Financial Education

thankful

Being Thankful Can Help You Save

November is celebrated as a time of gratitude—a period to reflect on what we have before the focus shifts toward getting or giving what everyone wants. However, being thankful throughout the year not only improves our well-being, it benefits us financially.

Appreciate belongings

When you first move away from home, resist the urge to have everything your parents provided while you were growing up. It took them time to save up for things like a nice home, washing machine & dryer, and top-tier appliances. Enjoy the struggle of simpler days instead of immediately putting yourself in debt.

As you become more established in life, be satisfied with what you have. This will help you guard against the temptation to buy what you don’t need or can’t afford. Yes, your neighbor’s shiny new SUV may have Wi-Fi and drop-down video monitors, but try to keep in mind that your car still gets your family where it needs to go. Don’t confuse luxury with necessity.

Be thankful for money

Appreciating the cash you do have will help you spend less & save more. When you understand the value of a dollar, you won’t be as likely to decimate your savings to get possessions that don’t really matter. This grateful mentality also demonstrates the importance of having funds for the future. It will inspire you to make wise investments & increase your monetary stability.

Grateful for groceries

Eating out every day can take a big bite out of your budget. Buying groceries and cooking at home is a great way to save, especially during the holiday season. And before you go shopping, take inventory of what’s in your pantry. Use what you already have if possible—get creative.

Appreciate our good fortune

America’s middle class is quite wealthy compared to other parts of the world. Most of us have roofs over our heads, clothes to wear, clean drinking water and, if you’re reading this article, internet access. Keeping this perspective will give you peace of mind when rough financial times come. Plus, you’ll be more likely to give to charity which, as mentioned here, can be both fulfilling and have positive economic returns.

filmmakers

Tips for Filmmakers on a Tight Budget

Most amateur filmmakers don’t have the budget of even the cheapest Hollywood project, but if you’re aspiring to create your own great cinematic experience, here are some tips to help you financially.

Pre-production

If you’ve got a good story to tell, the film might practically write itself. Focus on creating versatile characters, interesting settings, engaging dialogue, and other original themes. Run your script by a few close friends and family to see what they think and incorporate useful feedback. A well-written screenplay is the backbone for a successful movie and all it costs is your time.

When it comes to actors, don’t just cast your friends. Hold auditions and find the right person for each role. Acting is one of the most visible parts of a movie, so having someone who performs poorly can detract from everything else. Regarding payment, let the applicants know up front that your budget is tight. Some up-and-comers will work for free to build their résumés.

Hire a small crew. Once again, be open about your finances—you might even be able to pay in pizza—but having one person run the camera, another to monitor the audio and someone else fix the lighting will prevent you from doing it all yourself and limit any mistakes. Plan your production ahead of time, too. Storyboard your ideas, create a shooting schedule and scout for locations. The more you prepare for filming, the less time and money you’ll spend when doing so. Nevertheless, be flexible. It doesn’t always go according to plan and you may find yourself trying different things to get the scene you want.

Production

You don’t need the latest & greatest camera to get a good shot. An entry-level DSLR device will give your film a professional look. You can also buy a more expensive camera, then sell it online once production wraps. Some filmmakers have even shot an entire movie on their phones, though that’s only recommended if it fits your picture’s style.

Audio is another vital element. Bad sound can kill an otherwise well-made movie. A built-in microphone can only take you so far, so you might want to invest in a lavalier or boom mic. If the shot doesn’t sound right or there’s too much background noise, don’t be afraid to do another take. Use natural lighting as much as possible. After all, it is much easier to darken a scene and it’s cheaper, too. Good filmmakers don’t underestimate the power of good lighting and try to keep it consistent between shots.

Find places that work with your story, but limit the number of locations. More settings mean extra travel, which translates to more money spent. Also, be sure to only shoot where it’s permitted. A police citation can negatively affect your already low budget.

Post-production

Get some inexpensive editing software for your footage. And don’t blow your budget paying royalties for music. Compose your own soundtrack or ask one of your favorite local bands if you can use a few of their tracks for free. As your film nears completion, use social media to market it. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are all free and they’re a great way to generate buzz. Post your trailer or announce the premiere and get others to share it. You’ll be surprised how effective word-of-mouth can be.

And if you’re an amateur filmmaker who wants to see an example of when money clearly isn’t an issue for a movie, click the link below and enter to win exclusive America First premiere tickets to Star Wars: The Last Jedi on December 15.

http://woobox.com/4h8fjp

military

Benefits for Members Serving in the Military

From America First’s humble founding in 1939 at Fort Douglas to opening three branches on Hill Air Force Base, our credit union has a long, rich history with the U.S. Armed Forces. And one of the ways we can show appreciation, in small measure, to our veterans is with these offers for those serving in the military.

Join us!

If you’re not a member of America First, gain $100 by becoming one. All you need to do is:

  • Open your savings – with a $1 deposit, you gain such benefits as free online & mobile banking to help you better manage your money
  • Add checking – with no monthly maintenance or low-balance fees and unlimited transactions, you’ll have fast & easy access to your money
  • Get a Visa® debit card – personalize it with the picture of your choice and get cash back with free ABC Deals
  • Sign up for free online statements – help reduce clutter and reduce the risk of identity theft
  • Enroll in direct deposit – your paychecks will quickly and securely arrive

Make the most of your membership

If you’re a military member, receive up to $100 when you:

These benefits are valid for active and retired members of any Armed Forces branch, as well as for veterans. Visit your local branch to start or give us a call: 1-800-999-3961. And finally, America First would like to thank you for your service in the United States military.

grocery

Shop Smart & Cut Your Grocery Bill

Everyone knows you’ll save money by making lunch & dinner instead of eating out. However, it’s still important to shop smart when you go to the grocery store. Here are some ways to spend less.

Save By Planning

You can definitely save money with proper preparation. Creating a weekly meal plan, for example, will focus your efforts and prevent impulse buying. You can even check online for coupons or in your mailbox for supermarket circulars and use sale prices to set your menu. Get on a schedule, too, so you don’t find yourself grocery shopping every day.

Once you decide what you want, write it down—a physical list keeps you on track and you won’t forget the important items. Make sure to check your pantry before you go & take inventory so you don’t end up with something you already have. Learn common costs so you know a good deal when you see it. Be sure to compare stores and find the best deals on canned goods, meat and dairy.

Save While You Shop

Never shop hungry—eat a snack or two before going out or you’ll be grabbing things because the packaging looks delicious or you’ll get more than you need. Also, limit your available shopping time. Leisurely aisle strollers usually spend more.

When it comes to produce, buy what’s in season because prices go up when supply is down. Cut items yourself instead of purchasing pre-sliced veggies & fruits that are sometimes twice as expensive. And never pick up the first thing you see. Double-check prices and ingredients to see if you can pay less for the same thing. Get the store brands when possible & always look high and low. The pricey groceries often appear at eye level and sometimes the best bargains are at the bottom.

Use cash whenever possible so you don’t shell out more than you allotted. Additionally, scan the receipt afterward, making sure there aren’t errors, then take note of what cost the most so you can find a way to save on those items in the future.

Save At Home

Instead of making a trip to the grocery store because you’re missing one ingredient, see if you can create something else with food you already have. Use what’s in your inventory instead of letting it go to waste. The same goes with leftovers—plan on using them for a meal or two instead of throwing them out.

If you have the space, grow your own produce and freeze what you can’t eat to extend its life. And always watch for specials when you’re shopping. For a limited time, America First is offering to pay for $100 in groceries when you open a savings and checking account in one of our convenient in-store branches. Head to americafirst.com for details.

costume

Last-Minute Halloween Costumes on a Budget

Believe it or not, there are some people who have their Halloween costume picked out before the Fourth of July. For others, finding something spooky to wear is a last-minute scramble on the afternoon of October 31. If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re one of the latter and you need some quick inspiration. Here are some ideas for easy DIY costumes you can make on a budget.

Swamp Creature

Buy some inexpensive green and black plastic tablecloths from your local dollar store. Slice them into strips to wear on your head, shoulders & waist to become a mossy monster. Hey, we told you these costumes were going to be cheap!

Gumball Machine

Cut holes in large, clear plastic bag for your head and arms. Fill the bag with a bunch of brightly colored balloons and then cinch the bottom of the bag at your waist. Wear a long red skirt or pants for added effect. You could also use smaller balloons and become a bag of jelly beans.

Wanted Poster

Take a large piece of cardboard and cut out a large square in the middle. Write WANTED in thick western-style letters on top & your name and whatever you think the reward for your capture should be at the bottom. When someone asks about your costume, hold up the sign and pose behind it.

Flashback

Raid old boxes of clothes lying around your parents’ basement. Find a goofy outfit from the 60s, 70s or 80s or 90s, depending on how old your parents are and dress up as one of them. Or dig out some of your favorite old clothes and go as yourself in the past.

Flash Forward

If you’re not a parent, show people what you would look like if you were. Find a doll or two and borrow a baby carrier, car seat or stroller. Throw a diaper bag over your shoulder. Mess up your hair a bit and use some eyeliner to create dark circles around your sleep-deprived eyes. Add nametags on your fake children if you’re feeling inspired.

Time Zone

Use a marker to write the name of a time zone, such as Central or Pacific, on the back of a T-shirt. Buy a cheap clock, set the dial accordingly, hang it around your neck. If you have a group of friends, you could all dress up as the six U.S. zones.

The Other Holiday

Pull your Christmas decorations out early and wrap yourself in tinsel & lights. Put a star on your head—you are now a Christmas tree. Or find a large box, wrap it like a yuletide gift and make room for your head, arms and legs. You can even hang a tag from the festive box that reads, TOO SOON?

credit union

Credit Union History Steeped in Cooperation

Credit unions began forming in Germany during the mid-19th century. Due to famine and crop failure, Herman Schulze-Delitzsch organized a cooperatively owned bakery & mill so local citizens could buy bread at discounted prices. The operation was so successful that, in 1850, he applied the same idea to the financial sector and created what he called the people’s bank.

Another German named Friedrich Raiffeisen established the Heddesdorf Credit Union in 1864 to give nearby farmers livestock and farming equipment purchasing opportunities. Raiffeisen based the group on philosophies of self-governance, stating that once you defeat dependency, you can fight poverty.

Expansion

This idea of credit associations extended across the Atlantic Ocean and took root in Quebec, Canada at the beginning of the 20th century. A man named Alphonse Desjardins was tired of loan sharks taking advantage of those in need, so he founded the first credit union in North America to make financing affordable for poorer families.

The first U.S. credit union was organized in New Hampshire in 1909. During the 1920s, not-for-profit financial cooperatives became more popular, because these institutions could offer smaller loans to people for things like appliances—the type of lending larger banks wouldn’t address at all.

Regulation

As the concept grew in the 1930s, the government implemented the Federal Credit Union Act to supervise the various cooperative financial institutions that were now spread across the nation. And as membership increased to over 6,000,000 in the 1960s, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) came about to regulate the industry and protect members.

From the beginning, such cooperatives were founded on the principle of democratic governance, with all members having a say, regardless of deposit size. Members would elect a board of directors, who volunteered their time to help guide the credit union. And with a membership of more than 230 million, we still follow those practices today in 109 countries worldwide.

heating

Stay Warm & Save on Heating Costs

As the weather turns colder, heaters are kicking on and many folks find themselves paying higher energy bills. However, keeping your home at a comfortable temperature doesn’t have to cost a lot. Here are some tips on how to stay warm and still save money on heating costs.

Dress Appropriately

Don’t rely just on the furnace to keep toasty in the winter—dress in warm clothes. Wear socks or a comfy jacket and you won’t have to turn the temperature up as high. Use cushy blankets while watching TV on the couch and put thick comforters & sheets on your bed.

Audit Your Energy

Search for heat leaks. If you feel a cold draft in your home, it means the hot air is escaping. Windows and doors are the biggest culprits. Check the weather stripping and replace if it’s old and worn. Re-caulk your window panes if necessary.

You can also take advantage of the sun. Open curtains during the day to let it shine in and naturally provide heat. And, contrary to what you may think a ceiling fan on a low setting can help circulate warm air instead of making things cooler.

Boost Efficiency

Many professionals recommend a furnace inspection every other year and, if your HVAC system is more than 10 years old, you should get it checked annually. But you don’t need an expert to change your air filter, which you should do every month or two. Regular maintenance will increase efficiency.

Resist the urge to crank up the thermostat when it’s cold outside. Keeping it in the high 60s or low 70s will ensure it’s comfortable without costing you too much. In fact, each one-degree drop can reduce your energy bill by up to 3%. And lowering it when you’re not there or while you’re sleeping can also save money. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that lowering the temperature seven to 10 degrees eight hours a day will cut the bill by about 10% annually. Many modern thermostats are programmable and some smart-home systems will only warm rooms with people in them.

The change in seasons doesn’t have to equal higher utility costs. By dressing warmly, maintaining your furnace and preventing heat loss, you’ll stay warmer and spend less doing it.

passwords

Fraud Prevention: Creating Strong Passwords

If your password is 123456, qwerty or, even worse, password, you should probably stop reading and change it now. Despite all the security hacks and data breaches in today’s world, many people still use easy-to-guess logins, putting their information & identities at risk. Creating strong passwords is your first line of defense against hackers, so here are some tips to get started.

  • Make it easy (for you)—Passwords you can’t remember are useless. Choose keywords or phrases you can easily memorize. But don’t make it so simple that someone else could quickly figure it out.
  • Make it unique—Don’t use the same login on various accounts, because if someone gets access to one, they’ll have them all. Create a unique password for every site to ensure better security.
  • Change cases—Many logins are case-sensitive, so using a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters will add an extra layer of protection. You don’t even have to follow the capitalization rules you learned in school—CapiTaLIze whateVER yOU WAnT, WHerEveR You wANt.
  • Add numbers—Include numbers that mean something to you. Don’t just include a 1 at the end of your password, put a series at the beginning (8675309Jenny), at the end (Jenny8675309) or interspersed throughout a word (J867e53nn09y). You can even replace certain letters with numbers, such as 4m3r1c4 F1r57 Cr3d17 Un10n.
  • Try special characters—Even adding a question mark at the end of your password can make a difference. You can add the pound sign at the beginning to make it hashtag (#PurpleToupee?) or put a word in quotes (Nowmadewith”real”cheese!). Be creative.
  • Consider passphrases—Instead of just one or two words, try a sentence. Create a long phrase that means something to you, such as nevergonnagiveyouUP!nevergonnaletyouDOWN! or WhyDoesMyEmployerMakesMeChangeThisEvery6Months?
  • Swap passwords often—Make a habit of changing your passwords periodically. This rotation will ensure that even if someone does discover your login, they won’t have it for long.

Following the advice above may not protect you from every cyberattack, but it will help strengthen your online security.

Maintenance

Eight Ways to Save on Car Maintenance

The freedom of having a personal vehicle comes with a price tag. In addition to the purchase price, AAA estimates the average cost of owning & operating a car is $8,558 annually. However, there are ways to limit these expenses. Here are eight tips to help you save on maintenance.

  1. Keep a record—The owner’s manual will tell you how often routine services, such as flushing the transmission or replacing the timing belt, should be done. Then, keep track of what maintenance has been performed to avoid unnecessary or redundant repairs.
  2. Do it yourself—Some things you can do on your own, even if you’re not mechanically inclined. The air filter, windshield wipers and even some light bulbs are all easy to replace and you won’t pay for labor. You might also consider changing the spark plugs or fuel filter If you’re comfortable with that.
  3. Watch your oil—It used to be that changing your oil every three months or 3,000 miles was the norm. But with later models and newer, synthetic oils, this isn’t the case. Check the car’s manual to know for sure, but you might not have to go in that often. Nevertheless, you should check your oil & other fluid levels regularly and don’t ignore serious leaks. Otherwise, your engine could seize and you’ll be spending a lot more.
  4. Check your tires—Those with low air pressure wear down faster than if they’re properly inflated and get worse gas mileage. Gauges aren’t expensive and will let you know if you’re at the right PSI. When the time comes to replace your tires, look for a place that offers free rotation, balancing, and alignment with purchases.
  5. Clean your battery—To extend its life, clean any corrosion off the terminals—all you need is baking soda, water and a toothbrush. Automotive stores also sell wire brushes specifically for this purpose.
  6. Do your research—If you encounter a problem, look up online articles & watch YouTube videos. Learn what could be wrong so you feel more confident when you go to a mechanic. Find a shop you trust and don’t be afraid to go somewhere else if you feel they’re taking advantage of you. Compare estimates, find coupons, and seek discounts on parts—some shops will even let you bring in your own that you purchased elsewhere.
  7. Save on gas—Most cars, especially when you drive them in higher altitudes, don’t need premium fuel. Save with the cheaper option. Also, don’t drive aggressively—sudden acceleration or braking wastes gas. Speaking of unnecessarily burning fuel, combine your errands so you’re not making multiple trips.
  8. Watch your dashboard—Don’t ignore the warning lights. If the oil, battery or check engine light is on, take it in and see what’s wrong. It could be a faulty sensor, but it might be something much more serious that, if left unchecked, could be extremely costly.

Preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid expensive auto repairs. By following the tips above, you’ll extend the life of your car and save money.

relationship

Five Ways to Improve Your Relationship—with Money

Much like dating, your partnership with cash & credit can be complicated. And, just like marriage, it takes effort to make your finances work. Here are five tips to help you improve your relationship with money.

Communicate Clearly

First, you need to be honest about how you handle money. Then determine where you want your relationship go. Are you happy with the way you’re spending and saving or is there room for improvement? If you need to make some changes, set quantifiable & achievable objectives. Make a plan that fits your lifestyle and doesn’t leave you frustrated, then check in periodically on your progress.

Be Honest

Once you establish a budget, stick to it. No financial plan can be completely rigid, but exceptions to your rules should happen rarely and only after careful consideration. If you’re constantly fudging the numbers and making excuses, you’re only cheating yourself.

Reward Good Behavior

If you save and never spend, your relationship with money isn’t going to be as fulfilling. Set up periodic rewards when you reach a benchmark. Treating yourself to a snack or buying a song on iTunes won’t derail your financial future, and these small rewards will encourage you to continue.

Forgive Mistakes

Don’t throw everything away if there’s a hiccup in your plans, such as accidentally going over your grocery allowance for the week. If unexpected expenses come up, which they probably will, re-evaulate and adjust as necessary. Don’t stress out over something small. You may come in under budget the following week, so it could even out. Don’t use these little mistakes as an excuse to give up.

Show Respect

If you treat money like it’s completely expendable, it will be gone sooner than you’d like. You need to realize the importance of your finances. Treat money right by saving, investing and spending wisely, and you’ll get much more in return from your relationship with it.