6 Tips on Saving Money this Summer

Summer is the perfect time to re-evaluate your saving’s plan. Here are a few tips on how to keep more cash in your pockets this summer:

A Budget = Your Best Friend

Creating a budget can really help you stay in control of your money. It allows you keep track of how much you are able to spend on certain items and it’s designed to make sure you avoid overspending. With a budget in place, you’ll stay within your means and pocket more savings. The goal of creating a budget though is to stick to it! Be committed to seeing it through to have success.

Look For Free Fun

Going out to have fun is necessary at times, but try to do it a bit less when you want to save extra cash. If you do want to get out of the house, there are a variety of free activities you can do out and about.  There are always free festivals or events going on in the city, you just have to look for them.

Deals Are Golden

During summer time, we all have our adventures planned. But finding deals through the variety of apps and sites available are crucial to having a good time for a low price. You’ll be able to have fun and do it guilt-free when you’ve got a good deal, discount or coupon in tow.

Make Your Own Food

Instead of going and spending $20 dollars a day, you can save more money by meal prepping weekly or making your food at home. You’ll be surprised how much money you can actually pocket if you don’t eat out! As an added bonus, you also become a better chef.

Know Needs From Wants

Try not to impulsive buy; think about whether you really need something or just want it. If you don’t really need it, then save it. The more willpower you have in suppressing each and every want that comes your way, the more in control of your finances you’ll be, and the more money you’ll have in your wallet.

The Big One: Give Your Money A Home!

What better way to save money than to open up a saving account?

At BrightStar Credit Union, we’ve got a variety of options when it comes to saving. See our saving’s options here.

Money comes and goes easily, so be intentional with your cash and what you’re doing with it to become a better saver. The goal for this summer? Have fun, but ball on a budget.


Clean your finances this spring

5 Ways to Clean Up Your Finances This Spring

Clean your finances this spring
When your finances are in check, it shows!

Spring is in the air, but your finances don’t have to be. With spring cleaning on the brain, now is the time to tidy up that closet and more importantly, your wallet.

Fortunately, recent pop culture has heightened the cleaning fix in all our minds. Recently, methods of cleaning up by category and keeping only those belongings that bring you happiness have become increasingly popular. While this method is great for optimizing your physical space, it can also be used with your finances as well.

Here are 5 ways to clean up your finances just in time for spring.

  1. Clean Out Expenses

Give your bank account a clean-out by evaluating any recurring subscriptions that are on auto-pay every month and you can probably do without. For instance, you may realize that you don’t need that 500-channel cable package or magazine subscription. Don’t worry, you can still keep your Netflix subscription, but look into a family account to split the costs. You may want to consider saving money with your Amazon Prime membership by waiting a few extra days for your packages. Not to mention, this can discourage you from buying things you don’t need.

  1. Create Financial Categories

Using this categorizing technique, organize your bank statements from the past few months by creating a category for each transaction. Some categories might include living expenses—such as your rent, car payment, and utilities—savings, and entertainment. Once you’ve created your categories, develop a filing system that works for you, whether it’s folders, an app or online. This will help you see where your money has been going and monitor your spending for the future.

  1. Sort Out Your Credit Score

Improving your credit score is an important step in cleaning up your finances if you want to borrow or make a big purchase in the future. Start by combing through your report to check for any inaccuracies that can be lowering your score. After you’ve created your financial categories from the previous step, keep track of your bill’s payment dates to avoid missing payments. One way you can do this is by setting up automatic payments or calendar reminders.

  1. Pay Off Your Debt

Your first instinct to dealing with debt may be to ignore it hoping it will disappear, but this will only worsen the situation. While you’re partaking in spring cleaning at your home and only keeping items that bring you happiness, set aside the pieces you no longer want and sell them in a garage sale. You can use the money you make to pay off some of your debt. Another way you can accumulate some extra cash is by turning a hobby into a side hustle. For example, if you like crafts, monetize your hobby by selling your works of art online or to family and friends.

  1. Set and Commit to Financial Goals

Outline your short-term and long-term financial goals and plan how much money you need to set aside each month to achieve them. For many people, their primary goal is to increase their savings. While there are many ways to do this, one of the most effective is budgeting. Set a spending limit and commit to saying “no” when you reach your limit. Most importantly, track and be proud of the progress you’ve made to boost your financial confidence and inspire you to keep going.

Regardless of your financial situation, using spring cleaning and organizational techniques in your finances can help you reach your goals and tidy up your finances.


Young Person with Credit Card

7 Tips for first-time credit card users

Young Person with Credit Card

Credit cards are a powerful financial tool. If you use them wisely, they will help you achieve your financial goals. But as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Abuse them and you will find yourself in a world of financial hurt.

If you recently got your first credit card, here are nine tips to help you use it in a smart, financially-sound way:

1. Read the fine print

Eye-catching promotional headlines can be very appealing. But look at the details. You’ll especially want to watch for things like high annual or late fees, or additional costs attached to using the card.

2. Pay the balance in full every month

Make sure you pay off your purchases at the end of every billing cycle. This way, you’ll avoid paying interest, which, if allowed to build, can dramatically increase the total cost of your debt.

3. Use it to build your credit

Remember when we said credit cards are a powerful tool? When you pay off your balances every month, you establish a positive credit history. You demonstrate to credit agencies that you can handle the responsibility of credit. This will become important when you want to buy a car, rent an apartment or even apply for a job.

4. Treat it like cash

If you don’t have the money now (or in the near future) to pay off the purchase, don’t put it on your card. You increase your risk of accruing interest and expanding what you owe (that’s how people get into debt).

5. Look for a good rewards program (but not at the expense of a high rate)

Cards for first-time users without much of a credit history may not have exceptional rewards, but it can’t hurt to look. You might be able to find decent cash-back or mileage offers.

6. Don’t share it with anyone

Credit cards are private. Don’t let anyone use it under any circumstances, even if it’s a good friend who needs to borrow money.

7. Always check your statements

Unfortunately, credit card fraud is a very real thing. Check your statements every month to make sure there aren’t any unrecognizable charges. If you see a purchase that you didn’t make, report it to the credit card company right away.


Budgeting Fun

How to Make Budgeting Fun with Your Family

Budgeting Fun
Make budgeting Fun with your family!

Setting spending limits and crunching numbers is not exactly a traditional recipe for family fun. But you can make budgeting fun by getting a little creative. Here is how:

Talk it through

Finances are a complicated subject. But it is important for your children to learn this very important skill early in life. In order to make budgeting fun for all, make it a game. Seat everyone at the table and talk about where the money goes.

Show them the money

Ideally, you should keep record of your finances in a tangible place. A specific folder in your computer or an organized excel sheet. But let’s be realistic, creating excel formulas is hardly fun for a child, let alone a fun activity for the family.

Our suggestion: Go old school!

Set out three containers, jars, banks or baskets. Mark one of the receptacles with the word save.  One with the wod spend and the final with the word share.

Use real money and coins to fill the containers each month so the whole family can see exactly how a budget works and where money needs to go. Folger recommends divvying up money according to set percentages. This is an especially beneficial method to help your tweens and teens balance their own allowances while earning real-life financial lessons.

Work toward family-fun goals

Budgets are designed to keep your present bills paid as well as plan for the future. If your family is only focusing on what they’re giving up or not getting, there’s no way your family budget will resemble anything but doom and gloom.

Instead, making budgeting fun by including goal that everyone can appreciate or look forward to using. Perhaps you can work toward a family-fun day at a local amusement park or even an extended getaway.

When planning for a vacation, Godfrey stresses the importance of involving everyone in the family on decisions from where to go and what to do to how money should be spent. A budget designed specifically for fun-in-the-sun or a first-time adventure is sure to keep your kids interested in your family’s financial planning.

Give back as a family

Teaching your kids to give back is an important, life-long lesson. Dedicating a portion of your finances will create a life lesson and a lot of fun memories.

With open communication and an eye on future fun, you and your family can make budgeting fun and support your financial goals.


3 Great Financial Skills for Young Adults

Great financial skills at a young age!

The real world is expensive, and if you are a young adult the lack financial aptitude will harm you later on in life. Being financially unaware will make you struggle not only fiscally, but emotionally as well. That’s why you need to acquire financial skills as you make your way through college, navigate your first job and learn to save for the years to come.

 College-bound

College is often the first time you will experience a real sense of freedom. Gone are the days of a traditional school schedule with parents and teachers standing over your shoulder to make sure you study, eat and complete your assignments.

College may also be the first time you are faced with managing your own money to cover bills, school expenses and inevitable loan payments. To help keep you from failing Personal Finance 101, we recommend establishing a budget.

Record income from sources such as part-time job, student loans, money from parents, grants, savings accounts and scholarships.

Then record expenses: things such as books, tuition, rent, clothes, entertainment, college fees, supplies, personal care items and transportation costs. By tracking the first two months of spending, you will earn an accurate baseline of necessary and unnecessary spending and where’s there’s room in the budget for saving.

 On the job

The thought of saving for retirement after securing the first job out of college may seem ludicrous.

After all, you still need to pay off college loans,  rent, car payments and insurance fees.

However, saving for the future as soon as possible and investing in employer-matching retirement programs with the max amount possible are smart financial moves, according to The Balance writer Miriam Caldwell.

Remember the budget you used in college?

Now is the time to update if for the real world. Tracking your income, expenses and spending is the only way to gain control of your finances. As you progress in your career, your financial health should become more robust.

Be sure to consistently evaluate and re-evaluate your budget, plans for the future and investment options.

Credit cards are convenient, and sometimes the only resource you have to get through stressful financial times. But, they come at a high price. Sinking into credit card debt happens quickly and before you know it, you’re over your head in fees and balances you can’t clear.

To help you stay afloat, forgo any dependence on plastic.

 In case of emergency

Life will throw you expensive curveballs, and without an emergency fund, your financial health will take on serious damage.

According to Investopedia writer Amy Fontinelle, any amount you can save each month in a money market account, certificate of deposit or online savings account will do wonders in establishing your financial safety net.

Be sure the account you choose earns high-interest rates, too.

By adopting smart money habits, like budgeting, you’ll create a lucrative and secure future.


Raise Capital for your startup!

4 Ways to Raise Capital for Your Business

Raise Capital for your startup!
Raising Business Capital is Important!

Very few people know how to raise capital for their business, especially if it is their first startup. Though a necessary part of the process, investing your own money may not be enough. How can you raise capital for your business, and where can you get it?

1. Create a solid plan

Your business won’t be successful without a solid plan in place. Without one, you won’t be able to secure capital to get on your feet.

“Every successful business transaction starts with a carefully developed plan,” Jeffrey Hayzlett writes in a September 2017 article for Entrepreneur.

Hayzlett says that a good plan should identify the problem your business is trying to solve. It highlights the unique features that make your service or product stand out. Use these to build a short pitch. You should identify future milestones and then estimate how much capital you will need to meet them.

Without a solid plan, potential investors won’t have any reason to believe they can trust you and your business with their funding.

2. Friends and family

Borrowing money from friends or family is one of the most common ways to raise capital for a new small business. However, many investors shy away from it. After all, the potential cost of failure isn’t just financial; it’s personal. The key is to present your pitch professionally and treat your friends and family like real investors. This will make things go more smoothly if you are turned down.

On the upside, that personal relationship can take you further than you could go with an unfamiliar investor.

3. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular way for small businesses to raise capital money to get started. Websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe let you solicit funds through online campaigns. In return for their money, donors receive services or products related to the project you are trying to launch. The value of which is based on the amount donated.

4.  Angel investors

Angel investors are individuals with deep pockets who will invest in your startup in exchange for a higher rate of return than traditional investors.

Companies like Google and Yahoo, received help from angel investors in their early stages. “The big advantage is that financing from angel investment is much less risky than debt financing,” Susan Ward writes in an October 2018 article for TheBalance’s Small Business. “And, most angel investors understand business and take a long-term view.” You can find angel investors on websites like New York Angel and Angel List.

These are some of the ways you can raise capital for your business. Others include credit card loans, personal business loans, SBA loans and microloans from nonprofits. Talk with a professional to explore all of your options.


6 Smart Financial Choices You Should be Making

Smart Financial Choices is the Making
Make Financial Choices that Matter

The world is a revolving door of bills, savings, spending and decisions. When we talk about financial wellness, we don’t usually talk about millions. We talk about living within your means. This means you have to make financial choices that will benefit you. For example:

 

  1. Create an emergency fund

Every single one of you, regardless of how much you make should have an emergency fund. Unfortunately, more than 50 million Americans forget about this very important financial choice.

This very important aspect of savings will help you take care of unexpected life events that will require you to spend money. The last thing you want when an emergency arises is stress about money. This fund will help you get to your next step easier.

 

  1. Embrace minimalism

Do not spend money on things you don’t need. Yes, you may treat yourself once in a while but if you are going out every weekend or changing your house décor every 2 months; STOP!

Take a step back, breathe and ask yourself “Can you live without this?” If the answer is yes, then put your credit card/cash back. We cannot stress this enough; you must live within your means. Once you start doing this, you can actually start achieving other goals like traveling, saving for a home and go on a shopping spree without having a huge financial strain.

 

  1. Make your money accrue interest

Growing up I heard everyone older than me say that financial stability came along when you figured out a way to make your money make own its money. CD’s and Money Market Accounts are the perfect way to make your money accrue interest by just letting it sit. It is also the perfect way to get disciplined with your savings. CD’s and Money market accounts are also a guaranteed way to make money because they do not rely on the stock market to grow. You just need patience.

 

  1. Change your insurance

We briefly mentioned changing your insurance on our “How to Make a proper Budget” blog. The internet has made research easy. Changing your insurance is research you should be making. See how you can take advantage of discounts, promos and benefits that can help you reduce the cost of your insurance.

 

  1. Save money on gas

Gas is one of those little things that makes a difference. If you live anywhere in Florida, you are spending money on gas. A way you can start saving on gas is buying or switching into a smaller car. This may not be possible if you are a parent or have a big family, but if this is not something you need…CHANGE IT!

 

  1. Find ways to make extra money
    Making a little extra money is smart- especially when you want to treat yourself a bit more. You can use APPs and websites like eBay, Offer Up and Facebook to sell gently used items. You can open a separate Savings Account to add the little extra money you are making. The extra dollars can help you pay for a plane ticket and help you pay for a vacation. It can also make it easier to grow your Emergency Fund.

 

Try to follow these tips to help you make better financial choices. It is the little changes that make a difference in your financial well-being.


5 Saving Money Tricks for this Holiday Season

The Holiday season is upon us and this could either mean you are overly excited about the celebrations or you’re overly stressed out about money. Granted, you can also be both, excited and stressed out. This is normal during this time and we are here to offer you some guidance.

How can you save your money and spend wisely this holiday season?

Make a Budget

It should be no surprise to you that a budget is the smartest way to keep track of your money. You should keep one year-round but you should also have a separate one during the holiday season.

When you create your holiday budget, be smart and avoid setting yourself up for failure. Do not set a budget that is unrealistically low or one that is way too high. Also, think about cutting back in other areas. Can you avoid brunch Sundays with your friends for a month? Or even little things like buying coffee every morning?

Make a list of gifts that you absolutely need to get and another list of gifts you can make yourself. Getting a beautiful printed picture in a cute affordable frame can be just as nice as a $50 bottle of wine. After all, it is the thought that counts.

Make a Potluck

Getting your friends and family together to celebrate is always a beautiful tradition. However, if you are the host, it can be a very expensive one too. Deviate from the all-or-nothing thinking and ask your friends to help you with side dishes and dessert for your celebration. Not only will a potluck save you money, it will also save you precious needed time.

Get Flying Deals and Discounts

If you’re planning on taking a nice trip out of town, search for discounts. Gone are the days where travel agents had the only good flight packages. Now you have a million ways to get discounted fly tickets, car rentals and hotels. In fact, you can even get some travel benefits with your BSCU credit card.

Here is a trick: When you search for flights online, make sure to check at different times of the day. Believe it or not, some flights can get very cheap when you purchase them at odd hours like 2:00am.

Have Will-Power and Know When You Need to Stop

When your list is finished and you’ve checked it twice, it’s time to stop shopping. Know when you’re finished, and avoid stopping by the mall “just to see what they have” – this can lead to making poorly planned purchases and blowing your budget.

Most people get the itch to shop a few days before Christmas, if this is you, then leave some shopping you NEED for the last days. This way, you will still feel like you are getting something but you are not just “checking things out.”

Time to Use Coupons.

If this isn’t typically you, that is okay but during this time you’ll be wise to utilize coupons. You can get coupons online, via email, through a newspaper and you can even buy a cheap coupon book at the mall. The point is you have choices. Do not buy that $25 dress when you can get it for $15. Be smart because every dollar adds up.

Finally, remember to enjoy this time with your family and if you have to spend, spend wisely. We hope this helps.

 


How to Value Your Business When Selling 

There are many reasons to sell a business as well as many reasons to have an up-to-date business valuation even if you aren’t selling. Regardless of the reasons, a number of factors will play a part in determining the value of your business. On top of that, all of them require a professional to properly assess.

Hire a professional

The first and most important rule of valuing your business is not to do it yourself, as owners tend to — understandably — overestimate the worth of their enterprise. “There is a level of emotional attachment owners place on their businesses; after all, you put years of blood, sweat and tears into its creation, therefore it feels like it should hold more value,” Andrew Bass, Chief Wealth Officer for Telemus, writes in a March 2018 article for Kiplinger.com.

It is going to be impossible for you to step back and make an objective assessment of your own business, making it important to get your valuation done by a professional. “It’s not uncommon for owners to think their business are worth more than they actually are, and they might balk at the legitimate offers being made,” Bass says, though he adds that it can go the other way around as well. “Unique tax and business aspects of the business and environment may result in greater value!”

A Chartered Business Valuator, or anyone valuating your business, such as an accountant, can use a number of business valuating methods to determine a fair price for your company.

Earning value

Often regarded as the best way to value an establishment, the earning value approach attempts to estimate a business’s ability to generate wealth in the future. “With this approach, a valuator determines an expected level of cash flow for the company using a company’s records of past earnings, normalizes them for unusual revenue or expenses, and multiplies the expected normalized cash flows by a capitalization factor,” writes Susan Ward, co-head of IT consulting business Cypress Technologies, in a September 2017 article for TheBalance.com.

One of the weaknesses of this method is that it is difficult to assess the percentage of business that may be lost by a change of ownership, which will affect customer loyalty. Ward says this can be mitigated in several ways, such as when a trusted family member takes over the business.

Market value

The market value approach attempts to determine the value of your business based on the value of similar businesses that have been recently sold. While this method is trickier than others because of the requirements involved — there need to be sufficient similar businesses to compare yours to and sufficient information about their sales, which can be difficult to acquire — it also comes with some advantages to the business owner. “Using competitor valuations to establish your own makes it difficult for investors to tell you that your valuation is too high which is often a tactic used by investors to bring your price down in order to obtain more equity for their investment,” says Alejandro Cremades, co-founder of Onevest, in a March 2018 article for Forbes.com.

These are just two of the most common types of business valuation methods, though there are many more, and combinations of methods ultimately tend to be the most effective. Regardless of the methods you adopt in the end, remember that the most important step of successfully selling your business is to start by hiring a professional.


How to use your CD’s for Savings

The advantages and drawbacks of putting your money in a certificate of deposit

From savings accounts and money market accounts to stuffing cash into a jar in the cabinet or beneath the mattress, there are a wide variety of ways to save your money. These options offer varying advantages and drawbacks, but what they all have in common is the idea that you can withdraw your money as soon as you wish. If you have funds that you want to squirrel away without the temptation to dip into them, consider putting the money into a certificate of deposit.

 

What is a certificate of deposit?

According to NerdWallet’s Tony Armstrong, a CD is a kind of savings account that typically offers a fixed interest rate and fixed maturity date. Insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for up to $250,000, CDs are considered extremely low-risk savings alternatives. The advantage to leaving the money in your CD for a full term, which Armstrong says typically ranges from three months to five years, is that it will accrue interest over that period, offering a significant return on your investment.

 

Saundra Latham, contributor at The Simple Dollar, writes various different types of CDs are worth considering. A traditional CD is the most common variety and offers fixed interest rates, but if you prefer a bit more risk you can also opt for a variable-rate CD which will adjust to the market rate. There is also a bump-up CD, which allows you to opt into a higher interest rate if one becomes available during your term. If you have a larger amount of money to put away — think six figures or more — a jumbo CD pays out a higher interest rate than the traditional option.

 

When a CD won’t work

A CD requires the full term to pass before you can withdraw funds (without paying an exorbitant fee), so it might not be a sound option if it is your only means of savings. CDs are attractive because they tend to offer higher interest rates than savings and money market accounts, but they don’t offer the same flexibility when it comes to making sporadic withdraws for emergency situations. Margarette Burnette of NerdWallet suggests a high-yield savings account might be a preferable alternative if you aren’t positive you could go for a fixed term without the money.

 

A CD also might not be your investment of choice if you want a higher risk-reward proposition. CDs are generally safe additions to your portfolio if you want something reliable to fall back on, but if you prefer more aggressive investments with potentially bigger payouts, CDs likely aren’t going to be the focal point of your financial strategy.

 

How to maximize your CDs

The “laddering” technique is a common approach to getting the most out of a CD. The Wall Street Journal’s how-to guide on CDs puts it as such: “Let’s say you want to invest $15,000. By laddering, you would invest $5,000 in a one-year CD, $5,000 in a two-year CD and $5,000 in a three-year CD. Then, each time one of the three CDs matures, you would either take the cash or re-invest it in another three-year CD to keep your ladder in place.”

 

This strategy enables you to continually collect interest and opt into higher interest rates if they are available at the close of a term. If you keep this method going continuously, you will allow yourself the option of having a chunk of your CD savings at your disposal every year. This way, you can decide whether you need the money for an emergency or investment opportunity while the other CDs in your portfolio continue to accrue interest.

Investing in CDs is a safe, solid financial decision if you have the patience to bear it out. To determine whether a CD is right for you, talk to your financial advisor to learn more about the risks and rewards.