Thursday, August 28, 2014

Top 7 Home Improvements You Can Do Yourself With A Little Help From Destinations Credit Union

Stop and take a look around your house. Are you delighted with everything in it? This is where you spend a good portion of your day, and where you and your family build happy memories. There's no reason why it should be anything less than your dream home.

It can be expensive to hire a professional to redo some part of your home, and choosing a contractor can be a stressful process. Instead of shelling out tens of thousands for a contractor, why not consider these great home improvement ideas that you can do yourself!

1) The deck of your dreams

With cooler fall weather on the way, you might be thinking about turning your boring outside space into an outdoor living room! Whether you're after a raised wood deck to give your guests someplace to sit or a classy brick patio for lounging by the grill, a usable outside space can make a big difference in how you enjoy your home. The charming visual addition to the outside of your home is a great way to add value, too.

While this is a big project, it's big on rewards, too. Start by drawing up some plans - remembering that you're basically building a series of wood boxes that are bolted together. Draw up a shopping list of things you need, and head over to Destinations Credit Union to get the financing done. Then, head to your local home improvement store for lumber, bolts and a few new power tools.


2) Paint a room ... or a whole house!

If you're not feeling up to building much, you can make your house feel new again with a fresh coat of paint on the interior. Choose colors that complement your furniture and flooring, but choose slightly different shades for different parts of the house. Maybe you want to paint your kitchen and dining room in mellow earth shades to give it a sense of coziness, but you want to paint your bedroom a calming blue to help you sleep.

This can be a great project to get the kids involved in, too. Wall paint, sponges, and scissors can let children paint fun and imaginative shapes on their walls. A sense of ownership over the design might encourage them to help keep it a little cleaner as well. You can get creative in main spaces, too! Try painting an accent wall to change the light effects in your living room! Aside from paint, brushes, and rollers, make sure you get covers for furniture and floors and painters' tape.

3) Fix up an entryway!

Your front door is the first thing people see when they come into your home. You want to make sure it says great things about you and your family. A little bit of time and effort can make this part of your house feel more welcoming while also saving you time and effort.

You can make relatively minor changes here. Metal house numbers, trim paint and a few planters can make your front stoop look much nicer. You can also make some serious investments. A new door can really liven up the front of your house. New weather stripping can make your front door more energy efficient to save on winter heating costs. Nice light fixtures can take a little time to install, but they can make your house both more charming and a little safer. Sketch out some ideas, then head to your home improvement store to figure out what you need to make your front door the talk of the neighborhood.

4) Add a splash of class with a tasteful backsplash

The section of wall above the sink can see a lot of water damage. Left uncovered, this can lead to mildew and even mold behind the sink. A backsplash is an attractive option for preventing that damage.

While these are typically done in tile, there's nothing stopping you from looking at wood bead board, ceiling tile or wallpaper. You could even turn them into a functional addition to your organization system with chalkboard, whiteboard or magnetic film! Write up a recipe or meal plan to help keep your prep work organized in the kitchen, or write a fun morning greeting to your kids in the bathroom! There's no limit to what a backsplash can do for your home. Head down to your local home improvement store to see what kind of material you want to use, and don't forget to pick up adhesive to stick it all together!

5) Create a new outlook with new windows!

Installing new windows can seem like a daunting task, but they'll pay for themselves. Energy efficient windows with new molding and stripping can significantly reduce your energy bills. Plus, having new windows and screens will make your home look well-cared-for when it comes time to sell.

Do some research on energy efficient two- and three-ply windows. Figure out which will both fit your budget and hold long-term value. Remember, though, that the general rule is you get what you pay for. Cheap windows won't conserve much energy.

6) Refresh a tired kitchen or bathroom with new fixtures!

Your faucets and knobs see a lot of abuse. They get touched by grimy hands, splashed by soapy water and can build up calcium and rust even if you're careful about washing them. Because they're usually metallic, they tend to draw a lot of eyes. Dull, streaky fixtures can suck all the energy out of a kitchen or bathroom.

Replacing them, though, is pretty easy. In the bathroom, you can get sleek, modern fixtures that will save you sink space for storage. In the kitchen, consider getting a detachable head with a vegetable sprayer to make cleanups easier. Whatever you do here, you'll end up with a nicer looking kitchen or bathroom.

7) Bring your stuff together with built-in storage!

If your house looks like most others, it's chock-full on the inside with memorabilia and keepsakes. Tossed about the room, this can look cluttered and dingy. It makes it hard to clean and dust. Adding more furniture, though, can make a space feel cramped and tiny.

Instead, think about adding more built-in storage. Whether you just want to hang a shelf over an entryway, put some coat hooks by the door, or build a bookshelf into a living room wall, built-in storage is a great way to display your treasured memories without shrinking a room with too much stuff. Installing it requires lumber, mounting tools and a few other gadgets that DIY experts should have no trouble identifying.

When it comes to improving your home, Destinations Credit Union is ready to be a partner every step of the way. You may have heard about home equity loans and lines of credit, but you may have thought you can't use it for small remodeling projects. However, it's actually one of the most common uses for those accounts.

Let's talk. You supply the ideas, Destinations can supply the home equity loan or line of credit to make your dreams a reality. Call 410-663-2500 and speak with a loan officer and start enjoying the equity in your home today.

Monday, August 25, 2014

7 Ways To Save Without Suffering



We all know we should save more money than we do. Whether we need to pay down debt, build an emergency fund or save for retirement, we need to cut spending and increase our savings. It's the only way to build financial security.

Yet before considering what to cut back on, try these handy tips to save money without noticing the difference.

1.) Stop subscription music.
If you pay for a subscription Internet radio service like Pandora or Spotify, you're probably overpaying for music. The same is true if you're paying on a per-song basis through a service like iTunes. Consider, instead, buying CDs. You can find Imagine Dragons 2012 project Night Vision for under $5 on Amazon, or the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack for less than $8. Streaming music services have cut the bottom out of the physical media market, and you can pick up the savings. Just copy the songs to your computer and transfer them to your mp3 player, and you can jam out for less.
           
2.) Cut back on cable
Take an honest look at how many movies you watch in a month. If you're paying $15 a month for HBO or a similar fee for another premium channel package, you're paying for a lot of content you probably never watch, and the overall selection is limited. For half the price of HBO, you can subscribe to Netflix or another streaming service and get a lot more viewing options. You could even go with Amazon Prime and get free two-day shipping on all your purchases while getting access to a fairly hefty video library.
           
3.) Time your vacations to travel for less
Summer tends to be the most popular travel time for tourist-happy destinations like Miami and New Orleans. If you're planning a trip to one of these stops, traveling between February and April can save you money on your hotel reservation. Hotwire, the hotel booking site, sees an average decline of 30% at tourist locations during the off-season.
           
4.) Swap to an off-brand cell provider
You can cut down your cellphone bill considerably by switching away from a big-name carrier. If you're on Sprint, AT&T or Verizon, you can save a considerable chunk by switching to a brand like Cricket, FreedomPop or Straight Talk. These carriers buy time in bulk from the major companies and resell it at a discount. They don't subsidize phones or maintain well-staffed stores, so their costs are lower. You can get unlimited talk and text for one line for less than $15, and data, if you need it, for less than $20 for a 2 GB per month plan. These services don't always travel particularly well, so if you need your phone while far from home, they may not be right for you. Still, at that price, it can be hard to say no to savings on a phone bill.
           
5.) Start reading paper books
Just like the streaming service has cut the core out of the price for physical media, the popularity of e-readers has done the same thing to the dead tree pulp market. This is particularly true in used books, where time-tested classic paperbacks can be had for as little as a penny. More current and popular titles, like John Green's The Fault in our Stars, can be had on eBay for under $5, compared to the $10 for an ebook. Cheaper still, head over to your local library to get your fill of new releases, old classics and great books you've never heard of.
           
6) Check out Amazon Subscribe and Save
For commonly used goods, like tea and coffee, Amazon's Subscribe and Save function can cut back on the time and money you spend shopping. If you go through a 72-count box of K-Cups every month, you can save $2 per month off your coffee bill by scheduling automatic deliveries of your java through Amazon. A dedicated tea drinker can save $1 per month on a 160-count box of Yorkshire Gold. With free shipping for orders over $35 (or if you have Amazon Prime, as mentioned above) and automatic ordering, this system can be your set it and forget it path to savings.
           
7.) Get rebate shopping!
For costs you can't avoid, like groceries, it's best to avoid as much pain as you can. That's where online rebate apps come into play. Newly released iBotta, available for iOS and Android devices, offers a list of participating retailers and a list of rebates, usually between $.25 and $1.00. One of the most popular is a $.25 rebate on a gallon of milk - something you'll likely buy anyway. After you finish shopping, you take a picture of your receipt with a smartphone or tablet and upload it to iBotta. They confirm your purchase and credit your rebates, along with bonuses for regular redemption, referring friends, and completing other challenges. iBotta can be an easy way to knock $5-10 off your grocery bill.

Bonus Tip:  Sign up for a Kasasa Rewards Checking with Destinations Credit Union and get paid to have your checking account...every extra dollar helps.  You can even open a Kasasa Saver Account and have your rewards automatically swept into your savings each month!

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

How 10 Seconds Of Diligence Can Keep You Safe From Fraud


We're all bombarded with information. Nowhere is this more true than in our mailboxes, both real and virtual. After all, everyone who wants to get in touch with us has a phone number, social media account and a million other low-cost ways to get in touch. It seems like the only people who send mail anymore are the folks who want to sell us something.

If you treat your mail like most people, you skim through it on your way from the mailbox to the door, stuff it in a mail sorter and promise to deal with it later. Your inbox gets treated the same way. If it's something from someone you know, you read it, chuckle, and respond. If not, it's probably safe to ignore.

This is the kind of behavior that identity thieves are counting on. Petr Murmylyuk, a Russian immigrant living in New York, was convicted earlier this year of breaking into a number of online brokerage accounts like Scottrade, E*Trade Financial, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab, among others. His purpose was to initiate trades that moved the price of assets in a complicated combination of identity theft and security manipulation. He cost his victims more than a million dollars in losses, and he will likely only have to pay about $500,000 in restitution. He didn't get away with his fraud, but his victims still lost a lot of money.

Imagine if this happens to you. You keep your retirement fund in an online brokerage account. You regularly deposit a few hundred dollars a month and you don't want to withdraw the money any time soon. So you just log in every so often to make sure your auto payments are being made and check the balance. One day, you check the balance and discover tens of thousands of dollars are just gone.

If you're counting on your brokerage to reimburse you, you might be waiting a while. Scottrade, for example, "does not cover situations in which ... you failed to take reasonable precautions to protect your privacy." Fidelity, too, specifies the need to ensure that transactions were not made by someone you "allowed" to access your account. Other online brokerage firms have similar policies to protect their own interests over yours.

What can you do to stop it? You already know how to maintain security on your online accounts. Choose strong, complex passwords. Don't access sensitive websites from public computers. Don't click links in emails that look suspicious. This is all the same financial personal hygiene you probably already practice.

However, when it comes to online financial accounts, like brokerages and draft accounts, there's an extra step you need to take. You need to read your statements carefully. Here's how the process works:

Pick a day each month. Making it the same time each month will help you remember as well as help you establish a reliable control. You don't need much time, just 20 or 30 minutes. Take care of it while you're drinking your coffee in the morning.

Go through monthly statements and confirmations for all your accounts. Make sure you or your spouse recognize every transaction that's been made. Keep an eye out for the following kinds of transactions:


  • Transactions originating in foreign countries or other distant places. Identity thieves will often try to throw you off the trail and avoid prosecution by committing their crimes in distant places.
  • Small transactions. It's tempting to write off a dollar here or there, but thieves are frequently counting on that tolerance. They'll use a small transaction to test a stolen credit card or breached account. If they get away with that, they'll try bigger amounts.
  • If you suspect something is wrong with your security, call the company and ask for a login history. This is a document that lists the dates, times, and locations of every access that's been made to your account. This should let you know if someone else has gained access. Obviously, if that's the case, you should change your passwords and let your financial institutions know immediately.

If you notice anything else that's amiss, call the financial institution immediately. The longer you wait, the more likely it is they'll conclude it was something you authorized. Even if it's off business hours, call immediately and leave a message. Starting the process as soon as possible creates a trail that will be useful in the event of a dispute about responsibility. 

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

7 Reasons to Love Your Home Loan



Every corner of the personal finance world seems to hammer home the same point: Debt is the wealth killer. Debt is the single greatest threat to your retirement planning, college savings and financial independence.

Except, as it turns out, there is one kind of debt that defies all of these rules: mortgages. Money you owe on real property can, in fact, be a boon to your financial independence in a lot of ways. While we've seen the recent financial trouble that occurs when people finance their lifestyles using the value of their home, there's no reason why you shouldn't see mortgages as a reasonable and realistic financial tool to build your wealth. Let's talk about 7 reasons why mortgages are different from other kinds of debt:

1.) Having a mortgage can improve your credit score. Mortgages are seen as "good debt" by creditors. Because it's secured by the value of your house, lenders see your ability to maintain mortgage payments as a sign of responsible credit use. They also see home ownership, even partial ownership, as a sign of financial stability. Since 2009, credit scoring agencies have added points for consumers who are able to manage different kinds of debt. Having a mortgage that you pay each month makes you look like a better, more responsible user of credit.

2.) It's the lowest interest rate loan you'll ever get. Mortgage loans are among the safest types of loans that lending institutions can issue. If there's a problem during the life of the loan, the real property is a guarantee that the loaned money can be recovered. As a result, mortgage rates generally track the "prime" rate - the interest rate the Federal Reserve charges institutions to borrow money from them.

3.) It's the cheapest way to build wealth. If you have an investment opportunity that you think will make more than 4%, you can finance it with a mortgage and make money on the deal. While this kind of transaction is not without risk, it's arguably less risky than cashing out a 401(k) or an IRA to use toward new investments.

4.) It gets preferential tax treatment. The interest you pay on your mortgage is generally tax-deductible, which puts it in a class of debt by itself. The government wants to encourage home ownership, and is therefore willing to offer you a tax break for the financing costs of your mortgage. This tax treatment makes mortgages potentially even less expensive.

5.) It's proof against volatility. If you've got a fixed-rate mortgage, you can make plans around the amount you pay each month. If inflation accelerates, your payment stays the same. If interest rates skyrocket, you're protected from that, too. If interest rates drop, you can usually refinance to save money. Whatever happens, your mortgage is locked in to protect you from uncertain economic times.

6.) It's a safe emergency fund. While you want to keep some money in a savings account to protect you from minor emergencies, you can use the equity in your home to protect you from major events. If you can get more than a 4% return on your investment, you'll make money by keeping a home equity line of credit as an emergency fund and pursuing returns with your savings.

7.) It can serve as a source of retirement income. So-called "reverse mortgages" are increasingly popular among retirees whose portfolios are struggling. Functionally, you take out a mortgage on your home, and the lending institution pays you a set amount every month. Usually, the loan doesn't come due until you pass on or vacate the home. That way, the proceeds from the sale of the home, along with life insurance and other death benefits, can be used to pay off the debt. Mortgages can help finance your retirement.

If you're interested in purchasing a new home or refinancing an existing one, Destinations Credit Union can help. Call today to speak to one of our representatives and see if you qualify for home loans. Our knowledgeable service personnel can answer any questions you might have about how to get the most financial power out of your dream home
  
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http://blog.readyforzero.com/how-does-a-mortgage-affect-your-credit-score/