Monday, February 25, 2013

America Saves Week: Money is like Cake ...

Money is like a cake. When you get that delicious dessert, it can be tempting to eat it all at once. But if you do, you’ll end up with a stomachache, that sugarcoated feeling on your teeth, and perhaps most importantly – no cake for later.  Similarly, if you spend all of your money, you’ll probably end up regretting your splurges – and wishing you had some funds sitting in the bank.

Often, savings strategies are obvious – you set a big piece of cake aside, and it’s there waiting for you. But sometimes, it’s the little things that make that cake disappear.  The following list features both kinds of savings strategies – big ones that work all at once, and little ones that add up over time. All of them can be put into action during 
America Saves Week, and every single one ensures that you can have your cake and eat it too.

1. Track Your Spending, and Make a Budget
Understanding where your money is going is the best way to start saving, which is why your first step is to make a budget. It might be that, once you make your budget and realize how much you’re spending in certain categories, you can immediately save $100 by making little trims here and there.

2. Negotiate Your Bills
Checking for over-servicing isn’t the only way to lower your regular bills. If you’re not paying a promotional rate for services like cable and Internet, you’re paying too much. Call your service provider, and ask if there is any way you can lower your bill. If they don’t automatically say yes, suggest that you’re going to find another provider. Be patient, nice, and firm, and you can get a better rate.

3. Vow to Reuse, Repair, and Repurpose Instead of Buying New
Every time you think about buying something new, ask yourself – do you really need it, or can you make do with something you already have or that you can borrow from a friend?

4. Get to Know Your Credit Card
Visit your credit card company’s website and read the fine print. Many credit cards offer free benefits that are not well publicized. These benefits may include extended warranties, free tickets, price d
rop protection, extra discounts, concierge services, and cash giveaways. Of course, you should not use a credit card at all if you carry a balance every month. If you can’t control your spending, consider switching over to a cash-only system.

5. Clean Out Your Pantry
Empty your cupboards, see what you have, and plan meals around the ingredients you want to use up. You’ll slash your next grocery bill, and you’ll help ensure that food doesn’t go stale.

6. Create a “Cheap Fun Club” With Friends
If you’re trying to save money, it can be disheartening when friends invite you to things that you don’t want to spend money on. Instead, be proactive, and invite your friends to share in frugal activities with you, such as potlucks, watching movies at home, and board game nights.

7. Sell Your Stuff
Taking the time to declutter your house and sell your extra stuff has multiple benefits. Not only can you make money getting rid of your old items, but you might also discover other useful things you had forgotten about.

How are you planning to save money for America Saves Week? For more information, visit


Friday, February 22, 2013

Your Voice is Heard

At St.Cloud Federal Credit Union, we value the voice of our Members and ensure they are empowered.  As a cooperative financial institution, all Members of our credit union are also owners.  When a person joins our credit union, they become one of the owners and shareholders of our institution.

As mentioned in a previous blog, one thing that differentiates credit unions is that we are “not-for-profit” – there is no private ownership.  We are member-owned and all our profits stay in the credit union, our local community, and aid in the benefit of our valued Members.   The democratic nature of our credit union allows all our Members to have an equal voice in the operation of the organization, regardless of the amount each person has in their account.  Credit union Members participate by voting in mail-in elections for the credit union's Board.

Our credit union is governed by our local, volunteer Board of Directors.  Now is the perfect time for all our Members to exercise their ownership and have a say in how their credit union is run!  Ballots for the candidates for our Board of Directors were recently mailed out.  Please take time to look them over, fill them out, and get them back to us by March 16, 2013.  Please join us on Thursday, March 21st for our Annual Meeting at our St. Cloud office at 3030 First Street South, in the lower level Community Room – cookies will be served, and election results will be announced!   The Business Meeting starts at 5:30 pm.

Our mission is to engage in a relentless effort to provide superior service to our Members.  We aim to educate, support, and encourage our members to be financially fit.
We are People Helping People.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tax Refunds: How Will You Use them to Your Advantage?

Is your Tax Refund helping you become financially fit? IT CAN! Below are just a few of the many ways you can use your Tax Refund wisely to take steps toward financial fitness...

1. Pay off Debt & Bills
If you have overdue bills or loans, use your tax refund to pay them.  Once your debt is gone you'll feel much better!

2. Open a savings account
Not only will you have a safe place to save money, you'll be creating saving habits and establishing good financial history.

3. Buy a savings bond
Savings bonds can help you to save for emergencies or bigger purchases. You can also buy bonds in someone's name as a gift.

4. Create an emergency fund
Aim to save the amount of money that would pay expenses for 1-3 months in an emergency fund.  You never know when you'll need it!

5. Save for Education and/or Retirement
Save now so you, your child, or grandchild can spend less on a valuable education.  Also, it's never too early to save for retirement!

Although it can be difficult when you get that refund, think about how you can use it to help alleviate any other financial pressures.  It may not seem like the most fun way to spend it in the moment, but you'll more than likely thank yourself later.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Help Make Miracles

At St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, we are always looking for ways to contribute to others and strengthen our sense of community.  Since January 10th, we have been participating in the Chain of Hearts fundraiser for Gillette Children’s Hospital of St. Paul, MN.  There’s still time for you to join the cause!  Until February 28th, you can purchase a paper link ($1) or paper heart ($2) at either of our Sartell or St. Cloud locations. 

All proceeds raised will benefit the children at Gillette’s and their clinics across the state, helping to relieve the financial burdens of children with disabilities and chronic conditions.  Since 1897, Gillette Children’s Hospitals have been on the forefront of medical treatment, education, and research for children with a variety of disabilities.  Gillette’s mission is to help patients realize the greatest possible independence, well-being, and enjoyment in life.

In 2012, Minnesota credit unions partnered with the Children’s Miracle Network were able to raise over $41,000 for Gillette Children’s Hospitals.  Each personalized heart or link purchased are displayed in our lobbies, a first hand example of our People Helping People mission. 

We strongly encourage all our members, community residents, and area businesses to contribute in any way they can.  Please show your love for Minnesota’s kids by stopping in, writing your name on a heart, and donating what you can to support Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.

For more information about Credit Unions 4 Kids, visit

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Have you heard? Canada did away with their penny as of Monday, February 4th, 2013.  What are your thoughts on our little one cent friend? Do you like having a penny? Would you be OK with the decision to eliminate the small, copper, Lincoln-silhouetted coin?

Just for fun, we’ve gathereed a few facts about the U.S. penny:

1.  The Average penny lasts 25 years.

2.  The penny was the first coin minted in the United States.

3.  There are 11 different designs of the penny.

4.  The Lincoln penny was originally minted in 1909, which was Lincoln's 100th birthday.

5.  Lincoln is the only coin-featured president that faces the right – all others face the left.

6.  The penny was the first U.S. coin to have the “IN GOD WE TRUST” motto on it.

7.  Every year the United States Mint produces over 13 billion pennies.

8.  The U.S. Mint collects one cent for each penny made- this profit goes toward helping pay the public debt.

9.  In 2009, four new backsides to the penny were designed and released in honor of Lincoln’s 200th Birthday.  Each design depicts a different scene from his life.

10.  The penny costs more to make than it’s actually worth, but is the most profitable coin.

11.  Melting down pennies from before 1982 (due to their valuable copper) is illegal and could cost you $10,000 in fines or five years in prison.

12.  Just over 1,000 new pennies are minted every second.

13.  “E Pluribus Unum” (engraved on pennies) means “One out of many”.

14.  The penny weighs 2.5 grams.

15.  The average American home has roughly $93.75 worth of pennies collected in jars, lost under sofa cushions, of forgotten in old purses and pockets.

Recent polls show that 73% of Americans favor keeping the penny in circulation, do you?  It sure got us thinking. . .


All Good Things Must Come to an End ...

While our Financial Fitness efforts aren't going anywhere, our Series of Savings is drawing to a close - below are our final five tips to get you saving money today.  No fear, dear readers - we are sure to post other money saving, budget improving, fun fact blogs in the future...

16. Slow Down
Did you know that every 5 mph over 60 you drive is the same as paying an extra 29 cents per gallon of gas? Yikes! Driving a littler slower (ahem, the speed limit) can save you quite a bit.

17. Minimize ATM Fees
Look for ways to cut the ATM fees.  This may mean using a particular ATM, but if that’s too inconvenient, look for other options to get your fees reimbursed.

18. Plan your Meals
This one’s pretty straight forward; avoid the restaurant bills and excess grocery spending by planning and cooking your meals at home!  If you make a big batch, this might help with #5 as well.  When you are the chef, you have more control over ingredients, which often means a healthier meal for you.

19. DIY
That’s right, Do It Yourself!  With the explosion of Pinterest, how-to’s and project instructions are easier to find that ever.  You can make your own cleaners, furniture, gifts, and decorations!

20. Be on Time
Those late fees really begin to add up, how about cutting them out all together?  By paying your bills on time, you can begin to save from unnecessary (and unwanted) spending.

We do hope that our blogs in the Series of Saving have inspired you to take another look at your spending.  Saving money is not always easy, but it is possible.  We believe in you and are here to support you!

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Let the Savings Roll - Series of Savings Part 3 of 4

Hopefully by now you've heard all about our 2013 goal for Financial Fitness!  Regardless, we're always excited to help you save money where you can.  Below are our next 5 tips in our Series of Saving!

11.  Unplug it
Get in the habit of unplugging your dormant electronics and appliances.  Pulling the plug on the toaster, phone charger, curling iron, or lamp can help you save you money on your electric bill.  Just don’t forget you’ve unplugged them, or you’ll be frustrated next time you pop some bread down!

12. Make a List, Check it twice
Make of a list of the bills you pay regularly: electric, phone, internet, cable, insurance, etc.  Designate two times a year to check and make sure that you’re still getting the best deals.  It might take some time to shop around and do a little internet research, but if you save money you’ll be glad you did.

13. Do your own Chopping
While pre-chopped fruits and veggies are convenient, if you start chopping your own not only will you save money, you’ll have fresher produce.

14. Swap Sitters
If you and your significant other need a night out and you know another couple feeling the same way, do a babysitting swap!  Tell them you’ll watch their rascals for a night if they return the favor.  You’ll save money on a babysitter and know your kiddos are in trusted hands.

15. Check it Out
Yes, libraries still exist.  Public libraries have free memberships and a plethora of books, magazines, and movies you can check out – FOR FREE (as long as you get it back in time).  Quit forking over money for rentals, cut the magazine subscription, and head over to your local library.

And like the good times, let the savings roll - We'll be back soon with our final 5 ways to save!

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