Clean Up Your Finances for the New Year

broom clean up

After a year of spending, saving, paying off bills and racking up rewards points, your financial life can get a little messy. And now that the holiday season is over, it is a great time to regain control of your finances. When you de-clutter your accounts, paperwork and budget, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to make the most of your money.

Resolve to roll up your sleeves, dust off your statements and follow these tips for finances that sparkle:

  • Streamline your banking. Close old accounts, switch to online bill pay and sign up for e-statements to reduce paper waste. Shred year-old bank statements, expired warranties, old Social Security statements and tax documents that are over seven years old.
  • Consolidate your debt. Consider rolling all of your high-interest payments into one low-rate personal loan like a Save As You Pay loan with MembersFirst. Close credit cards you don’t need and create a payment strategy to lower your debt. Plan to pay off credit cards with the highest interest rates first.
  • Organize your savings. Many households have multiple savings accounts, including IRAs, CDs and 401(k)s. Consider moving all of your savings plans to one financial institution and consolidating all IRAs to one account. Talk to your employer about moving old 401(k) accounts into the one at your current job, or rolling them to a self-directed IRA. Finally, increase your 401(k) savings so that at a minimum you are saving enough to earn a full match from your employer.
  • Plan your estate. Update or create your will. It’s a fairly easy and inexpensive process that people often put off for obvious reasons. If you have any property (car, house, land, flat-screen TV, etc.), a will prevents lengthy legal battles and guarantees the right people receive your belongings upon your passing.

 

Need help tidying up? Stop by your nearest MembersFirst branch or give us a call at 404-978-0080. We’d be more than happy to help you clean up your finances!

What’s your money persona?

what is your money persona

Personality.  It’s what makes us all a bit different.  Sometimes we relate to someone a little better than another based on how eccentric, laid back or direct they are.

Have you thought about how you’re treating your financial relationships?  Are you taking care of your nest egg, so to speak?  Believe it or not, the way you spend cash says a lot about your personality–well, your money persona, anyway.

So, in between all those really important quizzes we take online to determine who our BFF is or what song best represents our lives, why not take one to help determine whether your money-spending (or hoarding) choices are something to be worked on or shared with the world.

With the help of her friend, Lucy, Jen learned a little about her own money persona.  Watch the video, then take the quiz below.


(Pssst…you may want to grab a pen and scratch paper for this one.)

12_B_Infographic_MembersFirst

So, how did you do?  Were you surprised to learn what your money persona is?  Maybe you fell in multiple categories.  Whatever the case may be for you, you can rest easy knowing there are tons of solutions to help you save, invest, make smarter choices with and even spend your money smarter.  You might try checking out our affordable and convenient savings solutions.

We want to hear from you.  Drop us a comment below and let us know how you did.

 

Stretching Your $$$

money tug of war

Tip: Never go to the grocery store hungry.

It’s a simple rule to keep from over-buying and one sure to keep you from blowing the week’s budget on cravings at your local grocer.  But, aside from controlling your appetite as you peruse the baked goods aisle, there are a seemingly infinite number of ways to help control your spending and stretch your dollar a bit further.

Don’t be hasty in your online purchases.  There are a lot of online retailers that offer free shipping for purchases over a certain dollar amount.  This can be a great deal, but, before clicking to finalize your purchase, be sure to shop around.  Not all deals are created equally.  The cost of some items may be raised to accommodate for the ‘Free’ shipping.  Make it a habit of checking other sites to see if a similar item of same quality can be found at a lower price with free or lower shipping costs.

Take advantage of retail club memberships and actually use the discounts.  All households require paper towels, toilet paper and infinite bottles of ketchup and mustard—buy in bulk.  You’ll not only save over the long-run on items like these, you’ll also save yourself a few trips to the store for these staples.  Along with most retail club memberships come discounts with partner companies and local and national services.  Your $40 annual membership could land you even deeper discounts on entertainment like theme park passes and savings on cellular, television, optical, vacation package and much more.  And speaking of memberships, if you’re not using gym or other club memberships, cancel them.  You’re unnecessarily spending money each month on services you’re not using that could be used elsewhere.

Talk with your home insurance company about bundling services.  If you’re paying home owner’s, renter’s, auto and life insurance through multiple agencies, consider bundling these policies with one company.  Often times, because one company is gaining a large amount of your business, you’ll not only receive discounts on the rates you pay, but some companies will offer an additional discount when you choose to set up automatic payments or choose to receive an e-statement vs. paper statement.

High-rate loans, credit cards and fee-heavy checking accounts are like a black hole for extra cash.  Slim down your loan and credit card rates and be sure you’re not paying fees to participate in these services while you’re at it.  You should never pay for services like online banking and bill pay.  Make sure you and your family members are taking full advantage of our low interest loan solutions and our no-fee and direct deposit checking accounts.  Ask us today how you can transfer these services to MembersFirst.

Is it really necessary to have the highest or fastest level of internet, television and mobile service plans?  Think about the channels you really watch or need.  Consider downgrading your plan with the cable company and turn certain entertainment packages on and off when you need them.  If you’re a big football fan, turn on the sports package just during the season.  For mobile users, ask your provider what your average data use is and go with a plan that’s just above your average.  You may even want to talk with these providers or find a new one which offers money-saving bundling packages for these services.

What are some of the ways you and your family make your money go even further?  Let us know in the comments below.  While you’re here, read up on other money-savings ideas, budgeting tips and ways to protect your information and finances.

Don’t forget joining a Credit Union is a GREAT way to cut back on unnecessary expenses like monthly fees and high interest… we just so happen to know a great one.

Living On Your Own: Are you prepared?

video screenshot

When you take a look at your finances — what’s coming in, what’s going out — do you approach each bill or expense as a surprise item rather than an item you’ve prepared for?

Let’s look at it this way… you’ve finished school, you’re ready to move out of your parent’s basement and you’ve got money to burn.  What’s your plan?

If your first thought is more I want a sweet, high-rise apartment, downtown with a view of the city and less I have XX amount available to me each month…what can I afford on that budget?, you might want to rethink your strategy. Take a look at this spending ratio. Try your own.  What can you afford?  Does your dream apartment on the upper west side become a reality or did you just have a reality check?

11_F_Social_01_US

Just like you had to prepare a budget at some point so you’d know how much pizza and ramen noodles your budget could take (oh, and those pesky cellphone, internet and insurance bills you may have been forced to pay while living at home), living on your own has its own category of expenses you may not have even thought of.

If you hear the words “renter’s insurance” and your first thought is yes, I’d like someone to ensure that I will obtain rent, then read on a little further, my friend.  While you may have thought as far as what your monthly rent might look like and maybe even where you’d like to live, don’t forget these one-time expenses.

11_F_Social_03_US.jpg

If you’re lucky, you might have a few friends you can pay in pizza and soda that will help you move.  You might even have the packing materials and a few staple pieces of furniture to help get you started.

Unfortunately, living expenses won’t stop there.

11_F_Social_04_US

It’s important to also consider the location you’d like to live and do a little research on monthly rental averages.  A suburban apartment or home may dole out a much more affordable scenario than a renter’s monthly expenses in a more city-like environment.  On top of that, the average rental expense increases and decreases by the area.  Look at your budget… then take a look at this.  Is your budget more Manhattan- or Tucson-friendly?

11_F_Social_02_US

So… are you rethinking your strategy for living on your own?  How many household expenses did you budget for?  Is there something you’ll have to give up in order to live comfortably?  Let us know!  Comment and share below.

For more on rent and living on your own, stay tuned.  We’ll take a look a rental agreements–what to look for and what to avoid–and dig a little deeper into your budget to make sure you’re maximizing your income while still being able to enjoy and afford life.  After all, that’s why MembersFirst is here.

Ready to make the switch to a financial institution interested in seeing you at your financial best?  We’re ready when you are.

join today button

CU Cents: CHECK YOURSELF – Arm yourself against check fraud

Your personal and financial safety is very important to us. In the past few posts, we’ve covered multiple topics related to protecting your identity and your money.  This time, we want to remind you of ways to protect yourself against a more “traditional” form of fraud  – CHECK FRAUD.

Although fewer people are writing checks for everyday bills and expenses, criminals today can defraud you and your financial institution quite easily with a blank check taken from your check book, a canceled check found in your garbage, or a check you mailed to pay a bill. Fraud professionals have become increasingly skilled and sophisticated in accessing and altering information thanks to advances in readily available technology. Here are some tips to help arm yourself against check fraud:

  1. Review Company Checks for Security Features, Logos and Company Names – When you receive a check from a business or financial institution, ensure that the security features are incorporated in the check. Most corporations have these security features printed on the face of the check.
  2. Guard your Account Information – Store your checks, statements, deposit slips and cancelled checks in a secure location. If you have a checkbook, NEVER leave it in the car or in the open. Limit the amount of personal information on your check. Exclude Social Security, driver’s license or telephone numbers from your check.
  3. Be Assertive – If someone pays you with a cashier’s check, have them accompany you to the credit union or bank to cash it. If at all possible, only accept a check during normal business hours so you can verify whether it is legitimate. Make sure you obtain identification information from the individual.
  4. Be Specific With Your Payee – Don’t Make a check payable to cash. If lost or stolen, the check can be cashed by anyone. If you need cash from your account, visit a branch and do a withdrawal. Otherwise, visit a surcharge free ATM. Finally…
  5. If It’s Too Good to Be True, Ask Questions. – We’d all like “someone” to send us some money, a windfall of cash, a well-needed boost to our cash flow, “a gift from beyond”– but don’t be fooled. Scammers and fraudsters prey on our emotions and our hardships – If you weren’t expecting a check or notice that the payment you received for a job you did is for more than what you were due, BE CAUTIOUS.

Luckily, your Credit Union is here, checking and double checking (pun intended) you so that  your finances are protected. We ask a lot of security questions, we question the source of your funds when you make a deposit, we review your account history with you when you call and we do not email confidential account information or statements through the open internet. We do these things to make sure your information is safe. If you’re in doubt about a check you received, come see us; we can help you determine if it’s legitimate before you make a deposit.

Be on the lookout for more on this topic and many others.  It’s all part of our goal to put you first and help you afford life!