What You Didn’t Know About Home Loans

A home loan, otherwise known as a mortgage, enables you to purchase a house without paying the full price out of pocket at the time of the purchase.

For most people, buying a home is the biggest financial transaction of their lifetime. For that reason, if you’re in the market for a new home, it’s best to learn all you can about home loans and how they work before you get too deep into the process.

Here are some things you may not know about home loans:

Rates fluctuate daily

Borrowers who are eager to secure a home loan with a low interest rate may get into the habit of checking mortgage rates as often as some people check the weather. Interest rates fluctuate every day, which means the rate you see today may be different than the one you see when you actually are approved for the loan.

The cheapest interest rate does not guarantee the cheapest loan

When choosing a lender, borrowers will often choose the one offering the lowest interest rate, but this can actually be to their detriment. There are other factors to consider, including closing costs and the lender’s policy on releasing equity for a line of credit or a loan. Also, in adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM), the loan featuring the lowest interest rate may not have the lowest rate a few years down the line and may actually cost more in the long run.

A fixed-interest rate mortgage can ultimately cost you more

When interest rates are low, many home-buyers choose a mortgage with an interest rate that is fixed throughout the life of the loan, believing it is the most cost-effective choice. This may or may not be correct. A fixed-rate mortgage might comes with higher exit fees, or fees paid to the lender when the loan is repaid. Also, if rates drop further throughout your loan’s term, you won’t be able to take advantage of the new rates unless you refinance. Finally, interest rates on fixed-term mortgages are generally higher than the initial rate on ARMs.

A lower credit score can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in interest

Most people know that a higher credit score is generally awarded with a lower interest rate, but not many people know to what extent this is true. A high credit score can translate into tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments over the life of a home loan. A credit score difference of 100 points can increase a monthly mortgage payment by $150 or more, depending on the size of the loan and the interest rate.

If you’re thinking of applying for a home loan soon and your credit isn’t in the “very good” category (higher than 740), it may be worthwhile to spend a few months working to boost your score before you apply for a mortgage.

The housing market impacts rates

While the federal funds rate will have the greatest impact on the rise and fall of interest rates, the state of the housing market will affect it, too.  Lenders need to turn a profit from their loans, which means the higher the volume of loans they process, the less they need to earn from each one to remain profitable. Consequently, when the housing market is booming and lenders are granting loans on a frequent basis, they will be more inclined to offer lower interest rates to borrowers.

You can have your mortgage payments automated

Your home loan payments will likely be your largest monthly bill, and missing a payment or paying it late can have serious consequences. Fortunately, you can avoid these scenarios by signing up to have your monthly mortgage payments automatically deducted from your checking account. Most lenders provide this service; check with yours to see if this is an option they offer.

Buying a home will likely be the biggest purchase you ever make. Be sure to find out all there is to know about mortgages and their interest rates before applying for a home loan.

Your Turn: Do you have another lesser-known fact about home loans to share? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
kloze.com
wyndhamcapital.com
binvested.com
bankrate.com

Spring Clean Your Finances

Spring is a great time of year to clear your house of accumulated junk and make it sparkle. Why not do the same for your finances? Junk can accumulate there, too. In fact, some of your money matters may need a good wipe down this season. It is especially true this year, when many Americans are still recovering from the financial fallout of COVID-19, or maybe wondering how to use the latest round of stimulus checks. Whatever your current situation, a thorough spring-cleaning for your finances is a responsible move this time of year.

Here are some ways to spring clean your finances:

Sweep out your budget

It’s time to shake out the dust in your budget! Review your monthly spending and find ways to cut back. Have you been overdoing the takeout food this year? Buying up more shoes than you can possibly wear? Pare down your budget until it’s looking neat and trim.

Freshen up your W-4

Tax season is prime time for revisiting the withholdings on your W-4. If you received an especially large refund this year, you may want to adjust the amount you withhold. The IRS’s tax withholding estimator  can be a useful tool to help you determine the perfect number.

Deep clean your accounts 

If you’ve switched from one bank or credit union to another, you may have dormant accounts that are still open and may be charging you fees. Or, perhaps they’re holding onto money you’ve forgotten you have! And don’t forget about the 401(k) you may have from an old job. Now may be the time to transfer those funds to your current 401(k).

This spring, do a Marie Kondo on your finances and get rid of any accounts you don’t need any longer. A minimalist approach to your finances will make it easier to manage your accounts. It will also give your savings a greater chance at growth, and help you avoid fees for unused accounts.

Toss out your debt

Get ready to kick that debt for good!

If you’ve been stuck on the debt cycle for too long, make this spring the season you create a plan to break free.

First, trim your budget or consider a side hustle for earning some pocket money, designating these extra funds for your debts. Next, choose a popular debt-busting approach, such as the avalanche method, in which you pay off debts in order from highest interest rate to lowest, or the snowball method, where you start with the smallest debt and then move up your list as each is paid off. Once you’ve chosen your approach, maximize payments to the first debt on your list, making sure not to neglect the minimum monthly payments on your other debts. Before you know it, that debt will be gone!

Dust off your saving habits

Have you been remembering to pay yourself first? Get into the habit of maximizing your savings this spring with a tangible financial goal. You can also make savings an itemized line in your budget. This way, you’ll have funds set aside for this purpose, instead of savings only happening if there’s money left over at the end of the month. Finally, automate your savings by setting up a monthly transfer from your checking account to your savings account. Never forget to pay yourself first again!

Make your investments sparkle

Whether you’re an experienced investor or you’re just getting your feet wet, it’s time for a spring cleaning of your investments! Check if your allocation strategy is still serving you well, whether you need to adjust your diversification and if your retirement accounts are on track for your estimated retirement timeline.

Make your stimulus count

Don’t let your stimulus payment and tax refund blow through your checking account. Instead create a spending plan for the funds that includes paying down debt, allocating some of the money for long-term and short-term savings and possibly investing another portion of the payment. Don’t feel guilty about using the rest of your stimulus check to splurge on a purchase or experience you’ve been wanting for a while now. The money is being distributed with the hopes that it will help stimulate the economy, and the best way to do that is to spend — just don’t go overboard.

Spring is the perfect time to give your finances a thorough cleaning. Follow our tips to make your money matters shine!

Your Turn: How are you spring cleaning your finances this season? Share your tips with us in the comments.

Learn More:
nerdwallet.com
thebalance.com
doughroller.net

Get Good With Money: Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole

Title: Get Good with Money: Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole

Author: Tiffany Aliche

Hardcover: 368 pages

Publisher: Rodale Books

Publishing date: March 30, 2021

Who is this book for? 

Anyone looking to take charge of their personal finances, get their spending under control and learn how to live with financial wholeness.

What’s inside this book?

  • The 10-step formula for attaining financial security and peace of mind that was created and perfected by Aliche, AKA “The Budgetnista.”
  • Checklists, worksheets, a toolkit of resources and advanced advice from money-management experts.
  • Real-life examples to bring financial lessons home.
  • Actionable steps for taking charge of your credit score, maximizing bill-paying automation, savings and investing and calculating your life, disability and property insurance needs.

5 lessons you’ll learn from this book: How to achieve and maintain financial wholeness through a series of financial improvements.

  • How to create the game-changing “noodle budget.”
  • How to see your credit score as a grade point average.
  • How to practice mindful budgeting and spending habits.
  • A simple calculation to help you retire early.

3 questions this book will answer for you: 

  • How can I determine if my money problem is that I don’t earn enough or I that I spend too much, and how do I fix either issue?
  • How can I learn to make a habit out of saving for a rainy day?
  • How can I protect my beneficiaries’ future?

What people are saying about this book:

  • “Aliche can take the most complex of money concepts and distill them into something relatable and understandable. No matter where you stand in your money journey, Get Good with Money has a lesson or two for you!” — Erin Lowry
  • “Get Good with Money helps you put all the pieces of your financial life together without making you feel overwhelmed or ashamed about your circumstances. Whether you need to budget better, slash debt, and save more money or learn to invest, boost your net worth, and build wealth, Tiffany Aliche offers great advice to let you know you can do this, sis!” — Lynnette Khalfani-Cox
  • “I’m so inspired by Tiffany Aliche’s own story of digging out of deep debt and building back her credit and her cash flow. Get Good with Money will soon have you believing in your own ability to set yourself up for a life that’s rich in every way.” — Farnoosh Torabi

Your Turn: What did you think of Get Good With Money? Share your opinion in the comments.

Learn More:
amazon.com
goodreads.com
getgoodwithmoney

Saving on Entertainment Costs

Everyone needs a way to kick back and relax, but entertainment can get expensive. Between pricey tickets to movies and sporting events, specialty hobby equipment that costs a bundle, and entertainment services that may seem to charge more than they’re worth, it’s hard to have your fun, and your budget, too.

Fortunately, there are ways to save on entertainment costs. Here are a few creative tips to get you started.

Turn a hobby into income

Do you have a secret passion you can monetize? Maybe you’re sensational at sewing, or you have a unique talent for bottle-cap art, and people would pay for your creations. You can save on entertainment costs by selling your products on sites like Etsy. You’ll earn the cash you need to fund your hobby — and maybe some extra pocket change, too.

Buy season passes

If you have a favorite amusement park, zoo, trampoline park or another entertainment center, it may be worthwhile to invest in a season pass. These often cost as much as, or even less than, two one-day entrance tickets.

Give up cable

In 2021, there are so many fantastic alternatives to cable service, and at great prices. A video streaming service like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu can be a great replacement for cable. Some services, like Sling TV and HBO Max, will even allow you to stream a specific channel online.

Stream your music

Downloading from iTunes is rapidly going the way of the CD and cassette tape. Today, it’s all about streaming music services, which allow the user to listen to virtually any song, for a modest monthly subscription fee. Some popular options include Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Google Play Music, most of which cost an average of $10 a month.

Ask for a discount

Before paying for a hotel stay, amusement park ticket, or even a rental car, find out if you qualify for a discount. Lots of entertainment venues will offer discounts for older adults, students or members of AAA, AARP or the like.

Split entertainment memberships with family or friends

Share the cost of a music, movie or video game subscription with a friend or a roommate. Some services even allow you to add a user living at the same residence at no cost, so you can pay one price for a full service of something like Netflix for half the cost.

Take a virtual tour

Thanks to COVID-19, you can now get an up-close look at the most fascinating places in the world. From famous museums like the Guggenheim in New York City and Musée d’Orsay  in Paris, to safaris you can take from the comfort of your home at places like the  Houston Zoo and the San Diego Zoo, there’s no shortage of entertainment you can get for free.

Stay local

Keep your eyes and ears open for local festivals, sporting events and performances at no charge, or for just a nominal fee. You can get your entertainment fix at a fraction of the usual cost while supporting your community. (For now, these might be outdoor-only.)

Watch for happy hour

Lots of museums and recreation centers offer discounted entrance tickets during their slowest time of the week, or of the day. Plan your visit around “happy hour” for the most savings.

Volunteer at special events

Offer to volunteer at theater and music productions in exchange for free tickets. This can mean helping to usher people toward their seats, or assisting with setting up and breaking down the set before and after the show.

Purchase group deals online

Before taking a trip anywhere, check if you can get discounted tickets on sites like Groupon, LivingSocial  or TravelZoo. Why pay full price if you don’t have to?

Keeping yourself entertained doesn’t have to cost a bundle. Use our tips to find creative ways to cut back on entertainment costs without sacrificing any of the relaxation or the fun you need. It’s doable!

Your Turn: How do you save on entertainment costs? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Learn More:
wikihow.com
foolproofme.org
nerdwallet.com

Tips for Empty Nesters Downsizing

Quiet. Calm. Clean.

And empty.

These are just a few of the adjectives that may come to mind when you return home after your youngest child leaves the nest. It’s the beginning of a new stage in life and your home may feel completely different.

No longer are you constantly kicking aside stray sneakers and picking up a trail of school papers. No longer are you sharing your living space with soccer gear and your freezer with boxes of frozen pizza and ice pops. You may even get the TV remote to yourself!

Now that the house has emptied out, it’s a great time to sift through the “stuff” that has piled up over the years. Maybe you’ve even decided to move to a new and smaller home. Whether you’re decluttering because your home has grown emptier or you need to get rid of half your belongings before you relocate, downsizing can be a daunting task.

Here are some tips to help you downsize as an empty nester.

Allow yourself to grieve, but stay positive

It isn’t easy to let go of precious mementos, give away the adorable baby outfits your oldest wore as an infant or say goodbye to the home that watched your family grow. Make these goodbyes a little easier by acknowledging your grief but putting a positive spin on your new stage. Yes, you are saying goodbye to playdates and PTA meetings, but you are entering a phase in life that will open up new vistas and opportunities you’ve never had before.

Clear out your closets

If your closets have not been purged since AOL CDs cluttered mailboxes, you might be looking at a mountain of outdated clothing to sort through and organize. Here’s how to make this job easy.

Set up four boxes near your closet. Mark one “giveaways,” one “keepers,” one “sell” and the last “dump.” As you sort through grunge tops from the ‘90s and neon jeans from the ‘80s, consider each item: Can you donate this, keep it, sell it or is it destined for the dump? Place each item in its designated box until you’ve gone through the entire pile.

When you’ve finished sorting through all your clothing, return the items in the “keepers” box to the closet, toss the junk, bring the giveaways to a clothing donation drop-off spot and sell what’s left on Poshmark.

Sell your spare furniture

Whether you’re relocating or staying put for now, your furniture needs will change when the kids have left home. Create space and earn some extra pocket money by hosting a garage sale for your unused furniture pieces. You can also sell spare drawer chests, desks and more on OfferUp or Craigslist.

Sift through your files

In the world before everything was digitized, important papers in a household could pile up like snow in a blizzard. The good news is you likely don’t need most of the papers you’ve been saving all these years. It’s time to clear out the pile!

Each of your files will likely fall into one of three categories.

The important paperwork includes personally identifying info and sensitive documents, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards for each child. Of course, you’ll need to save the original copies of these documents in a safe place.

On the other end of the spectrum are saved files that serve no purpose now, such as electricity bills from 1995 and pay stubs from your first post-college job. These can go straight into the shredder.

Finally, you’ll have documents that fall somewhere in between these two categories, such as medical records, tax returns and your children’s report cards. You can choose to keep some of these, or, if you’re short on space, scan each document and upload it to cloud storage.

Rethink your bedrooms

With all the kids out of the house, you can rethink the way you use your bedrooms. Have you always dreamed of a designated sewing room? How about using the space to indulge in your model train hobby? You can finally have that hobby room you’ve always wanted when the kids were growing up!

If you need to save some sleeping room for the kids when they come home to visit, you can keep a daybed in any converted bedroom for that purpose.

It’s a new stage in life, and it’s time to sift through the piles of junk that have accumulated over the years. Follow our tips for downsizing made easy!

Your Turn: What are your best downsizing tips? Share them with us in the comments.

Learn More:
emptynestblessed.com
smartstopselfstorage.com
fidelity.com
homelight.com

Save Money When Shopping Online

With tens of thousands of people still out of work and the economy still limping toward a recovery, wise spending remains important. And with huge parts of life still happening on your screen, for many, this means saving on online shopping.

Here are some tips for saving money when shopping online:

Wait on every purchase 

Online retailers purposely make it quick and easy to buy the stuff in your cart. Outsmart them by waiting between choosing your purchases and actually purchasing them. This trick serves a dual purpose: First, you may find you don’t really need or even want the item after a few days. Second, the retailer will almost always email a coupon for you to use for the “forgotten items” in your cart.

Outsmart dynamic pricing

Dynamic pricing is one of the most powerful tools merchants use to get online shoppers to spend more. It involves using sophisticated algorithms and tracking to show shoppers prices based on their location, browsing history and spending patterns. Retailers learn each shopper’s price point and show them products in that range.

Fortunately, you can outsmart dynamic pricing by following these tips, especially when shopping for items with a wide price range, like airline tickets.

  • Clear your browsing history and cookies or shop with your browser in incognito or private mode.
  • Log out of your email and social media accounts.
  • Choose localized websites of international brands instead of being redirected to the U.S. site.
    Time your purchases right

Believe it or not, there’s a method to the madness of online pricing. Learning how to crack the code can help you unlock substantial savings.

Sunday’s your day to score cheap airfare, with Mondays being the most expensive day to book your tickets, according to Airlines Reporting Corporation.

Bookworms are best off shopping for new titles on Saturdays, as this is when Amazon and Barnes & Noble launch most book sales.

Shopping for a new laptop or desktop computer? Major retailers, like Dell and Hewlett-Packard, distribute coupons each Tuesday.

For most other purchases, it’s best to wait until the end of the week for the best deals. According to Rather Be Shopping, most stores roll out discounts and special deals on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Layer coupons

You may already be in the habit of never completing a purchase without doing a quick search for coupons, but even when you have those coupons on hand, there’s a technique that will guarantee the best savings.

Always use a promo code before a discount coupon. A promo code will take a specified percentage off your entire purchase while a discount code will take off a dollar amount. For example, say you have a 15% off promo code and a $5-off coupon to use on a $100 purchase. First use the promo code to shave $15 off your purchase. Next, apply the discount to bring your total down to just $80. If you’d do it the other way, you’d save less money.

Ask for price-drop refunds

Discovering that an item you purchased yesterday has just dropped in price can be incredibly frustrating; however, some companies take the edge off by offering to refund the price difference within a specific time-frame. Amazon, for example, gives a grace period of seven days from the delivery date to claim discount refunds. You can use camelcamelcamel.com  to monitor price changes on the retail giant’s website.

Use multiple emails for discounts

Many online retailers offer one-time promo codes for new customers, but you can be a new customer more than once. All you need is a different email address.

Don’t shop alone

Take advantage of the many apps, websites and browser extensions that can help you save money every time you shop online. Here are just a few you may want to try:

  • PriceGrabber – Use this app to compare prices on millions of products to find the best deal.
  • Rakuten – Shop your favorite retailers through this site for instant kickback cash.
  • Ibotta – Shoot a photo of your receipt for rebates that will go right back into your pocket.
  • Retailmenot.com  – Check this site for discounts and coupons you may have missed.

Online shopping just got cheap again!

Your Turn: How do you save money when shopping online? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Learn More:
lifehack.org
blesserhouse.com
people.com
rather-be-shopping.com

Know Yourself, Know Your Money

Title: Know Yourself, Know Your Money: Discover WHY you handle money the way you do, and WHAT to do about it!

Author: Rachel Cruze

Hardcover: 272 pages

Publisher: Ramsey Press

Publishing date: Jan. 5, 2021

Who is this book for? 

Anyone who’s ever wondered why they make the money choices they do and how they can change them for the better.
Anyone who has ever tried to understand why the people in their lives make the money choices they do.

What’s inside this book?

The introduction and explanation of the 7 Money Tendencies:

1. Saver or Spender

2. Nerd or Free Spirit

3. Experiences or Things

4. Quality or Quantity

5. Safety or Status

6. Abundance or Scarcity

7. Planned Giving or Spontaneous Giving

New ways to understand how your parents, your fears and your beliefs impact your money mindset.

5 lessons you’ll learn from this book: 

  • Where you land on the scale of the Seven Money Tendencies and why it matters.
  • Which of the Four Childhood Money Classrooms shaped your money mindset.
  • How the Six Core Money Fears can drive your most common money mistakes.
  • Why you handle money the way you do, and what to do about it.
  • How to take control of your money to achieve financial freedom.

3 questions this book will answer for you: 

  • How does my childhood impact the money choices I make today?
  • Why do I constantly make money mistakes?
  • How can I change my money mindset for good?

What people are saying about this book: 

  • “Rachel does such a great job of getting to the root of why we make the money decisions (and mistakes) we do. This book is a self-discovery necessity.” — Marcus Buckingham
  • “I have often said if you want to understand someone, look at their checkbook and their calendar. How we spend time and money says a lot about who we are. Rachel goes deep into unraveling that mystery.” — Dr. Henry Cloud
  • “We’re all faced with the responsibility of managing finances. Rachel Cruze dives deep into why we interact with money the way we do… so you can make real progress toward your money goals!” — Candace Cameron Bure
  • “This book will not only change your money habits, it will also improve your relationships — and your life!” — Christine Caine

Your Turn: What did you think of Know Yourself, Know Your Money? Share your opinion in the comments.

5 Reasons We Overspend (and How to Overcome Them)

We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s that I-gotta-have-it urge that overtakes us when we see a pair of designer jeans. Maybe it’s that shrug as we reach for the $6 cup of overrated coffee that says “I deserve this.” Or maybe it’s that helpless feeling as the end of the month draws near and we realize we’ve outspent our budget — again.

What makes us overspend? Let’s take a look at five common reasons and how we can overcome them.

1. To keep up with the Jones’s

Humans are naturally social creatures who want to blend in with their surroundings. When people who seem to be in the same financial bracket as we are can seemingly afford another pair of designer shoes for each outfit, we should be able to afford them, too, right?

The obvious flaw in this line of thinking is that nobody knows what’s really going on at the Jones’s’ house. Maybe Mrs. Jones’ expensive taste in shoes has landed the family deeply in debt and they are in danger of losing their home. Maybe her Great Aunt Bertha passed and left her a six-digit inheritance. Maybe all of her Louboutin’s are cheap knockoffs she bought online for $23 each.

Break the cycle: Learn to keep your eyes on your own wallet and to ignore how your friends or peers choose to spend their money. Develop a self-image that is independent of material possessions. Adapt this meme as your tagline when you feel that urge to overspend as a means to fit in: Let the Jones’s keep up with me!

2. We don’t have a budget

A recent survey shows that 65% of Americans don’t know how they spent their money last month.

When all of our spending is just a guessing game, it can be challenging not to overspend. We can easily assure ourselves that we can afford another dinner out, a new top and a new pair of boots — until the truth hits and we realize we’ve overspent again.

Break the cycle: Create a monthly budget covering all your needs and some of your wants. If you’d rather not track every dollar, you can give yourself a general budget for all non-fixed expenses and then spend it as you please.

3. To get a high

Retail therapy is a real thing. Research shows that shopping and spending money releases feel-good dopamine in the brain, just like recreational drugs. David Sulzer, professor of neuro-biology at Columbia, explains that the neurotransmitter surges when people anticipate a reward — like a shopper anticipating a new purchase. And when we encounter an unforeseen benefit, like a discount, the dopamine really spikes!

“This chemical response is commonly called ‘shopper’s high,’” Sulzer says, likening it to the rush that can come with drinking or gambling.

This explains the addictive quality of shopping that can be hard to fight. When life gets stressful, or we just want to feel good, we hit the shops or start adding items to our virtual carts.

Break the cycle: There’s nothing wrong with spending money to feel good, so long as you don’t go overboard. It’s best to put some “just for fun” money into your budget so you can make that feel-good purchase when you need to without letting it put you into debt.

4. Misuse of credit

Credit cards offer incredible convenience and an easy way to track spending. But they also offer a gateway into deep debt. Research shows that consumers spend up to 18% more when they pay with plastic over cash.

Break the cycle: When shopping in places where you tend to overspend, use cash and you’ll be forced to stick to your budget. You can also use a debit card with a careful budget so you know how much you want to spend.

5. Lack of self-discipline

Sometimes, there’s no deep reason or poor money management behind our spending. Sometimes, we just can’t tell ourselves — or our children — “no.”

Scott Butler, a retirement income planner at the wealth management firm Klauenberg Retirement Solutions in Laurel, MD, explains that it takes tremendous willpower to say no to something we want now.

“One of the big reasons people overspend is that they don’t think ahead,” Butler says.

Too often, we allow our immediate needs to take precedence over more important needs that won’t be relevant for years — such as a retirement fund or our children’s college education. We simply lack the discipline to not exchange immediate gratification for long-term benefit.

Break the cycle: Define your long-term financial goals. Create a plan for reaching these goals with small and measurable steps. While working through your plan, assign an amount to save each month. Before giving in to an impulse purchase or an indulgence you can’t really afford, remind yourself of your long-term goals and how much longer your time-frame will need to be if you spend this money now.

Your Turn: What makes you overspend? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
thebalance.com
thedollarstretcher.com
hermoney.com
money.usnews.com
elle.com

All You Need to Know About Share Certificates

No one wants to play around with their savings. Whether you’ve just received a lump sum through a work bonus, inheritance or other unexpected windfall, or you’ve been saving for a while until you’ve built a sizeable nest egg, you likely want to park your savings in a place that offers your money its biggest chance at growth without risking a loss.

Lucky for you, as a member of Advantage One Credit Union, you have access to an abundance of secure options for your savings, including savings accounts, [and] money market accounts, [health savings accounts, holiday clubs and vacation clubs].

Another excellent option we offer our members to help their savings grow is our share certificates. Sometimes known as savings certificates, and referred to by banks as CDs, these unique accounts blend higher growth potential of a stock investment with the security of a typical savings account.

Let’s take a closer look at this savings product and why it might be the perfect choice for you.

What is a share certificate?

A share certificate is a [federally] insured savings account with a fixed dividend rate and a fixed date of maturity. The dividend rates of these accounts tend to be higher than those on savings accounts and there is generally no monthly fee to keep the certificate open.

Aside from the higher dividend rate, share certificates differ from savings accounts in the more limited accessibility of the funds within the account. A typical certificate will not allow you to add any money to the certificate after you’ve made your initial deposit. You also won’t be able to withdraw your funds before the maturity date without paying a penalty. [However, at Advantage One Credit Union, we do offer more flexible options than the typical share certificate].

Terms and conditions of certificates

You’ll need to meet some basic requirements before you can open a certificate including a minimum opening balance and a commitment to keep your money in the account for a set amount of time.

The minimum amount of funds you’ll need to deposit to open a certificate will vary in each financial institution. It also depends upon the term you choose. Some institutions will accept an initial deposit as low as $50 for a certificate. Others, such as a “jumbo” certificate, will require an opening balance of $100,000 or more. In general, the more money you invest in a certificate, the higher rate of interest it will earn. At Advantage One Credit Union, you can open a certificate with as little as [$X] at an Annual Percentage Yield (APY) of [X%].

Certificate term lengths also vary among financial institutions, with most offering a choice of certificates that run from three months to five years. Typically, certificates with longer maturity terms will earn a higher rate. Here at Advantage One Credit Union, we offer our members certificates that can be opened for just [X] months or as long as [X] years. Our dividend rates start at [X%APY*] for short-term certificates, and going up to [X%APY*] for our long-term options.

Is a share certificate for everyone?

While keeping your savings in a certificate can be an excellent option for your money, it is not for everyone. Before you move forward with opening a certificate, be sure you won’t need to access the funds before the certificate’s maturity date. It’s best to have a separate emergency fund set aside to help you through an unexpected expense.

Why keep your money in a certificate?

Here are some of the reasons people choose to open a certificate:

  • Low risk. With each Advantage One Credit Union certificate insured by [the National Credit Union Administration] up to $250,000 [and independently insured up to $XXXX by XXXX], you can rest easy, knowing your money is completely secure.
  • Higher dividend rates. Certificates offer all the security of savings accounts with higher yields.
  • Locked-in rates. There’s no stressing over fluctuating national interest rates with a certificate. The APY is set when you open the account and is locked in until its maturity date. This means you can calculate exactly how much interest your money will earn over the life of the certificate the day you open it.

If a certificate sounds like the perfect choice for you, stop by Advantage One Credit Union today to learn more. We’re committed to giving your money its best chance at growth.

* APY=Annual Percentage rate and rates are current as of [XX/XX/XXXX].

Your Turn: Have you chosen to keep your savings in a share certificate? Tell us why you chose this option in the comments.

Learn More:
investopedia.com
thebalance.com
businessinsider.com

How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day on a Budget

Love is in the air and the money is flowing like heart emojis. According to the National Retail Federation, the average American spends $221.34 on Valentine’s Day each year. That’s a lot of money to spend on a one-day celebration!

Lucky for you, there are ways to enjoy a romantic evening with your partner without going into debt. Here’s how:

Work with a budget

Instead of spending mindlessly and regretting it afterward, designate a budget for all your Valentine’s Day expenses, and be sure to stick to it. In addition to helping you keep costs under control, working out a budget in advance will allow you to choose how to spend your money. You may decide to spend more on a gift and less on dinner, or maybe you’d rather skip both of these and splurge on a fun activity instead. Best of all, a preplanned budget means there will be no regrets spoiling the memory of your special day.

Shop smarter with a sales app

Check out shopping apps, like ShopSavvy or PriceGrabber, to score deals on that dream Valentines’ Day gift. The apps help you compare prices at online and in-store retailers, locate coupons for items you’re searching for and even bring up cash-back options to put money back into your wallet. Why pay full price when you don’t have to?

Save on flowers

Did you know that Americans spend close to $2 billion on Valentine’s Day flowers each year?

Save on those beautiful blossoms with these tips:

  • Shop for flowers at Costco, Trader Joe’s or Aldi. You’ll find great deals on fresh flowers that will outlast the cheaper ones you might find at street vendors.
  • Don’t buy flowers online. They’re unlikely to last well through the shipping and delivery process.
  • Use the food. The small packet of flower food that comes along with your blossoms will help them last longer and stay vibrant and fresh — but only if you use it.

Bring down your dinner costs

Don’t break your budget on a romantic dinner for two.

First, consider dining in. Yes, we know your kitchen table isn’t the hottest place in town, but you can find another area in your home and turn it into a special spot for a special meal. Consider laying down a blanket in front of the fireplace for a picnic-inspired experience, moving a small table into the living room or even setting up a cozy corner in a rarely used room in your home, such as a storage room or guest bedroom. Cook up a storm, or order in — you’ll still save on restaurant costs by forgoing beverages, gratuities and other add-ons you end up blowing money on when you eat out.

If you or your loved one are really looking forward to dining out, make it less expensive by learning how to beat the psychological tricks that restaurateurs play on diners to get them to spend more:

  • Look left. Restaurant owners strategically place the most profitable items on the menu in the right-hand corner — the spot most people look to automatically.
  • Say the price out loud. Notice the lack of dollar signs on the menu? It’s a trick to get you to spend more. Make the price real in your mind by saying it out loud.
  • Ignore the decoys. Restaurants famously place popular dishes near ridiculously overpriced items on the menu to make diners believe they’re getting a great deal. Your weapon against this trick is to completely ignore the most expensive item on the menu.
  • Dumb it down. Reading a restaurant menu can sometimes feel like reading French — even if you’re eating Italian. When choosing what to order, isolate the actual item on the menu instead of getting lost in all those descriptive phrases.
  • Take no notice of negative space. Another restaurant trick that gets diners to spend more is to create a pocket of empty space around high-profit items on the menu. This draws the eye to where the restaurant owner wants it to go and gets you to spend more than planned.

Celebrate late

If you dare, postpone your Valentine’s Day celebrations by a day or two for steep savings on all related expenses. You’ll find Valentine’s Day candy and greeting cards on clearance, gifts already marked down, and you won’t have to pay inflated restaurant prices for the same meal.

Use these hacks to plan the perfect Valentine’s Day on a budget.

Your Turn: How do you save on Valentine’s Day costs? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Learn More:
clark.com
rd.com
nerdwallet.com
mentalfloss.com