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Money Matters Blog

Monday, June 24, 2013

Save now for big gains later in health & finances

Save a little now, live big later. That’s the message many of our members have taken to heart recently when it comes to their finances. Saving a little at a time will result in big savings down the road.

The same is also true when it comes to health, as even the most simple and easy everyday changes can be worth a lot in terms of your overall well-being. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  

We’re all going to cheat every now and then to satisfy our cravings for burgers or pizza, but the important thing is to keep plugging along.

Here are some little ways to improve your health over the long haul by taking little steps - the same way many people do with their savings accounts:

Celebrate National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month All Year - June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, and the farmers’ markets are bustling from Plymouth and Canton all the way up to Gaylord and everywhere in between in the Great Lakes State. Visit the Michigan Farmers’ Market Association’s website to search for a market in your city.

Including fruits and vegetables in your diet all year long can produce great results (pun intended)!  Eat fruits and vegetables throughout the day because they provide a huge amount of nutritional benefits such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and more. Most farmers’ markets are open through October and fresh produce is always better for your health.

Even a few extra servings can make a huge difference, so find your favorites and start working them into your meals and snacks for better overall health.

Can’t Run? Walk! - Many people have a hard time making time for exercise at the gym, but even a walk around the block can be crucial for staying healthy. Walking can slash your diabetes risk, relieve stress, and even help prevent heart disease according to an American Heart Association survey, and it’s especially important to do after a big meal. Park your car a little farther away than usual on a nice day either, because every few extra steps can help.

Drink more water – People often mistake thirst for hunger and doing so could lead to big penalties in terms of putting on unnecessary weight or eating unnecessary extra calories. Try drinking a glass of water next time you’re hungry and you may be surprised to find your cravings on the backburner for a while.

Eat protein at every meal - Whether it’s a handful of dry roasted edamame, nuts or a serving of lean meat, having protein at each meal, and throughout the day will keep you feeling full and allow you to minimize overeating problems.

Eat consciously - Many people have emotional reasons for eating or even do it out of boredom, leading to consumption of unnecessary foods that they sometimes don’t even truly enjoy. The simple act of being “in the moment” while eating and making sure you savor every bite will help you save plenty of unnecessary calories.

And of course, saving a little bit now is the way to achieve long-term success, for both your finances and your health.

8 Astonishing Benefits of Walking:,2

Monday, June 17, 2013

Be Prepared for Your Next Car Shopping Experience

Shopping for a new car can be a pain.  If this is your first time buying a car, the whole process can be a little intimidating.  From haggling with the dreaded salesman to the hours of paperwork, buying a car is often far from being a walk in the park. 

During your search, it can be tempting to jump on the first deal that looks good, but in the end, you’ll feel much better about your purchase if you do your homework first.  Some people spend hours online searching for cars sold by owners while others head straight for the dealership.  However you choose to car shop, it’s important to be prepared.

Here are tips for making sure you get a good deal:

Decide what you want: Are you looking for a family car or economy car?  Are you free to spend what you want or are you on a budget?  It’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for and what your budget is before heading to the dealership to avoid impulse and pressured purchases.  

Always shop around (especially online): Many buyers head straight to one dealership and choose from the cars on display without checking prices at other area dealerships. If you have time, don’t be afraid to shop around. You can also use visit our Auto Loan Resource Center for tools, resources and information you can use in the bargaining process.

Find the invoice price: It helps to know what the dealer paid for the car in question to see whether or not you’re getting a good deal. Obtaining the invoice price (what the dealer paid for the car) has long been difficult, but it can be found on Edmunds.  

Avoid the monthly payment trick: Discuss the total amount you want to pay for the car, not your preferred monthly payment. Dealers prefer to deal with the monthly payment because they can manipulate the interest rate to give you the monthly payment you want, but you end up paying more for the car in the long run.

Be careful with the upsell: Many salespeople will try to get you to add on plans such as roadside assistance and warranties at the end of the buying process that may not be worth what you’re paying. If you ever feel pressured to buy, relax, and take some more time before making a decision.  The salesperson may be disappointed that they didn’t get you to sign right away but that shouldn’t be your concern.  Remember, at this point, you don’t owe them anything. You are choosing to give them your business.

Take advantage of low loan rates: Get pre-approved before going to the dealership. Dealers want you to finance with them and many times will offer you a rate that is much higher than you need to pay.  Auto loan rates are lower than ever, as low as 1.24% APR, at Community Financial but they won’t stay that way for long. These special rates expire on June 29.  Visit our website for more information about the current auto loan special.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tale of a Garage Sale Guru

 For Jill Johnson, what started as a way to save money while growing up has turned into a way to support the community and provide a valuable lesson in finance.

Johnson, vice president of lending at Community Financial, learned the benefit of shopping at garage sales as a child and has maintained the same perspective as an adult with her own family.

“I was raised that way,” Johnson said.  “We could not afford to buy everything new. Garage sales were a necessity when I was a kid. Now, it’s not necessary, but my kids have had plenty of stuff because we didn’t pay full price for it.  You can have plenty of things when you don’t pay full price.”

According to Johnson, it just takes a little bit of time and strategy to find what you’re looking for when garage sales pop up in the spring and summer.  Veteran garage sale goers many times have a plan and know exactly what to look for.

“People love it when your driveway looks like ‘Toys R Us,’” Johnson said.  “Babies don’t wear out their stuff, so that is the place to go for the little ones.  Garage sales are great, because if you hit the right one, you can find quite a bit.”                                                            
Community Financial VP of Lending Jill Johnson has attended garage sales since she was a kid.

Some people travel to different neighborhoods or cities to find the best sales, but Johnson prefers to stay local.

“I stay around where I live,” she said.  “I like going where there are subdivision sales, because you can wander all across the countryside to hit five or six, while at sub sales you can hit five or six at once.”

Shopping at garage sales can save a tremendous amount of money, even compared to resale or thrift stores.  As a mom with a newborn baby at home, Johnson has found garage sales to be even more valuable.  Johnson estimated that in general, she saves about 50 percent and approximately 90 percent off retail stores by shopping at garage sales.

She also likes garage sales because they directly impact and support her community.

“I like that the money goes directly to a family,” she said. “And doesn’t have to go through the retail process.”

For a list of garage sales in your area, visit