifty

Everyone’s gotten a chance to get their spring cleaning done. That means thrift stores are stuffed with donated second-hand goods. Be on the lookout for bargains of all sorts, but especially for used furniture and clothes.

July: School supplies

The end of July marks back-to-school time, which means this is the month retailers start to gear up for school shopping. Look for promotions, like tax-free days, if you’re in the market for a computer or peripheral. Otherwise, you can stock up on pens, paper and other standard office essentials.

August: Beat the heat

If you’ve managed through the heat of the summer with a busted AC, August may provide some much-needed relief. Major appliance retailers are looking to shift their inventories from cooling to heating. Look for discounts on window AC units, dehumidifiers and other cool appliances.

September: Big-ticket

The new models of most major appliances start to roll out in October and November, making September an excellent time to grab last year’s model. If you need a new dishwasher or refrigerator, try to hold out until September. Also, new Apple accessories, like iPads and iPhones, typically come out in November or December, so September can be a great chance to upgrade your device, too.

October: Cars and cruises

The new model year begins for cars toward the end of summer, so there are a lot of leftovers from the previous year that need to go. Dealers are desperate to move inventory, so you can get a good price on the current year’s models. October is also a quiet season for cruise lines, so many of them run specials and sales during the month.

November: Game on

Christmas season is in high gear, and major retailers are competing for gamer bucks. Expect to see the best bundles with the hottest games for the lowest prices in November. Whether you’re trying to surprise a gamer in your life or just get the newest games for yourself, November is the time to buy.

December: Threads

After-Christmas deals are almost as legendary as Black Friday deals, so why not get out and snap up some of those clothes that are up to 90% off! Check out stores like Nordstrom Rack, and Nike for clothing stores just don’t want any more.

Your Turn: What’s your best deal-nabbing tip? How do you find the lowest prices for the best stuff? Share your bargain hunting wisdom with us in the comments!

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Don’t Panic: Filing Taxes As A College Student

Frustrated Student

Imagine skipping a day of class, then coming into the next session and seeing a test. You open the packet and see what appears to be gibberish staring back at you. Everyone else around you seems to have a perfect grasp of what’s going on, but you’re just stumbling in the dark.

That can be what the process of preparing your taxes can feel like the first time you do them. You’re given a big pile of paper and expected to sort it out yourself. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Before you start to panic, though, take a deep breath. There are a few questions that might make your life much easier. Grab that big stack of paper and ask yourself …

1.) Do I even have to file?

There’s an easy way to short circuit this whole process. If you didn’t make much money last year, you don’t have to file taxes. If your earned income (wages and tips) is less than $6,300 and your unearned income (interest and dividends) is less than $1,050, you probably don’t have to file taxes.

Of course, you might still want to do so. If you had a summer job, your employer took taxes out of your paycheck as though you’d been working all year. You might be able to get a little bit of a refund for your effort.

2.) How hard does this have to be?

If your tax situation is relatively simple, you may be eligible to use a form called the 1040-EZ (as in easy). It’s a much more straightforward document. You just enter your wages, your filing status (married or single) and the taxes you’ve already paid. It’s all laid out on your W-2, the form you got in the mail or online from your employer.

The 1040-EZ lives up to its name. It’s one page long. Once you put your name, address and Social Security number on it, you’re about halfway done. You don’t get to claim any tax credits, but there aren’t a lot of tax credits available for college students in any case.

3.) Where can I get help?

You don’t have to go it alone. If you’re feeling antisocial, you can (and should) use an e-filing service. The IRS has a tool to help you pick the best one. It’s available here: https://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/jsp/wizard.jsp?ck.

TurboTax is a popular e-filing tax service we suggest using that simplifies and explains the whole process from start to finish. If you are in college, you are most likely able to file through TurboTax completely free. TurboTax offers this free service for those who:

  • Made less than $100,000
  • Don’t own a home or rental property
  • Didn’t sell investments
  • Don’t own a business or have 1099 income (usually for independent contractors)
  • Don’t have major medical expenses

People who don’t fit in the free TurboTax requirements can still use Turbotax for a fee. Fortunately, TurboTax has partnered with Utah Community Credit Union (UCCU) and offers discounts of up to $15 for members of UCCU. Members can access the discounts by following this link:

https://turbotax.intuit.com/microsite/home.htm?priorityCode=3468350029&cid=all_0utahco1_aff_3468350029

There may also be additional tax help available. A program called the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is available on many college campuses. Business students looking to bolster their resumes will frequently volunteer to help with taxes for free. This is especially important if your tax situation is more complicated, like if you’re paying for college on your own or have self-employment income from a side hustle.

Your Turn: Are you stressed about taxes? Tell us about it in the comments, or pop down and help your fellow students out!

Sources:

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-you-by-volunteers

http://blog.taxact.com/1040-tax-forms/

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/when-does-your-child-have-file-tax-return.html

https://turbotax.intuit.com/

https://turbotax.intuit.com/microsite/home.htm?priorityCode=3468350029&cid=all_0utahco1_aff_3468350029

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