Unplug this summer: We’re all in this together!

How I’m going to help my entire family unplug more this summer – starting with me.

As a parent, I’m worried about how much time my kids are spending staring at screens. Of course, I’m not alone. According to a recent study from Common Sense Media, 77% of parents feel their teens get distracted by devices and don’t pay attention when their families are together.

That stat may not surprise you, but here’s one that might: according to that same study, 41% of teens feel their parents get distracted by devices and don’t pay attention when their families are together.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to lecture you about how I think technology is “bad” because I don’t. But my entire family is simply plugged in too much (OK fine, including Mom and Dad). TVs, tablets, smartphones, computers and on and on. And I know that when my kids are treated to long days with no school, the temptation to waste away those long summer days is stronger than ever for every member of our family.

This summer, I’m going to help my entire family unplug and I know just where to start: with me.

STEP 1: PLAN AHEAD

I don’t want to start with me. It would be so much easier to just tell my kids: “Turn off those devices!” But then I realize that in my home, a culture of staring at screens didn’t develop suddenly. These habits and behaviors have been cultivated and nurtured over time.

I know that If I’m going to get serious about helping my kids unplug this summer, I can’t plan for it to be easy and I can’t plan for it to happen overnight, but I can create a plan that’s realistic for all of us. After all, we’re all in this together!

STEP 2: GET MY SPOUSE ON BOARD

That’s right. There’s not going to be any playing-Dad-against-Mom when it comes to our family’s screens this summer. We’re all in this together!

STEP 3: WORK WITH MY KIDS

To my kids, creating a realistic plan to help my family unplug can sound an awful lot like: “I’m going to take away something that you love.” So I’m going to make sure my kids know better. That’s why we started with a family meeting that gave us a chance to make one thing crystal clear: this is not punishment.

Nobody’s done anything wrong. Mom and Dad aren’t trying to take away anything. We all love spending time with technology, even Mom and Dad (especially Mom and Dad!). We simply want to help our entire family get more: out of summer, out of life, out of each other.

This family meeting was also a great opportunity to involve our kids in the plan. We asked each of our children what types of technology they enjoy the most. That way, our family could customize our plan together and ensure a way for everyone to still do the things they want to do. We’re all in this together!

STEP 4: LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Have I mentioned that staring at screens is as much a temptation for me as it is my kids? It’s up to parents to lead by example and if I tell my daughter to turn off her tablet while I’m staring at my phone, what kind of message am I sending?

By making our plan together, we all agree to support each other in our efforts to unplug, and that includes accountability. We’re all in this together!

STEP 5: DON’T JUST UNPLUG— CONNECT!

Here’s where the fun begins. If I’m going to expect my kids to stay off their screens, they’re going to need other things to do. Fun things to do. And I’ve always loved other, fun things to do, like listening to music, starting new projects and playing games. And I mean real games: the kind where your family looks at each other, talks with each other, and maybe even laughs with each other. You know, like they did in olden times.

It’s all about considering what type of fun your family likes to have and what kind of memories you want to make. And, of course, being ready to provide fun and interactive ways to make it happen, from simple indoor games and outdoor activities to excursions and vacations.

STEP 6: BE MINDFUL AND DON’T GIVE IN

Like anything worth doing, unplugging my family is going to be a challenge.

Can I expect pushback? Absolutely. Tears? Possibly. Will I have to listen to my children complain? I have two ears, don’t I? But I’m not going to give in and I’m not going to give up because I know that just one lapse might be enough to convince my kids that we’re not really serious about this after all.

Of course, stuff happens, and I know I’m going to be faced with many moments of weakness, all summer long. But instead of collapsing under the pressure by plugging back in, I will be mindful in those moments, approaching each one as an opportunity to connect with my children and help them understand what it feels like to plug back into life.

Oh…you say you have nothing to do? Let’s build a fort! Bake some cookies! Play a game! Go for a walk! Dress up in goofy outfits and take pictures! Hey, have you read this book? You know what I loved doing when I was your age? Invite your friend over! Better yet, let’s see if we can swim in your friend’s pool!

STEP 7: ENCOURAGE, INCENTIVIZE, REWARD

Remember, this is supposed to be fun, and that’s easy to forget when everyone is suffering through technology withdrawal. But I’ve seen for myself that my kids are more present, more engaged, and more mindful when the screens are turned off (hey, just like Mom!) and I believe that both the journey and destination will be well worth it.

If my husband and I can help our kids understand for themselves just how great it feels to experience life in good old-fashioned reality (even just for one extra moment), I’ll consider this entire experiment an unqualified success. Besides, I know that if my kids don’t practice unplugging now, they may be even less inclined to try it on their own in the future.

So along with constantly reminding our children of how grateful we are for their efforts (and that we’re all in this together, naturally), my husband and I are establishing realistic ways to incentivize and reward them, including…

STEP 8: TELL MY KIDS TO PLUG BACK IN

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is not punishment. This is an opportunity for our entire family to practice technology on our own terms, in more balanced, mindful, and healthy ways.

What better way to prove to my kids that we’re on their side than by allowing and even encouraging screen time? Structured, approved, mindful screen time.

Let’s not forget, we live in a digital world and technology is advancing faster than ever. Since we can’t fight the future, my husband and I are going to win the war at home, equipping our kids with the wisdom, experience, and support they’ll need to navigate technology their entire lives.

At least, that’s the plan, and we’re all in this together!


Guest Columnist: Lisa Valentine Clark

Lisa is a UCCU member, Utah Valley mom, and author of Real Moms: Making It Up As We Go. Check out her Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/yourfunnyvalentine/

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What will you do with your HELOC?

Your house isn’t just a home. It’s an investment.

And with home values on the rise, a Home Equity Line of Credit— or HELOC, for short, might be the perfect way to put your home’s equity to work for you.

A HELOC is a line of credit, issued to you, based on the equity you have in your home. What can you do with a HELOC? Whatever you want! It’s your HELOC and your choice. And right now, you can get a HELOC from UCCU with no fees and a fixed, low rate you can lock in for ten years.

Here are three of the most common ways homeowners utilize lines of credit or HELOCs to maximize the growing equity in their homes:

DEBT CONSOLIDATION

A HELOC is a great way to consolidate and save money on higher interest loans, such as credit cards, and get out of debt faster. Simply lock in a low rate on a HELOC from UCCU and then use your HELOC to pay off your other loans, starting with loans with the highest interest rates.

With your new, low rate, you’ll save money during the entire life of your loan. And having your debt consolidated into one payment makes life easier.

REMODELS AND REPAIRS

From transforming the house you have into the home you want, to simply making those repairs you haven’t gotten around to yet (or haven’t been able to afford), a HELOC is your opportunity to put your home’s equity back into your home, which can both improve your house and possibly raise its value even higher.

RAINY DAYS

Many homeowners open HELOCs and never use them. That’s the beauty of a HELOC. You’re never required to use or spend one cent of it. Having a HELOC means having the security and peace of mind of knowing you have a line of credit ready for a rainy day… even if that day never comes.

OPEN YOUR HELOC AND LOCK IN YOUR LOW RATE FOR 10 YEARS

To open a HELOC, just visit uccu.com or stop by any UCCU branch. We’ll not only provide you with the lowest rate possible on a HELOC, we’ll lock in that low rate for ten years and we won’t charge you any closing fees. You’ll simply have a fixed line of credit, ready and waiting, for you to use – or not use – however you see fit.

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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

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6 Buyer Tips for Hot Housing Markets

Couple outside new home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6 Ways to Declutter Your Countertops

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

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

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

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

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What Causes Home Loan Rates to Move Up and Down?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Girl Shopping Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More house. Same payment.

With UCCU’s low interest rates and mortgage insurance rates, you could qualify for up to 14% more house than you could with other local lenders! Here’s how:

LOWER INTEREST RATES
UCCU’s rates are just plain lower than the competition. An independent survey on 10/21/2016 of 30 lenders in our market showed that UCCU’s 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 0.375% lower than the group’s median interest rate.

LOWER MORTGAGE INSURANCE
When your down payment is less than 20%, you are typically required to pay for mortgage insurance. This can be a significant monthly expense that gets added into your payment. UCCU receives lower mortgage insurance rates than banks and mortgage companies, which can make a big difference in your monthly payment.

Call 801-223-7640 to speak to a mortgage expert today!

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Alternatives to Putting 20 Percent Down on a Home

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Real Estate is said to be one of the best long term investments out there. If that’s the case, then why put off getting into a home? For some, it’s because there is a misunderstanding on what is required to buy a home. Below are a four loan types and their down-payment requirements.

Conventional
Many believe that 20% is required for this loan type, however,that isn’t true in most cases. By putting 20% down you won’t have to worry about mortgage insurance, and you would qualify for a lower rate. The minimum down payment required for this type of loan is actually just 5%. As for sourcing the funds, the full 5% down payment must come from the primary borrower.

FHA
This is a government backed loan. The minimum down payment required is 3.5%. Considering the nature of the loan, the down payment affects aspects of this loan less. Either way, you will be required to have mortgage insurance with an FHA loan. What’s the advantage to this loan then? The 3.5% can come as a gift from a relative, offering some flexibility on the savings.

VA
VA loans are done via the Department of Veterans Affairs, and allow veterans of the U.S. Armed Services access to programs other U.S. consumers do not. One such program is the no-money-down VA loan.

With 100% financing and accommodating underwriting standards, VA loans make approvals simple and offer lower rates than a comparable conventional mortgage. Additionally, VA loans require no mortgage insurance no matter how much you put down.

First Time Home Buyer

For those who qualify, there are special loan products that will allow up to 100% financing. Those loan requirements can vary by location, so we recommend getting in touch with your local mortgage loan officer to see if you qualify for 100% financing.

The easiest way to make sure you are getting the best type of loan for your situation is to sit down with one of our Mortgage Experts to help you get the home you want, at a price you can afford. You’re just a phone call away from reaching your dream of home-ownership. Visit your local branch or contact us by email at homeloans@uccu.com or by phone at 801-223-7640.

 

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Is Now a Good Time to Buy?

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Research is showing that housing prices are still on the rise. Although the local market is considered a “seller’s market”, is it actually a good time to buy? The simple answer is yes!

As your financial partner, we want to always make sure to steer you in the right direction and ensure that we are providing the best rates, service, and advice. If you are curious about your options we have mortgage experts available to help with all of your home buying needs.

The biggest benefit of buying a home in the current market is that interest rates are still low. You can buy a home from us with a 30 year fixed conventional loan, and receive a rate as low as 3.125%*. Before the market crash in 2008, interest rates were sitting around 6.00%. The difference between the two rates is thousands of dollars when paid back over a 30 year period.

However, there is currently no guarantee that the rates will remain low. The government is currently helping influence the lower rate, but there have been rumors for some time now indicating that this “influence” will stop sooner than later and allow the market to adjust accordingly (meaning the rates will rise).

On top of great interest rates for home loans, tax benefits of homeownership are great too! Don’t wait too long to decide to buy. Visit https://uccu.mortgagewebcenter.com/ to be pre-qualified today or call us at 801-223-7640 to speak to a home loan specialist today!

*Please note that the interest rate shown here are available based on a 740+ credit score. The actual interest rate and fees available to you will be based on your credit history and may be different than the rates displayed here.
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