Holiday Budgeting

Successful Holiday Budgeting

Holiday Budgeting

Successful Holiday Budgeting Tips

With the holiday season approaching quickly, budgeting for those holiday gifts is going to be super important. Not only will you have your reoccurring monthly expenses, but now you need extra money saved to purchase gifts for your loved ones. Here are some tips on how to prepare.

 

 

Figure out your expenses and make a list

Make a list of all your normal monthly expenses and then add all the gifts you intend to buy. Obviously, the monthly expenses should be the top priority, so once you know how much that is you can estimate how much you are able to spend on gifts or events. It’s super important to stay within you budget because nothing is worse than coming out of the holiday season in debt.

 

Set a limit for how much you are going to spend

Once you have a list of all your expenses, make a limit for how much you can spend. Many people don’t make a limit and overspend on their credit cards. This is a great way to end up in debt and paying interest on those gifts. No matter how special the person might be, giving up your financial freedom isn’t worth it.

 

Sales are everywhere

Check out the sales that are happening near you! Stretching your dollar will help you get the most bang for your buck. Huge retailers typically have flash sales or holiday deals. Make sure to have a shopping plan of where you want to go so you can check to see when their deals are. The best way to stay caught up on deals is to sign up for email alerts. It will save you the hassle of looking online every day to figure out if they are having a sale.

 

Don’t use a high interest credit card

Many banks and retail stores will offer discounts if you sign up for their credit cards, but then hit you with high interest rates. Credit Unions will offer the lowest rates available and many times have 0% APR for 12 months. This could be super beneficial when it comes to spreading out the cost of the gifts. Another option would be to go cash-only shopping so you can be sure that you won’t end up in any debt.

 

The holiday season is a fun time to spend with friends and family. Budgeting will help make this holiday season affordable and stress-free if done correctly!

 


Home Equity

What's a HELOC and how do I use it?

What’s a HELOC?

HELOCs resemble a second mortgage and also function like a credit card. You are able to draw from this fund whenever needed. Therefore, you don’t have to withdrawal it all at once. The main difference between a HELOC and mortgage loan is that a mortgage is used to buy a home. You never see the money since it’s given to the seller and you pay monthly for a certain period of time. A HELOC is a line of credit that uses your home as collateral that you can withdrawal from at any time. The interest is only paid on the amount that you use. For example, you could get a $50,000 HELOC and only use $10,000 of it. You will only pay interest on the $10,000 that you borrowed.

Six Smart Ways to Use a HELCO

Renovate rooms

This is a great way to increase your home’s value. One of the best rooms to start with is the kitchen. Many homebuyers look for a modern kitchen that is updated with current trends. Using a HELOC to pay for this renovation is a great way to get the most bang for your buck. After your kitchen, focus on bathrooms and then bedrooms.

Convert unused space into living space

Finish your basement or convert unused space into something cozy and livable. This is a great way to add more space to your current layout and will make potential homebuyers intrigued with the amount of usable area in the home. You could also consider adding a mother-in-law suite somewhere in the layout. Adding something like this has the potential of adding quite a bit of value to your home.

Give your home a makeover

Replace siding, doors, garage, etc. for a better outdoor appearance. Having a nice outside appearance will attract buyers and will allow your home to stand out in the neighborhood. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint or a new roof can add to a home’s appearance!

Pay off debt

You can pay off high interest debt such as those typically associated with credit cards. Be careful if you choose to do this because you are gambling your home on it. HELOCs will offer a lower interest rate but have a high level of risk associated with them. Make sure you have a great plan in place to ensure you are able to pay off the HELOC and not default.

Pay for a vacation, college, car, etc.

Along with home improvements and debt consolidation, a HELOC can be used to pay for “fun”. Although this is a very tempting option, make sure you have a solid plan on paying back the loan. REMEMBER… your collateral is your house. If something were to happen and you weren’t able to pay the loan back, you will lose your home!

HELOCs are great tools to use when used correctly. Whether it’s fixing up your home, consolidating debt, or having a little fun; BrightStar CU can get you set up with a low-rate HELOC!


credit cards

What to Look for When Applying for Credit Cards

credit cards

What to Look at When Applying for Credit Cards

There are many different reasons to apply for a credit card. You could be a student looking to build credit, a new parent looking to spread out payments on baby gear, or a smart shopper wanting to receive cash back. It’s very important that you don’t go overboard with charging everything to your credit card. You need to remember that you eventually have to pay the money back.

There are many things to consider when picking the perfect credit card to apply for.

 

Top 4 Things to Know About Your Credit Card

  1. Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of borrowing on the card. This comes into effect if you don’t pay the full balance each month. Each card has a different APR and is calculated by your credit worthiness and other factors. Having a low APR will allow you to pay less in interest if you’re planning on keeping a balance. We recommend paying off your card in full each month so you don’t waste money on these interest payments.
  2. The minimum payment is the lowest amount that you need to pay each month to avoid a fee. If you plan on not paying off your balance each month, it’s important to understand the minimum payment amount that you are required to pay. You will need to make sure you can afford the minimum payment each month so you can budget accordingly.
  3. Rewards can come in the form of discounts, vouchers or merchandise depending on bank. These points add up after each qualifying purchase until you have enough to cash out on the reward. One important thing to look at is to make sure the card you are applying for has qualifying stores that you use. Otherwise, this rewards system isn’t very useful since you won’t be shopping where you have the potential of earning rewards.
  4. Cash back is an important thing to look at because who doesn’t like saving money? Typical card will offer around 1.5% on qualifying purchases. Again, you need to look at where you will earn cash back. Steer clear of cards that only offer cash back at certain stores. There are plenty of credit cards out there that will give you cash back on ALL purchases.

Now that you know the basic components of a credit card, you’re ready to start applying! It’s so important to start building your credit history when you’re young because it allows you to get lower rates on auto loans, mortgages, etc.


Female holding car keys with car on background

Should I Buy a New or Used Car?

What to Consider When Buying a New or Used Car

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to just snap your fingers and have a new car show up in your driveway? Without this ability, you’re going to need to decide whether or not you want to purchase a new or used car. There are pros and cons to each, so developing a personal buying strategy is key.

 

Advantage of a New Car

It’s never been driven! You know the exact history of the car and know it will be reliable. That being said, you usually receive a warranty for the first few years. This is great because it’s less out of pocket expenses if something was to go wrong with the car. Generally, the first few years don’t see a lot of repairs other than maintenance, but it’s a great thing to have.

 

Disadvantage of a New Car

The second you drive that new car off the lot, the car will lose several thousands of dollars due to depreciation. It will be the most expensive two minutes of your life, so enjoy it. Depreciation has the biggest impact on your car during the first two to three years. This can be a little scary, especially if you’re in the hole with the auto loan. That’s why it’s very important to shop around for the best deals and rates so that you can get equity in your car fast. Buying GAP insurance is another way of protecting yourself when buying a new car.

 

Advantage of a New Car

New cars have the new car scent, fresh seating, and the latest technology. These things are important to many people, so deciding if you want to spend the extra money will be a decision you will have to make. An easy way to do this is to make a list of needs and wants. Once you figure out those two categories you can start looking for a perfect match.

 

Advantage of a Used Car

A used car has already taken the largest hit on depreciation, so you aren’t losing value right away. By not taking the large hit, you almost immediately have equity in the car. This is a huge bonus and will give you peace-of-mind. Provided below is an example of how this would be useful.

 

  • Sarah took a loan out for a new car totaling $20,000. The next week, she decides that she doesn’t like it anymore and wants to sell it. Since the car took a major depreciation hit when it left the lot, its value is now $17,000. In essence, she lost $3,000 in a week.

 

With a used car this hit is much less, and you get equity in the car much faster.

 

Disadvantage of a Used Car

Determining what condition the car is in can be a total shot in the dark. Since the car is new to you but used by someone else, the condition is unknown unless a maintenance check is done. Certified pre-owned vehicles have been tested and checked for imperfections, so you approximately know what condition the vehicle is in. With a new car, you know EXACTLY what condition it is in.

 

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all answer when it comes to car shopping. When making a decision, you need to determine what you need, want and can AFFORD!


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 Adjust Your Savings When Your Income Changes

Have you ever heard the phrase “The more you make, the more you spend” If you have and live by this mantra then you are doing it wrong!

An increase in your income does not mean you need to up your shopping list, it means you need to increase your savings.

Basically, if you have been making living on $45,000-a-year and you have been paying rent/or mortgage and paying your bills on time, there is no need to increase your spending. We are not saying you cannot treat yourself once in a while. However, you do have to make smart decisions and be conscious of the fact that a big emergency fund matters and can help you when you need it most.

Keep the following tips in mind if you are getting a raise soon:

  1. Do not spend more

If you earn a raise or bonus, congratulations you deserve it!
Just be careful, most people become trapped in a spending circle with no money saved up for the future. Take a look at the goals you are trying to reach, be ready for unexpected expenses that may come up and be comfortable without exceeding your means.

  1. Grow or Create an emergency fund.

Your emergency fund should cover a minimum of 3-months expenses. A good emergency fund covers 6 months of expenses easily. Make this one of your goals! Do not use these funds for a vacation, a wedding or leisure time. An emergency fund, as the name suggests, it’s only for emergencies. For example, an emergency fund can be used for an unexpected hospital bill, car issues or job loss.

  1. Create a separate savings account and make the funds transfer automatically

If you don’t see it, then you don’t need to spend it. Additionally, if your income shirks, the savings you have should help you carry you thru. A BrightStar Savings Account is completely FREE and it does not require a minimum when it’s coupled with a FREE Checking Account. What better way than to save money in a reliable credit union?

Do not forget the essentials of saving, living in moderate means, and to plan accordingly.


3 Ways to Help Your Teens Build Good Credit

When your teen finally takes the big leap and moves out of the house, they’re going to need a solid credit score for a lot of life steps: renting an apartment, getting a loan or finding a good deal on insurance.

For that reason, it’s important that teens build up their credit scores before they move out. There are a few ways you can prepare them for this in the years leading up to graduation.

  1. Make sure they have a checking account and debit card to go along with it
    Getting your teen started with their own bank account is a significant step in building their credit score without ditching their safety net. A teenager under 18 years old can still sign up for a debit card; they just need a co-signer. Since you are co-signing on the card, your personal account will be linked to your teen’s in case of an overdraft. With this checking account and debit card, you should also teach your teens the importance of managing money well.
  1. Teach them the credit card basics
    Credit cards are a bit more complex than debit cards, so it’s important to sit down your teen and help them understand the basics. Signing them up for their own credit card is a bigger step than signing up for a debit card, but it’s an additional step that will help boost their credit score — assuming they pay the bills on time and in full. U.S. News & World Report contributor Amelia Granger says that the most critical skill a teen can learn is to pay their bills in full, even if that means starting with a smaller credit limit. Make sure you are monitoring your teen’s bills to confirm they’re not damaging their credit score rather than building a good foundation for the years ahead.

 

  1. Help them open a Secured Credit Card
    A Secured Credit Card is the perfect card to teach your teen how to properly manage money. It does this by not allowing them to use the money they don’t have, instead locking in a minimum amount of $500 they must use as if it were borrowed money from the bank. This card will help them improve their credit score and after a year they will be able to apply to a regular credit card.

Responsible money management is tough to practice if you learn it late in life. Your kids will be much better off by teaching them good financial practices.


Have fun on a budget!

4 Ways to Avoid Over Spending During the Weekend

If you are smart with your money, chances are you don’t spend much during the week. However, it all gets turned upside down when the weekend comes. You may feel the urgent need to go out, buy new outfits, and have a few drinks with friends, which leads you to spend all you saved up during the week. This is not terrible unless it becomes a habit. Lucky for you, we have some tips that will allow you to have fun during the weekends without overspending.

  1. Make good use of free recreation.

Living in Florida gives you the advantage of having beautiful outside areas where you can have fun, build memories, and relax. Take the beach for example- if you’re smart all you have to pay for is parking. Bring a cooler with some waters from home, food, and a beach ball and enjoy. If you want some drinks, buy them ahead and add them to the cooler. You will be saving a lot more money buying drinks ahead, than buying them at local hangout spots.

If you aren’t a beach person, you can try the same concept at a pool, or even a park. The outdoors can be really fun and not terribly expensive. Take advantage!

  1. Don’t go shopping out of emotion

We know you probably own a million outfits, so that millionth and one is probably not necessary. Get creative! Change accessories, do something different to your hair, make it work. Unless you absolutely need it, try to avoid it. If you do give in, look for sales and make sure it is something you will wear more than once.

  1. Take your credit cards out of your wallet.

Yes, budget yourself ahead of time by planning out your weekend. The rule of thumb is to spend the money you have in the bank only. Not the imaginary money you can have by buying extra with your cards. That is a big NO.

  1. Have a get together at home

If going out to watch the game is where your money goes, try to invite your friends over and watch the game at home. Everyone can contribute food and drinks and you can have just as much fun.

Remember, you can have fun without breaking the bank.  Use your member discount if you can. Have fun, just do it in a smart way.


Avoid Shopping

8 Amazing Ways to Avoid Binge-Shopping

Avoid Shopping
Avoid binge spending

 

It would great if we all made only rational, well-analyzed spending decisions. But none of us are robots. We’ve all made emotional buys at one point or another. Think back on things you bought because you had a rough day at work. Or maybe it was an argument that got you agitated. No matter the cause, purchases made on feelings instead of frugality can be rough on your bottom line. Here are a few ways to soothe yourself without draining your funds

1. Create “me” time

A In a lot of cases overspending happens because it gives you a sense of control over your surroundings. Instead of trying to grab control with money, take control of your time and your surroundings. Whether that means gifting yourself with a nice hot bath or time to work on that tinkering project in the garage, commit to unwinding on your own terms.

2. Connect with a loved one

Loneliness is another emotion that can turn you into a frenzied consumer. A call to a relative you haven’t spoken to in a while or even a spontaneous get-together with a friend can remind you of the wonderful bonds in your life.

3. Volunteer

It may sound strange, but in many cases the best way to help yourself is to work at making someone else’s life better.

4. Exercise

Scientists believe that for certain people splurge shopping releases the same amount of endorphins in the brain as skydiving. So if you are one of those people who gets a real charge out of filling a shopping cart, consider alternatives like going to the gym, walking or riding a bike to get your endorphin rush (if the plane and parachute are not available).

5. Enjoy nature

One of the best ways to get away from your problems is to, well…get away from them! Leave your connectivity behind and get back in touch with a favorite out-of-the-way spot.

6. Read

A little healthy escapism is always good for taking your mind off your day-to-day worries. Whereas passive media like television usually serves more as just a casual distraction, diving into a good book forces you to actively engage in the story.

7. Play

Be it with children or a pet, having some silly fun can shed a lot of stored up tension you might otherwise look to purge with shopping.

8. De-clutter

Because coming home to a place full of stuff can add to your stress level, give yourself a present and a future of increased serenity by hunting for items that can be donated or sold online or at a garage sale.


pay off your high debt

How Can You Pay Off Your High Debt?

pay off your high debt
A Balance Transfer can help you pay off your high credit card debt

High debt can make you feel stressed, worried, and a little discouraged. Just remember, where there is a will, there is a way to pay. One of our goals as a credit union is to help you become financially stable. Take a deep breath, create a timeline and think how you can reduce your spending.

Then use some of the following tips as a guidance to help you pay off your high debt.

  1. Get rid of high rate credit cards first
    What does this mean?
    Your credit card interest rate vary between financial institutions. Allowing your spending to increase unconsciously. For example let’s pretend you spend $450 in credit card A with a 29.99% interest rate; and you spend $475 with a 12% interest rate in credit card B. In time, the $450 spent in credit card A may become more expensive due to its higher interest rate. You must avoid falling into this trick.
    First, go over all your credit card statements and create a list starting with your highest interest cards and ending with your lowest. By increasing the payment on your highest interest cards you are saving money and avoiding high interest charges.
    TIP: Remember to continue paying the minimum amount due on the rest of your credit cards.

 

  1. Take advantage of Balance Transfer Promotions.
    If you have high interest rates on another credit cards think about moving your debt to your BrightStar Credit Card—especially during our Balance Transfer Promotion period. Keep in mind you must be strict with your payments in order to take advantage of the promotional rate before it expires.

 

  1. Stop spending so much on your credit cards.
    If you’re trying to pay off your high debt, credit cards are NOT your best friend. Remove all credit cards from your wallet, and start budgeting your expenses with cash. Don’t worry, this change is only temporary, only while you get more financially stable.

 

  1. Put work bonuses, or other incentives toward debt.
    We get it! Taking that work bonus and using it on a nice vacation is tempting. However, sometimes we need to put temptation aside and start thinking of our financial future. If you receive a bonus for a good sale, holiday, or other use it to pay off your debt. Your wallet will thank you later.

 

  1. Sell unwanted items online.
    A good way to make some extra cash is to clean your house from unwanted items. Sell those old presents collecting dust and start fattening up your wallet. After all, one man’s trash is another’s treasure.

 

High debt should not affect your well-being. Go on, change your habits, make some smart choices, and reward yourself in the future.

You can do it!