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.

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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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