Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Warming Hearts & Homes is Back. You Click and We Donate!

Community Financial Credit Union is excited to kick off the holiday season with the return of our 5th annual Warming Hearts & Homes charitable campaign!

Throughout the month of December, Community Financial will donate up to $40,000 to local nonprofit organizations that provide heat, food, shelter and clothing to low-income families.

The winter months can put an extra strain on some families, forcing them to choose between paying utilities and putting food on the table.

That’s why the Warming Hearts & Home program was created and why Community Financial remains dedicated to supporting the fight against cold and hunger in Michigan this winter. As a member of our community, you’re invited to participate in this year’s campaign by getting social with us!

HERE'S HOW YOU CAN HELP 

  • Like or share our Facebook posts – @Community Financial 
  • Like or retweet our posts on Twitter – @cfcreditunion #CFCUwarms 
  • Like our pictures on Instagram – @communityfinancial 

Giving back to your community has never been easier! Each week in December we will make social media posts about the different organizations below. Each Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram interaction equals a $25 donation to help the following:

Community Relations Manager Natalie McLaughlin said this is one of her favorite annual giving campaigns that Community Financial runs.

“Warming Hearts & Homes is an easy way for people to get involved and help others in their local communities. Each winter, local families are faced with challenges. Through this campaign, Community Financial is honored to help the community face the cold with heat for their homes, coats for their children, safe shelter and food.”

To learn more about the Warming Hearts & Homes Campaign visit www.cfcu.org/warms. Together we can make a difference in our communities this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Staying Healthy When You're Broke and Hungry

News flash: If you're still buying unhealthy pizzas and burgers instead of salmon and veggies because you think it's too expensive, you're wrong. In fact, the Harvard School of Public Health estimates that it only costs $1.50 more per day to eat what's considered to be the "healthiest" diet -- one rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins -- than it costs to eat the "unhealthiest" one.

And now that your financial excuses are gone, here are 3 easy tips to make your diet a little healthier without shelling out extra cash.

1. Don't Pay for Convenience 
While premade foods like hamburger patties, shaved parmesan cheese and fruit salads can be a life-saver when you agreed to bring a dish to a party but got too caught up with class/work/life to actually make something, they have no business being in your healthy, cost-effective kitchen.

 For example, it takes five minutes to wash and chop a $2 head of romaine lettuce that can make a week's worth of salads. Prepackaged salads will easily cost double that.

 An easy way to combine convenience and health without the extra cost is to start meal prepping. Spend a few hours on a Sunday chopping your fruits, vegetables and cooking meats so that you won't be tempted to pay for that $6.99-per-pound salad bar in the middle of the week. Need inspiration? Check out some of these tips to get started.

 2. The Freezer is Your Friend 
Decent-quality meat is expensive. Like, really expensive. But it can often be the easiest way to incorporate healthy proteins into your diet (hello, crock pot meals). Learn when your grocery store runs its weekly sales and buy meat in bulk.

 This rule doesn't just go for meat. Consider buying fruit in bulk and keeping the extras in the freezer to use at a later date.

 Wondering how long something will keep in the freezer? Save this infographic from Huffington Post so you never have to wonder -- or waste food -- again.

 3. Buy in Bulk But be Smart About It 
So when you buy food in bulk, it's important to only buy things that you know you’ll use, or that have a long shelf life. Look for places that sell loose, unbranded options for kitchen staples, like a bulk-food store. Some good things to stock up on are steel-cut oats, nuts, dried fruits, meats and spices. 

Still looking for some healthy meal planning inspiration? The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has great tips for healthy eating on a budget. With a little extra planning you too can eat better and save money at the same time!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Keep Your Finances in the Black This Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. In fact, the day after Thanksgiving is commonly known as “Black Friday,” because retailers typically go from being unprofitable (in the “red”) to profitable (in the “black”).

Unfortunately, beginning the holiday shopping season by blowing your budget can lead to debt that lingers well into the New Year. 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. To help keep your finances “in the black” this holiday season, consider the following tips:

Make an attainable budget for the season. 
The National Retail Federation estimates the average American will spend $935 on gifts this year. 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. Shopping online can also help—you will save a lot of time and comparison shopping is a breeze. 

Think outside the mall.
Use your time to decorate for the holidays or address holiday cards. Start the season off right by giving your time to the less fortunate. Consider serving meals to the homeless or paying a visit to a local nursing home, hospital or animal shelter. Don’t forget to make time for what might be some much-needed exercise.

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. 

Let Community Financial help. 
Just in time for the shopping season, our special holiday loans are back again. With rates as low as 4.24% APR*, a holiday loan will help you get the funds you need to make shopping easier.

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

*Actual rate may vary depending on individual credit history and other factors. Rate includes a .25% discount when payments are automatically deducted from Community Financial checking account. Not available for refinance of existing Community Financial loan, offer expires 12/31/16.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

5 Holiday Meal Hacks for Your Budget

There are as many holiday traditions as there are families. No matter your traditions, there’s one thing most of them have in common: getting a large group together for a meal.

Holiday meals are always a delight, but paying for them might be a challenge. If you’re used to cooking for 3 or 4, changing your plan to cook for 10 can cause some serious budget shock. Here are 5 budget-friendly ways to feed a crowd this holiday season.

1.) Leggo your legumes 
At the intersection of versatility, price, and nutritional value, it’s hard to beat beans. Since you’re working in bigger numbers, it’s a big cost savings to buy dried and cook from scratch. A pound of navy or garbanzo beans can be soaked overnight and cooked on the stove for about an hour. Just follow the directions on the bag.

By themselves, they may not seem like much, but try mashing them up with your mashed potatoes. The beans will make the potatoes creamier and add some protein to make them more filling. Add a sprinkle of garlic and top with a handful of shredded cheddar cheese for a side dish that’s filling and delicious. Toss in some green onions for decoration, and your boring side dish just became a hot feature.

You can also try black beans and sweet potatoes. Make a pound of black beans following the package directions. Drain them and set aside. Chop up 5 or 6 sweet potatoes, put them and the black beans in an oven-safe roasting pan, and toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper – or add your favorite seasonings. Try cumin, chili powder, and garlic for a southwestern flair! Roast them between 350 and 400 for 30-45 minutes for a budget-friendly, healthy take on sweet potato casserole.

2.) Use your oven wisely 
In the winter your grill works much less effectively than it did during summertime. Since it has to heat the air around it to reach its cooking temperature, there’s a much faster consumption rate of your cooking fuel. You’ll also run the furnace more from going in and out of the house. Shifting away from grilled foods can also help you focus more on healthy vegetable dishes.

Using your oven can help add heat to your home, meaning your furnace will have to do less work. Try to time dishes so no oven time is wasted. Use it on less sensitive items, like casseroles, vegetables, and cakes, while the oven is pre-heating. Use the residual heat after roasting is done to finish pies and keep leftovers warm.

3.) Use efficient appliances 
Your oven is really big, and heating it takes a lot of energy. Look to use smaller, more efficient appliances where you can. You can make most roast meats in a crock pot, which you can also use for casseroles. The much-maligned microwave is likely the most efficient appliance in your house and can be used to boil or bake many foods. A quick search for “microwave X recipes” will give you approximate cook times. When you do use the oven, make sure you’re using it to the best effect. Avoid stacking pans on top of each other, as this will prevent proper air flow. Stagger pans as much as possible to ensure even heating.

4.) Use seasonal foods for variety and savings 
While winter doesn’t boast as many seasonal goods as summer or spring, you can still find incredible deals on versatile produce. Winter squash (butternut, acorn, and spaghetti) are hearty and delicious, and they can usually be found for less than a dollar a pound. They can be used in a variety of foods.

For starters, try butternut squash in a soup. Peel it, chop it up, boil it, and blend it, then add your favorite seasonings. It’ll be a warm, sweet sensation to greet your guests.

The possibilities are endless and the price can’t be beat. Winter squashes are also an excellent source of vitamins that are difficult to come by in a season that’s lacking many fresh vegetables.

5.) Turn the heat down 
You’ve likely set your thermostat for ordinary oven usage and a small number of people in your house. Doubling or tripling the number of people and doing a ton of cooking can seriously alter those calculations. Add to that the inevitable holiday sweater display and your guests might even be a little toasty.

Turning the heater down a few degrees can help you save on your energy bill, and it might encourage your guests to slow down a bit on the beer and wine. Everyone will be more comfortable and you can rest easy knowing your holiday meal will go off without a hitch.

Do you have any budget friendly hacks for your holiday meal? Let us know in the comments section!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Common Mistakes During Open Enrollment

Fall is a time for change, but there’s one thing people often leave untouched: their workplace benefits packages. November is the beginning of the open enrollment period for many workplace benefit plans, making it the ideal time to review your insurance information and other benefits.

Watch out for these common pitfalls when enrolling in workplace benefits.

1.) The Passive Opt-In 
When starting a new job, the numerous decisions you need to make are overwhelming. Consequently, health insurance decisions often get minimal attention. For many people, though, those choices remain in place for much of their careers.

Sticking with the default option may be detrimental for two reasons. First, your life situation has likely changed. As you age, you need more comprehensive health coverage. You may also need more extensive dependent coverage or have more disposable income to contribute to an HSA or FSA.

Second, most companies renegotiate their insurance rates annually. Your employer may have negotiated lower premiums or better coverage. You’ll only discover these options by discussing your coverage for the next benefits year with your HR representative.

2.) Forgetting Spousal Benefits 
Being covered by both your own and your spouse’s plans can be a serious financial hazard. First, you may be overpaying for insurance. Adding a spouse to a workplace policy can be cheaper than having two separate policies. Study both policies and determine which one is more advantageous.

Spousal surcharges also continue to be part of the benefit strategy for a growing number of employers. A spousal surcharge usually applies only if the spouse declines coverage in his or her own employer’s plan when eligible to enroll. Be sure to check with your employer to see if these fees apply to your plan.

 3.) Ignoring HSA/FSA Options 
Enrolling in a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) can sting, as unspent dollars leave your paycheck. Don’t let that deter you.

HSAs and FSAs are similar in function with important differences. Both allow you to contribute pre-tax dollars for health care-related expenses. The principal difference between them is that HSAs rollover their entire remaining balance to the next year, while most FSAs only rollover up to a certain pre-established limit. With an FSA, you have access to your entire annual election amount any time during the year, even if you have not had all of the money deducted yet from your check.

With an HSA, you only have access to what has actually been deposited into your HSA to date, like any other bank account. Enrolling in one of these accounts requires estimating your healthcare costs for the next year. Assume you’ll spend the same amount you did last year. For a planned medical expense, such as a surgery, you can get an estimate to guide your contributions.

Funding an HSA or an FSA is free money off your taxes. You’ll have to pay for medical expenses; by designating money for it early, you avoid paying taxes on that money.

It’s crucial to revisit your benefits options once a year. Save your insurance paperwork and attend the informational meetings. Being an active participant in your benefits decisions will make sure you are choosing the best option for you and your family!

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.