Tag : Financially Fit Friday


Stay Healthy, Save Money

You probably know someone who’s sick because we’re right in the middle of cold & flu season. And since illness usually means spending hard-earned cash on doctor visits and medications, staying healthy can save you money. Here are some tips:

Keep things clean

First and foremost, wash your hands regularly—especially before eating. Experts recommend using soap & warm water for 20 to 30 seconds, then thoroughly drying. Carry hand sanitizer for when you don’t have quick access to a faucet. But even when you think your hands are clean, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible, as those are direct ways for bacteria to enter your body.

Speaking of germs, ensure your surroundings are hygienic. After all, touching a dirty doorknob will negate all your hand-washing. You don’t have to become a germaphobe, but regularly using disinfectant wipes to clean keyboards, countertops, desks, light switches, and your phone this winter will help you avoid the nasty flu that’s going around.

Be on guard

It goes without saying that, in order to stay healthy, you should avoid contact with ill individuals. However, sometimes you can’t tell who is contagious and who isn’t. Whenever you share a sip of soda or a bite of your sandwich this time of year, you’re taking a risk. The same goes for grabbing candy out of a shared bowl at work or dipping your chip in some salsa at a party—you never know whose hands have been in there, so take the proper precautions to prevent illness.

Avoid large crowds whenever possible and, as strange as it may feel, resist shaking hands over the next couple months. If you do handle something used by the public such as a phone, cash or even a pen at a checkout counter, be sure to wash directly afterward.

Take care of yourself

When it comes to staying healthy, the best offense is a good defense. Stress and a lack of sleep can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible. Get plenty of rest and find time to relax or meditate. You should also eat foods rich in vitamin C (strawberries, broccoli, oranges), vitamin D (eggs, cheese, yogurt) and vitamin E (sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach) to boost your immunity.

Exercise can also help, but if you’re suffering from fever, fatigue or coughing, you should take it easy. Drink plenty of fluids to flush the toxins from your body. Also, get some fresh air. We often shut ourselves in during the colder months and even opening a window for a little bit can help disperse indoor pollutants.

You may still get sick with these precautions, but keeping things clean, being on guard and taking care of yourself can drastically reduce your chances, which will in turn lessen your medical expenses during the cold & flu season.


Five Financial Resolutions You Can Keep

The new year is when people make all sorts of commitments to better themselves financially. However, if you’ve set your sights too high and come up short time and again, it can be difficult to consider realistic goals. Nevertheless, here are five financial resolutions anyone can keep.

Evaluate Your Financial Health

Do you know your net worth? That’s the amount of your assets minus liabilities. Once you calculate this figure, you’ll have a clear picture of where you stand and how to outline achievable & realistic resolutions. It’ll also provide insight into monetary shortcomings and where you can make improvements.

With free online & mobile banking from America First, you can link all your accounts to see your net worth and track progress. Another simple step is determining your credit score, giving you an understanding of your borrowing power and how to change for the better. Review your FICO® Score when you log in to online banking. Set up calendar reminders to check it quarterly.

Specifically Spend Less

Spending less by itself is too general. Pick something specific to cut back on. Maybe you can brew your morning coffee at home instead of grabbing one on the way to work. Or perhaps you could designate two times a week as leftover days, using the food you have instead of eating out. After all, little cuts like these can turn into big savings.

Start a Saving Habit

Speaking of saving, commit to putting a specified amount away every month; it doesn’t have to be much. Determine a specific time for deposits, such as every payday, so you don’t forget and develop this healthy habit. You could also open dedicated savings at America First, which automatically transfers the money for you. Or, if you don’t have a retirement fund yet, you can start an IRA and plan for the future.

Get Detailed

Don’t just say you want to pay off debt this year. Make it a goal to get your credit card down to a zero balance each month, for example, or resolve to put $50 extra toward your car payment. Removing a debt that’s hanging over your head is one of the most rewarding feelings you can have.

Use Incentives

Rewards are a big motivator, but they’re not just for significant milestones. Instead of waiting until your house is paid off, celebrate when your mortgage is under $100,000. Incentives also shouldn’t set you back financially, like blowing emergency cash on a fancy dinner. Be smart when you treat yourself for a job well done.


Financial Wisdom from Christmas Movies

Few things get you into the season’s spirit faster than a good holiday movie. But beyond being festive, these films can also be educational. Here are some financial tips to take from eight classic Christmas flicks.

A Christmas Carol

The Story: Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim) is a miserable miser whose life is changed on Christmas Eve when he is visited by three spirits.

The Lesson: There isn’t anything wrong with saving, but there’s also nothing wrong with spending…if you do it responsibly. It’s okay to reward yourself for reaching short-term benchmarks, for example, to achieve long-term goals.

Jingle All the Way

The Story: Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) promises his son a Turbo Man action figure, only to find that they’re completely sold out wherever he goes.

The Lesson: Don’t wait until the last minute or you may end up spending more than you wanted or going without. Plan ahead to get the best deals.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

The Story: Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wants all his relatives together at home for a fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.

The Lesson: Clark thinks he’s surprising them with plans for a pool, but when his Christmas bonus doesn’t arrive, he’s left with no way to pay for it. Spending money before you have it is always risky, especially when it’s for a big project.

Home Alone

The Story: The McCallisters go on vacation, leaving Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) behind to fend for himself and outwit a pair of burglars.

The Lesson: Using funds for experiences is usually more fulfilling than purchasing things. No one is going to remember what Buzz or Fuller got that Christmas morning, but the McCallisters will never forget their trip to Paris.

A Christmas Story

The Story: The only thing Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) wants on Christmas morning is an official Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle.

The Lesson: Make sure what you’re saving for is worth the effort or you’ll be disappointed. Ralphie learns this lesson twice: the first time when he drinks gallons of Ovaltine to get a decoder ring that only translates into Ovaltine advertising, then again when he finally gets his BB gun and immediately shoots his eye out.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Story: Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) grows weary of being the King of Halloween Town, so he decides to take over the neighboring Christmas holiday.

The Lesson: Jack wears a Santa costume, builds a sleigh and creates reindeer to appear successful, but he stretches himself beyond his means & almost ruins things in the process. Keeping up with the Joneses and shelling out more than you make will only cause added stress.

It’s a Wonderful Life

The Story: George Bailey (James Stuart) falls into despair because of financial ruin, but rediscovers hope when his community comes to his rescue.

The Lesson: If you find yourself in monetary trouble, don’t be afraid to discuss your problem with friends, family or a financial counselor.

The Santa Clause

The Story: When Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) accidentally kills Santa Claus, he must take on the role of old Kris Kringle himself.

The Lesson: Always read the fine print before you buy something or enter an agreement to avoid any unexpected or unnecessary financial entanglements.


How to Prevent Holiday Overspending

The magic of the season tends to end abruptly when your credit card bill arrives. If you have a habit of overspending during the holidays, here are some tips to help you avoid the Christmas sticker shock once it’s over.

Plan Early

The best way to stop overspending is prior planning. Make a shopping list that includes how much you’re going to spend on each person. When you start looking for gifts, take your time and keep an eye out for coupons and special promotions. You’ll prevent the high cost of expedited delivery if you need something shipped quickly.

Begin building your holiday budget early in the year and keep this fund separate from the rest of your accounts. Opening a dedicated savings at America First, for instance, will provide automatic transfers with compound interest each month.

Shop Smart

Don’t use the festivities as an excuse for overspending. Stick to your budget and track spending as you go—a little extra here and a little extra there adds up. And try to not exceed what you can pay off when your credit card balance comes due. Our Visa® Platinum gives you 1.5% cash back on all purchases, so you could even earn a little extra while you shop.

You can additionally consider actually going to stores instead of shopping online so you can save on shipping. However, when you do go out and about, avoid purchasing snacks or dining out. Those incidentals can negate any savings you’ve gained. Also, resist the urge to buy something for yourself when you’re getting things for others. If something catches your eye, put it on your wish list for someone else to pick up.

Travel Wisely

Family & friends enjoy getting together at Christmastime, but many don’t factor the cost of traveling into their holiday budgets. If you’re flying, start looking for deals well in advance. Buy your trip a month or two before leaving to miss the inevitable price crunch. If you’re driving, pack meals to eat along the way instead of stopping for fast food, then stay with your hosts, when possible, instead of getting hotel rooms.

Finally, limiting the time you’re away from home is a great way to stay within your holiday budget. You aren’t required to attend every party or event, especially if you haven’t got the money. Occasionally, even a Skype call will suffice. Careful planning when it comes to shopping and traveling is the best way to keep a lid on overspending.


Sometimes It’s Actually Rewarding to Skip a Loan Payment

It’s always important to stay on top of your loans. Regularly missing payments can negatively affect your credit & harm your financial well-being. Nevertheless, there are times when extra cash for unforeseen expenses or emergencies is needed, which is why America First offers a service where you can skip certain loan payments once a year with no adverse consequences.

How It Works

When you skip a payment, it doesn’t go away completely. You’re still required to pay the full loan balance, but it’s deferred until the end of the term. And it won’t be reported as late or make you incur any penalties.

It costs only $25 for this program, which is much less than most monthly payments. To see if you qualify, log in to your America First account, select the other services tab, and then click on Skip a Loan Payment. This will show you which loans are eligible. You can also visit your local America First branch or call 1-800-999-3961 to discuss it with one of our helpful team members.

The Fine Print

This option is only for personal, auto, and some home equity loans. It does not apply to long-term mortgages, business financing or Visa® credit cards. Members with accounts in good standing can skip one payment every twelve months—not once a calendar year. That means if you skip a payment on December 31, 2017, you can’t do it again the next day. You would have to wait until at least January 1, 2019.

A Holiday Perk

From now until the end of January, we’ll contribute $5 of the $25 fee to the America First Charitable Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those in need. So, there’s an extra advantage to skipping a payment during the holidays—you’ll be helping the less fortunate in the process.


Overdraft Protection—A Financial Safety Net

While paper checks aren’t very common, most people use checking. In these accounts, money is subtracted when a transaction occurs. If there are no available funds and you attempt a purchase, it triggers an overdraft & your card will be declined.

If you have overdraft protection on your account, a financial institution will cover such a transaction and the purchase will go through, avoiding the inconvenience & awkwardness of being declined. Understanding this service and using it wisely can prevent a potentially destructive financial cycle.

Opting In

At America First, checks, automatic debits, and other payments or withdrawals you authorize for checking have automatic overdraft protection. Debit cards, however, aren’t covered unless you specifically request it. You can sign up online, visit a branch or call 1-800-999-3961 to opt in. This one-time step will cover all your debit card purchases and you can always opt out later if you change your mind.

Line of credit versus overdraft service

A line of credit is an open-ended loan, which means it can be used and paid off repeatedly. When it’s attached to checking, charges over your balance are applied to the line. It’s an extra buffer zone between how much you have, how much you can spend, and it helps you avoid overdraft fees.

The Cost of Non-Sufficient Funds

It doesn’t cost anything to sign up for overdraft service & most members never use it, but if your checking balance and line of credit are both exhausted and overdraft protection kicks in, there’s a $25 per-transaction fee. So, if you go to three different stores when your account & line of credit are maxed out and you buy three things, you could be charged up to $75 in fees on top of the purchase costs. It’s safe to say you shouldn’t rely on overdraft service & you should only use it in an emergency.

Keeping an eye on your checking balance, paying off your line of credit and spending responsibly will keep you from needing overdraft protection. However, knowing it’s there for emergencies will give you a little extra peace of mind.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.