The Holidays are Just Around the Corner: Start Saving Now to Avoid Headaches Later


Family in Christmas shopping

Even though the kids just went back to school and December may seem far away, it’s not too early to draw up a financial plan for the holidays.

That’s because creating your financial blueprint now can help avoid headaches later, like overspending and sinking into debt, experts say.

Heading into the holidays without a plan can increase the risk of unraveling an entire year’s worth of financial discipline – as well as undermining your enjoyment of the season. Unfortunately, most Americans enter the holiday season without a financial game plan.

“We found that two-thirds of Americans do not have a holiday budget,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst of Bankrate.com. “That can certainly present problems given the fact that the holidays generate lots of one-time big expenses and it happens every year.”

Create a budget

Racking up credit card bills isn’t uncommon at the holidays, with more than one in four adults admitting they go into debt during the season, according to Dana Marineau, a financial advocate at personal finance company Credit Karma. Creating a budget can aid you in sidestepping the debt trap, she adds.

As part of the budget, make a list of specific items you’d like to buy for friends and family members to help you avoid impulse purchases, Marineau recommends.

“Be thoughtful about what you want to buy,” she says. “Maybe you see a great sweater you get targeted on Instagram. You think, ‘Maybe my Aunt Mary would like that,’ but don’t allow the impulse of the targeted advertising” to sway you.

Don’t forget costs beyond gifts

Holiday shoppers often forget about costs like travel and entertaining, McBride notes. When you create your budget, make sure to add in the expense of flights, hotels, dining out and other ancillary costs.

These costs can often exceed spending on gifts, with credit bureau Experian finding that the typical American who plans to travel at the holidays spends about $930, compared with about $850 in gift purchases.

Put money aside now

Don’t wait until the last minute to save for holiday shopping and travel. Start socking away money now into savings. And remember that some of your holiday expenses may occur far earlier than you expect, such as if you buy airline tickets in October for a family visit in December.

“Put a portion of every paycheck toward holiday spending,” McBride recommends. “When the fall comes and you start to begin incurring holiday expenses, you’ll have some money set aside.”

Rethink your gift priorities

Lastly, rethinking gift-giving can help save money and time.

Anne Van Donsel of Burlington, Vermont, notes that her family, which is scattered around the country, opted to stop exchanging gifts a few years ago.

“It takes so much pressure off everything because you can enjoy the holidays without going broke,” she says. Instead of buying gifts, family members then have more money to spend on travel to visit each other, she adds.

“It makes it so it’s not overwhelming from a time perspective or financial perspective,” she says. “It takes you off that roller-coaster.”

Source: USAToday.com


Take advantage of our Savings, Goal Savings, Holiday Club, and Money Market accounts!

Earn while you shop! Learn about our Visa® Credit Card options.

Set up Card Controls on your debit and credit cards to help track purchases, set alerts and have the ability to turn your card on an off in case of suspected fraud.

m1-red-and-black-horizontal-logo

How to Tell You’re Ready to Buy a House


Making the decision to become a homeowner is emotionally and financially complex. Here are some key things to ask yourself if you’re considering whether buying is right for you.

Do you have a good reason to buy?

Sometimes switching from renting to buying is a no-brainer.  Maybe you live in a modern one-bedroom apartment in a chic part of town, but you have a baby on the way. If you want a place in a good school district, with more square footage and a yard, buying may well be your best bet.

Other times, the urge to buy is driven by emotion: You see a house you like and you “just know.” There’s nothing wrong with that reaction, but take time to check out the property before you make any commitments. If it’s too far from work, near a noisy road or the best house on a bad block, it may not be as good a deal as it first appears.

And remember: Houses go on the market all the time, and there are tens of millions of single-family homes and condos in the U.S., so there’s no need to worry if your first choice doesn’t work out; your home is out there.

Can you make the upfront investment?

Buying a home requires an initial investment that you can’t ignore.

First, many lenders require a down payment of 20% of the home price. That’s $54,000 for a home that costs $270,000, about the median price in America. You’ll also owe closing costs, which could include loan-origination fees, discount points, appraisal fees, survey fees, underwriting fees, title search fees, and title insurance. Those could total another few thousand dollars.

The expenses don’t end there. You’ll want to hire an independent inspector to look for defects in a home before you buy.  This will cost several hundred dollars, but could save you thousands in repairs. And then there are moving costs, state or city taxes, utilities installation and the costs of changes you might want to make to the home — such as new flooring or painting — that are easiest to do while it’s empty.

This isn’t meant to scare you off; buying a home is still a smart choice for many people, despite the costs. But it does take a lot of cash.

Can you afford the upkeep?

Your mortgage payment might be fixed for the next 30 years, but your property taxes and insurance rates can rise. And if you didn’t make a 20% down payment, you’ll have to buy private mortgage insurance, or PMI, until you have 20% equity in your home.

Once you’re a homeowner, you’ll also have to pay certain utility bills that might have been included in your rent. And you’ll be responsible for maintenance: double-pane windows one year, a new garage door the next, fixes to the roof five years up the road. It adds up.

These numbers are based on averages.  Plug your specific figures into a rent-or-buy calculator to find out if you’re ready for home-ownership. And know that there is no one answer that’s right for everybody. Whether you keep renting or buy, your decision should be right for you alone.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


Members 1st is here to help you through all of life’s most important moments and milestones. For more information about buying a home, visit our Mortgage Services website.

4 Money Moves for Young Adults


university students on a work placement .Whether you’re entering the workforce as a full-time employee at age 18 or 22, if you’re done with school, then you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. Unless you’re a professional athlete, you’re probably going to work for the next 40 years. So, what should your first steps as a “grown-up” be? Here are four easy money moves you should make as soon as you start working full-time…

Look way ahead: You may be in your early 20s now, but at some point, you’re going to blink and you’ll be almost 40. You don’t want to have to play catch-up with your retirement savings, so start saving for those days as soon as you can. If your company has a 401k match, take advantage of that free money. If not, seek out a financial advisor and find out what your best options are.

Plan for emergencies: You can’t foresee losing your job or your car’s engine dying, but you can expect the need for a wad of cash to come out of nowhere. Having a savings account that’s dedicated to emergencies will prepare you for whatever life throws your way.

Get out of debt: If you’ve got student loan debt, pay it off as quick as you can after you’re done with school. Before you decide to get a new ride or buy your first house, use that money to knock your debt down to zero. Once you’re debt free, you can start making decisions about those larger purchases.

Find a side hustle: Another way to be prepared for those money emergencies is to find another source of income. Whether that’s working a weekend job or selling stuff on the internet, having a second source of income will come in handy if something happens to the first one.

 

Source: CUInsight.com


Let Members 1st help you achieve your financial goals with our Goal Savings accounts. Use these accounts to save for different wants and needs. Choose what you are saving for and name your account. Set the dollar amount and target date for your goal. Save, track and reach your goals!

For more information or assistance with any financial need, please call Customer Service at (800) 237-7288, visit our website, or visit one of our various branch locations.

m1-red-and-black-horizontal-logo

How to Help Aging Parents Without Going Broke


The stress involved in being a care provider for your parents is twofold: You want to make sure they’re not in pain, while making sure that you don’t hurt yourself financially. The balance is a delicate one.

Almost a third of adults ages 40 to 59 have provided financial support to a parent in the previous year, according to a recent Pew Research report. If you’re in that situation, see what you can do to help without burning through your savings or going into debt.

Understand your parents’ finances 

If you’re not used to asking your parents about their money situation, this can be a hard topic to broach. But it’s necessary. You want to know upfront about how far their funds will take them, including retirement savings, pensions and Social Security payments. A more important question is: Can they afford assisted living or a nursing home, should that become necessary, and for how long? Also check their insurance coverage should they need expensive drugs or extended hospital care.

Evaluate health coverage

Make sure your parents will have a way to handle future health costs. Although Medicare can cover hospital, medical and prescription drug costs, there are limits, and some expenses may need to be paid out of pocket. Look into options like the Medicare Savings Program for your state, and also use the National Council on Aging’s free service, BenefitsCheckUp.org, to see what other help may be available to your parents.

Get professional advice

Once it’s clear that your parents will need more help soon, get a geriatric care manager to assess the situation. These professionals work with families to determine the best course of action for quality of life in terms of housing, legal services, home care and other assistance. Who is best fit to hold a power of attorney for your parents, for instance, is an issue they can help you sort out.

Get family involved

If you’re not an only child or if you have family members who can help, don’t try to do it all on your own. It can burn you out, and sharing the financial costs with other relatives can help ensure that it’s a family effort.

Consider hospice care

Sending your parents to a nursing home might not be the best option. If a parent has a terminal illness, hospice can be a good alternative, and Medicare or Medicaid may cover all the costs, including care, medicine and other supplies. You’ll have to make sure the arrangement is approved through your parent’s health coverage. Also note that any conditions unrelated to a covered illness may not come under hospice benefits.

By checking on programs and services that can help your parents, you can make supporting them financially a last resort instead of your first.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


Worried about not having money set aside as an emergency fund or for medical expenses? Consider looking into a Members 1st Goal Savings Account! Goal Savings Accounts allow you to choose what you are saving for and name your account. Set the dollar amount and target date for your goal. Save, track and reach your goals!

12 Tasks to Tackle Before Fall Arrives


Cooler weather is nigh — prep your home for its arrival while it’s still nice outside.Woman on a ladder

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. The kids are trudging off to school again with their backpacks, and leaves are falling from the trees.

Yep, it’s official: Fall is almost here. Now’s the time to finish up any last-minute maintenance projects and get your home and yard ready.

Take care of these 12 tasks to get your home clean, warm and ready for the cool days to come.

Exterior prep

1. Fix cracks in concrete and asphalt

Depending on where you live, these may be the last weeks this year when it will be warm and sunny enough to repair driveway and sidewalk cracks.

2. Clean out the gutters

No one loves this job, but we all need to do it annually. A few hours of work can prevent big problems later on.

While you’re up on that ladder, visually inspect your roof for damaged shingles, flashing or vents. You can also inspect the chimney for any missing mortar and repair it by tuck-pointing, if needed.

3. Turn off outdoor plumbing

Drain outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems, and cover them to protect them from the freezing weather to come.

4. Start composting

If you don’t already have compost bins, now’s the time to make or get some. All those accumulated autumn leaves will bring you gardening gold next summer!

5. Clean outdoor furniture and gardening tools

It may not yet be time to put them away, but go ahead and clean your outdoor furniture and gardening tools so they’re ready for storage over the winter.

6. Plant bulbs for spring-blooming flowers

Plant bulbs in October, as soon as the soil has cooled down, to reap big rewards next spring. If you’ve never planted bulbs before, select a spot in your yard that gets full sun during the day.

Interior prep

7. Prepare your furnace for winter duty

If you didn’t already do it last spring, consider getting your furnace professionally serviced in time for the cold season. At the minimum, though, visually inspect your furnace and replace the furnace filter before turning it on for the first time.

8. Clean the fireplace and chimney

Clean out the fireplace, inspect the flue, and ensure the doors and shields are sound. Have the chimney professionally swept if needed. Now’s also the time to stock up on firewood!

9. Keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside

Inspect your windows and doors. Check weatherstripping by opening a door, placing a piece of paper in the entryway and closing the door. The paper should not slide back and forth easily. If it does, the weather stripping isn’t doing its job.

Also, now’s the time to re-caulk around windows and door casings, if needed.

10. Light the way

Bring as much light into your home as you can for the colder, darker months. To accentuate natural light, clean your windows and blinds, especially in rooms that get a lot of sunlight.

11. Create a mudroom

Even if you don’t have a dedicated mudroom in your home, now’s a good time to think about organizing and stocking an entryway that will serve as a “mudroom” area for cold and wet weather.

Put down an indoor-outdoor rug to protect the floor. A fun and rewarding weekend project is to build a wooden shoe rack, coat rack or storage bench for your entryway.

12. Home safety check

Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. A good way to remember to do this is to always replace the batteries when you change the clock for daylight saving time.

Create a family fire escape plan, or review the one you already have. Put together an emergency preparedness kit so that you are ready for winter power outages.

Once you finish with your autumn home checklist, you will be ready to enjoy the season in your warm, comfortable home.

Content: Zillow.com


Need some extra funds for fall home repairs or a furnace replacement?

Our Home Equity Freedom product may be just what you need.

Click here for more information or give us a call at (800) 237-7288.

m1-red-and-black-horizontal-logo-1

4 Things to Do Before Buying a Home


As exciting as it is to buy a home, the lead-up can be a dizzying experience, especially for first-time buyers. But don’t fret. Breaking down the process into smaller steps can help ease your anxieties. Here’s a look at the kinds of questions you’ll want to ask yourself, as well as a few other practical tips.

Judge readiness for responsibility

Although the thought of home-ownership is generally a pleasant one, the reality can be much more stressful. That’s why it’s crucial to ask yourself whether you’re really ready for the hassles of buying and owning a home. Gone will be the days when you could simply call the landlord to fix a leaky faucet. Those chores will become your responsibility once you own your castle.

You’ll also want to think about how long you plan on living in the home you’re interested in, which will help determine the best mortgage for you. A fixed rate loan offers predictability: Once you take out your mortgage, your monthly payment will not change until you pay off the loan or refinance. An adjustable rate mortgage typically offers a lower starting interest rate if you plan to sell in a few years.

Determine what you can afford

Use a mortgage calculator to figure out how much home you can afford. It’s one of the most important steps to take. To start, think about your down payment, as well as the transaction costs. Although experts recommend having 20% of the price for a down payment, you may be able to put down as little as 3%, assuming your credit score is good and you’re willing to accept a higher interest rate and pay for private mortgage insurance, or PMI. To give you a better sense of what you might owe, consider that the median sales price of an existing home was about $270,000 in 2018. So 20% down amounts to $54,000.

Don’t forget the transaction costs, which can amount to 5% of the price, to cover things such as appraisal, title search and lawyer’s fees. When coming up with a home-ownership budget, factor in the monthly mortgage payment, maintenance costs and energy bills.

Clean up your credit

If you’re applying for a mortgage, you’ll want to clean up your credit to get the best possible interest rate on your loan. To lock in the best ones, shoot for a credit score of 700 or above. Over the course of a 30-year mortgage, higher rates stemming from a low rating when you borrowed can cost you thousands of extra dollars.

For starters, reduce your debt as much as possible. That includes slashing your credit card debt as well as any remaining student loans. To see what else needs fixing, order a copy of your credit report.

Stick with your current job

Financial planners agree that people should spend 28% or less of their gross monthly income on housing payments. The key to that, of course, is having a job. If you’re in between work, lenders are likely to view you as a greater risk when it comes to making mortgage payments. As such, the months leading up to purchasing a home are definitely not the time to make a sudden job or career change.

There’s little denying that the process of buying a home can be stressful. In fact, that may serve as good preparation for some of the hassles related to actually owning a home. In both cases, though, the benefits of home-ownership tend to outweigh the occasional headaches.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


Members 1st is here to help you through all of life’s most important moments and milestones. For more information about buying a home, visit our Mortgage Services website.

Three thoughts for Car Buyers


Couple shopping for carIf you or someone you care about is looking to buy a car, there are probably a hundred things you should consider. Below are three things that you may want to think about before you sign your name for a new (or just new to you) automobile.

Needs vs. Wants: What are you going to be using your new ride for? A long commute? Weekend trips to the mountains? These are just a couple of questions you should consider. A smart car might get incredible gas mileage during your 40-minute commute, but that little fella is pretty much worthless when it comes to cargo space. Sure, you may be able to get a bag of groceries home, but what about that 30-gal trash can or 6-foot step ladder you wanted to get at Lowe’s? And a jeep might be a cool ride for a trip to the beach or mountains, but the sound of a soft-top rattling in the wind is going to get old quick if you have to spend time on the highway on your way to work every day. And don’t forget about things like Bluetooth connectivity and heated seats. You really need to sit down and weigh your options before getting too excited about which car looks the coolest.

Monthly payments vs. Total price: So, you love the monthly payments, but are you really considering how much a new car is going to cost you by the time you’ve paid if off in six years? And maybe you’re a big fan of the total price you’re getting, but you know the monthly payments are going to take some sacrifice in your budget. Is that something you really want to deal with? And have you factored in other costs like insurance, gas, oil changes, tires, and preventative maintenance? Take your time and make a list so you can get a better idea of the true cost of your new ride.

Know your car before you buy: The best advice I could give you before buying a new car is to get to know it before it’s yours. Do some research and see how other owners are feeling about their purchase. And always take a test drive. Don’t just ride up and down the boulevard. Put a few miles on it. Ride through parking lots. How does it ride? Is it only smooth on smooth roads? What’s it like going over a speed bump? Some cars let you feel everything, and that’s not ideal. When it comes time to buy, you shouldn’t be buying a mystery. It should feel like you’re bringing an old friend home.


Looking to purchase a car? Members 1st offers Auto & Motorcycle loans, and whether it’s a new or used car, truck or bike, we can finance your wheels. We also allow you to apply for a vehicle loan from us while you’re at the dealership, check our list of participating dealers.

m1-red-and-black-horizontal-logo-1

%d bloggers like this: