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

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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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How to Build Good Credit in College

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You have most likely heard people talk about the importance of having good credit. It’s also likely you were never taught what “credit” even means or how to improve it. Let’s face it, you probably didn’t learn about it in high-school, and you probably didn’t learn it in college either!

Simply put, credit is your ability to buy things now, based on the trust that you will pay for it later. Of course, you can cross your heart and hope-to- die that you will pay for that 70-inch TV later, but without a proven track record, no one can believe you.

Credit is developed by consistently fulfilling that obligation on time (like your monthly credit card bill, car payment, mortgage payment, etc.).  Credit is expressed on a numerical scale from 300 – 850 (850 being a perfect score).

Don’t worry, no one is perfect, but the optimal score that banks and credit unions want you to have is about 720-740. The higher your score, the more a financial institution can trust you. What this means for you is higher trust equates to better benefits.

You might be tempted at some point to simply ignore the whole credit game altogether and go through life on your debit card. I know I was, and sometimes I still am! However, poor credit scores can make health, car, and life insurance more expensive. It can become difficult to get a cell phone contract or even an apartment!

Good credit is important to avoid problems while moving through life, but it is absolutely necessary to progress financially. You don’t want to live in your parents’ basement for the rest of your life or drive that beater multi-colored Honda Civic your dad drove while he was in college. Good credit is necessary to make big purchases like a that 70-inch TV, a new car, or a house.

Okay, so it’s important, but what should you even do?  Here are 3 things college students can do to build good credit.

1. Get a credit card. 

Get a credit card and stay on top of it. Getting a major credit card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover) helps get your credit score into the 700’s and enables you to apply for car loans, house loans, and others.Try to find a credit card that offers no annual fee that also has a low interest rate.

Use your first credit card to pay for small, frequent purchases like gas and groceries instead of big purchases like a mattress or the TV. Using the credit card for the frequent little purchases makes it easier to pay off every month because that is money you would spend no matter what.

What if your credit is too low to even get a credit card? Don’t worry, there’s a way out of that.

Most banks and credit unions offer secured credit cards. Secured credit cards are low limit credit cards meant to help those with bad credit recover. They are similar to prepaid credit cards – you pay a certain amount to open the card, that amount is now your credit limit.

Then you pay off the balance like any other credit card, allowing you to rebuild your credit. That amount you paid to open the card in the first place is the collateral the institution holds in case you fail to make payments. That is how the institution protects itself.

Utah Community Credit Union offers a special “Build Good Credit Loan” for those looking to recover from bad credit or strengthen the credit the already have. To learn more, come into to any of the 15 locations http://www.uccu.com/home/uccu/locations.

2. Keep debt low 

When you have a credit card, keep the balance well below the limit. Most financial institutions recommend staying below 70% of the credit limit, but staying around 30% of the credit limit is optimal.

You may have heard the term “maxed out my credit card.” Maxing out a credit card means using your credit limit, and this can make it very difficult to pay off. It can also get the credit card locked, which will deny any further use until it is paid off.

Keeping the balance low (by paying it off frequently) shows that you are living within your financial means and that you could handle more responsibility (like a car). Credit Cards will have a minimum monthly payment required on all standing balances. Be sure to pay more than the minimum amount in order to pay off debt faster.

Tip: If you are unable to afford the minimum monthly payment, you have taken on too much debt and need to curb your spending.

If you already have a credit card, you are paying it off, and you are keeping the balance low, the next step is to get another credit card. Two credit cards working to improve your score is better than one. The same principles apply to the second credit card as the first. Keep the balance low and pay it off every month on time.

Don’t become a credit card collector- don’t get a second credit card and then never use it, an inactive credit card can actually push your credit score down.  You could buy a pack of gum, then pay it off that next day and the credit card will stay active and keep building your credit.

Many credit cards offer special benefits like miles or points for airline ticket purchase and other products; shop around a bit to find the best one. Start your search by visiting the UCCU credit card page here: http://www.uccu.com/home/loans/visa

3. Stay consistent 

Stay at the same job for longer periods of time. Financial institutions want to see reliability and stability. If they see that you change jobs every couple months, you will look too risky. While still in school, it is not uncommon to change every 5-6 months. After college, however, it is best to stay for at least 1-2 years.

Stay in one place. Again, the goal is stability and reliability. Moving apartments every few months looks risky. You could be moving for perfectly legitimate reasons, but the creditors won’t know that. Frequent moving could indicate inability to pay rent, as well as other financial irresponsibility.

Of course, the most important way to stay consistent is to pay all bills on time and in full. Late payments on things like utilities, phone bill, credit card, and other loans can all negatively impact your credit score.

Your turn: What are some other tips and tricks for building good credit? Be sure to share this article with your friends and family so they too can progress financially!

By Kelby Gatrell

Kelby Gatrell is the Social Media Marketing Intern at Utah Community Credit Union. He currently attends Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and is double-majoring in Business Marketing and Russian Studies.

Sources

http://www.uccu.com/home/loans/visa

http://www.wikihow.com/Build-Good-Credit

How to Build Credit

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Best Times to Buy 2017

Sales Calendar

When you’re mulling over a major purchase, the right price can often tip the scales. If you’re patient, willing to research and time your buys just right, you can save quite a bit of green. Here are the best things to buy during each month for the rest of the year!

February: Prepare for winter

Now’s a great time to take stock of your existing cold weather gear. If you’ve got a coat that’s seen its final winter, now’s a great time to replace it. Retailers are looking to clear out the last of the season’s merchandise to make room for spring clothes, so you can snag a deal on thermal clothes. You can also find a bargain on heaters and humidifiers to make your house more comfortable.

March: Get in shape

If you’re looking to reboot your New Year’s weight loss resolution, March is a great time to pick up exercise equipment at a discount. Treadmills and ellipticals are past their peak buying time, so retailers are looking to get rid of them. Sports equipment, like golf clubs and athletic wear, are also facing deep discounts.

April: Tech out!

Japanese manufacturers’ fiscal year ends in March, so they’re typically ready to roll out new product lines. If you’re OK with being a year behind the latest and greatest, you can pick up a fully functional digital camera, laptop computer or big-screen TV in April. Tax refund-themed sales may also make it cheaper to upgrade your technological goods.

May: Around the house

Now that the weather’s getting nicer, many home improvement shops will begin running sales on tools and other supplies. It’s also graduation time, which means dorm-stocking essentials will get some discounts. Check out basic pots, pans and cooking appliances in May.

June: Think thrifty

Everyone’s gotten a chance to get their spring cleaning done. That means thrift stores are stuffed with donated second-hand goods. Be on the lookout for bargains of all sorts, but especially for used furniture and clothes.

July: School supplies

The end of July marks back-to-school time, which means this is the month retailers start to gear up for school shopping. Look for promotions, like tax-free days, if you’re in the market for a computer or peripheral. Otherwise, you can stock up on pens, paper and other standard office essentials.

August: Beat the heat

If you’ve managed through the heat of the summer with a busted AC, August may provide some much-needed relief. Major appliance retailers are looking to shift their inventories from cooling to heating. Look for discounts on window AC units, dehumidifiers and other cool appliances.

September: Big-ticket

The new models of most major appliances start to roll out in October and November, making September an excellent time to grab last year’s model. If you need a new dishwasher or refrigerator, try to hold out until September. Also, new Apple accessories, like iPads and iPhones, typically come out in November or December, so September can be a great chance to upgrade your device, too.

October: Cars and cruises

The new model year begins for cars toward the end of summer, so there are a lot of leftovers from the previous year that need to go. Dealers are desperate to move inventory, so you can get a good price on the current year’s models. October is also a quiet season for cruise lines, so many of them run specials and sales during the month.

November: Game on

Christmas season is in high gear, and major retailers are competing for gamer bucks. Expect to see the best bundles with the hottest games for the lowest prices in November. Whether you’re trying to surprise a gamer in your life or just get the newest games for yourself, November is the time to buy.

December: Threads

After-Christmas deals are almost as legendary as Black Friday deals, so why not get out and snap up some of those clothes that are up to 90% off! Check out stores like Nordstrom Rack, and Nike for clothing stores just don’t want any more.

Your Turn: What’s your best deal-nabbing tip? How do you find the lowest prices for the best stuff? Share your bargain hunting wisdom with us in the comments!

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Don’t Panic: Filing Taxes As A College Student

Frustrated Student

Imagine skipping a day of class, then coming into the next session and seeing a test. You open the packet and see what appears to be gibberish staring back at you. Everyone else around you seems to have a perfect grasp of what’s going on, but you’re just stumbling in the dark.

That can be what the process of preparing your taxes can feel like the first time you do them. You’re given a big pile of paper and expected to sort it out yourself. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Before you start to panic, though, take a deep breath. There are a few questions that might make your life much easier. Grab that big stack of paper and ask yourself …

1.) Do I even have to file?

There’s an easy way to short circuit this whole process. If you didn’t make much money last year, you don’t have to file taxes. If your earned income (wages and tips) is less than $6,300 and your unearned income (interest and dividends) is less than $1,050, you probably don’t have to file taxes.

Of course, you might still want to do so. If you had a summer job, your employer took taxes out of your paycheck as though you’d been working all year. You might be able to get a little bit of a refund for your effort.

2.) How hard does this have to be?

If your tax situation is relatively simple, you may be eligible to use a form called the 1040-EZ (as in easy). It’s a much more straightforward document. You just enter your wages, your filing status (married or single) and the taxes you’ve already paid. It’s all laid out on your W-2, the form you got in the mail or online from your employer.

The 1040-EZ lives up to its name. It’s one page long. Once you put your name, address and Social Security number on it, you’re about halfway done. You don’t get to claim any tax credits, but there aren’t a lot of tax credits available for college students in any case.

3.) Where can I get help?

You don’t have to go it alone. If you’re feeling antisocial, you can (and should) use an e-filing service. The IRS has a tool to help you pick the best one. It’s available here: https://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/jsp/wizard.jsp?ck.

TurboTax is a popular e-filing tax service we suggest using that simplifies and explains the whole process from start to finish. If you are in college, you are most likely able to file through TurboTax completely free. TurboTax offers this free service for those who:

  • Made less than $100,000
  • Don’t own a home or rental property
  • Didn’t sell investments
  • Don’t own a business or have 1099 income (usually for independent contractors)
  • Don’t have major medical expenses

People who don’t fit in the free TurboTax requirements can still use Turbotax for a fee. Fortunately, TurboTax has partnered with Utah Community Credit Union (UCCU) and offers discounts of up to $15 for members of UCCU. Members can access the discounts by following this link:

https://turbotax.intuit.com/microsite/home.htm?priorityCode=3468350029&cid=all_0utahco1_aff_3468350029

There may also be additional tax help available. A program called the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is available on many college campuses. Business students looking to bolster their resumes will frequently volunteer to help with taxes for free. This is especially important if your tax situation is more complicated, like if you’re paying for college on your own or have self-employment income from a side hustle.

Your Turn: Are you stressed about taxes? Tell us about it in the comments, or pop down and help your fellow students out!

Sources:

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-you-by-volunteers

http://blog.taxact.com/1040-tax-forms/

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/when-does-your-child-have-file-tax-return.html

https://turbotax.intuit.com/

https://turbotax.intuit.com/microsite/home.htm?priorityCode=3468350029&cid=all_0utahco1_aff_3468350029

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5 Tips for an Affordable Wedding

Man proposes to woman at lakeside

According to a new report by a leading wedding magazine, The Knot, the average American wedding cost has eclipsed $35,000. That’s more than half of the yearly median income! Most of that spending isn’t on lavish luxuries for bride and groom – it comes from the guest list. Couples are inviting more people and doing more for them, trying to create an unforgettable experience for their loved ones.

If you’ve got an event planned for the coming year, read on. Your bill doesn’t need to be that extreme. Here are five ways to save on the cost of your big day!

1.) Schedule smart

Saturday is the most common day of the week for weddings. It’s automatically attractive, since everyone has the day off and most churches aren’t available on Sundays. Because of this popularity, venues are often more expensive on Saturday than on other days.

While the appeal of a weekend might not apply to a random Wednesday, you can pick a date that offers some of those same benefits without paying the Saturday premium. Try setting up your special day before a holiday, like July 3, or on the Sunday of a long weekend, like Labor Day. Your guests will still have time to enjoy themselves, and you can save as much as 15% on the cost of your venue.

2.) Untether yourself

When it comes to picking a venue, the first obligation should be to find a place that speaks to who you are as a couple. Practically, though, there are several important factors that should influence your decision. Most importantly, pick a venue that allows outside vendors for food, music and photography (or negotiate with the venue you already selected). Places that do a lot of business in weddings may have existing relationships with businesses that can charge more because they’re not competing.

If you can get this kind of flexibility, shop around for better prices on some of the more costly parts of the wedding. You also gain the flexibility to get exactly what you want out of these services. If you want a signature cocktail instead of a full bar, for example, contracting with an outside party may be a necessity.

3.) Keep the ‘W’ word to yourself

From cake decorating to flower arranging, everyone has a “special” wedding price. Many vendors know they can get away with charging more for a service if it’s wedding-related than if it’s for another occasion. You can catch some savings if you keep the reason for the occasion to yourself.

For example, when shopping for a dress, buying a formal gown that’s not specifically labeled as a “wedding dress” can translate to savings. Getting a custom-decorated sheet cake (or buying a big cake and decorating it simply yourself) can save a few hundred dollars. By not mentioning the word “wedding,” you can easily save 30% at various vendors.

4.) Put your guests to work

The biggest costs for most wedding-related items is in labor. When you pay for flower arrangements, you’re paying about 10% for the flowers and 90% for the florist’s time. The same is true for cake decorating and place setting. Instead of hiring professionals, consider putting your guests to work.

It may seem awkward, but many wedding guests would love the opportunity to feel like they contributed to your special day. They get the feeling of participating actively in making your event a success, and you get to save a few bucks on nearly every service. It’s a win-win!

5.) Spread out the cost by using a savings club account

One of the biggest challenges for newlyweds is coming up with that much money all at once. All the wedding bills come due at the same time. For many couples, that means using consumer debt to finance the whole cost of their wedding. Doing so can make your dream wedding all the more unaffordable, as interest and financing charges add up.

Instead, consider setting up a club account to help defray costs. Set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking account into a dividend-bearing savings account. When the bills start coming in for the big day, you’ll have money set aside to defray the costs. Remember, a dollar you don’t have to finance is a dollar you don’t pay interest on. Even if you can’t absorb the whole cost of the event out of savings, why not borrow less?

Your Turn: What are your best cost-saving wedding hacks? Share your wisdom in the comments!

SOURCES:

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/5-clever-ways-to-save-on-your-wedding-2.aspx

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/top-10-ways-to-save-money-on-your-wedding-3.aspx

http://www.realsimple.com/weddings/budget/save-money-wedding/venue

https://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelwmiller/insanely-smart-ways-to-save-money-on-your-wedding?utm_term=.nh9zY22pG#.ulOdbrrz8

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Romance On A Budget: How To Woo For Less

Man and woman smiling at each other.

Romance On A Budget: How To Woo On Less

It might feel like spring is far away, but love is still in the air. It’s almost St. Valentine’s Day, and that means it’s time to do something special for that special someone in your life. How can you show someone you care without breaking the bank? Here are five low-cost Valentine’s dates you can use to give your sweetheart (and your wallet) a great time!

1) A home-cooked meal

Food is love. It’s one of the most traditional ways to show you care. Paying restaurant prices for it, though, can add up fast. A typical meal out costs an average of $13 per person, excluding tip and drinks. Worse yet, unless you act quickly, getting a table on the 14th may be a non-starter!
Instead, try making a meal yourself. For added fun, try cooking together! The meal will taste better with the knowledge that you made it yourself, and you’ll save the time and expense of going out to a restaurant.

2) Ice skating

Once a staple of courtship, this date idea may seem a little old-fashioned. There’s a lot to love, though. It’s a chance to be close together, hold hands, and it comes with a wonderful cup of cocoa at the end! Best of all, costs are low, so it’s a bargain-priced way to build memories. You’ll form lasting memories from the bumps and scrapes of falling down, and picking each other back up again will bring you closer than ever.

3) Picnic a meal

Somewhere between dinner at a restaurant and home cooking lies a pre-packed meal you can take with you to a special spot. Scope out some place with a view, then pack up light fare – sandwiches, cheese and crackers, or even just some fresh fruit. Pack up your blanket and your basket and grab your sweetheart. If the weather turns foul, you can even move your impromptu date to a campus common area or other public indoor space.

4) Discount theater

Movies have always been a traditional date night trope, but a new release at the theater can cost a pretty penny! If you look, you can almost always find a nearby theater playing slightly older movies for dirt cheap prices. You can get the whole theater experience, down to the shared bucket of popcorn, and see a good movie you’ve both been dying to see!
For local options in Utah County, the Provo Cinemark Movies 8 offers movies for close to a dollar. If you’re up for a drive the Water Gardens theater located in Pleasant Grove has more recent movies for only a couple dollars more. If you end up going to one of these this Valentine’s Day please share a pic with us on Instagram and tag @uccufans!

5) Learn something new

This doesn’t mean following each other to classes for a day, although that might be a great bonding experience. Instead, find a new skill or activity you want to find out about and take a class together. Many colleges offer cooking, dancing and other romantic activities, but learning to play a sport or a fitness class could be a great fit, too. Whatever you choose, be sure it’s something just outside both of your comfort zones! Nothing builds relationships like shared experiences.
Your Turn: What’s your go-to for dates on a budget? Share your best ideas with us in the comments below!
SOURCES:
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