Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Boating On A Budget: Staying Afloat Without Drowning In Debt!

It’s no secret that buying a boat can cost a pretty penny. Some boat-owners like to joke that “boat” is an acronym for “bring on another thousand.” This can be an expensive hobby, but also a rewarding one. Let’s look at a few ways to save money while keeping your dream boat from becoming a nightmare.

1.) Avoid stuff labeled ‘marine’ Retailers know people who own boats tend to have a little more disposable income and expect to spend a lot for maintaining their watercrafts. This leads them to inflate prices on boating rope or boat window cleaner. In many cases, conventional products for land craft will do the same job just as well for quite a few dollars less. Learn other money saving tips for your boat at boatus.com.

 2.) Find a ‘boat buddy’
If you’ve got friends who are heading to the same lake, see if you can split trips. You can take them around on your boat, then they can do the same for you. Not only will this let you both experience being captain and first mate, but you’ll also spend half as much on fuel and get to make quality memories with friends in the process.

3.) Get gas beforehand
Marina prices for fuel are likely considerably higher because marina operators know they have a captive audience. With a 15-gallon spare tank, you can make the trip to a land-locked gas station and save a few bucks on fuel (one of the biggest expenses of the weekend). However, if the gas station sells gasoline with ethanol in it, pay attention to what you are buying. Many gasoline-powered engines (especially older models) were not built for E15, which could damage the motor.

4.) Do your cooking on the water
Sandwiches can get boring and bait shop hot dogs are expensive. Instead, look to step up your cooking game on the boat. A single burner electric hot plate is all you need for stir fry, taco fillings, and other simple dishes. A little bit of planning can help you be more sophisticated. Bring wings and buffalo sauce, cook them up in the skillet, and have your favorite bar food on the water! Make sure you do the chopping beforehand and keep the ingredients in plastic containers in the cooler. Also, only do your cooking at anchor in calm waters.

Michigan boasts the world’s longest freshwater coastline, 99 state parks and thousands of trails throughout the state. Community Financial thinks our members should go out and enjoy it all – so we offer boat, recreational vehicle and power sports loans to make it possible. If you have always wanted to own a boat but were unsure about the financing, stop by any of our branches or call us at (877) 937-2328 for a personalized quote.

Now that summer is officially here, boating can be a great way to unwind with family and friends. With more than 80 Great Lakes harbors and marinas, as well as generous public lake access, there's plenty of opportunity to open up the outboard or lift the sail. Safe travels!

 *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, June 14, 2016

3 Things Teens Can Do This Summer to Boost Earning Potential

Summer break is finally here. For many teens, they’ve already got a very simple plan: sleep in, play on their phones, hang out with friends and stay up late. If you know a teen that wants to break from the norm and do something this summer that will increase his/her future earning potential, here are some helpful activity ideas you can provide them:
  1. Learn a Foreign Language
    We live in a global society. Whether you want to go into sales, machinery, medicine or anything in between, someone in your industry is going to be translating between foreign-language speakers and English-speakers. That someone is going to make quite a bit of money!

    While the exact numbers on the bump in pay you’ll get from speaking a foreign language are murky, experts estimate an hourly bump of between 5% and 20%! If your career plan ever falls through, you’ll always have those skills to fall back on, which makes you a viable candidate across a spectrum of new job opportunities.

    If you don’t know where to start, sites like Duolingo are excellent jumping-off points. There are dozens of YouTube tutorials on syntax, grammar, and expression in other languages, too. The only really wrong answer is not starting at all!

  2. Master a Piece of Software
    Whatever job you hold in the future, it will almost certainly involve a computer. Learning to use a common piece of software can give you a serious leg up when it comes time to find a job.

    Look to programs with clear business applications. The Microsoft Office suite, especially programs like Excel and Access, are first steps. If cost is an issue, consider experimenting with Google’s Docs, Sheets and Forms. These are free and cloud-based, so you can keep playing with them on your smartphone when you hit the road.

    Skill with programs like Access and Sheets is the #2 most in-demand skill. These versatile programs can be adapted to a variety of interests. For example, while learning, you could track the statistics of your favorite baseball players, monitor the prices of hot clothing brands or catalog your music library. The important thing is to start experimenting. Discover the capabilities and limitations of these popular pieces of software.

  3. Polish Your Writing Skills
    For many positions, the ability to communicate ideas clearly is of vital importance. Like any other skill, you get better at this the more you practice it. The only way to become a better writer is to write!

    It matters less what you write than the fact that you’re writing. You can try your hand at blogging. Whether you want to talk about the NFL draft, new albums or video games, sites such as Blogger and WordPress are free to try, and might connect you with other people who share your interests.

    Your writing skills will probably help you with future job searches, but they’ll also be useful for the rest of your school career. Papers and essay tests will be a breeze, and cover letters and college application essays will help you stand out from the crowd. Just write, edit and write some more! 
Remember it’s not just young children that need to continue learning over the summer months. Encouraging the teens in your life to spend their summer learning new skills could help better prepare them for college and beyond.

 *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, June 7, 2016

Your Credit Score: The (Other) Key To Your New Home

Each potential home buyer dreams of the day they’ll finally get the symbol of independence, security and prosperity: the key to the front door of their new home. Before you get that one, though, there’s another key you need to craft. Your credit score, a numerical representation of your credit history as an indicator of your ability to pay your bills, will determine a lot about your housing situation, from how much house you can afford to the interest rates you’ll receive.

If you’re going house-hunting in the next year, there are three steps you can take right now to improve the terms of your mortgage.

 1. Check Your Credit Score 
Your credit score is determined by three different credit monitoring agencies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Paying debts off, making payments on time and using only a small percentage of your available credit make your score go up. Missing payments, opening many credit accounts or carrying a significant balance of debt from month-to-month will decrease your score.

You can check your credit report for free once a year at annualcreditreport.com. Note that there may be a nominal fee to receive your actual score along with the report. There are many similar websites, but many of them will charge you. If your score isn’t at the level you think it should be, there may be errors or inaccuracies that are dragging down your good name. Look for accounts you don’t recognize or balances that are not up-to-date. The report comes with instructions for challenging any item. In most cases, you can leave a note for lenders in the file explaining the item under dispute.

2. Boost Your Credit Score! 
There are no simple tricks to bump your credit score in advance of a mortgage. You need to develop a 6- to 12-month plan to boost your credit score before getting your mortgage by making sound financial decisions. Demonstrate to lenders that you can use credit responsibly, and your score will increase.

If you’re working on raising a low credit score, a good target number is 640. This will generally put you in the prime group and ensure you don’t have to pay extra on your mortgage because of credit. If you’re building good credit, 740 is generally the lowest super-prime score, which will give you access to some of the best rates and terms available.

One of the biggest drags on a credit score is percentage of utilized debt. If you’re carrying a balance on credit cards, this tells lenders that you may be using credit to pay for your day-to-day expenses, and that lending you more money would not be a smart move for them. Getting balances to zero should be goal number one! Also, take care that you don’t make any major purchases using credit right before you attempt to qualify for a mortgage. Hold off until you have the cash in hand before you splurge on a new TV or car!

3. Manage Your Loan in Other Ways 
If your credit score is low, and there’s nothing you can do about it, you may need to take other steps to get a better position on a loan. You might try boosting your down payment or shopping for less expensive houses, so you’re borrowing a smaller sum of money. A co-signer, another responsible party willing to take on the risk of the loan, can also improve your terms. If your debt is a serious problem, perhaps moving into a new house isn’t a good short-term priority. Focus instead on paying off debt and saving up for a down payment. This can keep you from getting stuck with a house payment you can’t afford before you’re ready for it.

Taking these three steps will put you on the fast track to affordable home ownership! And as always if you have any mortgage questions we are here to help! Contact us at (877) 937-2328 ext. 8500 or visit cfcu.org/mortgage for more info.

*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 31, 2016

Help Us Donate $65,000 During the Summer of Sharing!

As temperatures start to rise, so does our amount of community support. As we get ready to launch our 6th annual Summer of Sharing Campaign, we ask nonprofit organizations throughout southeastern and northern Michigan, “What GOOD could you do with $1,000?”

As part of Community Financial’s 65th Anniversary celebration, we will be donating $1,000 a day for 65 days this summer to nonprofit, educational and community organizations throughout Michigan!

Community Financial will start accepting nominations from the public on June 2. At that time, members of the community can visit www.SummerOfSharing.org to submit an essay-style nomination explaining how their favorite nonprofit benefits the local community. These essays will stay live on the site for others to learn about how the nominated organizations are making a difference.

The Summer of Sharing is one of the ways we help give back to the communities that support us, but we cannot do it alone. We need your input to let us know which groups are making the greatest impact. Past recipients have included animal welfare groups, school music programs, food pantries, veterans groups and many more!

President and CEO Bill Lawton is excited to keep the tradition of sharing alive in 2016.

“We are inviting the community to tell us which organizations are doing great work and deserve additional financial support,” Lawton said. “It is part of our culture to give back to our communities, and we are proud to bring the Summer of Sharing back once again.”

Throughout the next three months, Community Financial will announce the winning recipients beginning June 6 on www.SummerOfSharing.org. Community Financial has donated over $300,000 through its Summer of Sharing program since 2011.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Stretch Your Food Budget Without Coupons

With the cost of food rising, many people are looking for ways to save money on their meals. Coupons may seem like a good idea, but there are two fundamental flaws: They take time to collect and clip and you don't really save money unless you use the coupon on something you'd normally buy anyway. Since we rarely see coupons for staples like milk, produce and meats, it's hard to count on those saving us anything substantial. So, what can you do?

Plan Meals Ahead of Time
When you know what you're going to eat, it's a lot easier to make your shopping list and stick to it. It's a good idea to plan your meals from payday to payday, so you're not stuck at the end of the pay period with no idea what to eat and little cash flow to work with. Sit down with a calendar and your local grocery store's sales paper. Considering the items you already have on hand, the items you need to restock, and what the store has on special this week, come up with meals you'd like to prepare. If you need some inspiration, search for recipes online. Make your grocery list recipe by recipe. Add other items you know you need.

Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk is always a great way to save, but when you consider the fact that warehouse clubs like Sam's Club and Costco have annual membership fees, it's not always the most practical way to go. If you can't accompany a member as a guest, you can still apply the bulk principle to many things in your local grocery store. Go back to your store sales paper. See an item you use often on sale this week? Buy as much as you can afford while it's on sale. This is a great way to stock up on essentials like canned goods.

Look for Hidden Discounts
While most of your grocery store's specials will be advertised in the weekly sales paper, there are often unadvertised discounts hiding throughout the store. This is particularly important in the meat and produce departments, as food could be on the verge of spoiling. These items are reduced in an effort to sell them quickly. As long as you cook or freeze the meat soon after you buy it, you'll be fine. The key with quick-sale produce is to only buy what you'll be able to use within a day or two.

Check Discount Grocery Stores
Discount grocery chains like Aldi or Winco can help you save money because they offer unadvertised brands. Other discount stores may offer brand name foods at a deep discount because the box is bent, or the can is dented. Some things you find may be past their "best by" date, but it's not always necessary to worry about that. Food expiration dates are a general guideline. Use these guidelines to shop smart:
  • Sell By: This date tells the store when to stop displaying it. It refers to freshness, rather than spoilage. Grab from the back to ensure you get the freshest products, or opt for one close to the date to get savings. 
  • Best By (or Before): This date refers to product quality, not safety. Sour cream, for example, is already sour when you buy it, but tastes best when it's freshly soured. 
  • Guaranteed Fresh: Typically used for baked goods, these items will still be safe to eat after the date on the package, but won't be as fresh. 
  • Use By: This date is determined by the manufacturer as the last possible date for peak quality. Most products are still safe to eat after this date. 
Don't be afraid to shop multiple stores to get the best deals. If the stores are too far apart, though, you risk spending more money on gas to get there and back than it is worth. If there are other stores near your work or school that are on the way home, check those out when they're not out of the way instead of making a special trip just to shop.

By Lucinda Watrous Copyright 2016 brass Media, Inc.
Community Financial Credit Union, P.O. Box 8050, Plymouth, Michigan 48170-8050;
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Federally insured by NCUA.