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September 21, 2023Saving for Retirement is Easier than You Thought - Get Started in 4 Easy Steps

The Importance of Retirement Planning

Retirement is the finish line of your career when you enjoy the fruits of your labor. Achieving a comfortable and secure retirement requires careful planning and disciplined saving. It's easy to put off retirement or assume that it's a complex process; However, saving for retirement is easier than you think. Whether you're just starting to think about retirement or looking for ways to enhance your current retirement plan, you're in the right place. This 4-step guide shows how saving for retirement can be simpler, more achievable, and more rewarding than you might imagine.

Step 1: Set Clear Retirement Goals

Setting a clear goal is a foundational step in achieving a secure retirement plan. Consider these components of your personal retirement goal.

  • Retirement age - What age do you want to retire?
  • Retirement expenses - What will you be paying for in retirement? Consider essential expenses like food, housing, healthcare, transportation as well as leisure activities and travel.
  • Inflation - While adding up your retirement expenses, it's important to take inflation into account. Try using a free retirement inflation calculator online to help you estimate added expenses.
  • Lifestyle - What type of lifestyle do you want to be living when you retire?
  • Unexpected expenses - It's important to consider unexpected expenses from things like injuries, health issues, natural disasters, and economic turmoil.
  • Social Security & other incomes - While planning for retirement, you not only have to consider your expenses but also the income that will be available.

Step 2:  Create a Retirement Budget

After considering the components of your retirement goal, the next step is creating a retirement budget. This step is all about calculating the estimated amounts that you're going to need to save based on your retirement goals. This will help you decipher if your retirement goals are in line with your savings. Creating a retirement budget can be difficult to do on your own. Contact 1st Community Credit Union to help guide you in creating a retirement budget that makes sense for you and your goals.

Step 3: Choose Retirement Account(s)

The types of available retirement accounts depend on your employers and/or banking institutions. Take the time to understand the different options available before making a decision. If you have access to employer-sponsored plans, they often provide valuable benefits including contribution matching (which is essentially free money). If you don't have access to employer-sponsored plans or if you are looking to diversify your retirement savings, look into savings accounts offered at your financial institution. At 1st Community Credit Union, we offer a wide variety of savings accounts including Traditional and Roth IRAs.

Step 4: Automate

Once you have your retirement plan in place, to make it easy to stick to the regime you should automate your savings. Talk with your employer to set up direct deposits so a portion of your salary automatically gets deposited into your retirement account before you can even see the paycheck. You can also talk with your financial institution or retirement provider about automated investment plans that allocate your savings into a diverse portfolio of investments. As you continue to automate your savings, monitor your accounts and increase your contributions over time. As your income grows, so should your allocated retirement savings.

man puts money into piggy bank representing the act of saving for retirement

Start Saving Today

You're never too young to start saving for retirement. Planning for retirement may seem complex, but with dedication and the right strategies, you can secure a comfortable and worry-free retirement. Contact us at 1st Community Credit Union and set up a meeting at our Sparta office, West Salem office, or Tomah office. Saving for retirement starts today!

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September 1, 202311 Expert Tips to Kickstart Your Holiday Budgeting

Holiday Budgeting

As the holiday season approaches, mastering the art of holiday budgeting becomes essential. With festivities around the corner, prudent financial planning can amplify the joy of celebrations and negate the dreaded holiday hangover. At 1st CCU, we are dedicated to equipping you with valuable insights to confidently navigate this season while upholding your sanity and financial well-being.

1. Reflect on Past Holidays and Set Realistic Goals

Before you dive into holiday budgeting, take a moment to reflect on past holiday seasons. Consider how much you spent on gifts, decorations, travel, and other expenses. This contemplation will help you set realistic goals for the current year. Be mindful of your current financial situation and set a budget that aligns with your financial capabilities and goals.

2. Create a Detailed Budget

An effective way to manage your holiday spending is to create a detailed budget. Start by listing all the categories of holiday-related expenses you anticipate for the season, such as gifts, travel, food, decorations, and entertainment. Assign specific amounts to each category based on your reflection from the previous step. This thoughtful and comprehensive approach will help you avoid overspending and help you keep track of where your money is going.

3. Embrace the Power of Saving

Saving money is a vital component of successful holiday budgeting. Consider opening a separate savings account specifically for holiday expenses. Set up automatic transfers from your main account to this designated account. This way, you'll consistently contribute to your holiday fund, making it easier to cover expenses when the season arrives.

4. Prioritize Your Spending

While it's tempting to splurge on extravagant gifts and lavish celebrations, it's essential to prioritize your spending. Focus on the aspects of the holidays that matter most to you and your loved ones. Allocate more of your budget to these priorities and cut back on less significant expenses. By focusing on what truly brings joy, you'll create more meaningful memories without straining your finances.

5. Audit Your Subscriptions

Before diving into the hustle and bustle of holiday spending, take a moment to audit your subscription services. These small monthly charges can add up significantly over time. Review your streaming services, gym memberships, beauty boxes, and any other subscriptions you might have. Are you actively using and enjoying them? If not, it might be time to trim down your subscriptions and redirect those funds toward your holiday budget.


6. Carpool or Bike to Work or School

The holiday season doesn't just impact your gift and food expenses; it can also affect your transportation costs. Consider carpooling with coworkers or friends or even biking to work or school. Not only will this reduce your commuting expenses, but it's also an environmentally friendly choice. The money saved on fuel or public transportation can be redirected toward your holiday budget. Consider making this annual warm weather change, whose benefits you can reap in the holiday season.

7. Take Advantage of Special Offers and Discounts

Many retailers and online platforms offer special deals, discounts, and promotions during the holiday season. Keep an eye out for these opportunities to stretch your budget further. Whether it's Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday deals, or holiday package discounts, leveraging these offers can help you get more value for your money.

8. Get Creative with Gift-Giving

Gift-giving is a significant part of the holiday season, but it doesn't have to break the bank. Get creative with your presents by considering homemade gifts, personalized gestures, or experiences instead of material items. Handmade gifts showcase thoughtfulness and effort, often leaving a more lasting impression than store-bought items. After all, who doesn’t love getting homemade treats during the holiday season?

9. Explore Alternatives for Travel

If travel is part of your holiday plans, explore cost-effective alternatives and shop early. Compare prices for different modes of transportation, such as driving versus flying, and look for accommodation options that fit your budget. Flexibility with travel dates and times and planning well in advance can also help you secure better deals on flights and accommodations.

10. Stay Accountable Throughout the Season and Avoid Impulse Buys

Your budget is not a one-time creation; it's a tool to guide your spending throughout the holiday season. Review your budget regularly to stay on track. Also, remember that the holiday shopping frenzy can make impulsive purchases tempting. Combat this by adopting a 24-hour no-spending rule. Whenever you're tempted to make an unplanned purchase, whether it's a flashy decoration or an alluring holiday deal, give yourself 24 hours before making the decision. This cooling-off period allows you to assess if the purchase aligns with your budget and overall priorities.

11. Plan for the New Year

As the holiday season winds down, it's time to look ahead to the new year. Include a financial resolution in your plans, such as starting an emergency fund, opening a high-yield savings account or share certificate, or focusing on debt reduction. Setting clear financial goals for the coming year will help you maintain the positive budgeting habits you've developed during the holidays.

As the holiday season draws near, incorporating these strategies into your budgeting plan can pave the way for a more financially stress-free and enjoyable experience. At 1st CCU, we are here to guide you in every step of your financial journey, ensuring your holidays are not just joyful but also financially responsible. Reach out to one of our helpful team members in Sparta, Tomah, or West Salem if you need budgeting and financial advice. And remember, by taking proactive measures to manage your finances, you can embrace the holiday spirit without compromising your long-term financial goals.

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August 1, 2023Demystifying Saving for College: Top 5 Savings Options Explained

Welcome future college students and parents, grandparents, and guardians! Congratulations on taking the first step towards securing a brighter tomorrow – saving for college! Whether you're planning for your child's future or a student eager to embark on a new educational journey, we've got you covered. So, let's dive in and explore various methods to save for college and discover the best way to fund your education!

A graduation cap and a jar of money sitting on a book in front of a chalkboard

1. 529 Savings Plans: Tax-Advantaged Education Savings


529 plans exist solely to fund education. These plans offer the potential for higher returns compared to traditional savings accounts but also carry a level of risk. The value of your account fluctuates based on market conditions and the performance of your chosen investment options. As with any investment, it's essential to consider your risk tolerance, time horizon, and financial goals. If you’re interested in a 529 savings plan please consider the following:


  • Investment Options: When you open a 529 plan, you'll have various investment options to choose from. These options can include mutual funds, index funds, or other investment vehicles. Each option has its own level of risk and potential for growth.


  • Market Performance: The rate of return for your 529 plan is determined by the performance of the investments you select. If the investments in your plan perform well in the financial markets, your account's value will increase, leading to higher returns.


  • Risk and Volatility: Higher-return investment options in your 529 plan often come with increased risk and volatility. While they have the potential for higher growth, they are also more susceptible to market downturns. On the other hand, conservative investment options may offer more stability but lower potential returns.


  • Time Horizon: The rate of return is affected by the time until the funds are needed for college expenses. Longer time horizons allow for more aggressive investment strategies, while shorter time frames may require a more conservative approach to protect against potential losses.


  • Fees and Expenses: Keep in mind that 529 plans may have fees and expenses associated with managing the investments. These costs can impact the overall rate of return, so it's essential to understand and compare the fees of different plans before making a decision.


  • Changing Investment Strategy: As the beneficiary gets closer to college age, some plans automatically adjust the investment strategy to become more conservative, reducing the risk as the time to use the funds approaches.


It’s important to bear in mind that a 529 savings plan requires time to grow and may not be ideal for students closer to college age. Also, these plans are specifically designed for education, and withdrawals for non-educational expenses will incur taxes and other penalties. Therefore, it is important to consider all your savings options.


2. Coverdell Education Savings Account: A Versatile Option


A Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) is also a tax-advantaged savings account designed to help families save for qualified education expenses. Here's how a Coverdell ESA works:


  • Eligibility and Contributions: To open a Coverdell ESA, both the contributor and the beneficiary (the student) must be U.S. citizens or residents. The beneficiary must be under 18 years old or have special needs. Contributions to a Coverdell ESA are not tax-deductible, meaning you contribute after-tax dollars.


  • Contribution Limits: The maximum annual contribution limit for a Coverdell ESA is set by the IRS and is subject to change. It is worth noting that this limit is relatively low compared to other education savings options like 529 plans. Contributions can be made until the beneficiary turns 18, except for beneficiaries with special needs, who can continue receiving contributions after 18.


  • Qualified Education Expenses: Funds in a Coverdell ESA can be used for qualified education expenses. These include tuition, fees, books, supplies, equipment, and certain room and board costs at eligible educational institutions (elementary, secondary, and post-secondary). Starting in 2018, K-12 (elementary and secondary) education expenses became eligible for Coverdell ESA withdrawals, thanks to changes in the tax law. This expanded the use of Coverdell ESAs beyond just college expenses.


  • Tax Advantages: While contributions to a Coverdell ESA are not tax-deductible, the account's earnings grow tax-free. Withdrawals from the account are also tax-free if they are used for qualified education expenses. This includes both the contributions and the earnings.


  • Investment Options: Coverdell ESAs allow you to invest in various financial products, such as mutual funds, stocks, and bonds. The investment options available will depend on the financial institution that holds the account.


  • Transfer and Rollover Rules: If the beneficiary does not use all the funds by the time they turn 30, they must withdraw the remaining balance within 30 days. If not used for qualified education expenses, the earnings portion of the withdrawal may be subject to income tax and a 10% penalty. Alternatively, the funds can be transferred or rolled over to another eligible family member's Coverdell ESA without incurring penalties.


  • Financial Aid Impact: Coverdell ESAs are considered an asset of the account owner (usually the parent), not the beneficiary. This means that the impact on financial aid eligibility is generally lower than with custodial accounts like UTMA/UGMA accounts.


A Coverdell ESA requires careful planning in order to use the funds and maximize the benefits. While it provides tax advantages for educational savings, the relatively low contribution limit may restrict the total amount saved. Therefore, it's worth considering other or additional savings options if you anticipate needing more money for educational expenses.


3. Custodial Accounts: A Gift to Your Future College Grad!


UTMA (Uniform Transfers to Minors Act) and UGMA (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act) are similar custodial accounts designed to hold and manage assets for the benefit of a minor until they reach the age of majority. The specific rules and regulations governing these accounts may vary slightly from state to state, but the general principles remain consistent. Here's how UTMA and UGMA accounts work:


  • Account Setup: An adult, often a parent or guardian, establishes the UTMA or UGMA account on behalf of the minor (the beneficiary). The adult acts as the custodian and manages the account until the beneficiary reaches the age of majority, which is usually 18 or 21, depending on the state and the type of account.


  • Contributions: The custodian can make contributions to the account, which typically consist of financial assets such as cash, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or other investments. Once the assets are to the UTMA or UGMA account, they become the property of the minor beneficiary.


  • Management of the Account: The custodian has the legal authority and responsibility to manage the assets in the account on behalf of the minor. The custodian can make investment decisions, collect income, and reinvest or distribute funds as needed for the beneficiary's benefit, as long as it aligns with the best interests of the minor.


  • Use of Funds: The purpose of UTMA and UGMA accounts is to provide financial support for the minor's benefit, such as education expenses, extracurricular activities, or other necessities. However, the custodian must use the funds solely for the minor's benefit, and it is not permissible to use the funds for personal purposes unrelated to the minor.


  • Age of Majority: When the beneficiary reaches the age of majority (18 or 21, depending on state law and the type of account), they gain full control over the assets in the UTMA or UGMA account. At this point, the custodian's role ends, and the beneficiary can use the assets as they see fit. They may use the funds for any purpose, even if it is not related to education or the original intention of the account.


  • Tax Implications: While the contributions to a UTMA or UGMA account are considered gifts for tax purposes, the earnings generated within the account may be taxed at the minor's tax rate. In some cases, a portion of the account's earnings may be tax-exempt up to a certain amount known as the "kiddie tax" threshold.


It's important to note that once the assets are transferred to a UTMA or UGMA account, they become irrevocable gifts to the minor beneficiary. Unlike other education-specific accounts like 529 plans or Coverdell ESAs, the funds in UTMA or UGMA accounts can be used for any purpose once the minor reaches the age of majority. This flexibility can be both an advantage and a potential concern, as the beneficiary will have full control over the funds at that point.


4. High-Interest Savings Accounts: A Steady Path to Your College Fund


High-yield savings accounts can be an effective tool for college savings due to their competitive interest rates and low risk. However, these accounts present challenges too. Here's how they work for college savings:


  • Higher Interest Rates: High-yield savings accounts, as the name suggests, offer higher interest rates compared to traditional savings accounts. This means your money will grow at a faster rate over time.


  • Safety and Security: High-yield savings accounts are typically offered by reputable financial institutions and are insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in the United States. This means that up to a certain limit (currently $250,000 per account holder per institution), your money is protected even if the bank fails.


  • Liquidity: High-yield savings accounts offer easy access to your funds when you need them. Unlike certain long-term investments, there are no penalties for withdrawing money from a savings account.


  • No Lock-in Period: Unlike share certificates or certificates of deposit (CDs), high-yield savings accounts do not have a fixed term. You can keep your money in the account for as long as you want without incurring any penalties.


  • No Contribution Limits: High-yield savings accounts do not have contribution limits, so you can deposit as much money as you want, subject to any limits imposed by the bank itself (which are usually quite high).


  • No Specific Use Requirement: Unlike some other college savings options, such as 529 plans or Coverdell ESAs, there are no restrictions on how you can use the money in a high-yield savings account. You can use the funds for any purpose, including college expenses.


While high-yield savings accounts offer many advantages, there are also some limitations to consider:


  • Lower Returns Compared to Investments: While high-yield savings accounts offer better returns than traditional savings accounts, they may still have lower growth potential compared to certain long-term investments, such as stocks or mutual funds.


  • Impact of Inflation: Inflation can erode the purchasing power of your savings over time. High-yield savings accounts might struggle to keep up with the rate of inflation, leading to a decrease in the real value of your savings.


  • Tax Considerations: The interest earned in a high-yield savings account is subject to income tax. For college savings, you may want to explore tax-advantaged options like 529 plans or Coverdell ESAs, which offer tax benefits specifically for educational expenses.


  • Limited Earning Potential: If you have a substantial amount of money to save for college, the earning potential of a high-yield savings account might be insufficient to reach your savings goals within the desired timeframe.


High-yield savings accounts can be a suitable option for college savings, especially if you prioritize safety, liquidity, and easy access to your funds. However, for those seeking higher returns and potential tax advantages, a more diversified approach should be considered.


5. Share Certificates or Certificates of Deposit (CDs): The Time-Locked Treasure


Share Certificates or Certificates of Deposit (CDs) can be used as part of a college savings strategy, providing a safe and predictable way to grow your money over a fixed period of time. Here's how Certificates and CDs can be utilized for college savings:


  • Safety and Stability: Certificates/CDs are considered low-risk investments since they are offered by banks and credit unions, and they are federally insured up to $250,000 per account holder per institution by the NCUA or FDIC (in the United States). This makes them an attractive option for conservative savers who prioritize the safety of their college funds.


  • Fixed Interest Rate: When you purchase a Share Certificate or CD, you lock in a fixed interest rate for a specified term, usually ranging from a few months to several years. This predictability allows you to know exactly how much your money will grow during the Certificate’s term, which can help with financial planning for college expenses.


  • Short and Long-Term Options: Depending on your college savings timeline, you can choose Certificates with different maturity periods. Short-term Certificates (6 or 12 months) might be suitable if college is just a few years away, while longer-term Certificates (2, 3, or 5 years) can be useful for longer-term planning.


  • Laddering Strategy: To maximize returns while maintaining some liquidity, you can use a Certificate laddering strategy. This involves dividing your college savings into multiple Certificates with varying maturity dates. As each Certificate reaches its maturity date, you can reinvest the funds into a new longer-term Certificate or access the money if needed for college expenses.


  • Penalties for Early Withdrawal: Certificates typically have penalties for early withdrawal before the agreed-upon maturity date. These penalties could include forfeiting a portion of the interest earned or a certain number of months' worth of interest. While this penalty discourages early withdrawals, it also ensures that the funds remain in the account for the specified savings period.


  • Tax Considerations: The interest earned on Certificates is generally taxable income, and you'll receive a 1099-INT form at the end of the year for tax reporting.


While Certificates offer stability and safety, they may not provide the highest returns compared to other investment options like stocks or mutual funds. To create a well-rounded college savings plan, consider diversifying your strategy.




Saving for college is a significant goal that requires careful planning and exploration to determine the best method for you. Consider a diversified approach to fit your financial goals, risk tolerance, and timeline. Combining Share Certificates with other college savings vehicles, like high-yield savings accounts or tax-advantaged education accounts, can help you achieve a balance between safety and growth potential.


As with any financial decision, consulting with a qualified financial advisor can help you make the best choices based on your unique circumstances and goals. And if you would like expert advice on saving for college, 1st Community Credit Union in Sparta, Tomah, and West Salem.

1st CCU puts member service 1st and makes affordable solutions easy.

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July 1, 2023Stretch Your Budget: Simple Ways to Save Money and Savor Life

Stretch Your Budget: Simple Ways to Save Money and Savor Life
With rising inflation and high interest rates, it can be difficult to make your money go these days. Even before you start to feel a pinch, be financially wise and adopt smart strategies to stretch your budget and make every dollar count. The following are some simple yet effective ways to save money while still enjoying life. From planting a garden to preparing homemade meals and exploring creative cooking ideas on YouTube, these tips will help you stretch your budget and discover the joys of frugality.


Test Your Green Thumb

One of the most fulfilling and cost-effective ways to stretch your budget is by planting a garden. Growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs can significantly reduce your grocery bill while providing you with fresh, organic produce. Even if you don't have a backyard, you can utilize containers or small pots on your balcony or windowsill. Gardening not only saves you money but also gives you the satisfaction of cultivating your own food and connecting with nature. If you have limited space or feel overwhelmed at the prospect of starting a garden, check out Freedom Gardens - a “community driven platform reconnecting people to growing food” whose vision is to help communities “to grow thriving edible gardens to support their physical and mental health. 

young family picking vegetables in their garden

Eat at Home
Dining out or ordering takeout frequently can quickly drain your wallet. By planning ahead and preparing meals at home, you can save a significant amount of money. Plan your meals for the week, create a grocery list, and purchase ingredients in bulk to save even more. Additionally, cooking at home allows you to control the quality and nutritional value of your meals. With countless recipe websites and cooking apps available, you can explore new dishes and experiment with different flavors without breaking the bank.

Soda Swap
If you're a fan of carbonated beverages, consider switching from brand name sodas to generic alternatives. Generic store brands often offer similar taste and quality at a fraction of the cost. You can also consider drinking more water or making homemade flavored drinks using natural ingredients. Cutting back on sugary beverages not only saves money but also promotes better health. By making this small adjustment, you can make a positive impact on your budget while taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

Take Advantage of Sales
When you come across a good sale on bread, meat, or other perishable items, take advantage of it by buying extra and freezing them for future meals. Freezing food preserves its freshness, and by buying in bulk during sales, you can save money in the long run. Divide the purchases into smaller portions and store them properly in the freezer, ensuring they remain usable for an extended period. This simple practice will help you maintain a well-stocked pantry and reduce your reliance on more expensive last-minute grocery runs.

Struggle Meals
When money is tight, it's time to get creative with your meals. YouTube is an incredible resource for finding recipes that maximize inexpensive ingredients and deliver delicious results. Search for "struggle meals" or "budget-friendly recipes" to discover a wealth of content created by talented home cooks and chefs who specialize in making tasty meals on a budget. Although the urban dictionary defines struggle meals as “a cheap meal/snack bought at the store usually eaten by broke college students” (think 3 am pizza and ramen), these videos often provide valuable tips and tricks for everyone to stretch your ingredients and elevate the flavors of simple dishes. Exploring new recipes will not only save you money but also introduce you to exciting culinary adventures.

Stretching your budget doesn't mean compromising on quality or enjoyment. By implementing these simple yet effective strategies, you can save money without sacrificing the pleasures of life. From growing your own garden to preparing meals at home, these budget-stretching techniques empower you to take control of your finances while discovering new skills and flavors. So, embrace the frugal mindset, explore the wealth of resources available online, and enjoy the satisfaction of making every dollar count. And if you need a reliable bank in Sparta, West Salem, Tomah WI, or surrounding areas, contact 1st Community Credit Union. We put member service 1st and make affordable solutions easy. 

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June 14, 2023Make the Most of Your Tax Refund

After you've filed your taxes, do you wait impatiently for your refund and make plans for all the ways you want to spend the money?

This year, consider doing something different...something that your future self will thank you for.

torn paper with TAX REFUND printed on it on top of official form & papers

The average tax refund is nearly $3,000, which is more than just a little extra spending money. Financial advisors suggest possible ways you can make the most of your tax refund this year:

  1. Start an emergency cash fund:  The majority of financial advisors recommend setting up a separate savings account with three to six months of living expenses saved in the event of a layoff or unforeseen health problem that isn't covered by insurance. Keep this emergency account separate from your checking and regular savings accounts so you won't be tempted to drain the fund by spending the money on non-emergencies.  Starting a secondary savings account at 1st CCU is easy, you can do it from the comfort of your home within 1st CCU Anywhere online or mobile banking, simply click 'Add an account' and follow the prompts. 
  2. Invest for your retirement:  If you decide to put away your refund for a longer term, advisors recommend putting it toward your retirement by adding more to your employer's retirement program, or open a Traditional or Roth IRA if you are unable to contribute to an employer's program.
  3. Invest for your child's college education:  If you already have an emergency fund, and if you're well-invested for retirement, turn your attention toward building your children's (or grandchildren's) college savings plans.
  4. Pay down high-interest debt:  Many financial advisors believe it is prudent to use your tax refund to pay off as much of your high-interest debt as possible. They advise making a list of all loans, balances, and corresponding interest rates. Start by paying off the highest interest rates first, and work your way from there.

While it can be tempting to use the refund to take a vacation or to purchase a long-awaited new television, computer or other high-tech gadget, take a long hard look at your economic situation and the current economy first. Investing the money in financial stability or a brighter future is a smart choice.

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May 1, 20235 Tips to get a Head Start on Summer Vacation Planning and Budgeting

Summer’s almost here and that means it’s time to start planning your family vacation. But before you hit the road, make sure you prepare by budgeting and organizing ahead of time. After all, summer is supposed to be stress-free! At 1st CCU, we thought we’d offer 5 easy tips for getting a head start on planning and budgeting for a successful summer getaway. It’s one way to help you experience an unforgettable summer escape without breaking the bank. So sit back, relax and read on…

Research Destinations, Compare Rates

You’ve been dreaming about your next vacation since your last vacation. You’ve thought of a few places you’d like to take the family and you’ve done a little googling to see what’s out there for attractions and activities. Now it’s time to dig a little deeper. For each possible destination, compare rates and look for discounts and packages to get the most bang for your vacation buck. Weekdays may be cheaper than weekends. Certain times of the season may have a better price. If you’re flexible and not afraid to put your research hat on, you can find the perfect vacation that fits your budget and your expectations.

Happy family on the beach

Set a Realistic Vacation Budget with Potential Costs

Setting a budget can seem like a daunting task, but with a little bit of planning and discipline, it can be the key to a successful vacation. It’s crucial to consider all potential costs - including those that may not immediately come to mind such as splurging on a special dining experience, extra transportation like Uber or Lyft or a surprise expense that may occur while you’re on vacation. Nobody likes unexpected surprises like that, but they happen. By factoring in these expenses from the outset, you’ll be able to better manage your budget. A budget based in reality can help make a dream vacation more attainable.

Start Saving Now

If you haven’t already started saving for your vacation, now’s the time. The earlier you start setting aside a bit of money each paycheck, the more you’ll have in your vacation fund. Whether you’re planning a beach getaway, a hiking adventure or a trip to a major metro, saving and budgeting can help you avoid financial stress later. The best part? Saving up for your vacation can actually be a fun, rewarding experience. So why wait? Start putting aside some cash today!

happy family camping

Consider Credit Cards with Reward Programs

Credit cards and reward programs can be powerful tools if you’re looking to save money. By using credit cards that offer cash back or points for purchases, you can earn rewards that can be used towards future expenses. By taking advantage of these programs, you can stretch your budget even further and make your hard-earned dollars go the extra mile. Of course, it’s important to use these tools responsibly by paying off your balances in full each month and avoiding the urge to overspend. With a little mindfulness and planning, credit cards and reward programs can be great ways to boost your savings and enjoy some extra perks along the way.

Utilize The 1st CCU Anywhere Mobile App

Planning a vacation is a thrilling experience, but often the actual execution of our budgeting plans can become a tedious task. This is where the 1st CCU Anywhere Mobile App comes in handy. With just a few clicks on your phone, you can keep track of your saving progress, your budgeting goals and your vacation spending while you’re enjoying some fun in the sun. We want you to enjoy your vacation. But if you ever need to check in on your finances, our 1st CCU Anywhere Mobile App makes it easy. Anywhere, any time, any device.

Hopefully these 5 tips to get a head start on summer vacation planning and budgeting have you thinking it’s time for a vacation. So get to planning, get to saving and start your budget early. Just like we can help with home mortgage loans and auto loans, at 1st CCU, we’re here to help you grow financially. Smart planning can allow you to do the fun things while preparing for your future. Contact 1st CCU in Sparta, West Salem and Tomah for more information.

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April 1, 2023Smart Money Management for Teens and Kids

When it comes to teaching smart money management for teens and kids, the more education they have at an early age, the better prepared for life's financial challenges they'll be in adulthood. We're all familiar with the concept of saving from an early age but providing young people with a solid foundation of budgeting, understanding credit scores and building wealth can seem daunting - especially if you haven't been taught these principles yourself! Luckily, 1st Community Credit Union is here with tips to provide parents and their kids the knowledge necessary to make smart decisions with their finances so your children will have beneficial financial habits for their future.

Smart Money Management for Teens and Kids

Girl putting money in jar

As a teen or kid, it can be difficult to understand the basics of money management and saving for the future. Fortunately, the internet has several free resources to help teach kids (in a fun way) the importance of saving and spending wisely. There are also books for all ages available at your local library, or consider playing board games such as Monopoly or Payday as a family.

Understanding the value of each dollar is an important part of setting financial goals. This understanding helps with making and sticking to a budget, tracking expenses, and utilizing every resource available. Other impactful tactics include investing in yourself through responsible spending practices, creating an emergency fund, planning for a rainy day. Teaching your young ones steps to get their finances in order now will be sure to pay off late

The Benefits of Good Money Habits

Teaching children and teenagers the importance of good money habits at a young age is essential for helping them make responsible and informed decisions as adults. Developing healthy relationships with money through understanding how to save, budget, and spend wisely can help teenagers avoid future debt, build beneficial financial confidence, and create a more secure future. 1st CCU always encourages smart money management at any age. Making wise monetary decisions now plays a role in ensuring financial well-being and stability in the long run. Not only will these lessons enable teens to become financially independent while they are still young, but they will also provide peace of mind in terms of security later in life.

Strategies to Teach Kids and Teens about Saving

Teaching kids and teens about the importance of saving is an essential part of their financial education. Kids should begin learning about budgeting and smart spending as early as possible so they can develop lifelong saver habits. There are a few key strategies to teach kids and teens about saving: start small, reward good behavior, provide clear examples and make it a team effort. With the help of 1st CCU, parents can suggest savings goals for their children and provide guidance through the process. By recognizing the efforts their children make toward these goals, parents can empower their kids to become smart savers.

Developing a Budget for the Whole Family

Taking a family-oriented approach to budgeting can help everyone in the family learn how to become financially savvy. Developing a budget as a team helps instill good money-managing habits that can be carried over into adulthood. A joint budget not only teaches teens and children to value good financial decisions, but it also encourages collective responsibility for spending and saving habits. Putting together a budget for the whole family is easy, practical, and beneficial for future financial well-being.

Tips to Help Kids and Teens Stick to their Budget

Teaching kids and teens how to budget is essential when it comes to smart money management. But how do you help them make it a habit that'll stick long term? 1st CCU has several tips that will help! For starters, setting up a monthly budget specifically for a teen or kid's spending money can give them the autonomy they require while helping them to stick to an allotted limit. Secondly, encouraging tracking and setting reminders can also keep them on track with their budgeting goals. Most importantly, making sure your kids or teens understand why having a budget is important and the benefits of being financially responsible will go a long way in establishing good habits early.

Encouraging Smart Spending Habits for Life-long Success

As your children take their first steps into adulthood, instilling good money management habits will be paramount in ensuring their long-term success. 1st CCU is a great resource for introducing teens and kids to fiscally sound practices. Enabling them to quickly understand the importance of budgeting and learning how to handle unexpected expenses can empower them with the knowledge needed for longevity when it comes to mastering their personal finances. Start off small by having your kids keep track of daily expenses so they can visualize the difference between instant gratification purchases and building a sustainable financial plan that yields long-term rewards. By creating savings goals that are achievable, your children will also learn how powerful setting aside a certain amount each month or week can be when working towards future goals. Teens may be resilient but providing guidance towards sound spending habits early in life will ensure smart decision making for years to come!

family with piggy bank

Smart money management for teens and kids starts at home. It’s truly an investment worth making. Help your kids achieve their financial goals with confidence. Just like we can help with home mortgage loans and auto loans, at 1st CCU, we’re here to help the next generation of smart savers start early. Contact 1st CCU in Sparta, West Salem and Tomah for more information.

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March 1, 2023Why Home Mortgage Pre-approval is Best

If you're thinking about buying a new home, you might be wondering whether to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Getting pre-approval is actually the best way to go, for several reasons. First, it gives you an idea of how much money you'll be able to borrow from the lender. This will help you narrow down your search to homes within your budget. Second, having pre-approval gives you more negotiating power when it comes time to make an offer on a home. The seller will know that you're serious about buying and that you have the financing in place. So if you're thinking about buying a new home, be sure to get pre-approved for a mortgage first!

smiling woman with new house keys

Mortgage Pre-Approval Gives You an Estimate

When it comes to purchasing a home, mortgage pre-approval is essential and can make the process of buying a house much easier. Pre-approval gives you an estimate of how much you are able to spend based on your financial situation. You don’t want to waste time looking at houses out of your price range. Getting pre-approved allows you to confidently search for a place within your budget. Mortgage pre-approval also aids in streamlining the negotiation process with potential homeowners and speeding up the closing process. It’s a simple step that can simplify the home buying process. Let 1st Community Credit Union help you determine your home buying budget.


It Helps You Know Your Range


Knowing what price range to look in for homes when shopping for your perfect house can save you time and make the whole process more efficient. Pre-approval for a home mortgage is the best way to make sure you know exactly what to expect and what you're able to afford. A pre-approval letter from 1st CCU will not only provide additional leverage during negotiations, it will also make sure that your mortgage rates are as competitive as possible! It's never been easier or faster to get pre-approved, so why wait? Submit an application at 1st CCU to get started. Make your dreams of homeownership a reality and put yourself in the driver's seat with a pre-approval today.


Make a Stronger Offer


Securing a mortgage pre-approval before you start shopping for a home can give you an extra advantage when making an offer. Sellers are more likely to take your offer seriously when they know that you have already been approved for financing and can follow through on the purchase. Pre-approval puts you in a stronger negotiating position and helps ensure that your offer isn’t outbid by someone else who might not be able to secure financing. 1st CCU is dedicated to helping our members get pre-approved so that they can confidently move forward with their home buying journey. Contact 1st CCU to learn more about the process and get pre-approved!


Pre-approval Can Streamline the Process


Gone are the days of endlessly searching for a home without assurance that you'll be able to secure financing. Pre-approval from 1st CCU not only tells you what your budget range should be; it also helps streamline the homebuying process overall. You no longer have to worry about wasting time on homes that you may not have been able to afford; with pre-approval, you can rest assured that you're looking at properties within your price range. Additionally, since the lender has already taken a look at all the pertinent information, if you find a property and decide to make an offer, there’s less time between making an offer and closing on it – making pre-approval the best choice!

girl and mother unpacking

Get Started On The Path To Homeownership Today!


There is no better way to begin your journey to homeownership than to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Pre-approval helps you understand exactly what kind of loan you can expect and the amount you are approved for, regardless of any changing market conditions. This will give you peace of mind as you start shopping for your dream home or investment property knowing that you have the right financing in place. With this solid foundation, you can make sure all other aspects of the home buying process go as smoothly as possible. So don’t wait—get started on the path to homeownership today by getting pre-approved for a mortgage!


Getting the keys to your new home isn’t out of reach, it just takes the power of planning. Let us help you with pre-approval. If you’re looking to buy your first home, ask a 1st CCU Mortgage Loan Officer about the 1st Time Home Buyer program, in which qualifying 1st-time buyers receive a free lawnmower at closing.

Let us help you reach that home buying milestone with simple, easy home loan pre-qualification from 1st Community Credit Union in Sparta, West Salem and Tomah. 

With pre-qualification on a home mortgage loan, before you know it, you’ll be hanging up decor that says home sweet home. Contact us at 1st CCU today!


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