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Money Matters Blog

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Using 20/20 Vision in Your Financial New Year's Resolutions

With 2020 around the corner, it’s time to get into the New Year’s Resolution spirit! But instead of doing typical goals, like losing weight and taking that well-need vacation, let our 20/20 vision help you set up some great financial resolutions for the New Year!

1. Cut Down Your Credit Card Usage

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Stay Safe From These Airbnb Scams This Winter

With Michigan winter in full-swing, going on a vacation to some warm, tropical location sounds like a dream! Airbnb can make this process super easy and fun. As a guest of a local, you can get a real sense of the location—and you’ll save money, too!

However, because the Airbnb system is based on trust of the individual renting out their home or rooms, crooks will always try to exploit the system. The Australian Better Business Bureau reported a six-fold increase in scams related to AirBNB in recent years. The service recently expanded its offerings, allowing users to book independently run guided tours or experiences in addition to rooms. This expansion has been part of the drive behind the increase.

Before you book at Airbnb for your winter getaway, be aware of these scams.

1.     Fake Websites

An Airbnb host you were interested in sends you a link to several other properties they have for rent. These properties come complete with reviews, logos, a live chat service and other hallmarks of authenticity. So, you think nothing of wiring a fee to reserve your room.
But when you try confirming your reservation with Airbnb, they have no record of your transaction and don’t even have the properties listed. What happened?

A scammer capitalized on your trust by directing you to a fake booking website that’s not hosted by Airbnb. These groups go to extreme lengths to create accurate reproductions of the official site.

There are two ways to avoid this scam. First, always check the URLs of sites you visit, making sure the word Airbnb occurs right next to the .com. This tells you it’s not a phony site. Second, only pay through Airbnb’s official checkout platform, which uses modern encryption technology.

2.     Phony Excursions

A new feature of Airbnb is the ability to book “experiences,” or days out on the town with locals.

This creates a new opportunity for scammers who can now offer phony tours. While the company vets the potential tours carefully, it’s difficult for them to monitor a distributed network of service providers.

Local experiences appeal to many visitors. However, proceed with caution. Always check reviews (on a legitimate Airbnb site) before paying for anything!

3.     External Payment

Airbnb charges a 3% commission on bookings done through their website. This prompts some landlords to offer a discount in exchange for direct payment through a third-party processing site. Tightfisted travelers might be tempted to save a few bucks this way.

Resist the temptation. Payments outside the website don’t have the conflict resolution procedures usually covered by Airbnb, so there’s no guarantee you’ll have a room at all if you use one.

Also, no legitimate business will have you wire funds directly to their account. With services like PayPal, even small businesses can now accept credit cards. When you use a card, you can always stop a payment. After you wire money, it’s gone. It’s always a good idea to use only secured forms of payment.

Your Turn: Have you ever used Airbnb or a similar service? What was your experience like? Share safety and savings tips with us in the comments!

*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 17, 2019

How to Prepare Your Home for Winter

Michigan winters are no joke. Keep your home warm and safe this winter by following this comprehensive to-do list before the real cold sets in.

1.     Seal your home

Give your home a quick run-through, checking for drafts. You can do this by holding a lit candle near the following areas:

  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Vents and fans
  • Plumbing areas
  • Air conditioners
  • Mail chutes
  • Electrical and gas lines

If the candle flickers, you’ve got a draft.

Seal up all holes and reinforce existing points of entry with weather stripping. You can also caulk windows and doors to make sure they’re truly sealed against the cold.

2. Clean your gutters

If your gutters are clogged with sodden leaves, they can freeze up and block the drainage, allowing melting ice and snow to slowly seep into your roof and cause excessive damage.

3. Invest in a roof rake

Michiganders see lots of snow each winter, which means your roof can be sitting under several feet of snow for weeks at a time. All of that snow can cause your roof to collapse. Invest in a roof rake that will help you clear the snow off your roof when it really starts piling up.

4. Reverse your ceiling fans

Flick the reverse switch on your ceiling fans to make the blades spin in a clockwise direction instead of counterclockwise. This way, the fans will produce an updraft to push the rising hot air downward.

5. Prune your trees

Check all trees near your home’s facade for low-hanging or loose branches. Prune them so they don’t end up cracking from heavy snow or wind and causing damage to your home.

6. Take inventory of your emergency supplies

Because of Michigan’s tendency to have an annual Snowpocalypse, it’s always a good idea to take inventory of your emergency supplies before they’re needed. Stock up on water, canned food, batteries, flashlights and storm lanterns. You may also want to invest in an external charger for some juice when the lights go out.

7. Turn off external faucets

Unscrew your garden hose from the spigot and drain your sprinkler system to prevent any freezing. You may need to call in a professional in order to do this properly.

8. Protect your pipes from freezing

Prevent burst pipes, and avoid costly repairs, with these simple steps:

  • Keep your heat on even when you’re not home so that your pipes don’t freeze and burst.
  • Allow your faucets to drip during severe cold snaps.
  • Wrap any exposed piping and hose bibs to prevent freezing.

Your Turn: What’s on your checklist this fall as you prepare your home for winter? Share it with us in the comments!

Friday, December 13, 2019

School Spotlight: Bentley Elementary Students Benefit with the Student-Run Credit Union and Junior Achievement Programs

Bentley Elementary Student-Run Credit Union fall volunteers
Community Financial is proud to partner with Bentley Elementary in Canton for its thirteenth year in partnership.  Fifth grade students help to operate the Student-Run Credit Union and assist student members with money management skills.

Student volunteers are “hired” in September and work in shifts during the year.  Volunteers are taught job-related skills, such as professionalism, organization, and money handling.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

6 Ways to Keep Your Finances Intact This Holiday Season

You don’t have to rack up a huge credit card bill or go into debt to cover your holiday expenses. Enjoy a financially stress-free season with these six tips:

1. Create a Detailed List of All Your Expenses

Draw up a list of every holiday expense you anticipate. Include all gifts, d├ęcor, travel expenses and donations. Try to keep it as trim as possible by cutting out non-essentials and using stuff you may have in storage from previous years.

2. Determine How Much Money You Can Spend

Work on finding a magic number that will cover everything on your list and that you can realistically afford. Ideally, this money should come from funds you’ve set aside just for this purpose.

3. Divide and Conquer

Next, assign specific amounts of money in your budget for each expense category and for every person on your gift list. Again, make sure your numbers will work from both a financial and practical perspective.

4. Track as You Shop

As you shop, keep careful account of exactly how much money you’ve spent for each person and in each expense category. Review your budget often to make sure you’re staying on track.

To make this job easier, use an app, like Santa’s Bag. It allows you to set a budget for each person on your list and then makes tracking the amount you spend super simple.

5. Shop Smartly

Keep your spending to a minimum with these hacks:

·       Use shopping apps or browser extensions, like Honey and Shopular, to get your favorite retailers’ best deals and coupons delivered right to your phone or computer.*
·       Shop online on Tuesday morning. Research shows this time of week is when you’ll find the hottest online deals.
·       Shop with a friend. Take advantage of BOGO sales by splitting the cost of a single item with a friend and each of you taking one item home.
·       Shop late. Prices actually fall in the weeks leading up to Christmas as retailers get ready to clear out their holiday inventory.

6) Let Community Financial Help

Community Financial can help take financial stress out of the holiday season:

1.     Special Rate Holiday Loan: If you can’t come up with the funds you need for the holidays, consider a Community Financial Holiday Loan. From now until December 31st, you can apply for a loan up to $3,000 with rates lower than your average Personal Loan!
2.     Holiday Savings Account: Spread the cost of the holidays across the year with an account created just for that purpose. You’ll set aside a little bit of money each month, and next year, when the holiday season rolls around, you’ll have all the funds you need.

Your Turn: How do you get through the holidays with your finances intact? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

*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 3, 2019

Warming Hearts & Homes is Back. You Click. We Donate!

Community Financial Credit Union is excited to kick off the holiday season with the return of our 8th annual Warming Hearts & Homes charitable campaign! Throughout the month of December, Community Financial will donate up to $40,000* to local nonprofit organizations that provide heat, food, shelter and clothing to families in need.

During the winter months, cold weather puts extra strain on families, some of whom are forced to choose between paying utilities and putting food on the table. Community Financial remains dedicated to supporting the fight against cold and hunger in Michigan each winter.