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How to Budget When You Have Seasonal Income

Rewarding careers don’t always come with a steady paycheck. For people who work in agriculture, construction, tax preparation, entertainment, landscaping or other types of freelance and seasonal businesses, income may vary wildly depending on the time of year. This uneven cash flow makes budgeting especially challenging, but it’s by no means impossible.

Here’s how to budget for long-term financial stability when your income changes with the seasons.

Determine Your Average Monthly Income

With most traditional budget plans, you start by determining your monthly income. But how can you complete this first step if your income keeps changing? The most effective strategy is to use your average monthly income. To calculate this, add up your post-tax income for the past three or more years and divide that sum by the total number of months. If economic conditions have — or are projected to — hit your industry or business hard, you may want to deduct 15% to 20% from this number to create a safety cushion.

Calculate Your Average Monthly Expenses

When work is seasonal, expenses often fluctuate, too. During busy times, you may have to spend more on gasoline, utilities, equipment maintenance and office supplies. If you spend more during your busy season, determine your average monthly costs by adding up your personal and work-related expenses for at least one year and dividing that figure by the total number of months.

Fine-tune Your Budget

Subtract your average monthly expenses from your average monthly income to get your baseline budget figure. If you find you’re cutting things close or dipping into the red, you’ll need to make some adjustments. Consider cutting unnecessary expenses or picking up extra income by expanding your existing business’s volume, taking temp work during slow times or offering complementary services that peak during your off-season.

Become a Saver

Having a savings plan is an especially important safety net when income is irregular. When planning your budget, be sure to include a line for saving each month. It’s best if you can put away 10% or more of your income, but even small amounts deposited consistently add up significantly over time with compound interest. Aim to save at least three to six months’ worth of expenses to ensure you can live comfortably during lean times or emergencies.

Additional Helpful Tips

To help even out cash flow and make the most of seasonal income:

  • Make it easier for customers to pay you quickly by improving your invoicing procedure, offering options such as PayPal or Square to accept credit card payments, or setting up direct deposits to your account with customers.
  • Negotiate with vendors and suppliers for discounts or extended payment terms.
  • Take advantage of financial and budgeting software such as QuickBooks.
  • Consider offering discounts and promotions during slow times to boost business.
  • Track your cash flow regularly and adjust your budget as necessary.
  • Even with your budget plan in place, keep spending to a minimum during slow seasons.
  • Stick to your budget during your busy season to avoid spending the cash you’ll need during the down times.

Seasonal income doesn’t have to mean financial feast or famine. With proper budgeting, you’ll be able to live well no matter what the season.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.

Let Members 1st help you with seasonal income and 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 visit our website.

Financial Goals to Reach Before You Turn 30

university students on a work placement .

When you’re in your 20s, you go through a lot of changes. You will graduate from college and start your first job. You may move on to a second job and work your way up the career ladder. You may return to graduate school to get a Masters degree. You may get married and start a family. It is difficult to set milestones for this decade because people take different career and life paths. However, these five goals will benefit you no matter which direction you take, whether you are married or single. If you take these steps and follow a financial plan, you will be on the way to being financially successful throughout your life.

Get Out of Debt

Although you may not be able to pay off your entire student loan balance by the time you are 30, you should take the steps needed to be close to doing that. You can also clear up any credit card debt that you wracked up in school, and start saving and planning so that you do not need to borrow money to pay for your next car.

When you manage your debt well and pay it off, it opens doors for the other steps in your life, like owning a home. Take the time now to set up a debt payment plan so that you can get out of debt. If you have large student loan payments, look into one of the options that can help you have some or all of your student loans forgiven.

Plan for Retirement

Starting with your first job, you should begin saving 15 percent of your income for retirement. If you do it with your first job, you will not miss the money, because you are just starting out with your budget.

If you head back to school and stop working while you are attending, the money in your retirement account will keep growing, and you can start contributing again once you receive your master’s degree. Establishing this habit and making it a priority means you will not have to worry about retirement as you get older.

Save for a Down Payment on a Home

A down payment for a home makes it easier to qualify for a mortgage. It also gives you more purchasing power to find the right home in the neighborhood that you want. Depending on your life choices, you may purchase your first home in your 20s, or you may wait until you are about 30. It depends on your situation, single or married, and career choices. However, saving this money will help you be ready when the time comes.

Focus on Your Career

This is a great time to establish a solid career. Take the time to create a solid professional network and to consider all of the options that are available to you. Your 20s are a great time to explore different options. If you are single, you can move to different cities to pursue your dream job, and you can also really focus on establishing a good reputation. This can help you if you decide to start working as a consultant or freelancing as your family situation changes in the future.

Establish Strong Financial Habits

Take the time that you are in your 20s to establish good financial habits. This means managing your credit well and fixing any mistakes like late payments that you have made in the past. It means creating and following your budget every month. It also means establishing a good emergency fund that can handle things like a surprise layoff or sudden illness. If you have these habits established, it will be easier to keep moving forward as life gets more complicated with kids, relationships or other career moves.


Need more advice? Visit our Advice Center.

There you will find articles, resources, calculators and more to help you on your financial journey.


How to Choose a Real Estate Agent

As you start on the path of finding a home, having a real estate agent guide you in the process can make a difference. About 98% of buyers who used agents viewed them as a helpful source of information, according to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors, or NAR. Because an agent can help determine how much you pay for your new abode, it’s important to find one who is right for you.

Seek referrals and research associations

Start your search by asking friends and family members for recommendations. In this way, someone you trust can verify how effective and helpful the agent was.

You can also make a list of agents who sell homes in your price range and in areas where you’re looking to buy by checking online and through trusted real estate associations. Some have specialties and only work with certain clients such as first-time buyers or those looking for luxury homes. Also check for Realtors, or real estate agents who are NAR members. They follow a code of ethics in working with clients.

You can also check whether any of the agents have expired or suspended licenses by looking them up on state regulatory agency websites.

Ask the right questions

When you have a list of candidates, start interviewing agents. Consider asking them the following:

  • How long have you been in the real estate business in this area?
  • What credentials do you have?

You’ll want to find someone who has experience in your area and determine their specialties, if any. Some possible credentials include Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR) or Certified Buyer Representative (CBR), which means they have met specific qualifications and passed exams to represent a buyer at every stage of the process.

  • How many clients do you currently have?
  • Will you represent just me, or a seller, too?
  • Do you work part time or full time?

These questions can help you determine how reachable and invested an agent might be in helping you. A buyer’s agent negotiates strictly for you in a deal, as opposed to a typical real estate agent who may represent the seller, too.

  • How would you help me find a home?
  • How much do you charge?

These two responses can let you know how the agents work, what sources they use and whether there are any costs involved. A buyer’s agent typically splits the home sale commission with the listing agent, with the seller usually paying the cost of the commission. Buyers typically pay nothing for the service directly.

By the end of the conversation, you’ll want to know if you can trust this person. When agents start recommending other professionals, including lenders, you need to be able to trust those judgments.

Check their references

During the interviews, ask agents for the contact information of some of their former clients. Call these people and ask open-ended questions such as whether there was anything that the agent could’ve done better or what factors made them choose this agent. You may be able to glean some insights from them as you make your final choice.

As you select your real estate agent, remember that you don’t have to stay with the first one you choose if things don’t work out. You want the right guide to help you find the home that works for you.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.

Whether you are buying your first home, a vacation home, are relocating or looking to refinance your existing mortgage, Members 1st has a mortgage program tailored to your needs. For more information visit our Mortgage Services web page.

Understanding Homeowners Insurance

Red Umbrella Protecting A Toy House On White Background: Insurance And Real Estate ConceptYour home is likely your most valuable asset, and a homeowners insurance policy is an important part of protecting your home and your belongings. If you have a mortgage on your home, your lender probably required you to get a homeowners policy. Even without a mortgage, homeowners insurance is still your best bet to protect your investment.

The basic job of a homeowners policy is to protect your home and possessions from certain perils, such as wind, hail, fire damage and theft. It also offers liability protection, which protects your assets from liability claims, medical expenses and other damages if people are injured on your property.

Most common types of homeowners policies
The type of home you own will usually dictate the coverage type you have. Here are the three most common options:
• Peril Policy – Only specific perils are covered, such as theft, wind, fire and lightning.
• Exclusion Policy – All perils are covered except those specifically called out in the policy, such as earthquakes, flood, mudslides, etc.
• Renters Insurance – Covers all of your personal property in an apartment or house. It also offers liability protection in the event someone is injured in your apartment.

Overview of your property coverage
When it comes to homeowners coverage, you need enough insurance in the event that you need to cover the cost of the following after a disaster:
• Rebuilding the structure of your home
• Replacing your personal property
• Paying for the cost of additional living expenses (if you need to live somewhere else while your home is repaired or rebuilt)
• Covering the cost of personal liability claims

Get help from the experts
Have a professional Insurance Services Representative review your Declaration Page, especially if your Declaration Page turned up exclusions you are unhappy with, minimum coverage levels are not sufficient, or it is simply not offering the protection you need. About two-thirds of American homes are underinsured, estimates Nationwide. Don’t wait until you file a claim to find out you lack coverage, or are underinsured and responsible for paying a lot of money out-of-pocket.

Would you like to have your Declarations Page reviewed? We can help.

Reach out to our Insurance Services agents today by calling (844) 498-6467 or visiting our web page at
Remember, you may qualify for an additional discount on your personal insurance premiums!

*Insurance products are not federally insured and are not obligations of or guaranteed by Members 1st FCU, Members 1st Insurance Services, or any other affiliated entity.


Tips for Avoiding Debit Card Fraud

For many people, debit cards are the perfect plastic. They offer most of the conveniences of credit cards with no risk of accumulating debt.

But like credit cards, debit cards are vulnerable to rip-off artists. And debit card fraud is particularly scary because thieves can withdraw money directly from your checking account.

Here’s how debit fraud happens and how to protect yourself.

How identity thieves operate

Debit card fraud can be sophisticated or old-school. Thieves use techniques including:

  • Hacking- When you bank or shop on public Wi-Fi networks, hackers can use keylogging software to capture everything you type, including your name, debit card account number and PIN.
  • Phishing- Be wary of messages soliciting your account information. Emails can look like they’re from legitimate sources but actually be from scammers. If you click on an embedded link and enter your personal information, that data can go straight to criminals.
  • Skimming- Identity thieves can retrieve account data from your card’s magnetic strip using a device called a skimmer, which they can stash in ATMs and store card readers. They can then use that data to produce counterfeit cards.
  • Spying- Plain old spying is still going strong. Criminals can plant cameras near ATMs or simply look over your shoulder as you take out your card and enter your PIN. They can also pretend to be good Samaritans, offering to help you remove a stuck card from an ATM slot.

Smart ways to protect yourself

Adopt these simple habits to greatly reduce your odds of falling victim to debit card fraud:

  • Be careful online- Shop and bank on secure websites with private Wi-Fi. If you must shop or bank in public, download a virtual private network to protect your privacy.
  • Monitor your accounts- Review your statements and sign up for text or email alerts so you can catch debit card fraud attempts early.
  • Don’t ignore data breach notifications- The majority of identity theft victims received warnings that their accounts might have been breached but did nothing. If you get one of these messages, change your PIN and ask your provider to change your debit card number. You can also ask one of the major credit card bureaus to place a fraud alert on your file.
  • Inspect card readers and ATMs- Don’t use card slots that look dirty or show evidence of tampering, such as scratches, glue or debris. And steer clear of machines with strange instructions, such as “Enter PIN twice.”
  • Cover your card- When using your debit card or typing your PIN at an ATM, block the view with your other hand. Go to a different location entirely if suspicious people are hanging around the ATM, and if your card gets stuck, notify the financial institution directly rather than accepting “help” from strangers.

Even if you’ve taken precautions, debit card fraud can still happen. If your card gets hacked, don’t panic. Tell your financial institution right away so you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.

For more information on how to safeguard your financial information, visit the Members 1st Fraud & Security Center page.

To learn more about how to set up text, email, and other alerts to protect your cards, visit the Members 1st Card Control page.

Make your MOVE.

Whether you are buying your first home, a vacation home, or if you are planning to trade up, relocate, build or refinance, the process involved to get into your new home can seem overwhelming.

Follow the general steps below to gain the confidence and knowledge you need to make your dream a reality.

excited couple with keys to new home

The Beginning.
Meet with a qualified mortgage specialist before you begin looking for a new home. Get an idea as to how much home you can realistically afford and the type of financing that is available. Ask to be pre-qualified for a mortgage. Inquire about the down payment requirements, application fee, information required for the application process, inspection fees, closing costs and other miscellaneous costs such as homeowners insurance. Then, go search for your dream home!

The Financing.
Once you find the right home, your agent will assist you in writing up an offer for purchase. Work with your lender to determine which type of loan or refinancing program best fits your situation. There are many options, and an experienced lender should be able to make recommendations. Complete a full application and provide supporting documentation such as asset statements, W-2’s, paystubs and tax returns. This can be done online or in person. Once your home purchase offer is accepted, you can lock-in the interest rate for your loan. This means that if rates increase, your rate will not change. Your lender will underwrite/approve your loan, obtain an appraisal, and gather any other needed documents.

The Settlement.
We have a dedicated settlement group, called Members 1st Settlement Company, which is comprised of professionals who will take you straight through the settlement/closing process. All documents will be prepared and ready for your signature at closing. Be sure to bring your closing cost funds, identification and other requested documents. Then sign and leave with the keys to your new home!

Make the call.
Our Mortgage Services team is ready to help you. From your first hopes and dreams, to the day you walk into your new home, we are here to help. We truly provide a one-stop shopping experience for your home mortgage needs.

Call us at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6026 or visit


Financial Literacy for Kids

No matter how enthusiastic you are, trying to formally teach finance to kids is a tall order that is likely to make their eyes glaze over. Hold their attention by keeping money lessons relevant, age-appropriate and a bit playful.

First Finances

Preschoolers can grasp that money is exchanged for stuff. Teach them the names of coins, and as their counting ability develops, explain their values. Playing “store” lets them gain skills as they “buy,” “sell” and even “price” household items.

Begin giving your children a small allowance so they can experience money in the real world, and appoint them as valuable “assistants” on your shopping trips. They’ll feel important while clipping coupons and helping you find items on the shelves.

Grade-School Growth

Early grade school kids can understand goals, saving and budgeting. Have them create and decorate wish lists and give them four containers for allowance labeled “spending,” “saving,” “investing” and “giving.” The spending jar is for inexpensive things kids want, such as candy or stickers. The savings jar provides a place to save for wish-list items, while the investing jar builds overall savings. The giving jar can encourage compassion as kids contribute to charities that are meaningful to them, or save to buy presents for family members.

Bring kids along when you visit a branch of a financial institution, explaining that the institutions keep your money safe and even pay you for letting it rest there. Make sure they understand the automated teller machine doesn’t spew free money and only releases cash you’ve already put in your account. By the later grade-school years, kids should graduate to their own savings accounts. Look for those with no fees and full parental access.

Middle-School Money

Middle schoolers are ready to be included in appropriate family financial discussions about basic living expenses and savings goals. Wish lists can be swapped for goal charts, and you may want to offer to match your children’s savings as an incentive to help them make a special purchase.

Most kids this age enjoy the experience of running a garage sale where they can set prices, make change and bargain with customers. They’ll have fun earning extra cash while you clear out space at home.

Teen Finances

In the teen years, introduce savings certificates, bonds and securities as investments. You may even want to give your teens a small amount of money and let them choose how to invest for a short-term or long-term goal. Encourage teens to work part-time and help them open a student checking account that has a debit card, mobile access and low or no minimum balance or maintenance fees. Consider downloading a mobile financial app to help them track spending and savings. When tax time comes, let them fill out their own return with your supervision and guidance.

No matter what the age, odds are kids would still rather play computer games than listen to you discuss money. Rather than get discouraged, introduce some fun financial apps and games. The experience kids gain through your efforts and a little help from technology will pave the way for a lifetime of financial savvy and success.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.

Start saving with Members 1st!

We offer two types of youth club accounts depending on the age of your child. These accounts allow youth perform transactions and develop a relationship with the Credit Union. This is a great way to start teaching children about money!

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