Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Financial Fitness Tips For Summer Vacation Success

Howdy folks - Financial Fitness Phoebe here! After the brutal, relentless winter we experienced, it’s not a stretch to say this: we all deserve a vacation. However, after a season of high energy costs, the ever increasing price of gasoline, and potentially decadent comfort-food consumption, (admit it, you ordered a lot of pizza and chinese food) planning your trip with your budget in mind is crucial.

Here at St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, we always support money-mindedness. With that in mind, here are a few helpful strategies to make your summer vacation a smashing success.



DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Airfare and travel costs seem like a wildly complicated algorithm, but by researching with vacation planning websites, you’ll quickly see certain months, and days of the week, can be much cheaper. Use online vacation booking resources to price-compare and find the best possible rates for your destination. During peak travel times, air, hotel and other expenses tend to rise. Work your trip dates around these times and easily shave hundreds of dollars off your vacation tab.

PLANS ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE

Be flexible - frankly, some travel destinations will be cheaper than others, and so it’s important to keep your options open to new possibilities. Deal-tracking websites for travel, lodging and meals are your friends in this situation; use them to determine a relative sense of how much you should expect to spend there, reducing the likelihood that you’ll blow your budget.

CREATE A TRAVEL ACCOUNT

Keep your vacation savings in a separate account. Setting up a separate savings account specifically for your summer vacation is easy, and will help you keep better track of your money and focus on making that account grow. Contribute to it weekly if you can, and watch your vacation plans grow!


FRUGALITY GOES A LONG WAY

Cut corners. Take a few months before your planned vacation and live frugally. Don’t go out out to eat as often. Studies show that dining out is one of the biggest, and one of the most avoidable, expenses to try and avoid while saving. Take a closer look at your spending habits, and consider how much you are spending on eating out, entertainment or even last-minute trips. Put yourself in a mindset of limiting extra expenses so you can maximize your budget.


ELIMINATE THE BIG COSTS

This one’s a little controversial, but stay with me. Cable television can be a huge strain on your finances, especially if you pay for hundreds of channels you never watch. As the weather becomes balmier and outdoor activities ramp up, consider disconnecting your cable for a while so you can plant those savings into your vacation fund. If you absolutely cannot live without your favorite programs, look into online streaming programs like Hulu and Netflix. And, yes, digital antennas still exist, and you can easily install one at a low cost to watch local and public programming.


USE TECHNOLOGY TO STAY INFORMED


Stay organized with budget apps. Account management is tricky for a lot of people, with or without a vacation on the horizon. U.S. News & World Report recommends using a financial planning app, like Mint, to keep a close watch on your dollars and cents. At SCFCU, we offer a host of smartphone apps that will keep you in close contact with your finances. To use an old but true statement - knowledge is power!


And there you have it - a short but good launch pad for getting your finances ready for that well-earned trip. Have another idea for saving? Did we miss one? Leave us a comment and tell us how you are preparing for vacation! Good luck!



xo,

~Phoebe



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

5 REASONS TO GO GREEN WITH YOUR GREEN



Hey everyone it’s Financial Fitness Phoebe here! Forget about those (possibly failed) New Year’s resolutions; it’s springtime, and a new chance for self-improvement. When it comes to spring-cleaning your finances, consider a host of paperless, earth-friendly account management programs. The days of printed and mailed bank statements, mailed account alerts and newsletters are quickly coming to an end, and more people are choosing to automate their finances with online, mobile and e-mail features. Here are four things I do to “go green” and these things might make you consider ditching the paper trail, too.

1) PAPERLESS ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT IS QUICKER

One pitfall of paper is that it’s not very speedy. So, most credit unions and banks now offer completely safe, reliable and free ways to keep tabs on your money, without ever opening an envelope.

Online statements: you can check up on your current account balances any time you like; it’s also a great daily tool for seeing where your money’s going, and using that info to build or maintain a responsible budget.

With electronic account alerts, you’ll hear via e-mail or phone about any transactions or other events attached to your accounts.

Scheduled transfers cut out the bill-paying middle man; just choose what day you need to have money leave your account in order to pay a recurring bill, and then forget about it. You can also hook up a series of money-management reminders - email or text - to keep you on your toes, too.

2) DON’T HAVE TIME TO HIT THE CREDIT UNION? NO PROBLEM.

Apps. They’re not just before dinner anymore. They’re key pieces of keeping tabs on your finances and mobile deposits. Mobile banking allows any smartphone or tablet user can take their bank anywhere, and access their accounts anywhere, anytime.

Why choose mobile banking? It’s ultra current. By relying only on online statements, you are seeing just the transactions and balances as of a particular cut-off date. Through Online Banking or Mobile Banking, you will see your transactions reflected on your account as soon as they occur, which gives you the most recent balance available.

One of the newer mobile device features - mobile deposits. It’s pretty much exactly what you’re picturing; with the app, you can select “make a deposit,” enter the amount, and then use your device to take photos - front and back - of the check you wish to deposit and then send away.

And in case you were going to cheekily inquire, no - this deposit feature DOESN’T work with cash. :)

You can also take advantage of person-to-person transactions through the Online Banking login – for example, our members can send money electronically to people, even if they bank elsewhere.

Additionally, through an Account to Account payment system (also in Online Banking) members who have bank accounts elsewhere can access their money at those other financial institutions to - for example, make payments electronically on their credit union loans.

These two services traditionally would have required sending checks through the mail, paying cash in person, etc.

3) EMAILS > SNAIL-MAIL

A good financial institution doesn’t have time to spam you with unnecessary information - they’ll simply keep you up to date on banking changes, security topics and other important information for members. And, you’ll get that information much more efficiently than through snail-mail.

4) WEBSITES AND SOCIAL MEDIA KEEP YOU CONNECTED

Websites - like ours - are now quite intricate, and thanks to the juggernaut that is the world of social media, you have lots of ways to keep up with everything happening at your credit union. Check out the top of the home page to see how many platforms we’re using, and find the ones you’re most comfortable with.  Note: St. Cloud Federal Credit Union is updating its website, and it should be completed by mid May.

5) IT SAVES TREES. LOTS OF TREES.

Mother nature smiles every time a customer goes paperless. And, considering Earth Day is just a few weeks away, it’s a great time to make the leap.

Of course, a credit union’s website is always a great place to learn about paperless/mobile features - and we’re here to help you anytime you like!


xo,

~Phoebe

Friday, March 21, 2014

Grocery Shopping Tips


Check out the tips below to help you on your next grocery shopping excursion:

Make a List and Stick to It!
  • Check your house for items that you need and write them down. Set up a meal plan for the week and buy only the items you need for your meals.
  • The second part is key, don’t stray from the list. If you tend to buy items that aren’t on your list, think about adding a “bonus” item. This way you can get something that catches your eye, but make sure to only add one bonus item so you don’t end up with a cart full of unneeded items.
Coupons, Coupons and Coupons!
  • We all know that coupons are good. However how many times do you throw out a .50 off or .20 off coupon, or just plain forget… Those small amounts can add up over a year. Check weekly ads for BOGO items too.
  • Attach your coupons to your grocery list, this way you will have them in hand when you go to check out.
  • Build your weekly meal plan around items that are on sale, you have coupons for or are BOGO. This can save you $$
Buy in Bulk (sometimes)!
  • Buy in bulk for items that won’t expire or you know you will use up quickly. Some good items are: canned foods, frozen food, meat (you can store these separate and freeze), spices, cereal, ketchup, canned sauces, noodles, nuts, paper towels, cleaning supplies and toilet paper.
Lose the Brand Names!
  • Today you can find pretty much the same item in an off brand or generic brand. Although there are some items that are always better in the brand name, it doesn’t hurt to try something new. Why spend the extra cash on items if you can same thing cheaper with the same ingredients.
  • Most stores have the generic brands located right next to the brand name items, making it easier to compare ingredients and price.
Watch the Register!
  • Keep an eye out on when the items are being rung up, make sure your sale items and coupons are pricing correctly. Or check the receipt before you leave the store to make sure you got the correct prices.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March Madness Wellness Style Week #3


We are entering the final week of March Madness Wellness Style!

Week 3 Challenges

One Point =
  • Drink 2 Glasses of Milk
  • Eat 2 Servings, Your Choice of: Orange, Strawberries
  • Eat 2 Servings, Your Choice of: Peas, Cucumber
  • 10 Minutes of Leisure (relaxing) Time (LIMIT ONE PER DAY)
  • Save $3.00

Two Points=
  • Eat Breakfast (LIMIT ONE PER DAY)
  • Eat 3 Servings, Your Choice of: Peach, Kiwi
  • Eat 3 Servings, Your Choice of: Bell Pepper, Cauliflower
  • 10 Minutes of Quiet Time (LIMIT ONE PER DAY)
  • 15 Minutes of Stretching (LIMIT TWO PER DAY)
  • 20 Minutes of Reading (LIMIT TWO PER DAY)
Three Points=
  • Drink 3 Glasses of Water
  • Eat 1 Serving, Your Choice of: Kumquat, Mango
  • Eat 1 Serving, Your Choice of: Radish, Eggplant
  • 30 Minutes of Physical Activity (walking, running, biking, lifting, etc…)

Financial Fitness Workshop Series

We will be conducting a "Financial Fitness Workshop Series" of financial literacy programs on April 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Great River Regional Library in downtown St. Cloud.


Week 1 – April 1st, 2014 Don’t Be An April Fool! Attend Financial Fitness!


Presenter: St. Cloud State University’s Center for Economic Education
  • Intro Quiz- What is your Money Personality? 
  • Budgeting Project- How should you allocate your income (activity)? 
  • Mending Your Spending 

Week 2 – April 8th, 2014 Your Credit: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Presenter: St. Cloud State University’s Center for Economic Education and St. Cloud Federal Credit Union

Credit
  • How it works 
  • How to build it 
  • How to talk to your kids about it 

Week 3 – April 15th, 2014 Home Buying 101

Presenter: Jim Arnold – St. Cloud Federal Credit Union
  • Buying vs Renting 
  • Analyzing income and expenses 
  • Credit Scores 
  • Different Loan Types 
  • Money needed to purchase 

Week 4 – April 22nd , 2014 Drafting Your Financial Blueprint

Presenter: Jackie Evavold – St Cloud Federal Credit Union
  • Funding college education 
  • Minimizing taxes by allocating your resources 
  • Consider the benefits of a Roth IRA 
  • Planning for income in retirement 
  • Do you need an estate plan? 

Week 5 – April 29th, 2014 Protecting Your Good Name

Presenter: St Cloud Federal Credit Union
  • Credit Monitoring 
  • Identity theft 
  • Payday loans, credit cards and other products 
  • Credit Awareness 
  • Program Evaluation & Wrap Up

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

FRAUD ALERT: Reported Phishing Calls to ATIRAcredit™ Cardmembers



TMG Financial Services was recently notified that some ATIRAcredit cardmembers have been receiving calls from an automated dialer notifying them their ATIRAcredit MasterCard account is being closed. They are then prompted to press "1" for more information, and then to enter their 16-digit account number. This is a fraud attempt to obtain cardmember information; these calls are not coming from ATIRAcredit.


Cardmembers should not respond to these attempts or provide account information. However, if you have a cardmember who did provide information through this scam, please have them complete a lost/stolen report as soon as possible by calling 888.4.ATIRA.1(888.428.4721).


Reminders for Cardmembers:

  • Neither ATIRAcredit or St. Cloud Federal Credit Union will ever call and ask for your 16-digit account number.



If you suspect the call is fraudulent, please hang up and dial the number on the back of your card directly (888.4.ATIRA.1).

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March Madness Wellness Challenge #2

Week Two: 03/09---03/13 


One Point = 
  • Drink 2 Glass of Milk 
  • Eat 1 Serving, Your Choice of: Grapes, Pear 
  • Eat 1 Serving, Your Choice of: Carrots, Potato 
  • 10 Minutes of Leisure (relaxing) Time (LIMIT ONE PER DAY) 
  • Save $2.00 

Two Point = 
Eat Breakfast (LIMIT ONE PER DAY) 
  • Eat 2 Servings, Your Choice of: Grapefruit, Plum 
  • Eat 2 Servings, Your Choice of: Asparagus, Broccoli 
  • 10 Minutes of Quiet Time (LIMIT ONE PER DAY) 
  • 15 Minutes of Stretching (LIMIT TWO PER DAY) 
  • 20 Minutes of Reading (LIMIT TWO PER DAY) 

Three Point = Drink 3 Glasses of Water 
  • Eat 1 Serving, Your Choice of: Star Fruit, Pineapple 
  • Eat 1 Serving, Your Choice of: Beet, Avocado 
  • 25 Minutes of Physical Activity (walking, running, biking, lifting, etc…) 

**Total Savings Points Capped at 200