Thursday, December 18, 2014

Spreading Christmas Cheer

Community Financial wishes you all the joys of the holiday season. We asked our team members what traditions bring them joy during the holidays. Amanda Madden, a MSR in our Call Center, was happy to share her story.

Amanda (left) and fellow call center
FSR Belinda (right) celebrating.
Amanda doesn’t let the hustle and bustle of the holidays lead her astray from her Christmas traditions. She brings the holiday spirit to work with her every day during the season. We asked Amanda about her true meaning of the holiday season and her favorite ways to spread Christmas cheer.

The first weekend in December, Amanda enjoys decorating her Christmas tree and bringing out all of the other decorations. She loves to have Christmas tunes playing in the background while she does this.

“This is really my first activity I do to get into the holiday spirit,” she said. “Pulling out all of the decorations after they’ve been in storage for a year always puts a smile on my face! I also love just sitting in my living room with all the lights out and the Christmas tree on, enjoying the quiet and the beautiful tree.”

For some holiday cheer, Amanda suggests going to Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village. The Holiday Nights program is known for giving its attendees a feeling as if they’re stepping into a Christmas card from the past.

“The decorations mimic what Christmas looked like in the old days. They have buggy rides, a firework show and Christmas carolers,” said Amanda.

Yet the activity that is always at the top of Amanda’s traditions list is watching Christmas movies. She has two must-watch movies every Christmas – “Christmas Vacation” and “A Christmas Story.”

“My family and I never fail to tune into the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story!” Amanda exclaimed. “I’ll watch Christmas movies all December and curl up with a cookie from the annual cookie swap I have with friends.”

Amanda and her family also participate in a white elephant gift exchange each year for Christmas.

“We love just having fun with it, we don’t take it seriously at all,” Amanda said. “My dad always gives the craziest gifts! A few years ago he actually put a LIVE lobster in a box with a steak, baked potato, stick of butter and lemon wedge on the side. It was a complete surf and turf dinner! Everyone got a kick out of that, but my aunt was a little nervous having a live lobster crawling around on her carpet.”

Whatever brings you joy this holiday season, the entire Community Financial team wishes you a very happy holiday and a happy new year!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Brain Scams: Supermarkets influence our food choices

There are a lot of reasons we buy what we buy at the grocery store, from lifestyles to economic factors. But something else is at play: a few wily supermarket tricks. Retailers realize their customers are tired and distracted. They also know we process a heck of a lot of information each day, which means our brains have to make judgment calls in split seconds. Supermarkets capitalize on consumer psychology and get inside your head. Pay attention: the only way to win at the grocery store is if you're aware of these tricks.

Milk in the back. Refrigerated food trucks unload in the back, but keeping the staple food at the far end of the store also ensures customers walk the length of the supermarket and snag more items.

Oversized shopping carts. Carts are getting bigger, and studies show using one can cause you to buy more, according to TODAY. Use a basket if available, or - better yet - don't get more than you can carry in your arms.

Slow music
. Supermarkets often play slow music, which encourages customers to linger and spend more time shopping. Set a timed shopping goal or listen to higher-tempo tunes through headphones as you shop.

Paper bags for bread
. Is the roll you bought dry by morning? Stores use paper bags so the bread will stale quickly, getting customers back in the store sooner for a fresh loaf. Try using sealable plastic bags to minimize waste and post-pone the grocery trip.

Careful shelving. Store shelf lay-outs are as carefully designed as an Arrested Development joke. Stores display name brands and expensive options at adult eye level and colorful mascots at lower levels for children. Scan all options and check the top and bottom shelves instead.

End caps
. Aisle-end displays capitalize on convenience and impulse buying to create the illusion of a special sale.

Store cafes. Many supermarkets operate cafes for "on-the-go" lifestyles, encouraging shoppers to linger and spend more.

Checkout stands. Candy, magazines and soda displays at checkout stands appeal to shoppers' subconscious impulses while they wait. And according to Real Simple, express check-out lines won't actually get you through much faster. Use self-checkout to avoid the temptation.

Product pairing. Supermarkets often pair certain items together (like chips and dip or cereal and bananas) to boost sales. Consumers are especially prone to scoop up pairs when one item is on sale and the other isn't.

Sample stations. Not only do samples make sales, but the stations slow shoppers down, potentially increasing their number of purchases.

Welcoming customers. First impressions count, and colorful flowers, produce, and bread at store entrances create a fresh and earthy illusion. The smells from the floral department, bakery, and deli also activate your pleasure center and salivary glands and put you in a good mood to spend money.

Deceptive prices. Comparing prices is difficult when brands are different sizes and stores put the total price in big print. Look at per-unit prices to see the real value. Sometimes "10 for $10" isn't actually the best deal.

Produce color
. Even the shade of fruit influences our product choices. According to Fast Company, bananas with Pantone color 12-0752 ("Butter-cup") sell better than Pantone color 13-0858 ("Vibrant Yellow").

Capitalizing on green intentions. With a growing awareness of organic benefits, more products are using the green label to increase sales. But "green" language may not mean what you think its means: "natural" does not mean "organic."

Misting produce. Supermarkets don't spray produce to keep it clean but to create an illusion of freshness. The frequent mist actually makes produce rot faster and adds weight to the scale.

By Brianna Gunter Copyright 2014 brass Media, Inc.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Warming Hearts and Homes Campaign Returns This Holiday Season

Community Financial Credit Union is excited to kick off the holiday season with the return of the Warming Hearts & Homes charitable campaign!

Starting Monday, December 1, 2014, Community Financial will donate up to $40,000 to local nonprofit organizations that provide heat, food and clothing to low-income families.

Marketing Manager Sarah Cousineau said this is one of her favorite annual giving campaigns that Community Financial runs.

“We will donate up to $10,000 each week, for four weeks, to a different charitable organization,” Cousineau said. “We are thrilled about the opportunity we have to make an impact in the communities we serve through the Warming Hearts & Homes program.”

As a member of our community, you’re invited to participate in this year’s Warming Hearts & Homes campaign by getting social with us! Every social media interaction with Community Financial will result in a $25 donation from the credit union.

Here’s how you can help:
Community Financial will donate $25 every time you do the following:
  • Like Community Financial on Facebook – Find our page Community Financial Credit Union 
  • Tweet using #CFCUwarms on Twitter 
  • Post an Instagram picture @CommunityFinancial using #CFCUwarms
Giving back to your community has never been easier! Each Facebook like, Twitter post, and Instagram picture equals a $25 donation to help the organizations below:
  • Week one, December 1-7: helps The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) provide emergency energy assistance for individuals and families.
  • Week two, December 8-14: stocks shelves at local food pantries around northern and southeast Michigan.
  • Week three, December 15-21: aids The Salvation Army’s “Coats for Kids” program.
  • Week four, December 22-28: assists Habitat for Humanity in providing safe and adequate housing for those who need it most.
Get started on your likes, tweets and pictures! To learn more about the Warming Hearts & Homes Campaign visit Together we can make a difference in our communities this holiday season.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Be Thankful, and Opportunistic, With Your Finances this Holiday Season

This holiday season, Michigan households have many things to be thankful for when it comes to their finances.

“Despite some volatility on Wall Street and uncertain global economic outlook, there’s a lot of freedom for consumers to take advantage of financial opportunities now available to them,” Community Financial Credit Union’s Vice President of Mortgage Services Eric Esser said.

Interest rates remain low despite long-term talk by industry experts of rates rising over time. In fact, mortgage rates for many terms are actually lower than they were at this time in 2013.

Meanwhile, most homeowners have earned more equity in their homes than they have at any time over the past 10-15 years. Housing values have risen by an average of 15-40 percent in almost all Michigan markets since 2010, giving homeowners the opportunity to consider upgrades and renovations.

Finally, the stock market is remaining strong even with the recent volatility. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 all have more than doubled since the apex of the economic crisis in 2009, and were at or near their all-time highs in late October. Corporate profits in the U.S. remain historically strong, and the outlook for long-term growth appears strong.

“2015 will be a year of opportunity for our members because the fundamentals in the market remain strong,” Esser said. “However we don’t know when interest rates will rise and we have been saying that for a few years, but at some point they will go up. Now may be a time to fund that house project, or to consider selling your existing home and start shopping for your dream home.”

“Community Financial has seen an influx of inquiries from its members in recent months related to mortgages and home equity loans given the relative health of the market,” Esser said. “And the recent pull-back in the stock market should encourage investors with a long-term view to consider retirement planning or college funding for young children or grandchildren.”

“No one has a crystal ball, but now appears to be a good time for residents of Michigan to consider where they want to live in the future. It is a less expensive time to borrow money,” Esser added.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, there are many things that Michigan residents can be thankful for. Unemployment in Michigan continues to fall and borrowing is easier now than it has been at any point in the last five years.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Keep Your Holiday Spending in Check

The holiday season can be associated with stress instead of being joyous and thankful. Most of this anxiety comes from budgeting money and time for all of the various celebrations. During the most wonderful time of year, it’s important not to let the stress of budgeting and scheduling take over the true meaning of the season.

Community Financial wants to help you bring back the magic of the season by offering tips on how to budget and plan ahead for the holidays. We’re here to help keep your celebrations merry and your finances jolly and bright.

Make an attainable budget for the season. The National Retail Federation estimates the average American will spend $700 on gifts this year. Our financial experts recommend putting no more than 1.5% of your annual income in your holiday budget. This should include gifts, food and hidden expenses like wrapping paper, cards and shipping costs. If holiday travel expenses are not in your annual budget, add them to your holiday budget to make sure they aren’t overlooked.

Complete a holiday shopping list
. Once you have your holiday budget established, create a list of everyone you’d like to buy a gift for. Be sure to include hostess gifts for parties, too. Refer to your list often to keep from forgetting a gift for an occasion. If you are a frequent party-goer during the holiday season, it might be a good idea to buy a few items that could easily be gifted at the last minute.

Shop around before buying. The feeling you get after seeing an item you just paid full price for is now half off is the worst. Avoid it by doing your homework and shopping around early to scope out deals. If you’re a Black Friday shopper, develop a strategy for the day instead of just winging it.

Let Community Financial help. Just in time for the shopping season, our special holiday loans are back again. With rates as low as 4.99% APR, a holiday loan will help you get the funds you need to make shopping easier. You could also use our VISA Platinum card to receive two times the points during the holiday shopping months. With the added shopping expenses during this time of year, these rewards will add up quickly!

Create a payoff plan. Here’s where you can really take the stress out of the holidays. If you establish a plan on how to pay off all of your holiday expenses, you’ll enjoy the festivities much more. It’s important to set a payoff plan that you’re comfortable with and that fits within your current budget.

Use these tips this upcoming gifting season for stress-free budgeting and buying! Community Financial wishes you and your loved ones a very merry holiday season.
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.