Friday, July 13, 2018

Daniel Salinas






Member of the Month- July


Daniel may not be a long time member, but he sure is a loyal one. Read more about his growing relationship with AMOCO and all that he has experienced in his time here. 

                "I was recommended to visit your credit union by existing members that were happy with the service that they received at the Bay Colony Branch, since the bank that I had been a loyal customer to for 4 years told me that they could not help me in any way and sent me out their door. I explained my concerns that I had with establishing credit and an employee sat with me for approximately over an hour and advised me on credit and how it works. Something no financial institution has ever done for me previously. That’s a level of dedication I have never experienced before. I now have a bright future for my family thanks to the help and financial guidance of AMOCO Federal Credit Union.

                I look forward to being a lifetime member and sincerely appreciate the hard work and motivation your branch employees display. They make each member feel important and they provide helpful and friendly service that other banks should set their standard by. This branch reflects highly of AMOCO Federal Credit Union as a whole. Thank you once again!"


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Oh Baby!




                                                                                                                                         
Baby was delivered at AMOCO Federal Credit Union’s Bay Colony Branch

DICKINSON, TX, June 21, 2018 – What started out as a seemingly normal Tuesday, ended with a big baby surprise for AMOCO FCU’s Bay Colony Branch.
Around 5:30 P.M on June 19, on duty League City Police Officer, Jason Carty, was in the AMOCO parking lot waiting for the closing employees to walk out. Before he knew it, a car swiftly pulled into the Bay Colony Branch parking lot and a man frantically jumped out to get his attention. Carty realized the man spoke little to no English. Since there was a communication barrier, the man guided Carty to the passenger front door of his car where a woman was sitting. The man pulled a blanket off of the woman, which revealed a crowning baby. Shocked, Carty quickly realized he was going to be the one to deliver this baby. “It was my first delivery. I mean, I have three sons, but I didn’t deliver them. All too often I am a consequence of people’s poor decisions.  That was not the case on this day.  I was blessed to be there when those folks needed help and to bring a new life into this world.  It is certainly one of the highlights of my career and one that I will look back on and be proud of. I was able to help bring a new life into this world; there are just no words to describe that,” Carty said. As he delivered the baby, Debbie Castaneda, Branch Manager of the Bay Colony Branch, walked out and had no idea what was taking place. Carty explained to her that they needed a translator, so she ran back inside to grab an employee who could translate for the paramedics that had now arrived. That’s when AMOCO FCU employee, Maria Sanchez, stepped up to the plate. “I walked outside so excited to help the new mom. She listened to all of the directions we were giving her. I was really surprised how calm she was; she was a natural. Not to mention the baby was so cute,” Sanchez explained. Soon after Sanchez successfully translated for the couple, the paramedics transported the family to a nearby hospital. Carty later visited the family at the hospital to make sure they were okay. “They were really nice people. I think they were as surprised as everyone else,” Carty explained. While the baby girl’s name is Camila, AMOCO has given her the nickname “Baby AMOCO.” AMOCO employees went to visit the family at the hospital the next morning bringing an AMOCO onesie and flowers. The couple explained that this was their fourth daughter and they were not expecting her appearance to be so grand. Although they were nervous about her untimely birth, they both expressed how thankful they were that Carty, the paramedics and AMOCO employees all stepped into action. Excitement is just one of many words to describe how AMOCO employees feel about a baby being born at one of their branches.I am so honored to work with Officer Jason Carty of the LCPD and Maria Sanchez. They were fantastic! Congratulations to the new parents and welcome baby Camila, or as we will always know her as, Baby AMOCO,” Castaneda lovingly expressed.

"AMOCO Baby"
Camila Lopez

Friday, February 2, 2018

Patricia Marquise Retirement

Patricia Marquise

      AMOCO FCU’s core values and mantra are built solely around their members and making sure they are served at the highest standard. AMOCO has been able to do this because of their employees. Patricia Marquise is a perfect example of what AMOCO stands for. She has dedicated over 40 years to AMOCO FCU, and has watched it grow from a one branch credit union to a multi-branch institution. In those 40 years, she was able to take vacations with her family, send her kids to college, work at a place she loves and be around members that inspired her.  At work, she played a large role in member’s lives by helping them build credit and gain financial strength. Two of her biggest accomplishments throughout her career has been providing for her family the best she could, and educating her kids about the importance of being financially responsible.
                
     Throughout Patricia’s time with AMOCO, she formed close bonds with her co-workers and developed memories that will last her a lifetime. “I have so many great memories with AMOCO. Developing a lasting friendship with Thea Choate has been one of my favorite parts of working here. She is an excellent mentor and a very intelligent individual. When Thea became Chief Operations Officer, she formed the Operations team. The team was comprised of Thea Choate, Cyndi Hopkins, Madeline Hubbard, Ashley Carner and myself. Thea’s leadership reminds me so much of her late father, Mr. Ballis. He taught us the true meaning of a credit union. We used his wisdom to serve our members and to do the best we could for our employees. I think we did that.”  Another fond memory, Patricia shared was her daily afternoon coffee breaks with her dearest friend at AMOCO, Nikki Curtis. “Nikki and I were always so busy helping members. We never had time to communicate during the day, but we always seemed to end up in the break room at 3 PM for a cup of coffee. Over the years, our 3 PM coffee break became a tradition for us that I looked forward to. Nikki and I could always relate to working hard and I believe we inspired each other.” Like any job, some days aren’t always easy. On days where things became very hectic, Patricia stayed focused and determined.  Many employees have learned skills from Patricia and are thankful for her leadership. It’s clear that she wants all of her fellow co-workers to do well. It’s no secret how hard Patricia has worked over the years with her members and co-workers as it shows in all that she does with the credit union.


      “The members I served when I was 22 taught me about life. When I was 32, they helped me understand life. When I was 42, I was experiencing what they had experienced. When I was 52, I thought I knew all about life. Now that I am over 60, I am ready to live life without any regrets, just like my valued retired members. There’s nothing I would change about working at AMOCO. It has given me a career and helped raise my family. I can’t wait to travel, take better care of myself and enjoy life. It was a lifetime experience that was very rewarding and allowed me to grow and gain credit union knowledge, as well as the opportunity to grow personally.” Thank you Patricia for over 40 years of remarkable dedication to your members and AMOCO family. You will be missed dearly!


Cyndi Hopkins Retirement



Cyndi Hopkins


       When describing AMOCO’s employees you may say that they are dedicated, patient and kind. Cyndi Hopkins is nothing short of that. Cyndi first walked through AMOCO’s doors when she was 28 years old. At the time, AMOCO only had one branch in Texas City with less than 20 employees serving 13,000 members. Early on, Cyndi and her coworkers formed a close bond. Together they created an all-girl Credit Union Barbeque team and called themselves the “CUB’s.” Though Cyndi shared a close bond with her co-workers, she didn’t anticipate working at AMOCO for long. Though Cyndi shared a close bond with her co-workers, she didn’t anticipate working at AMOCO for long. “I didn’t expect this to be my forever job. I was just going to work for a couple of years until I decided what I was going to do. I went through a divorce which put me in a situation to be the sole provider for my son. Shortly after, I made the decision to learn as much as I could and be the best that I could be at AMOCO. After a year, I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
                
     Cyndi takes pride in the relationships she has formed with members and co-workers. I am blessed to have worked with so many great employees. They are a big reason why I have loved working at AMOCO. I consider all of them “my sunshine’s.” Through her leadership and hard work, Cyndi became Vice President of Operations in 1993. “A lot of people played a large role in where I am today. Mr. Ballis, Thea Choate, Dot Bradford, Pat Mcdonald, Marie Nash, Madeline Hubbard and of course Shawn Bailey. Each of them helped me in my career, encouraged me to get to where I am today and taught me something about myself.” It’s no secret Cyndi strives to share her knowledge to educate the people around her every chance she gets. She is passionate about helping members and building relationships. “I appreciate being able to help our members through tough financial situations. My goal was to treat everyone with compassion and respect and to make sure they knew I was there to help. Although I’m retiring, I still plan to check-in with my long time members who most of my coworkers refer to as Friends of Cyndi.”

     As much as Cyndi has enjoyed working for AMOCO, she told me it wasn’t always easy. “Like any job there are hard days. A day that sticks out to me is 9-11. It was a tragic day for our nation and everyone at AMOCO. We all came together giving comfort and reassurance to one another. We have always been ordinary people helping people. Through hurricanes, floods, and, ice-storms, the employees at AMOCO are special, they are giving and compassionate. When someone is ill or loses a family member they show love. This is why we know that our credit union is here for us.” AMOCO goes above and beyond for its members and employees. Her plans after retirement are simple. To travel, spend time with her wonderful grandbabies and to sleep in when it’s raining outside.

    “I am so blessed to have walked into the lobby of Texas City over 35 years ago. I have so many memories with AMOCO. One of my favorites was at our Christmas parties dancing to Greek music at Gaidos with Mr. Ballis and his wife, Olga. We had a lot of wonderful parties, picnics and trips that AMOCO sponsored for us and our families. I’ve been shown so much love from co-workers and members through the good and bad times. I want all of my co-workers to know if you stay true to yourself and give your job 100%, you will have a great career with AMOCO. When I’m gone I hope that people will remember me with a smile and good heart.” Thank you Cyndi for 35 years of incredible dedication and love that you’ve shared with your AMOCO family. You will undoubtedly be missed!


Tuesday, December 26, 2017



When to use credit (and When to Avoid It) 




If used carefully, credit can be a helpful financial tool. For example, using credit to purchase a home now, rather than trying to save up the whole purchase price, makes financial sense. The home provides a place to live that will perhaps increase in value and the mortgage interest offers a tax deduction. Credit may also help you deal promptly with costly emergencies.
Many consumers turn to credit when faced with unexpected home or auto repairs, as well as medical emergencies. And credit offers convenience, enabling you to rent a car or hotel room or buy airline tickets over the phone or online. In many situations, credit offers peace of mind; there is no need to carry large amounts of cash when shopping or traveling.
Despite all the advantages and conveniences credit can provide, there are some pitfalls associated with credit use. Credit can be expensive. Interest rates (often ranging from 14% to 22%), finance charges, annual fees, and penalties can dramatically increase the cost of any purchase made on credit. Then, there is a tendency to overspend on credit. It is much easier to spend more than you can afford when all you have to do is pull out the plastic. Overextension gets thousands of consumers into financial trouble every year.
It is possible to have the best of both worlds, though. Designing a realistic spending and savings plan so you are aware of how much credit you can afford, as well as comparing the cost of credit and shopping around for the best deals, will help you avoid credit trouble.
Here are a few more tips:
  • Keep your charge receipts in an envelope with a running total on the outside. If the total exceeds an amount you consider appropriate, you know it’s time to curtail your spending.
  • Save monthly for expenses such as auto maintenance, holiday gifts, and the kids’ school clothes. That way you don’t need to use credit to cover these expenses, or, if you do charge them, you can pay the balance in full when the bill arrives.
  • Monitor interest rates. Choose lower-rate financing options whenever possible.
  • Limit the number of open credit card accounts you have. You don’t need more than one or two credit cards, and it’s much easier to keep track of your total outstanding debt with just a couple of accounts.
How Much Debt Is OK?
As a rule, no more than 15% of your net (take home) income should be committed to consumer debt payments each month. Another way to determine how much debt is appropriate for you to carry is to first complete a family budget. The amount remaining after you deduct your monthly savings and living expenses from your net income is the most you should have going to debt repayment. If you’re sending more than that to your creditors each month, you may want to consider credit coaching to help you reduce your debt load.
Shopping for Credit
When shopping for a credit card, you should first decide how you plan to use it so you can compare the features that are important for you. It is important to understand the difference between a charge card and a credit card. The balance on a charge card must be paid in full every month. Paying only a portion of the bill will cause your account to be delinquent. A credit card allows you to carry a balance for as long as you want, provided you make at least the minimum monthly payment due.
If you will pay your credit card bill off every month, a low annual fee is important. If you usually carry a balance, look for the lowest interest rate. Shop for a grace period, the amount of time after your purchase during which finance charges are not assessed. Some banks and finance companies give you up to 30 “free” days, but it has to be at least 21 days. However, interest starts accruing immediately on cash advances; there is no grace period and the interest rate is higher than that applied to regular purchases.
Depending on your payment and credit use habits, you may also be affected by late and, possibly, over-limit fees.
If you have no credit or a bad credit history, you may be able to obtain a secured credit card. A secured card works just like a regular credit card except that you must leave a deposit—usually between $250 and $500—with the issuing bank as collateral. If you default on your payments, the bank takes the money owed out of your deposit.
The interest rate and annual fee on a secured card are often a bit higher than on a regular card. But a secured card can offer you the convenience of a regular credit card and the opportunity to improve your credit record. When comparing cards, try to find one that does not charge an application or processing fee and confirm with the issuing bank that they will report your payment performance to at least one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax. Make the most of this chance to build an unblemished credit report!

© Copyright 2017 BALANCE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 4, 2017




 


                                                               Holiday Saving Blog

                December is here and with that comes the excitement of gift giving, holiday parties, and decorations. It’s also a time when many of us feel financially stressed to make holiday wishes come true. If you fall into the financially stressed category you may be feeling frustrated for not saving for this moment like you promised yourself last year… and the year before. But don’t stress! I have some tips to help you get through the holidays.
Paying for it all
You have less than 22 days to get all of your shopping done. If you haven’t saved for the occasion, you may be doing what many of us do, paying by credit card. If you’re being charged a high interest rate for purchases you make, you may want to apply for a low rate credit card from AMOCO. The card offers a low introductory rate and you never have to worry about paying an annual fee or over limit fees. If you’re worried about not getting an AMOCO credit card fast enough, go ahead and apply. Once the card arrives in your mailbox, transfer your high rate credit card balances over to your new AMOCO credit card. There is no fee for balance transfers and it’s easy to make payments online or at any AMOCO branch. 
If credit cards aren’t your thing, that’s okay. AMOCO also offers holiday loans up to $1,500. Once approved, the amount you borrow can be deposited to your AMOCO checking account so that you can get all of your shopping done by paying with cash or your AMOCO Debit Card. Holiday loans have a fixed interest rate and can be repaid over a period of 15 months.
Another way to get some quick cash is to apply for a holiday skip a pay. For example, if you have an auto loan financed at AMOCO, you can apply to skip your December or January loan payment. By doing this, you can free up some extra cash to pay for holiday gifts.
Now that we covered three easy ways to pay for holiday expenses, let’s talk about a holiday savings account. I know the last thing you’re worried about right now is saving for next year, but if you don’t take action now, you’ll be in the same predicament next year. This doesn’t have to be a daunting experience! In fact, it’s easy and simple to do, because you can open a Holiday Savings account online right now. Best of all, you don’t need to make a HUGE deposit to get started. All you need is $5.00 to open the account. Once the account is opened, arrange to have a small amount of your paycheck deposited into this account each month. You can easily save $1,000 by next December if you deposit $83 a month to the account. The best part is that you can choose to save less or more according to your personal budget.

Your Spending Plan
The biggest mistake anyone can make is not having a spending plan. Before you head to the store, create a list of everyone you plan on buying a gift for and how much you can afford to spend for each person. Don’t forget to add in costs for gift-wrapping or gift bags. For example, if you can only afford to spend $500 on gifts for 12 family members and close friends, your spending budget for each person would be approximately $40. Knowing what you can spend before you head the store, will make gift selection much easier.  But, don’t forget to track your spending. Each time you buy a gift write it down along with the amount you spent. If you don’t want to hassle with pen and paper, download a free app to track your spending on your smart phone. Santa’s Bag app is a really great option to use. The app lets you enter the names of the people you are buying gifts for and your budget for each person. You can also add gift ideas and later mark them as: need to buy, purchased, wrapped, or given. It’s really helpful and easy to use.

Creative Ways to Save
A little creativity and energy can get you through the holidays without draining your wallet. Here’s how:
·         Make your own gifts. You don’t have to be an experienced crafter to make something special. You can bake something sweet and attached a few of your favorite recipes or you can decorate a frame and insert a memorable photo. 
·         Gift wrap doesn’t’ have to be fancy! Look around your house to see what you can use. Newspaper, brown supermarket bags, and colored paper are great alternatives!
·         Hang up homemade decorations. Use household items like popcorn to make garland to hang around your tree or around your house. Visit resale shops to find inexpensive items you can repurpose to create the perfect festive look.
·         White elephant- Instead of having to buy gifts for each family member, do a white elephant gift exchange. Each family member pull a name out of a hat, and that’s who you get a gift for. It saves a lot of money and each family member still receives a gift!
Finding Great Deals
·         Keep an eye on sales! Visit department store websites to see what special deals are being offered. Many stores will even show you if the item is in stock.
·         Consider shopping online. Many online stores offer deeper discounts plus free shipping. By shopping online you can also reduce the temptation of buying something you don’t need.
·          Shop local. Small businesses are hidden treasures among our communities. Many boutiques and small shops have unique gifts at affordable prices. 

AMOCO Federal Credit Union is a member-owned cooperative organization. AMOCO’s mission is: To Serve and Satisfy Our Members, and has done just that for more than 79 years. AMOCO strives to provide the best products and services available to its members by offering low loan rates and little to no fees. For more information, please contact Madison Biondo at mbiondo@amocofcu.org.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Andrea Risinger


Member of the Month- Andrea Risinger

“AMOCO has been my rock”
               
                Over 16 years ago, Andrea started her journey with AMOCO Federal Credit Union. Her late husband and his family first referred Andrea to AMOCO and she has continued her loyalty ever since. Andrea works at Marathon Galveston Bay Refinery in the accounting department. You can find her glued to the TV when Houston sports are playing, especially the Texans. Andrea mentioned that she’s very family oriented and loves to spend a lot of time with them.
               
                When Andrea’s husband passed, she became the full provider for herself and her daughter, Kaylynn. She turned to AMOCO in her tough times, but more specifically to Ann Ramos, our Texas City branch manager. “Ann handles all of my needs big or small. I know that if I pick up the phone to call her or send her an e-mail she will respond right back.” AMOCO has walked with Andrea on her journey, and will continue to do so for many years to come. She has referred many friends and family members to join AMOCO in the past and said she will continue in the future because of the loyalty and customer service that AMOCO has provided her with.
               
                “I would never go back to a bank, after being with AMOCO,” Andrea says. “I’ve been a member for over 16 years. I love how there are little to no fees and nothing is hidden in fine print. All of AMOCO’s employees are so nice and welcoming when I walk in. There’s always a smiling face. I’m thankful for my late husband, Chris, for encouraging me to join AMOCO years ago.”



Thank you Andrea, for being such a loyal member! 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Holiday Savings Blog

        Oh boy, our favorite and most stressful time of the year is here! With the holidays being right around the corner, the excitement starts to rise as well as the financial stress. Each year around the holidays we tend to start to questioning ourselves on why we didn’t start saving 6 months ago like we promised ourselves last year…and the year before. But good news, I have some tips that can still help you cut corners this year and start saving for next.
                Saving doesn’t always have to be so daunting. At first opening a savings account and putting a large chunk of money into it seems so accomplishing, but then we feel as if we have a void. We tell ourselves it’s okay if we take some back out, because we can just replace it next pay check… (we’ve all been there). BUT, instead of trying to jump and put all of your money into savings at once, what about breaking it down over the course of the year? Setting up an account specifically for holiday savings can help train your mind not to touch it, unless necessary. AMOCO FCU offers a holiday club account. I found that having an automatic withdrawal of a fixed amount every paycheck helps me save quicker. I don’t ever “see” that money in my checking account so I don’t miss it when it’s gone to my holiday savings account. It’s taken me awhile to figure it out, but has been so worth it! Before you know it, it starts to add up quick and anytime you want to add a little more to it, you can! If you start in January depositing $20 into this account every two weeks, you’ll have almost $500 by December 1. That’s pretty good start if you ask me. Just think of it as one less dinner out each pay check.
                If you’re already a member with AMOCO listen up! During the holidays we offer a ‘skip-a-pay” for your loans, which allows you to push your loan payments back for the month of December. If you didn’t get the opportunity to save like you needed to for the holidays or something unexpected came up, this could be a great option for you. As well as promotional loan options that can help with the extra costs of the holidays.
Some tips to save on holiday spending:

Take your time:
               A smart way to buy gifts is to put them on layaway. More stores than you think offer this smart option! You can start whenever you feel ready to make payments, which are offered up to 90 days. You can see exactly what you are purchasing and put it on a payment plan instead of purchasing it all at once and putting a bigger dent into your account. Stores like Wal- Mart and Toys-R-Us have this option. Knowing when you need to make payments and planning for those, helps with not overspending. This also helps with not becoming behind on other payments during the holidays. 

Santa’s List:
             Create a list of everyone you plan on buying a gift for and also include what gift you plan on giving them with the dollar amount next to it. Once you add up all of the amount you can create a budget for your gifts. Following that list will help you stay on track with what you are prepared to pay for. The major problems come when you go in to stores blindsided and spend more than what you were prepared for. Making a plan for holiday spending is much better financially. With making a budget and sticking to it, you wouldn’t be dealing with repercussions in the New Year, rather than if you put the entirety of your spending on credit cards. You can sleep easy knowing you don’t have any debt come January 1. Starting fresh sets you up for good spending and budgeting habits to come.  

Santa’s Helpers:
             There are so many great apps that are offered on our smart phones to keep track of our spending and what gifts we are buying. Santa’s Bag app is a really great option to use. Enter the names of the people you are buying gifts for and the budget for them as well. Just like the list we talked about before, but now in an app that can track how much you are spending. It’s really helpful to keep yourself in line with what you were planning on spending. This is just one example, there are plenty of apps out there that can help you budget this Christmas.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday:
          Shopping on Black Friday is an easy way to expand your dollar. Most stores announce what deals they will be offering days in advanced. Planning which stores you want to go to can help you navigate quickly and get to the best deals. Cyber Monday is also a great option for huge savings without ever leaving your house. Many places like Target, Amazon and Wal-Mart continue their deals through Monday. Also, check out our website at amocofcu.org to learn about our Black Friday deals!
                
          All in all saving money can be really hard, especially when we’re faced with the unexpected. The good thing is it’s never too late to start. Here at AMOCO, we offer many different options for saving. We’re here to help so the holidays can be stress free this year and help you focus on what matters the most. What are some of your favorite holiday savings tips and tricks? We’d love to hear about them. Visit us in one of our branches or open a new account online, we look forward to saving with you.

 AMOCO Federal Credit Union is a member-owned cooperative organization. AMOCO’s mission is: To Serve and Satisfy Our Members, and has done just that for more than 79 years. AMOCO strives to provide the best products and services available to its members by offering low loan rates and little to no fees. For more information, please contact Madison Biondo at mbiondo@amocofcu.org.


Friday, September 29, 2017

Happy Fall!




Hooray, we’ve finally made it to fall! This means we can start to breathe again now that the Texas heat will start to subside a little bit! (One could only hope, right?). Fall is my favorite time of the year because of the holidays and the activities that I can do with my family. It’s also a time for me to start recapping my year, which by the way is almost over! For me, it’s all about spending more time doing the things that make me happy with the people I’m closest too. I’ve compiled a bucket list of fun fall ideas that you can do with your family and friends this season!

Visit a pumpkin patch- Easy and free quality time with your family. Plus an easy way to get some new family pics in as well. You can get one pumpkin for the family to carve or get everyone their own and have your own contest!

Fall Festivals/Craft Shows- Fall is the best time of year to shop outside without breaking a sweat. Craft shows always have cute decorations and things that would make for great Christmas and birthday gifts. Fall festivals always have lots of activities for you and your family as well as good eats. And they’re usually free to go to!

Oktober Fest- If you’re looking for a fun night out with friends this fall, this could be a perfect thing for you! Usually starts at the end of September and ends in early October.  In Pearland, at King’s Biergarten, the festival runs from October 6-8 and again from the 20th-22nd. Galveston Island is also hosting a festival on October 28. Check where your closest festival is being held and grab some friends and go enjoy a much needed night out!

Throw a Halloween party- Have a memorable night with friends and family by hosting a Halloween Party. You can’t go wrong with dressing up and eating Halloween themed foods! To save money, have a pot luck and ask guests to bring their favorite dish. There is a good chance you’ve become really acquainted with your neighbors since Harvey, so another great option is to coordinate a Halloween block party. Call your neighbors and invite them to join the fun, it’s time to plan your Halloween bash!

Cleaning out our closets- With summer coming to a close we can start to pack up those clothes and move in some of our fall clothes. While doing this, we can look at things that we no longer wear anymore and make a pile to donate. Cleaning out your closets cuts down on clutter and makes more room in your storage!

Haunted Houses- Yes, we still pay to get the life scared out of us. But that’s what makes it fun! There are so many haunted houses in our area and some that are family friendly as well! Some do charge an entry fee. Whether you use it as a date night, or family night out it always makes for a good spook.

                Sit back and sip some apple cider, there’s endless things we can do with our friends and family this fall. Find who and what you’re thankful for this season and spend more time focusing on that. Happy Fall y’all!

Monday, April 3, 2017

How One Man Dug Out From $30,000 in Debt

NerdWallet

Marcus Garrett

Audit manager Marcus Garrett learned the hard way about the need to budget. Before the 34-year-old was a personal finance podcast host, he was buried in debt.
At 18, operating without a budget, Garrett opened up a series of credit card accounts. He racked up $9,000 in debt on the usual college student vices: food, drinks and spring break trips.
The downward financial spiral continued until he was in his mid-20s and over $30,000 in debt.
“Credit cards are not evil, I just did not know how to use them,” Garrett says. “Budgeting is difficult, but I never even put a budget together.”

Digging out

Garrett got serious about budgeting with a goal of paying off his debt by age 30. He consulted an online debt calculator, pulled his free credit report and researched personal finance. He trimmed the fat in his spending, including:
  • Cable: At $200 a month, he estimates canceling cable saved him $2,400 a year
  • Eating out: Reducing meals out by $100 a month saved him $1,200 a year
  • Haircuts: Eliminating $20 a week in trims four times a month shaved off $960 a year
“I think people fear budgets because they see it as restrictive,” Garrett says. “I actually think it’s freeing because it lets me know where my money is going, and it tells me that I have an accurate understanding of where my money is being allocated.”
The budgeting, in conjunction with a significant pay raise and relocation to Colorado from Texas, paid off. Garrett started making enough money at one job to drop part-time gigs he had taken on to keep up with his spending habits. He also made a conscious effort to manage his increased income responsibly.
A few years later, Garrett was debt-free. In 2016, he published a book about his experience called “Debt Free or Die Trying: How I Buried Myself in Over $30,000 in Debt and Dug My Way Out.”
Still, Garrett acknowledges his journey with budgeting is far from over. His next goals are to build out his emergency fund and contribute more to his retirement. Garrett chooses to make money management a lifestyle. Here are five of his best tips for how you can, too.

1. Know your strengths and weaknesses

Garrett says people can be generally categorized financially as spenders or savers. He’s more of a spender.
That’s not an inherently bad thing, though. Being on a budget doesn’t mean you have to lose what you enjoy; it just means you have to adjust your approach. Find a happy medium between spending and saving. If you like shopping, for instance, allow some breathing room in your budget for it.
NerdWallet recommends putting 50% of your take-home income toward things you need, 30% toward things you want and 20% toward savings.

2. Nail your timing

Garrett pays bills early in the month, then allows room for discretionary spending.
You don’t want “more month at the end of the money,” as Garrett puts it. That is to say, don’t spend all of your money at the beginning of the month and have nothing left to get through the last few days.

3. Find a system that works

A self-described late adopter of technology, Garrett acknowledges he employs some old-school tools to track his spending. His most useful go-to aids include a dry-erase calendar with a list of his bills and a note he keeps in his smartphone.
For others, a software program or spreadsheet might do the trick. Whatever the method, the key is to find something you’ll actually use. Creating a budget is easy, but sticking to it can be much harder.
Garrett says he has friends who downloaded popular budgeting app Mint, only to turn off the notifications because they didn’t want to see how their finances were doing. “Creating a budget you avoid is not a budget,” he says.
4. Look ahead
In the midst of his debt accumulation, Garrett says he was guilty of lifestyle inflation. Whenever he’d get a raise at work, he’d go out and buy something — a physical indication of his increase.
Now, he looks beyond the near term. He recommends asking where you want to be in three, four or five years. How much money do you need to get there? “That’s your debt plan,” he says. “Take that allocation and divide it backwards between what sacrifices you need to make to be there.”

5. Change how you define ‘budget’

Once Garrett emerged into the land of the debt-free, it would have been easy for him to think he was done, crumple up his old-fashioned paper budget and go back to his overspending ways. But he soon realized a budget isn’t a one-and-done activity.
He thinks of it this way: A budget isn’t something that happened to you, past tense; it’s something that’s happening, present tense.
“A lot of folks ask me, ‘What did you do? It must be something groundbreaking. Did you find a genie on your way home?’” Garrett says. His answer is simple. No magic here. Just a choice to never again be bound to debt.

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @courtneynerd.


The article How One Man Dug Out From $30,000 in Debt originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

0% Auto Loan Might Not Be the Best Deal




In seeking the best deal on your next car, you might've stumbled upon advertisements or offers to get a 0% interest auto loan. As great as this sounds, you may not save as much as you expect with this type of incentive. Since auto loans can come through either a dealer or a lender, such as a bank or credit union, it's important to note that a 0% interest loan generally, if not always, is obtained through a dealer. Automakers offer them to attract buyers to certain car models, especially ones that aren't selling well. Here are a few things to consider about 0% financing and why it might not be in your best interest to use it.

You might be forfeiting a better deal

Typically, you can't receive both reduced rate financing and a cash rebate when you buy a car, so you may have to choose one. Manufacturers' cash rebates can range from a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars. The well-known auto research website Edmunds found that the cost of incentives that automakers pay to attract customers was around $2,300 per car industrywide, which includes cash rebates and cost of reduced financing. While a 0% loan may sound appealing, a cash rebate might save you more money. If you buy a $20,000 car that has a $2,300 rebate, you are really paying $17,700 plus interest. If your interest rate for a five-year loan is 3%, a typical rate, you will pay a total of $1,383 in interest. That brings the cost of the car plus interest to $19,083, saving you $917 compared with what you'd pay with a 0% loan.You may want to check the auto loan rates at local lenders too, since you might be able to get a low rate and pick up a rebate when you negotiate with the dealer.

Rate may not last as long as your loan

Some car models may have 0% financing for a limited term, such as five years, which could be less than the length of your auto loan. In the third quarter of 2015, the average loan term for a new car was five years and seven months, and the term for used cars was five years and three months, according to Experian's State of the Automotive Finance Market report. These are the longest average terms calculated since the firm began collecting data in 2006.You may even receive a longer loan if you want lower monthly payments than you were offered initially. If your term is longer than the 0% financing deal, you generally pay interest on the remaining months or years.

This offer can be limited

A 0% rate might only be offered for a handful of models, especially newer cars, and less for used cars or older models. But even if this deal is available for the car you want, qualifying for it typically requires a high credit score. Check on the eligibility rules for getting this rate before stepping onto the dealer's lot if you can. As you sift through car prices and incentives, remember that trade-offs are part of the process when buying a car. Although a 0% interest rate may save you money in some cases, you might also be letting a better savings opportunity pass you by.


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