Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tips on Buying a Used Car

Each year, St, Cloud Federal Credit Union lends millions of dollars for many different kinds of loans. Buying a new (or new-to you) vehicle can be stressful, since it is usually a purchase that comes with a lengthy investment. At St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, we want to help make the buying process fun for you! When purchasing a used vehicle, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Set your price range – You should plan on making monthly payments that are no more than 20% of your monthly income. Try using the budget calculator to get a good idea of what you can spend. Make a budget and determine your available price range, and don’t shop outside it.

Research – Once you know what you can spend, make a target list of makes and models you would be interested in. check pricing information and vehicle reviews on sites like Kelly blue book or Edmunds. One of the biggest mistakes a car buyer can have is going directly to a salesperson without doing research beforehand.

Check the Vehicle History Report – After you find a car you might be interested in buying, check the vehicle history report. You can look this up using the car’s VIN number or license plate (though license plates can be changes, so it’s best to use the VIN number).

Contact the seller – Develop a good rapport with the seller, especially if it is a private seller. Make sure to ask plenty of questions about the vehicle; owners are more likely to tell you things they left out of the ad this way. Most importantly, do NOT make an offer until you have seen the vehicle. Pictures and descriptions only go so far.

Go for a test drive – The best way to get a feel for the car is to take it out on your own. It is a good idea to drive the car before making an offer as well. If you are not completely confident, get the car inspected by a mechanic before moving forward. It may cost you a little, but can save you thousands in the long run.

Negotiate –When negotiating with the owner or salesperson, start low- make an offer that is in the ballpark of what you are willing to spend, and go from there. Keep in mind that there are a few different taxes and fees that vary from state to state, especially if you are buying from a dealer. Make sure you are aware of all the different taxes and charges before making an offer.

Our number one goal at the St. Cloud Federal Credit Union Loan Office is to help you have fun purchasing a vehicle! We want to make sure you get the right car by offer you a variety of financing options, to make your monthly payments as low as possible. We also provide GAP (Guaranteed Asset Protection) coverage to protect your investment in your new or used vehicle. If you are considering purchasing a new vehicle, new or used, contact us at (320) 258-2190 or visit the consumer loans section on our website for more information.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Financial Fitness Resolutions

With 2014 at a close, it’s time to set your New Year’s Financial Fitness resolution. Setting a financial goal for 2015 will develop a rewarding habit that will continue for many years to come. Whether you are spending less money on the morning coffee, or setting aside a higher percentage of your paycheck for retirement, it’s time to start thinking about your financials, and we are here to help. The following are four easy tips to start your year off right.

Start envelope budgeting- Envelope budgeting is putting cash aside every month for your spending. You can start by dividing your money into certain categories. These can include taxes, rent, child expenses, groceries, date night and more. Assign each category to an envelope and budget your money to each category. Use the money as needed for each category. This will help you decide whether you need to spend the money, or if you can leave it for another time.

Pay down debt- Write down all your cards, their balance, and what the interest rate is on each. Increase payments on the card with the highest rate. If you aren’t already, try paying off the most expensive debt first, and try paying more than the minimum balance on it. Paying only a small percentage of the balance only prolongs the payoff.

Save more for retirement- Start saving, and keep saving! You will reward yourself in the long run if you continue to put 10 to 15 percent of your paycheck in a retirement fund. Make sure you know your retirement needs. Every individual’s retirement needs are different. Determine your needs ahead of time so you can prepare yourself- and your money- for the long haul.

Meet with a financial advisor- These men and women have the knowledge and expertise to guide you through financial decisions. They offer realistic goals that you can reach with their help. Invest in a good advisor and you can get started towards retirement in the right direction.

The best New Year’s resolution you can make is one to develop your own financial fitness. St. Cloud Federal Credit Union is here to answer all your questions you may have about getting yourself “in shape” for 2015. Give us a call at 320-252-2634 for more information. Have a very happy Holiday season and New Year!

Monday, December 8, 2014

St. Cloud Federal Credit Union Participates in PhilanthroFEED Program

As we embark on the Holiday season, we should all stop and give thanks for the blessings we have in our life. Being a team member of St. Cloud Federal Credit Union is one of those blessings that we have. As we consider how fortunate we are, we remember there are plenty of people in our community who are not as fortunate. Looking for a way to give back and help those around us, we participated in the St. Cloud Area Salvation Army “PhilanthroFEED” program. Never heard of PhilanthroFEED? Then check out St. Cloud Area Salvation Army - PhilanthroFEED website to learn more.

On November 18th, a team of St. Cloud Federal Credit Union employees partnered with St. Cloud Area Salvation Army to sponsor and serve lunch to 80+ people. Along with sponsoring and serving the lunch, we also donated $1,735 on behalf of our members to the Salvation Army. Our experience at the St. Cloud Area Salvation Army was humbling. While the services we provided and donations we raised made us feel proud, it also caused us to reflect on something else. At St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, we strive to help our members remain “Financially Fit”. After serving this lunch, we were reminded that there are people who have to take financial fitness very seriously, because they often live paycheck to paycheck.

That is why we are challenging other St. Cloud area businesses and community members to consider participating in the PhilanthroFEED program. Count your blessings and please remember those less fortunate in our community.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

5 Ways to Save Money During the Holiday Season

The holiday season can be great for many reasons. It’s a great time to be with friends and family, throw company parties, and attend religious gatherings. While the holiday season can be great it can also be very stressful. Naturally there are a lot of reasons for this, but it seems the one main reason is financial obligations. With so much going on during the holiday season, it is quite easy to lose track of how you are spending your money until it is too late. At St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, we encourage our members to be #FinanciallyFit. So without further ado, here are five ways to save money during the holiday season…

1. Know Your Budget
The biggest piece of advice we can give is to know your limitations. Figure out what is worth purchasing and doing and what is not. We’re not saying that you should limit your holiday activities, but we are encouraging you to be smart with your money. By setting a budget of how much you can afford to spend during the holidays, you will be putting yourself in a position to stay #FinanciallyFit. Your budget should include: gifts being purchased, food costs, travel costs, event costs, and anything else you plan on doing over the holidays. Create this budget, then be prepared to stick to it. It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding.

2. Homemade Gifts
Some of the best gifts are not ones that cost a lot, but rather those that come from the heart. Instead of spending your money on gifts for family and friends, invest your time and talent into creating their gifts yourself. To most people, family and friends mean more than anyone, so think of something that they would enjoy. Here are some possible gifts to make:
  • Blankets
  • Hats & scarves
  • Toy chests & jewelry boxes
  • Artwork

3. Do Activities That Don’t Require Money
An outing with friends and family is a great way to spend time with those closest to you. However, not everything you do needs to cost money. There are plenty of things that don’t cost money, such as:
  • Iceskating
  • Sledding/Skiing
  • Caroling
  • Snowshoeing
These are not only examples of creative family gifts that they will remember forever, but also a good way to stay active and get outside during the winter.  

4. Potlucks
The typical holiday feasts are definitely something that most people look forward to. The holiday season is sure to be filled with delicious meals. However, these meals can be quite expensive for one person or family to host. Consider pitching in and having a team effort. A potluck is a great way for everyone to join in on contributing to the feast. Through a potluck, you might be able to enjoy foods you would perhaps normally be hesitant to try.

5. Save your money
Earlier, we covered setting a budget and sticking to it. Have you ever thought about the best way to use the gift cards and financial gifts you receive during the holiday season? It seems as though our natural impulses tell us to instantly spend it, but that is not acting  #FinanciallyFit. Rather, resist your natural urges and save your money. Think about what you would spend money on if you had not been given the money as a gift.  Once you are absolutely sure what you want and CAN afford it, go ahead. You will be in a much better situation to enjoy your purchases.

Hopefully these five tips help you better stay ahead financially and enjoy the holiday season!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spooktacular Halloween Activities

Halloween- a perennial favorite for people of all ages. We’re going to assume you’re busy scheming up costume ideas, picking out your candy selection, and plotting a trick or treat route and (possibly) a party - so we’ve done a little research to help you find some cool, spooky central MN community events this month! Follow the links for all the info you need to make these events part of the fall fun!

Chances are high you’ve either been to, or heard of this incredibly intricate and terrifying spectacle, presented by Molitor’s Grill and Bar in Sauk Rapids. Now in their 17th year, the folks at Molitors keep upping the scare factor each season. The trek includes a haunted woodsy hayride, followed with foot chases through the House of Horrors, the Quarry Asylum, The Storm Sewer, The Toxic Mineshaft, and finishes with what is arguably the scariest part of all - The Prison. And, since it is Molitor’s, you’re invited to hang out, have a beverage and enjoy a bonfire - whether or not you participate in the haunted jaunt.

This ghoulish attraction takes you a little ways out of town but it’s well-worth the trek. A fairly recent addition to the local Halloween circuit, Harvest of Horror is hayride loaded with shocks and scares. The trek begins with a ride through farmland, called the Field of Screams, before taking a turn into the thickly wooded Timbers of Terror. The event wraps up with Maze of Madness, populated by “creepy lifeforms.” So...yeah. This one isn’t for the faint. Rides are held on Friday and Saturday evenings until the 31st.

Now, while this one has a slightly spooky name, the Stearns History Museum promises a non-scary, fun and educational offering. On October 25, you and the kids are invited to stroll through the museum’s seasonal exhibit, dress up for Trick or Treating, and even join in on a scavenger hunt! The fun runs from noon to 4pm, and admission is $4.

This is definitely a yearly favorite for folks all over central Minnesota. Get the kids in costume and dodge whatever mother nature throws our way by trick or treating in the comfort of the mall. You’ll know which stores are participating when you see a little pumpkin posted up at their doors. Hours are from 5-7pm...leaving plenty of time to hit your neighborhood for more treats afterward!

You didn’t think we’d skip out on Halloween fun, did you? Come say hello to our team from SCFCU during the Pine Cone Marketplace’s pre-Halloween Trick Or Treat extravaganza. The event will be held on October 25th from 10am-1pm. We’ll be hanging out on the corner; bring your treat bag!


So, there’s a short list of some great ways to celebrate the season. Do you have any particular plans? Thinking about attending one of these? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!

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.