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Instead of knocking down walls, give the outdated area a fresh coat of paint, new light fixtures and some minor décor upgrades.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


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2018 ShredFest Schedule

Our 2018 ShredFest is here! We’ve expanded this year from two to four locations. You can see the full schedule below. Be sure to bring your personal documents to be shredded for free!

May 5 – American Fork UCCU Branch: 9:00am to 12:00pm
May 12 – Lehi UCCU Branch: 9:00am to 12:00pm
May 12 – Spanish Fork UCCU Branch: 9:00am to 12:00pm
May 26 – Provo Riverwoods UCCU Branch: 9:00am to 12:00pm

Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to protect yourself from identity theft by safely destroying your personal documents and papers on-site. The events are from 9:00am to 12:00pm, or until the truck is full, so get there early!

We will also have information tables at each location in case you are curious about some of the current rates and promotions we have running.

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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.
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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 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,, or 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! 


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Book Review: Faithful Finance by Emily Stroud

There are hundreds of personal finance works crowding the shelves of any bookstore. You’ll find books that promise to make you a millionaire in just a month, help you crawl out from under a mountain of debt or give your financial life a full makeover. Most of these books are written in a know-all, tell-all style, convincing you that you’ve just picked up the secret that holds all the money wisdom of the world. You might find complex terms you don’t understand thrown around with abandon, or read about unfamiliar approaches you’re expected to know about and understand.  

Emily Stroud’s recent release is different. Faithful Finance is written in a practical style that sounds just like your good friend is talking to you. What’s more, the book expertly twins religious belief and faith with practical money management tips, showing you what matters most in life and how to keep your perspectives in order. 

Despite its casual style, Stroud’s book is no shabby attempt at offering actionable budgeting tips. Inside this comprehensive work you’ll find the following topics explored and explained in simple, clear terms: 

  • Choosing a financial advisor
  • Creating a savings plan
  • Budgeting all of your expenses
  • Investing for retirement
  • What to do after you’ve graduated college
  • How to start a family on sound financial footing
  • How to give generously and prayerfully

Faithful Finance is sprinkled with real-life accounts of ordinary people just like you. You’ll read about how these people expertly manage their financial lives without getting overwhelmed, and you’ll learn how to make it happen in your own life. 

This book is all about breaking down the multifaceted world of personal finance and making it doable and simple while being faithful. 

If you’re looking for a book that will reveal the secret to true wealth, explore the worlds of the most successful people or study intricate money topics, this book is not for you. 

But if you want a practical, easy-to-understand guide for managing your money while keeping your faith, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Faithful Finance. 

Your Turn: What’s your favorite easy-to-understand personal finance book? Share it with us in the comments! 


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Rising Interest Rates Explained

If you follow the national business news, you are likely getting mixed messages about the state of the economy. While never very reassuring, pundits’ opinions on the stock market and the country’s economic state are changing as frequently as the weather. 

But there’s one area that’s been constant for some time now: rising interest rates. If you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage, or any other large loan, in the near future, you might be waiting until those rates start going down again. 

Here’s why that might not be the best idea. 

Interest rates will continue to rise throughout 2018.

Experts predict that interest rates on financial products will continue to increase throughout the year.  There are several factors triggering this rise, none of which are likely to be resolved anytime soon. Whether you’re interested in taking out a personal loan or a second mortgage, 2018 may not be a very good year for borrowers.

It’s not looking too great for those who are looking to take out short-term loans either. The U.S. central bank raised short-term interest rates a total of three times in 2017, and that trend is expected to continue. Experts claim 2018 will see an additional three interest rate hikes, each being 0.25%. If you need to borrow money from [credit union], it’s best to consider your plans sooner rather than later to ensure you can lock in before rates get higher.

The inflation factor

Unemployment rates may be down across the country, but wage growth continues to crawl at an almost nonexistent pace. This, in turn, leads to limited price growth, which keeps the inflation rate stagnant. However, the feds are expecting all of this to change in the coming year. They expect wage growth to finally kick off and then set in motion an uptick in inflation and price growth. 

The government wants to stay ahead of any surge in inflation. It does so by increasing interest rates even before there is clear evidence of an inflation peak. In fact, just last month, the feds raised interest rates on short-term loans yet again, citing an inflation scare at the beginning of February as the primary factor behind their decision. 

Financial institutions and credit card companies pattern their own interest rates after the government’s rate. For this reason, it’s best to work on aggressively paying down outstanding debt you have before you’re hit with increased interest rates.


Mortgage interest rates are now at an all-time high; they are currently close to 4.6% and are up more than 20% from a year ago. 

There are multiple factors driving this increase, including the administration’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum and the associated concerns over the U.S. trade market.

For the most part, though, mortgage interest rates are based on the 10-year Treasury yield. When bond yields rise, so do mortgage rates. The recent tax overhaul caused investors to favor stocks over bonds, and consequently mortgage rates have been climbing since the tax plan was first introduced in September.

Some experts are actually predicting a turnaround for mortgages in 2018. They are hopeful that the expected volatility in the yield curve will trigger a similar curve for mortgages, possibly even causing them to dip below 4% sometime this year. However, all agree that by year’s end, the mortgage rate will settle at a stable 4.5%.

No one can be certain of anything, though. And waiting until the rates drop might prove to be pointless. In fact, you might even end up paying a higher rate because of that delay.

The good news

Take heart; it’s not all doomsday forecasts on the economic front!

Greg McBride, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst, predicts a great year for returns on savings. He claims that 2018 will be beneficial for all savings accounts, and especially for CD holders, with an average one-year CD yielding a 0.7% return by the end of 2018.

If you’ve been thinking about opening a share certificate or other ways to grow your savings, talk with UCCU, and start putting your plan into action!

What it means for you

Let’s review the practical steps you can take in this economic environment:

1.)   If you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage or another long-term loan, don’t wait for rates to decrease; it isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

2.)   Try to pay off your debt at a quicker pace than you’ve been doing until now to avoid getting hit with rising interest rates.

3.)   2018 is a great time to increase your savings and to open a share certificate.

Volatile economy got you stressed? No worries! At UCCU, we’re always here to help you through any financial turn. Call, click, or stop by today! 

Your Turn: What steps are you taking in the current financial climate? Paying down debt? Increasing your savings? Tell us all about it in the comments! 


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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, a web subsidiary of the credit bureau, TransUnion. “It is shocking how little Americans know about their credit,” said John Danaher, president of “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.

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Investing – Step 7: Find Your Investing Style

Now that you have successfully determined how much of a risk-taker you are, it’s time to choose an investing style that best suits your personality, your needs, and your financial standing.

First, you’ll need a basic understanding of the major investment styles available in today’s market. These styles can be broken down into three dimensions: active vs. passive management, growth vs. value investing, and small cap vs. large cap companies. Study each category to determine which style best suits your needs.

1.) Active or Passive Management

When choosing your investment style, your first question is going to be how much trust you’re comfortable placing in financial advisors.

If you’d like to have professional money managers carefully select your holdings, along with a full-time staff of financial researchers and managers constantly seeking to gain larger returns for you, active management is the style for you. Of course, you’ll have to pay for those financial experts to work on your investments, but hopefully, the greater returns you’ll get will make the expense well worth it.

If you don’t think a team of professionals will do enough for your investments to justify the high cost, you might choose to be a passive investor instead. In fact, empirical research supports this style – it shows that many passively-managed funds actually earn better returns over the long run. You’ll need to do more of the legwork yourself this way, but your expenses will also be much, much lower.

2.) Growth or Value Investing

The next question you’ll need to consider is whether you prefer to invest in fast-growing firms or in underpriced industry leaders.

Those using the growth style of investing, will choose firms with high earnings, high return on equity, high profit margins, and low dividend yields. The reasoning behind this choice is that a firm earning in this pattern is likely to be an innovator in its field and will continue earning high profits.

Since it is currently growing at a fast pace, such a firm will reinvest most – or even all – of its earnings for fueling further growth. As an investor, you want a chance to be part of that growth, even if it means paying a higher price-to-earnings ratio.

In contrast, the value style of investing is focused on buying a strong firm at a good price.To be considered a value investment, a firm must have a low price-to-earnings ratio, low price-to-sales ratio, and a higher dividend yield.

3.) Small Cap or Large Cap Companies

The last question you need to ask yourself, is whether you want to invest in small or large companies. In investing lingo, the measurement of a company’s size is referred to as its “market capitalization” or “cap” for short. Market capitalization is the number of shares of stock a company has outstanding, multiplied by the share price.

Some investors prefer small-cap companies because they believe these companies can deliver better returns as they are more flexible, and have more opportunities for growth. As is usually the rule in the market though, the potential for greater returns comes with heightened volatility and greater risk. In comparison to large firms, small firms have fewer resources and a less diversified business line. Share prices of the company can therefore fluctuate dramatically, generating larger gains but also generating larger losses. If you’re comfortable with risk and like the potential for greater growth, this is the style for you.

If the thought of putting your money into a smaller company makes you uneasy, consider investing in a dependable, large-cap company. The names of large caps include some big firms you’ll be familiar with like Microsoft and Exxon Mobil. These companies are well-established and stable; you don’t have to worry that they’ll suddenly go out of business and leave you in the lurch.

On the flipside though, these companies are already so large, that they may have reached their capacity for growth and don’t have much more room for expansion. Investors putting their money into large caps can anticipate lower returns, but also less risk.

Review these three dimensions of investment styles until you can determine which choice from each category suits you best. When you have chosen one from each dimension, you’ll know your investing style. This will enable you to pick the investments that you’ll be comfortable holding onto for a long time.

Your Turn: What kind of investor are you? Share your style with us in the comments!

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