Monday, December 22, 2014

Community Financial and Salem High School Preserve Memories of Graduates

Community Financial Credit Union’s Community Shares Program helps fund school projects, school functions and school foundations across the southeast Michigan and northern Michigan communities it serves.

This year, a portion of the donated funds is supporting is a community display of a historical research project conducted by Salem High School teacher Darrin Silvester and his students. The project focuses on the historical impact of Central Middle School and the graduates of the previously known Plymouth High School.

Silvester and his students are excited the grant allows them to present their work in a format that makes it useful to the entire community. The grant will be used to purchase museum quality display boards to display the students’ work, and also will give more accessibility of town history to the public. Silvester’s class project provided students the opportunity to build upon skills to create an exhibit for everyone to see.

“The grant from Community Financial is helping to honor the great work that Plymouth High School graduates have done in Plymouth and the rest of the nation” Silvester said. “We are excited to share what we have found. There has been great work done here for more than 150 years and we want to share it with the community.”

Community Financial is proud to be able to give back to the community in a way that sets our communities up for brighter futures.

“Our local schools are the backbone of strong communities here in Michigan and so we feel it is important to give back to the communities that have been so good to us,” Community Financial Marketing Manager Sarah Cousineau said. “This project has a special significance as it is helping to preserve the history of Plymouth, the town where Community Financial started.”

Community Financial has donated a total of $25,500 for Community Shares in 2014. Eight school districts located in southeast and northern Michigan communities have benefited from the charitable program.

“All the work that the students do is not completed in front of me in the classroom with this project. It’s done for everyone. When classroom work can be connected to the community, the better kids are prepared for their futures,” Silvester said.

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 www.cfcu.org/warms. 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.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Take the Stress Out of Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner


Whether it’s your first time tackling the meal or you consider yourself a master chef, Thanksgiving dinner is always is a lot of work for the cooks in the kitchen. After all, there is no better way to tell all of your guests how much you care for them than by filling them with a delicious meal that you’ve made! With about two and a half weeks to go until the big feast, now is the perfect time to start planning the menu and figure out how you will tackle all of your cooking.

Here are some tips to take the stress out of hosting the perfect Thanksgiving for your guests:

1. Buy everything beforehand - About one week out from Thanksgiving, it will be time to clean out the fridge and go shopping. Take a look at your guest list and make an inventory of food allergies and intolerances so you can make a menu based off your guests’ preferences. Purchase foods with a longer shelf life in advance to keep your grocery trips shorter as you get closer to Thanksgiving. This is also a good time to make sure you have all the correct pots, pans and utensils you need. Never leave your shopping until the day before a holiday. This way you can avoid the crowds and also save some money by shopping around for the best prices beforehand.

2. Prepare your home ahead of time - Clean your home, set your table and prepare centerpieces three to five days ahead of time so they are ready for your guests on the actual day. You should also lay out your outfit the night before so you can quickly change into it before your guests arrive for dinner.

3. Make a cooking schedule - Almost everything will need some time in the oven, so a timetable of what dish goes in at what temperature and time will help you bake everything in time for dinner. Depending on the size of your turkey, it might need to thaw three to four days before. Some items can even be made a few days in advanced and frozen, like your pies, soups and cranberries. Casseroles can be prepared and put in the fridge until they need to be baked the day of. The key to getting everything accomplished the day of is prioritizing and not worrying! If things go awry, jump on the Internet to read about quick fixes to dishes you think you may have lost. If you run out of oven space, improvise with a crockpot or the microwave.

4. Be realistic - Don’t worry about impressing your guests with expensive decorations and high-end dining. Making simple and well-known dishes is often better than breaking your budget on a fancy meal you’ve never made before. Set a flexible schedule and be organized the day of, since even the best laid plans can go off track. Just remember that Thanksgiving Day is a family holiday, which we usually enjoy with our relatives and friends. Don’t exhaust yourself trying to make everything perfect.

5. Accept help from others - You might be hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your house, but that doesn’t mean you need to provide all of the food and do all the work. Have your guests bring their favorite side dish or dessert. Delegate kitchen tasks like prep and clean-up to family and friends to alleviate your workload. As a result, you will have more time to enjoy your guests and they will feel included in making the meal a success.

Once everyone is seated at the table eating, bask in the accomplished feeling you have of hosting a wonderful holiday meal! Share your favorite Thanksgiving recipes or tips in the comments section below.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Only Constant is Change

I saw a funny video on Facebook starring Christina Hendricks whose 1960s Mad Men character finds herself in a modern office. She tries to put typing paper in the computer monitor, smokes at her desk, and discovers that nobody knows how to send a fax. The differences in work and the workplace that have occurred between then and now are pretty clear. What isn't so obvious is how quickly and regularly those shifts occur.

The impact of change isn't a new concept: the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed that, as in life, you never step in the same river twice. On the other side of the world, Buddhists consider impermanence, or change, to be one of the three basic characteristics of all phenomenal existence. Merriam-Webster even defines the word "life" as "the ability to grow, change, etc."

A career of uncertainty
What does change have to do with money (aside from random nickels and dimes)? You make money through work, and the work you do over time becomes a career. It used to be that a degree and a position at a top firm would set you up for life, but that's not the case anymore.

According to 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median number of years workers stay with their current employer was 4.6, and for those ages 25 to 34, the average drops to 3.2 years. If you work from age 18 to retirement age at 62, that's between 9 and 10 jobs during a career.

Whether you go all-in on the freelance "gig economy" or simply move between companies as opportunities arise (and, increasingly, disappear), prepping yourself for a work life that is unpredictable is both thrilling and terrifying. So we've dedicated this issue to helping make you ready for anything.

Follow the "squiggly path"
Author Mitch Joel suggests the modern career path isn't a clear line but a squiggle, meaning you should be ready when new opportunities arise, take on projects that are interesting and challenging, and be willing to buck the status quo.

It doesn't matter what field you're in, today's careers are more dependent upon your brain than your brawn. Working in the 21st century:
  • requires problem solving, reasoning, and attention.
  • is team-based and collaborative.
  • depends a working understanding of technology.
  • has tight deadlines.
  • means it doesn't always matter where you live and work.
The good news is that it's in your power to develop the skills and abilities to cope with change. It's hard work, and it requires effort almost every day, but it's going to pay off in the end.

By Matt Neznanski Copyright 2014 brass Media, Inc.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Weatherproof Your Home for the Winter Season


With winter slowly encroaching on us, it’s time to make sure the temperature in the house won’t match the temperature outside! Taking some simple steps to winterize your home before the temperature drops to zero can save you money. You’ll thank yourself later when you receive your gas and electric bills! Here are some quick and easy projects and tips to get you on the road to saving some money during the winter.

Construct a draft snake
(think bolster pillow that sits at the base of your door). You can do it the old fashioned way and roll up a towel, or sew one up yourself and fill it with some heavy fabric or sand for weight. Weather stripping the house will also help you seal gaps in drafty nooks. Updated weather stripping has proved to save homes an average of 10-15% on energy bills. Both of these easy projects will help you divert the drafts from leaking in the doors in your home.

Replace your furnace filter
often during the months you have your heat on. Experts say to replace your furnace filter once a month during the winter months. Dusty filters restrict airflow and will increase the energy demand your home makes to heat it. The genuine HEPA air filters usually give you the most bang for your buck.

Run your ceiling fans in reverse
. While counterclockwise rotations give you cool air in the summer, clockwise rotations in the winter can circulate the warm air that has risen to the top of a room down into the living space.

Check your water heater
before winter starts. First, water heaters can lose a lot of heat through the side walls in the cold months. If you buy an insulating blanket for it, you can reduce the amount of heat lost, and the amount of energy your water heater uses. Next, take a look at how high the water heater is set at. If it’s set anywhere above 120 degrees, chances are you don’t need that much hot water. Bump it down to 120 degrees to save. The last thing you should do before winter is flush your water heater. The sediment and other particles that can accumulate in it will obstruct its efficiency.

Break out the box of old, comfy sweaters. A heavy sweater can be worth roughly 4 degrees. Channel your inner Jimmy Carter and keep extra sweaters and blankets around instead of bumping up the thermostat for more heat.

Clean gutters will allow for free flow of water through the gutters. Before it snows, clean out your gutters to prevent those pesky icicles from forming later.

Do you have any winterizing projects? Share them with us in the comments section below!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Have the Talk: Financial Planning with your Partner

 Money can have a huge impact on relationships, so much so that it can contribute to marital discord and even divorce. If you're married or in a long-term relationship, it's important for you and your partner to either be on the same page financially or discuss your differences openly and learn to compromise. When mapping out your joint financial future, cover the essentials.

Spending habits and attitude toward money
Are you cautious about spending, or do you believe in enjoying the things money can buy and dealing with the consequences later? Understanding your partner's attitude toward money is a key component of financial planning. It’s okay if you’re not on the same page, but you’ll need to learn to compromise and reconcile each other’s habits with your financial goals.

Financial goals
Do you want to purchase a home in the next few years? Start a family? Retire early? Discuss your short-, medium-, and long-term financial goals early, and reach an agreement about where your money needs to be going. Setting mutual goals or agreeing to support each other's goals, can help you and your partner avoid conflict and resentment down the line.

Let’s say your five-year plan centers on buying a house, whereas your partner isn’t particularly motivated to own property. If you don’t discuss your goal up-front, you may end up feeling bitter toward your partner if you’re not in a position to buy five years down the line when he pushed you to travel and purchase cars and electronics instead of save for that down payment. But if you make your goals clear and create a specific savings strategy, you’ll be more likely to achieve them and less likely to harbor negative feelings about your partner’s lack of support.

Appetite for risk
Once you've established your financial goals, you'll need to figure out how to get there. Before you start building your portfolio, openly discuss your feelings about risk-taking. If you're both conservative, you may lean toward safer but low-yield investments like bonds or certificates of deposit. On the other hand, if you're both open to being aggressive and aren't afraid to lose some money in the short-term, you could opt for stocks or even real estate. Now if one of you is a financial risk-taker and the other isn't, you'll need to negotiate a strategy that works for both of you. This could include a mix of mutual funds, individual stocks, low-yield bonds, and money markets. Diversifying offers a degree of financial protection and peace of mind; and if you and your partner have differing tolerances for risk, it’s a good compromise toward meeting your goals.

By asking the right questions and approaching the discussion with open minds, you and your partner can set yourselves up for a solid financial future without letting money take a toll on your relationship.

Photo by Alexandre Dulaunoy via cc.

By Maurie Backman Copyright 2014 brass Media, Inc.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Celebrate Fall with Color Tours and Perfect Pictures!


When it comes to fall color, no state does it better than Michigan. There’s something very special about leaves as they change from green, to orange, red and yellow. The best part? No matter where you live in Michigan, you’ll never have to travel far to be amazed by the changing fall colors.

What better way to explore these colors all over Michigan than through a color tour? Color tours throughout Michigan have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Whether you drive up M-25 to the thumb or head east on M-32 towards Thunder Bay, you’ll run into farmers markets, cider mills, wineries and local shops that dot the scenery. Visit www.michigan.org/fall-color-tours to find the perfect route for you!

Some of the most scenic landmarks around Michigan where you can enjoy spectacular colors include:
  • River Road National Scenic Byway
  • Hartwick Pines State Park
  • The “Tunnel of Trees” on M-119 from Harbor Springs to Cross Village
  • Pinckney Recreation Area
  • Oakland County's Independence Oaks County Park
  • Warren Dunes State Park
Your next gives you the perfect opportunity to take part in Community Financial’s newest social media campaign on Instagram! Now through November 15, we invite you to use #PicturePerfectMI on Instagram to share your pictures of Michigan with us.

Post pictures that show us what you love most about Michigan. Your pictures can be of our lakes, woods, cities, skies or rivers! They can feature you, family or friends enjoying a football game, cider mill, color tour or anything else you enjoy in Michigan.

Use #PicturePerfectMI and also tag us in your photo - @CommunityFinancial.PicturePerfectMI.com.


Your picture could land you some extra cash in your pocket! We’ll randomly select one photo each week to win a $50 Gift Card. Find out all you need to know by visiting

Monday, October 13, 2014

Trick-or-Treat Around Town

Do you know what you’re Halloween plans are yet? There’s a bounty of local events and trick-or-treats happening around southeast and northern Michigan this year! With so many different events to choose from, it’ll be hard to pick your favorite this Halloween season.


Gaylord

Halloween Trick-or-Treat Downtown event
Downtown Gaylord
Friday, October 31, 2014
5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Downtown Gaylord businesses will host the annual Trick-or-Treat Downtown event on Friday, October 31 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Every goblin, ghoul, witch and wizard is invited to wander through downtown Gaylord in search of treats!

Visit Fleming Farms
4264 Martindale Road
Weekends from October 4 - 26, 2014
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
At Fleming Farms in Gaylord, enjoy all of your fall favorites! Like hay rides, pumpkin picking, corn mazes, farm animals and let’s not forget cider and donuts!

Estelle Slaughter House Tour & Hayride
Van Tyle Road at Alba Highway
Thursday through Sunday nights from October 17 through November 2
6:30 to 10:30 p.m.
$13
Have a scream-filled time at Northern Michigan's most haunted of houses. Enjoy the haunted house, haunted hayrides, Detroit Style Coney Island hot dogs and movies on the big screen!


Lewiston

Lewiston Lawn Services Trunk or Treat
Friday, October 31, 2014
Lewiston School Bus Garage
5 to 7 p.m.
Get ready to trunk or treat this year with the Lewiston Lawn Services! Wear your best costume and bring your candy caddy.


Lewiston Tee Lake Resort Drive-Thru Haunt
Every night in October
3987 Tee Lake Road
Dusk to 10 p.m.
Guide yourself through this family friendly, free drive and tomb your radio to WROT 106.3 FM. If you’re brave enough, step out of your car and walk the path!


Livonia

Wilson Barn Pumpkin Fest
Every Saturday and Sunday October 11 to 26, 2014
29350 W. Chicago Street
Noon to 7:30 p.m.
Now that it’s apple cider and doughnut season, there’s no better place to visit in Livonia than Wilson Barn! There’s more than just cider and donuts at Wilson Barn though, pick a pumpkin, take a pony or hayride and much more! Visit the Haunted Barn, too!

Halloween at Greenmead Historic Park
Friday, October 24, 2014
20501 Newburgh Road
5:30 to 8 p.m.
$5
Trick or treat from house-to-house in this village filled with homes built in the 1800s. Get ready to be spooked, but not scared on this tour though Greenmead! Register by Thursday, October 23 to save your spot.


Northville

Halloween Soup at Marquis Theater
Every Saturday and Sunday October 4 to 26, 2014
135 E. Main Street
2:30 p.m. showings on Saturdays and Sundays
Additional shows at 7 p.m. October 25 and 11 a.m. October 26
$9
Head to Northville to catch this delightful Halloween tale! You’ll leave laughing after watching the story of Granny who lives in a haunted mansion with her four daughters.

Trick or Treat at Mill Race Village
Sunday, October 19, 2014
215 Griswold Street
4:40 to 6 p.m. Preschool to 3rd Grade
6:20 p.m. for older children and pets
Kids can trick or treat around this historic village – and visit some not-so-spooky houses. Don't forget to wear a costume and bring a bag for goodies. Participants should register by October 18.


Plymouth

Trick-or-Treat Parade
Summit on the Park
Thursday, October 30, 2014
4 to 7 p.m.
Pre-Registration – $2 members/$3 Canton residents (ends October 29 at 10 p.m.)
Door Registration – $5 Canton resident/ $10 non resident
Come enjoy the Summit all decked out for Halloween! At the parade, there will be over a dozen themed stations and two "path" options. Don’t miss the fun that will be had at Summit on the Park this Halloween season!


Shock-tober Series at the Penn Theatre
Every Thursday October 9 to 30, 2014
Penn Theatre 760 Penniman Avenue
7 p.m.
$3
Don’t miss your old school spooky favorites including Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, Ghostbusters, Young Frankenstein and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man!


Royal Oak

Zoo Boo at the Detroit Zoo
October 10 through 12, 17 through 19 and 24 through 26, 2014
8450 W. 10 Mile Road
6 to 8 p.m. Fridays, 5 to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
The Detroit Zoo’s annual merry, not scary, Zoo Boo celebration is a festive event you won’t want to miss. Check out the Ghouly Games Tent, the Haunted Reptile House, the Zombie Zone and the Wild Adventure 4-D Theater while you’re at Zoo Boo!


Dearborn

Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village
October 10-12, 17-19 and 24-26
20900 Oakwood Boulevard
6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday through Saturday, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday
You’ll feel like you’re walking through a magical pumpkin field with more than 1,000 carved jack-o'-lanterns that light up the grounds of Greenfield Village. Hallowe’en at Greenfield Village is an annual, old-fashioned, silly and spooky celebration.


Happy Halloween from everyone at Community Financial! Let us know what your favorite Halloween activities and events are in the comments section below!


Friday, October 3, 2014

Fall in Northern Michigan is a Special Time


Now that fall is officially here, we asked our team members what they love most about fall. Gwen Porritt, an MSR in our Atlanta branch, was happy to share her story.

Gwen Porritt (center) with Atlanta Branch team members
To quote a line from Kid Rock's song All Summer Long, "Now nothing seems as strange as when the leaves began to change, or how we thought those days would never end."

Summertime in northern Michigan is a short-lived season. But when it ends, Mother Nature puts on quite a show in the form of the season we call autumn. Now, anyone who has ever spent time in Northern Michigan during color season knows what a splendor it can be – by the way we call these people “Leaf Peepers” up north!

One of my favorite things to do when I lived in Lapeer was to go to Past Tense Country Store and Cider Mill and look at their awesome fall displays and haunted house. If you ever decide to go, they are located on Farnsworth Road in Lapeer. It's a great family-owned business with homemade doughnuts and fresh pressed cider. They feature Cooks Farm Dairy ice cream from Ortonville, hay rides, a great corn maze and they make their own homemade pies. What a yummy place to visit. If you decide to stop by, please tell Lucy and Mark that Gwen says hello!

One of Northern Michigan's "hidden treasures" is the Tunnel of Trees. I've yet to check this out because it's so hidden (just kidding!) but I have heard it is very beautiful. People say that it is located on a road that runs along Lake Michigan and Little Traverse Bay in Petoskey called M-119. This highway lacks a centerline and is known for its scenic beauty and heritage. When I check it out I'll be sure to give you all an update!

Another great thing about fall is the food! What is better during the fall than a bowl of chili? When the weather starts getting cool I get out the big stock pot and start dumping in the necessary ingredients. I cook like my mom did – no measuring. I like my chili thick, so over the years I experimented with several ingredients and found good old fashioned tomato paste works best. One can for a smaller pot and two for the bigger pot. My advice - make sure you stir it in really well or someone will get a mouthful of tomato paste, and they won't be very happy with you. My other go to chili ingredient is a kick of cayenne pepper to spice things up a bit. I also like to make pumpkin rolls in the fall. Although pumpkin rolls are not the best for you, they are delicious and provide comfort to the soul. We all need some of that up here in the Great White North when winter rolls around, but that's a subject for another blog.

My favorite fall memory is going to Cross Roads Village in Flint with my family in the 90’s. We all had those little orange plastic pumpkins and went to each of the buildings in the village begging for candy. I heard my dad chuckling, and I look over and he was practically cracking up.

“What's so funny Dad?" I asked.

He said to me "Gwen, I haven't trick or treated in over 50 years!"

Although my dad's been gone for over a year now, I will always have that awesome gift of seeing him laughing and carrying an orange plastic pumpkin filled with candy.

Take a good look around you, look at all the blessings in your life. There are so many things to be grateful for. Fall is one of those things for me! As the saying goes, autumn is a second spring, when every leaf turns into a flower.

Wishing you all a lovely fall, my friends,
Gwen Porritt

Monday, September 22, 2014

Don't Fear The Student Loan

You're ready to launch into college, springboard into a career and vault into a happy, successful life. There's just one obstacle standing in your way: money. Yes, you've come to terms with the fact that you need a student loan. You may be a little anxious about it, or you may be downright petrified. But with a little planning and know-how, you don't have to fear the student loan. Here's what you can do to prep for your loan and take the anxiety out of the process.

Prepare your budget.
Your adult life will include many components (and costs). Take a sheet of paper and list them all out. What's the average starting salary for your career choice? What car will you be driving? Where do you plan to live? What about other expenses (groceries, shoe-shopping, utilities, etc.)? Average those in also. Now, consider your proposed starting salary minus your costs. Whatever is left over is the amount you can realistically afford to pay monthly for your student loan.

Figure out your interest rate (with a little help).
Terrifying and confusing, nothing quite intimidates like interest. Fortunately, there's a wealth of tools at your disposal, both online and in person, to demystify it. Here's where you can go for help in translating your interest rate into dollars and "sense":

Financial aid websites: You'll find a host of sources online to help you unravel the mystery of your loan interest. Government-hosted websites, such as , offer reference material for a wide variety of student loans and the variance in interest rates you can expect for each.
direct.ed.gov

Loan interest calculators: Determining your payments for the duration of the loan is a must. At direct.ed.gov, you'll find online loan calculators to help you determine your payments for a wide variety of student loans and repayment plans. Simply plug in your loan amount, your interest rate and a few other relevant figures, and the calculator will determine what you can expect to pay throughout the life of your loan.

Talk to a professional: There are plenty of flesh-and-blood resources to turn to for help with deciphering your student loan interest rate. Talk to your lender at length. He's there to answer questions and clarify your loan's fine print. Your school financial counselor is another excellent source of loan interest information.

Plan for the end.
You've plugged all the details into your loan calculator. You know how much you'll pay monthly and how many years it will take to pay off the loan. You need to plan for each year. Budget ahead for the expense of a new car and all the other growing pains of life. Student loans require a long-term plan, from beginning to end, in order to safeguard your financial future and avoid long-term debt.

A student loan doesn't have to lead to nasty surprises down the road or a lifetime of debt. Take the time to budget properly, explore your options and plan ahead, and your student loan will be a stress-free stepping stone toward a bright and successful future.


Photo by Simon Cunningham via cc. Image was cropped.

By Andrea Crisp Copyright 2014 brass Media, Inc.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Another Year of Excellence with Thoughts from Our Student-Run Credit Union Team


From left to right: Christine Schilling, Angela Corbin & Erin Ilg
After a very successful summer including the Summer of Sharing charitable campaign and lending millions to our members, Community Financial Credit Union is moving into fall with more exciting news.

Community Financial was just named one of Metro Detroit’s “101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For,” for the ninth year in a row! This award recognizes companies for excellence in human resources practices that create exceptional work environments. We are pleased to be recognized for our values and proud that our team members love working here.

We asked our three new team members from the Student-Run Credit Union team to tell us about what they like most about working at Community Financial. Our new Education Partnership Coordinators Erin Ilg, Christine Schilling and Angela Corbin are all starting work in their new positions with plenty of great ideas to promote the importance of financial literacy at a young age.

Brand new to the credit union, Erin feels as though she has been working with her fellow colleagues for years and says that words cannot express how welcoming it has been to work at Community Financial.

“The people at Community Financial are truly some of the kindest, easiest people to get to know and work with,” Erin said. “I have been eased into my position and I keep hearing the phrase, ‘Don’t worry, if you make a mistake, we can always fix it!’ My colleagues and managers at Community Financial continue to impress me with their kindhearted and embracing approach.”

When asked why she appreciates the work done at Community Financial, Christine said, “I believe that Community Financial has the right leaders in place, from the Executive Leadership Team down to the managers in each department. Because of that people feel listened to, and that their thoughts and concerns are considered. That’s important to me, to feel I have an impact.”

Angela loves that at Community Financial she can work as part of a team and have fun. “We have so many opportunities in Community Financial’s northern service region to really get involved and show students that learning, saving and preparing for the future is not scary but something that can put them one step ahead,” Angela said.

Erin, Christine and Angela will help run our Student-Run Credit Union program in 41 schools across southeast and northern Michigan. We are glad they are here and can’t wait to see what they accomplish in their new roles!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Psychology of Paying in Cash

We are the generation of efficiency. Technology is woven into our lives, and if it isn't digital, we likely aren't interested. Shopping and banking from the comfort of our couches is second nature, as is swiping our credit and debit cards without a second thought. But taking a step back and looking at how generations before us handled their finances may reap big rewards for our wallets.

In the days of my grandparents, buying on credit wasn't embraced — unlike today, where going into debt for what we want is often the social norm. My papa paid in cash. If he didn't have the cash, he went without or saved until he did.

We frequently hear about methods that can help us climb out of debt, such as the envelope system. Though many think it's an old-fashioned way of thought, paying in cash is a tried and true system for getting out of debt. It turns out, there is a lot of psychology behind paying with green. We really do spend more with credit.

Feel the pain
Picture yourself on a road trip, tired of driving and craving a break. You stop at a convenience store for a stretch and a bite. Opening your wallet, you have a credit card. With a quick swipe of the card, you've purchased a Diet Coke, two candy bars and some Fig Newtons, cause the figs count as fruit, right? Now rewind and imagine only a $100 bill in your wallet. What's your first thought? Often our reaction is, "I don't want to break this big bill for a small purchase."

For many, paying in cash can be slightly painful, thus limiting spending. In a set of studies published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers noted that our method of payment can affect our impulse purchases. When we see the cash leaving our hands, we don't part with it as easily as if we were swiping plastic. Additionally, the larger the bills we carry, the less likely we are to make unnecessary purchases. The study suggests that the emotional connection of paying in cash could reduce our impulse purchases, helping our budgets (and perhaps our waistlines, too).

Always leave home without it

So we've determined that it's easier to part with our money using credit, but it turns out, we're also willing to pay more. Consumers who intend to use credit for a big purchase are often more focused on the aesthetics and features of a product, while those holding cash for payment paid far more attention to the price, according to a study by Promothesh Chatterjee and Randall Rose. The physical act of handing over our hard-earned cash directly connects our purchase to our budget in our minds. Using plastic is a more abstract action because the effects on your budget aren't immediate. Additionally, study participants who paid with credit were unable to recall the purchase price of the product in hindsight.

Considering these psychological factors, how can this help us get a handle on our budget? Try your own experiment. Choose a week and review your spending, including convenience store stops, dining, online purchases, and everything else. Make a note of how much you shelled out. Now commit to paying only in cash for the next week – be brave and leave all plastic at home. Take note of how your thoughts on purchasing shift, and tally your spending at the end of the week. You might just find that paying in cash may be the best budget wrangler of all.

Photo by 401(K) 2012 via cc.

By Erin Pittman Copyright 2014 brass Media, Inc.

Friday, September 5, 2014

10 Tips for an Awesome Tailgate Party


High school, college and NFL football games have started, which means tailgate parties will be in full swing before you know it! The thought of hosting the perfect tailgate might be a little stressful. What happens if you forget to bring enough silverware, plastic plates or cups? What if too many people show up? What if not enough? Hosting an enjoyable tailgate doesn’t have to be stressful! With the right amount of planning and preparation, you too can host an awesome tailgate party.

1. Plan a menu around finger food
– Having your guests juggle their drink with one hand and their food plate in the other gets tricky. In order to cut down on the hassle for your guests, plan to serve finger foods that don’t require a fork, spoon or knife.

2. Select menu items that are best at room temperature –Without bringing the fridge and stove, keeping your food the right temperature is not the easiest task. In order to keep the amount of things you bring on the road with you down, plan your menu around food items that are best at room temperature.

3. Plan a 25% increase in guests – At tailgates especially, your guests will probably find friends. Plan to make food for 25% more people than will already be attending your tailgate. If you end up making too much food, have some of your guests take some home with them after the game! Bringing re-sealable packages of snacks, like chips or nuts, is a great way to ensure you have enough food for everyone.

4. Organize everything the night before – Running out of the door and on your way to the game in a rush can often ensure that some necessary item will get left behind. Make sure you have everything the day of your party by organizing everything the night before. If you’re grilling kebabs, skewer them the night before. Are burgers on the menu? Cut up your tomatoes, onions, pickles and lettuce the night before too. Plan where everything will fit in your car before heading off to bed and you’ll be in great shape in the morning!

5. Time your arrival and party perfectly – Most people say that a four-hour tailgate party is the perfect amount of time to have fun before the game. Arrive early so you have time to set up and make sure you get a good parking space. Plan to eat at least two hours before the game starts and don’t forget to factor in time to break everything down before you go inside the stadium.

6. Consider wind direction when positioning your grill – If it’s a very windy day and you have a charcoal grill, be sure you bring extra charcoal because the wind can make it burn faster. Point the front leg of the grill into the wind to minimize it coming into the bottom vents. If you have a gas grill, turn the grill perpendicular towards the wind to minimize its effect on your food.

7. Freeze your water bottles – When you bring your water bottles frozen, they can keep things cool for a bit and then hydrate you after they melt.

8. Pack extra of the essentials – It’s always a good idea to have extra charcoal, ice or tongs in case something breaks or walks off with someone else.

9. Use stacked plastic drawers – To organize every item you’d possibly need throughout your tailgate party, bring one or two plastic stacked drawers. You can label the outside with tape so guests can easily locate silverware, cups, plates, tongs or anything else you might be bringing.

10. Mark your territory with something… else – Plan to bring your team flag and something a little quirkier so friends and family will be able to find you easier. This item should be easily recognized by guests as a marker of your territory.

Share your best tailgate party ideas with us! Comment below with your favorite tips.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Providing for Paws receives a special donation

2014 is proving to be one of the most gratifying seasons for Community Financial’s Summer of Sharing charitable program. The campaign, now in its fourth year, involves donating $1,000 a day for 60 days during the summer to deserving community organizations. This year, the nominations are pouring in, making it difficult to choose just 60 organizations and programs to donate to.

Providing for Paws is one of this year’s Summer of Sharing recipients of a $1,000 donation. Based out of Garden City, the mission of Providing for Paws is to provide assistance to low-income families with pets. This includes food, vaccines, and medical procedures, as well as animal rescue in the metro Detroit area.

President and Founder Joanne Dixon and the rest of the Providing for Paws team have been hard at work this summer with a record number of parvovirus cases, countless rescue animals and a number of animal cruelty cases.

Noticing the organization was in need of some financial help, a wonderful volunteer named Nadine nominated Providing for Paws for Summer of Sharing. Nadine joined the organization after single-handedly saving a dog in the woods behind her home. The mother dog was found on her death bed nursing several puppies. Nadine paid for the dog to have surgery and bottle-fed all of her puppies while she recovered. She was introduced to Providing for Paws during her rescue endeavor and quickly fell in love with the organization’s mission.

Nadine is now on the board and knows the financial struggles Providing for Paws faces daily – especially in the summer. Nadine hoped Community Financial would recognize what the organization does for the community and hoped it might have a chance of winning.

During the 2014 summer, Providing for Paws had an average of over 80 animals in rescue and serviced 175 owned pets with food, spay or neuters and vaccines. During just the month of July, Providing for Paws had a vet bill of over $5,000. This bill included the treatment of nine dogs with parvovirus, one dog with a blockage and another dog that had been cut by its neighbor with a machete. The organization also provides cats with vaccines and microchips, as well as a test for feline leukemia disease.

With expensive vet bills for around 250 animals, Providing for Paws was in desperate need of financial assistance. When Providing for Paws was notified that it was a Summer of Sharing winner, Joanne and the volunteers and team members were all jumping for joy.

“If it wasn't for programs like the Summer of Sharing, we would not be able to do what we do for all of these animals,” Joanne said. “Every penny counts for our organization, therefore knowing we had an additional $1,000 coming our way, brought tears of joy to my eyes.”

Joanne said she and all of the families that are able to keep their animals with assistance from Providing for Paws all feel very honored and blessed to have this opportunity.

It is because of stories like this, demonstrating the good done in the communities we serve, that we keep bringing Summer of Sharing back.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Drive For Less: Save Money on Car Insurance Without Changing Carriers

You may be able to save on car insurance in 15 minutes, or even in seven minutes, if you are willing to change insurance companies. What if you like the service you currently receive but just want to pay less? There always seems to be an excuse every renewal period why your premium went up a few dollars more a month. For the frugal-minded, like myself, I think about how those few dollars would be better left in my favorite high-yielding savings account. There are ways you can combat those renewal increases without changing your current coverage.

Get a quote online.
Pretend you are a new customer and get an online quote at your current carrier's website. Compare the quote with your renewal rate. I filled out their questionnaire and received a quote reference number with a lower rate. With that reference number, I called my carrier and asked why the quote is significant lower than my renewal rate. If your carrier doesn't have the disclaimer "only for new customers" associated with the online quote, they must give you that lower rate.

Telecommute? Less liability means more money in your pocket.
If you drive your car less than average, you should get a break on your rate. For example, I work remotely one day a week. Since my yearly mileage decreased, my carrier decreased my rate.

Check your discounts every renewal period.

Don't assume your car insurance company has applied all discounts to your account. It is your responsibility to ensure all applicable discounts are applied. Every renewal period, give your insurance carrier a list of all your memberships. Both my alumni association and professional organization provides discounts with my carrier. I make sure if I can only have one discount, they apply the largest one out of the two.

Clean record? Show me the money!
Every car insurance company has a good driver discount. Every year of no claims, you should be rewarded. Make sure they apply that discount every renewal period.

Use one carrier for all your insurance needs.
You need insurance for your car and house or apartment. Why not bundle? I get a discount just by having multiple items covered by the same company. They want your business, so negotiate a great rate for all your insurance needs.

Cash talks! Pay upfront and save in the long run.
If you had cash to buy a car, you can negotiate a much better deal than sticker price. Car insurance is the same. When you pay monthly, you are paying a service charge to process each payment. Save that money and pay yearly or every six months.

I save hundreds of dollars every renewal period. A great company will want to keep you. If none of these methods work for your car insurance carrier, it may be time to save hundreds on your car insurance by switching.

Photo by Bob Jagendorf via cc.

By Jeanine Lewis Copyright 2014 brass Media, Inc.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What Does Your Car Color Choice Say About Your Personality?


The colors of the things around us are said to influence our moods and highlight personal attributes. Every item we own is an extension of our personalities, but how much does that really say about us? Specifically, what do the colors of the items we own say about us? Perhaps we don’t think of it right away, but most of us want our cars to reflect who we are because we spend so much time driving in them. Take a look at what your car color choice might say about your personality.

White
White cars are the most popular on our roads today. At first glance, white cars portray a fresh, clean and modern look. This could reflect the driver’s own personal style, as they may also have a taste for elegance and enjoy the finer things in life. If you drive a white car, your personality probably includes honesty and purity, with a bit of confidence. Drivers of white cars tend to be more extroverted.

Black
The color black is often associated with power. That may be the reason why black is the most common color of luxury vehicles. If you drive a black car, you may be a bit of a sophisticate as well. You may enjoy things labeled as classic and timeless. As the driver of a black vehicle, you are not easily manipulated and are usually in total control of many areas of your life. Your personality may be a touch mysterious and a bit competitive.

Silver
Silver cars are the third most popular vehicle color on our roads. The color silver is linked to innovation. If you drive a silver car, you might enjoy having the newest technology available. Drivers of silver vehicles are most often self-assured, unfailing and calm. They are also very detail-oriented people. Silver cars can represent luxury, wealth and prestige - those who own and drive them often subconsciously exude these qualities.

Gray
Gray is a cool, sleek and practical color. As the driver of a gray car, you know who you are and probably prefer things on the subtle side. People who drive gray cars often don't want to stand out. The color gray accompanies wisdom and formality. If you drive a gray car people may describe you as refined, conservative and pragmatic. People who choose to drive gray cars are often reasonable, helpful and agreeable souls who like to go with the flow of life.

Red
If you want, or already drive, a red car you’re probably a go-getter looking for action. Red is a color that often represents confidence and fun. Similar to black cars, red cars can be associated with status. Drivers of red cars usually want attention and to look impressive to others. Red cars denote those who have high performance energy and drive, and who are full of courage and ambition. They can be impatient characters who live their lives at a fast pace. People who drive red cars are often enthusiastic about life and are passionate about their interests and themselves.

Blue
The color blue symbolizes stability and safety. If you drive a blue vehicle, people might describe you as dependable, trustworthy and at peace with who you are. Like the driver of a white car, you might also like to portray a fresh look in your own personal style. Those who drive blue cars are generally consistent in their moods and attitudes. They also prefer to blend in rather than stand out in the crowd.

Brown/Beige
Brown and beige are colors that are peaceful and earthy. The driver of a brown car values a long life of purchases and doesn't necessarily care about the newest trends or technologies available. Those who drive brown cars are usually known for being frugal and practical with their spending.

Yellow
You are probably a pretty happy person if you drive a yellow car! The color yellow represents joy and a positive attitude. Drivers of yellow cars are also more willing to take risks. Those who own and drive yellow cars have great self-confidence and enjoy having fun and embracing their inner-child.

Green
Green is nature’s color. If you’re driving a green car, you are probably very similar to the drivers of brown and blue cars. The color green symbolizes balance, stability and growth. Those who drive green cars are generally civilized, socially-conscious and well-adjusted people. If your car is dark green, you might like classic things and be more traditional. Those who drive lime and neon green cars on the roads tend to feel more young and hip.

Orange
Orange is a warm color that has the ability to stimulate and arouse the senses. It symbolizes self-expression, flamboyance and passion. Orange also encourages energy, activity and motivation. Drivers of orange cards tend to be more on the frugal side. They aren’t afraid of going against the tide and enjoy having things that are a little unusual.

No matter which color you prefer for your vehicle, Community Financial offers low rates for used and new auto loans. Visit our Auto Resource Center to help you find the perfect color car that fits your personality.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Preparing for College - Mentally & Financially


Are you ready for college? Fall is right around the corner and that means it’s almost time to head back to school. You probably have your classes picked out and have started shopping for your dorm room or apartment, but are you mentally and financially ready for college? You’ll need to use these last few weeks of summer to prepare your mind for college level classes and your wallet for the cost of tuition. Here are some tips that could help you steady your focus.

MENTAL AND ACADEMIC PREPARATION

Going to college for the first time or heading back after an absence can be an overwhelming experience. For some, it may be their first time away from home which brings its own set of life adjustments. Being organized can help alleviate some stress that you will face during this transition.
  • Keep an updated calendar or planner. Succeeding in college requires a keen sense of time management. Your classes will be longer, your study materials will be heavier and your deadlines will be shorter. You’ll want to utilize a planner more than you did when you were in high school. Buy one now and map out when midterms and finals will be so you can go into the academic semester knowing what to expect. You could also set up the calendar on your phone with reminders to reflect important dates throughout the academic year.

  • Reflect on your study habits. Did you procrastinate in high school? The first day of your college course when the syllabus is reviewed will most likely be overwhelming. You can avoid being caught off guard by the amount of work you have by looking into what your courses will require ahead of time. If you want to know what type of course load to expect you can email your professors before the semester begins. Strategize what study methods helped you in high school and weed out the ones that weren’t productive. Establishing positive study habits early on will help you with the rest of your college career.

  • Find students you have a shared connection with. Establishing relationships with at least one other student before you arrive to campus will help you feel more acquainted with the school. To find some new college buddies before you move, ask friends and other acquaintances if they know of someone attending your college. Touch base with your new connections online a few times before the semester begins. You could also research clubs and societies you could join at your school to find other students that share similar interests as you.

FINANCIAL PREPARATION

If you don’t plan ahead before you go to college, you may find yourself saddled with debt come graduation time. To avoid this, you will want to establish a realistic budget of what you will spend during your college career.
  • Start a savings and checking account. Experts recommend that you save at least three months of living expenses at any given time. Starting your savings account before you head off to college is a great idea. Community Financial offers Free Basic Savings and Student Certificate of Deposits for members ages 13 to 23. We want you to feel empowered to save your money, that’s why we offer these accounts to get you started. We even have Deposit Punch Card Rewards that pay you to save!

    We also offer Free Student Checking for members ages 16 to 23. There are no maintenance fees or balance requirements, and it includes a free Visa Debit Card to help you make purchases for college and beyond. Having a credit card while in college is for the sole purpose of building credit and should not be viewed as a way to spend more money! Always pay on time and make sure that you have the cash to pay off the card in full after each month.

  • Consider selling your car. If you are going to a school in a city where a car doesn’t make financial sense, selling might be a good option. To take a trip home you can find a carpool forum around campus or consider taking the train if it’s an available option. Not having a car while in college could help you save money since you wouldn’t have to pay for parking, maintenance fees or insurance.

  • Apply for scholarships and financial aid. Financing all of the expenses for a college education can be daunting. A private student loan from Community Financial can help fill the void. Our private student loans do not have a need-based component, so they are open to all members. You can borrow anywhere from $2,000 to $30,000 a year. Apply quickly and hassle-free with no application or processing fees on our Private Student Loans page.

    You should also apply for as many scholarships as you can before heading to college. Scholarships are the most underutilized source of financial aid for college. Every year, Community Financial grants thousands of dollars in scholarships for its student members who embody our “People Helping People” philosophy. To learn more about this program visit our scholarships page.
Deciding to go to college is a big decision. The more prepared you are mentally and financially, the easier it will be to make the transition into your new life on campus.

Monday, July 21, 2014

When is it a good idea to buy in bulk?


Have you ever wondered when it does and doesn’t make sense to buy in bulk? If you have a membership card with a wholesale retailer like Costco or Sam’s Club, you’ll want to learn which bulk items you can purchase to save money in the long run. What are some of the best and worst things to buy in bulk?

DON’T BUY:
  1. Fresh Produce – Bulk food wholesale stores and co-ops offer a lot of choices of merchandise these days, including fresh produce. This may seem like common sense, but unless you’re preparing food for a very large group, buying produce in bulk may not be the best choice. Many fresh produce items only remain fresh for a matter of days so you’ll want to skip buying it if you don’t plan on eating it right away.
  2. Meats and Seafood – Like fresh produce, buying huge quantities of meats and seafood can be tricky, especially when buying them fresh. Meats and seafood can develop freezer-burn after a period of time if left in the freezer too long. It’s important to store a large quantity of frozen meat and seafood in a large capacity freezer at a very low temperature. Many freezers included as part of a refrigerator might not be up for the task.
  3. Natural and organic items - Even when packaged, items that are natural or organic may have a shorter shelf life. Some natural and organic products have minimal processing and fewer chemical preservatives. While better for your health, these products may not last as long causing you to throw them away sooner.
  4. Personal Care Items – Just because it’s sold at a bulk retailer does not mean it’s less expensive. Make sure you comparison shop before you buy and always look at the unit cost. Be careful of buying items like diapers in bulk, since your child could outgrow a certain size quickly, leaving you with hundreds of diapers you don’t need. Another important factor with pharmaceuticals, makeup and personal care items is the expiration date. Check the date and make sure you’ll use the entire item before it expires.
BUY:
  1. Paper goods and office supplies – Products such as toilet paper, paper towels and tissues are excellent bulk buys. These items do not expire and the unit cost is usually less as well. Significant savings can also be achieved by purchasing your office supplies in bulk. So be sure to stock up on supplies like paper, pens, pencils and sticky notes.
  2. Toothpaste and toothbrushes – The long shelf life and small storage space make toothbrushes and toothpaste great buys at a bulk store. Many people see a better value on these items when purchased in bulk.
  3. Alcoholic beverages – One of the reasons alcohol is a suitable bulk purchase is the exceptionally long shelf-life it has. Great deals can be found on cases of beer or larger bottles of wines and other types of spirits. If you’re hosting a party with alcoholic drinks, make sure to purchase the alcohol and mixers in bulk to cut down on party costs.
  4. Gas – Some warehouse clubs also sell gasoline. Check out the rates and you’re likely to save compared to what regular gas stations charge. You’ll most likely need a membership card to take advantage of their gas sales. Try to go early in the morning or times when lines are shortest, too!
Buying in bulk can be an excellent opportunity to save money, just make sure you are checking expiration dates, unit costs, and keeping your home storage capacity in mind. Most importantly, ask yourself if you really need what you’re buying. If it is an item that you know you will use in the future, then buying in bulk could be a great idea. If you find out you purchased too much, consider splitting items up with family and friends. Keeping these tips in mind can help make you a smarter consumer. Have any tips of your own about buying wholesale? Include them in a comment below.
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