Improving Your Credit Score in 3 Steps

computer with credit cards around it
computer with credit cards around it

Improving Your Credit Score in 3 Steps

The words “credit score” often come with a headache, especially when you’re trying to figure out how to improve yours. That’s why we’re laying out three of the best ways to rebuild or improve your credit score and set yourself up for success.

 

  1. Pay on time, all the time – This is often easier said than done, but when it comes to your credit score, the importance of paying your bills on time cannot be overstated. Your payment history is one of the largest contributing factors to your score and having a late or missed payment can dock you a significant number of points. Setting yourself up for automatic payments for your rent or utility bills might help you stick to a better payment schedule, or you can also set up alerts when it comes time to pay your credit card bill.
  2. Use your credit wisely – There is such a thing as good debt. When you use your credit card and pay back your bill on time, you are creating a consistent payment history that bumps up your credit score and tells lenders you are reliable. That being said, most sources recommend keeping your credit utilization “at or below 30 percent” because “having available credit indicated that you’re only using the credit that you need, which may be a positive sign for lenders” (Equifax). If you struggle to reduce your spending and stay under the 30% benchmark, you could consider asking your credit card company to increase your credit limit. An increased limit will lower your overall credit utilization and improve your score.
  3. Consider credit-building tools – Remember when we mentioned “good debt?” This is especially true when you consider solutions like secured credit cards or credit builder loans. If you don’t have a lot of credit history built up yet, secured credit cards are the perfect place to start. They help create positive credit history because they require that you make a deposit upfront that matches your credit limit. Then, you can use your card as usual, and make payments just like any other credit card. Typically, secured cards look no different than an unsecured card so you will be the only one who knows it is secured!

While rebuilding your credit takes time, these steps will help you on your way to a higher credit score and a healthier financial future! If you are interested in how United Community can help you improve your credit score with a loan or credit card, talk to our team today!

 

Contact Us

 

Sources:

https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/raise-credit-score-fast

https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/credit-education/improving-credit/improve-credit-score/

https://www.equifax.com/personal/education/credit/score/how-to-improve-credit-score/

Lock in The Best Choice!

woman in front of white wall man in front of blue wall painting
woman in front of white wall man in front of blue wall painting

Lock in The Best Choice!

With changes around every corner, we often wonder whether we’ve made the right choices. Did we get a great deal? Could there have been a better solution? These questions make you second guess your decisions and choices made. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Take, for example, loan interest rates. We’ve seen rates vary frequently over the last year and there are more changes on the horizon. UCCU is here to help you make the best choice.

If you’re a homeowner, you have access to an unbelievable option through the use of your home equity. This allows you to open a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). Featuring some of the lowest rates around, these are your tools to make the right decision. From home improvements, consolidating all your other debts, or even making a large purchase a home equity option is the best choice for a low payment and lower rate.

APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Rates subject to change. Must meet credit union lending guidelines. See credit union for details. This credit union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration and is an Equal Housing Lender.

A Date with Debt

cute coffee date
cute coffee date

A Date with Debt

Are those butterflies in your stomach because of first-date jitters or because debt is calling you up? If it’s the latter, you’re not alone. In fact, a recent survey from Lendingtree noted that “22% of millennials (ages 26 to 41) and 19% of Gen Zers (ages 18 to 25) have gone into debt from what they’ve spent on dating.” Surprised? Let’s examine what makes dating so expensive.

 

There are many reasons why dating is driving more and more people into debt, but one of the main players is the overall inflation of goods. What was once an inexpensive and casual coffee date might now take a substantial chunk of money out of your wallet. Or perhaps the price of that perfect first-date outfit has increased considerably, not to mention the gas money that you’ll need to pick up your date. Rising prices will take you by surprise, and what you would typically spend on these items in the past aren’t necessarily what you’ll be spending on them now. If you don’t pay close attention to your transactions, you might not realize how much more you’re spending.

 

Another reason dating might be damaging to finances is due to the ever-increasing popularity of dating apps. Many young singles are on dating apps such as Bumble, Tinder, or Hinge; in fact, many are on all three at the same time. While not every app adventure turns into an actual date, many millennials and Gen-Zers find themselves going on dates weekly because of these apps, and the cost of these frequent outings can add up fast.

 

So, how do you pay more attention to what you’re spending? First and foremost, pay attention to what you’re actually spending. It sounds obvious, but the excitement of a date can often make you view your transactions through rose-colored glasses. We all want to spoil our significant others, but swiping without care will get you into financial trouble fast. Plus, with money-sharing apps like Venmo, you might not even realize how much money you are really spending. Budgeting and keeping track of your date-night expenses will allow you to properly examine your finances and make a plan to pay your bills on time.

 

Second, make sure to be honest with your partner about your budget. This probably isn’t the best dinner topic for a first-date, but at some point, you should have a honest conversation about your budget so that you and your partner can be on the same page. Don’t worry, low-budget dates aren’t always a dealbreaker. In fact, the Lendingtree survey reported that “85% of respondents said they wouldn’t feel offended if their partner took them on a low-cost date.” Besides, low-cost dates are definitely the better alternative to racking up debt that you could carry into the future.

 

Dating costs can add up fast, but that doesn’t mean you should swear off romance for good. Although it’s tempting to splurge, make sure to spend responsibly so that you can enjoy the dating world the way you deserve. After all, nobody wants a date with debt!

 

Sources:

https://www.lendingtree.com/credit-cards/study/dating-money-inflation

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/10/10/millennials-going-into-debt-from-dating-lendingtree.html

Less Is More!

black truck in the snow
black truck in the snow

Less Is More!

You know the saying – “Sometimes, less is more.” Often, that rings true. At United Community, we like to give our members more and understand sometimes that means taking less. Especially when we are talking about your car or truck loan payments.

That’s why when you refinance your current, external auto loan with us, we’ll give you less. Less of a payment that is!

Compare the average payments given by dealerships or banks. The average loan for a 2020 Ford F-150 would be upwards of $767.23 per month*. That same loan at United Community could cost you about 2% APR less with a payment of $725.49!

We think in this case you’ll find that less really is more! Make the switch and get the payment you truly deserve today.

*Illustrative purposes only based upon average used vehicle financing rates and cost of model year vehicles found at motorandwheels.com/how-much-do-used-ford-f150-cost-with-10-examples and nerdwallet.com/article/loans/auto-loans/average-car-loan-interest-rates-by-credit-score posted 11.10.22. Payment for educational purposes only. Not all members may qualify. Offer excludes current zero percent financing. Rate given will be higher of 2% less than current, external rate or lowest base rate offered. Must meet credit union lending guidelines. Floor rate is 3.99% Annual Percentage Rate (APR). Qualified applicants earn a rate of 3.74% up to 84-month term with automatic payment via payroll deduction, automatic transfer, or ACH payment. Rates subject to change without notice. Some conditions apply. Existing UCCU loans do not apply. Federally insured by NCUA.

Something To Sing About

group of friends singing
group of friends singing

Something To Sing About

A wise man once sang, “you can’t always get what you want.” However, we’re guessing that man wasn’t a UCCU member! Because at UCCU, whatever you want us to be, we will try to be what you need! A place for your hard-earned cash? We can be that! A partner in reaching your financial goals? We can be that! A community-oriented home for your financial needs? We can be that! With so many services and products, it makes you want to sing “I want it all!”
 
Being a UCCU member is definitely something to sing about and to show you how much we want you to want us, we’re making things even more melodic. No, there’s no karaoke contest, but what about Visa® Gift Cards? Monthly, we’ll be giving away four $25 Visa® Gift Cards to lucky new members, and quarterly, we’ll be giving away three $100 Visa® Gift Cards!*

Don’t you want to break up with your bank? If so, tell us what you want, what you really really want, and we can help you achieve it. Say “zig-a-zig” and join UCCU today!

* No purchase necessary. Must be a UCCU member to enter. Entries accepted during promotion runtime of 01.01.23–12.31.23. New members who join UCCU gain one automatic entry. Max one entry per member. Winner to be selected after last day month and quarter of promotional runtime from entries collected. Some restrictions may apply. Must not have had UCCU in prior 6 months to qualify. Alternate second drawing entry method: Send a postcard to 1001 Vermont Quincy, Illinois 62301. The credit union reserves the right to change, alter, modify, or cancel this promotion at any time. See credit union for full details and official rules. Federally insured by NCUA. Official Rules: Must be a member to enter. Four (4) monthly prizes with retail value of $25.00 and three (3) quarterly prizes with a retail value of $100.00 to be awarded. No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win. A purchase will not increase your chances of winning. Promotion begins at 9:01:01 a.m. CT on 01/01/23 and ends at 3:59:59 p.m. CT on 12/31/23. Must be eighteen (18) years old or older at the time of entry. Must be a member of the credit union to enter. Void where prohibited. Odds of winning depend on the total number of eligible entries received. Incomplete or inaccurate entries are void. During the promotional period, there are two ways to enter: 1) Automatic entry by opening new UCCU membership and/or 2) Mail-in: To receive one (1) entry without a purchase write your complete name, mailing address, day time phone number (with area code) and date of birth on a 3” x 5” postcard and mail postcard entry to: United Community CU 1001 Vermont Quincy, Illinois 62301. Entries must be postmarked by 12/15/23 and received by 12/31/23 to be eligible. Max number of entries of one (1) for UCCU membership or postcard. Monthly prize drawings will be held monthly from prior months entries. Quarterly prize drawings to be held quarterly from prior quarter entries. Winners will be announced via social media or email communications. Potential winner will be notified through an email direct message or at the phone number provided. If unable to contact the potential winner or a potential winner is not in compliance with these Official Rules, prize will be forfeited, and an alternative winner will be selected. Sponsor: United Community CU 1001 Vermont Quincy, Illinois 62301. The Sponsor is not responsible for the printing of or typographical errors in any Contest-related materials; for stolen, lost, late, misdirected, damaged, incomplete, illegible, or postage-due mail or entries; or for transactions that are processed late or incorrectly or are lost due to computer or electronic malfunction. The Contest sponsor reserves the right to withdraw or terminate this promotion at any time, without notice. UCCU board members, employees, and their immediate family members are not eligible to win.

Financial First: Making Your First Budget Plan

person making a budget
person making a budget

Financial First: Making Your First Budget Plan

How many times do we set a New Year’s Resolution with the full intention to stick to it only to have it flop a month into the year? This year, we’re starting strong and planning to be financially savvy all of 2023. And one of the first steps to a financially successful year is to create your first budget plan! We promise it’s not as stressful as it sounds, especially with United Community on your side.

 

By creating a budget, you will be able to see where your money is going, where you will be able to save money, and how to have a clear mind when it comes to your finances. Today, we’ll explain two popular budgeting methods for you to consider: the “Zero-Sum Budget” and the “50-30-20 Method.”

One of Dave Ramsey’s philosophies for financial success is the zero-sum budget.

 

Essentially, it is your monthly income minus expenses equals zero. So, if you make $3,000 a month, that $3,000 should be allotted to food, utilities, transportation, housing, insurance, miscellaneous expenses (giving yourself a buffer), debt, etc. This way, every dollar you make is being put to good use—either by spending or saving. Follow this link to the Ramsey website and see how you can make your zero-sum budget for free.

 

Every Dollar

 

This source will take you through a series of questions asking your current financial goals, your monthly income, your monthly payments and debts and savings, and will calculate it all for you. It’s free, and it does the math for you—sounds like a win, win!

 

Another budget plan that could work for your 2023 savings plan is the 50-30-20 method. That is, 50% on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings. The “needs” department includes rent, mortgage payments, utilities, food, and transportation. The “wants” area is designated for dining out, vacations, entertainment, new electronics, and fancy coffees. And the “savings” is allotted to exactly what it is named: savings and investments. This can be your regular savings account, an IRA account, or investing in the stock market. Take the time to write down all of your expenses and categorize them within these three departments, and you will thank yourself later. 

 

With either of these budget plans, you will go from wondering where your money went over the month to knowing where it went, when, and how. Life should be enjoyed without the looming stress of your financial status. Start the new year off right while also looking out for your future self and start your budget today!

 

Need an extra set of eyes for your budget? Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for advice or financial help!

 

Contact Us

 

Sources:

https://savvybudgetboss.com/budgeting-tips-for-beginners/

https://www.ramseysolutions.com/budgeting/how-to-make-a-zero-based-budget#:~:text=Zero%2Dbased%20budgeting%20is%20when,%2C%20a%20job%2C%20a%20goal.

Don’t Buy into Impulse Buys

micheile-dot-com-57wz7im19cE-unsplash (1) (1)

Don’t Buy into Impulse Buys

What kind of bells are you hearing this holiday season? If it’s warning bells instead of jingle bells, you’ve come to the right place. We all fall into the trap of impulse buys—new holiday décor, something perfect for a friend who wasn’t originally on your list, or something on incredible sale—and these, ultimately, only lead to the crippling guilt of overspending. But don’t fret just yet, here are five ways to prevent holiday impulse purchases, and stick with what you want and need this season: 

  1. Create a Holiday Budget: Not sure how much to spend on your friends and family this year? A great way to figure out the exact amount you can comfortably expend this season is to create a holiday budget. On average, more than 37% of Americans spend up to 1,000 dollars during the holiday season. Don’t fall into the trap! Try the 50-30-20 budget: 50% to needs, 30% wants, and 20% allotted to debt and other necessary payments. This way, you maintain responsibility with your money all while enjoying the holiday financial-stress free.
  2. Skip the Fancy Wrapping Paper: It’s getting thrown out anyway. It is estimated that collectively Americans spend up to 2.6 billion dollars solely on wrapping paper. A quick tip is to buy it at discount stores such as Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Amazon, or Walmart. Want to save even more money? Get crafty with your wrapping and use brown paper bags, newspaper clippings, or magazine pages. Not only will the gifts look unique, but skipping the fancy paper will save you money, too.
  3. Say No to the Little Treat: There is no doubt we all love treating ourselves to something nice around the holidays, especially when it is on sale. We tell ourselves that it will never be this low again… But the truth is, if it isn’t a necessity, then it is an impulse purchase, and therefore, not a bargain. 
  4. Reuse Holiday Décor: Next time you want to decorate for the holidays, think about reusing last year’s décor. On average, nearly $269 will be spent on new holiday decorations this year. Last year’s décor will still evoke the pure magic that is the holiday season without breaking the bank.
  5. Memories over Money: It is the season of giving, but those gifts don’t always have to be physical. Take a walk through your neighborhood and look at the Christmas lights—or if you’re feeling like going out, find a free Christmas light display in a town near you. Host a family game night or watch your favorite holiday movie. Holiday cheer doesn’t have to come with a price, and when you look back on this season, remember the good times had, and not the debt that was increased with impulsive buys.  

The 2022 holiday financial season doesn’t have to be stressful. With the right budget, it is possible to relax and enjoy time with family and friends without extra financial pressure. One last holiday financial tip is to start saving at the beginning of the new year. Each month, set aside an allotted amount for the holidays. That way, when the next holiday season rolls around, some of the expenses are already covered, allowing for an even more enjoyable season. However, if you are having trouble maintaining the holiday budget you made for yourself, check out our Christmas Club accounts! Let us help you in making the next holiday season less stressful already by getting a head start and begin saving today

Sources: 

https://sports.yahoo.com/much-really-spend-wrapping-paper-213818742.html   

https://www.bobvila.com/slideshow/15-ways-we-all-waste-money-over-the-holidays-53146 

https://www.takechargeamerica.org/5-overspending-triggers-and-how-to-beat-them/ 

https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/how-to-build-a-holiday-budget-that-works-every-year 

https://news.gallup.com/poll/403985/americans-planning-spend-generously-holiday-season.aspx 

Your Year-End Financial Checklist

man at a computer in brightly lit room
man at a computer in brightly lit room

Your Year-End Financial Checklist

As the year comes to a close, a certain fat man isn’t the only one who should be making a list and checking it twice. With the holidays taking up the majority of our attention, sometimes we forget to take stock of some other aspects of our lives. Foremost, we let our finances fall by the wayside. That’s why this year, we’re encouraging you to examine your finances and use this handy checklist to make sure you’re ready to ring in the new year on financially stable ground.

 

  • Review your financial plan –

How much money did you spend this year? What did you spend it on? Now, we’re not saying you must catalog each and every purchase, but it is a good idea to know how much you spent on large purchases or reoccurring purchases. Did you spend approximately $100 on groceries each week? That’s something to take note of. Did you make a large purchase like replacing an appliance or upgrading your home? While you might not make the same purchase next year, it is good to know if you will be making payments on said purchase. Now is also the time to make sure your emergency account has the money in it to cover you in case an emergency should arise. The key to success? Be honest with yourself. If you need help making a financial plan for the next year, one of our team members at United Community will be more than happy to help.

 

  • Get a head start on your taxes –

Yes, we know Tax Day is still months away, but it never hurts to be prepared. You can take a look at your current situation to know whether you need to save some money for taxes or if you think you might be getting a refund. Now is also a good time to look at how much you are withholding from your paycheck. Do you need to alter it?

 

  • Review your credit/debt –

This can go hand-in-hand with the first item on the list. Take a look at your credit card debt and any other debt you may have. How are you doing at paying it off? How do you plan to continue paying it off in the coming year? Once again, be honest with yourself. If you need help with debt or want to discuss your credit, don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

  • Review your insurance needs –

Did you get a new car this year? Did you have a child? These and many other things can cause you to need to update your insurance. From needing new auto insurance, to life insurance policies, now is the perfect time to review your current policies and to consider where you may be lacking the proper coverage.

 

  • Donate to charity –

The holidays are surely a time to give. That’s why the end of the year is a great time to make charitable donations. Not only are you doing a good deed, but they can also be tax deductible.

 

  • Start planning for the future –

You’re already looking ahead but look even further. Are there purchases you’ll need to make in the coming year? Do you want to get married? Go on a dream vacation? Buy a house? All of these things and more require substantial financial planning. And as we’ve said before, you can never be too prepared.

 

By looking at your financial future in the present, you won’t relive the mistakes of your past. Once you’ve gone through the items on our checklist, you’ll be more prepared to take on what the new year brings. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you need more advice or counseling, we here at United Community are happy to help.

 

Sources:

https://www.securian.com/insights-tools/articles/year-end-financial-checklist.html

https://www.kiplinger.com/retirement/year-end-financial-checklist-prepare-now-and-youll-have-time-to-adjust

 

Buy Now Pay Later: Is It Worth It?

person looking at their online purchases
person looking at their online purchases

Buy Now Pay Later: Is It Worth It?

Buy now pay later, also known as BNPL, sounds pretty attractive. This is particularly true with the state of the current inflation rate in the economy. The idea that you, as a consumer, can figuratively have your cake and eat it too when it comes to holiday shopping sounds too good to be true! Until you get to the fine print and find out that it is. Just like the pitfalls of store credit cards we’ve been warned about, BNPL can become a dangerous habit to fall into.

 

A Bluedot survey shows 40% of consumers are already planning on using BNPL services for the 2022 holiday season. Diving a bit deeper into the study, it was found that there is a correlation between age and the usage of BNPL. The younger the generation, the more likely they are to use BNPL. This can be attributed to the online and mobile shopping options available that are generally more popular with younger generations. And post-pandemic, the habit of online or mobile shopping has increased across all generations. Of those pressed further about their decision, the reasoning comes down to simply not having enough cash for the increased expenses.

 

Although some BNPL programs do not charge interest for spreading purchases out over time, the consumer is still taking on debt. Understanding the benefits of BNPL programs versus risks can help you make an educated decision based on the necessity of the purchase, fees or interest charges, and your money-spending patterns. 

 

Some have no fees, no minimum credit score required, and are widely available. As appealing as those may sound, paying in installments is convenient until you have several debits coming out of your account throughout the upcoming weeks. You also may not get credit for making those payments on time with credit bureaus, even though some programs ask for your social security number among other pieces of personal information. And if there is an issue, say you lost your debit card that was the payment method for the next installments, who would you call?

 

This is where your credit union comes into play. Assess your financial situation. If you think there is a chance that you may overspend and are tempted to buy now and pay later, United Community already has products available for you. Low-rate personal loans and credit cards can be helpful when it is time to splurge on loved ones for the holidays or any time of the year. Make an informed decision with people you already trust and who know exactly where you stand. We’ll also be transparent about what you will get and when it will all be paid off. This way you can be prepared to make a payment decision ahead of time, instead of whenever you click checkout.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/loans/personal-loans/buy-now-pay-later

https://www.cutoday.info/Fresh-Today/More-Consumers-Say-It-Will-Be-Shop-Now-Pay-Later-This-Holiday-Season

Marriage and Money: What You Need to Discuss

silhouette of bike riders at sunset
silhouette of bike riders at sunset

Marriage and Money: What You Need to Discuss

Before you tie the knot, it pays to know a few things. Everybody has a different way of managing their finances, and if you and your partner aren’t on the same page, you might find yourself struggling to navigate financial issues when they arise. In fact, an article in the Wall Street Journal notes, “One in five couples identifies money as their greatest relationship challenge.” It’s best to get ahead of this issue before it even becomes one. So, how can couples set expectations for their financial future? Here are a few tips.

  1. Discuss financial values. Some people view money as something that should be saved and stored for possible future issues. Others view money as something that can be used to enhance their present lives. Both are true, and both opinions are necessary for a healthy relationship with your finances. However, problems can arise when one partner spends money too freely on unnecessary items or experiences, or the other partner refuses to spend money and compromise when they have the funds to spare. These extreme ends of the spectrum can build animosity in the relationship. By talking openly with your partner about your financial values, you can save yourself a lot of frustration. Just make sure to listen your partner and be open to understanding their viewpoints.
  2. Take the time to “future-cast.” What goals do you and your partner have for the future? Do you plan to start a family? Do you want to prioritize travel? Do you hope to buy land or start a business? What do you want to save money for, and is it something your partner is also on board with? Write these goals down individually, compare lists, and discuss where you align and where compromise is necessary. This is a future you’re building together, so it’s important to set expectations.
  3. Discuss financial pasts and presents. What are you and your partner’s current financial situations? Do one or both of you have student loan debt? Medical debt? Do you have pre-existing investments? Discuss which debts you might be able to tackle together as a couple, and debts that each partner will take care of on their own. This can be a tough conversation, but it is important when setting yourself up for a successful financial future.

By discussing these questions, you and your partner can more easily discuss whether you want separate accounts, a joint account, or both! Explaining your values and setting expectations for your financial future allows you and your partner to see things from the others perspective and better understand where their views come from. Remember, while money can be a divisive topic, you’re in this together. Marriage is all about building each other up and strengthening one another, so don’t get discouraged. Discuss and be open to compromise, and you’ll set your financial future up for success! 

Sources:

 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/best-ways-for-couples-to-manage-finances-11644264301

https://www.rbcwealthmanagement.com/en-us/insights/finances-what-couples-need-to-know-about-money-before-marriage