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April 1, 2024The 30-Day Saving Challenge: A Fun Way To Boost Your Savings

Are you ready to take control of your finances and achieve your savings goals? Look no further than 1st Community Credit Union! We're excited to introduce you to the 30-Day Savings Challenge, a powerful tool designed to help you build your savings and make smart financial decisions.

Jar of money cash with hand inserting dollar bills for savings of funds.

Understanding the 30-Day Savings Challenge

The 30-Day Savings Challenge is a proven method to cultivate a habit of saving money consistently while avoiding impulse spending. Here's how it works: if you find yourself tempted by an impulse purchase, commit to thinking about it for 30 days. During this time, place the money you would have spent on the purchase into a savings account. This not only helps you avoid unnecessary spending but also allows you to save consistently and work towards your financial goals.
Impulse purchases can derail your budget and lead to unnecessary debt. The 30-Day Savings Challenge provides a structured approach to combatting these impulses, giving you time to consider your purchases thoughtfully and prioritize your financial well-being. By delaying gratification and focusing on your long-term goals, you'll develop healthier spending habits and build a stronger financial future.

How 1st Community Credit Union Can Help

At 1st Community Credit Union, we're committed to helping our members achieve financial success. That's why we offer a range of savings accounts tailored to meet your needs, whether you're saving for a rainy day or planning for the future. Our friendly team is here to assist you every step of the way, from opening your account to setting up automatic transfers for your 30-Day Savings Challenge.
Our savings accounts come with a variety of benefits, including competitive interest rates, no monthly maintenance fees, and convenient access to your funds. Whether you prefer a traditional savings account or a high-yield option, we have the perfect solution to help you reach your savings goals.

Making Smart Financial Choices

The 30-Day Savings Challenge empowers you to make informed decisions about your finances. By taking the time to consider your purchases and set aside money for savings, you'll gain a greater sense of control over your money and avoid falling into the trap of impulse spending. Plus, with the help of our savings calculator, you can track your progress and see how your savings grow over time.
As you progress through the 30-Day Savings Challenge, you'll develop a deeper understanding of your spending habits and priorities. You'll learn to distinguish between needs and wants, and you'll become more intentional about how you use your money. By cultivating these habits, you'll set yourself up for long-term financial success and achieve your savings goals faster than you ever thought possible.

Join the Challenge Today

Ready to take the first step towards financial freedom? Join us at 1st Community Credit Union and start your 30-Day Savings Challenge today! Visit our website or stop by one of our branches to learn more about our savings accounts and how we can help you achieve your financial goals.
Begin your savings journey with 1st Community Credit Union today. Let's work together to achieve your financial goals!

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January 1, 2024Budgeting Strategies for a Debt-Free Year

Coins stacked up in different piles symbolizing the act of budgeting

Budget Your Year
Budgeting is a hard skill to learn. With the pressure to consume it’s difficult to know where to cut back. The new year is a perfect time to reassess your financial habits and set ambitious yet achievable financial goals for a debt-free future. In this blog, we'll dive into three practical and effective budgeting strategies that can help you achieve a debt-free year. Whether you're looking to pay off existing debts, save for significant milestones, or simply gain better control of your finances these strategies are designed to guide you towards success.

Strategy 1: 50/30/20 Budget Rule
The ‘50/30/20 budget’ is a great way to budget if you are struggling to find a balance between your needs, wants, and savings costs. This strategy recommends budgeting 50% of your money towards needs, 30% towards wants, and 20% towards savings. Needs include housing, groceries, bills, health insurance, car payments, and gas/transportation. Wants include costs connected to travel, entertainment, eating out, and shopping. Savings include emergency funds, retirement accounts, debt payments, and investing. This budget strategy is incredibly effective for long-term yearly savings but can be less effective for monthly budgets. 

Strategy 2: Pay Yourself First Budget
The ‘pay yourself first budget’ prioritizes your savings before doing anything else with your paycheck. It’s easy to forget or choose not to deposit money from your paycheck into your savings. With this budgeting strategy, you automatically take a specific amount out of your paycheck and invest it in your savings accounts or emergency funds. If you commit to this strategy, future you will be happy that you invested in your future! If you run into an unforeseen expense, emergency funds are a great way to escape debt and give yourself a financial safety net. Further down the line, once you start thinking about retirement, this budget strategy might even allow you to retire early! Overall, this budget strategy is a great short-term and long-term approach for a debt-free future.

Strategy 3: Envelope Budgeting
If you work a job where you get paid mainly in cash, the ‘envelope budgeting strategy’ might be right for you. This budgeting strategy categorizes different expenses and separates them by envelopes. Once you’re out of the money in an envelope, you can’t spend any more money in that category for the month. The great thing about this strategy is that it can easily be personalized. Most people will have these basic envelope categories: rent, gas, groceries, eating out, shopping, and savings—but you can add more specific financial saving goals. For example, if you’re trying to save up for a car you can make an envelope specifically for your car payments. This budgeting strategy is specifically effective for variable expenses like food and shopping since the amounts can vary based on habits but can also be used as a savings strategy. Try it out!

Choosing the Right Budgeting Strategy 
Finding the right budgeting strategy that supports your financial goals is the key to budgeting effectively. Your spending habits, monthly income, and goals all affect which strategy will work best for you. To find the right budgeting strategy for you, answer these questions:

  1.    Spending Habits
          A.  I spend a lot of extra money in cash every month.
          B.  I don’t spend a lot of extra money every month.
          C.  I spend a lot of extra money in credit/debit every month.
  2.    Monthly Income
          A.  I get paid mainly in cash.
          B.  I get paid a yearly salary.
          C.  I get paid a mix of pay checks and cash.
  3.    Financial Goals
          A.  I want to practice general budgeting.
          B.  I want to prioritize my savings.
          C.  I want to balance out my spending and saving.

If you chose mainly A You should try Envelope Budgeting.
If you chose mainly B  You should try the Pay Yourself First Budget.
If you chose mainly C You should try the 50/30/20 Budget Rule.


Budgeting Made Easy
Empowering yourself with effective budgeting strategies is an essential step towards a debt-free and financially secure future. By implementing these practical strategies, you'll not only regain control of your finances but also pave the way for long-term financial success. At 1st Community Credit Union, we are here to support you on your journey to financial well-being. Look into our savings accounts and other budgeting tools or contact one of our financial experts to help you make a budget plan for a debt-free future.

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November 30, 2023New Year, New Car? Here's What You Need to Know

Auto Loans: Your Path to a New Car

Are you considering getting behind the wheel of a new car in the upcoming year? The start of a new year often brings fresh beginnings and a list of exciting possibilities. If a new car is on your wish list for the year ahead, it's essential to be well-informed about auto loans and the process of financing a new car.

A line of new cars shien in the lights of dealership, hinting at the ease of financing with the help of auto loans.

Determine Your Budget: Before you start browsing the latest car models and dreaming about your new ride, take a realistic look at your financial situation. Calculate your monthly income, expenses, and savings. This will help you establish a budget for your new car, ensuring that you don't overextend your finances.

Check Your Credit Score: Your credit score plays a crucial role in the auto loan approval process. Lenders use your credit score to assess your creditworthiness and determine the interest rate you'll be offered. The higher your credit score, the better the terms you can secure. If your credit score needs improvement, consider taking steps to boost it before applying for a loan.

Shop Around for the Best Loan Rates: Don't settle for the first loan offer that comes your way. Shop around and compare auto loan rates from different lenders, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders. By doing so, you can find the best deal that suits your budget and financial goals.

Understand Loan Terms: When evaluating loan offers, pay attention to the loan terms. These terms include the interest rate, loan duration, and monthly payments. A longer loan term may result in lower monthly payments but can end up costing you more in interest over time. Be sure to choose terms that align with your budget and financial objectives.

Down Payment and Trade-In: Consider making a substantial down payment and possibly trading in your current vehicle. A larger down payment can reduce the loan amount, leading to lower monthly payments and less interest paid over the life of the loan. Similarly, trading in your old car can provide additional funds to put toward your new vehicle.

Pre-Qualified Benefits: Getting pre-qualified for an auto loan is a wise step. It not only gives you a clear idea of your budget but also makes you a more attractive buyer to dealerships. Pre-qualification can help streamline the car-buying process and potentially lead to better negotiation opportunities.

Read the Fine Print: Before signing any loan agreement, carefully read and understand all the terms and conditions. Make sure there are no hidden fees or surprises down the road. If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to ask the lender for clarification.

Consider Insurance Costs: Don't forget to factor in the cost of insurance for your new car when budgeting. Insurance premiums can vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle, so it's essential to get quotes and ensure it fits within your budget.

Plan for Ongoing Maintenance: Owning a new car involves ongoing expenses such as fuel, maintenance, and registration. Make sure you have a plan in place to cover these costs in addition to your monthly loan payments.

Drive Off with Confidence: Once you've secured your auto loan, negotiated the price of your new car, and finalized the deal, you can drive off into the new year knowing that you've made an informed and responsible decision.

Shop Smart

A new year brings new opportunities, and if a new car is on your horizon, it's crucial to be well-prepared when it comes to financing. By understanding the ins and outs of auto loans, managing your budget, and making informed choices, you can drive into the new year with a fresh set of wheels, making 2024 a year to remember. At 1st Community Credit Union, we offer a wide range of loan rates and opportunities. When it comes to finding the car of your dreams, check out 1st Community Credit Union’s AutoSmart website to help you shop smart this year!

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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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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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