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Summer Savings

With summer in full roar here in Texas, most folk’s electric bills are on the rise. In fact, a study completed in 2010 showed that Dallas and Houston carry some of the highest average monthly bills in the country. So you may be asking, what can I do to help save, especially during these high demand summer months. Well, here are a couple of ideas to generate some savings.

Smartify Your Home – One of the biggest ways to save on electricity is to shutdown electronics when you’re not using them. To do this automatically, check out smart power strips with built in shutdown technology. These strips will shut off power to high demand electronics like your TV, DVR, gaming systems etc. when you’re not using them. Similarly, an automated thermostat like the Nest can save you big bucks by learning your temperature preferences and changing your a/c accordingly.

Bill Average Did you know you can probably average your electric bill out over the year? Most electric companies offer this service for free. While it won’t necessarily save you on kilowatts used per month, it will help you budget better and keep bill shock away during the summer. Ask your local provider if they offer this service.

Upgrade Your Apps – Appliances such as refrigerators, washer and dryers, and a/c units have all seen rapid technological changes over the last several years. These items are getting more and more energy efficient with each passing year so it might be a good idea to upgrade if it’s been a while. And if you need help paying for the upgrades, we have some great loan options to help. An investment now will payoff big time over the coming years, as energy prices rise.

 

When Saving More Just Isn’t an Option

On this blog and many other financial blogs like it, you’re probably accustomed to seeing frequent articles on savings money. For many, this is an important topic to discuss often because savings is one of those habits that takes intense discipline. But what if you’ve already mastered the art of saving and it’s still not cutting it for your budget? What if you’ve cut back as far as you can go and you still are struggling?

Well a recent Lifehacker article offers up three ways to earn some money on the side. These ideas aren’t revolutionary (little in finance is) but they’re awesome reminders that no matter who you are, you have something to give that people want and need.

1) Knowledge – We all have areas of expertise that we could easily share with others. Think about what you’re good at and market that talent as a service you can teach to other people. Craigslist is a great way to advertise, whether it be tutoring, cooking classes, a foreign language, or something else entirely.

2) Stuff – When was the last time you went through your closets, garage, and general storage to see what you actually need? There’s probably things you could easily sell if you just took the time to go through it. Again, Craigslist is a great option to sell stuff on, but also Pawn Shops, eBay, and clothing re-sellers.

3) Time – Last, but not least, are things like a part-time job. This can come in many forms such as night and weekend work for an established business to yard work, babysitting, pet sitting, handyman services, seamstress, etc.

The bottom line is there are any number of things we can do to earn extra money. Thankfully, services like Craiglist can be a great tool to connect you with people who need what you have to offer.

 

Remember When...?

Most people understand the basics of inflation. It’s the increase in the cost of goods and services over time. Historically, the United States has experienced an inflation rate of around 3-4% annually. But what does that look like in real dollar terms? To answer that, CNN recently came up with a calculator that compares the value of a dollar going all the way back to 1914 through 2012. Check it out here.

Here are a couple of calculations to peak your interest:

  • A quick internet search reveals that the average cost of a home in 1950 was $8,450.
  • In 2012 dollars that would be $81,531.
  • A gallon of gas in 1980 was $1.25.
  • In 2012 dollars that would be $3.53, just about on target.
 

Mind the Gap: Student Loans

With college tuition continuing to be at all-time highs it can be difficult to bridge the gap between what grants, scholarships and government-backed loans covers and the true cost of a higher education. From books, to supplies, to general living expenses, students and parents are finding it difficult to keep up with their college bills each semester. Thankfully, credit unions across the country are stepping up in a big way to help. A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted this effort which you can check out here.

A couple of key points the article highlights are that credit unions are not competing with the government backed loans. Here at Greater TEXAS, we always instruct students to maximize all their federally-backed grant, scholarship and lending options before coming to us. We want to supplement and complement those funding sources rather than replace them. Also, credit unions are stepping into the student lending market at a time when the big banks have all but pulled out completely. This just goes to show that credit unions once again are willing to step up when other lenders can’t or aren’t willing to. Check out our Higher Education Loan option.

 

Call to Action: Don’t Tax My Credit Union

Since 1934 credit unions have been deemed by Congress as a vehicle for the public good. Because of the work credit unions across the country do to serve their communities, they have been exempt from federal income taxes. But now with the current budget crunch, that exemption is being called into question. Check out this recent video from the folks at donttaxmycu.org to learn more about the positive impact credit unions make every day on their members, and what you can do to help Greater TEXAS FCU. Also, be sure to like us on Facebook to keep up with this important issue.

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10151622318754169&id=92852479168

 

Mother Knows Best: Lesson 4 – If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you??

In honor of Mother’s Day during the month of May, we bring you mom’s best financial lessons.

Ahh mom, that wise woman we rarely listened to as a kid, but as soon as we grew up, we realized was an utter genius. She was always giving us nuggets of financial gold, if we had only been paying attention.

For example, a classic mom saying is “if all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”.  What she meant was, following the path that everyone else follows isn’t necessarily the best for you. This applies to our financial lives as well. Often we look around us and find people who have all the latest and greatest gadgets, live in the biggest house on the block, drive the fanciest cars and always seem to be on their dream vacation. It’s easy to get caught up in other people’s financial lifestyles and try to emulate that.

For most of us though, that keeping up with the Jones’ lifestyle requires an unhealthy dependence on debt. This is something mom most certainly would caution against. Following mom’s advice, credit unions were founded to encourage thrift (savings) and responsible debt management. We continue that philosophy today through our financial education efforts, a common sense approach to lending money, and a continued focus on helping people save.

If you’ve found yourself overwhelmed with debt, have questions about how to save more, or just want to learn more about common sense finance, check out some of the resources below or stop by a branch to learn more.

http://gtfcu.org/index.php/financial-education

http://gtfcu.org/index.php/services/credit-counseling

http://www.americasaves.org/savings-tips/54-ways-to-save-money

 

Mother Knows Best: Lesson 3 – A Benjamin Saved Is a Benjamin Earned

In honor of Mother’s Day during the month of May, we bring you mom’s best financial lessons.

Ahh mom, that wise woman we rarely listened to as a kid, but as soon as we grew up, we realized was an utter genius. She was always giving us nuggets of financial gold, if we had only been paying attention.

For example, a classic mom saying is “a penny saved is a penny earned”.  What she meant was, by saving money now, you won’t have to constantly keep earning more later in life. Of course mom was right, but in our pell-mell, go-a-million-miles-an-hour society, saving is harder than ever. Below you’ll find a common sense approach to saving consistently, just like mom would want you to.

  1. Prioritize Your Savings. – To save consistently over the long haul, you have to get radical in your approach. What does radical mean, you might be asking? Good question. It means to change your mind set about the order in which you distribute your money. By making savings your first priority, you will slowly but surely transform your psyche to the point where savings is second nature. Also, savings can and most often starts small. Don’t feel ashamed to start with $50 or less a month. Many a millionaire started with small amounts saved at first. Whatever amount your budget can afford, start somewhere and stick with it.

  2. Automate Your Savings. – Research shows that creating an automatic mechanism to save money, gives you a much higher chance of sticking to a plan than just winging it. The best way to do this is to send funds straight into a savings account from your paycheck via direct deposit. If you can’t split your direct deposit, create an automatic transfer on the days you get paid and then simply treat that transferred amount like a regular monthly bill.
  3. Save Your Savings. – Finally, we come to the crux of what mom was trying to say all along. Don’t be tempted to spend the money you’ve saved on just anything. More than anything else, an ample savings account is a psychological safety net. It’s the physical embodiment of financial peace of mind. So once that money is in savings hold onto it.

 

Mother Knows Best: Lesson 2 – Eat Your Vegetables

In honor of Mother’s Day during the month of May, we bring you mom’s best financial lessons.

Ahh mom, that wise woman we rarely listened to as a kid, but as soon as we grew up, we realized was an utter genius. She was always giving us nuggets of financial gold, if we had only been paying attention.

For example, a classic mom saying is “eat your vegetables”. While mom meant carrots, brussel sprouts and broccoli (yuck!!!), there are plenty of financial correlations to this saying. When it comes to personal finance, vegetables represent the financial activities we know we should do but absolutely hate. Here’s a couple, with some food for thought.

  1. Budgeting – the brussel sprouts of finance. – Nobody wants to create let alone stick to a budget. But deep down we all know it’s good for us. A little sacrifice now, let’s you eat that delicious cake (vacation, dream car, etc.) later. Just remember to cut budgeting into bite sized pieces so you don’t get overwhelmed.

  2. Eating carrots can give you better (in)sight. – Research shows that carrots contain Vitamin A which helps maintain good vision. Similarly, regularly reviewing your retirement plan can give you confidence as you peer into your long term future. Sitting down at least every quarter, whether with an advisor or by yourself, is like eating a whole bunch of carrots.

  3. Actually eat your vegetables. – One of the fastest rising costs is in the area of healthcare. While there are all sorts of reasons this is the case, the best way to mitigate those rising costs is to maintain good health. Consistently eating more vegetables can go a long way towards achieving health related success and reducing the strain on your checkbook.
 

Mother Knows Best: Lesson 1 - Waste Not, Want Not


Ahh mom, that wise woman we rarely listened to as a kid, but as soon as we grew up, we realized was an utter genius. She was always giving us nuggets of financial gold, if we had only been paying attention.

For example, a classic mom saying is waste not, want not. This has never been more appropriate given our hectic lives. It’s easy to overlook waste because we’re rushing to and fro. But every once in a while it’s a good idea to take stock of your resources and make sure you’re getting the most out of what you have.

With that in mind, Lifehacker recently ran an article on 10 such wasteful areas. Here’s a sampling.

1. What’s that smell? – Food waste can cost you big time if left unchecked. According to an NPR report put out in 2012, Americans waste over $165 billion worth of food each year. No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of money wasted that could be easily prevented. Check out this guide to reduce your food waste quickly and easily.

2. Coupins, Coupins, Coupins. – Whether you get them in the mail or find them on the internet, using coupons can save you big time over the long run. We’re not even talking about extreme couponing here, just your run of the mill, easily found coupons. Bottom line, if you’re not using coupons you’re leaving money on the table.

3. Ask and ye shall receive. – One of the biggest areas consumers tend to waste money on are things like, cable, internet and cell phone service. What relatively few consumers take advantage of though, is asking for a better deal. Scheduling a couple of times a year to call up your service providers to make sure you have the best “package” or are getting all the discounts you’re owed, can save you tons of money. The key is you have to pick up the phone and ask.

 

Congratulations Home Owners! You Have Equity Again.

A recent CNN Money article highlighted a Federal Reserve study showing American homeowner’s saw an 18% increase in their home’s equity from 3rd quarter 2011 to 3rd quarter 2012. This comes after many years of stagnant housing prices following the collapse in 2006. With this new found value, homeowners will have more options to keep more money in their pocket and invest that money wisely. Here are some things to keep in mind now that home values are on the rise.

Refinance – If you haven’t already done so, now is a great time to refinance your mortgage or home equity loan. With interest rates remaining at historic lows, coupled with rising home values, many homeowners will now be able to refinance their existing loans or take out a new home equity loan.

Upgrade your home – Had an itch to do some upgrades? Whether you’re a do-it- yourself type or looking to hire a contractor, upgrading your home is a great way to use built up equity. Interestingly, the National Association of Home Builders cites the bathroom as most homeowner’s top renovation project. Also, don’t forget about the energy efficiency tax credit, worth up to $500.

Pay for college – While every family would prefer to have enough in savings to pay for college, the reality is that financing college tuition is far more common. Using your home’s equity is one of the lowest cost options, if not the lowest, to pay for college.

 

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