New Year, New Budget!

shutterstock_7731031You can’t make progress on your budget goals until you know where your money is going. That means it’s time to track spending.

Get a grip–Recruit the whole family to help keep track of all expenses for at least a week or two–longer if you can manage it. You’ll see patterns and how routine mindless spending can mean death by a thousand cuts to your budget.

You may decide to use a small notebook and record each expense. Or you may prefer to use software or an online program. It might work for you to collect all receipts and bills as you pay them. Whatever your choice, try to be consistent and pick a system you think you’ll use and not abandon.

If that sounds too taxing, try this: Collect all your receipts for several days, then review each receipt. Put a plus sign or minus sign next to each expense–plus for on-budget, within your goals spending, and minus for off-budget, working against your goals spending.

Get a goal. You also won’t make much progress unless you’re monitoring spending for a reason, weighing your expenses against a larger goal or goals.

Give whatever tracking exercise you use a rest for a month and then repeat it. Do you see improvements? Or have the leaks just shifted to other categories? Use services that Unison offers, like direct deposit and automatic deposits into savings, to help you keep your eyes on the prize. 

Happy New Year!

 

Copyright 2013 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.
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Smart Holiday Shopping Takes Planning and Control

Holiday-shoppingYou say it every year after the holidays: “Next year I’m going to spend less money.” It’s easy to get carried away. It can be just as easy to stay financially fit, even during the busiest shopping season of the year.

The Credit Union National Association, the trade association for credit unions, and the Consumer Federation of America, Washington, D.C., suggest these holiday spending tips:

1. Budget your spending and set goals: Start with a realistic idea of how much you can spend on holiday gifts, food, travel, and so on. Add it up and really give some thought to what you can afford. Think about where you might cut back and stick to your budget.

2. Make a list: Shop from a list to avoid impulse purchases that could leave you snowed under in debt at the end of the season.

3. Comparison shop: Take the time to find the best deal. Fight the urge to get your shopping over with as quickly as possible, and, for the procrastinator: Don’t wait until the last minute!

4. Trim your interest payments: If you must pay with a credit card instead of using cash, use a card with a low-interest rate. Unison offers two great credit card choices – both with low rates and convenient payment options.

5. Open a Christmas Savings account: Put some money in the account each month based on how much you spent this year; arrange to have that amount automatically deducted from your paycheck. This way, next year you’ll have all the money you need. Plus, you’ll earn interest rather than making big interest payments to finance next year’s holiday shopping.

Copyright 2008-2013 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.
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Deck the Halls DIY

shutterstock_65849617Decorating for Christmas doesn’t have to break your budget. Check out these inexpensive do-it-yourself ideas to give your home some festive flair.

Pretty Pinecones – Dip pinecones in gold paint (either partially or all of the way) or use a mixture of water, glue and glitter for a sparkling effect. Place on side tables or use to fill baskets and bowls.

Christmas “Spirits” – Stick candles in clean, empty wine bottles for a dramatic display of warm, holiday light.

Tie It Up – Tie a bow around your throw pillows with holiday-colored ribbons, and they’ll look just like Christmas gifts! Add a rhinestone pin for an extra decorating kick.

Branch Out – Plain dry branches from your yard—whether from green firs or bare deciduous trees—make excellent decorations when you spray with silver or gold paint. Hang, or tuck in a vase to decorate an entryway or dining room. Plus, add ornaments to the branches for an instant Christmas tree.

Frame It – Turn holiday wrapping paper into instant artwork by sliding it into a frame. Or frame your favorite Christmas greeting cards and hang in a collection.

 Source: 2012 Readers Digest, RD.com

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Let Text Banking Help With Your Shopping!

TextBankingHas this ever happened to you? You’re just about ready to leave the mall at the end of a successful shopping trip, when you see it. The perfect gift for Uncle Frank…and there is only one left. You must have it! As you look down at all the other shopping bags in hand, you find yourself wondering if there is enough money in your checking account to cover the purchase. What to do? Don’t risk it – we have your answer!

With Text Banking from Unison, you can have the info you need in a matter of seconds – day or night! Using your mobile device, simply send a text command to receive a reply with the balances of your accounts. You can also enroll in eAlerts and receive notices via text regarding balances, electronic deposits, withdrawals or when a payment is due. Now that’s convenient!

With the holidays just around the corner, check out our website for more details and find out how you can enroll in Text Banking. Happy shopping!

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Cold Weather Savings

BlowingLeavesThere is a familiar chill in the air that, as Wisconsinites, we know can only mean one thing…our heating bills are about to go up! Take the bite out of high heating costs this winter by following a few of these suggestions offered by We Energies:

 

  •          Maintain the furnace. Clean your furnace filters monthly or replace if necessary. A clean unit runs more efficiently.
  •          Use insulation. Insulate your attic to an R-value of 38 for a gas-heated home and 50 for an electrically heated home; your walls to an R-value of 19; and your sill box (upper portion of your basement walls) to an R-value of 10. Proper insulation allows you to use less energy to keep your home warm.
  •          Insulate around windows and doors. Weather-strip and/or caulk all areas of noticeable leaks around windows and doors. Removable caulking is a good option for windows that you open in summer but not in winter.
  •          Change your thermostat settings. In the winter, set your thermostat at 60° F when you are sleeping or gone. Set the thermostat to 68° F when you are at home. This can save 10 percent or more on your heating bills every winter.
  •          Turn down the thermostat when away. If you are going to be away for an extended period of time, turn your thermostat down to save energy but never lower than 40° F. If you have delicate houseplants, keep the setting at 50° F or higher.
  •          Let the sun in. The sun’s energy can have a noticeable effect on the temperature in your home, especially from windows facing south and west. Keep window shades and drapes open during winter months to let in the sun’s radiant heat.
  •          Purchase Energy Star windows. When installing new windows, select, at a minimum, double-paned (double-glazed) thermal windows. With existing single-paned windows, make sure you use storm windows during the winter months.

 

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Spooked About Halloween Spending?

HalloweenGhosts and goblins across the nation are expected to spend nearly 8 billion dollars on Halloween in 2013. But, preparing for the occasion doesn’t have to be scary for your wallet! Consider these suggestions from Money Crashers to help you save this year.

  1. Buy your pumpkins the day before Halloween. You won’t get as good of a selection, but they’ll likely be half-priced, and you can buy more than one for decoration. Also, you won’t need to worry about rotting.
  2. Use everyday items to decorate the house. You can take cereal boxes and spray paint them black or gray to place in the yard to make it look like a cemetery. You can also use quilt padding to make cob webs.
  3. Instead of throwing a party for the kids, play a game. Video/photo scavenger hunts are really fun. Make a list of things to find or do around the neighborhood (i.e. a black cat or an abandoned “haunted” house)
  4. Make your own costumes. Dressing like a celebrity or an iconic figure is usually the easiest to do. You can do the same for kid’s costumes.
  5. For Couples, have a scary movie marathon. Pop some popcorn or bake some spooky looking cookies and watch scary movies from Netflix or Red Box.

Happy haunting!

 

 

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Credit Unions Unite for Good

ICUDOn October 17th credit unions in 100 countries will celebrate International Credit Union (ICU) Day® by joining together and celebrating their cooperative spirit.

Unlike many banks, we here at Unison are not in business to make a profit. Credit unions all over the world are a united front focused on you, the member, with an unwavering belief in the “people helping people” philosophy upon which we were built.

In the U.S., we’re known as credit unions, but across the world, we go by many names…co-operative societies, cooperativas and caisses populaires to name a few.

This year, the cooperative spirit is coming to the Falkland Islands. Currently, one bank branch operates there, but the 2,300 workers who live there find access to credit limited. Through the World Council of Credit Unions, staff from a U.S. credit union are assisting in the development of a credit union of their own that can help the businesses that were refused bank financing.

Sometimes, starting a credit union isn’t enough. In Kenya, more than a million children have lost parents to AIDS. Many U.S. credit unions are supporting an orphanage in the town of Busia. The program provides food and security to these orphans, as well as financial access to the surrounding community.

Here too, in the U.S., credit unions are looking after their members.

One small credit union, made up only of family descendants of Manley and Lucy Williams, is helping members buy new cars, raise families and pay for college. Credit unions often think of their members as family and in this case, they literally are.

The credit union movement is a united force based on camaraderie, cooperation and collaboration. That’s why, at Unison, you are never a number — you are a member and we are here to serve you!

Stop by any of Unison’s locations on October 17th to celebrate International Credit Union Day by enjoying a treat with us!

Copyright 2013 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.
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Win an iPad2!

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During the month of September, sign up to receive our quarterly newsletter, InUnison, electronically and be automatically entered into a drawing to win an iPad2! Visit our website for complete details.

Hurry! Contest ends September 30th.

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Saying “I Don’t” to Wedding Debt

married pig banks“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” This popular saying is nothing more than a sentimental wedding tradition, unless the “something borrowed” is thousands of dollars to pay for the big day!

Weddings, which average a $27,000 price tag, can range from the simple backyard barbeque to the extravagant Country Club setting. No matter your style, here are practical tips to help newlyweds avoid post-wedding money troubles.

Create a budget. You won’t be in for a shock if you determine ahead of time how much you can afford and then stick to your plans. A number of websites offer printable and online wedding budget planners. Or look back to our blog’s January 31, 2013 post on wedding budgets.

Don’t forget about miscellaneous expenses. Small forgotten expenses can wreak havoc on even the best-planned budget. Be sure to factor in tips, the marriage license fee, attendant gifts, thank you cards and all the other smaller-ticket items that can add up fast.

Pay off credit cards as you use them. Using a credit card to pay for deposits and things in the months leading up to the wedding can be smart, but pay them down each month. If you don’t, it’s just too easy to wake up after the honeymoon to find you’ve gone over budget and are starting out your married life with big debt. Our Visa® Platinum credit card offers a low, fixed rate and you can make payments via It’s Me 247, CU by Phone or at any Unison location!

Don’t count on cash gifts to pay for your wedding. Racking up wedding expenses based on expectations of cash gifts is a mistake. Spend only what you can afford to on your own and use any money you receive to get a head start on your future financial goals.

Communicate with each other. In the months leading up to the wedding, talk often and openly about the wedding budget, bills to be paid and choices to be made.

Unison offers numerous accounts and other financial services to help you throughout your wedding preparation and into your marriage. Savings, sub-share savings, checking, home and auto loans, health savings, retirement – at Unison we start with you and we stay with you. We also love wedding cake, so save us a piece!

 

Copyright 2013 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.
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Financial Literacy Quiz–What’s Your Score?

QuizAll the back to school chatter makes me reminisce – taking notes, homework and pop quizzes – and provides inspiration for today’s blog!

So let’s test our financial knowledge with a little quiz of our own. It will help determine what you know and what you don’t know so you can take important steps toward realizing your financial potential!

 

 

Questions

1. A credit report is:
a. A list of your financial assets and liabilities
b. Your monthly credit card statement
c. A history of loan and bill payments
d. Your credit line with your financial institution

2. In terms of credit, what does APR stand for?
a. Annual Percentage Rate
b. Annual Penalty Rate
c. Annual Payment Rate
d. Annual Payoff Rate

3. Who insures your stocks in the stock market?
a. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
b. The Securities and Exchange Commission
c. The U.S. Department of the Treasury
d. No one

4. A secured loan is protected by an asset or collateral such as a home or car.

True / False

5. If your credit card was lost or stolen and used to charge items you didn’t authorize, you are responsible for what amount?
a. Up to $50
b. Up to $100
c. Up to $500
d. All unauthorized charges

6. Negative financial information (excluding bankruptcy) can stay on your credit report for:
a. 2 years
b. 5 years
c. 7 years
d. 10 years

7. Adjustable rate mortgages are only available to potential home owners who don’t qualify for a fixed rate mortgage.

True / False

8. In financial transactions, a CD is a:
a. Certificate of Debt
b. Certificate of Deposit
c. Citizens Deposit
d. Certificate of Collateral

 

Answers

1. (C) A credit report is a loan and bill payment history.

It is kept by a credit bureau and used by financial institutions and other potential creditors to determine how likely it is that you will repay a future debt. Information in your credit report can affect your ability to get a job, a loan, a credit card or insurance.

2. (A) It stands for Annual Percentage Rate.

The APR is a measure of the cost of credit, expressed as a yearly interest rate. Usually, the lower the APR, the better for you.

3. (D) No one.

Your investments in the stock market are not insured. Know the risks before investing in the stock market.

4. True

Secured loans usually offer lower rates, higher borrowing limits and longer repayment terms than unsecured loans. As the term implies, a secured loan means you are providing “security” that your loan will be repaid according to the agreed terms and conditions. Secured loans can be used towards home, auto, boat, motorcycle or recreational vehicles.

5. (A) You are responsible for up to $50.

Your maximum liability under federal law for unauthorized use of your credit card is $50. If you report the loss or theft before your credit cards are used, the Fair Credit Billing Act says the card issuer cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized charges. If a thief uses your cards before you report them missing, the most you will owe for unauthorized charges is $50 per card. If the loss or theft involves your credit card number, but not the card itself, you’re not responsible for unauthorized use.

6. (C) 7 years.

Accurate negative information generally can stay on your report for seven years; bankruptcy information may be reported for 10 years.

7. False

Adjustable Rate Mortgages and Fixed Rate Mortgages are both options for purchasing a home. Adjustable rate mortgages are home loans in which the interest rate is adjusted based on the changes in the economic index. A fixed-rate mortgage has interest rates that stay constant throughout the term of the loan. Check out the Borrowing tab on our website, unisoncu.org, to learn more.

8. (B) Certificate of Deposit

A CD, in this case, is a type of investment savings account that earns a fixed interest rate over a specified period of time. At a credit union it is called a share certificate of deposit, which earns dividends.

 

Copyright 2004 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.
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