How Can I Shop Safely On Black Friday?

Most people love the prospect of saving big on Black Friday sales, but are worried about the risks.  Between the danger that crowds pose and the possibility of your credit card being compromised, there’s a lot that can go wrong.  Black Friday does pose some serious risks to shoppers, but with the proper safety measures, you can protect yourself without missing out on the biggest shopping day of the year.

Here’s how:

1.) Plan ahead

Planning ahead means you’ll spend less, be out of line faster and decrease your risks. Sites like BlackFriday.com can help you plan your day and find the best deals.

2.) Credit card only

Credit cards are the best way to shop when there are high risks to your safety. You can always dispute a charge; you can never reclaim stolen cash. Also, keep your card as close to you as possible. If using a debit card, cover the payment terminal with your other hand when inputting your PIN.

3.) Shop with a friend

The mall may be crowded, but a determined criminal can find a way to corner you and empty your wallet or take your bags. Stick with your friends and never enter deserted areas alone.

4.) Keep your cool

Nothing you can purchase on Black Friday is worth your health or safety. Avoid all scuffles with fellow shoppers.

5.) Move your car

If you spend the day at the mall and routinely drop off your bags in your car, it’s best to move your car to a different spot. Thieves watch shoppers leaving the mall with lots of bags and follow them to their cars. If they see you dropping off your goodies and then heading back to the mall, they’ll consider making off with your things. If you drive off, though, they’ll think you’re leaving and won’t follow you.

6.) Online safety

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are notorious for online scams of every kind. Here’s what to remember when shopping online:

A.   Beware of phishing scams

Be alert for suspicious looking emails and links. Delete anything that doesn’t look right.

B.   Make sure your connection is secure

Verify security by looking for the padlock icon on the address bar and by using sites with an “S” tacked on to the “http.”

C.   Pay securely

Only use trusted payment systems like PayPal or GoogleWallet. Shop from sites you trust and make sure they’re legitimate by checking the URL and looking out for sites that end in .org or .net. Never agree to wire money for a purchase.

D.   Strengthen your system

Before shopping online, check that your device’s security systems are updated with the most recent protection and security patches. If you’re using Wi-Fi, make sure the network is secure and requires a password to join.

Your Turn: Do you have any other tips for safe shopping on Black Friday Cyber Monday? Share them with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/venturebeat.com/2014/11/28/5-things-you-can-do-to-stay-safe-shopping-online-on-black-friday/amp/

https://www.moneycrashers.com/black-friday-tips-for-safe-shopping/

https://www.google.com/amp/www.telegraph.co.uk/black-friday/0/11-tips-for-staying-safe-shopping-online-on-black-friday-and-cyb/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/mashable.com/2016/11/21/online-shopping-safety-black-friday-cyber-monday.amp

https://www.consumersafety.org/news/safety/stay-safe-shopping-on-black-friday-and-cyber-monday/

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How Low Can You Go? Give Your Child The Grocery Challenge

Do you ever feel like all your money goes toward groceries? Out of all the non-fixed expenses a household can have, food costs take the biggest bite out of the average monthly budget. Understandably, trying to trim the family’s grocery bill is an ongoing battle for most of us. Give your kids a leg up on this lifelong skill by challenging them with this fun and educational activity.

Materials needed:
  • Coupon circulars and/or newspapers
  • Writing materials
  • Calculator
  • Piggy bank
Instructions:
  1. Give your child a reasonable budget to be used for a week’s worth of groceries for your family.
  2. Instruct your child to create a shopping list. Let them know they will be tasked with going “shopping” for every item on the list while spending as little as possible. All extra money should go into the piggy bank.
  3. Tell them to be sure to include all meals, drinks, snacks, ingredients, pantry staples, pet food etc. on their grocery list.
  4. Making no mention of the coupons, have your child complete the task with all the materials provided. After creating the list, let them “shop” for everything by adding the costs of each item and giving you a “receipt” for the total sum. If your young shopper is unsure of an object’s price, they can ask you for help.
  5. Stress that the challenge in this activity is to see how far the budget for a week’s groceries can go.
  6. Introduce the coupons, but explain why buying something you have no need for just because there’s a coupon isn’t smart. Let your child decide which coupons are worth using.
  7. Watch your child use their budgeting skills and smarts to “shop” for the family and try to save as much as possible.

When the task is complete, review the results with your child. How much money went into the piggy bank? Were items written on the grocery list because of available coupons, or were the coupons only flipped through after the list was already made? Did your child first create a menu for the week before writing the list? Did they omit anything important? What did they learn from this activity?

Variations:
  • You can do this in real life, having your child create a shopping list and then taking them to the store. Have them actually select the groceries and make the purchase of all the week’s groceries, trying to spend as little as possible.
  • For younger children, you can create a “store,” using fake money, a toy cash register and a play shopping cart. Place a few items on a table, making sure there are clear prices on each item. Have your child “go shopping” with the money that’s available, making sure they are aware that they must have enough money to pay for every object they put in their cart.
Your Turn:How do you teach your kids about saving money on groceries? Share your best tips with us in the comments!
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Advice From The Bottom: What Losing A Million Dollars Taught Entrepreneurs About Finance

A million bucks sounds, to most people, like absolute security, because being a millionaire seems like it would put you in a strong financial position for life. If your car were to break down or you lose your job, a million dollars could solve those problems pretty easily.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in personal finance. Even a million dollars can go away quickly through a string of bad luck or poor decisions. Learn the lesson from these ex-millionaires to keep a tight grip on what you have.

1.) A million dollars can’t sustain a millionaire’s lifestyle

When most people think of a million dollars, they usually don’t think of the money in their accounts. They think about big houses, flashy watches and fast cars. Those things are part of the lifestyle, and they’re part of what makes the dream of a million dollars so desirable. The problem is, a million dollars disappears pretty quickly when it’s being used on those things while trying to grow a business.

Take the example of Joshua Lee, an internet entrepreneur from Texas, who had accumulated that coveted seventh figure at the young age of 28. Like most 28-year-olds with extra cash, he bought cars and watches, treated his friends to expensive nights out and did all the other things millionaires are “supposed” to do. His first million didn’t last him long at all.

Lee was able to recover, thanks to hard work and good fortune, but he offers a valuable piece of advice on the topic. Once you’ve decided on a goal, whether it’s having a million dollars in your account or getting debt-free, think about the parts of that goal that make it desirable. Once you’re 80% of the way there, take some time to re-evaluate. Figure out if the properties of that goal are sustainable. A million dollars looks and feels a great deal different coming from $800,000 than it does from $20.

2.) Keep an eye on the people keeping an eye on your money

Most people who get a million dollars do so by doing something other than working with finances. Even those who do, like successful investment managers, probably have someone else looking out for their money. Top earners in most industries have IRAs and other long-term investment accounts that are watched over by a third party. When there’s that much money, a professional can be indispensable in tax planning and long-term return maximization.

A millionaire can be too trusting, though. Millionaire retiree Jay Cee, a California resident, found out the hard way that not everyone who claims to be looking out for your best interests really is. He transferred his 401(k) from a previous employer and worked with a financial professional to do so. She encouraged him to put his money in a specific set of investment vehicles as part of an IRA rollover. The deal looked incredible, since there was no line on the contract for a commission. When he asked about her compensation, she told him that the company took good care of them.

That part was certainly true. The investment company charged nearly 3.5% in management fees, while earning a return of less than 4%. Jay’s retirement nest egg was growing at less than half a percent. He would have been better off putting his money into a basic savings account. Over the course of the year that his IRA was held by the company, they made $12,000 from his account, after just one 30-minute meeting. Talk about expensive advice!

Remember the golden rule of economics: If you’re not paying for a service, you’re not the customer; you’re the product. Make sure you know how everyone who gives you financial advice is compensated, and insist on seeing a detailed breakdown of fees before you sign any investment agreement.

Of course, the proper lesson isn’t one of exclusive self-reliance. Most people aren’t financial professionals. They don’t have the education or experience necessary to make expert, long-term financial plans. Yet people who make a great deal of money tend to see themselves as invincible. That’s how someone like former Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling went broke shortly after leaving baseball. Schilling invested his money without a proper understanding of risk, then lost everything when the one company he’d backed went bankrupt. Getting advice is indispensible; just make sure it’s advice you’re paying for up front.

3.) Keep an eye on risk

There’s a certain glamour in having nothing to lose. When you’re starting a small business, you can throw caution to the wind – to a certain extent. After all, if your new business goes belly-up, you haven’t lost more than you’ve put into it. It’s fine to swing for the fences when you’ve got a fledgling start-up. That changes a little bit once you’ve experienced some success. You need to take steps to protect what you’ve got.

Part of protecting what you have is realizing that it can be lost. If you’re a successful entrepreneur, you have to realize that success took hard work to build, and without that hard work, it’ll go away. Risks to your business are always present, and you have to work hard to minimize those risks.

That’s one of the lessons to be learned from the bankruptcy of rapper Curtis Jackson, III, known by his stage name, “50 Cent.” Jackson was one of the most successful figures in the music industry, yet his stage name became equivalent to his net worth in 2015 as he filed for bankruptcy. One of the reasons behind the loss was his repeated entanglement in lawsuits. Jackson never stopped acting as though he had nothing to lose, picking fights with other performers and business owners who would then take him to court. Even if he won most of the legal battles, he’d still suffer the slow loss of money in legal fees and settlements.

Once you’ve “made it,” you need to change your strategy. You can’t afford to take those same wild risks. You need to find safe investments and know when to back away from a challenge. Slow growth is better than losing it all.

Sources:

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249881

http://www.financialsamurai.com/how-to-lose-a-million-dollars-and-live-to-see-another-day/

http://www.financialsamurai.com/recommended-net-worth-allocation-mix-by-age-and-work-experience/

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/248863

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How To Get By In An Emergency: Personal Loan Or Credit Card?

Unexpected expenses are, by nature, unplanned … and costly.

While it’s best to have a rainy-day fund, for many this is just a dream.

If you’re unsure how you’d survive a financial emergency, you’re not alone. A survey found that 47% of Americans would borrow for a $400 emergency.

As a credit union member, you have borrowing options. Two popular choices for emergency funding are personal loansand credit cards.

Here are several pros and cons to each.

1.) Limits.

Credit cards have credit limits in the thousands, enough to cover a small emergency. The value of credit cards is their convenience; there’s no need for a new loan each time you incur an expense.

However, many people don’t have sufficient credit to cover major financial emergencies and instead choose to utilize a personal loan.

Your personal-loan approval amount depends on several factors: income, credit score and other assets. For borrowers with good credit history and a strong ability to repay, these loans could be $50,000, enough for serious unexpected expenses.

2.) Repayment options.

Credit card repayment is handled monthly. There’s a minimum payment and no fixed term to repayment; if you continue charging and only pay the minimum, paying off your loan can take forever.

In contrast, a personal loan, includes a fixed monthly fee that lets you repay the loan in a set amount of time. It’s amortized so you’re making equal payments of both interest and principal over the loan’s life. There’s also no penalty for early repayment.

 

3.) Interest rates

Credit card interest rates can be high; the global average is 15%. Some credit cards fluctuate their interest rates based on the prime interest rate, and they can alter your rate if your credit score changes dramatically, making it difficult to plan your financial future.

A personal loan has a fixed interest rate that never increases if you don’t miss a payment. You can make a future budget that involves paying a fixed amount over approximately five years.

Interest rates on personal loans are usually lower than on credit cards. For people with average credit, interest rates can be 5% lower; for those with better credit, it can be even lower.

 

As a member of UCCU, you have access to competitive rates for personal loans. If you’re in a hard place, UCCU can help. Call, click or stop by today!

Your Turn: What’s your emergency financial plan? How would you cover an unexpected $400 expense? If you’ve had a financial emergency, what advice can you give others?

Sources:

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/cheap-personal-loans/

http://www.valuepenguin.com/average-credit-card-interest-rates

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-cards/credit-card-issuer-raising-interest-rate-5-times/

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/05/my-secret-shame/476415/

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Emergency Funds – Not Just For Adults!

Divvying up your kid’s allowance into different jars, each with a specific label and purpose, has become pretty standard. Your kids probably have one jar for savings, one for spending and maybe another for giving.

What most parents and kids omit, though, is one more jar for emergencies. Yes, emergencies, even for kids. Granted, they won’t be shelling out thousands of dollars for a roof repair or a medical crisis like their parents might, but emergencies come in all shapes and sizes, and to all-sized people.

No one needs convincing that having funds for an unexpected expense is crucial to financial security. In fact, building an emergency fund is the first of Dave Ramsey’s famous seven baby steps for getting out of debt. It’s definitely something you want to build into your kids’ psyche. So why not start now?

Some examples of small and not-so-small emergencies for children are:

  • The pair of new sneakers left in the locker room after PE, now gone forever
  • The shattered car window from an overeager, but poorly aimed, baseball
  • The huge data plan overage charge
  • The misplaced spending money for an afternoon at the mall

So yes, kids have emergencies. Helping them set up a fund to pay for some of these mini-crises instead of bailing them out each time will teach them to be prepared.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Help your kid add an extra jar to their existing set and mark it for emergencies.
  2. Allocate a portion of your kid’s weekly allowance or chore payment to the emergency fund.
  3. With your child, create a goal for the new jar. For a younger child, $25 should be enough, with the number steadily growing to about $100 for preteens.
  4. Once the jar has hit its target, revert back to the original division of money among the other jars.

The next time your child has a financial emergency, have them pay for all or part of it. It’s okay to share the costs for larger emergencies, or even for smaller ones. Your child will still learn responsibility by coughing up some of the funds on their own.

These should be situations due to negligence, irresponsible behavior or simple forgetfulness on the part of your child.

When the fund is depleted for an emergency, be sure to encourage them to replenish it by going back to step two.

Remember; it’s baby steps like these that will prevent your child from having to crawl their way out of debt later on in life.

Your Turn: How do you teach your kids about the importance of planning for emergencies? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

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Credit Cards or Debit Cards – What’s the Smartest Swipe?

Most people own at least one debit card and at least one credit card. They know they have them, but they may not know about all the differences that exist between using a credit card and a debit card.

Believe it or not, there are many. The most basic difference is the fact that each time you use a credit card, you’re borrowing money. A debit card, on the other hand, simply transfers your own money from your checking account to the vendor you’re paying.

When you use your credit card, your credit union is lending you money, which you’ll need to pay back along with interest. A debit card takes funds directly from your account similar to the way that checks do – only quicker. Some processing terminals will require a PIN and some will require signature.

Both credit and debit cards are convenient, quick and easy. They’re also safer than cash, because cash cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

Which one should you use? The answer depends largely upon your lifestyle.

1.) Budgeting

Credit cards allow you to buy now and pay later. Unfortunately, this can turn into a nightmare because of the obvious financial pitfalls in being able to purchase things you don’t have the money for now. If you think you’ll be tempted to overspend, regular credit card use may not be ideal for you.

However, it’s nearly impossible to incur thousands of dollars of debt through debit card usage. Most credit unions will cover purchases that put your account into the red, but only up to a few hundred dollars. If this happens, you’re accountable for your purchases and charged an overdraft fee.

2.) Safety

The convenience of debit cards can make fraud more likely. Unless reported promptly, debit card theft or fraud can quickly drain your account. Credit card companies are held to strict liability laws: Consumer liability for credit card fraud is limited to $50. If you report suspicious charges in a written request within 60 days, the company is obligated to investigate and restore the funds to your account if the charges are determined to be fraudulent.

For debit card fraud, your liability is $50 if you notify the credit union within two days of seeing the fraudulent charges. After two days, your liability increases to $500. If you report the activity 60 days or more after it happened, you may be liable for all of it. Although many credit unions have implemented voluntary plans to limit customer liability to $50, there is no federal law requiring them to do so.

In addition to stricter liability laws, credit cards offer consumer protection on purchases. You can always cancel a charge if you are the victim of an online scam or bought something that was never delivered or wasn’t what you expected. This makes credit cards the ideal choice for large or fragile purchases that will be delivered to your home for additional insurance on the purchase.

3.) Rewards

One major draw for credit cards is the points awarded for purchases. That’s a strong advantage over debit cards. The ability to earn airline miles and the lure of a possibly free flight are attractive to many consumers. Of course, you may be paying for those miles with a high interest rate or an annual fee.

Don’t get hooked on the points. Research each card carefully to make sure you’re really getting your money’s worth.

4.) Credit History

Another important benefit to using a credit card is establishing or restoring a positive credit history. Debit card usage may encourage responsible spending, but a major factor in measuring your credit score is your credit card usage. Occasionally using a credit card and paying your bill on time can really improve your credit rating. This, in turn, improves the likelihood of earning favorable terms for home loans, auto loans, personal loans and more.

5.) Annual Fees and Interest

A strong disadvantage of credit cards is the money you spend to keep them. Some cards charge an annual fee, and the interest on your credit card bill can easily be a third of your payment or more. If you’ve overspent one month and are unable to cover the entire amount due, you may need to pay only the minimum payment. More of your payment will soon be going toward interest than toward lowering your bill. This makes the next payment higher, and again you’ll be paying a significant portion toward interest. This is often how credit card debt spirals. Interest becomes a huge hurdle, making it nearly impossible for the consumer to make headway.

If you don’t think you will be able to pay your bills in a timely manner, keep credit card usage to a minimum.

As a UCCU member, you already have access to fantastic rates and optimal security. To find out which debit or credit card is best for you, call, click or stop by today!

Your Turn: In what situations do you prefer to use a debit card or a credit card? Why do you choose one over the other? Share your thoughts with us!

Sources:

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Do Your Kids Have Virtual Shopping Smarts?

Did you know that 73% of millennials questioned in a Bazaar Voice survey do all their shopping on their smartphones? It’s not surprising. The world of commerce is constantly becoming more digitized as retailers focus on improving their online presence to cater to cyberspace shoppers.

Online shopping has its downsides, though, mainly in the form of surprises when the item arrives, costly shipping expenses and impulse buys that are made too easily.

Fortunately, it has its upsides, too. Comparing prices between stores is a lot simpler when all it takes is clicking through a few sites instead of traipsing all over town. Couponing is now also just a matter of seconds, with no need for tedious clipping and saving.

Teach your kids to make the best of online shopping with this fun, educational activity. All you need is a computer!

Virtual Shopping Smarts Activity

Sit down with your child to brief them on the ups and downs of online shopping. Talk about comparing prices, checking for discount codes, and being wary of overspending or buying items of inferior quality. Teach them about reading reviews and looking for reputable companies. Mention comparison-shopping engines like Google, and others they may have never used, like Nextag, Price Grabber, Shopping.com, and Shopzilla.

When they have the information down pat, tell them they will now be tasked with buying an item online! The item should be something popular and one they’re interested in.

Give your child a debit or credit card, a fixed budget for the item, and the following instructions:

The goal is to purchase the lowest-priced, yet best-made product. This will earn a minimum of 100 points. They will earn points for each part of the process, using the following guidelines:

  1. The purchase must be of decent quality. They can earn 25 points for this category.
  2. Shipping costs should not constitute more than 10% of the object’s price. The lower the shipping costs, the more they earn for this category, with free shipping earning the full 15 points.
  3. They must search for discount codes and coupons before making the purchase. This can be done by checking coupon sites like Retailmenot and Couponcabin, or by signing up for a store’s emails and earning a promotional discount. 5 points will be rewarded for every discount search/website visited in search of a coupon code. Actually finding and using a discount can earn them 15 points.
  4. If your child is ordering from eBay or another site with multiple sellers, they should be careful to only make purchases from sellers with excellent ratings. Buying from a badly rated seller can cost them 5 points and using a high-rated seller can earn them 5 points.
  5. Price is of utmost importance. If their object is of decent quality and very well-priced, they can earn up to 40 points. 5 points will be given for every search for a cheaper product.
  6. Points will be taken off for any random ad-clicks, failure to do substantial price-checks and comparisons, and for ignoring discount offers.
  7. Sit back and watch, being careful not to offer any advice as your child makes a purchase.
  8. Tally up the score and explain the points you gave, congratulating your child on their online shopping skills.

Your child is now cyberspace-savvy!

Your Turn: How do you teach your kids to avoid the pitfalls and make the most out of online shopping? Share your wisdom with us in the comments!

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How to Build Your Resume – The Basics

Filling out a simple application may have been enough to snag that part-time summer job at the ice cream store during high school. But now that you’re in college, it’s time to graduate to a more advanced job-finding tool: the professional resume.

Creating your first resume can seem daunting, especially since your professional experience may be limited. But the sooner you master this skill, the sooner you’ll have a document you can easily send out whenever you happen upon an internship or employment opportunity.

When starting out, don’t be intimidated. No one expects a student resume to contain long lists of accomplishments, but you should have at least one or two. It should also convey your interests, goals and potential — all within one page. Use short, declarative phrases and action verbs instead of full sentences and try to keep the tone positive and upbeat.

Start by including your name, city of residence, email address and phone number — typically centered at the top, with your name in larger, bold font. If you have a LinkedIn account, you can include that, but be sure to leave out any other personal social media accounts. This is a professional document, not a showcase of your social connections.

You can also include a summary statement outlining your goals, but it isn’t necessarily required. Perhaps you’re an art major looking for a chance to develop your graphic design skills, a computer science major interested in work as a programmer or a marketing major seeking a chance to work on marketing campaigns. The key here is to demonstrate you already have some knowledge in a given field and are looking to expand it by gaining practical experience.

Stick to a traditional resume format, using a commonplace font such as Calibri or Arial. Save the crazy, hard-to-read fonts and wild colors for your art projects. Sure, you want your resume to stand out, but you want it to stand out for the information it contains, not its oddball appearance.

Next, add an education section. Make the entries reverse-chronological, beginning with your current studies. Be sure to include your degree objective and your planned date of graduation. Don’t forget to add your extracurricular activities, particularly teams and clubs. Employers want to see how you have been involved and what you do with your free time. Skills and accomplishments aren’t the only reasons people get hired. Employers also want to connect with their employees as people with talents and interests, not just robots to do a job. You can also add a bullet point about projects you completed at school. Don’t feel like you need to include every single one, but try to include projects that show specific skills you have acquired that are related to the job you are applying for. Maybe you led the planning of senior prom, or maybe you did market research for a local business. Those are examples of the accomplishments that set you apart and show what you can do if you professional experience is limited.

After education, add the professional experience section. This is the place to list any jobs you’ve had, even if they were babysitting or summer jobs. Include the beginning and ending dates and briefly list your main responsibilities. The idea is to demonstrate that you’re responsible, conscientious and can follow directions.

Including an accomplishments section can help paint a fuller picture of who you are. This is the place to note any awards or distinctions you have received. You can also include any high grade point averages, projects you completed at school or volunteer experiences. Basically, list things here you’re proud of or which would reveal aspects of your character to a potential employer. Try to use quantifiable support whenever possible. If you increased sales by 4% for your sales team over the summer, be sure to add that concrete, quantifiable number.

You may also include a skills section if you think it’s warranted. This is the place to list any computer software proficiencies you’ve used or office skills you’ve developed. Make sure the skills you list relate to the types of positions you’re seeking. For example, forklift driving would not be a useful skill for a sales position unless you’d be selling forklifts.

Finally, take time to edit and format your resume. A resume filled with typos and formatting errors does little to convey that you’re careful and conscientious. Have a friend or your parent proofread your resume to make sure you didn’t miss any typos and to get their opinion.

View your resume as a work in progress. It will remain an important professional tool throughout your work life, evolving and growing as you graduate college, get your first full-time job, and progress in your career.

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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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Mother’s Day On A Budget

Along with the blossoming flowers, the blazing sunshine and the tinkling bell of the ice cream truck come ideas and plans for celebrating Mother’s Day.

Our moms are always there for us, as a sounding board, a virtual treasure trove of advice and to dote on us when we need a little pampering. Mother’s Day, then, is when we show them how much we appreciate all they do for us throughout the year.

However, between purchasing the perfect gift, buying mom flowers and dining out, Mother’s Day costs can quickly add up to a small fortune. How do you keep within a reasonable budget while still showing mom how much she means to you?

Fortunately, with just a bit of forethought and careful planning, you can save big while still celebrating Mother’s Day in style. Here’s how:

1.) Frugal flowers

Nothing says “I love you” quite like a vibrantly colored bouquet, but those beautiful blossoms can cost a bundle. Start your savings on mom’s flowers by doing some of the work yourself. Instead of relying on the florist to provide the perfect base for the bouquet, bring your own basket from home. Alternatively, you can pick up a cheap but pretty vase at a craft or thrift store, adding a strand of ribbon to customize it to mom’s style.

Also, consider shopping your local grocery store or sidewalk stand before visiting a florist. You might find significant savings – such as a bouquet for as little as $10 – by cutting out the middleman.

Lastly, if you’re shopping at a floral shop, be sure to call first to find out when their flowers are delivered so you get the freshest of the bunch.

2.) Gift it right

More difficult than dreaming up the perfect gift for mom is scraping together the money for it. Solve both problems by getting creative. Mom would love something you personally crafted, like a decorated framed photo of a shared memorable moment, or a scrapbook of your best childhood memories. You can even make your mom a playlist of songs that both of you love.

If you’d rather purchase a gift than create one yourself, remember to shop early so you don’t feel pressured into buying something you can’t afford. Also, don’t forget to carefully mine coupon sites like RetailMeNot, Coupons.com and Couponcabin to see if you can snag a deal.

Remember, gifts that show effort and thought matter a lot more than how much you spend.

3.) Dining out (or in) for less

Of course, celebrating Mom’s special day won’t be complete without sharing a wonderful meal together. But restaurants can be expensive, so don’t book reservations without carefully considering if they’re absolutely necessary.

Maybe Mom would enjoy a home-cooked meal more than an evening out. You can whip up her favorite foods, set the table with long candlesticks, your finest dishes and best silverware, and enjoy a deluxe, sumptuous dinner at home.

Or throw together a family barbecue. Load the car with Frisbees, balls and kites, pack up a cooler and stake out a corner at the local park. Then, get the grill fired up for a delectable dinner that’s fun to prepare and even more fun to eat!

If you’ve got your heart set on taking mom out to a restaurant, shop around for the best Mother’s Day deals. It’s worth making a few phone calls and checking out sites like Groupon or LivingSocial before making reservations.

Once you’re at the restaurant, save money by checking the left side of the menu first. Restaurants usually put their pricier dishes on the right side of the menu since that’s where most people’s gazes automatically land. Also, consider sharing a few bigger portions instead of ordering individual plates for every diner. Lastly, be sure to wait a bit between courses so you don’t end up with a table full of leftovers that you’re too stuffed to eat.

4.) Plan ahead

It’s never too early to start saving, and it’s not too early to start thinking about next year’s Mother’s Day. While you obviously can’t buy mom flowers that far ahead of time, shop the post-Mother’s-Day sales for fantastic deals on greeting cards, wrapping paper and gifts for mom.

It isn’t that hard to save on Mother’s Day expenses. And it’s worth it. After all, no one will be happier to see you saving money than dear sweet mom!

Your Turn: How do you show your mom how much she means to you while sticking to a budget? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

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