Blog Archive

Live your best life! 

Tips and information to help you be financially successful.

Savings 101: Everything You Need To Know About Emergency Funds 

Setting aside cash can give you peace of mind when unplanned situations happen. After all, unforeseen payments for medical bills, home repairs, and other emergencies can set you back and lead to financial losses.  


Reserved money for unexpected expenses can help you feel more secure and confident about the future. So, it’s best to have enough cash stored. To help you understand the concept better, here’s everything you need to know about emergency funds: 


Why Is an Emergency Fund Important? 

Financial stability is beneficial to enjoying and maintaining your lifestyle. Therefore, an emergency fund can keep you on track and protected when unforeseen situations occur. Consider your emergency fund a safety net, reducing the need for high-interest credit cards and personal loans. 


How Much Is Enough for an Emergency Fund? 

There is no set amount required when it comes to saving for unplanned expenses. It usually depends on your lifestyle, income, costs, and dependents. However, keeping three to six months’ worth of monthly fees can be a good amount to start with. 


jar full of coins, labeled 'Emergency'


What Are the Ways to Save for Unplanned Expenses? 

Reaching the ideal amount for emergency funds might be challenging to accomplish, especially if you’re living paycheck-by-paycheck. To help ease the process, the following are some practices you can do: 


Keep a Budget 

Monitoring your income and expenses is a good rule of thumb when you’re saving for emergencies. If you track your spending habits, you’ll be able to calculate how much you can set aside without making drastic changes to your lifestyle.  


For example, you’ve noticed that much of your money goes to unnecessary apparel. You can cut back a portion from your usual clothing expenses and allot them to your emergency fund.  


Set a Goal 

Rather than instantaneously putting a significant amount in your savings account, you can aim for a more feasible goal like a month’s worth of expenses. This mindset will lessen the pressure of saving and help you develop a habit. Once you reach the initial amount, you can gradually increase your goal. 


To determine your monthly expenses, you must combine every factor you spend based on your budget. Your calculations may include costs for housing, food, transportation, and other necessities. 


Save Excess Income 

If you receive more money than you usually do, it’s best to allocate it to your emergency fund. It may be tempting to spend your tax refunds, holiday pays, and other sources of income, but taking advantage of these bonuses can jumpstart your savings. 


Secure Your Money 

A good way to keep your emergency funds intact is to deposit them in a separate account. If you need a place to store your savings, you can contact us at 1st Community Credit Union. We can keep your money safe for unexpected situations. Get in touch with us today so we can discuss your financial plans.

Identity Theft Security for Teens and College Students

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal data to commit fraudulent acts. This can include your name, birthday, and other important pieces of information like your social security number. It is done most of the time to steal money or purchase expensive items.  


Nowadays, even the information of teenagers and college students can be used to commit fraud of any kind. Such a matter can be tricky to navigate as a young adult, but there are ways to educate younger generations to prevent these crimes and protect their identify. We have listed a couple of tips to help youngsters avoid having their personal information stolen.  


Be Alert to Phishing and Spoofing 

Phishing and Spoofing are two of the most common ways information can be taken unknowingly from an individual. Some scammers are known for making calls seem like they are from big companies when in fact, they’re only trying to get your important details.  


With that being the case, it’s best not to answer calls from unknown numbers. In addition, be wary of emails from unknown addresses as they may contain malware that can harm your computer. Never download attachments from someone who sends them unexpectedly. 


Try Enabling Two-Factor Authentication on Your Devices 

Stolen passwords account for 81% of fraudulent hacks. To better secure your personal data, enable two-factor authentication on your social accounts and emails. This can add an additional layer of protection to your information.  


Two-factor authentication works by having multiple identifiers to access an account. It can be a combination of a password, biometric signature like a fingerprint, and possession such as a phone or tablet. Even if your device is stolen, the thief will have trouble trying to access your information.  


woman looking at secure smart phone and computer


Install Antivirus Software on Your Devices 

Nowadays, most of our information is kept on electronic devices like phones, computers, and laptops. As a result, it can be difficult to deal with if one of your devices get compromised. A good way to protect your devices and your identity is by downloading antivirus software on them.  


Hackers may use malware that contains viruses, spyware, and other unwanted software. Having antivirus software on your device can keep them from harming your hardware and, by extension, your information. 


Clear Out the Data on Your Electronics 

If you’re upgrading electronics and giving away your old ones, make sure to clear out all of the data on the used hardware, as they can be restored with a data recovery program.  


Luckily, there are programs that can help you wipe your used devices with just a few clicks. If you want to save the information left, there are also applications that can transfer your data to a new device.  


One recommendation to avoid having data stolen off your phone at any time is to encrypt your phone. In this scenario, any data left on your phone will be scrambled and therefore safe, even if you lose your phone unexpectedly. 


Let Us Provide You Efficient Security Against Identity Theft  

If you want to protect your account against potentially fraudulent activity, 1st Community Credit Union can equip you with fraud-fighting tools. We take pride in serving our members in the best way we know. Get in touch with us today!

What You Need To Know About Mortgage Pre-Approval 

If you feel ready to buy your own place and are considering getting a mortgage, there’s one thing you should do first. Mortgage pre-approval is a great and quick way to determine how much you can borrow to purchase the home you want. Your lender will check and review your financial details, including your income, assets, and credit score, to find loan options you could be qualified for. 


Once you’re pre-approved, you might be asked to provide documents like bank statements or pay stubs as proof of income. During this process, you’ll find out the maximum amount of mortgage you’ll qualify for, how much your monthly payments might be, and what your interest rate would be. 

Why Is Mortgage Pre-Approval Important? 

Getting pre-approved allows you to set a total house-hunting budget, which can help you better balance your finances. When you are aware of how much you can afford, it will be easier for you to shop mortgage rates and find the best deals. In addition, you’ll have more confidence in making an offer to a seller because a pre-approval shows that you are a serious homebuyer. 


Furthermore, a seller would want an assurance that you’ll complete your purchase of the property. Showing them your pre-approval letter will give you a competitive advantage over other buyers. 


How Do You Get Pre-Approved? 

Once you’ve made the decision to buy a new home, get pre-approved for a mortgage. To start the pre-approval process, here are some steps you should do:  


Collect Relevant Documents 

Gathering all the relevant documentation is essential to the pre-approval process. This includes your proof of income, employment verification, proof of assets, credit history, identification, and debt-to-income ratio. Your lender or loan officer will review them to provide you with a loan estimate, which you will typically receive within 3 business days. 


Get Your Credit Score Checked 

You can give your lender permission to obtain your credit report so they can assess it. Although inquiries from loan officers might cause your credit score to drop slightly, they won’t significantly hurt your credit.  

Receive Your Pre-Approval Letter 

Once you’re pre-approved, make sure to secure the pre-approval letter that your lender will provide. Most real estate agents would want to see this document before they start showing you houses. This will prevent them from presenting properties that aren’t within your budget. 


You can also show the pre-approval letter to the seller when you make an offer. It will work as proof that you won’t have problems financing the amount you’re promising to pay. 


Get Expert Help From Us Today 

If you need guidance on purchasing your dream home, our mortgage experts at 1st Community Credit Union are here to help. We can tell you about the current mortgage rates and terms, as well as advise you in finding the right options for your budget. You can get started today, it’s as easy as clicking the “Apply Now” button on our website and answering a few simple questions.

Budget Tips 101: How To Plan Your Next Getaway

Traveling can be a fun and relaxing way to spend your free time. However, it can also be expensive because of accommodations, food, and transportation. So, before you hop on to the next plane, train, or boat, it's best to consider having a plan. Here are some tips on how you can start budgeting for your next getaway:

Select a Destination

You must know where you're heading first before you can make a budget for your vacation. That way, you can estimate the money you'll spend on your transportation. For example, choosing a drivable location can keep you from paying for costly flights. You'll have your car, so you don't need to rent a vehicle anymore.

Additionally, prices may differ per location. What might be affordable in one country may be expensive in another. Determining the range of your possible travel expenses can let you prepare and adjust your budget accurately.

jar of money labeled 'Travel'

Set Your Priorities

Sometimes, having a budget for your vacation might not be enough to ward off temptations, leading you to overspend. So, it's best to take note of your priorities. Ask yourself if you want to enjoy the attractions, immerse yourself in a foreign culture or try new food.

If you define your priorities, you can align your expectations and focus on achieving your goals. You can also spend less on things you don't need or can find alternatives.

For example, if tasting local cuisine is not that important to you, you can save money by cooking or bringing your food instead of purchasing it at your destination.

Detail Your Budget

Setting money aside may not suffice if you want to spend less on traveling. Instead, having a detailed financial plan to complement it is better. It can save you from overspending because you know exactly where your cash will go. To do that, you have to determine how much you can spend. You should also consider all the factors that can affect your trip, such as your needs and wants, and allocate your cash as you see fit.

Take Advantage of Promotions

Coupons and promotions can save you a lot of money on vacation. They can include more financial-friendly benefits. For example, some hotels offer complimentary breakfast. Taking advantage of their special deal, you can allot the money reserved for your meal to other things like souvenirs or additional snacks.

Promotions might also allow you to receive the same services at a lower price, especially for transportation. Some airlines offer deals that can let you book more affordable flights during a specific time.

Start Saving Early

If you're thinking of going on a vacation, saving money and sticking to a budget is the best way to set your plan in motion. So, you should open a savings account at 1st Community Credit Union in Sparta, WI to place funds for your trip. Give us a call today to learn more about our services.

How To Budget For a New Pet 

A house without a pet does not always feel like a home for some. However, when taking in a new animal companion, there must always be some financial planning and budgeting. Depending on your income and monthly expenses, adopting a pet may bring in additional fees that you might have to adjust to. Budgeting your finances is essential when you have a new family member to provide for. 


Like humans, pets require food, bedding, and medical care. On average, Americans spend at least $500 a year on their pets’ needs. To ensure a long and happy life for your new companion, you must be financially prepared to provide for their daily needs. A thorough planning ensures that you can support a new family member in your home. Here are some tips on how to make a financial plan for pets: 

dog and cat cuddling


Be Familiar With the Adoption Costs 

The adoption process for dogs and cats often varies but is rarely free. Certain animal shelters may require you to pay for the spaying and neutering of your chosen pet. Additionally, there may be vaccination fees that you must settle before you can take your new companion home. It pays to talk to your chosen shelter first and determine the total expenses before getting a new pet. 


Make a List of All the Pet Supplies You Need 

Depending on what kind of pet you are preparing for, you must list all the supplies they will need while living in your home. Specialized food, bedding, treats, and toys tend to be costly items that require regular maintenance. Before welcoming your new animal companion, you may opt to do your research on how much certain food brands and pet supplies will cost you per month. 


Consider Your Day-to-Day Expenses 

Specialized food is something you might have to purchase regularly for any pet. In the case of cats, however, you will also have to spend on cat litter frequently. Before you take in a new animal companion, you must consider how you can afford their day-to-day expenses. Prior research and budgeting are helpful to ensure that you will not overspend. 


Plan for Veterinary Care 

If your pet has never been checked by a veterinarian or has never received any vaccination, getting an initial evaluation must be considered. While medical care for animals requires additional fees, it will help ensure that your new companion will be free from parasites and health problems. Upon receiving an initial assessment, you may talk to your vet about annual checkups and their fees. 


Get Low-Cost Credit for Your Pet Expenses 

After doing the planning and budgeting of expenses before welcoming a new animal companion, you might want to apply for a loan or get credit for their initial needs. If you are looking to make a financial plan for pets, 1st Community Credit Union can provide you with the resources that you need. Contact us today!

Start Them Young: Tips for Teaching Kids About Saving

Saving money is an essential life skill that everybody, regardless of age, should learn about. However, managing finances can be a challenge if you don't have a strong foundation in financial literacy. It’s important to teach kids and encourage them to form healthy money habits right away. When they start early in life, these practices will stay with them and eventually shape them into becoming financially responsible adults.

Parents know that a lot of work goes into teaching children about savings, more than just encouraging them to set aside a portion of their allowance. Kids need to stay motivated and be consistent, but it’s quite a challenge when they don’t understand what they’re saving for. One good way to go about this is by setting short-term and long-term money goals.

mother helping daughter put coins in piggy bank

Do they want to buy a new toy, or do they just want some spending money on vacation? Regardless of your child’s motivation, we’re here to guide you in teaching them how to achieve it. Here are some smart tips on how your child can raise funds for both short-term and long-term savings goals:

Differentiate Wants and Needs

The first and most important step of teaching kids about healthy money habits is to identify the difference between wants and needs. Start by citing examples of needs (food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, and education) and wants (toys, electronics, etc.).

Then, you can quiz them to test if they can already grasp these two concepts. Doing this can teach them to prioritize spending on necessities over luxuries.

Teach Kids To Track Their Expenses

Being a better saver means being mindful of your expenses as well. Let your kids keep a journal where they can log and see their purchases. Have them add up everything so they can keep track of where most of their allowance is going.

By doing this, you can help your children grasp how important it is to create a balance between their expenses and their savings. This may prompt them to change their practices so they can achieve their goals faster.

Provide a Safe Storage Place

For younger kids, having a piggy bank may be enough. But when your child gets a little older, it may be wise to open a savings account at a local credit union.

Build a Financially Secure Future for Your Child

Saving doesn’t have to be hard work when you have reliable financial professionals by your side. Let our team at 1st Community Credit Union be your partner in ensuring a bright financial future for your kids. Get in touch with our staff to find out how you can open a children’s savings account.

Benefits of Two-Factor Authentication When Banking Online

The Benefits of Using Two-Factor Authentication When Banking Online

In today’s world of being able to accomplish most of your tasks virtually, it is important to have two-factor authentication as part of your mobile banking experience. Its main benefits are added security levels and minimizing the risk of consumer identity theft.

Whether your credit cards or personal savings accounts are linked to your mobile app, two-factor authentication decreases the chance of a security breach. Here are more benefits of using two-factor authentication when banking online.

hand pointing to secure login on a tablet

Prevent Fraud

Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, makes it more difficult for hackers to get information from your online banking portal. Someone seeking access to a 2FA-protected account will encounter more obstacles if they are trying to access your account. 

A good example of fraud protection is SMS-based two-factor authentication. The hacker will need two means of identification to access your bank: your account password and your mobile phone.

Nowadays, solving simple password combinations and gaining access to sensitive data has become obsolete. This is because having two or more verification steps stops them from gaining access through your password alone.

Using 2FA can further safeguard your accounts against unsolicited access to personal and corporate data. It reduces the risk of cyber breaches from anyone who gets a hold of your primary credentials.


Enhance Logins

Two-factor authentication involves the use of a one-time password, or OTP. This is a string of letters, numbers, or characters delivered once to a user for a single login attempt. OTPs lower the risk of hackers getting into your account by sending time-sensitive, unique, and random code to your phone through a text, call, or an app.

2FA is a more personalized approach to access your online information by involving your other online accounts and devices. Utilizing these personal resources can inevitably add a layer of protection to your account. Using 2FA to have an amplified login system is the best way to maintain strong security standards when opening your mobile bank app. 


Reduce IT Calls

Nowadays, the most common support issue is a forgotten password. Without a 2FA solution in place, the only way to retrieve it is by contacting your bank’s helpdesk.

Having your issue resolved by technical service providers can take a long time, and this can be prevented by using a 2FA system. Two-factor authentication simply sends a code to your verified device in order to change your password. This results in a quick, cost-effective, and secure solution to your problem.


Access Monitoring Is Allowed

Two-factor authentication often involves access monitoring for many devices. You can also limit which devices or networks have entry to your banking accounts. 

If someone else tries to access your account, you will be warned in real time so you may prevent cyber breaches. Two-factor authentication is the most convenient and the quickest way to ensure that your personal data is safeguarded.


Learn More About Two-Factor Authentication

For questions about two-factor authentication, mobile banking protection, or automated fraud alerts, call 1st Community Credit Union in Wisconsin! Our representative will be happy to answer your questions about online banking.

How to Buy Your Next Car When Inventory is Low

Recently, the market has shown low numbers of new and used vehicles available for sale. This can be attributed to low-interest rates, consumers running on stimulus and tax refund money, and the pandemic’s uncertainty with supply chains, among other factors. If you are planning to shop for a new set of wheels, doing so can be a lot more challenging than usual. You might not find the car you want in your local dealership.

In addition, car prices are on the rise due to the downward trend of inventory numbers. To help you find the right vehicle, 1st Community Credit Union introduces AutoSMART. 

What Is AutoSMART?

Although you may not find the car you want at your local dealership, the good news is that you can find and purchase at other stores through your computer or phone. AutoSMART offers a convenient way to help you find your next set of wheels. With this tool, you can search dealership inventories all over the country in the comfort of your home. This means you no longer have to drive to multiple car lots to look for a suitable auto.

How Does It Work?

With AutoSMART, finding the right car can be as easy as entering your zip code and selecting the type of vehicle you’re looking for. You can narrow down your choices by mileage, year, and price range using the tool’s search filters. 

If you can’t see the automobile you want within 5 miles of your zip code, move the slider bar to widen to a full nationwide search. After that, you can sit back and browse the current inventory that matches your vehicle preference. Once you find a car you’re interested in and need more information on it, simply click the “Contact” button to send a message to the dealership where it is offered.  

AutoSMART will also help estimate your monthly payments. You can also get your financing approved through this tool, so everything is taken care of when you walk on to the car lot to drive your new vehicle home.

Financing With 1st Community Credit Union

Purchasing a vehicle used to be an all-day activity. It’s a tedious process that starts with driving to your auto dealer, selecting a car you want, haggling over the price, and filling out a lot of paperwork. Then, you have to go back and forth between your dealer and credit union with your payment in hand.

To avoid that, 1st Community Credit Union and Credit Union Direct Lending (CUDL) collaborated to bring AutoSMART to improve your auto-buying experience. We made financing a car so much easier. You just have to decide on the make and model of the vehicle you want through the AutoSMART website. After that, simply visit the participating dealership where the vehicle is located.

Once you’re there, apply for 1st Community Credit Union’s low-rate auto financing through the CUDL system. You can get approved on the spot without needing to visit your credit union branch. All the paperwork is taken care of electronically, so all you have to do is drive your new car off the lot. 


Drive Home Your Dream Car Today

If you’re planning to buy a car without all the hassle and stress that comes with the auto-buying experience, call us at 1st Community Credit Union in Wisconsin. Through our easy auto financing program, you can avoid the typical hassle of car buying and save that time for enjoying your new ride.


The Do's and Don'ts of Buying a Home

Finding the perfect property, negotiating a price you can afford, and receiving financing are all important factors in buying a new house. Many homebuyers successfully navigate all three criteria, only to make significant errors before finalizing the purchase. Are you planning to purchase a home soon? Continue reading to discover the dos and don’ts of buying a new property. 
house and set of keys on financial spreadsheet

Do: Consider Paying for a Professional Inspection

Sellers may not always tell potential buyers the complete picture or they may have done some patch-up work to hide problems in the property until the deal closes. This is why you need help from a professional inspector who can spot possible issues in the property, such as leaks and pest infestations. When you hire an experienced professional to look into your prospective home, you'll save time and money in the long run.


Do: Use a Mortgage Calculator

Your lender can tell you how much house you qualify for but only you know how much you can comfortably afford to pay each month. Mortgage calculators are made to help you determine the right figures. It’s important to only pay a comfortable price so you can still enjoy living a comfortable lifestyle. 

A mortgage calculator can narrow down your search for properties that are within your budget. It can also play with the numbers to discover how different home prices affect your monthly payment.


Do: Get Pre-Approved for Your Purchase

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is a procedure in which you initiate an application with a lender and acquire a conditional commitment for a mortgage. This is a great way to speed up and simplify the closing process once you’re approved. It also shows sellers that you’re serious about buying a property. Do this process to have an advantage when it comes to negotiating for your prospective home.

In the competitive property market, you should do your best to stand out from the crowd. Getting pre-approved indicates that a bank or credit union has already confirmed your information and that you have started the mortgage application process. It also helps you discover possible issues with your prospective home before signing the contract, such as credit report errors. 


Don’t: Change Your Job

While changing professions may boost your career, it may make it more difficult to get a mortgage. A lender wants to know that you have a steady source of income and that you can afford to pay back your loan. If you were pre-approved for a mortgage based on a certain income and job, any changes may interrupt the deal and may delay your closing.


Don’t: Make Major Purchases

Another common mistake made by property buyers is to spend on furniture to begin planning for their new living arrangements. It may be tempting to begin purchasing furniture and appliances to furnish your new house, but it’s important not to splurge for the meantime. 

Whether you use your bank account or credit card, taking on new debt for these household items can affect your credit score and may raise a red flag for the lender. This may result in your loan approval being denied.


Apply for a Real Estate Loan Now

Ready for a home loan? Contact 1st Community Credit Union in Wisconsin if you are planning on buying a new property, such as a home for your family. Our team of lending professionals will gladly answer all your questions about mortgages.

Benefits of Homeownership

Purchasing a home is a major investment. Undeniably, getting to that point demands some level of financial stability. Before you can even turn a key in a door, you will need to look for an appropriate home loan, come up with a down payment, and pay closing charges.

Young family in front of their home

Because of those fees, many people who take on this major responsibility may think homeownership is only about owning a property and paying their dues. The truth is having your own home has a lot of benefits. Continue reading to discover the perks of homeownership. 

Owning a Home Builds Equity

Having high equity means getting a higher cash value out of the sale of your property. You should take into account if you’re planning to sell it in the future.

For most homeowners, the equity built up in their homes also becomes their largest financial asset. You can accumulate equity in your house while you pay off your mortgage each month. This is different from paying rent—instead of making monthly payments to a landlord, you will be contributing to a real asset. 

After selling your property for a high profit due to equity, you may reinvest in a new home or another type of property. You can also use your home to start building wealth right away by renting it out or house hacking. This is why buying a house is typically regarded as a wise financial decision.

Getting Your Own Home Means Having More Control of Things

One of the most significant benefits of homeownership is having control over the costs of your space. Unless the conditions of your mortgage change, you already know how much it will cost you to live in your house every month. Renting can be unpredictable, and the price of the property may alter over time. On the other hand, owning a property will keep your costs controlled and provide you peace of mind.

You will also have full control over your space. When you own the property you live in, you can renovate it to your liking as much as you want. You could also enjoy the freedom of decorating your home, owning pets without having to worry about landlord rules or added fees, and having a backyard space where you can enjoy the outdoors.

Having Your Own Home Provides a Sense of Belonging

Owning a home helps you create long-term bonds with your neighbors and other members of your community. It’s because homeownership eliminates the risk of a premature move that can hinder you from forming close relationships with friends and local businesses in the area. Settling down can give you a new sense of security and bring more comfort into your life.

Start Your Journey to Homeownership

Finding the appropriate home loan can make all the difference when it comes to one of your most significant investments—your own house! Call 1st Community Credit Union in Wisconsin today with your questions about buying a home. Whether about mortgage terms or homebuyer programs, our experts will gladly answer them for you.

Should You Refinance Your Car Loan?

Are you dissatisfied with your current car loan? Perhaps it is time to talk with lending experts and start refinancing your car. The concept behind auto loan refinancing is straightforward: you take out a new loan to pay down the balance on your old one.
set of keys and hands filling out application

If you have trouble paying your bills because of an extremely high interest rate or monthly payment, refinancing may be the answer. Continue reading to decide if now is the right time to refinance your auto or recreational vehicle loan with 1st Community Credit Union. 

If You Can Find a Better Interest Rate and Lower Monthly Payment

You should consider refinancing your car loan if you can find a deal that will reduce your interest rate. If you had no credit or low credit before, it is worth looking into refinancing your auto loan after a few years to see if you can get a better deal. Your credit score may have improved to the point where you are now eligible for a lower interest rate.

With a lower interest rate, you will be able to pay off your loan faster or lower your monthly payment while keeping the same repayment schedule. In either case, you’ll pay less over the loan’s life.

When Your Credit Score Has Improved

Like other loans in the markets, your credit score is also crucial when applying for a car loan. That is because auto lenders sort applicants by credit categories. If your credit ratings have improved since you purchased your last vehicle and you have made on-time monthly payments, you may qualify for a lower interest rate. Hence, a lower interest rate will save you money over the life of your loan.

Better credit scores can help lenders determine if you could pay off your loan. If so, they may offer you a lower rate. Having an improved credit score would be the perfect time to refinance your car loan. 

When You Want To Extend the Auto Loan Term

An expensive event, such as having a baby, unanticipated medical bills, or a natural disaster, can force you to cut your regular expenses. For these reasons, you may choose to refinance your car and prolong the term of your loan.

Extending your loan term also means having a cheaper payment. Take note that your monthly payment is reduced when extending the length of your auto loan, but it also raises the amount of interest you’ll pay over time. It also works the other way around. So, if you shorten the period, your monthly payment will increase while your overall interest payment will decrease.

Contact Us for More Information About Car Refinancing

If you have more questions about refinancing your car loan, our local lending experts at 1st Community Credit Union in Wisconsin will be happy to assist you. We offer auto and recreational loans that fit your budget. You can also visit our AutoSMART website, where you can find the vehicle of your dreams from any device, any time of the day. Reach out to us to get started!

Strategies To Pay Off Student Loans Fast

Although everyone deserves a good education, most people don’t have the means to pay for it. That’s why they usually get a student loan to afford to enroll in a good college and pursue their studies. However, it could be a challenge to pay off student loans while managing your living expenses and saving for the future.

Student Loan Application and calculator

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your expenses, here are a few tips you can follow to pay off your student loans faster and ease some burden off your shoulders:

Make Extra Payments the Right Way

One of the best ways to cut your total payoff time is to make larger payments. This will reduce the principal balance, shorten your loan period, and minimize the interest you have to pay. You can also make additional payments at any point in a month or every two weeks rather than waiting for the due date.

Just don’t forget to advise your service provider to apply the overpayments to your principal balance. Otherwise, you’re just advancing the due date and not paying off your loan faster.

Refinance if You Have Good Credit

If paying off student loans quickly seems impossible, you might be paying too much interest. To avoid this, consider refinancing multiple loans and replacing them with a single private loan with a lower interest rate. You can speed up the repayment by choosing a loan period that’s less than the remaining time of your current loans.

Opting for a shorter term will help you pay the debt quicker and save money on interest. However, it can increase your monthly payment.

Get a Part-Time Job While Attending College

One way to make sure you can get a head start on paying your loan is to have income. While attending college, try applying for a part-time job, so you can use your earnings to reduce your balance. However, you have to consider if you can properly manage your studies while working.

Follow a Budget

Being disciplined with your finances can help you pay off your student loan faster. If you understand your monthly cash flow and plan your expenses accordingly, you can prevent delays in reducing your principal balance. Make sure you’re diligent about sticking to a budget throughout your entire repayment period.

Stick to the Standard Repayment Plan

Although making additional payments is one of the best ways to shorten your loan period, some people cannot do it because of their financial situation. If you’re in a similar predicament, the fastest way to pay off your student loan is to follow the standard repayment plan.

Check for Interest Discounts

You’ll find that many people are struggling to pay off their student loans because of high-interest rates. Fortunately, some lenders can offer 0.25% to 0.5% discounts if you sign up for automatic payments on your loan. Other service providers may also offer discounts if you meet a certain number of on-time payments or if you apply for another loan with their company.

Should I Refinance My Mortgage?

A mortgage is a way to purchase a home without having to pay cash up-front. You are also given a set amount of time to pay back the loan with interest. Until then, you don’t fully own your home. Meanwhile, refinancing a mortgage is a whole different thing. It is the act of rolling over your current mortgage into a new home loan.

keychain "refinance your mortgage"

The benefits of a mortgage refinance vary from borrower to borrower, but it usually serves the purpose of shortening the mortgage’s term or lowering the payment. After assessing factors such as credit, tax, and return history, the mortgage lender presents you with several options to lower your monthly dues. That alone should already convince you to refinance your mortgage. Here are more key reasons:


To Secure a Lower Interest Rate

Technically, refinancing is a good idea because it can reduce your interest rate. While lenders would often say 2% is ideal, 1% can also make a big difference. This serves a dual purpose: it helps you save money and lessen the size of your monthly payment.


To Shorten the Loan’s Term

Once interest rates fall, homeowners have the opportunity to refinance an existing loan with another one. While the change in the monthly payment isn’t evident, you can have a significantly shorter term, which means you can settle your payments earlier.

To Prevent Monthly Payments From Increasing

If you currently have an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), it’s possible to refinance to a fixed rate loan to lock in your rate for the rest of the mortgage. This means you don’t have to worry about sudden spikes in monthly payments during your term.

To Borrow Money in a Cost-Efficient Way

Mortgage interest rates tend to be lesser in scale compared to other types of loans. They’re also tax deductible, which makes them one of the practical options for borrowing money. For example, cash-out refinance allows you to borrow against your home equity to obtain funds for any purpose. You’ll get a check at closing with the amount added to the mortgage principal you owe.

To Get a Better Mortgage Rate

This is perhaps the most common reason why people consider refinancing. One thing to remember is that mortgage rates are never the same between borrowers. It depends on the lender and can either be fixed or fluctuating with a benchmark interest rate. Mortgage rates also depend on the credit profile of borrowers.

Mortgage rates have the tendency to rise and fall and can affect the homebuyer’s market. If the rates have fallen significantly since taking the loan, it’s possible to save money by refinancing your mortgage into a new home loan at the current rates.

Get Credit at a Fair and Reasonable Rate From Experts Who Care

If you’re looking for friendly and personalized credit services, then consider joining our credit union. It’ll be the best financial decision you’ll ever make. Contact 1st Community Credit Union for more information. 

Auto Loans: How Much Car Can You Afford?
Planning to buy a new car or a used car is a big decision as it affects your monthly budget and financial situation.  Purchasing a car might be one of your major financial commitments, needing you to figure out how it fits within your budget and whether it is affordable.   Your budget dictates the price tag to the vehicle you can afford and not necessarily the car you want. 

To illustrate, you want to buy a vehicle that costs $40,000/- but your income can only afford a car worth $25,000.  Therefore, the car you want is not within your reach, thus, forcing you to reconsider your planned purchase.  Non-payment of auto loan leads to your financier repossessing your vehicle. How can you calculate the amount you can afford to purchase your car?

man holding car keys next to car

1.  Calculate Your Monthly Net Income

Financial advisers typically advise you to spend less than 10% to 15% of your monthly take-home income on your car loan payment.  That means that your first step is to calculate your monthly net income against your monthly expenses.  Doing so will help you determine how much extra income you can dedicate towards auto loan repayments and transport costs.  Transport costs include fuel expenses, car service maintenance and repairs, and car insurance. 

So, if your monthly net income is $4,000, plan to spend $400 on your car payment. 

2.  Check Your Credit Score

Your credit score contributes to determining your annual percentage rate (APR) payment on the auto loan.  The higher your score, the less you pay for loan interests.  Keep in mind that the interest rates for pre-owned vehicles are higher than interest rates for new cars.   Be realistic about the length of time you wish to pay off your auto loan. 

According to CNET, buyers in America negotiated to repay their car loans over long periods to make cheaper monthly payments. In March 2020, auto loan repayment periods were approximately 72 to 80 months of financing for new vehicles. 

Negotiating for a longer-term repayment schedule reduces your monthly payments.  However, the final amount of interest paid for your car increases.

3.  Establish your Target Price

Once you have determined the amount of auto loan you can afford, set your target price for purchasing a vehicle.  It is essential to factor in 10% for the sales taxes and fees.  For example, your target price for buying a car is $ 25,000.  At the dealer's, you see a car with the advertised price tag of $25,000.  Calculate the cost of the vehicle to include an additional 10% to the advertised price to get the total purchasing price of $27,500, which stands above the price you can afford.  Therefore, target a car whose price is approximately $22,500.

4.  Make a Down Payment from Your Surplus Income

Make a down payment on your auto loan as it reduces the length of time to pay off the loan.  You can use a trade-in as a down payment if you paid off your old car or you have equity. 


For more financial advice for auto loans, contact 1st Community Credit Union or give us a call at 888-706-1228.

5 Ways to Get Out of Debt

Eliminating your debt gives you more choices and allows you to take back control of your finances. However, getting out of debt is usually much easier said than done. It takes discipline and attention to detail, but it can be done if you create and follow a plan. Below are just a few ways you can start your journey to becoming debt free.

distressed woman holding credit cards

  1. Track your spending. If you don't know where your money is going, it's difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate excess spending and put that money towards paying off your debt. Take a good look at your spending by logging every dollar you spend for a couple of weeks. Then, take a good look at your log and see where you can make some positive changes. When you've identified those areas, make a monthly budget and vow to stick to it. 
  2. Stop spending on credit. It may seem obvious, but you'll have a difficult time getting out of debt if you don't keep adding to the total. If you have little self control, you may want to cut up your cards or hide them in the freezer (where you can't use them until they thaw). It's not a good idea, however, to close your accounts as that can have a negative effect on your credit score. 
  3. Eliminate excess spending. Most households spend money on things they don't really use. This could be subscriptions to online publications or streaming services that you rarely, if ever, use. According to a recent study by Waterstone Management Group, the average American household spends $237.33 a month on subscription services, including things like Netflix, Amazon Prime, a New York Time digital subscription or weekly food or beauty box. While these services can be convenient, they are usually charged automatically to your debit or credit account and can become a big draw on your finances over time if you aren't using all the services you pay for. 
  4. Use the snowball method. Another popular method of paying off your debt is to use the "snowball" method. To do this, you pay the minimum payment on all of your debts except one, usually the one with the lowest balance. On that one, you pay at least double the minimum payment required. When you've paid off that bill, you move on to the next lowest, etc. 
  5. Renegotiate your credit terms. Armed with your new budget and debt reduction plan, you may be able to renegotiate the terms of your existing debt. Banks and other lenders are generally willing to work with debtors to help them be able to pay back what they owe. This may lead to a lower interest rate, a reduction in the total debt or a longer period of time in which to pay the loan off.

1st Community Credit Union wants to help you manage your money more responsibly. We've been helping Wisconsin residents with their financial needs for more than 60 years.

The Benefits of Online and Mobile Banking

For years, banking was the same. Deposit checks at your nearest financial institution’s branch. Withdraw cash from an ATM. Receive bills in the mail and send them a check for the amount you owe. But the Internet has changed all that. Managing your finances  has become so much easier, now that you can do it online or on a mobile device. 

hands working on a laptop computer

  • Online Bill Paying - Rather than receiving a bill in the mail, sending a check back, and hoping it gets there on time, an online bill paying portal through your credit union lets you pay each of your bills instantly, at the touch of a button. Enter in the amount you owe, and hit, “Pay,” and the money is automatically sent from your account to the institution you owe. For certain bills that are the same every month, you can even set it to deduct the money automatically.

  • Money Transfers - Maybe you have two accounts, and need to move money from one to the other. Maybe you have a client who needs to pay you, or a vendor you need to pay. Maybe you just want to send money to a friend. With regular banking, you had to write a check and wait for it to clear. Now, you can do an online transfer, either directly through your financial institution, or through a secure third-party service connected to your account, such as PayPal or Venmo.

  • Deposits - Most employers now offer direct deposit, where your money is sent to your account automatically each pay period. But even when you do get a paper check, you don’t have to go to the credit union and wait in line to deposit it. Just take a photo of the front and the back through your mobile banking app, and the money goes in your account automatically.

  • Freedom and Flexibility - Most credit unions today offer both an online option as well as physical branches you can visit. This provides the freedom of managing your accounts any time, from anywhere, with the option to choose whether or not you want face-to-face assistance at a branch location. Want to add a secondary savings account to put money aside for something special? Open a secondary account online from home on the financial institution’s website. Sunday is the only day you have time to apply for a loan?  Apply online from the comfort of your home.

  • Going Paperless - How much mail do you get from your bank? Monthly statements, notices of important goings on, special offers, etc. All that paper just clutters your home, or gets thrown away. With online banking, you can choose to receive all of these communications through email, or through an online portal on the bank’s website, rather than receiving paper mail. Not only does this make everything a lot easier to organize and keep track of, you can lower your carbon footprint significantly by reducing the amount of paper produced, printed, and sent to you. The energy used to access your email is much less than it is to send mail by post—an important consideration as we continue the fight against climate change.

These are just a few of the benefits that online banking and mobile banking can provide you. It’s easier, it’s more convenient, it saves you money, and it’s better for both you and the environment. What more could you ask for? Contact the team at 1st Community Credit Union today to learn more about how online banking can benefit you - 888-706-1228.


 Warning Signs of Identity Theft

Identity theft is a persistent problem and, unfortunately, cybercriminals show no signs of letting up. Statistically speaking, identity theft affects approximately 1 in 20 Americans every year. In 2019, 13 million U.S. consumers suffered identity fraud.

It’s important to be vigilant because the sooner identity theft is detected, the less damage ID thieves can do. The following list includes warning signs you may be a victim of identity theft or financial fraud.


Unusual Withdrawals from Bank Accounts

Anytime you see an unusual withdrawal from any of your bank accounts you or a joint account holder didn’t make, this is a huge red flag. While a bank may make the occasional (very rare) error, chances are better a thief is pilfering your account.

Credit Standing Takes a Plunge

If you’ve maintained good credit and it takes a sudden plunge, consider this to be a warning sign. Once a thief gets a hold of your personal information, they can then open credit accounts in your name and go on a spending spree without paying the bill. If you check your credit report and find unfamiliar accounts or charges, this is a clear sign your identity has been compromised. Gone unchecked, within a few months, you’ll most likely find debt collectors begin to call you about debts you don’t recognize.

Small Charges on Your Credit Card

Any small and unusual credit card charge should be viewed with suspicion. Identity thieves will often test the proverbial waters by making very small charges with your credit card to see if it’s detected. If they sense a green light, they’ll then go for the gusto and start making large purchases, often maxing credit limits out.

Bills and Other Mail Go Missing

If regularly scheduled mail stops arriving, this could mean someone has stolen your identity. What thieves often do is steal their victim’s mail and then change the mailing address to be rerouted to them. Once they do this, they begin to collect other key pieces of your personal information to gain the information necessary to open new accounts in your name. Alternatively, if you start to receive strange bills, this is also a red flag.

Problems with Medical Providers and Health Plans

If you begin to receive bills for medical services you didn’t seek, this is another warning sign. It means there is a possibility someone used your identity information when they sought treatment. Additionally, if your health insurance plan starts to reject your legitimate medical claims this should be addressed ASAP. This is especially true if claims are rejected because your medical records show a condition you don’t have or your benefits have been maxed out, it could signal someone has been using your health insurance for their own purposes.

IRS Says You Already Filed

If you file your annual tax return and the IRS notifies you one has already been filed in your name and SSN, this is a key indicator someone is using your identity information to get a refund. Additionally, if they say you have income from an employer you never worked for, this is another red flag and should be investigated immediately.

Identity theft is an ongoing issue we all face. For financial advice and to learn more about how to protect yourself and your accounts from cybercriminals, give the team at 1st Community Credit Union a call at 888-706-1228.

welcome mat saying "our first home"


Financial Tips for First Time Home Buyers

April 2021


For a lot of people, buying a house is the ultimate dream that they hope will come true someday. After all, it’s nice to have a whole place for ourselves.

However, the reality of buying a house is the fact that it’s exorbitantly expensive. In fact, the real estate company Zillow has currently reported that the median home listing price this 2021 is $272,446, and that figure is expected to rise by 11.4% in 2022.

As a result, even though 80% of millennials would love to purchase their own houses, only a few of them are actually able to afford the costs, according to the data from Apartment List.

Despite the daunting statistics, your dream of buying real estate is achievable if you are financially savvy. To aid you in this matter, here are some words of financial advice for you.
  • Be Realistic When You’re Looking at Houses
    When you’re looking through the possible houses you might buy, you need to be realistic before getting attached to a gorgeous house that you can’t afford.
    This means that you need to check your income and calculate the possible costs to determine what price range of houses you can handle. You can continue your research on houses once you know your price range.
  • Continue to Pay Off Debt
    As mentioned earlier, owning a house is really expensive, and if you’re not careful enough, you’ll be drowning in a lot of debt. It is important to continue to pay off your debt as you can afford it, while also being able to make your mortgage payments on time.
  • Save for Down Payment and Closing Costs
    After paying off all your debt, the next thing you have to do is to save for down payment. Some home loan options require a down payment of 20% or more so that you don’t have to pay for private mortgage insurance, which is an added expense for your monthly mortgage payment. Luckily there are also options for Zero-Down, 3% Down and 5% Down Payments available to qualified borrowers. Consult a 1st CCU Mortgage Loan Expert to find out which mortgage loan option is best for you and your budget.  Aside from the down payment, you should also save some money for closing costs. Usually, it costs about 3–4% of the purchase price to close on a house, and these costs pay for the next crucial steps in the home buying process, such as appraisal, credit report, and home inspection.
  • Get Pre-Qualified for a Loan
    Once you’ve already saved up for the closing costs and the 20% down payment, the next step you have to take is to talk to a mortgage lender and get pre-approved for a loan.
    Getting pre-approved for a loan and getting a pre-approval letter will show home sellers that you’re serious, and that can get you ahead in the competitive real estate market.

Buying a house doesn’t come cheap. As a result, you need to be financially prepared first, and the tips above can help you achieve that particular goal. For further advice and information on buying your first home, give the team at 1st Community Credit Union a call at 888-706-1228.

jar of coins with label that says SAVE

Long Term Savings: How to Save for the Future

March 2021

It’s hard to think about saving for the future with expenses due today, coupled with shopping for non-essentials or spending money on other things, such as eating out or going on vacation. While those things are important too, it’s also a smart strategy to think about saving for the future to be able to enjoy life and still meet day-to-day expenses many years from now.

Also, important to consider is that life doesn’t always go as we plan. Job losses, cut hours, injuries, the car goes kaput, major appliance breaks, or an event, such as a pandemic, occurs. Strategically planning for the future with the money we have now is one of the best investments we can make.

Create a Budget

The first order of business is to create a budget. Sit down and make a list of all current income and expenses. Then list fluctuating expenses. Once you see your cash flow situation, it’s easier to take a realistic and honest look at your financial health. This is a true test of the ability to learn the difference between want and need. Once you do that, you can cut out any non-essentials being spent. Designate anything cut from the budget and divert it to savings or investments.

Build an Emergency Fund

Setting an emergency fund is one of the earlier steps to take when planning for our financial futures. This fund, which should only be touched in the event of a true financial need, will safeguard against dipping into any savings designated for the future. Ideally, saving for three to six months expenses is a good-sized emergency fund.

Start Saving Early

Whatever our financial goals, it’s always best to start now. In life, it is inevitable something will always come up that requires us to spend money. The earlier we start saving, the less of a negative financial impact will be felt when the unexpected occurs.

Tackle High-Interest Debt

Debt has an awful tendency to snowball if we’re not on top of it. As you make a commitment to savings, also commit yourself to pay down high-interest debt. The quicker you can eliminate high-interest payments, the better position you’ll be in to meet your financial goals for the future.

Automate Savings

Every time you get paid, you should set aside a portion to go towards your savings. Whether the money is sent to a savings account, 401(k), IRA, CD, 529, or other investment, try to make it consistent. You’d be surprised to see how quickly savings for the future accumulate once you make a commitment. Talk to your local bank or credit union about options where you can have money directly deposited from your paycheck.

Start Saving Today

Many people wonder when the right time is to start saving for the future. Putting money aside is one of those tasks people always seem to fall into the mindset of, “I’ll start that tomorrow.” However, our answer to this question is always. The time to start saving is right now. The earlier you start, the more financially secure you’ll feel down the road. You’ll also be able to handle any unexpected expenses life throws at you. If none occur, then you can enjoy your financial stability and spend without worry.

For more financial advice and ways to save money, give the team at 1st Community Credit Union a call at 888-706-1228.

rider on a snowmobile

5 Things to Know about Recreational Loans
February 2021

If you have been dreaming about spending your days camping, boating, or snowmobiling, you may be a good candidate for a recreational loan. Recreational vehicles can be expensive, but a recreational loan gives you the ability to purchase the vehicle you want on payments. Below are five things you should know about recreational loans before you sign on the dotted line. 

  1. Recreational loans aren't just for RVs. 

Even though recreational loans are often called RV loans, they can be used to finance many different types of vehicles. In addition to campers and motor homes, you can also use these loans to finance boats, ATVs, snowmobiles, scooters, personal watercraft and more. 

  1. You can finance up to 100 percent of the cost of your recreational vehicle. 

Most loans require you to pay a down payment at closing. However, when taking out a recreational loan, you can get funding for your entire purchase. This means you won't have to worry about saving up for a down payment before you can purchase your new vehicle. 

  1. You can refinance existing recreational loans. 

If you want to get better terms on an existing recreational loan, or if you want to give yourself more time to pay for your recreational vehicle, you can apply to refinance. At 1st Community Credit Union, we can help you refinance virtually any recreational loan. 

  1. Terms of up to 10 years are available. 

Unlike a standard auto loan, which is often capped at five or six years, recreational loan terms of up to 10 years are available on some loans (subject to restrictions). This gives you more time to pay the full balance of your purchase and lowers your monthly payment amount. 

  1. You can get a preapproval. 

It can be difficult to determine how much you can afford to spend on a recreational vehicle. With a preapproval, however, you will know the upper limit of your price range, making it much easier for you to find the perfect vehicle to purchase. In addition, a preapproval will speed up the process of closing the deal after you have found the vehicle you want to buy. 

1st Community Credit Union is proud to offer recreational loans to clients purchasing any type of recreational vehicle, from snowmobiles to campers. Loan terms of up to ten years are available, depending on the specifics of your purchase. In addition, if you are a qualified borrower, we can finance up to 100 percent of your recreational vehicle's purchase price, so no down payment is required. 

Are you ready to start shopping for the perfect recreational vehicle? 1st Community Credit Union offers free preapprovals. Please contact us today to get started or to learn more about our loans.

Free Trial Offer?  More like FEE trial offer!
It's natural for our ears to perk up with we hear about a sensational new product, and even more so when they are offering a Free Trial. 

Many consumers are eager to take advantage of a free product trial offer but unfortunately they wind up falling victim to fees. The "Free Trial" trick deceives consumers daily by hiding the specifics within the teeny tiny fine print, which can result in enormous shipping fee charges, making it nearly impossible to cancel the trial, or a hopeless pit of unexpected spending. Whether it's a secret subscription or a furtive fee, these free trials do not always end up being as "free" as you originally hoped, liked or anticipated.

Be smart about these "special" offers and follow these tips before you take the plunge:
  • Research The Company.  By doing a little investigating, you'll be able to see how credible the company really is. Read some reviews. Hear what others have to say. This will allow you to know if you're hitting a home-run success or a strike-out scam.
  • Read The Terms And Conditions.  This is a common mistake made by many prior to purchase. Hidden in the depth of legal jargon and mumbo-jumbo lies the root to your problems. Make sure you do not just sign off or give away your information before reading the fine print.
  • Beware Of Pre-Checked Boxes.  Companies will sometimes "help" you by checking boxes automatically. This grants them permission to sign you up for other programs or products - even if you do not want them or do not know about them. So when you see a box, make sure it's not checked unless it's something you chose or want.
  • Mark Your Calendar.  By being proactive and knowing when your free trial subscription ends, you'll be able to cancel the offer before it rolls into the unwanted and unfortunate not-so-free year-long commitment.
  • Know How To Cancel Your Subscription.  Although this may sound elementary, it is a very important fact to know. Whether it's a limited time frame for cancellation or just a convoluted conundrum, make sure you know exactly how to end the trial.
  • Read Your Credit And Debit Card Statements.  Frequently check your statements to know if there is a strange charge on your accounts. If you see something strange, call the company to hash out the situation. If that doesn't work, call your card issuer and dispute the charge.
Make sure you're not flooded with secret bills and unwanted trial continuations. Be smart and be aware of the logistics behind every free trial you subscribe to because, before you know it, that free trial won't be so free anymore.

The Best Time to Buy Your Favorite Products

Stores and manufacturers like to offer deep discounts on certain popular products at specific times of the year. If you love a good sale, time your purchases so you can take full advantage of these traditions. The following list shows the best month to find the best prices on popular items:

January –  Sales revolve around New Year’s resolutions about getting in shape, or people looking for items to keep their home’s interior cozy during the cold winter.

Fitness products, TVs, electronics, bedding and linens

February –  Comfy interiors continue to be high priorities on everyone’s To-Do list. People in the Northern states also need to deal with ice and snow.

Mattresses, humidifiers, interior paint, snow blowers, winter apparel and sporting equipment

March –  Many are planning kitchen renovations. It’s also time to introduce new models for digital cameras.

Countertops, space heaters, digital cameras

April –  Spring cleaning is on everyone’s mind, for the interiors and exteriors of their homes.

Vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, tractors, air purifiers

May –  Time to begin sprucing up the exterior of homes and after a hard-day’s work, enjoy a good barbeque!

Roofing, siding, and decking materials, gas grills

June –  Summer begins, and many people can now really work on the exterior of their homes.

Pressure washers, cordless drills, string trimmers, smartwatches

July –  Hot and humid, so you’ll find appliances to keep yourself dry, cool, and clean.

Dehumidifiers, laundry machines, dish washers, refrigerators

August –  It’s Back-to-School season, so you’ll find the best prices for pricier school supplies.

Laptops, headphones, printers

September –  You’ll find items to help to clean up your house, inside and out.

Leaf blowers, washers, dryers

October –  Time to check or replace smoke detectors and get ready for winter.

Smoke detectors, snow blowers, interior paint

November –  A favorite month for Shopaholics because the biggest discounts are offered, starting with Veteran’s Day and ending with Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Blenders, coffee makers, fitness trackers, TVs, refrigerators

December –  The biggest gift-giving season heralds multiple sales on nearly everything through the entire month. It’s also when car dealerships try to meet their end-of-year sales quotas.

Headphones, wireless speakers, fitness trackers, cordless drills, smartwatches, automobiles

Saving Practices Made Easy

It's easy to postpone starting to save for a later day, but a solid plan is key to success. By following some basic guidelines, you're more likely to achieve financial security.


Pay yourself first.

Use automated transfers to get in the habit of saving. Money will be transferred from your account without you seeing it, which makes you less likely to miss it. When you enroll in 1st CCU Anywhere it's easy to set up and monitor your automatic transfers between accounts.

Save 10% of your paycheck.

The general rule of thumb is to save about 10% of each paycheck. If that seems too high, try 5% and work your way up to saving 10% of your earnings. Add 1% every year you get a raise until you reach 10%.

Know yourself.

Examine your goals to determine which savings plan will work best for you. For example, don't invest all your money in an aggressive stock or mutual fund if you're conservative with your money. If you're saving for retirement, select a plan that will fit your financial needs down the road.

Realize that age matters.

Always take into consideration how much time you have to save for your goal. If you are a recent college graduate, you have several decades to ride out the highs and lows of the market and can take advantage of more high-risk investments. If you're only a few years from retirement, less risky investments are a better option.

See the benefit of compound interest.

The simplest way you can invest your money is to leave it alone and let it "compound" over time. You earn interest not only on what you save, but also on the dividends generated. The earlier and more you save, the more your money will grow.

Use dollar-cost averaging.

This is the process of routinely investing a set amount of money over time, rather than all in one lump sum. It's a convenient savings method, particularly for beginning investors. For example, each month transfer $25 or $50 from your share draft account directly into an investment vehicle such as a traditional or Roth IRA. You reduce your overall risk from market fluctuations because your money buys more shares when the price of a share is down, and your money buys fewer shares when the price of a share is up. Bottom line: You've reduced your investment risk.

Use the Rule of 72.

To figure out how long it will take for your investment to double with compound interest, use this rule: Divide 72 by the interest rate you expect to receive on an investment. For example, if your investment earns 4% interest, your money will double in 18 years (72 divided by 4 is 18).

Saving Money When There’s Not Much to Save  

Many Americans struggle financially, living paycheck to paycheck, hoping they have enough to cover all their bills at the end of the month. Life is easier if you have a cash cushion or an emergency fund, but how do you save when there is not much fat in your budget?

First, you need to find out where your money is going. Start by tracking all your spending for 30 days. Everything, even a pack of gum, should be noted using any tracking method you prefer – a notebook, your smartphone, an online spreadsheet, whatever works best for you. Then categorize each expense. Start with these essentials:

    • Rent/mortgage
    • Utilities
    • Food
    • Transportation to get to your job
    • Healthcare – prescriptions and co-pays

These five are priorities that must be paid each month. Everything else, like clothing, cosmetics, gym membership, etc., are areas where you can cut back and save a little. Here are a few other saving suggestions:

Entertainment – Look for low-cost ways to have fun.

    • If you have a streaming service, discontinue it for a few months. For example, a service that costs $25.00 per month means you’re spending $300 per year – that’s a month’s worth of groceries.
    • Get a library card to check out movies and video games instead of renting them.
    • Listen to podcasts. There are over a million to choose from on all subjects.
    • Learn a new language or start a new hobby. Here again, the library can be your friend by providing free resources.

Food – Try to spend no more than 11% of your take-home pay on food.

    • Shop for generic store brands instead of name-brand items. Many generic versions can be up to 60% cheaper.
    • Use coupons and download your grocery store’s app for more deals.
    • Buy vegetables in their natural form. Washed and cut vegetables can be twice as expenses.
    • Buy only what you know you can eat in a week or two to avoid throwing away food. Use a free meal-planning app to help you shop.
    • Make at least 75% your own meals instead of ordering from restaurants.

Energy bills – Changing habits can save you big money.

    • Use a toaster oven, slow cooker, or other small appliance instead of the oven.
    • Wait until the dishwasher when it’s full before using it and turn off the heated dry setting.
    • Unplug unused appliances and power strips to avoid phantom loans.
    • Turn off lights when you leave a room.

Credit Card Late Fees – Missing payment due date comes with a heavy price.

    • To avoid late fees and protect your credit score, set up automatic payments to pay at least the minimum payment by the due date.
    • If you can’t pay your bill in full each month, then use the card only for emergencies.
    • If your credit card has a high interest rate, look for one with a lower interest rate. Check out the rates on 1st CCU's Visa Credit Card.

By cutting costs even just a little and putting those savings into an account, you will be able to pay bills with less worry and even save for fun trips or a special gift.

Starting a Small Business: Turning a Hobby into a Career

While most people have a passion, hobby, or talent, few are able to turn a hobby into a profitable business venture.  Use these questions to guide you as you transform your hobby into the next small business in your area.

    • How can you make it unique? Having a talent for something doesn't always translate into a successful business opportunity. So how can you make your work stand out from the rest? Get creative and find a way to provide a custom service to consumers by doing what you love.
    • What need does it fill? An effective entrepreneur must identify consumer needs and find a way to tweak his or her product to fit those needs. To start, look at your community and see how to make your passion fill a need or solve a problem for future customers.
    • What do you know about the subject? Industry knowledge is a key requirement for starting a small business. Know your industry inside and out: the consumers, products, competition, and especially potential problems that can arise. Studying your industry is the best way to avoid pitfalls and make your small business as successful as it can be.
    • How can the credit union help? Your credit union is the ideal first stop for a budding entrepreneur. We are dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

If you’re ready to turn your passion into a small business, contact Liza Schlintz, Member Business Loan Officer at 1st Community Credit Union. Not only can she help with your business loans, she also can work with you to create a successful business plan.