Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fall Gardening 101

While you may think that spring and summer are the best times for your garden, fall temperatures can actually create the perfect growing atmosphere. Those who seize the opportunity for a second season of growth will find the planning and planting well worthwhile. Here are a few popular garden tips and trends to provide inspiration in achieving the perfect fall garden.
  • Make room in your garden: Get your fall garden ready by removing any plants that aren’t showing signs of growth or improvement. These might be plants that have been burnt due to high temperatures, or vegetables that have been taken over by disease. Remember to also remove any weeds you might find so that they do not steal nutrients from your new and existing crops. Removing all dead plants and weeds will help to create room for your new fall harvest.
  • Pick the right crops and plants: Look forward to peak flavor and performance for many crops that do not prosper in summer heat. Crops like leafy greens, root veggies and peas all thrive in cooler weather. Curious on what to plant? Check out Top Tips for Great Fall Gardens to get an idea of all the varieties available.
  • Pot-in-pot landscaping: This has become a big gardening trend in recent years. It’s the quickest and easiest way to change your seasonal plants. Dig a hole in your garden for your seasonal plants and fill it with an empty plastic container. When you are ready to replace or change your plants fill the empty plastic container with another container grown plant. This is an easy switch that can help you save time with your landscaping. For complete instructions and other clever gardening tips check out Listotic.com.
  • Spread mulch: To help retain moisture for the season and block weed growth, spread the mulch around! Sunsetnews.com suggests that it’s best to lay around 2-3 inches of mulch over your soil and around your plants. During the cooler temperatures of the fall and winter, mulch will work to prevent your soil from freezing rapidly and thawing, which can lead to root damage for your plants. When mulching your garden, you will want to cover anything that needs protection from moisture loss and temperature changes.
  • Get into fall cleaning: Once you have fully prepped your garden for the fall and winter months, take time to clean your garden tools and toss old chemical products. Be sure to take note of what materials and products you will need to replace before spring arrives. Clean your metal gardening tools with a light rubbing oil and use a file to sharpen any dull tools.
  • Plant your spring bulbs now: Early fall is the best time to prepare beds for spring planting. Plant your spring bulbs now and watch them bloom beautifully next season. If you’re looking for some garden color inspiration check out HGTV’s article on 2016 Garden Trends. One major trend for 2016 is to plant flowers in bright neon shades or soft blush tones. 
With careful planning and preparation, your garden can thrive beautifully through the fall and stay protected during the winter months. Have any fall gardening tips of your own? Share them in the comments section below. We’d love to hear them!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Post a #PicturePerfectMI Picture on Instagram for a Chance to Win $50

 @bluebirdphotos was one of the
2014 #PicturePerfectMI winners!
Fall is one of our favorite seasons here at Community Financial. We love the changing colors of the leaves, crisp cool air, pumpkins, hayrides and of course, warm apple cider with donuts! Nothing quite compares to the picturesque scenery of a Michigan fall. If you love this great state as much as we do, join us in celebrating #PicturePerfectMI!

From October 1-31, you are invited to post your own original photos from all around the mitten state on Instagram.com/CommunityFinancial. Make sure to use #PicturePerfectMI and tag us on Instagram @CommunityFinancial to give us permission to share your photo. Each week, the person who submits the best photo will receive a $50 VISA© gift card!

We’re inviting all members and non-members to celebrate the beauty of Michigan by sharing their photos with us. We’d love to see your photos of our great lakes, road trips up north, giant colorful trees, football game excitement, cider mill fun and more. This is the perfect way to celebrate the season and our beautiful state.

Your Michigan memory could add $50 to your wallet! Find out all you need to know by visiting PicturePerfectMI.org. Happy fall and we’ll see you on Instagram!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Celebrating Fall in Michigan

When it comes to celebrating the fall season, no state does it better than Michigan. Between changing leaves, football games and cider mill visits, now is the perfect time to experience the beauty our great Mitten state has to offer. Plus, your next fall excursion gives you the perfect opportunity to take some pictures to submit in our #PicturePerfectMI Instagram campaign! Stay tuned for more details on how you can participate and possibly win a $50 gift card in October.
In the meantime, here are a few fall excursion ideas for you to complete before the cold weather sets in!

Create a Fall Color Tour
Many people who have moved away from Michigan say that one of the things they miss most is the changing colors in the fall. Visit the Fall Color Blog or Michigan.org for the dates and locations the colors are predicted to appear, and create your own Fall Color Tour!

Explore Waterfalls
Michigan, especially the Upper Peninsula, is known for its many magnificent waterfalls. If you find yourself venturing north, be sure to check out Great Lakes Waterfalls & Beyond for lists, maps and photographs of waterfalls surrounding the Great Lakes. Still need inspiration to make the trip? Check out 5 of Michigan’s Most Enchanting Waterfalls.

Go For A Brew
According to a recent article, the number of breweries in Michigan has more than doubled since 2010 with more than 200 operating breweries in this state.  Brewery tours are the perfect way to try an amazing selection of Michigan craft beers right in the microbreweries that brew them. Whether your favorite is Bellaire Brown, Mad Hatter, or Huma Lupa Licious, you’ll learn how each one is made and what makes them unique. Visit Michigan.org for a complete list of available brewery tours.

Visit a Cider Mill
Usually only open during the fall months, cider mills serve fresh cider, donuts and other goodies that just seem to fit with a crisp fall day. Most Michiganders have at least one fond memory of visiting a cider mill, and many will passionately defend which one is the best! Visit one of the Historic Pure Michigan Cider Mills for an iconic taste of fall.

Whatever you do this fall, it won’t take long for you to see and experience why our state is anything but common. Between mild temperatures and beautiful scenery, a Michigan fall is hard to beat.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Housing 101: When to Buy

Unless you live in a cave you've surely heard the advertisements about the "historically low interest rates" for buying a house. And that's mostly true -- rates are quite low after the 2008 housing shenanigans. But, does that necessarily mean it's a good time to buy a house for you? There are a lot of financial factors that first-time homebuyers often forget, or were never aware of to begin with. Renting often makes financial sense, despite the higher monthly payment. So, when is it time to consider buying a house?

First, ascertain if you can even buy a house. A credit score of 660 or above can usually get a fair loan, provided you have a solid job history -- meaning you've had a stable, well-paying job for at least a year or two. Lenders also like to see a debt-to-income ratio (DTI) of around 36 percent (including the mortgage) with the mortgage taking up about 28 percent of your total income. This is somewhat flexible, but if you're in the 45 percent or more range, it's probably better to eliminate some debt first and raise your credit score in the process.

If you meet these criteria, there's still more to consider. Can you afford a down payment of ten percent? If you can't, there are programs out there that allow you to purchase a house without a down payment, provided you meet the credit criteria, but it's always best to make a down payment, as you'll pay thousands less down the road. If you don't have at least ten percent down in savings, the chances are you are not ready to buy a house -- even if you can qualify. Being able to buy a house and being financially responsible or financially sound enough to buy a house are not synonymous. Be honest with yourself here -- no one will reap the benefits or pay the price but you.

In addition to the down payment, maintenance costs can be significantly higher. Many older houses have quirks and damage that you may not notice until after it's yours -- even with a thorough inspection. If your air conditioning goes out, can you afford a $300 service call and still make your mortgage and car payments? If your hot water heater tanks (pun intended) can you swing $400 for a new one? Once you move in, you'll likely want to paint, maybe put some carpet in and buy a lawn chair or two. These obviously aren't free, and it's best practice to double what you think you'll spend on these. Most houses won't come with appliances, but most apartments and duplexes do -- so if you're a first time homeowner, it's not uncommon to spend several thousand on a refrigerator, washer and dryer -- and putting this on credit is a huge financial mistake.

Buying a house has a ton of benefits -- you can change it to what suits you and build equity in something valuable and keep it years after it's paid off. But before you buy, be sure that it makes smart financial sense. If not, calling a landlord to repair the heater is much more preferable than living without heat until you can afford a service call.

Photo by Nan Palmero via cc.

By Mark Bayley Copyright 2015 brass Media, Inc.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tips for Saving Money While Away at College

For many students, the beginning of a new school year is a great time to develop good habits regarding studying, exercising and socializing. Yet what about developing good money habits? Students might think that because they aren’t making money (or are making very little) that there really aren’t many ways to save while attending college. We’ve compiled a short list of ways to save while away at school.

  1. Rent Your Textbooks or Buy Them Used:
    Buying textbooks from your campus bookstore can get very expensive, but there are ways to get around these costs. Try renting your books or buying them used. With renting, the prices are normally discounted making them a lot cheaper than buying them outright. Once you’re done using them, you can turn them back in. Sites like Chegg.com let you rent textbooks and provide free returns so you won’t need to worry about shipping and handling costs.

    Buying used textbooks is also a great option. The price on used textbooks will be significantly lower and the books can still be in great condition. Check your campus or surrounding cities for a used bookstore or consider finding used books on sites like Amazon.com. Once you are done with your used textbooks, you can sell them back to the school or sell them online. This is a great way to make additional money at the end of the semester.
  2. Coupons and Student Discounts:
    Coupons are a great way to shop smart and save money. You can print them online, cut them out from a newspaper or even snag a coupon book on campus. For more deals and savings, consider signing up for grocery or drugstore loyalty rewards programs. These programs usually offer member-only exclusive deals and savings for your favorite products. You should also ask retailers if they offer student discounts. You’d be surprised at how many places do. You can receive discounts at places like movie theaters, restaurants, online retailers, transportation companies and much more!

    Stick to a Food Budget: 
  3. Meals are one of the biggest offenders when it comes to putting a dent in your college finances, so make a weekly food budget to save money. You could consider buying groceries and snacks in bulk with your roommates and splitting the cost with them. If you have a campus meal plan, make sure you are using it so you can cut down on unnecessary restaurant spending. Try to eliminate daily specialty coffee drinks, smoothies and other treats. A regular habit of buying these treats will add up fast. Why not pick up a cheap coffee maker or a blender instead, and make your own specialty drinks in your dorm room?
  4. Sign Up for a Student Checking Account:
    The college years are a great time to learn about and establish effective banking and budgeting habits. Opening a checking account will help you get a clear understanding of how much money you have and where your money is going on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

    Community Financial offers FREE Student Checking Accounts to make your life easier. We’ve got you covered with free ATM transactions, no maintenance fees and no minimum balance requirements. Plus we offer free mobile banking so that you can access your money from any location at any time. The best part is you can open an account online right from your dorm room! 

Remember that small expenses can really add up over time, and you might be surprised at what a little sacrifice and saving in college can do for your bank account in the long run!
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.