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For Sale: 2016 Mini Cooper

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Check out this sporty
2016 Mini Cooper
.

Featuring
Harman Kardon Stereo
Leather Seats
Navigation System
Power Sunroof

Very clean, one owner, less than 9,000 miles!

$23,969.00

For more information, contact Jeanne Weese at 404 978-0080.

 

Clean Up Your Finances for the New Year

After a year of spending, saving, paying off bills and racking up rewards points, your financial life can get a little messy. And now that the holiday season is over, it is a great time to regain control of your finances. When you de-clutter your accounts, paperwork and budget, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to make the most of your money.

Resolve to roll up your sleeves, dust off your statements and follow these tips for finances that sparkle:

  • Streamline your banking. Close old accounts, switch to online bill pay and sign up for e-statements to reduce paper waste. Shred year-old bank statements, expired warranties, old Social Security statements and tax documents that are over seven years old.
  • Consolidate your debt. Consider rolling all of your high-interest payments into one low-rate personal loan like a Save As You Pay loan with MembersFirst. Close credit cards you don’t need and create a payment strategy to lower your debt. Plan to pay off credit cards with the highest interest rates first.
  • Organize your savings. Many households have multiple savings accounts, including IRAs, CDs and 401(k)s. Consider moving all of your savings plans to one financial institution and consolidating all IRAs to one account. Talk to your employer about moving old 401(k) accounts into the one at your current job, or rolling them to a self-directed IRA. Finally, increase your 401(k) savings so that at a minimum you are saving enough to earn a full match from your employer.
  • Plan your estate. Update or create your will. It’s a fairly easy and inexpensive process that people often put off for obvious reasons. If you have any property (car, house, land, flat-screen TV, etc.), a will prevents lengthy legal battles and guarantees the right people receive your belongings upon your passing.

 

Need help tidying up? Stop by your nearest MembersFirst branch or give us a call at 404-978-0080. We’d be more than happy to help you clean up your finances!

What’s your money persona?

Personality.  It’s what makes us all a bit different.  Sometimes we relate to someone a little better than another based on how eccentric, laid back or direct they are.

Have you thought about how you’re treating your financial relationships?  Are you taking care of your nest egg, so to speak?  Believe it or not, the way you spend cash says a lot about your personality–well, your money persona, anyway.

So, in between all those really important quizzes we take online to determine who our BFF is or what song best represents our lives, why not take one to help determine whether your money-spending (or hoarding) choices are something to be worked on or shared with the world.

With the help of her friend, Lucy, Jen learned a little about her own money persona.  Watch the video, then take the quiz below.


(Pssst…you may want to grab a pen and scratch paper for this one.)

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So, how did you do?  Were you surprised to learn what your money persona is?  Maybe you fell in multiple categories.  Whatever the case may be for you, you can rest easy knowing there are tons of solutions to help you save, invest, make smarter choices with and even spend your money smarter.  You might try checking out our affordable and convenient savings solutions.

We want to hear from you.  Drop us a comment below and let us know how you did.

 

Stretching Your $$$

Tip: Never go to the grocery store hungry.

It’s a simple rule to keep from over-buying and one sure to keep you from blowing the week’s budget on cravings at your local grocer.  But, aside from controlling your appetite as you peruse the baked goods aisle, there are a seemingly infinite number of ways to help control your spending and stretch your dollar a bit further.

Don’t be hasty in your online purchases.  There are a lot of online retailers that offer free shipping for purchases over a certain dollar amount.  This can be a great deal, but, before clicking to finalize your purchase, be sure to shop around.  Not all deals are created equally.  The cost of some items may be raised to accommodate for the ‘Free’ shipping.  Make it a habit of checking other sites to see if a similar item of same quality can be found at a lower price with free or lower shipping costs.

Take advantage of retail club memberships and actually use the discounts.  All households require paper towels, toilet paper and infinite bottles of ketchup and mustard—buy in bulk.  You’ll not only save over the long-run on items like these, you’ll also save yourself a few trips to the store for these staples.  Along with most retail club memberships come discounts with partner companies and local and national services.  Your $40 annual membership could land you even deeper discounts on entertainment like theme park passes and savings on cellular, television, optical, vacation package and much more.  And speaking of memberships, if you’re not using gym or other club memberships, cancel them.  You’re unnecessarily spending money each month on services you’re not using that could be used elsewhere.

Talk with your home insurance company about bundling services.  If you’re paying home owner’s, renter’s, auto and life insurance through multiple agencies, consider bundling these policies with one company.  Often times, because one company is gaining a large amount of your business, you’ll not only receive discounts on the rates you pay, but some companies will offer an additional discount when you choose to set up automatic payments or choose to receive an e-statement vs. paper statement.

High-rate loans, credit cards and fee-heavy checking accounts are like a black hole for extra cash.  Slim down your loan and credit card rates and be sure you’re not paying fees to participate in these services while you’re at it.  You should never pay for services like online banking and bill pay.  Make sure you and your family members are taking full advantage of our low interest loan solutions and our no-fee and direct deposit checking accounts.  Ask us today how you can transfer these services to MembersFirst.

Is it really necessary to have the highest or fastest level of internet, television and mobile service plans?  Think about the channels you really watch or need.  Consider downgrading your plan with the cable company and turn certain entertainment packages on and off when you need them.  If you’re a big football fan, turn on the sports package just during the season.  For mobile users, ask your provider what your average data use is and go with a plan that’s just above your average.  You may even want to talk with these providers or find a new one which offers money-saving bundling packages for these services.

What are some of the ways you and your family make your money go even further?  Let us know in the comments below.  While you’re here, read up on other money-savings ideas, budgeting tips and ways to protect your information and finances.

Don’t forget joining a Credit Union is a GREAT way to cut back on unnecessary expenses like monthly fees and high interest… we just so happen to know a great one.

Living On Your Own: Are you prepared?

When you take a look at your finances — what’s coming in, what’s going out — do you approach each bill or expense as a surprise item rather than an item you’ve prepared for?

Let’s look at it this way… you’ve finished school, you’re ready to move out of your parent’s basement and you’ve got money to burn.  What’s your plan?

If your first thought is more I want a sweet, high-rise apartment, downtown with a view of the city and less I have XX amount available to me each month…what can I afford on that budget?, you might want to rethink your strategy. Take a look at this spending ratio. Try your own.  What can you afford?  Does your dream apartment on the upper west side become a reality or did you just have a reality check?

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Just like you had to prepare a budget at some point so you’d know how much pizza and ramen noodles your budget could take (oh, and those pesky cellphone, internet and insurance bills you may have been forced to pay while living at home), living on your own has its own category of expenses you may not have even thought of.

If you hear the words “renter’s insurance” and your first thought is yes, I’d like someone to ensure that I will obtain rent, then read on a little further, my friend.  While you may have thought as far as what your monthly rent might look like and maybe even where you’d like to live, don’t forget these one-time expenses.

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If you’re lucky, you might have a few friends you can pay in pizza and soda that will help you move.  You might even have the packing materials and a few staple pieces of furniture to help get you started.

Unfortunately, living expenses won’t stop there.

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It’s important to also consider the location you’d like to live and do a little research on monthly rental averages.  A suburban apartment or home may dole out a much more affordable scenario than a renter’s monthly expenses in a more city-like environment.  On top of that, the average rental expense increases and decreases by the area.  Look at your budget… then take a look at this.  Is your budget more Manhattan- or Tucson-friendly?

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So… are you rethinking your strategy for living on your own?  How many household expenses did you budget for?  Is there something you’ll have to give up in order to live comfortably?  Let us know!  Comment and share below.

For more on rent and living on your own, stay tuned.  We’ll take a look a rental agreements–what to look for and what to avoid–and dig a little deeper into your budget to make sure you’re maximizing your income while still being able to enjoy and afford life.  After all, that’s why MembersFirst is here.

Ready to make the switch to a financial institution interested in seeing you at your financial best?  We’re ready when you are.

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CU Cents: CHECK YOURSELF – Arm yourself against check fraud

Your personal and financial safety is very important to us. In the past few posts, we’ve covered multiple topics related to protecting your identity and your money.  This time, we want to remind you of ways to protect yourself against a more “traditional” form of fraud  – CHECK FRAUD.

Although fewer people are writing checks for everyday bills and expenses, criminals today can defraud you and your financial institution quite easily with a blank check taken from your check book, a canceled check found in your garbage, or a check you mailed to pay a bill. Fraud professionals have become increasingly skilled and sophisticated in accessing and altering information thanks to advances in readily available technology. Here are some tips to help arm yourself against check fraud:

  1. Review Company Checks for Security Features, Logos and Company Names – When you receive a check from a business or financial institution, ensure that the security features are incorporated in the check. Most corporations have these security features printed on the face of the check.
  2. Guard your Account Information – Store your checks, statements, deposit slips and cancelled checks in a secure location. If you have a checkbook, NEVER leave it in the car or in the open. Limit the amount of personal information on your check. Exclude Social Security, driver’s license or telephone numbers from your check.
  3. Be Assertive – If someone pays you with a cashier’s check, have them accompany you to the credit union or bank to cash it. If at all possible, only accept a check during normal business hours so you can verify whether it is legitimate. Make sure you obtain identification information from the individual.
  4. Be Specific With Your Payee – Don’t Make a check payable to cash. If lost or stolen, the check can be cashed by anyone. If you need cash from your account, visit a branch and do a withdrawal. Otherwise, visit a surcharge free ATM. Finally…
  5. If It’s Too Good to Be True, Ask Questions. – We’d all like “someone” to send us some money, a windfall of cash, a well-needed boost to our cash flow, “a gift from beyond”– but don’t be fooled. Scammers and fraudsters prey on our emotions and our hardships – If you weren’t expecting a check or notice that the payment you received for a job you did is for more than what you were due, BE CAUTIOUS.

Luckily, your Credit Union is here, checking and double checking (pun intended) you so that  your finances are protected. We ask a lot of security questions, we question the source of your funds when you make a deposit, we review your account history with you when you call and we do not email confidential account information or statements through the open internet. We do these things to make sure your information is safe. If you’re in doubt about a check you received, come see us; we can help you determine if it’s legitimate before you make a deposit.

Be on the lookout for more on this topic and many others.  It’s all part of our goal to put you first and help you afford life!

Don’t Neglect Financial Health When Making Resolutions This Year

Think back on each New Year. Notice anything in common with years past? Maybe you’ve resolved each year to make better nutritional decisions. I will not eat the WHOLE plate of cookies. Or, maybe you’ll take it a step further and throw in a promise to yourself to take your health a little more seriously. My neighbor can get up at 5:00 am for a run before work. Why can’t I?

Whatever your resolutions may be, why not resolve to take better care of your financial health as well? It’s no secret that having a healthy understanding of your financial outlook can positively affect your physical health. We have enough sources of stress – money shouldn’t be one of them.

Start small. You already have a savings account! It’s the first account you open to become a member of the credit union. Use it. It’s there to help you plan for the future. Whether there’s a European adventure or an unforeseen emergency on the horizon, save so you’ll be prepared for it.

Set a budget. That’s the easy part. It’s sticking to it that becomes tricky. You may have heard it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Budgeting is no exception to that rule. If dropping by a Starbucks® every morning on your way to work gets you going, plan for it in your budget. Identify any unnecessary purchases and see how they affect your budget. If it takes you over your budget, eliminate it.

Make savings a budget category. Pay yourself first! Seriously! Either write yourself a check or automatically transfer funds to your savings account each time you get paid. You already know how much to set aside for bills and other obligatory charges, so take a reasonable amount of money and place it in a savings account. Don’t forget that MembersFirst offers Christmas Clubs and other special savings accounts that make saving simple.

Track spending trends. Ever wonder where all that money goes each month? Make budgeting fun by tracking spending and saving trends with our free MoneyDesktop™ program. Log in to MoneyDesktop™ via FlexTeller and begin tracking your finances, even if they aren’t in accounts with MembersFirst. You may be surprised to see just how much you spend at the grocery store or on fast food.

Commit to stick. Like many New Year’s resolutions, we tend to be gung ho about sticking to them, only to ruin that plan by MLK, Jr. Day (sooner, for some of us). Sometimes it’s just a matter of forgetting to track your spending. Stay on top of your spending and make it simple by designating a time and place each week to keep up with your finances. This is when you’ll also plan for future expenses and track spending habits.

We know that everyone’s financial situation and goals differ, so at MembersFirst, we provide options that help you afford life, regardless of the stage in which you find yourself. Stop by a branch and have a conversation with one of our member advisors about your short- and long-term goals today! Or, visit membersfirstga.com for a listing of products and services to help you succeed!

Budgeting Basics: Not just for beginners anymore.

We talk a lot about credit and great ways to access and spend your funds, but there’s one very important step we should take when it comes to our money…

budgeting.

Does that word sounds scary or boring?  It must as budgeting seems to have such a negative connotation surrounding it.  Though it’s true one could live off the available credit of a credit card for a short period–charging every desire of the heart–this will eventually catch up and bite you soon enough.  Slow and steady wins the race… most of the time.

So, why does budgeting seem like such a dirty word for some?  Here are our top 5 reasons.

“Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Between work, getting kids to after-school and weekend functions, taking care of daily tasks and trying to get to your own extracurricular activities, budgeting seems, well, tedious. Who wants to spend their free time deciding how much to throw in savings when you could be watching this week’s episode of The Walking Dead?

A little time spent making sure your finances are in order can really save you a lot of time in the long run.  If staying out of debt sounds like a good plan, you’ll find the time to devote to budgeting.

I forgot to make budgeting a priority.

Like a physics student starting on a 20-page essay the night before it’s due, panic starts to creep in, you start looking for the coffee and energy drinks and wondering how little sleep you could get by on if you stay up all night getting it done. Then, morning comes and you sleep through class and miss your opportunity to turn it in.

Don’t miss out on great financial opportunities because you forgot to make budgeting and planning for surprises a part of your weekly routine.  It takes 21 days to make or break a habit.  But, you can’t succeed unless you start somewhere–so start with making a calendar entry (with a reminder) in your trusty smartphone or within your email program.  Set aside the time to budget and the task won’t seem as gargantuan as the poor physics student’s.

I don’t even know where to begin.

If you’re in that boat, it’s likely because you feel a bit overwhelmed and haven’t stopped to look at not only where you’re trying to get–AKA: Point B–you’ve forgotten to take a look at what you have in front of you–Point A.  ‘Point A’ usually consists of taking inventory of what your current financials look like (how much liquid cash you have available to you at the present moment) and how much of that will soon go out to cover expenses like utility bills, home and auto payments and other necessities like child care expenses and medical bills.  It’s as easy as using the skills you learned in 1st grade:  addition and subtraction.  Write it all down and subtract what you owe from what you currently have and keep doing so as long as you earn and spend money.  If you don’t know how much you have, you can’t plan to put some of that hard-earned cash into savings for a trip to the Bahamas to reward yourself for being so diligent with your recordkeeping.

It’s just too hard.

It may seem that way at first, but just as it takes 21 days to make or break that habit, it takes just as long to learn how to budget like a pro.  Just be sure to PYF!  What’s PYF you ask?  Pay Yourself First.  Before you spend cash on anything not already assigned to a bill or other expense, take a portion of it and put it in a savings account.  A special savings account, like a Christmas, Vacation or other special purpose savings account at MembersFirst is one excellent way to corral excess cash while also earning dividends and keeping it separate from your checking.  Make it easy on yourself by setting up an automatic deposit from you payroll check or checking account to your savings.  Fast and convenient–it’s like the money was never there, making the temptation of spending it obsolete.

My goal is too big, I started to late.

If you don’t take anything away from this message, please remember one thing:  It is NEVER too late to begin taking care of your financial health.  It’s never too late to begin putting money away for a rainy day or a goal of any size.  Using the knowledge you’ve already gained in previous paragraphs, you absolutely can reach your savings goals.  If you’re looking to become completely debt-free, by all means, do it!  Just be sure to make responsible spending habits for yourself.  If you’d like to pay cash for a vehicle rather than finance it, it will take some time, but as you’re tracking your spending and saving habits, keep your debt-free goal in mind.  Every dollar spent frivolously is another dollar taken away from reaching your goal.  Just remember life isn’t all about what you’ve have in your savings account.  It isn’t meant to be boring–we still have to spend money on fun and entertainment.  Keep this in mind when creating your goals.  If it seems there isn’t much wiggle room for the ‘fun’, maybe you should take another look at what you’ve labeled as a necessity or how much of your ‘leftover’ cash you’re throwing in savings each time you’re paid.

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Still feel completely lost on the budgeting topic?  Check out Jen’s latest adventure with the Budget Fortune Teller above… she might make looking into your financial future a little easier.

Want to talk to your own Financial Fortune Teller?  Just give us a call at 404-978-0080 or drop by a branch and set up an appointment with one of our Member Advisors to discuss your financial goals or to have them help you get on track with spending.  After all, our goal is to help you afford life.  Funny how that works out!

Brainy Browsing and Purchasing Tactics

It seems every time you turn around there’s another item you need—and you needed it, like, yesterday.  A replacement water filter for the fridge, new carpet, an extra garage door opener…

So, what do you do?  If you can’t visit your favorite retail shop, you’ll probably go to your second best option — online shopping.

Whether on your mobile device or a computer, you may have a few of your favorite online shops bookmarked.  Online retail giants like Amazon.com, eBay.com and Zappos.com continually update their safe-purchase policies, but have you checked the security settings of other websites lately?  Are you sure your purchases and personal info is still protected?

There’s plenty you can do to protect your info whether you’re online or out and about.

Spam filters are there for a reason.  Don’t disable (or forget to activate) the spam filter settings on your browser and in email programs.  Though you may not receive notifications each time a suspicious email or a website pop-up is blocked, rest assured the spam filter is doing its job.  If you’re worried it may redirect a legitimate email to the wrong location, just check your spam or ‘junk’ email folder every so often.

Don’t ignore update notifications.  Keep firewall and anti-virus programs up-to-date.  As new malware seems to pop up daily, your computer and mobile device support systems work constantly to keep your content protected by creating new protection policies and pushing them through to you via updates.

Be a skeptic.  If an email or link on a website seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Fraudsters work hard to reach you in various ways.  Don’t assume the email you just received from Aunt Rhonda bragging about the gigantic sum of money she won is legit.  Her email could have been hacked.  Look for phrases that don’t quite make sense, hover over links in emails to see where they point and be leery of shortened URLs that don’t give you clues as to where the link is taking you.

Keep your cards in sight.  Card readers, also known as skimmers, can be present anywhere.  Skimmers retain information when someone runs your card through a smaller machine under a counter or concealed in clothing.  These card readers can even fit over the top of a legitimate card reader at an ATM.  The stolen information can be copied onto another card for use by someone else.  Keeping an eye on your cards at all times and being on the lookout for fake readers can reduce the risk of your information being stolen.

Trust your instincts.  When in doubt, make a purchase from another location or website.  Doing so can save you a lot of time and financial hassle later on.

If you think your personal information has been used by someone other than you or if your cards have been compromised, be sure to alert your financial institution immediately.  The sooner you take back control of your finances, the easier it will be to clean up the mess another may have created for you when unjustly using your information.

If your credit and debit card company don’t come equipped with services like fraud prevention and account monitoring, consider switching to a financial institution like MembersFirst–we take every threat very seriously and will work with you to identify where the information leaks might be.  Don’t put a bandage on the issue; get to the root of the issue by protecting your info as much as you can.

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