4 Ways to Bring Your Dream Kitchen to Life

A kitchen remodel or makeover not only adds value to your home, it will almost feel like you’ve got a new home. Here’s 4 ways to bring your dream kitchen to life. 

1.) Know your budget 

First, sit down and crunch some numbers. 

  • With $5,000, you can spring for a fresh coat of paint, replace faucets, pick up a new light fixture and spruce up the area with some modern accessories.
  • With $15,000, you can also buy a new appliance or two, replace your countertops and install new, budget-friendly cabinets.

If you’re planning on spending more, you might be able to redo your entire kitchen. When determining how much to spend, remember that recently remodeled kitchens return between 80 and 105% of their cost when a home is sold.

2.) Choose your cabinets

These are your cabinet options:

  • Cabinets with wood panels and solid wood frames are sturdy, budget-friendly and fashionable.
  • Porcelain-tile cabinets are a fantastic new option that look almost exactly like wood for half the price.
  • Laminate is your cheapest option for cabinets. It’s durable, easy to clean and comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
  • Refinish the outside of your cabinets instead of replacing them for a new look that doesn’t bust your budget.

3.) Make a splash

Replacing your sink’s faucet, bowl or hardware can modernize your kitchen without costing much.

Brushed nickel is the most popular choice for faucets right now, largely due to its durability. The least expensive faucet finish is chrome, while brass is another long-lasting, economical choice.

If you’re replacing your sink’s bowl as well, there are three main styles to consider:

  • Farmhouse bowls are super-large and deep. On the flip side, their large size means they often require a customized base cabinet for installation.
  • Top-mount bowls have a “drop-in” rim that keeps the sink in place. This makes installation simple, but creates a prime place for dirt to gather.
  • Undermount sinks are trendy and look sleek, but can take double the installation time.  

4.) Choose your countertops

The trending countertop choices are granite, quartz and stone. These materials are beautiful, easy to maintain and can last for years. If you need something more budget-friendly, you might want to go with ceramic tile. It’s durable, comes in almost any imaginable color, and is a fraction of the price of stone.

Another great option is laminate. It’s easy to install and is also available in many patterns and colors.  Lastly, consider going with solid wood. You can have it sanded and treated to give it an extra long life, and it will give your kitchen a warm finish.

Longing for an upgrade and short on savings or cashflow? You can still have your dream kitchen. Call, click, or stop by UCCU today to learn about our Personal Loans, Home Equity Loans and Home Equity Lines of Credit.  

Your Turn: Have you recently remodeled your kitchen?  Tell us what money saving options worked for you in the comments!

 

 SOURCES:

https://www.marthastewart.com/1083498/7-steps-your-dream-kitchen

https://www.hgtv.com/design/rooms/kitchens/how-to-get-a-to-die-for-kitchen-without-killing-your-budget

https://clark.com/homes-real-estate/budget-diy-kitchen-remodel-for-less-than-15000

Share Button

Debit & Credit Card Safety

“And how are you paying for your purchases today?” 

It’s a question we have to answer almost every day. Will you be using cash, a credit card or a debit card? 

It may be instinct for you to pull out any piece of plastic without thinking, but your random card of choice might not be the safest way to pay. Sometimes, you’ll want to use a credit card. And sometimes,  its a better idea to pay with a debit card. Still other times, you’re best off using cash. 

Let’s explore when and how to use your debit card. 

Credit and debit: How are they different? 

They’re both plastic, with a series of numbers, a security code and your name embedded on them. So, how are debit and credit cards different? 

A better question might be: How are they the same? Appearances aside, your credit and debit cards have very little in common. 

Credit cards allow you to choose your purchases now, and pay for them weeks, months or even years later. If you let your balance grow, you’ll be paying for a lot more than it really costs in the way of interest. But, if you make timely payments, you’ll have yourself a small loan that usually costs you little to nothing. Credit cards also offer rewards, purchase protection and the ability to back out of a purchase you’ve decided against. You can also contest fraudulent charges on your account, freeze your credit on a compromised card or even close the card completely. 

Debit card transactions, on the other hand, take the money right out of your checking account as soon as you swipe. Some point of sale terminals put a freeze on the amount, removing it from your account a few days later. But, either way, you won’t be able to access that money and you won’t have to worry about paying for it later. There’s no interest here, but there also may be no purchase protection, depending upon your financial institution. Finally, in case of fraud you may need to resort to closing your checking account. However, usually a simple issuing of a new debit card is all that’s needed.  

Which one’s better? It depends on the purpose. Debit cards are great for helping you stick to your budget and won’t send you into a cycle of debt. However, because they may offer very little recourse in cases of fraud, credit cards are usually the better choice in the most vulnerable situations. 

5 purchases you should carefully consider before using your debit card 

According to data from FICO, during the first 6 months of 2017, the number of compromised ATMs and point-of-sale devices was 21% higher than it was in the first 6 months of 2016. Don’t let your card be next! 

Here’s where you may not want to use your debit card: 

1.) At the pump 

Card skimmers at gas stations are on the rise. By choosing to use your credit card instead of your debit card at the pump, you’ll have an added layer of protection against fraud. You can also choose to use cash. It’s the safest way to pay (so long as you watch out for pickpockets!). 

2.) At an isolated ATM 

The ATM at UCCU? Definitely safe to use.

The one at the crowded pharmacy? Probably OK.

The machine in a secluded corner of an empty convenience store? Very possibly tampered with. 

Isolated ATMs in locations with very little security and sparse foot traffic are prime targets for hackers. It’s best to give these machines a wide berth and pick up your cash at your local UCCU branch. 

3.) In an unfamiliar location 

When on vacation, it’s important to think before you swipe. You don’t know the area and you can’t be certain which clerks are to be trusted. You’re better off paying with a credit card or with cash so your purchases are protected against fraud. 

Also, a large charge in an area you never frequent might cause your purchases to be flagged as fraudulent. Let your credit union know about your trip and be careful how you swipe! 

4.) For large purchases 

If you’re springing for a new entertainment center or another big-ticket item, you’re best off using your credit card. It’ll offer you dispute rights in case the product doesn’t turn out how you expected, and you might be granted an extended warranty just for using a credit card.

5.) Restaurants 

Can you really trust the servers at your favorite restaurant with your personal financial information? When you hand them your debit card at the end of the meal, that’s exactly what you’re doing. The server has more than enough time to clone your card and then use it for any purchases they’d like to make. Unless your restaurant has a tableside payment system, you’re better off using a credit card or cash to pay for your meal. 

Look out for skimmers 

Always use caution when using your debit or credit card. Check the payment processor for anything that looks out of place, such as a newer keypad on an older machine, or a hard-to-use slot for your card. Don’t forget to cover the keypad with your hand when inputting your PIN. 

Stay ahead of hackers by using your debit card with caution! 

Your Turn: Was your debit card ever compromised? Share your experience with us in the comments!

 

SOURCES:

https://budgeting.thenest.com/problems-using-debit-cards-gas-pumps-23710.html

https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/10-places-not-to-use-debit-card-1271.php

https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/gas-pump-atm-skimmers.php

http://news4sanantonio.com/news/local/skimming-devices-found-on-pumps-at-northwest-side-gas-station

Share Button

6 Ways to Know You’re Using Your Credit Cards Responsibly

Credit cards are an important financial tool, but they need to be used responsibly. Here’s how to know you’re okay.

  1. You can easily pay more than just the minimum payment each month.
  2. You don’t rely on your credit card for everyday purchases.
  3. You are using less than 30% of your credit limit.
  4. You never take out cash advances.
  5. You use it mostly for large, necessary expenses.
  6. You read all the fine print in every letter you receive from your credit card company.

Your Turn: In what ways do you use your credit card? Share with us in the comments!

Share Button

Getting the Most out of Youth Accounts

Managing money is a foundational life skill. That’s why it’s best to give your kids a head start on money management and saving.

UCCU is proud to offer specialized saving accounts for kids. Our Be Money Smart program is geared for children, youth, and teens aged 0-18.

Youth savings accounts offer no annual fees, competitive interest rates and quarterly dividends.

What better way to start saving for your future than with FREE money? Open a BeMoneySmart Savings Account before your child’s first birthday, and UCCU will make the first deposit of $10!

When your child opens a savings account, UCCU will give them a SmartSaver Rewards deposit card. Every time they make a deposit, we’ll punch the card and they’ll move closer to cash rewards. The more punches saved… the better the reward.  It’s the perfect way to help your kids learn saving habits and how to set and achieve saving goals.

Teenagers need a sense of independence. To help them gain that, teen account holders are eligible for a debit card with maximum daily limits that are set by parents/guardians.

Ready to open an account for your child(ren)? Does your child already have one? Here are three ways to ensure that he or she gets the most out of their new or existing account:

1.) Set a goal

Let your child use this opportunity to save for something big. Together with your child, create a long-term goal, like saving up for a first car. Also create a short-term goal, like a new hoverboard. Set a date for when you hope to hit your goals.
Next, set up a savings calendar for illustrating how much money needs to be saved each month to reach the intended target on time. Discuss ways to add to the savings.
2.) Bank together
If this is your child’s first time owning an account, she’ll need you to show her the ropes. Take your child along when you stop by UCCU to deposit her savings and show her how it works. If your child asks you to withdraw money from her account, let her see how this translates into a dip for their savings.
When helping your teen child, you’ll need to walk him or her through that first deposit and withdrawal. After that, leave it to them. Make sure they understand that every swipe of their debit card means a dent in their account.
It’s also a good idea to warn kids of all ages about security. They should know to never share their account information with anyone and to keep their debit card in a safe place.
3.) Monitor your child’s activity
Always keep an eye on your child’s account. If your child is depositing less than planned, or your teen is maximizing his daily ATM allowance, speak to him about money management and impulse purchases.
Every financial lesson you teach your child today equips them with skills for a lifetime.
Your Turn: How do you maximize the benefits of having a youth account for your child? Share your best tips with us in the comments!
SOURCES:
Share Button

6 Ways to Save on Your Summer Vacation

The open road is calling and your dream vacation awaits! But first, you need to work out the financial details. How are you going to pay for your getaway?

Ideally, a plump vacation fund is the way to go. Unfortunately, though, many of us don’t think about how we’re going to pay for vacation until it’s a few weeks away.

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 put the extra cash aside for your getaway. When you’ve got the money saved up, create a realistic vacation budget.

These six vacation saving tips will help you plan a perfect getaway without busting your budget.

1.) Timing is everything

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.

2.) Clear your cache

Hotel and airline sites use cookies to determine what you’re shopping for – and then raise their prices accordingly. Beat the system by clearing your cache before every new search so they can’t access your browser history.

3.) Sweet-talk your way to savings

Ask for an upgrade at check-in. About 78% of hotel guests who request an upgrade at the front desk actually receive one. 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 room with the incredible view – for an economy-class price.

4.) Never pay full price

Check sites like coupondivas.com, entertainment.com and Groupon.com for deep discounts at local eateries and entertainment centers. You can also find cheaper tickets to nearby amusement parks by looking for sellers on Craigslist.

5.) Freebie fun

Challenge yourself to enjoy one day of your vacation without spending any money. Search local sites and blogs for write-ups about free things to do. You might find a charming farm, a fun splash pad for the kids or a scenic hiking trail.

Don’t eat out on this day either. Many hotels include a continental breakfast – so take full advantage. For lunch, picnic on sandwiches. Dinner can be something effortless that you brought from home, like hot dogs cooked on a travel grill or omelettes fried in a sandwich-maker.

6.) Save your mega event for the last day

End your vacation on a sweet note by saving your most exciting event for your last day away.

If you’re unsure of how you’re going to fund your getaway, call, click, or stop by [credit union] to ask about taking out a personal loan or joining a vacation club. We’re here to make your dream vacation come true!

SOURCES:

Share Button

Saving on Home Renovations

Is your home in desperate need of a facelift? As you probably know, renovations don’t come cheap. In fact, the average kitchen remodel tops $60,000 and bathroom overhauls can cost $18,000!

With some careful planning, though, you can shave thousands of dollars off these price tags.

Here are 7 ways to save:

1.) Don’t do a complete remodel

Instead of knocking down walls, give the outdated area a fresh coat of paint, new light fixtures and some minor décor upgrades.

Potential money saved: $30,000.

2.) Shop around for a contractor

Find someone professional, reliable and willing to give you a decent price. Check out at least three different contractors before making your decision. Ask for references and meet with each contractor in person to get a feel for their professional conduct and character. Also, be sure to sign a detailed contract.

Potential money saved: several thousand dollars.

3.) Consider long–term benefits

It often makes sense to pay more now if it’ll save you big down the line. For example, if you’re installing clapboard siding, you’ll save in the long run by paying more for pre-primed and pre-painted boards. Using the prefinished claps means you’ll need half as many paint jobs in the future.

Money saved: $1,250 (for a 10×40 area).

4.) Pick decent but midgrade materials

When long-term functionality is not a criterion, choose the midgrade option. One area where you’ll see this at play is in carpeting. Olefin and polyester carpeting will run you $1 to $2 per square foot .while wool costs upward of $9 to $11 per square foot.

Money saved: $400 (for a 40-square-feet area).

5.) Bring in natural light without windows

Looking to bring a splash of sunshine into your kitchen? Instead of adding a window, consider installing a “light tube.” It slips between the rafters on your roof and works to funnel sunshine down into the living space below.

Adding a double-pane window can run you $1,500; a light tube costs $500.

Money saved: $1,000.

6.) Lend a hand

Save big by doing some of the demolition work yourself, painting some walls, or even sanding walls to prep them for painting. You can also lend a hand with the cleanup instead of hiring a crew.

Money saved: $200 or more.

7.) Increase efficiency, not size

Cramped kitchen? Don’t assume you need to push out walls to make it work. Instead, reorganize your kitchen for optimal efficiency and save tens of thousands of dollars. Upgrade your cabinets with lazy susans, pullout drawers, dividers and more. Consider hiring a professional organizer to show you how to maximize your space – you’ll still save big overall.

Money saved: up to $60,000.

Before making any decisions, be sure to call, click or stop by [credit union] today to learn about our fantastic rates on Fixed Home Equity Loans and Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC)!

SOURCES:
https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/ways-to-save-on-home-renovation-costs/

https://www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/21-ways-to-save-your-remodel-0

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.remodelista.com/posts/expert-advice-15-secrets-for-saving-money-on-home-renovation/amp/

Share Button

Going Green: Save the World while Saving Money

We’ve been given a beautiful world to live in, and it’s up to us to take care of it. Sometimes however, it’s hard to know where to start to contribute, and environmental causes are often so big that it’s difficult to tell if what we’re doing is making a difference. But, as this Tanzanian proverb that we found on the internet says, “Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”

So, the best thing to do is just to start contributing however, and wherever you can! You’ll find that doing things that help the earth are good for you too! Participate in your city or company’s “Bike to work day” during the month of May. Make the commitment to recycle, especially electronics like your cell phone. Commit to use less water (singing to two songs in the shower instead of three will go a long way).

Here’s one other small thing you can do to go green: start doing more of your banking online.

What are my options for digital banking?

Digital banking is growing greener with each technical advancement. Mobile banking helps the environment by saving the gas you’d need for the trip and the paper used for statements and receipts. Credit card use saves on paper, metals and energy used to create, track and replace cold cash. With instant-pay sites like Paypal, Venmo, and online bill paying, virtually all paper used in the production of checks, receipts and money is eliminated. So, every time you do a transaction online, you have complete license to yell, “Save the trees!”

Are there any risks to digital banking?

The benefits are fantastic, but digital banking does come with several minor risks. Some people find budget-keeping more difficult when a glance at a phone screen reveals a generous bank balance while neglecting payments that are still outstanding. The best fix for this is to set up separate accounts for savings and spending so you know exactly what’s in your checking account.

The biggest threat is the fear of hackers and identity theft. To this end, UCCU uses industry-leading security protection technology. A big contributing factor that attributed to our decision to undergo a system upgrade last year was the prospect of offering our members added security.

How can this help me?

Aside from the benefits of going green, sustainable banking offers many advantages: It can be done anytime, anywhere. You save on gas. Emailed receipts and monthly statements keep everything organized and in one place, which also helps with budgeting.

Instant payment allows you to, well, be paid instantly. No more misplacing checks or waiting for them to clear. With automatic bill payments, you can forget about your bills without forgetting to pay them, keeping your stress levels down and your credit scores high. Green auto loans and mortgages allow you to save money on purchases that might have previously been more expensive. Ultimately, saving the earth can save you time, money and energy.

To be part of the future, take these four easy steps:

  • Download our app for easy access to your accounts from anywhere in the world.
  • Enroll in paperless statements to get your important financial updates via email.
  • Set up direct deposit to split your paycheck between your savings and checking accounts and even to make loan payments.
  • Use online bill pay to automatically and securely pay your bills each month.
Share Button

6 Ways to Spring Clean for Extra Cash

When that first delightful spring breeze starts blowing, you know it’s time to get your house in shape. But there’s more than just a neat house awaiting the end of all that hard work. With just a few steps, you can put some extra cash in your wallet. 

1.) Trade in your electronics 

Gather all those old gadgets and devices you no longer use and bring them to your local electronics store. They’ll likely offer you a gift card for your treasures. Some larger chains, like Best Buy, run a retail-collection program to help you responsibly dispose of old electronics, giving you the chance to earn a gift card. 

2.) Get cash at the consignment store 

Your outdated clothing might be someone else’s idea of high fashion. Bring your old clothing to a consignment shop to see what they’re willing to buy from you. You can also search for consignment chains, like Plato’s Closet or Clothes Mentor, or look up online consignment shops like ThredUp, Tradesy or Poshmark.   

3.) Sell old books 

Look up your closest Half Price Books location and bring your collection of old books to them in exchange for a tidy sum. If you’ve got a stack of textbooks lying around, sell them online on BookFinder, Cash4Books or eCampus. 

4.) Sell your expensive electronics 

If you’ve got older smartphones or laptops that are in decent condition, they should be able to fetch you a pretty penny. Try selling your stuff on Gazelle.com. They offer free shipping, and once your item is officially logged by the company, you’ll get paid via check, gift card, or PayPal. It’s an easier, faster option than selling on Craigslist or e-Bay. 

5.) Get cash for unused gift cards 

Do you have a pile of gift cards you’ll never use? There are loads of sites that offer a gift-card exchange. Though you may not make back the full amount, you’ll usually score a decent offer. 

Try your luck at giftcard.com, giftcardgranny.com, or tradya.com and fatten up your wallet with greenbacks instead of useless cards. 

6.) Donate to charity 

Donating unused clothing, toys or electronics to charity might be the most worthwhile way to get rid of clutter. As an added bonus, donating goods to charity will earn you a tax deduction, so long as you keep your receipt. 

With a bit of extra planning, you can earn a nice amount of cash while cleaning out the house. 

Your Turn: Have you spring-cleaned your way towards extra cash? Tell us what worked for you in the comments! 

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.gobankingrates.com/making-money/spring-cleaning-tips-ways-make-money-already-have/amp/

https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/2016-03-02/5-ways-to-make-money-off-your-spring-cleaning

https://www.frugalforless.com/make-money-cleaning/

Share Button

10 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Credit Score

We all have things in our lives we are trying to improve– whether that be our health, a hobby or skill, or home improvement.

But are you focusing on improving your credit score?

Did you know that only 10% of Americans know their credit score?

Those are the findings of a survey commissioned by TrueCredit.com, a web subsidiary of the credit bureau, TransUnion. “It is shocking how little Americans know about their credit,” said John Danaher, president of TrueCredit.com. “Good credit is a cornerstone of your financial profile, enabling you to finance major purchases, such as a home, education, or car.” Then he added, “Not knowing about your credit can expose you to higher interest rates which translates into less money in your pocket at the end of the day.” When you apply for credit, your credit scores help lenders determine whether or not you are able to repay the loan based on your past financial performance. With a higher score, you qualify for better interest rates, higher credit limits, and more types of credit than you would with a lower score. Your score reflects the way you use credit, and there are no tricks or quick fixes to getting a good score. However, you can raise your score over time by demonstrating that you consistently manage your credit responsibly.

Here are 10 things you can do to improve your credit score.

1. Pay your bills on time. If you have a history of paying your bills on time, you’ll have an easier time getting a mortgage loan, car loan or credit cards. Even if you’ve had serious delinquencies in the past, a recent history (24 months) of on-time payments carries weight in credit decisions.

2. Keep credit card balances low. High outstanding debt can pull your score down.

3. Check your credit report for accuracy. Inaccurate information on your credit report can be cleared up easily. Always contact the original creditor and the credit bureaus whenever you clear up an error so that the inaccurate information won’t reappear later.

4. Pay down debt. Consolidating your credit card debt or spreading it over multiple cards will not improve your score in the long run. The most effective way to improve your credit is by slowly paying down the amount you owe.

5. Use credit cards – but manage them responsibly. In general, having credit cards and installment loans that you pay on time will raise your score. Someone who has no credit card tends to have a lower score than someone who has already proven that he can manage credit cards responsibly.

6. Don’t open multiple accounts too quickly, especially if you have a short credit history. This can look risky because you are taking on a lot of possible debt. New accounts will also lower the average age of your existing accounts which is something your credit score also considers.

7. Don’t close an account to remove it from your record. A closed account will still show up on your credit report. In fact, closing accounts can sometimes hurt your score unless you also pay down your debt at the same time.

8. Shop for a loan within a focused period of time. Credit scores distinguish between a search for a single loan and a search for many new credit lines, based in part on the length of time over which recent requests for credit occurred.

9. Don’t open new credit card accounts you don’t need. This approach could backfire and actually lower your score.

10. Contact your creditors or see a legitimate credit counselor if you’re having financial difficulties. This won’t raise your score immediately, but the sooner you begin managing your credit well and making timely payments, the sooner your score will improve.

These ideas won’t create a dramatic improvement in your credit score overnight, but over time, they will. Remember, it takes time to develop a strong profile. Once you’ve done it, you’ll find it easier to apply for credit and favorable interest rates.

Share Button

11 Ways to Scale Back on Food Costs

Here are 11 easy tips to help you save on food costs:

  1. Never shop before making a detailed menu for the week.
  2. Use coupons whenever possible.
  3. Cook with seasonal produce.
  4. Use the generic brands for cleansers, shampoos and detergents instead of brand-name products.
  5. Never buy something just because it’s on sale unless you use that item regularly. You aren’t saving if you got a great deal on something that will just sit in your pantry.
  6. Whenever possible, make your own instead of buying convenience foods.
  7. Never shop for groceries without a list.
  8. Buy in bulk instead of making smaller, more frequent trips to the store.
  9. Consider having your groceries delivered instead of going to the store to avoid impulse purchases.
  10. Never shop before taking full inventory of your fridge, freezer and pantry.
  11. When possible, buy larger containers of food instead of individualized portions. This includes snack bags, yogurts, ice cream, cheeses and drinks.

How do you save on food? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

Share Button