Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Stretch Your Food Budget Without Coupons

With the cost of food rising, many people are looking for ways to save money on their meals. Coupons may seem like a good idea, but there are two fundamental flaws: They take time to collect and clip and you don't really save money unless you use the coupon on something you'd normally buy anyway. Since we rarely see coupons for staples like milk, produce and meats, it's hard to count on those saving us anything substantial. So, what can you do?

Plan Meals Ahead of Time
When you know what you're going to eat, it's a lot easier to make your shopping list and stick to it. It's a good idea to plan your meals from payday to payday, so you're not stuck at the end of the pay period with no idea what to eat and little cash flow to work with. Sit down with a calendar and your local grocery store's sales paper. Considering the items you already have on hand, the items you need to restock, and what the store has on special this week, come up with meals you'd like to prepare. If you need some inspiration, search for recipes online. Make your grocery list recipe by recipe. Add other items you know you need.

Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk is always a great way to save, but when you consider the fact that warehouse clubs like Sam's Club and Costco have annual membership fees, it's not always the most practical way to go. If you can't accompany a member as a guest, you can still apply the bulk principle to many things in your local grocery store. Go back to your store sales paper. See an item you use often on sale this week? Buy as much as you can afford while it's on sale. This is a great way to stock up on essentials like canned goods.

Look for Hidden Discounts
While most of your grocery store's specials will be advertised in the weekly sales paper, there are often unadvertised discounts hiding throughout the store. This is particularly important in the meat and produce departments, as food could be on the verge of spoiling. These items are reduced in an effort to sell them quickly. As long as you cook or freeze the meat soon after you buy it, you'll be fine. The key with quick-sale produce is to only buy what you'll be able to use within a day or two.

Check Discount Grocery Stores
Discount grocery chains like Aldi or Winco can help you save money because they offer unadvertised brands. Other discount stores may offer brand name foods at a deep discount because the box is bent, or the can is dented. Some things you find may be past their "best by" date, but it's not always necessary to worry about that. Food expiration dates are a general guideline. Use these guidelines to shop smart:
  • Sell By: This date tells the store when to stop displaying it. It refers to freshness, rather than spoilage. Grab from the back to ensure you get the freshest products, or opt for one close to the date to get savings. 
  • Best By (or Before): This date refers to product quality, not safety. Sour cream, for example, is already sour when you buy it, but tastes best when it's freshly soured. 
  • Guaranteed Fresh: Typically used for baked goods, these items will still be safe to eat after the date on the package, but won't be as fresh. 
  • Use By: This date is determined by the manufacturer as the last possible date for peak quality. Most products are still safe to eat after this date. 
Don't be afraid to shop multiple stores to get the best deals. If the stores are too far apart, though, you risk spending more money on gas to get there and back than it is worth. If there are other stores near your work or school that are on the way home, check those out when they're not out of the way instead of making a special trip just to shop.

By Lucinda Watrous Copyright 2016 brass Media, Inc.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

4 Reasons to Use Our Mobile Banking App

Most people have a checklist they go through before they leave the house. Is the stove turned off? Are the doors locked? Do I have my wallet, my keys and my cellphone? Today, 91% of Americans have cellphones and 61% of them have smartphones. This is a remarkable change from even a few years ago.

If you haven’t started using our mobile banking app yet, here are some benefits for you to consider.
 
Convenience
One of the greatest benefits of mobile banking is being able to complete your banking on your lunch hour, vacation, or anytime you are on the go. Rather than waiting for your statement every month or booting up that slow PC to check your account balances online, you can view transactions while waiting for a bus or in line at a restaurant. Branches will still be around, but having a mobile app will allow you to handle most of your banking needs anywhere.

Security
Mobile banking is secure and safe. Data transmitted from your cellphone to your provider is heavily encrypted. If you lose your phone, it can be remotely deactivated and passwords usually aren’t stored on the device. Security leaks have affected PCs, Macs and point of sale terminals, but no widespread security vulnerability has compromised mobile banking.

Ability to Track Finances
Mobile Banking keeps you in control of your finances and can help keep you from making costly mistakes. If you know funds may be running tight, check your account balance while in the checkout line to make sure you can cover the cost of your purchases. You can also set up recurring bill payments, so that you never miss paying a bill or incur late charges. By regularly checking your account statement, you can catch things like accidental overpayment or other errors before they turn into big issues.

Features
With most mobile banking apps, you can check your account balances, transfer money, find an ATM or branch and set up alerts for your accounts. As smartphone technology improves so does the ability to manage your banking needs. Community Financial is dedicated to offering you competitive and secure Mobile Banking Services. Our mobile banking app allows you to:
  • Deposit checks with your phone’s camera 
  • Check balances and pending transactions including credit card transactions 
  • Make transfers between your credit union accounts or other member’s share accounts
  • Pay bills to companies or individuals from your checking 
  • See graphs that help you track spending 
The Community Financial mobile banking app recently had some upgrades. It now has a fresh new look and upgraded navigation features like touch id and swipe functions. If you currently have our app, don’t forget to run the update on your phone.

Mobile banking won’t replace traditional, face-to-face interaction. There will always be a place in the credit union service standards for the human interaction. What mobile banking apps offer is a wonderful supplement to those high-quality services. Convenience, security, and peace of mind are all available from your pocket, anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ideas for Planning a Graduation Party on a Budget

The end of the school year can bring a lot of excitement, especially if your child is graduating from high school or college. Now is the time to celebrate these accomplishments with your family and friends. Want to throw a great party but don’t want to break the bank? Consider some of these cost saving ideas when throwing your big grad party.

Set a budget

Start the planning process by setting a realistic budget first. This will help you focus on the items you need to host a successful party. Make a list of the food and drinks you want to serve, places to call for reservations, and a guest list of those you plan to invite.

Host at home
Hosting the graduation party at your house could help cut down on costs, so that you don’t have to rent a reception hall or a pavilion at a park. You could utilize your garage, driveway or backyard which allows for any messes to stay outside. This also allows your guests to move around freely during the party. Keep the decorations to a minimum and use paper plates and plastic silverware. You could also buy two-liters of pop and serve homemade punch, tea and water so beverages don’t go to waste.

Consider a combined party
If your child’s cousin or best friend is graduating at the same time, why not consider a joint party? If you have similar friends and family it could make a lot of sense to invite them all on one date. It will help cut down on costs since you’ll be splitting the bill and it will let guests condense their time by celebrating both graduates on one day. If a joint party is not your thing, it is always great to ask for help from family and friends. Asking a friend or family member for help with tasks like refilling food or cleanup gives you more time to visit with your guests.

Save on invitations
Create the invitations yourself or consider digital invites. If you want to send out paper invitations, consider postcards to save on postage. You could also skip the paper invitations altogether by opting for online invitations. Send out an Evite or create a Facebook event or fan page. Choosing online invitations will save you time and money.

Ask for help with food
Instead of hiring an expensive caterer consider building your own buffet. Taco or hot dog bars are a popular option. Focus on serving 2-3 main dishes to simplify things and have a relative or friend make a dish. Stock up on things like soda, paper products, and frozen appetizers when they’re on sale months prior to your event. Borrow serving dishes and coolers for drinks from friends and family members.

Lastly, make sure you take time to enjoy and visit with your guests. Although this is your son or daughter’s big day, remember you have helped bring them this far so you deserve to celebrate too! Congrats to all of the 2016 graduates!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Setting Yourself Up for Auto Loan Success

When shopping for a new car, it’s always too easy to let your emotions do the shopping. After all, you’ve been fantasizing about that red convertible for how long? For most people, a car is the most expensive purchase they’ll make aside from their house. So, keeping this sobering thought in mind is a solid step toward reining in those emotions.

Common sense dictates that you’ll want the lowest interest rate possible regardless of whether you’re buying a new or used car. After all, the ultimate goal should be to pay off your car with the least amount of money in the least amount of time.

Obtaining a great low interest-rate loan starts way before you hit the showroom. It begins at home with an assessment of both your financial situation and what you really need in a car. Here are some steps you can take for auto loan success:
  1. The first thing to do is take a look at your credit report. You’ll want to have a good idea of where you stand before you talk to your credit union representative. The better your credit, the more choices you’ll have. If your credit is borderline and you have some time before you need that new car, invest some time to clean up any possible problems.
  2. Next, it’s important to figure out what you can afford before shopping around. One good rule of thumb is to spend no more than 10 percent of your total earnings toward your car expense. Another good rule to follow is to finance no more than 80 percent of the price of the car. If you finance more than 80 percent, you may find yourself owing more on the auto loan than you could get by selling the car or trading it in.
  3. Know what you are looking for before you visit the dealer. The Community Financial Auto Resource Center gives you access to valuable information to help you with the car buying process, all in one place. You can find statistics about almost any car ever made, research vehicle pricing, read blogs and opinions about different makes and models, and even look up reviews on places to purchase a car. 
You’re only ready to start shopping for your car and auto loan once you’ve determined how much you can spend on it and how much of a down payment you can make. Using your head first, instead of letting your emotions lead you, may not put you in that red convertible you’ve been dreaming of now, but the financial payoff from saving money might get you there a little later.

Are you in the market for a new or used car? Visit cfcu.org/autos for today’s low auto loan rates. To inquire about how we can put you in the driver’s seat for less, call us at (877) 927-2328 or stop by your nearest Community Financial branch today.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Encourage Your Kids to Be "Money Smart"

Are your kids on the right track to financial independence? For many of today's young adults, the weakest link lies in learning the basics. Achieving economic prosperity is difficult, and it's especially hard for young people who've never learned how to manage money.

By instilling the habit of saving at a young age, offering positive encouragement, and providing financial education, we can prepare our community’s youngest members for brighter futures by helping them grow into financially capable adults. This means having the money skills to embrace an awesome future, and making our communities better. That’s why Community Financial takes our mission of helping youth so seriously.

Community Financial Credit Union is ideally positioned to help our young members because we believe in the power of education. We're here to help you launch the youth in your life toward financial independence, and here’s how:
  • Join. For starters, open a credit union savings account for each child in your family. As soon as your children can write, have them fill out deposit and withdrawal slips. Guide teenagers through using a debit card and tracking transactions.
  • Share. Include your children in household money discussions. Show them how you budget income and expenses. As their skills improve, give them challenges—such as finding a better cell phone plan, calculating the total monthly cost of owning a car, or sticking to a budget for back-to-school or holiday spending. 
  • Coach. Remind your children to ask for help when they need it. And turn to your credit union when you want help. Our tradition of service makes us a natural partner in helping you gain financial security. 
From April 23-30 Community Financial celebrated Money Smart Week. Money Smart Week is a public awareness campaign to promote financial education across all age groups. Launched in 2002 by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the program is now active in more than 45 states. Find local events by visiting moneysmartweek.org.

Remember it’s never too early or too late to learn about managing your personal finances! Find out more about our youth services and Student-Run Credit Union program at cfcu.org/youth.

Community Financial Credit Union, P.O. Box 8050, Plymouth, Michigan 48170-8050;
© Community Financial 2013
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Federally insured by NCUA.