11/24 Black Friday Loan Deals Winners

Auto 0.99% APR

  • Tregan E. – Sandy
  • Josh E. – Spanish Fork
  • Travis I. – Lehi
  • Jared E. – Spanish Fork
  • Shane S. – West Valley City

AUTO 1.99% APR

  • Karin P. – Springville
  • Darin R. – Santaquin
  • Esther A. – Lehi
  • Aaron J. – Mapleton
  • Matthew R. – Lehi
  • Rusty B. – American Fork
  • Chelise W. – Payson
  • Sharon C. – Orem
  • Roger P. – Mapleton
  • Laurie F. – Sandy
  • Osvaldo S. – Provo
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  • Deborah A. – Orem
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  • John B. – South Ogden
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  • Myron B. – Eagle Mountain
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  • Ben S. – South Jordan
  • Makenna F. – Spanish Fork
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  • Adam M. – West Jordan
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  • Ansley F. – Lindon
  • Jeremy M. – Herriman
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  • Nicolette A. – Saratoga Springs
  • Melany L. – Provo
  • Annaletta M. – Eagle Mountain
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Credit Card 3% Cash Back Balance Transfer

  • Melanie J. – Manti
  • Peter S. – Nephi
  • Brandon L. – Sandy
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  • Eric K. – Alpine
  • Carolyn A. – Heber City
  • Shelli G. – Herriman
  • Haven N. – Payson
  • Michael C. – South Jordan
  • Melissa A. – Sugar City
  • Melanie H. – Pleasant Grove
  • James J. – Eagle Mountain
  • Jared W. – Orem
  • Alycia R. – Pleasant Grove
  • Vitto C. – Park City
  • Marc T. – Riverton
  • Kimball D. – Draper
  • Dale H. – Grand Junction, CO
  • Randall L. – Orem
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  • Stephen M. – Saratoga Springs
  • Kristy S. – Eagle Mountain
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Home Equity 0.99% APR Fixed for 6 Months, 4.50% Variable Thereafter

  • Erin K. – American Fork
  • Bryan K. – American Fork
  • Ryan R. – Salem
  • Richard G. – Highland
  • Rob M. – Pleasant Grove
  • Stacy D. – Orem
  • Roger W. – Mapleton
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  • Daniel B. – Riverton
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  • Doug M. – Salt Lake City
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  • Robert W. – Eagle Mountain
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  • Darrell H. – Bluffdale
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  • Patricia H. – South Jordan
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Personal Loan 4.99% APR

  • Richard F. – Payson
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  • Trevor T. – Eagle Mountain
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  • Camille C. – Springville
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  • Rebecca J. – Provo
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  • Kristy S. – Payson
  • Lionel R. – Eagle Mountain
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  • Taralyn F. – Provo
  • Christy H. – Eureka
  • Sandra B. – American Fork
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  • Nancee H. – Midway
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Mortgage Free Home Inspection

  • Rebecca F. – American Fork
  • Jacey W. – Provo
  • Stephanie M. – Salem
  • Richard N. – Riverton
  • Kyle C. – Heber City
  • Aaron B. – Bluffdale
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Mortgage $2500 RC Willey Shopping Spree

  • Breanna B. – Spanish Fork

 

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Credit Unions Vs. Banks: The Choice Is Clear

Obviously, banks and credit unions offer a lot of overlapping services. Both banks and credit unions take in deposits, administer checking and savings accounts, issue credit and debit cards, and provide home loans in addition to consumer loans.

The key difference: Ownership structure

Banks are corporations – owned by their stockholders. Typically, and especially with larger banks, these shareholders are Wall Street institutions. However, there are many smaller neighborhood and regional banks with more local ownership. Credit unions, on the other hand, aren’t owned by stockholders on Wall Street; we’re owned by our members on the local Main Street!

True, neither banks nor credit unions are in business to lose money. We both need to make profits on our goods and services to stay in business. The difference is this: When a bank makes money, they send their profits to their stockholders. When a credit union makes a profit, on the other hand, we pass it on to our members. This can be in the form of a dividend or credit, better rates, technological investments and a variety of actions that bring greater value to members of the cooperative. And because we’re not so focused on pleasing distant shareholders through issuing a dividend every quarter, we can frequently offer services and loans with lower costs than banks.

Our mutual ownership structure gives us another advantage too: Wall Street can’t pressure us to make unwise decisions for short-term gains at the expense of our membership. Every decision we make is solely in the long-term best interest of our shareholders.

For example: In normal economic times, credit union and bank failures are very rare. That story changed during the mortgage crisis of 2008-09. Leading up to the crisis, publicly traded banks were under intense pressure from Wall Street to make questionable loans so they could keep short-term numbers up. Credit unions were free to make sound and rational decisions that were in the best interests of members, not Wall Street. According to information published by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the National Credit Union Association, banks were failing at a rate three times higher than credit unions in 2008, and had a failure rate of five times that of credit unions.

In good times, credit unions have a great track record. And when times are tough, there’s no comparison.

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Dealing With A Financial Setback

Financial setbacks come in all shapes and sizes. It can be an expensive household repair or major car trouble. It may be increases in your insurance plus a rent hike taking effect at the same time. Or, it can be something more extreme, like getting a pay cut at work- or even being given a pink slip. It may be a medical emergency that isn’t covered by insurance, or some good news that will cost you a bundle, like a wedding or the birth of a baby.

It’s impossible to plan for every financial hit you will take in your lifetime.

The question is: What are you going to do about it?

You could ignore it, and keep borrowing or charging to pay for daily expenses when your income is swallowed up by the surprise. By going that route, you’ll be paying a lot more than you should for this setback because of accumulated interest. But you have options–there are proactive steps you can take. So, if you’re hit with hard times, keep these tips in mind:

1.) Don’t panic

Panic is the first reaction many people have when experiencing a financial setback. It won’t be easy, but do your best to keep your cool. Keeping calm will allow you to think more clearly and resolve your deficit quicker. Remember, as difficult as things seem, they’ll always look a little better after some levelheaded planning.

2.) Crunch the numbers

I’ll disappear if you just ignore me and pretend I don’t exist, said no problem – ever. That’s because problems won’t disappear when they’re ignored, especially not money problems. If anything, they snowball into a mountain of financial issues you really don’t want. So, difficult as it might be, sit down and figure out exactly how much more money you’ll need in order to cover your new expense, or to fill the gap of an income loss.

3.) Keep the money coming in

When you’re dealing with a financial setback, you’re looking at less money than you need to get you through the month. The only way to stretch what you have to fit your needs is to earn more or to spend less. Since tightening your budget is almost always stressful, try to find ways to add to your income first. If possible, put in more hours at work or seek extra projects, even if it means working nights and/or weekends. Consider freelancing or consulting if you can. Take a side job for some extra cash. Do whatever it takes to bring in a little more money to cover the additional expenses.

If you’ve been laid off or your hours have been cut, it’s OK to work at a job that is below your skill level until you find something more permanent. There’s no shame in earning an honest living.

4.) Trim your spending

Now, it’s time to see which expenses you can trim. Before cutting your budget in half, though, take the time to prioritize. List all the expenses you cannot do without and the ones that would be irresponsible to neglect. Don’t skip mortgage payments or neglect your insurance premiums because you’re short a few hundred dollars. Instead, take an honest look at your remaining expenses and see where you can cut back.

If you’re careful, you may be able to cut your grocery bill in half. Trim spontaneous purchases by only using cash – and keep a minimal amount on you at all times. If you’re a two-car family, consider scaling back to one car for now. Push off your vacation plans until things start looking up. Do whatever you can to come up with the extra cash.

5.) Contact your creditors

If you absolutely cannot make some of your minimum monthly payments anymore, contact your creditors before they come calling on you. It’s always best to be up front about your financial situation. Most creditors will be happy to work out a reasonable payment plan with you.

6.) Reach out to family and friends

The people who care about us most are the ones who can get us through anything. Don’t be embarrassed to tell your family and friends what’s going on. They’ll support you and encourage you until you get back on your feet, and they may even be able to help you out with employment opportunities or helpful contacts.

7.) Be proactive

Hindsight is always 20/20. Harness the urgency you feel now to get into the habit of building up an emergency fund. As soon as you’re back on your feet, start putting away money that can be pulled out in future setbacks. Experts recommend that you have 3-6 months worth of living expenses saved up in case you can’t work for any reason. Knowing you have that money to fall back on will take the stress out of these situations.

Do you need help recovering from a financial crisis? Call, click, or stop by a UCCU branch today for help with money management and ending the debt cycle.

Your Turn: How have you maintained your equilibrium during a financial setback? Share your best tips and advice with us in the comments!

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Debt Consolidation: Not a silver bullet, but still a good idea!

If you’re up to your eyeballs in debt, the one thing you may wish for more than anything else is a blank slate. If you had a chance to wipe your slate clean and start over, things would be different. Of course, barring a winning lottery ticket, nothing is going to make that much of a change overnight.

There is, however, another option you can take for getting your debt under control. You can use a personal loan to refinance your existing debt. That means you’ll have one monthly payment at one interest rate instead of the stress caused by a bunch of smaller bills coming due on different days of the month.

Of course, this isn’t a solution for everyone. Let’s take a look at the questions you might ask yourself before you take on a debt consolidation loan.

1.) Have I fixed the debt problem?

Think long and hard about why you’re in debt. For most people, it was a medical bill, the loss of a job or some other temporary hardship that got them behind with charges they couldn’t completely pay off right away. If that describes your situation, the fact that you have a job or have paid the medical bill means you’ve solved the problem that caused the debt in the first place.

If, on the other hand, you accumulated debt by overspending on credit cards, a debt consolidation loan may not be the answer just yet. There are other steps to take first, like making a budget you can stick to, learning how to save and gaining responsibility in your use of credit. Getting a debt consolidation loan without doing those things first is a temporary solution that might actually make matters worse in the long run. You’ll have room on credit cards again, which can make the impulse to go spend pretty strong. Give in, and you’ll be back in the same position as before, except now you will have even more debt.

2.) Can I commit to a repayment plan?

If you’re struggling to make minimum monthly payments on bills, a debt consolidation loan can only do so much. It’s possible that the lower interest rate will make repayment easier, but it’s also possible that bundling all of that debt together could result in a higher monthly payment over a shorter period of time. Before you speak to a loan officer, figure out how much you can afford to put toward getting out of debt. Your loan officer can work backward from there to figure out terms, interest rate and total amount borrowed.

If you’re relying on a fluctuating stream of income to repay debt, like a second job or financial windfalls, it may be difficult to commit to a strict repayment plan that’s as aggressive as you like. Instead, what you can afford on a monthly basis may be nothing more than the sum of your current minimum payments. You can still make extra principal payments on a personal loan, so your strategy of making intermittent payments will still help. You just can’t figure them into your monthly payment calculation.

3.) Is my interest rate the problem?

For some people, the biggest chunk of their debt is a student loan. These loans receive fairly generous terms, since a college degree should generally result in a higher-paying job. Debt consolidation for student loans, especially subsidized PLUS loans, may not make a great deal of sense. You’re better off negotiating the repayment structure with your lender if the monthly payments are unrealistic.

On the other hand, if you’re dealing with credit card debt, interest rate is definitely part of the problem. Credit card debt interest regularly runs in the 20% range, more than twice the average rate of personal loans. Refinancing this debt with a personal loan can save you plenty over making minimum credit card payments.

4.) Will a personal loan cover all my debts?

The average American household has nearly $15,000 in credit card debt. That’s a big chunk of change. Add on $28,000 in auto loans, and it’s easy to see why debt is such a problem for most households.

The caution with personal loans for debt consolidation is to make sure you can bundle all of that debt together. If you have more than $50,000 in credit card debt, it’s going to be difficult to put together a personal loan that can finance the entire amount. Instead, it’s worth prioritizing the highest interest cards and consolidating those instead of trying to divide your refinancing evenly between accounts. Get the biggest problems out of the way, so you can focus your efforts on picking up the pieces.

Debt consolidation doesn’t work for everyone, but it can do wonders for many people. The ability to eliminate high-interest debt and simplify monthly expenses into one payment for debt servicing can change a family’s whole financial picture. The only way to know if a personal loan to consolidate debt is right for you is to sit down with a loan officer to go over your situation. Gather your account statements and your paycheck stubs, and head to your local UCCU branch today!

Your Turn: What’s your secret weapon in the battle against debt? Any tips and tricks that helped you get a handle on what you owe? Let us know!

Sources:
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Fidget Spinners: Harmless Fad or Mega Distraction?

Fidget spinners. You’ve seen them practically everywhere. The small plastic gadgets don’t do much, but they’ve completely overtaken the toy industry.

Fidget spinners were initially marketed as a sensory toy for children on the autism spectrum and those with ADHD or sensory processing disorder. Within days, though, the hand-held gadget experienced a wild surge in popularity and became a must-have for every child and teenager across the county – and plenty of adults, too.

The basic fidget spinner is built with three prongs centered around a circle. Flick a prong, and the triangle shape becomes a blur, almost like a ceiling fan. The toys are manufactured by several companies and are sold virtually everywhere – airports, gas stations, grocery stores and, of course, toy stores.

If you’re wondering what the great appeal behind the fidget spinner is, you’re not alone. Just like you, many parents are scratching their heads in bewilderment. After all, the toys don’t make much noise; they don’t beep or flash or do anything too exciting. And yet, the fidget spinner and its cousin, the fidget cube, now dominate 49 of the top 50 rankings on Amazon. They’ve all but invaded classrooms and hundreds of videos have already been posted on YouTube by self-proclaimed “fidget experts” demonstrating dozens of tricks that can be done with the small toy.

And it’s not just kids – the fad has spread to adults, as well. Fidget spinners are showing up in college classrooms, on train rides and at the workplace. In fact, Forbes magazine has already named the fidget spinner the official office toy of 2017.

While toy fads constantly come and go, there hasn’t been a fad of this magnitude since the hula hoop craze of 1958, when an estimated 25 million were sold in just a few months.

Parents and educators are on the fence about this fad, though. The price tag is conservative and it keeps the kids occupied, but some claim it’s a tremendous classroom distraction that should be banned.

While the novelty of the fidget spinner will fade with time, it’s anyone’s guess if they will become a classic like the Rubik’s Cube, or soon lay forgotten in a dusty corner of the playroom, never to be played with again.

Here’s what you’ll want to know about the latest fad:

1.) No scientific backing

Fidget spinners have been marketed as a stress-reliever and a self-care tool for ADHD and autism. Parents of diagnosed children have eagerly purchased these toys in the hopes that they will help their child concentrate in class and perhaps alleviate some of their symptoms.

It’s important to note, though, that there has not been any scientific evidence backing this claim. While some might find that they do provide temporary relief from symptoms, they should never be used in place of therapy or medication.

2.) Choose cheaply

One of the biggest selling factors of this fad is the modest price tag – most go for just a couple bucks. Like every popular fad, though, opportunists have been quick to cash in on the craze. The market boasts luxury spinners with flashing lights, or with more ball bearings to supposedly guarantee a longer spin time. These deluxe versions come with a price tag of a few hundred dollars or more.

Kids are thrilled with the cheaper versions, though, and they fulfill their purpose perfectly. Don’t get sucked into shelling out big bucks, because this fad may be over in a few weeks. By then, your child may never look at a spinner again.

3.) Classroom chaos

A lone spinner produces a low, almost indistinct whir. Multiply that by 25, though, and you’ve got quite a racket. Now imagine trying to teach over that din.

Fidget spinners might look like the perfect classroom toy; they’re small enough to fit under the desk, and make hardly any noise. But some teachers and principals have found them to be too distracting, and many schools have banned them completely. Aside from the collective hum of the gadgets spinning, the toys often go clattering to the floor or are used to demonstrate tricks, further adding to their distraction.

Other teachers don’t mind the noise, though, and claim they support concentration while providing a legitimate sensory aid for those who need it. Make sure your child’s teacher is OK with the fidget spinner being used in the classroom before your child brings it to school.

4.) Smartphone substitute

While no scientific studies have backed this claim, many posit that the fidget spinner’s popularity is linked to its vibrating motion, which mimics that of a smartphone. They theorize that the toy serves as a salve for the smartphone-addicted child, who loves the feel of a screen throbbing.

Whether this is true or not remains to be proven, but if it’s a choice between a phone and a fidget spinner, remember that the toy won’t mess with your child’s attention span or internal clock the way screen time does, making it the better choice.

Here to stay, or gone tomorrow? It’s anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, though, make smart, informed choices about the latest toy fad.

Your Turn: Do you think fidget spinners should be allowed in classrooms? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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Independence Day Celebrations Yesterday and Today

Do you know exactly what happened on July 4, 1776? What do our Fourth of July celebrations commemorate, and why?

The Reason We Celebrate July 4

July 4, 1776, is the date written on the original Declaration of Independence, even though it wasn’t signed until Aug. 2 of the same year. July 4 was the day in which the Continental Congress officially agreed and approved the final edits to the document that Thomas Jefferson wrote. It declared the words that would establish a new nation, independent of Great Britain’s control.

Thirteen American colonies were already at war over oppressive taxation, but residents weren’t consistent in their opinions and their efforts until the words of the Declaration united them and gave them a foundation for the Revolutionary War victory in 1783. Because the Declaration was also understood to be the first formal statement by any group of people asserting a right to choose their own form of government, it was a significant document for all citizens of the world, not only for the colonists.

Although it was called Independence Day as early as 1791, the Declaration of Independence wasn’t always celebrated on July 4 with a vacation from work and fancy fireworks. In fact, the United States Congress didn’t make it a holiday for federal employees until 1870, nor did lawmakers pass additional legislation to make July 4 a paid federal holiday until 1938.

During the Revolutionary War, July 4 was commemorated with 13-gun salutes (representing the 13 colonies), official banquets for the Continental Congress and their families, and parades and shows for the troops. Ships at sea were draped with red, white and blue while in port and at sail, and General George Washington reportedly ordered a double ration of rum for his fighting men to celebrate.

One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was John Adams, who wrote the following in a letter to his wife, Abigail: “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Celebrating July 4 at Home

Today, we certainly have our modern pomp and parade, shows, games, sports, guns, bells and bonfires to celebrate July 4. But we also have jet fighter salutes at airshows and choreographed fountains and fireworks exploding over lakes, rivers and harbors throughout the country. John Adams probably could never have imagined the majestic displays we take for granted now.

Whether you enjoy a road trip with your family or stay home to barbecue by the pool, you can plan a Fourth of July that’s fun for everyone. In some parts of the U.S., you can even celebrate with your own patriotic fountains and fireworks. Start by contacting your local fire department to learn the rules for purchase and use of fireworks in your area, and to ask if you’ll need a permit to use them. Then, stop by your local retailer to check out their light show fountain kits to complete your patriotic display.

Celebrating July Fourth in Washington, D.C.

If you’re planning to join the crowds gathering in our nation’s capital in Washington, D.C., here are some suggestions for a budget-friendly but unforgettable Fourth of July:

  • See the real deal, the original 240-year-old Declaration of Independence that’s located in the National Archives, north of the National Mall at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., and meet the Founding Fathers in a lively reenactment.
  • Find a good spot on Constitution Avenue before the National Independence Day Parade begins at 11:45 a.m. between 7th and 17th streets. An authentic Revolutionary War Fife & Drum Band as well as top high school bands from across the country provide the sights and sounds of freedom.
  • Stop by the National Portrait Gallery at 8th and F St. NW, Washington, D.C., to see the official, painted portraits of all 43 presidents of the United States, and to hear presidential reenactors telling stories of their time period in history.
  • Catch “We The People,” a 20-minute film at the Smithsonian American History Museum, on Constitution Avenue NW. It chronicles the history of Independence Day, starting from its birth in 1776.
  • Drive about 30 minutes south of Washington, D.C., to immerse yourself in George Washington’s Mount Vernon home along the Potomac River. Savor ice cream, fireworks and music from the Revolutionary War era all day long.

Your Turn: Where will you celebrate July 4 this year? Are you planning a gathering at home, or traveling to visit friends, family or national historic sites?

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Day_(United_States)
http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/july-4th
http://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-declaration-of-independence/fourth-of-july/
http://www.military.com/independence-day/history-of-independence-day.html
http://experience.usatoday.com/america/story/best-of-lists/2015/07/01/fourth-of-july-fireworks-usa-cities/29524219/
http://magazine.foxnews.com/celebrity/17-patriotic-movies-watch-over-fourth-july-weekend
https://washington.org/ways-celebrate-independence-day-washington-dc

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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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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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