6 Ways to Save On Your Summer Vacation

The ocean is calling – and so is the open road. Your dream vacation awaits! But first, you need to work out the financial details. How are you going to pay for your getaway? How much can you realistically spend? Where is the money for your vacation going to come from?

Ideally, a plump vacation fund that’s fed throughout the year is the way to go. Unfortunately, though, we often don’t think about how to pay for vacation until it’s a few weeks away. To make things even worse, according to LearnVest, an alarming 74% of Americans go into debt to pay for a vacation.

Don’t become part of that statistic! Be proactive in planning your vacation by saving up for it in advance. Forgo some luxuries in the months or weeks leading up to your vacation and save the extra cash for your getaway. Consider running a yard sale featuring all of your forgotten treasures and use the profits to fund your trip. Skip your weekly dinner out for a while and put the money in your vacation budget.

Now it’s time to plan your vacation! When you’ve got the money saved up, create a realistic vacation budget. These six vacation saving tips will help you plan the perfect getaway while staying well within your budget.

1.) Timing is everything

Be a savvy shopper. There is an ideal window for buying everything, and booking airline flights is no exception. Flight prices generally fluctuate until departure day, but experts say the sweet spot is 54 days before your travel date. If you don’t want to be busy checking prices all day, sign up for emails from a savings alert site. Let them know which dates and locations you’re interested in, and they’ll let you know when a flight goes on sale so you can book your discounted tickets before they’re sold out.

2.) Clear your cache

Hotel and airline sites use cookies to determine what you’re shopping for. They’ll see which days you’re searching and raise their prices accordingly. Beat the system by clearing your cache before every new search so they can’t read into your browser history. You might see as much as a 50% drop in prices when searching with an empty cache!

3.) Sweet-talk your way to savings

Just because your hotel room is pre-booked, it doesn’t mean you can’t save. Don’t be shy about asking for an upgrade at check-in. About 78% of hotel guests who request an upgrade at the front desk actually receive one. Some face-to-face schmoozing can go a long way!

Also, by 6 p.m., most hotels know which rooms will be filled for the night. If you check in later in the day, you’ll have a better chance at getting the keys to the room with the incredible view – even with your economy-class price tag.

4.) Never pay full price

You can score a deluxe vacation without the deluxe price tag – all it takes is a little research. Check sites like coupondivas.com, entertainment.com and Groupon.com for amazing deals and deep discounts for local eateries and entertainment centers. You can also find cheaper tickets to nearby amusement parks by looking for sellers on Craigslist. Also, if you’re traveling with kids, don’t forget to look up restaurants with “Kids Eat Free” promotions.

5.) Freebie fun

Challenge yourself to enjoy one day of your vacation without spending any money at all. Search local sites and blogs for write-ups about fantastic free things to do nearby. You might find a charming family farm, a gorgeous waterway, a fun splash pad for the kids or a scenic hiking trail. Or, just spend the day at the closest beach!

Don’t eat out on this day either. Many hotels include a continental breakfast – take full advantage. For lunch, you can picnic on sandwiches. Dinner can be something effortless and delicious that you brought from home or pick up at a local supermarket. Consider packing a travel grill or panini maker for easy meals. You can heat up some hot dogs or burger patties, or bring some baguettes and an assortment of sliced cheeses for fresh paninis. Round off the meal with some pre-sliced veggies.

You’ll be surprised at how much fun you can have without spending a penny!

6.) Save your mega event for the last day

The taste of dessert is what lingers after the meal is through. End your vacation on a sweet note by saving your most exciting event for your last day away.

So, start budgeting now by deciding where you’d like to travel to, a rough estimate of what it will cost, and how much you can set aside each month to get to that number. Who knows, maybe selling some extra possessions in that yard sale or online will give you an extra boost towards your vacation fund!

Bonus Tip:

Check out the deals that our partner GetAwayToday is offering on their website. Just follow this link and you’ll see all the prices at a special UCCU Member discount.

Your Turn: How do you save big on summer vacation? Share your best hacks and tips with us in the comments!

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Summer Semester Fun

Here’s a real brainteaser for you: Flip-flops, sunscreen, smoothies, and textbooks – which of these is not like the others?

If you’re one of the thousands of college students staying on for the summer semester, this assortment may accurately describe your summer plans.

It’s great that you’re choosing the summer months to catch up with or get ahead of your schoolwork. But is there a way to keep on top of your studies while still making time for some much-needed fun in the sun?

You bet there is! Here’s how:

1.) Study outdoors

Yes, you’ll need to spend lots of time buried in your textbooks this summer. No, that doesn’t mean you need to be cooped up indoors while the rest of the world is enjoying the sunshine. Grab your books and some friends to initiate a study session at an outdoor bench, a grassy park, a scenic waterfront, or even a remote lake. Bring sunglasses, cold drinks, a good set of notes and your best highlighter. Then, get your work done while still enjoying summer!

2.) Hike and learn

Hiking is a fantastic way to stay in shape and have some outdoor fun. But, did you know it can also be a great time to study? It’s true – all you need is a pair of earbuds! Plug into a recorded lecture you’d love to review or even an online video that offers more information on a subject you’re studying and hit the trails. You’ll absorb information while giving yourself a physical challenge and getting lots of fresh air.

3.) Make the most of weekends

Even the busiest student has some free time. Instead of crashing, plan those spare hours well. Use them for a full-day’s trip to a nearby amusement park, beach or another local getaway. One day of pure fun will give you the boost you need for another week of hard work! Maybe even two!

4.) Take a road trip

With stacks of papers to write and exams to cram for, you might think that endless road trips are an impossible summer dream. Think again!

While you can’t take off for a cross-country drive when you need to be in class early the next morning, you can still pack into the car with a bunch of friends and hit the road without neglecting your schoolwork. Just turn the trip into a study session! You can have one friend serve as “lecturer” by reading their notes aloud. You and your friends can audibly hear and absorb as you wind around impossible bends and past mountains or meadows. Alternatively, play a recorded lecture for everyone to enjoy and let the words sink in as you cruise.

5.) Take time to chill

To avoid total burnout, squeeze some downtime into your daily schedule. Grab an early morning bike ride, take a quick jog after your classes, or indulge in a stop at the local ice cream shop before tackling your homework. You’ll be glad you did. Even if it’s just a 10-minute break at the neighborhood park, those few minutes of airing out will give you the fuel you need to hit the books and keep going.

Your Turn: Have you ever taken summer classes? How did you stay on top of your work and still make time for summer fun? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

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Newlyweds: Don’t let Financial Stress Take the Cake

Of all the things to discuss before marriage, finances are the least exciting. Statistically, money is the top reason couples argue and financial arguments are among the top predictors of divorce.

So, how can you avoid becoming a statistic? Here are some ideas from the experts:

Talk To Each Other

  • A 2013 poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling  found 68% of engaged couples have negative attitudes about discussing money. To 45%, it’s “necessary but awkward,” and 7% say it’s “likely to lead to a fight.” Five percent predict it would call off the wedding.
  • The result? Couples don’t talk finances. A Fidelity survey found that over one-third don’t know their partner’s salary, of which 72% think they communicate “very well” about finances.

It’s not surprising: What’s romantic about debt, budgets or taxes? Nobody can ensure newlywed happiness, but experts agree: Don’t wait.

Discuss taxes now. If you’re both employed, the “marriage penalty” may cost you more; consider marrying in January. But if one spouse earns the majority, you’ll enjoy a “marriage bonus” and a December wedding might be wise.

Talking about money now is important, but so is how. SmartMoney found that over 70% of couples talk about money weekly. The problem? “Most of us don’t know how to talk about money,” says Mary Claire Allvine, certified financial planner. “People tend to be emotional and reactive, not strategic.”

Whether you talk money weekly or monthly, agree on a system and stay open to change.

Get Started

Start easy: “What’s your first money memory?” “How did you spend your allowance?” Then, go further:

  •  “Are you a spender or saver?” – If one saves and one spends, create a budget considering both styles. Studies show that men and women spend differently. Women tackle daily expenses (groceries, utilities, clothes); men make larger purchases (TVs, cars, computers). Amounts might be equal, but perceptions differ. About 36% of partners don’t discuss big purchases; that’s a recipe for disaster.
  • “Are you in debt?” – Your spouse’s debt doesn’t become yours, but it affects your choices. Heavy credit card debt complicates home buying. Make reducing debt a priority.  A TD Ameritrade survey found 38% of partners unaware of the other’s debts.
  • “What are your financial goals?” “Where do you want to be in five or 20 years?” – Goal-oriented people progress toward savings and investing targets faster. Decide on the targets: buying a home, starting a family, being debt-free. List your goals, then share and plan together.

Know what’s important to each other: things or experiences? A house or saving for retirement? Clarify these values early on in the marriage.

Trust Each Other

A Money survey revealed that those who trust their partner with finances feel more secure and argue less. That trust isn’t common among newlyweds.

Be honest. If you made a foolish purchase, own up to it. Some 40% of partners have lied about the price of a purchase. Lying about money has huge repercussions.

Support one another; finger-pointing or retreating won’t help. Instead, work together on a plan.

You’re Still Individuals

Celebrate differences. Your bargain-hunter should do the spending while you invest the savings. Choose a monthly amount each can spend, no questions asked. Money claims the average is $150.

A joint bank account has pros and cons. SmartMoney found 64% of couples put all their money in joint accounts; 14% kept everything separate. Many newlyweds choose both: yours, mine, and ours. Calculate shared living expenses and then contribute your portion of those costs.

Ask For Help

If money conversations are tough, hire a professional. Your credit union can help. Act now to ensure money won’t prevent your wedded bliss.

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In Loving Memory of Coach Lavell Edwards

As we celebrated our 60th Anniversary, we had the privilege of working with a member of this community that we greatly admire: former BYU head football coach, Lavell Edwards. We’d like to thank Coach Edwards and his eternal companion, Patti, for this incredible experience and for the legacy they’ve given to this community.

Thank you Coach and Patti Edwards!

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UCCU Cross Town Clash!

Did you know that two of the largest universities in our state – BYU and UVU – compete in five different sports, every single year? It’s called the UCCU Cross Town Clash and you won’t want to miss a single game!

So bring your family and bring your friends. Wear your green, wear your blue, or wear both! Show your community pride as we support these amazing universities and build traditions that inspire higher education, sportsmanship, and alumni pride.

Every sport, every game, every season… brought to you by your friends at UCCU.

Visit uccu.com/clash to see a full schedule and get your UCCU member special ticket pricing!

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6 Buyer Tips for Hot Housing Markets

Couple outside new home

The housing market is heating up! For buyers, this may lead to submitting multiple offers or a potential bidding war. If you or someone you know is in the market to buy a home, here are six ways to give your offer the best chance for seller acceptance, especially when the competition is stiff:

Get preapproved: Go through the process to be pre-approved so you know your purchase ability, and have a strong cover letter prepared for your seller.

Don’t lowball: When making offers, try to be first and don’t lowball. Being first to the negotiating table plants you in the seller’s mind. But when listings are scarce, lowball offers are a losing strategy.

Opt for an escalation clause: In a hot market you can opt for an escalation clause in your offer that tells the seller you will beat any offer exceeding your bid by $1,000, up to a maximum amount of your choosing.

Perform inspections upfront: It may cost a few hundred dollars, but having an inspection performed upfront shows your’re serious. And when you make an offer without contingencies, sellers pay attention.

Tell them you love it: Ask you agent to deliver a letter listing the reasons why this house is perfect for your family (include pictures and be specific).

Don’t overpay: Do your research on the market by reviewing comparable property sales prices, schools, and online reviews for local businesses. Chat with your potential neighbors as well to get a wealth of information as well as a possible inside scoop.

What other tips do you have for navigating a hot housing market? Leave your tips in the comments!

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UCCU – Employee’s Choice for Best Place to Work

“Amazing company. I love what they stand for and how they run things.”

Utah Community Credit Union recently received national praise from career website Glassdoor, honored as one of the top 50 best small and midsize companies to work for in the nation.

Glassdoor evaluates anonymous, voluntary employee reviews to pick the winners. UCCU ranked number 44 out of 50, and was the only financial institution to make the list. In their reviews, UCCU’s employees have given a 99% approval rating for Jeff Sermon, President and CEO.

One review from an employee highlighted what he likes about his workplace. “It is a wonderful environment. They really want every one of their employees to be happy and successful. If you are a student they will work with your school schedule as best as they can without compromising service to their members.”

Another employee recently elaborated on the opportunities she’s enjoyed and lessons she has learned while worked at UCCU. “As a 20 year old, I was entrusted to start as a loan officer. Where else would I have been able to do that?” She praised UCCU for sticking to our mission. “UCCU strives to help people make smart decisions and to learn how to appropriately manager their money. This has greatly influenced me, and I have learned how to appropriately budget and save.”

As this is an employee’s choice award, it’s fitting to note that 94 percent of our employees have recommended the company to a friend.

We’re humbled by and grateful for the praise and the approval from our employees.

As one employee said, “There are so many things that I truly love about UCCU, but I don’t want to spoil everything! Come find out for yourself!”

Go browse all 65 reviews from employees on UCCU to see what else employees like. What do you like about working with UCCU?

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Business Book Review: E-Myth Revisited

Starting a small business is hard work; any budding entrepreneur can tell you that. Unfortunately, though, all that work is often for the wrong purposes.

People start businesses because they’re good at making a product or providing a service. That doesn’t mean they’re good at running a business! Michael Gerber takes on this “E-myth” — that someone can be an effective entrepreneur with much technical skill and little business sense.

The book is written as a step-by-step guide for thinking through building a business. The goal of any good business, according to Gerber, is to be able to hand it over to someone with minimal skills and have it run just the same – the franchise model of business. Gerber lays out many solid principles for achieving this goal.

It’s worth noting that the book is somewhat dated. It has little to say, for instance, about the power of digital marketing or social innovation. The text can also feel a little too sales-oriented, as Gerber regularly references his own consulting business. Some critics find the abstraction difficult to parse and the advice a little too general to apply to real world business operations.

Despite these limitations, “E-myth” is still worth a read. Taken with a grain of salt, there’s a lot of functional wisdom to be had in the narrative. If you’re starting or already running a small business, the concept of working ON your business instead of IN it is vital. Gerber clarifies what that means, and how to do it.

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6 Ways to Declutter Your Countertops

If you find yourself short on counter space, these six inventive tips can help you organize and maximize any counter in the house:

  1. On the wall: Take a look around your walls, particularly walls where cabinet spaces end. Wall-mounted corner shelves or receptacles near workspaces can give everything a lift.
  2. Drawer decisions: More organized drawers can help clear counter clutter. And drawer organizers aren’t just for tableware! Find solutions for everything from kitchen doodads, to that bulky butcher’s block of knives, to spice racks that fit inside drawers.
  3. Tool time: Save even more drawer space by moving spatulas, whisks, and other tools with handles onto a wall-mounted towel bar with “S” hooks.
  4. Think inside the box…or basket: Natural fiber boxes and baskets can consolidate space for groups of items, like measuring cups and spoons or lotions and styling products, while adding that designer touch. Or use them in cabinets to neatly organize space.
  5. Charging chamber: mount a plug strip to the inside of a drawer to keep those electronics powered-up and out of sight.
  6. Paper pusher: If paper is your problem, try using a wall-pocket organization system with multiple cubbies. Don’t forget to create a system for managing the flow. For example, one cubby might be for bills that need immediate attention, another might be for interesting things to read.

One of the biggest keys to cut clutter is frequently taking stock of what you don’t use regularly. Ask yourself if you really use it, and if not, don’t be afraid to minimize and donate?

Your turn: What do you do to keep clutter down in your house? Comment below to contribute!

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What Causes Home Loan Rates to Move Up and Down?

The Federal Reserve (Fed) monitors the U.S. economy and, when necessary, takes steps to address inflationary concerns to avoid economic recession. When the Fed discusses interest rates, it is primarily concerning the Fed Funds Rate, which is the rate banks use when lending money to each other overnight.

Home loan rates, on the other hand, are dictated by the trading of Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS or Mortgage Bonds), which are a type of bond.

At the real heart of home loan rate movement is the dual relationship between Stocks and Bonds, as they compete for the same investment dollars on a daily basis. Inflationary pressures, economic conditions, and geopolitical events all influence the direction of Stocks and Bonds.

When economic reports are weak or disappointing, investors often move their money from riskier investments like Stocks into Bonds, which are considered safer. Since home loan rates are tied into Mortgage Bonds, this helps home loan rates improve and go down.

In contrast, strong economic news often causes investors to move their money into Stocks to take advantage of any gains. This can cause Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates to worsen, or in other words, the home loan rates go up.

Inflation also plays a role as it reduces the value of fixed investments like Bonds. This means that a low inflation environment tends to be good for Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates (think lower rates), while high inflation can cause both to worsen (think high rates).

Political turmoil or economic crises around the world can also cause investors to move their money into the safety of the Bond markets, helping Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates improve.

If you’re trying to decide if now is a good time to purchase a new home, visit with our Mortgage Center or call your neighborhood mortgage expert! We’ll analyze your financial situation together and create a plan that’s right for you.

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