How to Be a Money-Smart Graduate Student


Whether you’ll be pursuing a master’s degree in English literature or a Ph.D. in chemical engineering this fall, life as a graduate student likely will require a good deal of thriftiness. But that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to a steady diet of instant noodles and cereal for the foreseeable future.

Here’s a look at several sustainable ways that grad students can maximize their stipends or other income and cut costs in the process.

Find a roommate

Sharing a house or an apartment with others may have taken some getting used to as an undergraduate. By now, though, you’re probably a seasoned veteran. And that’s a good thing, since finding a roommate is still one of the best ways to save money.

As well as being able to write a smaller rent check every month, you may also want to divvy up utilities and split groceries. Consider using an app like Roomi to find someone who has similar attitudes toward noise and cleanliness, which can reduce tension down the road.

Catch the bus

Unlike your first college stint, you probably won’t be running back and forth between the far corners of your school’s campus to get to class. In grad school, you’ll probably spend most of your time in one or two buildings. A car, therefore, may not be essential. Instead, use a bike or hop on public transportation. Many schools offer subsidized transit passes to lighten the load on students’ finances.

Use student discounts

It can be disheartening to create a budget only to find that there isn’t much money left over for meals out or nights at the neighborhood bar. But if you take advantage of student discounts — and memorize that bar’s happy hour schedule — having a good time doesn’t have to put a major dent in your wallet.

From movie theaters to museums, many places offer student discounts. Although saving a couple of bucks may not seem like much, it’ll make a difference over time. This extra cash can then be put toward your future, either by eliminating debt or saving for retirement.

Tackle debt, save what you can

Only about 1 in 10 millennials say they feel “very confident” that they’ll have enough cash for retirement, according to a recent survey. If you’re worried about running out of money during your later years, consider starting to set aside some of your income now. A good amount to shoot for is about 10% of your monthly earnings.

You’ll also be doing your future self a huge favor by slashing as much credit card or student loan debt as possible. Also, do your best not to rack up any new consumer debt. Use your plastic only in emergencies.

The bottom line

Pursuing an advanced degree can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but not financially, at least not right away. It’s therefore essential to take advantage of all the breaks you can get, such as subsidized transportation passes and other student discounts. That way, the only thing you’ll graduate with is more knowledge, and not mountains of credit card debt.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


For more information about Graduate Loans and other student loans, visit the our student loans web page or our Student Choice website.

4 things you Need to be Ready to Replace


Woman Looking At Foam Coming Out From DishwasherIt seems like nothing is cheap these days. Dinner and a movie is probably close to a hundred bucks (if you’re eating a nice meal), a brake job can cost $350, and even mailing a letter costs much more than it did 20 years ago. If you’re not prepared for the rising cost of “stuff,” you need to be. According to Wise Bread online finance forum, here are four things that you need to be prepared to replace:

Tires: Replacing the tires on your car(s) can definitely do damage to your wallet. Those four tires probably will cost you between $900-$1,000. If you’re not ready when the time comes, you’re definitely going to feel the sting.

Major appliances: Fortunately, most appliances have a pretty decent lifespan, but when that clock runs out, it’s a good idea to be prepared. When was the last time you price-checked refrigerators, washers, or dryers? Sometimes, you can troubleshoot an appliance and fix it yourself for $50. Other times, you’re dropping a grand on a new appliance(s) that you weren’t planning on replacing.

A mattress: Most mattresses will last longer than the recommended 8 years to be replaced, but if your mattress starts causing you pain, there’s really only one way to fix it. You’ll have to open up your wallet and get a brand new one.

A vehicle: While replacing a blown-out tire can be painful, replacing a blown engine is way worse. If you find yourself on the side of the highway in a car that has given up on you, you don’t have too many options. Walking isn’t realistic for the vast majority of us, so a new (or used) replacement will have to be found.

No matter what you’re having to replace, it’s important that you have an emergency fund that is stocked and ready to go. You may not enjoy saving the money now, but you’ll be glad you did when your car is broken down on the side of the road.


Let Members 1st help you save for the unexpected 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.

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Is Fall the Best Time to Buy a House?


Sometimes it’s smarter to buy certain items according to the season, like sweaters near the end of winter and swimsuits in late summer. But what’s the best season for buying a house?

The answer: the fall. As temperatures cool and trees shed their leaves, enough factors break in the buyer’s favor to make it the No. 1 season for home-buying. Here’s why.

Less competition

Many home-buyers are families who want to minimize a move’s effect on their kids’ schooling. They want them to start at a new school on the first day, not midyear. And so if their spring and summer searching didn’t work out, they might well wait for the next go-round. This means fewer buyers bidding on the same houses you’re interested in and more negotiating power when you do.

Of course, this works both ways: Sellers might not want to uproot their families in the middle of the school year either. But while this brings housing inventory down, you might just find it easier to focus and pinpoint exactly what you really want in a home.

Sellers are more motivated

Spring and summer are the high seasons for home-buying: Days are longer, the weather’s nice, and open houses are well-attended. And that means sellers can sit back and be a bit choosier with offers.

But as Labor Day recedes in the rear-view mirror, sellers start to wriggle in their seats. The prospect of trying to sell during the holiday season or, more likely, waiting until the next year, is dispiriting. And so these sellers can become, in a sense, settlers — willing to reduce their prices and conditions. There is some variation by region, but overall in the U.S., prices have peaked by the end of August.

Buyers can use this increased motivation to their advantage, offering less and asking for more during negotiations.

Taxes and discounts

Buying a home costs a lot of money but comes with good tax breaks as well. The IRS allows deductions for the interest you pay on your mortgage, on the premiums you might pay for mortgage insurance, on property taxes and more, including some of these that went into your closing costs. Buying a home in the fall means seeing those tax breaks sooner, the following April.

Also, much like those motivated sellers, many homebuilders discount their inventories during this time of year to help them meet year-end sales goals.

The decision to buy requires serious consideration of where you are in life, what your goals are and how much you can afford. But if you are indeed ready, buying during the fall can be a good call. Just try to find time in between football games.

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 things that can Knock your Finances Off-track


It’s nice when everything is going great. When it comes to your finances, “nice” may not properly describe just how fantastic it is to be in a great place. But even when you’re on the right track, it can be a lot easier to get derailed than you might think. Here are four things that can get your finances off-track.

Your shopping list: It’s really the lack thereof that can get you off track. Making a list and sticking to it is an easy way to please your wallet. When you’ve budgeted for the things on your shopping list, you’ll get yourself in trouble if you start putting random items in your shopping cart. It can couple with billsbe bad to do at the grocery store and even worse if you’re somewhere like Target or Best Buy.

Your friends: You may see your neighbor with a new car or boat, but it usually ends with you just admiring their new stuff from afar. It’s your friends that can really do you in. They’ll not only show you their new gadget, but they’ll give you five reasons why you just “have to get one.” Don’t let your friends pressure you into joining the new gadget club.

Sales: You’ve always wanted that “thing.” You’ve never wanted to pay retail price for it, but now you see it on sale. It’s so tempting, and yet it’s still overpriced and completely unnecessary. Unless it’s a ridiculous, once-in-a-lifetime deal, don’t even consider it.

Social media: Social media is like all three in one. You see pics of your friends’ new toys. You get customized ads that show exactly what you want (even though you don’t really WANT to see these things), and you see posts about things that are constantly on-sale and for sale. Careful when you click that link, it may take you to Amazon.com and then you’re only a click away from making a huge spending mistake.

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.

 

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10 Tips to Get a Home Ready for Sale


Preparing to sell your home can be difficult. You have to create enough ambiance so that buyers can envision themselves living there but make sure it’s not so cluttered that all they see is you. Make some changes inside and out to get top dollar for your abode.

  1. Do a drive by. If a person sees trash on the lawn or overgrown weeds, they won’t be enticed to come inside. Boost your home’s curb appeal by planting a few colorful flowers at the entrance and mow the lawn.
  2. Declutter. Most people are familiar with the deceptive clean-up strategy of stuffing all the mess under the bed or in a closet. Count on potential buyers checking closets and cupboards, and make sure they are tidy and organized.
  3. Lighten up.  Open up the blinds to allow as much natural light as possible. Consider adding extra lamps that can be dimmed for ambiance.
  4. Add accents. You don’t have to do a major renovation to make your home more appealing. Little accents such as new sink hardware and cupboard knobs can make a big difference. If you opt for a bigger project, make sure it will add value instead of detracting from it.
  5. Neutralize. While you may love a bright orange living room, it could be too much for a potential buyer. Neutralize the color scheme by painting walls white and covering up any brightly colored furniture.
  6. Put up mirrors. Replace bold artwork with mirrors to make a room look bigger and lighter. As potential buyers walk through the house, they can catch glimpses of themselves, helping them envision themselves in the home.
  7. Aromatherapy. No need to buy fancy candles or incense. On the day of a showing, simply place a couple of tablespoons of vanilla extract or other essential oil in the oven at 300 degrees. Within minutes, the home will be filled with a beautiful aroma.
  8. Feng shui. As potential buyers walk through the home, it should flow nicely. They shouldn’t be bumping into furniture. Ensure each room is spacious and has a clear purpose. If you have a room that’s an office/guest room/crafting trifecta, decide which role works best and then rearrange it for that purpose.
  9. Beautify the bathroom. Transform a bathroom into a spa. Fresh linens, bath mats and candles can make all the difference. Put the toilet seat down, and you can even fold the final sheet of the toilet paper into a fancy triangle.
  10.  Clean. Last, but not least, ensure that your house is clean for showings. Don’t forget to scrub the baseboards, remove the shower scum and dust. Consider getting carpets steam-cleaned as well.

Try walking through your home, pretending to be a potential buyer, to see what needs fixing, and then tackle those details. With a few repairs, the house will be ready for showing in no time.

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.

How to Fund Your College Social Life While Maintaining Your Finances


Unlike Snoop Dogg, incoming college students might not have their minds on their money and their money on their minds. But if you’re just starting out on campus and can put some of your focus on your finances, you have a great opportunity: Knowing how to manage your cash can save you endless headaches down the road.

Here are a few things you can do to keep your finances in order.

Learn to budget

Tuition, groceries, dining out, textbooks, rent — the expenses never seem to stop piling up. Creating a budget can help you regulate how much you spend and on what. Use a spreadsheet, a notebook, or a good budgeting tool or app to track what your purchases. And always prioritize essentials before indulging on new shoes or concert tickets.

Know the ins and outs of financial aid

Students miss out on billions of dollars in free government aid each year. Fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, early and you’ll be more likely to receive the scholarships and grants you qualify for. These should always be your first priority when it comes to financial aid.

Private scholarships can also be valuable, even if they’re small sums. Try to spend two hours a week researching and applying for scholarships.

If you still need funding, try federal loans first and private loans last. Neither is free, though it might feel that way now, so borrow only what you absolutely need.

Practice good credit card habits

Horror stories of spiraling credit card debt might have made you wary of plastic. But the length of your credit history is a key part of your credit score. And having a good score can earn you a lower interest rate on a car loan or a mortgage in the future.

Although you’re a student, you don’t automatically qualify for a student credit card; you’ll need income or a co-signer. If you don’t have either, consider a secured card. These require you to put down a cash deposit as collateral, but if the issuer reports your account activity to the credit bureaus, they can help you start building credit.

Develop good credit card habits now. Think of your card as another debit card and charge only an amount you can pay off with what’s in your bank account. And don’t carry a balance from month to month — paying in full will keep your credit score high.

Save money where you can

The outside world tries to make up for your sky-high tuition costs with a little something called  student discounts. Big retail chains such as Apple, Banana Republic and J. Crew, as well as movie theaters and museums, offer discounted prices for students. If you don’t see one advertised, just ask.

Avoid paying full price for your textbooks by searching for used copies on websites such as Chegg and Abebooks. Amazon offers a 50% student discount for Amazon Prime accounts.

Build your resume

True, college is expensive, but it’s also an investment. College graduates earned about 63% more than those with only high school diplomas in 2013, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

Make sure you get that degree — but improve yourself in other ways, too. Learn a foreign language and volunteer for leadership positions. These skills will set you apart in a competitive job market.

The costs of being in college might keep your wallet thin now, but in the long run, it could turn out to be the best financial decision you ever made.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


For more tips on planning for college and information about Members 1st’s student loan program, visit members1st.studentchoice.org.

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