Tips for First Time Homebuyers

Even if you’re not a first-time home buyer, looking for and financing a home can be stressful. When you don’t know where to begin or what to do, it can be even more stressful. We’ve got a few tips for first-time homebuyers to get the most out of your home buying experience.

Determine how much house you can afford and get pre-approved.

When you’re ready to look for your dream home, it’s important to know how much home you can afford. This will narrow down your home search and will give you a realistic view of the types of homes you can buy inside of your price range. You will also avoid the temptation to purchase a home where you’ll struggle to make the payments.

Save up for a down payment.

With such a big purchase, having a down payment to invest in your home is important. A good rule of thumb for a down payment is to save 20% of your mortgage. For instance, if you have a $100,000 mortgage, your target down payment is $20,000.

If 20% of your mortgage doesn’t seem feasible, there are other options for first-time homebuyers that will allow you to save and invest a smaller amount into your mortgage. If you’re wondering how much you need to save to achieve your desired payment, check out a down payment calculator for reference.

Payoff as much debt as possible

One of the factors that will determine your creditworthiness is your debt-to-income ratio. A debt-to-income ratio measures the total amount of debt you’re paying off each month compared to the amount of income you’re bringing in within the same period. If the amount of debt you’re paying off is considerably more than your income, this will negatively impact your credit score. In turn, this will hurt your chances of being pre-approved for and financing a mortgage.

Try at all costs to avoid inquiries on your credit report

When you’re looking to finance your first home, one item that first-time homebuyers seem to overlook is avoiding new lines of credit. For instance, opening a new cell phone line, television service, or even setting up a utility account will all affect your credit score and your inquiries.

Before you buy a house, your focus should be on maintaining and improving your credit score while saving as much as possible for a down payment and closing costs instead of building new avenues of credit.

Save up for a down payment.

With such a big purchase, having a down payment to invest in your home is important. A good rule of thumb for a down payment is to save 20% of your mortgage. For instance, if you have a $100,000 mortgage, your target down payment is $20,000.

If 20% of your mortgage doesn’t seem feasible, there are other options for first-time homebuyers that will allow you to save and invest a smaller amount into your mortgage. If you’re wondering how much you need to save to achieve your desired payment, check out a down payment calculator for reference.

Buying your first home is no easy feat. Take the first step and contact one of Mortgage Specialists at 860 441 0902 to discuss all your options to owning your very own dream home in no time.

What’s the Difference Between a Tax Credit and a Tax Deduction?

“Just write it off.”

“Go ahead and deduct it.”

“I think there’s a tax credit for that.”

Although you might have heard or even uttered one of the sentences above, have you ever wondered what it actually means? While both tax deductions and tax credits can save you a significant amount of money on your taxes, they work in significantly different ways.

What is a Tax Deduction?

A tax deduction is a result of a tax-deductible expense or exemption which reduces your taxable income. A common tax deduction on your federal income tax return is the standard deduction. An example of how this works: If your income was $50,000, your standard deduction (if single or married filing separately) would reduce your taxable income by the 2018 standard deduction of $12,000, so your taxable income would now be $38,000.

What is a Tax Credit?

Unlike tax deductions, tax credits are subtracted from your tax liability (not taxable income). A common tax credit is the Child Tax Credit. If you have a qualifying child, you can take a credit of up to $2,000 per child against the taxes you owe in 2018. If you have a total federal income tax liability of $3,500, the Child Tax Credit for one child would reduce that tax liability to $1,500.

Is a Tax Deduction Better Than a Tax Credit?  Is a Tax Credit Better Thank a Tax Deduction?

If you were ever faced with a hypothetical choice between a $100 tax deduction and a $100 tax credit, you would most likely prefer to receive the credit. Unlike a tax deduction, a $100 tax credit reduces your tax dollar-for-dollar ($100). On the other hand, a tax deduction reduces your taxable income by $100. The resulting amount of tax you save depends on your marginal tax bracket (in everyday language: your tax bracket). If you are in the 24% tax bracket in 2018, a $100 tax deduction reduces your taxes by $24. On the other hand, a $100 credit would reduce your taxes by $100.

TurboTax Has You Covered

Don’t worry about trying to figure out which tax credits or deductions you should take, or if you should itemize or take the standard deduction. TurboTax will ask you simple questions about you and give you the tax deductions and credits you are eligible for based on your answers to get you the biggest tax refund. As a credit union member, you can save up to $15 on TurboTax federal products. Click here to access TurboTax and your savings!

The Benefits of Charitable Contributions

We all know the saying, “It’s better to give than receive.” Giving makes us feel good, right? And we usually don’t think about what’s in it for us.

But, what about charitable giving? Depending on the amount of your charitable contributions, you could be in for a sizeable tax benefit. As a matter of fact, if you factor your charitable donations into your budget, it will allow you to be more generous and lead to strategies that could improve your financial planning long term.

With tax season just around the corner, let’s take a look at some benefits of charitable giving and what can be deducted.

That altruistic feeling

Whether we donate to them or not, we all have causes near and dear to our heart. If you’re an animal lover, the ASPCA commercials probably tug at your heartstrings. If helping kids is where your passion lies, then charities like St. Jude’s and the Shriner’s Hospital probably resonate with you. Regardless of where your loyalties lie, we all love the feeling of helping other people. Scientific studies have even shown that charitable giving activates pleasure centers in the brain.

Tax benefits

Charitable donation deductions actually allow you to lower the amount of taxable income. Of course, you can’t donate to just any organization. In order for donations or gifts to qualify, they have to be recognized tax-exempt organizations. Typically, religious organizations, veterans’ organizations and community organizations qualify as tax exempt.

Have you made any donations to state, federal, or local governments for public purposes, like donating to rehab a public park? You can deduct those donations. You can also deduct any expenses you incur as a volunteer for a qualified organization or if you donate a qualified vehicle.

What does this mean for you?

Let’s be honest. Taxes, deductions, and tax law can be overwhelming and difficult to understand if you don’t speak that language. It’s always a good idea to sit down with a qualified financial planner to come up with a plan for donating to charities. Your financial planner can help you figure out what types of donations work for you and your future plans. They can also help you find organizations that share the same goals and ideals as you. If you’d like to speak with a Financial Planner, Rick Hoskins of Scient FCU would be happy to sit down with you.

Also, if you want to make charitable giving a recurring activity this year, look at setting aside money in a Scient Savings Account. That way, you can save smaller amounts at a time to make it easier to give back vs one lump sum all at once.

While you shouldn’t donate funds just for your benefit, if you happen to be donating anyway, there’s no harm in deducting the amount on your taxes. No matter which way you decide to give or which charity you choose, giving back to organizations that do good feels good.

If you’re looking to speak with a Financial Planner, Rick Hoskins, of Scient FCU would be happy to book time for a consultation. You can email Rick to reserve time.

Meal Planning on a Budget

The beginning of a new year is a great time to change up your diet in a way that fits your budget. Meal planning is popular among those who desire to eat healthy while maintaining a healthy budget. While there are many resources available for recipes, we have a few tips on how to make the most of your meal planning options.

Plan your shopping trips and meals in advance.

Take some time to look at the grocery store circulars or online deals to see what is on sale for the week. Once you know what meats and seasonal fruits and vegetables are being offered at a good price, you can research recipes to maximize your meal planning options for the season. These prices tell you how much they are by amounts so you can compare with your recipes to determine your budget before you’re in the store.

Check out meal planning resources via a Google search and on sites like Pinterest. There are meal preps and plans available from home cooks and more popular sources like Food Network. Be willing to try new recipes and look into meat-free recipes to conserve your funds. There are plenty of cost-effective options that can be a good source of protein.

Choose different recipes with the same meat.

Whether you’re making meals for a family or you’re making lunches for yourself, buying in bulk is always best. If you’ve found a few recipes for chicken that you think you’ll like, buy the chicken in bulk and freeze what you don’t use right away. This will keep your meat fresh and ready for when you’re ready to use it. For example, you could use chicken for the following meal planning recipes:

  • Chicken Burrito Bowls
  • Teriyaki Chicken Bowls
  • Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice

With the money you save on supplies, you will be able to allocate elsewhere for something you want and possibly didn’t have the funds for originally.

There are so many different choices that make meal planning flexible and customizable depending on your particular preferences and tastes. Make sure to mix it up so your tastebuds won’t get bored since this is easy to do with meal prepping.

Choose recipes that require a limited number of ingredients.

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re looking at what sounds and looks good for meals. Make sure to get recipes that have either a limited number of ingredients or items that you need to buy. If you find recipes that have common dried spices that you have in your kitchen, this could work as well and help you branch out and try different recipes and combinations.

Branch out and experiment with flavors that you’re confident will work well together.

Keep track of all your transactions and budget with a Scient FCU Checking Account. Use these tips and tricks and you will be well on your way to being a savvy meal planner that works for your tastebuds as well as your budget.

Which Credit Card Rewards Are Right for You?

Believe it or not, there isn’t a “one size fits all” credit card rewards program. For every card on the market, it seems like there are a million different ways to earn rewards.

With all the options, the research can be overwhelming and you might not know where to start. We’ve come up with a few ways you can choose the right credit card rewards program.

Is a rewards card right for you?

That’s the first question you need to ask yourself. A rewards card isn’t right for everyone. Here’s a handy checklist to run through to help you decide whether or not a rewards card is a good fit for you:

  • You have a good credit score. Most card issuers are looking for consumers who have a FICO score of at least 670. Of course, a higher credit score will help you get a lower interest rate, but a that mid-600 range will get your foot in the door. FYI, the higher your credit score, the more lucrative rewards programs you’ll have access to.
  • You can pay off your balance every month. Rewards card usually have a higher-than-average interest rate. When you carry your balance over each month, you could end up paying more in interest charges than you earn in rewards.
  • You can maximize the value of your rewards. A rewards card can cost you money if you don’t maximize your reward-earning potential. If you don’t earn enough points, you can actually lose money if your card has an annual fee.

Now that you’ve determined you could benefit from a rewards card, let’s talk about choosing the card with the program that best suits your lifestyle and spending habits.

Choosing the right card

There are three main things to consider when choosing a card: your spending habits, personal preferences and credit score. If you don’t look at your spending habits and personal preferences, you could end up spending a lot of money and racking up rewards that aren’t right for you.

Let’s say you have a large family and your primary expenses are groceries and gas. It would make sense for you to have a credit card that offers bonus rewards on those purchases. But, if you’re single, have a small grocery budget or don’t have a car, those rewards wouldn’t make sense.

Use your cards for everything

The more you use your card, the more rewards points you’ll rack up. But, don’t let that be an invitation to start spending money on things you don’t need. Instead, use your credit card in the place of cash or your debit card whenever possible.

Start looking for everyday situations where you can use your credit card instead of another payment method – gas, groceries, food, etc. But, always make sure you only spend what you can pay off every month.

What if a rewards card isn’t for you?

Rewards cards aren’t for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe your credit score isn’t in the right range for a rewards card, or maybe you’re not interested in using your card to gain rewards. Maybe you’re looking for a credit card for emergencies only. If that’s the case, we can help you. We have a number of credit card options, and some have super low APRs, great rates on balance transfers and low rates on cash advances.

We can help you find the card for you. Check out our website, stop by and talk to us or give us a call so we can answer your questions.

Getting Started: Establishing a Financial Safety Net

In times of crisis, you don’t want to be shaking pennies out of a piggy bank. Having a financial safety net in
place can ensure that you’re protected when a financial emergency arises. One way to accomplish this is by
setting up a cash reserve, a pool of readily available funds that can help you meet emergency or highly urgent
short-term needs.

How much is enough?
Most financial professionals suggest that you have three to six months’ worth of living expenses in your cash
reserve. The actual amount, however, should be based on your particular circumstances. Do you have a
mortgage? Do you have short-term and long-term disability protection? Are you paying for your child’s
orthodontics? Are you making car payments? Other factors you need to consider include your job security,
health, and income. The bottom line: Without an emergency fund, a period of crisis (e.g., unemployment,
disability) could be financially devastating.

Building your cash reserve
If you haven’t established a cash reserve, or if the one you have is inadequate, you can take several steps to
eliminate the shortfall:

  • Save aggressively: If available, use payroll deduction at work; budget your savings as part of regular household expenses
  • Reduce your discretionary spending (e.g., eating out, movies, lottery tickets)
  • Use current or liquid assets (those that are cash or are convertible to cash within a year, such as a short-term certificate of deposit)
  • Use earnings from other investments (e.g.,stocks, bonds, or mutual funds)
  • Check out other resources (e.g., do you have a cash value insurance policy that you can borrow from?)

A final note: Your credit line can be a secondary source of funds in a time of crisis. Borrowed money, however,
has to be paid back (often at high interest rates). As a result, you shouldn’t consider lenders as a primary
source for your cash reserve.

Where to keep your cash reserve
You’ll want to make sure that your cash reserve is readily available when you need it. However, an FDIC-insured, low-interest savings account isn’t your only option. There are several excellent alternatives, each withunique advantages. For example, money market accounts and short-term CDs typically offer higher interest rates
than savings accounts, with little (if any) increased risk.

Note: Don’t confuse a money market mutual fund with a money market deposit account. An investment in a
money market mutual fund is not insured or guaranteed by the FDIC. Although the mutual fund seeks to
preserve the value of your investment at $1 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in the fund.

Note: When considering a money market mutual fund, be sure to obtain and read the fund’s prospectus, which is
available from the fund or your financial advisor, and outlines the fund’s investment objectives, risks, fees,
expenses. Carefully consider those factors before investing. It’s important to note that certain fixed-term investment vehicles (i.e., those that pledge to return your principal plus interest on a given date), such as CDs, impose a significant penalty for early withdrawals. So, if you’re going to use fixed-term investments as part of your cash reserve, you’ll want to be sure to ladder (stagger) their maturity dates over a short period of time (e.g., two to five months). This will ensure the availability of funds,
without penalty, to meet sudden financial needs.

Review your cash reserve periodically
Your personal and financial circumstances change often–a new child comes along, an aging parent becomes
more dependent, or a larger home brings increased expenses. Because your cash reserve is the first line of
protection against financial devastation, you should review it annually to make sure that it fits your current
needs.

________________________________________________________________________________________
Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, LP (“CFS”) a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS:are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. The Credit Union has contracted with CFS for investment services. Atria Wealth Solutions, Inc. (“Atria”) is a modern wealth management solutions holding company. Atria is not a registered broker-dealer and/or Registered Investment Advisor and does not provide investment advice. Investment advice is only provided through Atria’s subsidiaries. CUSO Financial Services, LP is a subsidiary of Atria. This communication is strictly intended for individuals residing in the state(s) of CT. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident outside the specific states referenced. Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019.

Holiday Shopping on a Budget

‘Tis the season…to avoid going broke buying presents for your loved ones. It’s easy to do, right? Sometimes we get carried away and spend more money than we intended to. You don’t want to look like a cheap gift-giver, but you also don’t want to buy the whole store.

So, how do you buy awesome gifts for everyone without breaking the bank? We have a few tips for you to keep your trees and your wallets full.

Make a List, Check It Twice

Hey, the process works for Santa so it can work for us! Start with a list of people you plan to buy for, jot down the gifts you think they’ll love and then check it twice. Santa has to buy gifts for the whole world, but you don’t have to. If your shopping list includes more than five people outside of your immediate family, trim your list. Look at alternatives like homemade gifts or baked goods so you can spread holiday cheer without looking like a Scrooge.

Create a Budget Based on Your Finances

Your best friend started a great job a few years ago and always gets you the most amazing gifts. However, if you’re in a different place in your financial life, don’t overextend yourself to match gifts. Look at your budget and see what you can do. Don’t shop based on what you think you should spend. The saying “it’s the thought that counts” really does ring true. It’s still possible to give thoughtful gifts to your loved ones without breaking the bank.

Homemade From The Heart

While there are many options to choose from at one store or another, the best gifts sometimes don’t come from the store. Another way you could save some money on presents this season is by making your loved one(s) a gift. The possibilities are endless on what you can make. Often times, a gift that is handmade from the heart is priceless and more special. If you need some inspiration on what to make, check out Pinterest for a few ideas.

Keep It Local

Shopping local is a great way to save a little cash while also supporting local businesses. Because there are fewer hands involved, buying local can often save you some money. You’ll likely save money by purchasing green beans from a produce stand because the farmer doesn’t have to divvy up his profits the way a chain supermarket does. It’s also a great way to improve your local economy. For example, every $100 you spend at a local business, $68 stays in the community. Follow your local news and check Facebook pages in your area to see what area businesses are offering locally made products.

We know that holiday shopping can be stressful. You’re paying your regular bills, taking care of your everyday expenses, and planning for holiday shopping on top of that. It can be tempting to open multiple credit cards or store cards, which come with incredibly high-interest rates. Don’t get stuck paying big balances on multiple cards. We have numerous options that can help you fund your holiday shopping without spending more.

Let us help. Stop by, check out our website or give us a call to see what options we have to help you.

For College Savings, 529 Plans Are Hard to Beat

Raising kids is hard enough, so why not make things easier for yourself when it comes to saving for college? Ideally, you want a savings vehicle that doesn’t impose arbitrary income limits on eligibility; lets you contribute a little or a lot, depending on what else happens to be going on financially in your life at the moment; lets you set up automatic, recurring contributions from your checking account so you can put your savings effort on autopilot; and offers the potential to stay ahead of college inflation, which has been averaging 3% to 4% per year.1 Oh, and some tax benefits would be really nice, too, so all your available dollars can go to college and not Uncle Sam. Can you find all of these things in one college savings option? Yes, you can: in a 529 plan.

Benefits

529 college savings plans offer a unique combination of features that are hard to beat when it comes to saving for college, so it’s no surprise why assets in these plans have grown steadily since their creation over 20 years ago.

Eligibility. People of all income levels can contribute to a 529 plan — there are no restrictions based on income (unlike Coverdell accounts, U.S. savings bonds, and Roth IRAs).

Ease of opening and managing account. It’s relatively easy to open a 529 account, set up automatic monthly contributions, and manage your account online. For example, you can increase or decrease the amount and frequency of your contributions (e.g., monthly, quarterly), change the beneficiary, change your investment options, and track your investment returns and overall progress online with the click of a mouse.

Contributions. 529 plans have high lifetime contribution limits, generally $350,000 and up. (529 plans are offered by individual states, and the exact limit depends on the state.) Also, 529 plans offer a unique gifting feature that allows lump-sum gifts up to five times the annual gift tax exclusion — in 2020, this amount is up to $75,000 for individual gifts and up to $150,000 for joint gifts — with the potential to avoid gift tax if certain requirements are met. This can be a very useful estate planning tool for grandparents who want to help pay for their grandchildren’s college education in a tax-efficient manner.

Tax benefits. The main benefit of 529 plans is the tax treatment of contributions. First, as you save money in a 529 college savings plan (hopefully every month!), any earnings are tax deferred, which means you don’t pay taxes on the earnings each year as you would with a regular investment account. Then, at college time, any funds used to pay the beneficiary’s qualified education expenses — including tuition, fees, room, board, books, and a computer — are completely tax-free at the federal level. This means every dollar is available for college. States generally follow this tax treatment, and many states also offer an income tax deduction for 529 plan contributions.

Drawbacks

But 529 plans have some potential drawbacks.

Tax implications for funds not used for qualified expenses. If you use 529 plans funds for any reason other than the beneficiary’s qualified education expenses, earnings are subject to income tax (at your rate) and a 10% federal penalty tax.

Restricted ability to change investment options on existing contributions. When you open a 529 college savings plan account, you’re limited to the investment options offered by the plan. Most plans offer a range of static and age-based portfolios (where the underlying investments automatically become more conservative as the beneficiary gets closer to college) with different levels of risk, fees, and management objectives. If you’re unhappy with the market performance of the option(s) you’ve chosen, you can generally change the investment options for your future contributions at any time. But under federal law, you can change the options for your existing contributions only twice per year. This rule may restrict your ability to respond to changing market conditions, so you’ll need to consider any investment changes carefully.

Getting started

529 college savings plans are offered by individual states (but managed by financial institutions selected by the state), and you can join any state’s plan. To open an account, select a plan and complete an application, where you will name an account owner (typically a parent or grandparent) and beneficiary (there can be only one); choose your investment options; and set up automatic contributions if you choose. You are then ready to go. It’s common to open an account with your own state’s 529 plan, but there may be reasons to consider another state’s plan; for example, the reputation of the financial institution managing the plan, the plan’s investment options, historical investment performance, fees, customer service, website usability, and so on. You can research state plans at the College Savings Plans Network.


1College Board, Trends in College Pricing, 2014-2018

Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, LP (“CFS”) a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS:are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. The Credit Union has contracted with CFS for investment services. Atria Wealth Solutions, Inc. (“Atria”) is a modern wealth management solutions holding company. Atria is not a registered broker-dealer and/or Registered Investment Advisor and does not provide investment advice. Investment advice is only provided through Atria’s subsidiaries. CUSO Financial Services, LP is a subsidiary of Atria. Prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions Copyright 2019.

4 Tips to Jumpstart Retirement Planning

Retirement. It seems like a lifetime away, right? Probably something you plan to worry about when you’re a little closer to your retirement date. However, financial experts suggest that the best time to start planning is in your 20s when you typically start earning a steady paycheck.

To put it into perspective, if you start saving at 25 and put away $3,000 a year for 10 years, by the time you reach 65, your $30,000 investment could grow to more than $338,000.* Regardless of your retirement date, it’s never too early to start planning for your retirement. You may be asking, “Where is the best place to start?” and “How should I invest my money to maximize the returns I see at retirement?” Both of these are great questions that we will delve into on this post.

Set your goals

This applies to 20-somethings, 30-somethings, and 40-somethings. How do you know what steps to take if you don’t know where you’re going?

Sit down and figure out your goals. Do you want to buy a house one day? How long do you need to rent and save money? What “bad debt” do you need to pay off now to help you in the long run? These answers may change as life circumstances change, but it’s helpful to know what your goals are and create a plan to achieve them before you set out on your savings adventure.

Take advantage of your employee benefits

Does your company offer a retirement savings account? Most full-time jobs will offer either a 401(k) or a SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees Individual Retirement Account). It’s important to understand what these accounts are, how they work, and whether or not it’s a viable option for you. What’s the difference in a 401(k) and a SIMPLE IRA?

A 401(k) is an investment account you make contributions to out of each paycheck. If your employer matches your contribution up to a certain percentage, that’s free money going into your 401(k) in addition to the contributions you’re making.

A SIMPLE IRA is a tax-deferred employer-provided retirement plan. Like a 401(k), you make pre-tax contributions from your paycheck, and your employer can also elect to match your contributions up to a certain percentage. Unlike a ROTH IRA, when you reach retirement age and begin drawing from the SIMPLE IRA, you will pay taxes on the money you’ve saved.

Good debt vs. bad debt

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as good debt. Debt to buy a home or to start a business is considered good debt as it can be used as collateral. To our 20-somethings, listen up! Consumer debt – credit cards, car loans, and student loans – are always bad. Most consumer debt comes with high-interest rates, which only hurt you as you get older.

No matter what age you are, the best thing you can do is to avoid buying things you can’t afford. But, if you have debt or need to go into debt for a major purchase, have a plan to get out of that debt promptly. Look for places in your monthly budget where you can reduce spending and cut unnecessary costs.

Check out debt consolidation and refinancing options

Consolidating debt and refinancing loans are two great ways to save money on your monthly payments. Debt consolidation is typically used for unsecured debt and is especially effective for high-interest debt like credit cards, while refinancing a loan enables borrowers to “redo” an existing loan to get a lower monthly payment, different term length or a more convenient payment structure.

Both options are a great way of saving money each month. Ideally, you’d be able to measure the savings you’re seeing and put that toward your retirement planning. It might not sound like a lot of money, but even if you were able to save $50 a month, at the end of a year you’d have $600 to put toward your retirement.

Do you have debt that can be consolidated? Do you have loans that can be refinanced? You never know what your options are until you ask. Check with someone at our branch to see if we can save you some money each month to put toward your retirement.

Truth is, there are a dozen different ways you can prepare for retirement early and start saving money. At Scient FCU, we offer our members a complimentary financial review – no strings attached.  Schedule your 30-minute consultation with our financial advisor now.  Visit Scient Financial Services, call 860 441 9090 or email delster@cusonet.com and start preparing for your future.

Tips for Managing Your Holiday Spending

Like almost everything else these days, the holidays have become a barrage of options and choices, with nearly limitless opportunities to overspend. Here are some tips to help you make sure your family’s spending remains in check this holiday season.

Develop a spending strategy

First and foremost, develop a budget. Involving family members will help you establish and maintain realistic expectations at the outset. Remember to include not just gifts, but also holiday meals and parties, travel, greeting cards and stamps, gift wrap, decorations, and any other category you deem necessary. This is also a good time to commit to using cash or charging no more than you can pay off in one month.

Next, devise a method of tracking all your purchases, receipts, gift recipients, and the locations of hidden gifts that you might otherwise forget about. This will make life easier as the chaos ramps up.

Review your credit cards to see if you have any perks. Could you use earned points for travel, or cash-back and gift card rewards to help defray costs?

Track down old gift cards and put them to use now. If you think you’ll never use them, trade them in for cash on a discounted gift card website. There, you can sell your old cards and even buy new e-gift cards at a discounted rate, which you can then give as gifts or use for your own purchases.

Put technology to work for you. You can find apps that offer cash back if you shop online; alert you to online coupons available at nearby stores; round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and put the difference into a savings account; and track your online purchases, scan other stores for better prices, and then automatically email the original stores on your behalf to take advantage of the price-match guarantees. There are myriad options available, so be sure to check reviews and privacy/security measures before downloading.

Think creatively

Gifts. Take time to carefully scan all promotional materials before you head out the door or open a browser, because great deals are often available for limited periods of time. For example, some stores have offered generous gift cards in exchange for buying certain products on Black Friday.

Consider giving experiences rather than gifts, which happiness experts say could lead to more sustained levels of well-being. In fact, you may find that you’ll spend less overall by giving one or two memorable experiences instead of the usual pile of items.

Create meaningful yet inexpensive gifts, such as photo books, calendars, and family recipe books, using online apps and services. This idea is especially appropriate for gifts from children to older family members.

For larger or extended families, make a game out of gift giving. Consider a “Yankee swap,” or implement a gift exchange, where everyone is randomly assigned a person for whom they buy one special gift. Or consider having the entire family chip in a certain amount per person and donating to a favorite charity or sponsoring another family in need.

Food. Nonperishable holiday-related goods typically go on sale in late fall, so plan ahead and stock up. Also keep an eye out for specials; for example, some grocery stores offer a free turkey around Thanksgiving when you spend a certain amount on groceries.

Party planning, decorations, gift wrap. Consider buying the bulk of these supplies at deep-discount stores and splurging on a few special highlight items, such as napkins with an elaborate design, centerpieces of fresh flowers, or fancy bows. If you live in an area where evergreens, autumn berries, and pine cones are plentiful, take advantage of this potentially sophisticated, yet completely free, decor. Or create even more memories by hosting an ornament-making party. Use old costume jewelry or other items to make ornaments and decorations with sentimental value.

Travel. During one of the busiest travel times of the year, deals can be hard to find. Here are some tips:

  • Be flexible. If you can postpone your celebration until after the holidays, you may be able to save substantially on travel costs. (You can also shop the post-holiday sales for gifts!)
  • Avoid airline baggage fees by using carry-on luggage.
  • Use fare-tracking apps to find the best deals.
  • Cost-compare alternative modes of travel, such as train and ridesharing.

It’s never too early to start saving

Finally, get a jump on next year’s festivities by stocking up on supplies during post-holiday sales, opening a savings account with a goal of saving at least as much as you spend this year, and shopping as early as possible to spread spending throughout the year.