Thursday, August 14, 2014

Financial Fitness Tips For College Students

Hey, everyone, Financial Fitness Phoebe here, hoping this finds you thoroughly enjoying this beautiful summer season.

If you’re a student, chances are you’re beginning to think about the start of that fall semester, and everything that goes along with it. Now, while we’re all acutely aware of the fact that college tuition is expensive, we might not always meditate on just how much money it costs to live the student lifestyle.

The fact is, a staggering number of students leave their alma maters with tens of thousands in debt - and not just because of tuition loans. So, in the spirit of kickstarting some healthy habits pre-fall semester, we’ve come up with a few ways to minimize unnecessary spending - and none of them involve killing the fun of college. 


One of the best ways to stay on top of maintaining good habits is to stick with someone who will hold you accountable. When it comes time to select living arrangements, look for a domestic pal with budget-conscious tendencies. Like any good routine-building, it always helps to have someone to lean on.


Get exercise; studies show that physically fit people are happier and liable to be more driven and focused in everyday life. If you’re a smoker, ditch it. At over $8 a pack here in Minnesota these days, it’s a habit that few can honestly afford to maintain.

Now, this is definitely not to say that you shouldn’t hit the town now and then; after all, as a student, you shouldn’t deprive yourself of much-needed time out with friends.Still, preparing meals at home is a killer method of saving money. By making dinner and drinks out the exception, instead of the rule, you’ll see a lot more green in your bank account at the end of every month...and you’ll be able to splurge guilt-free on those treasured occasions.


The best free resource for books, movies and music is right at your fingertips - the library. Sure, you might have to wait for a particular title to return to circulation, but you’ll be enjoying the things you like at no cost to you, whenever you like. Just make sure to avoid pesky late fees by delivering them home on time...


Plenty of us well-intentioned folks sign up for memberships at fitness clubs, only to watch our memberships collect dust on our own dimes. Most colleges and universities boast a wide array of intramural sports, completely free (after buying the necessary gear.) Have a favorite sport? Contact the program board at your school and see if there’s a league you can join!

Ahh, the no-brainer that must be mentioned. When you manage to stick to your budget (by using the tips above and more) you’ll likely end up in the black after your bills are paid. Get that cash into a savings account!

Now, if you do find yourself short on the cash you need for collegiate expenses, remember, we’re here to help! It really is in your best interest to be frugal, but if you do need short-term funds, we can help with a small loan to help you succeed this fall. We’ll be right here with you to make sure you stay on top of your finances and repayment options!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Some St. Cloud-area Residents Recently Received Attempted Scam Phone Call

Online Security – Scam Attempt - (7-14-14)

Some St. Cloud-area Residents Recently Received Attempted Scam Phone Call – Our Advice = Just Hang Up!

St. Cloud area residents reported recently that they received a phone call from an automated system claiming there is a problem with their "card" – implying that their debit or credit card had been cancelled, rendered inactive, etc. -- and instructing them to "press 1". No credit union or bank was mentioned in the recorded message. This appears to be an attempt to get the recipient of the call to reveal personal information. At St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, we do not use any type of automated call system, and we do not ask members for account information, which we already have on hand. The best thing a person can do when confronted by this type of phone call is to simply hang up. The scammers in this case are not calling a specific person. These automated call systems simply call numbers in a particular geographic area until someone answers. And then the scammers hope someone will give them their sensitive information, such as Social Security Number, account numbers, etc.

A Message From Our New President/CEO

St. Cloud Federal Credit Union has a rich tradition of taking care of its members and making a difference in our community. I am both humbled and honored to have been named your next President and CEO and I look forward to serving our members, our employees, and our community for many years to come. Our credit union is a cooperative, and I want you – our members – to be proud to be a part of it. Our credit union was founded on the premise of “people helping people”, and I personally cannot think of a better job than to lead a company where people trump profit, where the profit is given back to the people, and where everything our organization generates stays right here in our local community rather than being shipped off to Minneapolis or San Francisco. I hope you are as proud to be a member of our cooperative as I am to be its new leader! So you may ask, what can we do to make our credit union stronger? Well, the answer to that is quite simple…

our members and their participation.

As a credit union, it is our job to relentlessly strive to offer products and services that will better your financial life. It is our hope that when we are successful with this, you – as a member and owner of this credit union – will participate with us and utilize us for all your financial needs. When you make the choice to invest in your credit union, you have my absolute commitment that you will be well taken care of. The stronger our credit union becomes, the more we can give back to you as members and the more we can give back to our communities.

I look forward to partnering with the membership and the staff to continue to make St. Cloud Federal Credit Union a great place for our members to bank, a great place for our employees to work, and a credit union we all can be proud of!


Jed A. Meyer

Friday, July 11, 2014

Casual For A Cause Funds Donated To Young Learners Program After Roosevelt Fire

(7-1-14) Casual For A Cause Funds Donated To Young Learners Program After Roosevelt Fire: Late Saturday night, June 14, lightning struck Roosevelt Early Childhood Center in St. Cloud, where The Young Learners Program (YLP) is housed. The majority of the building was engulfed in flames, and within hours the entire building was deemed a total loss. No injuries occurred, but every piece of property inside was destroyed. As staff work to create a temporary space for programming, they are in need of many new/gently used and clean items that are used in their programs.

The Young Learners Program (YLP) is an Intensive Outpatient Day Treatment program (part of Catholic Charities) that provides mental health and educational programming for children age 3-6, located in St Cloud. The YLP provides services to children with a mental health diagnosis and who qualify for Special Education services. They provide the child with individual, group, and family therapy to help the child effectively function at home, school and in the community, as well as address the relationships within the family.

The staff of St. Cloud Federal Credit Union donated $300 from their “Casual For A Cause” funds to help YLP restore their program. “Casual For A Cause” is a program started by our staff to raise funds for the needs of our local communities. On the last Friday of every month, employees can dress in everyday casual attire if they donate at least $5.00 to Casual For A Cause. The funds are used as needed during the year. Some recent recipients have included Veterans Stand Down program; Catholic Charities Back-to-School drive, Young Learners Program, and mattress purchase program; Ruff Start Animal Rescue; Treats for Troops.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Affordable Summer Fun in Central Minnesota

Howdy folks, Financial Fitness Phoebe here, hoping this finds all of you happily soaking in this elusive season called summer!

Here at St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, our focus is on helping you save your pennies while getting the most out of life. And frankly, at times, it can seem like everything fun costs money.

Well, central Minnesotans, during the summer months, that’s not completely true. Our area is teeming, week in and week out, with a ton of highly affordable community events and activities perfect for the whole family.

Today, we’ll give you a rundown of a few things to put on the calendar this summer!


Since it’s inception in 2011, Summertime By George has continuously thousands of people into the center of St. Cloud on Wednesday evenings for live music from beloved local musicians, food from area restaurants and vendors, handmade arts and crafts, and a whole lot more. The weekly outdoor festival happens each week through August at Eastman Park, more commonly known as Lake George.

If you haven’t attended one of these yet, not only are you missing out, but you’re rapidly becoming a minority! Last year’s final Summertime by George night pulled in a whopping 13,000 attendees. We figure this many people can’t be wrong - and at no cost, it’s well worth your while to explore Summertime by George! 


Here’s another regular musical outing in a lovely Mississippi River-side setting. Music in the Gardens brings talented musicians together every other Sunday afternoon near the Gazebo in Munsinger Gardens. Like Summertime by George, the tunes are free - and if you’re feeling decadent, you can snag a root beer float for a buck! 


There are a ton of fairs to visit around central Minnesota, but for our purposes, let’s talk about the one closest to the St. Cloud metro area - the Benton County Fair. This is the highlight of summer for a lot of people, and it’s not hard to see why. The fair, held from August 5-10 at the fairgrounds in Sauk Rapids, has something for everyone: barns full of fun and prize-winning animals, great, classic fair food from local vendors, a talent show, live music and a beer garden in the evening and, of course, the fairway. Yes, we know the fair can take a chunk out of the wallet, so budget a little cash for the goodies. And remember - there’s no charge to walk around and people-watch! :) 


We here in central Minnesota have something not everyone has - easy access to beautiful, natural places. One of these is the perennially popular Quarry Park and Nature Preserve.

As far as county parks go, it doesn’t get much better. The 684-acre preserve features a Granite reflecting pool, many miles’ worth of biking and hiking paths, some seriously fun trout fishing, and, of course, the beloved swimming holes that brave souls in our community leap into from high places! All you need is a day pass to cover the whole family - or, if you’re thinking about making a return appearance, you can snag an annual permit for the cool price of $16. 

Well, that’s our short list of things to keep you busy - and in the black - this summer. And we want to know - what’s your favorite central Minnesota activity for summertime? Leave us a comment and let us know! Enjoy the season, everyone!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Stay Cool For Less

Hey there folks! Financial Fitness Phoebe here, hoping you’re all enjoying this Minnesota enigma we call summer.

We all know that once summer hits, and hits HARD, it’s going to be difficult to resist cranking the air conditioner on full-blast. But, while A/C might hit the spot when it comes to comfort, it’s not as satisfying when considering your wallet. In fact, the typical U.S. home spends 17% of its annual energy bill on cooling; that’s about $375!

If you have central air or another AC unit, it’s inevitable that you’ll start it up on those blisteringly hot days. BUT, in this season of family vacations, ice cream outings, and general summertime decadence, we’ve collected a variety of ideas for staying cool without completely relying on that money-sucking air conditioning system - keeping more money in your pocket for fun! Here are 5 favorites!


Yeah, I know, I’s a little bit of a bummer to keep the sun out on these gorgeous days. Still, we stand to save a lot of green by shielding our homes from the sun’s powerful rays. tightly-sealed windows coupled with blinds or lined curtains can reduce the need for your air conditioner - just make sure you open up those windows on cool evenings!


It’s amazing how much cheaper it is to run a fan instead of an air conditioning system. Plus, a few strategically-placed oscillating fans can really move air through your home - and air flow can make all the difference! Another great resource which is part of most homes today - ceiling fans. But, there’s a catch - make sure your ceiling fan is spinning in the direction which forces the air down rather than pulling it up!


In addition to having a shorter “life span,” incandescent light bulbs kick out a ton of heat. You might not think much of it, but with all those bulbs going at the same time - well, it adds up. In fact, the US Department of Energy’s studies report 90% of the energy from incandescent light bulbs is given off as heat. So, not only is that lost energy hot, it’s basically money you’re just throwing away. Consider shifting over to the cooler and more financially sound CFL and LED bulbs on the market today.


Summertime is the perfect time to unplug - and more more than just one reason. You’ll save money and reduce heat output by turning off appliances you’re not using, specifically things like televisions and computers. Consider hooking them up to the same power strip so you can quickly snap it off on hot days.

As for those high-powered, heat producing appliances - I’m thinking ranges, ovens, washers and dryers - avoid using them during the hottest part of the day. Don’t put yourself through that misery!


Last but not least, surround yourself with all things water. While not everyone has a lake or pool to plunge into at a moment’s notice, there are ways to use our world’s most valuable resource to take the edge off summer. Place an ice cube on pulse points; this is a slapshot method of quickly cooling down. Make sure to drink plenty of water, too. A dehydrated body doesn’t sweat, and a body that can’t sweat has a much harder time cooling off.

So, there you have it - a short, cool list sans air conditioning. Have something you do to keep cool on the cheap? Leave us a comment. Happy chilling!

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.


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.


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.


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!


Cut corners. Take a few months before your planned vacation and live frugally. Don’t go 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.


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.


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!