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Money Matters Blog

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tips for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution

It’s that time of year again, where we look back on the past 12 months and think of what we have accomplished and set goals for the upcoming year. Big or small, it can be hard to keep the resolutions we make for the New Year. Below are a few tips and resources we’ve complied to help bring in the new year with realistic goals and tools to accomplish them.  

What do you really want?
It can be easy to set goals like eating healthier or spending less on shoes, but unless there’s a good reason for these goals, it’s not always easy to keep them. Making sure they are things you actually want, not just things that might be nice, can help! Setting specific reasons for goals that you actually want will help keep you motivated. has a great article on what kinds of goals you should set for yourself.

Set reasonable expectations.
Setting your hopes high and keeping your goals lofty is commendable, but if those goals aren’t realistic, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Setting short term goals can help you to accomplish the larger ones over time. Also, make sure you take the time to reevaluate your progress along the way. For instance, if your goal was to save a specific dollar amount in 6 months, but you’re only ¼ of the way there at 4 months, it might be time to reevaluate. This might mean making even more aggressive changes to your habits to be able to save more. The key is to set reasonable expectations so you keep going as you hit small milestones.

The apps have it.
People make jokes about how there is an app for everything, but it’s true! There are plenty of apps that can help you achieve your goals. MyFitnessPal is a popular one where you can track everything from your calorie intake to how much exercise you get. You can even scan a food label barcodes to upload nutritional information. Other non-health specific goal apps that can help you stay on track include GoalsOnTrack and LifeTick.

Share your goals.
A great way to help you achieve your goals is sharing them with others. This does not mean you have to be the guy at the office who announces every time he resists a cookie, but letting close friends and/or family in on your plans can help motivate you. Choose people who are positive and encouraging, or better yet, choose those with similar goals.  The article Why the BuddySystem Works sheds light on how helpful it can be to have someone else holding you accountable in your goal achieving journey.  

Celebrate milestones.
No matter how big or small the accomplishment, it’s important to give yourself credit for all the hard work that went into getting it done. By recognizing that you’re one step closer to achieving an ultimate goal, you can find the confidence to achieve even greater things. 

Whether or not you’ve set specific goals for 2016, we at Community Financial want to wish you and your loved ones a successful and prosperous New Year!

*Community Financial does not endorse the information, content, presentation or accuracy, nor make any warranty, expressed or implied, regarding the websites and/or apps mentioned above.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holidays

'Tis the season of giving, family time and holiday parties. Even the Grinch-iest of people can admit that there’s at least one thing about this time of year that they like, and for many it’s the food! With all the traditional treats Grandma makes and the festive workplace potlucks, one might call this the most delicious time of year.

Unfortunately, overindulgence is often a regrettable outcome of celebratory eating, which becomes evident when suddenly the pants or dress we wanted to wear to the New Year’s Eve Party does not fit anymore. Never fear, we’ve complied a few tips to help you keep healthy during the holidays!

Having seconds… And thirds…
It’s a simple concept in theory, but portion control is a practice that many people have trouble with. WebMD published an article with 10 Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain that can give you portion control tips on how to keep those pounds off, without having to avoid the parties all together. It may seem overwhelming, and take a great degree of control at first, but beginning the practice of portioning your food will eventually become a habit that you don’t have to pay much attention to! Instead of feeling like you’re banned from the buffet, you’ll have the freedom to partake in moderation.  

We all know that exercise is good for us, but it can be hard to make time during the holidays. Whether you already have a routine, or barely find time to walk to the coffee maker from your desk, the holiday season can take its toll on our health. Set aside time to do some activity to get your heart pumping and keep your muscles healthy. Keep in mind your holiday schedule and set realistic goals for yourself. If you’ve never had the time or energy to go for an hour jog every morning before, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to start it during one of the busiest times of the year! You can increase physical activity and jump start your metabolism by doing simple things like getting up from your desk a few times a day for a walk around the office. Create a few extra steps for yourself by parking your car farther away, using the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, or take an extra lap around the mall with all your bags in hand. Still need some exercise inspiration? Read 8 Ways to Stay Active All Day.

Holly Jolly Beverages
Beverages are the most overlooked source of extra calories. Besides the increase in frequency, holiday beverages are often more packed with sugar than any other time of year. Think eggnog, flavored specialty coffees, hot chocolate, etc. Regardless of whether they have alcohol content or not, the drinks you’ll find this time of year are one of the smoothest ways to gulp down some unhealthy stuff! Taking your time to sip and savor your beverages is a great way to keep it under control, and portioning is always helpful. Gain some knowledge about what holiday drinks may or may not be worth to you in this article on Unhealthy and Healthy Holiday Drinks. Another idea is to bring ingredients to make specialty drinks of your own to parties, so that way you know exactly what’s in your cup! You can find great recipes online, like those here at

Being conscious of diet and exercise year round is the best way to keep healthy, so as you wrap up your holidays start thinking of healthy habits you’d like to carry into 2016! Stay tuned for our upcoming blog on tips for keeping your New Year’s resolutions! Whatever your plans, Community Financial wants to wish you and your families a healthy and happy holiday season. 

*Community Financial does not endorse the information, content, presentation or accuracy, nor make any warranty, expressed or implied, regarding the websites and/or tips mentioned above. None of the content on this website should be considered medical or psychological advice, and should be discussed with your health professional.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Top Tips for Winterizing Your Car

It seems no matter how hard some wish, winter comes to Michigan every year. The cold weather and treacherous conditions that visit our beloved state might be great for winter sports, but they can wreak havoc on your vehicle. Even rough and tough SUVs are susceptible to damage, but there are precautions you can take to help stop the problems before they occur.

Seeing is pretty important! 
It may seem like a no-brainer that you need good visibility when driving, but in winter weather conditions it can be even more important for have a clear view of your surroundings. Making sure you have new wiper blades and plenty of washer fluid are probably the least expensive and most overlooked things that can help you have a safer car this season. You can find more tips on keeping sight of the road at and find wiper blade ratings on

Where the rubber meets the ice. 
Slippery conditions are unavoidable unless you stay at home. This isn’t really an option for most people, so it’s important to make sure your car is for top shape to handle the roads. Checking the tread on your tires is very important in safe winter driving. You might be surprised at the difference in stopping distance that winter tires can make! Consumer Reports has a good article on how winter tires can help keep you safe: Comparing Stopping Distances in Snow. If you’re not sure you want to make the investment in a completely separate set of tires, ask your mechanic or a knowledgeable friend to take a look at your tires for their expert opinion.

Don’t lose power. 
As we all know, starting your car is a vital part of driving, so it’s important to make sure your battery is in good shape. Understanding how batteries work can help you to better diagnose when your battery is going bad. You can learn about how they work in this article on Many people don’t even think about checking their battery unless there’s a problem (ie, their car doesn’t start), so it might be helpful to set a calendar reminder to check it (or have it checked) before the colder temperatures hit. When in doubt, take it in to have it looked at by a professional.

It’s easy to continue on with your day-to-day driving and trust that your regular oil changes and vehicle inspections will keep your car running smoothly, but it’s important to remember that we live in a climate that would affect any machine’s ability to function. Doing research online and asking your mechanic about precautions you can take this winter will help keep you safe and save you money.

No matter how cold it gets though, just remember… spring is always just a few months away!

*Community Financial does not endorse the information, content, presentation or accuracy, nor make any warranty, expressed or implied, regarding the websites and/or apps mentioned above.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Community Financial Warms Hearts and Homes in Michigan

Now that the holidays are almost here, it’s a good time to reflect on what we are thankful for. Basic necessities like food on the table, warm clothes and a roof over our heads are things we sometimes take for granted, but many others are not as fortunate.

In reality, there are families right in our own communities who cannot afford to keep warm and fed this winter. As the weather gets colder, these families are forced to choose between heating their homes and buying their children winter coats. This is why Community Financial is once again launching its Warming Hearts & Homes campaign to help Michigan families. 

During the Warming Hearts & Homes campaign, which runs the month of December, Community Financial will donate $25 to select nonprofits for every like or tweet received on our social media pages. The plan is to donate up to $30,000 to local organizations around Michigan that provide aid to families in need.

Among the organizations that will receive aid from this campaign are The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), local food pantries, and The Salvation Army Coats for Kids Program.

“Each year we run the Warming Hearts & Homes campaign, we have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of Michigan families,” Marketing Manager Sarah Cousineau said. “Community Financial is proud to launch this campaign to sponsor and support these organizations that are committed to helping families in need.” 

So this December please take a moment out of your holiday preparations to make your post to our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages. A simple post is an act of kindness that can go a long way.

For more information on how Warming Hearts & Homes aids families in Michigan, or to learn more about how you can participate in the campaign, visit

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Holiday Gift Giving Ideas for 2015

The holidays are here and so is the pressure of finding the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Regardless of your budget, it can be difficult to narrow down what gifts will be best. Never fear, because the internet is swimming with ideas for what to get those on your “Nice List” and we’ve complied a few of our own to get your started!

You Can Fly! - Sort of… 
Techies rejoice because the future is here! Remember those little flying helicopters you used to see at the mall kiosks? Well technology has advanced and for a price tag of around $1,000, you can have your very own drone with GPS capabilities, an HD camera to record and stream its travels, and the ability to fly for miles before landing. Visit National Geographic for some of the top drone models for gifting this year.

Another technology gift that is much more affordable and maybe a little more practical is the array of smartwatches available. One of the most popular is the Fitbit Surge, which like many of the others on the market, can connect to your smartphone and track fitness data. Another option is Pebble, which has a lot of the same features, but a few more stylish options for those who aren’t as fond of the “techie” appearance. Finally, the Apple Watch could be a good possibility for the tech junkie in your household. In addition to its fitness capabilities, the Apple watch can serve as a replacement to your smartphone.

Board Games 
With all the technology available and recent generations of children being “screen obsessed,” we sometimes forget about a tried and true gift that can keep giving for years: board games! There are classics like Monopoly, LIFE and Candy Land, each with helpful appropriate age ranges listed right on the box. Some families might avoid board games at all costs for the sake of harmony, but there’s just something about yelling “UNO!” that really brings out the fun!

DIY Christmas 
Lots of people have tried their hand at homemade gifts and feel they’ve failed: burnt cookies, a scarf turned into more of an oddly shaped afghan, and that collapsing gingerbread house you spent so much time on! With the help of sites like Pinterest, you can find endless ideas for homemade gifts. With a little searching, you will find a project that is more up your alley and discover that DIY gifting isn’t unrealistic. Keep in mind that no one has ever done DIY gifting without a fail or two, and it’s no reason to give up on it all together. Just check out for some inspiration of what NOT to do.

Photo Books 
Finally, what better gift can you give than the gift of preserved memories? Trying your hand at scrapbooking is a great way to preserve photos for your loved ones. For those who aren’t into arts and crafts, photobooks are very simple to order and very affordable. Try sites like or for personalized photo gift ideas. Whatever plans you have this holiday season, we hope you find the perfect gifts for the special people in your life.

*Community Financial does not endorse the information, content, presentation or accuracy, nor make any warranty, expressed or implied, regarding the websites and/or apps mentioned above.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What to Do With Your Furry Friends While Traveling

When it comes to planning a vacation, figuring out your airfare and hotel costs usually comes first. In fact, travelers often base their travel schedules around the best deals available. But, if you're a pet owner, there's a travel cost you don't want to overlook: pet care. Our furry friends need accommodations, too.

Perhaps you're lucky enough to have friends or family pet-sit for free, but often pet owners must look (and pay) for professional help when they go out of town. Depending on how comfortable you are with strangers in your home, you can either have a dog walker stop by to walk your pet a few times a day, or you can pay someone to stay and keep your pet entertained overnight. Some pet sitters prefer that you drop your pet off at their home instead, and of course pet hotels and boarding facilities are a popular option for travelers with pets.

At Home
According to, the average cost of boarding a pet can cost you $20-25 per day. Pet hotels cost more but offer more luxuries and can range from $35-90 a day for each pet. The average cost of a dog walker is $10-25 for each dog, and Pet Sitters International's 2014 State of the Industry Survey indicates that the average for a 31-minute dog-walking visit is $18.23. Overnight visits average $62.18 per night.

Last year I planned an 11-day vacation and needed reliable pet care. I used Thumbtack to look for dog sitters in my area, and since it was a longer trip, I wanted my two dogs to stay at home instead of at a boarding facility. On Thumbtack, you submit your request (days needed, amount to be paid) and professionals respond with their bids. You can read your potential sitters bios and reviews (if any), and choose the best one for you. and Yelp are also great resources to utilize that feature reviews for pet-sitters, too. I finally decided on a Thumbtack sitter who bid $20 a day for two dogs to be walked for 30 minutes (you can also get your plants watered and mail checked). By contrast, dog boarding for two dogs would have cost $40 a day in a shared indoor/outdoor facility, not including added play time and other optional services.

Up in the Air
If you want your pet to travel with you and you're flying, you'll have to research airlines that accommodate pets to find out their policies. For example, United, American and Delta allow an in-cabin pet as an extra carry-on subject to a $125 service charge each way in the U.S., except Hawaii, and the kennel must fit into the seat in front of you. Spirit also allows in-cabin pets for $110, and you can fly with your pet for $100 each way on JetBlue and Alaska Airlines.  According to their websites, American Airlines, Spirit and Southwest do not accept checked pets. Southwest charges $95 per pet one way on domestic flights only. Another cost to consider is acquiring an airline-approved pet carrier for the flight (most airlines only accept smaller pets in the cabin. Also, these fees do not apply to service animals).

Road trips are easier to plan, but you'll still need to find pet-friendly lodging. Websites like and are both great resources that make it easy to find a place to stay with your furry companion. With a bit of planning, pet owners can enjoy a vacation without worrying about their pet's well-being.
Photo by Can Do Canines via cc

See more at:

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Trends

Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Trends Many Americans may think of Thanksgiving as the most traditional time of year, from the turkey to the stuffing to the cranberry sauce, with the parade and football game on in the background, it is a surefire celebration day each year. Some also resist some of the newer traditions that seem to be forced on us, such as Black Friday shopping hours starting on Thanksgiving. Amidst keeping long standing traditions alive, this holiday evolves as people make it their own ways to celebrate. Think past the feast and explore some of these non-traditional Thanksgiving trends:
  • Friendsgiving: This term has become increasing popular to describe an event held around Thanksgiving but not always on the day of. Especially among young working adults who cannot afford to travel home to see family for both Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, it works well when one friend opens their home to host the event and everyone else brings a dish.
    These young adults are choosing Thanksgiving, the “smaller” holiday, to spend with their local friends by entertaining one another through a pot luck type party. Read what Friendsgiving attendees say about their newly establish twist on the break: Washington Post: Friendsgiving, a New Tradition to be Thankful For.
  • Untraditional Foods: For a modern take on this holiday and for those tired of turkey (or tired of turkey making them tired), there are other options. Some other ideas (besides the ever present alternative that is pizza) with a similar “comfort food” feeling to the same old same old, are creamy cheese grits, roasted sweet potato and okra salad, or sweet potato gratin with chile-spiced pecans. Click here for more non-traditional side dishes.
  • Vegan Thanksgiving: You can still have the Thanksgiving traditions if you’re going vegetarian or vegan! Try pumpkin pot pie with White kidney beans, Butternut Squash Baked Risotto or Thai-Spiced Pumpkin Soup. See 30 other ideas here.
  • Superlative Thanksgiving Getaways: Thinking of ditching the big turkey dinner with the in-laws? Because if you’re going to skip dinner at Nana’s, you’d better have a good reason. But there is no reason to stay put on a long weekend off. Escape to somewhere tropical, historic or foreign. For ideas of where to spend this November 26th see
  • Other Nations Celebrating Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving isn't just an American holiday. Canada celebrates Turkey Day, too - and it was the first country to do so. Canadian Thanksgiving, which falls on the second Monday in October, was first celebrated by the arctic explorer Martin Frobisher in 1578 - more than 40 years before the Pilgrims arrived. Besides Canadians, other nationalities from Australians to Europeans, often try their hand at setting out a great feast complete with the pumpkin pie. From China to Rome, you can find out some of the things others do to make merry:

Does dinner take place Thursday evening or a different time throughout the weekend? What is your “home” culture on the last Thursday of November? Have any non-traditional Thanksgiving customs of your own? Share them in the comments section below. We’d love to hear them!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

School Credit-Union Program Teaches Lifelong Money Management Skills to Students

How did you learn to manage your money?  Was it through your parents? A program or teacher in school? Or maybe you’re still figuring it out as you go?
Community Financial believes that financial literacy and money management are important life skills that all children need to know. That’s why our Student-Run Credit Union program was created back in 1990 to help make that happen.

Our program grew even stronger this year with the addition of three new school partners: Isbister Elementary in Plymouth, Kennedy Elementary in Livonia, and Atlanta Community Schools in northern Michigan. The credit union now operates 45 student-run credit unions, impacting more than 18,000 elementary, middle, and high school students.

Throughout the year, our Education Partnership Coordinators give presentations and help educate students on a full range of financial topics including: the importance of saving money, managing a budget, and general financial responsibility. We have more than 2,000 youth members here at Community Financial, and that number grows each year.

This year, not only did our partnerships grow, but we added two new team members to help support the growth of the Student-Run Credit Union program. 

Jeremy Cybulski, our new Senior Education Partnership Coordinator, has more than 16 years of credit union experience in youth financial education. A life-long member of the credit union movement, Jeremy is dedicated to instilling financial values in today's youth and making them smarter savers, and savvy consumers.  

The second addition to our Education Partnership Coordinator team is Kristen La Forest. As a former substitute teacher, Kristen’s experience working with children allows her to recognize the tools necessary for students to better understand financial concepts.
We look forward to another successful year serving our school partners. To learn more about the Student-Run Credit Union program visit