Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Honeymoon Trends for 2015

Vacations come and go, but one of the most memorable trips a married couple will ever take is their honeymoon. While some newlyweds are content with taking a “traditional” beach trip, many are looking for ways to make their honeymoon an adventure worth telling stories about. Here are some popular honeymoon trends for 2015:

Take Two
What’s better than a honeymoon? Two! Many couples are learning that taking a “mini-moon” directly after the wedding and waiting a few months before taking a longer trip can be beneficial in many ways. From a budgeting standpoint, taking a shorter trip directly after a wedding can offset the hit the wedding made on your bank account. It gives you a few days away to recuperate from the wedding festivities, but also provides something to look forward to after the wedding excitement has worn off.

Volunteer Trips
According to TheKnot.com, green trips have been trending for a while, and more newlyweds are carrying that same do-good attitude even further by adding volunteering to their itinerary. Sites like HoneymoonVolunteers.com give couples an opportunity to find a honeymoon based on more than just the location, but also on what type of “giving back” the couple wants to do. From building shelters for orphans in Belize, to feeding endangered iguanas, the memories that are made on these unique honeymoons will last a lifetime.
Glamorous Camping
Want the romance of gazing up into the stars, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city? Look no further than the middle of nowhere! Many people avoid camping because it seems like a lot of work, filled with bugs and leaky tents. However, with the help of sites like Glampinghub.com, it’s become easier than ever to find a destination with the right rustic to glamour ratio for your honeymoon. Some of these rentals feature raised beds, lockable doors and even electricity. Some might say that these luxuries take away from the allure of camping, but isn’t the point of a honeymoon to enjoy your time together? It’s likely that most couples would enjoy having a flat screen TV out in the middle of nowhere for when that rain hits!

Extreme Couponing
Sites like Groupon.com or LivingSocial.com offer deep discounts on vacation spots, and if you’re willing to monitor the sites, you can sometimes find discounts on fun activities nearby. The only catch is that you usually have to be flexible with the dates you’re willing to travel, meaning it could be the “off season” or mid-week. Sometimes deals are offered for lesser known resorts or places under new management, so be aware of the fact that you could be making reservations at a hotel or business that doesn’t have a very long track record.

Foodie Trips
Gourmet honeymoons are becoming increasingly more popular for the “foodie” couples among us. We're talking about a seriously memorable culinary experience -- with 12-course tasting menus, wine bars and street markets with the freshest local produce. For couples planning their honeymoon around where they'll have their next meal, destinations like France, Japan and New Zealand have increased in popularity.  

For many years people have been enjoying the benefits of all-inclusive vacations, at resorts like Sandals, and it continues to be a trend for this year’s newlyweds. After the overwhelming process of planning a wedding, many couples relish on being able to pay one lump sum for their accommodations, meals, drinks and activities. This way they don’t have to plan or budget for these expenses while on the trip. With these types of resorts all around the world, there’s bound to be one for any couple looking for a virtually worry-free honeymoon.

No matter what your vacation style is, a honeymoon is a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend time with the one you love most. You don’t have to break the bank to go on a honeymoon, just find what suits you most as a couple and enjoy your special time together!

*Community Financial does not endorse the information, content, presentation or accuracy, nor make any warranty, expressed or implied, regarding the websites and/or apps mentioned above.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Attention Millennials: Viewing Your Credit Report and Improving Your Score

If you feel like you're the only Millennial with financial problems, know you're not alone. In fact, 42 percent of Millennials say that debt is their "biggest financial concern". Additionally, half of college grads still rely on their family for financial support.

Not exactly a pretty set of numbers, huh?

Take a deep breath, and take a closer, more honest look at your finances. Let's start with your credit report.

What's a Credit Report?
 A credit report is a snapshot of your debt at a certain point in time. It states how much debt you have, how often you pay this debt on time, the names of the creditors collecting your debt, the amount of debt past due, etc. (See sample credit report here.) This report is compiled by the Big 3 credit bureaus, namely Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

To get a complete picture of your debt, it's best to get a credit report from all three. Each gathers credit information from different sources so they're bound to produce conflicting reports. You'd probably want to take the most conservative view on your report, because it's the basis for the number that'll make or break your credit standing: your credit score.

What's a Credit Score?
If a creditor wants to check whether you're "credit-worthy" or not, the first thing they'll look at is your credit score. This score is calculated from the following information on your credit report:

  • History of payments 
  • Type of credit 
  • Total money owed 
  • New credit 
  • Credit history length 

How Can I Improve My Credit Score? 
There's no magical trick that'll wipe out your debt overnight, but you can try these tips on for size:

  • Pay off your short-term debts first. These may seem small, but those nasty little buggers known as "interest" can pile up over time and do a number (no pun intended) on your bank account. If you can eliminate credit card debt -- or any short-term debts -- as soon as possible, you'll find it much easier to take on the long-term ones. 
  • Make an expense report. Take all your receipts, invoices and the like from previous months, and make a report. Tools like excel sheets or Google Docs help to organize your financial information. 
  • Create a budget. From your expense report, decide what you can cut or eliminate. To help you figure out an upper limit for your expenses, deduct your target monthly savings from your monthly income. If the resulting number is too low for you, you have two choices: lower your target monthly savings, or cut down your average monthly expenses. 
  • Lower monthly expenses. Managing debt when household expenses are through the roof can seem like an impossible task. Take a close look at your monthly bills and see what you can cut. Lose the cable and switch to Netflix. Check out what type of discounts you can apply to your car insurance. Many providers offer deep discounts for being a good driver or keeping your miles low. By keeping your monthly expenses as low as possible, you can apply those savings toward bringing down your debt. 
Keep at It 
Don't be discouraged if you're not seeing immediate, significant results to your efforts to improve your credit standing. Having a patient mindset and paying your debts on time is the key to turning your credit around.

Photo by 401(K) 2012 via cc. 

By Savannah Hemmings Copyright 2015 brass Media, Inc.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Help For First Time Homebuyers

Nicolette Rybski thought her dream of home ownership was years away. But now she’s the proud owner of her first home, with the help of Community Financial and a special program called HOP, which stands for Homeownership Opportunities Program.

HOP helps with down payment and closing costs for first-time homebuyers who are at or below 80% of area medium income. Community Financial is one of the only financial institutions in the area certified to handle HOP.

After completing the home buying process, Nicolette felt others would benefit from what she learned, so we sat down to talk about her experience.

“I wish I had known about a lot of things much sooner in the process,” Nicolette said. “I learned there was a lot I didn’t know and I felt lucky that Community Financial worked with me and helped me figure it out.”

Here are some of Nicolette’s tips for first-time homebuyers:

Get organized. 
“One of the first things I learned was the importance of keeping your financials in order. Before shopping for a home, organize your financial documents and review your credit report so you know where you stand.”

Prepare a budget. 
“If you need help with this, ask Community Financial. HOP provided a first-time homebuyer class that was so informative I wish I had taken it sooner.”

Get pre-approved. 
“Don’t wait until you find the perfect home to start the mortgage process. It’s important to get pre-approved so you’re in a better position when you find the right home.”

“I'm in awe of owning my own home,” said Nicolette. “I can't believe how far I've come. It's such a big goal that I've set for myself and to have achieved it, I'm so proud it (makes me) tear up.”

“The Community Financial team was genuinely happy for me and you don't find that often. Some banks are just in it for the money and it felt like Community Financial was really concerned about helping me. To have found a credit union that genuinely wants to help someone make a good life for themselves is really amazing.”

To find out if you could qualify for HOP or learn more about financing a home, contact Community Financial to speak with a mortgage specialist.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Could Spring Be the Right Time for a New Car?

As the long anticipated summer approaches, you’re probably looking forward to driving your car with the top down or the windows open. For the past few years, there has been an increase of vehicle sales during the warm weather months. Chances are that you or someone you know might be in the market for a new or used vehicle purchase or lease soon!

According to a recent Automotive News article, auto sales are expected to increase slightly around the U.S. in 2015. One main reason for this is that interest rates are expected to remain relatively low for the rest of 2015. Low interest rates and longer auto-loan terms have largely offset higher vehicle prices over the past few years, keeping increases in monthly payments to a minimum.

Our friendly representatives at Community Financial can help answer any questions you have about the vehicle loan process. To help you be as prepared as possible, here are a few things you might want to do before you visit the dealership:
  1. Visit our Auto Resource Center – Use Community Financial’s Auto Resource Center to research vehicle pricing, compare models, view dealer inventory and estimate your payments. 
  2. Know your credit score – Knowing your credit history will give you a better idea what to expect from lenders. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003 (FACTA) allows every consumer to get a free copy of his or her credit report once a year from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax). 
  3. Know the invoice price – Once you’ve settled on the right car for you, look up the invoice price for that car in a Buyer’s Guide. Invoice price is what the dealer pays the manufacturer for the car; the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP, or “sticker price”) includes hundreds—usually thousands—of dollars of profit for the dealer. With the exception of all-new or very popular models, you should be able to get a new car for closer to invoice than MSRP. 
  4. Get pre-approved before negotiating a price – When you are ready, get pre-approved for a low-cost auto loan and know your budget before you shop. This will help the process run smoother when you find the right deal. You don’t need to know the exact price or make and model you plan to purchase, but having a pre-approved loan will make the negotiating process much easier. 
  5. Don’t forget insurance – you will also want to contact your insurer to price out insurance costs for your vehicle. This will not affect the loan process directly, but will help you better manage your budget for a purchase. Some insurers offer discounts for annual or bi-annual payments, which could make your insurance more affordable. 
Buying a vehicle doesn’t have to be an intimidating or overwhelming process. Community Financial can help ensure that the loan process is as smooth as possible. That way you can start enjoying your new vehicle sooner! Visit our Auto Loan webpage for more details on how to apply for an auto loan at our low rates.
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