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Money Matters Blog

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 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 -

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.


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.
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 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!


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.
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.


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
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.


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.
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!


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