Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Energy Saving Tips When Buying New Appliances

There’s no getting away from the fact that our dependence on energy increases daily. With energy-dependent technology driving our lives, ecologists continue to search for ways to save our environment. In fact, 30% of the charges on your electric statement stem from your appliances. Focusing on energy-efficient appliances is one way to do that.

Is one of your appliances on the blink? Before running out to purchase a new model, consider if it’s worth contacting a technician to fix your machine. Since prices for electrical appliances have decreased over the years, it might be worthwhile to buy a new model. Besides, the costs of a new part for your old apparatus and the technician’s visit can be high.

What Does Energy-Efficient Mean?
In simple terms, this means the process that is used to make the appliance function is using less energy. How can you be sure you’re getting the best product at the most cost-effective price?

Here are some tips to guide you in your search:

1. Determine the total cost. The first thing to consider is the operating cost. This amount, along with the actual purchase price, should give you the real cost of the appliance.

2. Check the energy rating. There are several reliable rating services that provide information about appliance energy consumption. The federal government uses the Energy Star Standard sticker to inform consumers of the operating cost and the annual energy consumption of each appliance.

3. Select the right size appliance. Running a large machine, even the most energy-efficient one, uses more electricity than a compact one.

4. Look for economy choices. Many dishwashers and washing machines offer a variety of different cycles. If you find one with an economy cycle, you’ll save money when you only need to wash a small load of clothes or dishes.

5. Stay simple. When it comes to choosing a refrigerator, go easy on the add-ons. Top-to-bottom fridge/freezer models are more energy efficient than side-by-sides. Features like water dispensers, ice-makers and auto-defrost use lots of extra electricity. This holds true for self-cleaning ovens, too.

6. Contact your utility supplier. They can help you with the latest ways to save on utility charges. With today’s smart devices, appliances can be programmed to use less energy at certain times of the day.

7. Check out your home. Hire a home assessor to identify ways you can save on your overall energy and water costs.

8. Comparison shop. Never buy the first model you see. Household appliances are not cheap, and to find the most energy-efficient one at the best price, you’ll need to comparison shop. Don’t pay for the name in a specific model; compare the details of each machine.

Your Turn: Do you own an energy-efficient appliance? How much has this purchase trimmed from your monthly electricity bill?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Liberty Middle School Students Get Schooled in “Adulting”

Life Management teacher, Colleen Ramirez, helps students
make wise choices at the Mad City Money “Mall” station.
Seventh and eighth grade Life Management classes from Liberty Middle School in Canton participate in Mad City Money. This program is a reality simulation designed to engage students in making tough budgeting choices as if they were an adult. Students begin the simulation by picking a profession and are given a set salary.

Liberty Middle School staff member,
Trichelle Touma, helps students purchase
housing during Mad City Money.

They are also given credit card debt, student loan payments, and healthcare costs. During the simulation, students must purchase their transportation, housing, child care, home essentials, food, and clothing within their means. In the end, the goal is for students to have built a monthly budget that leaves $100 in their checking account.

Life Management students rotate to
stations to make all of their purchases.
Students vary in how they spend their money throughout the simulation. Some students end up with a lot of extra money (thinking they can now buy a luxury boat), only to realize that they have significant credit card debt that needs to be paid off first. Other students find that they are over-budget and have to get rid of their fun purchases (like that extra boat)! Overall, however, students get the sense of how “adulting” (as one student described it) is a challenge.

Check out some fun pictures of Community Financial team members assisting students with their budgeting:

Student Credit Union Members and Budgeting 
Student credit union members at Community Financial are also encouraged to have a plan for their money. Student members are given a goal sheet at the beginning of the school year that helps them to set a savings goal and to track their progress each month. This helps students to “budget” their money at an early age. You are never too young to learn budgeting skills!

Budgeting Skills
Creating a monthly budget takes time, effort, and organization. Students participating in Mad City Money learn quickly that there are multiple elements to consider in creating a budget as an adult. Luckily, these students are guided in how to make wise money choices during this simulation. Adults, however, must often navigate the world of credit cards, debt, loans etc. on their own with little help. The resources listed below can help alleviate some of that stress. Check them out to find more budgeting and financial help:
Your Turn: Which financial resources do you find the most helpful? Tell us below in the comments.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Understanding Regulation D and Withdrawal Limits

Do you know the real differences between a savings and a checking account? Most people don’t, so here’s a quick breakdown to help explain.

Since a credit union’s vault doesn’t hold all the money deposited by its members, there are requirements determined by the Federal Reserve which govern how much cash financial institutions must hold in reserve against the accounts at that institution. The federal regulation that contains these rules is called Regulation D (Reg. D for short).

The percentage of funds that must be kept by institutions is currently 10%. Deposit accounts are then defined as “transaction” or “non-transaction” accounts, with only transaction accounts considered when calculating this ratio. So what’s the difference?

Transaction Accounts 
Transaction accounts, such as checking accounts, can be used by account holders on a daily basis for their personal finances. With transaction accounts, depositors can make unlimited payments and transfers from the account to third parties and to their other accounts. They can perform these transactions by writing checks, at an ATM, using a debit card, and through online payment services.

Non-Transaction Accounts 
Non-transaction accounts, such as savings accounts, are intended for long-term savings, and the deposited funds are accessed less frequently. With non-transaction accounts, financial institutions must reserve the right to require seven days of written advance notice before account holders make a withdrawal. This right is rarely exercised, but it’s included in the account agreement. Since they're meant for long-term savings, regulations limit the account holder to six “convenient” transactions per month.

Convenient Transfers 
These “convenient” transfers include: preauthorized automatic transfers, transfers, and withdrawals requested by phone, fax or made online, checks written to third parties, and debit card transactions. Less convenient transactions, like those made in person, by mail or at an ATM, and phone withdrawals requesting a mailed check, are unlimited.

If a member tries to exceed the six-per-month limit on their savings account, the financial institution is required to refuse transfer privileges or convert the account into a transaction account. Unfortunately, when this happens, people are often unaware of the Reg. D restrictions and assume it’s a credit union policy.

Community Financial offers a simple way within its mobile banking app to monitor the number of Reg. D transactions a member can conduct each month. Each time a transfer is made from a savings or money market account, a Reg. D Counter will appear on the Transfer screen in the app. This will count down the number of withdrawals left in the month. If a member needs to exceed the six-per-month limit, they will need to complete the transactions in a less high-tech method like at a branch.

If you have any questions on what Regulation D is and how it affects you give us a call at (877) 937-2328.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Thumbs Up For Charity is Back March 12th!

We often give a “thumbs up” to things we like such as Facebook statuses and Netflix shows. During the month of March, Community Financial is making it easy for you to give a “thumbs up” to your favorite charity with our 5th annual “Thumbs Up for Charity!” program! So how does this program work?

Starting March 12th, you can nominate a local organization to receive recognition for its good work in your community, and a chance to receive a financial donation up to $10,000! Nominations will be accepted at cfcu.org/ThumbsUp until Friday, March 30th.

Once all the nominations have been received, five finalists will be chosen and voting will begin on April 9th. The community will be able to vote for one of the five nominees until April 20th, so don’t miss this chance to give recognition to the group you think deserves it most! Winners will be announced on cfcu.org by April 25th.

Community Financial will be donating $25,000 through this exciting program:
  • The charity that receives the most online votes will receive the grand prize of $10,000! 
  • Second and third place winners will each receive $5,000.
  • Fourth and fifth place will each receive $2,500. 
“The nonprofit groups in our communities work hard and we are proud to support them throughout the year,” said Community Financial's Manager/Community Relations Natalie McLaughlin. “We want to provide the residents of our communities a chance to tell us which groups they think deserve recognition, and ‘Thumbs Up for Charity!’ gives them that opportunity.”

If you’d like to nominate a charity, please make sure that it is a registered 501(c)(3) organization, recognized community support organization, or associated with an accredited educational institution serving the communities within Community Financial's field of membership.

For complete contest rules and more information about the “Thumbs Up For Charity!” program, visit cfcu.org/ThumbsUp. Now is your chance to make a difference in your community!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Mistakes First-Time Homeowners Make

Buying a house is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make, and there are common mistakes that many first-time homeowners regret making. Here are some of those mistakes, and how you can avoid making them.

1.) Not Knowing Your Housing Budget 
Avoid buying a home that is out of your financial comfort zone. After all, you don’t want to wind up being “house poor.” You likely already have a budget and some idea of your expenses for running your current household. Now is the time to review that budget.

Some of your expenses are going to increase in a new home – like utilities and insurance. Add up all your expenses, but leave out rent or mortgage payments. When you subtract the total of this list from your take-home pay, you will have a good idea of how much you have left for mortgage payments. Check out Community Financial’s mortgage calculator and use it to calculate mortgage payments based on various available interest rates. Generally, housing costs should be 30% or less of your before-tax income.

2.) Looking Outside Your Housing Budget 
Don’t even look at houses that fall beyond your budget; it’ll only set you up for disappointment. Even if you manage to buy the home, you’ll find yourself with too much house and too little money. After doing your research, you’ll know how much house you can afford. You can then pinpoint properties in that price range. Most home purchases require compromise. Maybe you’ll decide on a smaller house in a neighborhood with the best schools. If space is your highest priority, though, you might choose a larger house in a less-exclusive neighborhood. Every house has advantages and disadvantages, but keep your search within your financial comfort zone.

3.) Purchasing Based on Future Budget Changes 
If you are having trouble finding a house in your price range, consider ways to reduce your current expenses. This will mean having more money available to make a larger monthly mortgage payment. Many people mistakenly assume they will make these changes once they own a house. Ideally, these budget changes should be in place before you buy a house, even if it means delaying the purchase. Give yourself at least six months to see if you can stick to your new budget.

4.) Treating Your Home as an Investment 
First-time homebuyers often anticipate selling their house for a large profit in 5 to 10 years. The last decade has brought major changes to every housing market. While a house in certain areas was usually guaranteed to appreciate in value, that’s not always a sure thing anymore. Buy a house to live in and enjoy, not necessarily to make a profit from. 

Your Turn: Do you have tips for avoiding house buying mistakes? Share them in the comments.

Community Financial Credit Union, P.O. Box 8050, Plymouth, Michigan 48170-8050;
© Community Financial 2013
Federally insured by NCUA.
Equal Housing Lender
Additional coverage provided by ESI.
Federally insured by NCUA.