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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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February 1, 2023Managing Debt and Borrowing Responsibly

For many people, managing debt and borrowing responsibly is a part of making a household budget balance out. When used properly, credit and loans can be excellent tools to help you get the major purchases you need or acquire an investment in assets such as education or real estate. There are various types of debt and they won’t always result in the same outcome. The kind of debt that does not invest in anything can be both a short and long term burden.

No matter how much or what type of debt you take on, you need a plan to pay it back. The quicker you pay it off, the less you’ll end up paying on compounding interest. A bit later on, we’ll take a look at proven payment strategies.

Responsible Borrowing

It is important to practice responsible borrowing when taking out loans. Unless you have the financial resources to pay off a loan right away, make sure that you understand all of the terms before signing a contract. Auto loans, car loans, and home loan mortgages are some of the most common types of borrowing. It is important to assess your financial situation before taking out an auto loan or car loan to make sure that you can afford the payments over time.

toy house, stacks of coins, and bags marked with a dollar sign

Home Mortgage Loans

When taking out a home mortgage loan, it is essential to understand the long-term implications of the loan. Home mortgage loans generally come with higher interest rates than other types of loans, and may span over many years. To ensure that you are borrowing responsibly, make sure that you have a full understanding of all associated costs before signing any contracts.

Understanding The Costs

Good credit and debt management is incredibly important in taking out loans. A good credit score and healthy debt-to-income ratios will allow you to access better loan terms, including lower interest rates and potentially more favorable repayment options. Before taking out any type of loan, make sure that you are confident that you can afford the payments over time and understand all of the associated costs. Borrowing responsibly is the key to successful loan management.

Proven Payment Strategies

Though your debts may be different from your neighbors, there are two proven ways to manage your loans. Before choosing a method, consider your financial situation. For maximum effectiveness, it’s best to stick with a method once you start.

-Debt Snowball

This method prioritizes each of your debts by size. First make the minimum monthly payment on all of your debts, then use any remaining money to pay off the smallest balance first. Continue paying as much as your budget allows month after month until that debt is paid off. Once your smallest balance is paid off, apply that payment amount to the next smallest loan in addition to the minimum monthly payment until that too is paid off. As each debt gets down to zero, your payment snowball increases, and you get out of debt faster. Continue this until you’re debt free.

-Debt Avalanche

Similar to the debt snowball method, this plan focuses on the debt with the highest interest rate. Make your minimum monthly payment of each balance and throw every dollar you can at the balance with the highest interest rate. Once you’ve paid that off, jump to the next highest interest rate, continuing the process until you’re debt free. You’ll pay off debt more quickly and reduce overall interest rates.

Remember, borrowing money should always be an informed decision. Knowing your financial situation and understanding all of the terms of a loan are essential to responsible borrowing. With good credit and debt management, you can ensure that any loans taken out will be manageable and beneficial in the long-term.

If you have questions about borrowing responsibly, credit or debt management, it’s best to speak to an experienced and qualified financial advisor, like the people at 1st Community Credit Union in Sparta, West Salem and Tomah. Together we can set you on a path to safely utilize financial tools, like home mortgage loans and auto loans. Just contact us! Let 1st CCU be your partner in responsible borrowing.

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January 1, 2023Resolve to Save More Money in 2023

The new year is a time for resolutions. Many people resolve to get in shape, spend more time with family, or save more money. If you're looking to save money in 2023, we have some tips that can help! Follow these simple steps and you'll be on your way to saving more money without making any big changes to your lifestyle.

Make a Budget

One way to save money is to make a budget and stick to it. This means knowing how much money you have coming in and what your regular expenses are. Once you have an understanding of your finances, you can start making adjustments to spending in order to free up more money to save.

Cut Back Unnecessary Expenses

There are plenty of ways to cut back on unnecessary expenses. This could mean things like eating out less often, buying fewer clothes, or reducing your entertainment budget. When you take a close look at your spending, you may be surprised at how much money you're wasting on things that aren't really necessary.

smiling piggy bank and loose coins and bills

Utilize Coupons and Discounts

A third way to save money is to start utilizing coupons and discounts. Whether it's clipping coupons from the newspaper or looking for deals online, taking advantage of sales and discounts can help you save a significant amount of money over time.

Eliminate Debt

A fourth way to save money is to get rid of debt. If you have high interest debt, such as credit card debt, it can be costing you a lot of money in the long run. By paying off your debt, you can free up more money each month to put towards savings.

Budget Some Savings

Finally, another way to save money is to simply start setting aside some money each month into savings. Even if it's just a small amount, over time it will add up and you'll have a nice nest egg built up that you can tap into when needed.

Start Saving Today

Start the new year by resolving to save money in 2023 with 1st Community Credit Union in Sparta, West Salem and Tomah. To save even more, let us help with a service that’s right for you. And if it’s time for a home loan or auto loan that makes sense, we can help you with that too - just contact us! Let 1st CCU be your partner in building a solid financial future.

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