Why couples fight over money, and how to prevent it

young couple putting money into a piggy bank
young couple putting money into a piggy bank

Why couples fight over money, and how to prevent it

A recent survey of nearly 1,000 couples who are married, engaged, or in a relationship found nearly 75% said they had gotten mad at their partner because of a financial decision they made without talking about it first. The majority of those decisions were a big-ticket purchase made without discussing it first. Other financial decisions that irked spouses were:

 

  • Hiding debt
  •  Not saving enough for future big purchases or agreed upon financial milestones
  • Spending money from savings

 

“You can’t have a great relationship until you can communicate and agree about money. Money is either the best or the worst area of communication in our marriages” says author and long-time financial counselor, Larry Burkett. Many finance and relationship experts agree: money arguments aren’t really over money at all, they are about our different value systems and that translates into how we spend (or save) money.

 

 

If you find you are at odds with your partner over finances more often than you would like, here are three tips to help spark meaningful conversation and get to the bottom of the problem and find solutions:

 

  1. Discuss your lifestyle choices: Maybe you’re the one that is perfectly content shopping at Goodwill for your new spring outfits, but your significant other only goes for the name-brand items at full price. If you have an income that doesn’t support expensive taste, that’s going to be a problem. Relationships are all about compromise. If one of you has more expensive taste, you don’t have to go without. Consider shopping at an outlet mall to snag those name brands you want at more affordable prices.
  2. Understand the differences in your personality: Opposites attract, right? Chances are, one of you loves working with numbers and balancing your accounts to the penny, and the other one would rather spend until that card is declined and then figure out what to do. One of you might be the saver and the other is more inclined to spend. Sure, personality differences are the cause of some relationship problems, but it isn’t the real root of your issues. The source of the problem is whenever one person chooses not to hear the other’s input, or when one person is cut out from handling the financial decisions altogether. Remember, in the end, you’re both on the same team and you need to use your difference in personalities to meet in the middle.
  3. Keep purchases out in the open. Remember how this article started? The majority of money fights are when you surprise your significant other with a financial decision you made without their knowledge. That savings account you have on the side, the credit card you opened without their knowledge, the big tv you bought on a whim… even with the best of intentions can usually the start of a good fight. If it’s too late, you need to work toward establishing financial trust again. Recommit to your shared financial goals and remember why you’re doing it. You’re in this together!

In the end, remember why you chose this person as your significant other. In the heat of the moment, you may not realize it but you need their skills, insight, and perspective—especially the ones you don’t have (and they need yours!)

Your Credit Score and How You Can Improve It

a gauge from red to green showing credit score
a gauge from red to green showing credit score

Your Credit Score and How You Can Improve It

Maybe you’ve applied for a loan in the past and the loan officer gives you your credit score. It may be high, it may be low, but you’ve probably wondered how exactly is it measured?

 

First, credit scores are usually used to differentiate the likelihood that you will pay back a loan, or not. The main consumer credit scoring models, FICO® and VantageScore®, rank consumers using a 300-to-850 score range. The lower the number the more risk a lender sees. The higher the number the less risk there is of you defaulting.

 

Second, how is this number calculated? FICO® Scores are calculated using several different pieces of your credit history in your credit report. This data is grouped and weighted into five categories: payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%), and credit mix (10%).

 

It’s important to know that your FICO® Score is calculated only from the information in your credit report. However, when you apply for a loan, loan officers may look at many things when making a decision, such as your income, how long you have worked at your current job, how long you have lived at your current address, and the kind of credit and amount of credit you are requesting.

 

Many members ask us “how can we improve our credit score?” Dialing that 800 number from a roadside sign promising to give you a better credit score fast is not only expensive but rarely do they work. Here are three things you can do right now that will help you earn a better score.

 

  1. Pay Your Bills on Time. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s one of the most important. You’ll want to pay all bills on time—not just credit card bills or any loans you may have, such as auto loans or student loans, but also your rent, utilities, phone bill, and so on. It’s also a good idea to use resources and tools available to you, such as automatic payments or calendar reminders, to help ensure you pay on time every month. Behind on some payments now? Bring them current as soon as possible. Although late or missed payments appear as negative information on your credit report for as long as seven years, their impact on your credit score declines over time: Older late payments have less effect than more recent ones.
  2. Dispute Any Inaccuracies on Your Credit Reports. Check your credit reports at all three credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) for any errors that may be unnecessarily bringing your credit score down. Verify that the accounts listed on your reports are correct. If you see errors, dispute the information and get it corrected right away. Monitoring your credit regularly can help you find the errors before they do damage.
  3. Don’t Apply for Too Much New Credit, Resulting in Multiple Inquiries. Opening a new credit card can increase your overall credit limit, but the act of applying for credit, especially with a new lender creates a hard inquiry on your credit report. Too many hard inquiries can negatively impact your credit score, though this effect will fade over time. Hard inquiries remain on your credit report for two years.

 

A low credit score won’t just potentially keep you from getting a loan, it determines the rate you pay when you do get a loan. The lower the credit score the higher your rate, which means a higher payment and more paid interest over time. A low credit score can also increase your insurance premiums and potentially keep you from renting a home.

 

Want to learn more about your credit score and get tips from an expert on how to improve your credit score, and ultimately your finances?

 

United Community wants to help. Reach out and schedule a time to meet with us. We promise we won’t judge you. Our job is to give you a proper perspective and help you achieve a better financial life.

What is Credit Disability Insurance? Do You Need It?

young couple signing an insurance document
young couple signing an insurance document

What is Credit Disability Insurance? Do You Need It?

If you’ve ever applied for a loan, there’s a good chance you’ve been asked about adding credit life or credit disability insurance to your loan. Your response? “No thanks.” In some cases, you don’t need it. But in some cases, it’s worth a second look.

 

Before you can decide if it’s right for you, it’s important to understand what this coverage is and how it could benefit you.

 

If you pass away and your claim is payable, credit life insurance will pay off or greatly reduce your eligible loan balance. This leaves less financial stress for survivors who may be left having to figure out how to pay off your loan balance.

 

With Credit Disability Insurance, if you’re disabled from work due to injury or illness, your monthly loan payments will be made, up to the monthly benefit maximum, until you’re no longer disabled, your loan is paid, or reach the policy maximum.

 

“That’ll never happen to me.” Perhaps not, but over the past year, we’ve seen a huge uptick in members who have been injured on the job and who have contracted COVID-19, leaving them

unable to work for some time. Many who opted in for insurance on their loan benefited from the protection during the time they were unable to work. Sadly, others did not opt-in and were left with just one more financial stress to navigate.

 

What about worker’s compensation, that should cover you, right? You’re 66% right. Keep in mind that worker’s comp only pays a portion of your paycheck. Could you cover your living expenses and pay all of your bills on just 66% of your income? You may also have short term and long-term disability coverage, but keep in mind that the waiting periods and percentages paid are similar to worker’s comp.

 

We’ve often seen members who have been told that these are required of their loan from other financial institutions. It’s important that know that you’re never required to purchase credit life insurance to obtain a loan. If a lender ever tells you that this extra protection is required or tries to include the cost of credit insurance in your loan without properly disclosing it to you, you should report the company to the Federal Trade Commission.

 

When opening a new loan, reviewing insurance products offered in conjunction with the loan you should always ask yourself “What does this product do for me?” If you have a loan and opted to not receive coverage, it may not be too late to add it. It’s only too late when you need it and don’t have it. Often you can add coverage after the loan is closed. If you still have questions about these options or if it’s right for you reach out to us at the credit union. We’ll walk you through the benefits and help determine if it’s right for you.

Expensive car repairs: Fix it or trade it?

lens flare hand with a wrench under the hood of a car

Expensive car repairs: Fix it or trade it?

Every time your dashboard lights up with a mechanical failure, your mind instantly wonders, “what’s wrong this time?” Your next thought is realizing that you have to decide — repair it or not. Depending on the age of your car, what you paid for your car versus what it’s worth now, and the type of repair, sometimes the fix is worth it. Sometimes the repair is worth more than your car. But how do you know when it’s best to just cut your losses and sell?

 

Here are some of the most common major repairs, and questions to ask yourself to help decide if the repair is worth it:

 

Major engine repair

“Engine problems” are two words that you never want to hear. If you’re still protected by your warranty, often an engine replacement is covered. If not, that means your car is most likely more than five years old and/or has more than 60,000 miles on it. In some cases, some manufacturer powertrain warranties last up to 10 years or 100,000 miles. If your warranty will cover these repairs, you should take advantage of that. If your car is out of warranty it makes repairs that cost as much as a down payment hard to justify. On average, engine replacements cost $3,000 to $4,000 in a shop and near $7,500 at a dealership.

 

Blown head gasket

Your first question might be: “What the heck is a head gasket?” A head gasket is a component that creates a seal between the engine block and cylinder head that keeps combustion gases, oil, and coolant from leaving the engine. Still confused? Here’s what you need to know: it’s usually an expensive repair that can range from $1,200 to $1,500. Before you opt to repair a blown head gasket, think about this: it’s work that usually takes place as part of an even bigger, more comprehensive, and more expensive repair. If that $1,500 is going to turn into more expansive repairs, you may want to evaluate if it’s worth it.

 

Heater core

This isn’t the time of year you want your defroster to give up on you. if you’re noticing moisture buildup and your coolant is constantly disappearing, you likely need to replace your heater core. According to Consumer Reports, this repair can cost around $1,000, depending on the make, model, and year of your vehicle. Seems like a simple fix, but if your heater core has failed, more than likely other related systems were damaged as a result, which will send you back to the mechanic soon after the core is fixed.

 

Air conditioner compressor replacement 

When summer temps heat up and your air conditioner compressor goes, not only will you be mighty uncomfortable, but you can expect to shell out upwards of $1,000 to repair or replace it. Much like the heater core replacement, that repair usually comes as part of a larger, more expensive list of repairs. It’s also one repair you can simply put off if money is tight. It’s not unsafe to drive, just uncomfortable without one.

 

There’s no easy answer to the question “repair or trade it in” but it’s always worth getting prices on the repair and consider how much you’ve already spent on repairs, and how much more you’re willing to spend on your vehicle versus what it’s worth.

 

Whether it’s covering a repair or financing a replacement, United Community can help.

We have plenty of options to help cover unexpected car repairs that go beyond your savings and offer affordable payments to fit almost any budget. Need to talk it out? CONTACT US and we can help review your options before you make an expensive mistake.

 

Considering a vehicle purchase soon and want to protect yourself from huge future costs? United Community offers extended warranties on vehicles financed and can be included on your loan.  These warranties can prove invaluable when costly repairs are needed.  Unsure if you purchased a warranty when financing? Call us today to discuss your options!

The Latte Factor: One way to get your finances on track in 2021

latte art in a cup
latte art in a cup

The Latte Factor: One way to get your finances on track in 2021

How often do you find yourself saying, “I can’t afford that?” Whether it’s about an unplanned expense or something that you want to buy. David Bach, author of The Latte Factor, says that’s usually just a lie we tell ourselves.

 

In his book, The Latte Factor, Bach lays out several key points in his book that can be summed up thusly: Small amounts of money spent on a regular basis cost us far more than we can imagine.

 

The Latte Factor came about after a class Bach had taught some years ago. One of his students said she couldn’t afford to save, but she was drinking a latte at the time (and most every day in his class.) He ran the numbers and showed her that, if she skipped the latte, she would save $5 a day. 

What does $5 a day mean to you? Let’s do the math. Not spending $5 a day would save $1,825 in a year. That translates to $18,250 over 10 years. But what if we went one step further and invested the money and got a 10% return. Over that 10-year period, you could turn $18,250 to $47,335.

 

As you head into the new year, vow to stop saying “I can’t afford that” and take a second look at your finances. You don’t have to starve yourself of enjoying everything life has to offer. Instead, pick one thing you know you spend money on that you might be able to do without. Is it your morning latte, eating out for lunch every day?

 

If you want to get serious about getting your finances in order this year, here’s two recommendations:

 

  1. Buy The Latte Factor and read about how Zoey turned her morning latte into the words “I CAN afford this.” It’s a quick read.
  2. Take a look at your current debt. Instead of making multiple payments for multiple loans, have you thought about consolidating those payments into one lower monthly payment? You may even get a lower interest rate that will minimize the amount of interest you’re paying. APPLY NOW or CONTACT US to see if we can help you get started in getting your finances in order this year.

Five Ways to Financially Thrive in 2021

hand using blue pen to write new years resolutions
hand using blue pen to write new years resolutions

Five Ways to Financially Thrive in 2021

The time for “New Year, new me” resolutions is finally here, and we’ve got five — actually attainable — resolutions that you’ll want to keep up with all year long. Read on to find out five ways to make 2021 a financially great year.

 

 

  1. Learn a new (financial) language

            Does listening to financial talk sometimes feel like hearing a foreign language? Instead of simply nodding along, make a resolution to improve your financial literacy in 2021. Finally learn what all those pesky IRS forms are and the ins-and-outs of money management. There are plenty of resources online that can help you decode the definitions behind personal finance terms. You can even make a Quizlet to help you commit the terminology to memory! If you’re worried about finding the time to teach yourself this new language, try incorporating some financial podcasts into your weekly routine. By listening to financial podcasts, you can improve your finance skills while still going about your daily tasks. It’s a great way to get stuff done and get a better idea of what is going on in your wallet.

 

  1. Clear out the clutter

            Recurring payments can be a great time saver, but they can also get out of hand very easily. Sit down and comb through your recurring payments so you can know exactly where your money is going and when it’s being taken. Take an especially close look at your monthly subscriptions. How many television streaming services are you subscribed to? Music streaming services? There are countless entertainment streaming platforms out there, but you don’t need to subscribe to all of them. Make a list of your entertainment subscriptions and figure out which ones you actually use and which ones are just cluttering up your monthly or annual payments. This applies to paid store memberships, too — if you don’t shop at that store much anymore, don’t forget to cancel the membership card before you get charged for the new year renewal!

 

  1. Get creative

            Don’t let yourself feel trapped by the status-quo of savings; there are many ways to get creative with your finances. Need some extra money for tighter areas in your budget but don’t know how where to get it? Look into refinancing your existing auto loan from another company with us! With our low rates, your monthly payment will be more manageable, which means you’ll have more money in your pocket, ready to put to good use. Making the switch from a high-interest rate credit card to our low-rate card could also decrease the amount of money you’re spending per term, freeing up funds to put elsewhere. There are so many avenues you can take to save money. Get in touch with one of our financial experts, and we’ll help you get creative in finding them!

 

  1. Take up a new (money-saving) hobby

            Trying a new hobby can help improve one’s mood and daily motivation, but don’t forget that it could also help your wallet! Want to try improving your culinary skills? Great! Ditch the costly take-out meals and door deliveries, and resolve to cook meals at home. Halting the high delivery costs, tax, and tips (or gas money for drive-thru and pick-up options) will drastically cut down your monthly expenses, giving you more money to spare. You could also pick up a new hobby that could increase your income instead of simply help you save. The internet has given us a wealth of resources when it comes to finding freelance work. Skilled at editing? Explore the world of freelance editing for supplemental income. Got an artistic side? Look into starting up an online shop to sell your handmade goods on sites like Etsy or Facebook Marketplace. The options are exciting and endless!

 

  1. Plan it out!

            Most people shudder at the word “budget.” It’s never fun to sit down and decide what you can’t spend money on. Instead, why not give yourself the freedom to choose what you can spend money on? This tactic for approaching money management is called a “spending plan,” and it’s a lot less intimidating than a budget. A spending plan gives you a lot more flexibility in your finances while still keeping you focused on covering your monthly essentials.

         

The process of determining your “non-negotiable” expenses is mainly the same as a budget: you have rent, electric, water, internet, groceries, emergency funds, future funds, etc. The difference begins when you determine your flexible categories. For example, entertainment, personal shopping, dining out, date nights, and more. A spending plan gives you the freedom to set ballpark amounts for these categories without restricting you too harshly. As long as you have your monthly non-negotiables covered, how you distribute money from month to month in your other categories doesn’t matter as much. A budget is far more restrictive, which can put you in a panicked mindset of “money is always tight, I have no wiggle room;” whereas, a spending plan gives you the control to say “I have the room to spend a little extra here this month.” So start 2021 establishing a spending plan and giving yourself the freedom to choose where your money should go and how you want to spend it!

The Stimulus – Round 2

various american bills on a blue and orange background
various american bills on a blue and orange background

The Stimulus – Round 2

The second round of stimulus checks are on their way, thanks to the signing of the COVID RELATED TAX RELIEF ACT OF 2020 that was signed on December 27. But, since a lot of different amounts and restrictions were thrown around during the negotiations, there are still have a lot of questions about these new stimulus checks. At the top of the list: How much will I get? And when will I get it? Here’s a few answers to questions you may have:

 

Question: When will I get my second stimulus check?

 

Answer: Soon! The IRS has already started sending out $600 payments. If the amount is later raised to $2,000, anyone who has already received a $600 second stimulus check will be sent another payment as quickly as possible for the additional amount they are owed.

 

If the IRS already has your bank account information—either from a recent tax payment that you made or from a tax refund it sent you—then expect to get your second stimulus check faster. That’s because the IRS will be able to directly deposit the payment into your bank account. The IRS can also make a second stimulus payment to a Direct Express debit card account, a U.S. Debit Card account, or other Treasury-sponsored account. Otherwise, you’ll get a paper check in the mail.

 

Question: How much money will I get?

 

Answer: Right now, you’ll get $600. People who made more than $75,000 will get less. Children under 17 will get $600. So, the most a family of four could get is $2,400. The amount will be based on the income you claimed on your 2019 tax return.

 

Question: Will I have to pay taxes on it?

 

Answer: No.

 

If you’re wondering when you can expect your stimulus funds, please CLICK HERE. This will take you directly to the IRS website where you can check your payment status.

 

To check your credit union account, CLICK HERE for online banking or view your account info in our mobile app.

End It on A High Note: Your Guide to End-of-Year Donations

cardboard donation box filled with donated items
cardboard donation box filled with donated items

End It on A High Note: Your Guide to End-of-Year Donations

There’s no denying that 2020 has had its fair share of ups and downs. With so much uncertainty, sometimes we forget to slow down, take a moment, and think about the members of our community who have been hit the hardest by this tumultuous year. As we close the year out, it is the perfect time to give back to a cause that is near and dear to your heart. You’re not alone, Giving USA reports a 4.2% increase in charitable donations for the year 2020. If you haven’t found the time in the past to donate, there are some things to be aware of. Unfortunately, there are those out there who would take advantage of the kindness of others. Whether a first-time giver, or a seasoned donor, we have your guide to giving.

 

Don’t Just Give, Get Passionate – Yes, any little bit helps, but it will mean so much more when you find a cause you are passionate about. A recent study found that donating to a cause you are passionate about can lead to an increase in confidence and a boost in self-esteem. Do the mournful tones of Sarah McLachlan pull on your heart strings with each ASPCA commercial? Do you have a soft spot for children? Maybe you’re worried about the environment? If you have a passion for it, a quick internet search can help you find a local charity that will match your kindness. Charity Navigator is a huge database that can help you start your search.

 

Do Your Research – Not all non-profits are created equal. In fact, some aren’t non-profits at all. Before making your donation, do some research. One of the easiest ways you can protect yourself is by simply looking at a non-profit’s website. At the top left corner, in the search bar of your internet browser, is there a small locked padlock icon? If so, that means the connection is secure and this site can be trusted. If the lock is unlocked? This site isn’t secure, don’t give it any of your information. Another way to protect yourself is to check the financials of the non-profit you chose. Most charities will be very transparent with their financials. If you can see that most of the money they receive goes to places other than their advertised cause, they aren’t worth the donation.

 

Avoid Donating Over the Phone – There are so many ways for you to donate these days that you don’t need to use the phone. Yes, our phones are packed with convenience, but they also open us up to being scammed by those who want our money for less-than-charitable purposes. When you donate online, you can verify the authenticity of the website you’re visiting. When you are speaking to someone over the phone, it is impossible to check their veracity. Even if you are 99.9% sure you’re speaking to the charity you have chosen, donating online allows you to track your donation and thus be more aware of where your money is going.

 

Choose the Right Method of Payment – The safest way to donate to a non-profit is by credit card or check. While some non-profits do, in fact, hold credit card gift drives, if a non-profit asks you to donate using a gift card, it could be a scam. Also, be wary of any organization that asks you to wire them money. Their intentions could be fraudulent. Once you have made your donation, you can track your bank account to make sure you paid for the agreed-upon amount or to make sure you were not set up for a recurring donation when you didn’t want to be. If the warm and fuzzy feelings you get when you donate to a non-profit aren’t good enough, most donations are tax-deductible. Keep in mind, donations to individuals are not tax-deductible. So, if a non-profit is asking you to donate to an individual, maybe reconsider.

 

More Than Money – Even if you are experiencing financial difficulty, you can still give back to a non-profit. Many non-profits have opportunities for you to donate your time. Whether it be by serving food at a soup kitchen or helping the elderly with their yard work. There are many ways you can help, not just monetarily.

 

The season of giving doesn’t have to be confined to a certain time of year. You can make 2021 the YEAR of giving by choosing multiple non-profits to devote your money or time to. When you help to make your community a better place, you’ll not only be enriching the lives of others, you’ll be enriching yours as well. We here at United Community pride ourselves on showing our support to our community. If you are looking for more information on non-profits, the FTC has some great resources.

Prepping for Christmas Chaos

wool birds and christmas gifts with cookies credit card and ipad
wool birds and christmas gifts with cookies credit card and ipad

Prepping for Christmas Chaos

The season of holiday shopping is here, and so is the inevitable financial stress— but don’t panic! We’re here to help you conquer the chaos and take control of your finances, so you can give great gifts and feel great about what you spent.

 

  1. Budget the Day Away

The first step for tackling the holiday shopping season is setting a budget. Your budget sets the tone of your whole shopping game plan— what presents you can buy, which deals to look for, which payment type to use, and more.

 

Sure, you’ve probably heard the spiel about the importance of budgeting before. It can sound a bit intimidating or overwhelming at times— but it doesn’t have to be! Check out some of our budgeting services or ask for budgeting help from one of our representatives to make this daunting task easier. The internet is also laden with websites and programs that can do the budgeting for you. Find what works best for you— set up a spread sheet, scrawl it out in a notebook, or iron it out online. Find your budgeting flow.

 

Sit down with a nice hot cup of cocoa, wrap up in a cozy blanket, and budget away. Make a night of it and feel confident in your ability to get your finances together. You’ll thank yourself in the end.

 

 

  1. Pick Your Weapons of Choice

There are many ways to fund your holiday shopping spree. Figure out how much money you have available to spend immediately and what items you will need to buy through credit cards or fund with holiday loans.

 

Our advice? Put down the high-interest rate credit cards and check out ours. Our credit cards feature interest rates significantly lower than the national average; plus, our special holiday loans help you to fund your shopping and pay it off responsibly. We understand that our members have a lot of Christmas cheer to spread, and we want to help you do it.

 

 

  1. Start Your List, Check It Twice

Santa isn’t the only one who should have a list. Get a pen and some paper and write down everyone you want to give gifts to this season. Determine how much you can spend for each person first, then brainstorm gifts for each of your names. This is the fun part! Put on Santa’s hat and think of creative ways to spread cheer to your favorite people.

 

If you find yourself spreading your budget too thin, go back through and adjust the names on your list and the spending amount. Remember, not every gift needs to cost money— don’t underestimate the joy that a homemade gift or a good deed can bring to Christmas Day.

  

  1. Choose Wisely

You have your gift list, now you need to perfect it. Browse the internet to get an idea of the deals that will be happening near you, either in store or online.

 

Compare deals you see for the same item across stores and websites— one company may be selling the item for significantly less than another. You deserve the best deal. Put in the work to find out which stores are promoting the best sales, and make sure the item is still in budget after you factor in taxes or shipping costs.

 

  1. Finalize Your Plan of Attack

While many companies offer deals throughout the months of November and December, some are specific to days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. These two days easily become chaotic if you don’t have a good game plan.


Research which deals are offered online and which require you to show up in-person. Because of health and safety concerns, many stores will be shifting to an online Black Friday experience, but you should still double check. Also check store hours for any place you might need to visit in-person. Regular store hours will likely be adjusted for Black Friday and COVID-19 precautions, so keep a close eye on company websites for updates.


Another shopping holiday to look out for is the lesser known but crucially important “Small Business Saturday.” It falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and it is more important than ever this year. With the pandemic still in effect, small businesses are struggling to support themselves. On Small Business Saturday, local businesses will break out great deals and some even organize seasonal events for their customers. This day is a great way to give back to your community, so look into your local businesses and see how you can support them

 

 

Shop Responsibly

Now that you have a budget, a list, and a plan of attack, you are all set to shop responsibly this holiday season. The holidays are a time for joy; don’t let your finances stress you out. Instead of panic-spending and budget-breaking, take some time to prepare and research your options, like low-interest credit cards or holiday loans. You’ll be happy you did, especially when both the people on your gift list and your wallet are thanking you.

A Delicious Homecooked Meal: It’s Easier Than You Think

bowl of white chicken chili with spoon lime and cornbread
bowl of white chicken chili with spoon lime and cornbread

A Delicious Homecooked Meal: It’s Easier Than You Think

As the old slogan says, “Set it and forget it!” The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting longer. Whether you’re running around with your kids, running around with your pets, or running because that is your chosen form of exercise, it feels like there are truly never enough hours in the day. Sure, your favorite local restaurant delivers, but there’s no beating a comforting homecooked meal. The average commercially prepared meal costs $13, while on the other hand, the average homecooked meal costs $4.

Now, it’s true that not everyone enjoys cooking or considers themselves that good at it. However, you can make delicious, cheap, and easy meals with an Instant Pot or Slow Cooker! We’re all about making your life easier, and so we here at United Community Credit Union, wanted to share some of our favorite recipes. With each recipe, we’ll give you a way to dress it up, as well as a way to cut some costs.

 

For this set of recipes, we’ll be using an Instant Pot. It can do it all, from sautéing, pressure cooking, and everything in between. If you don’t have one, they are regularly on sale and come in various sizes. If this is your first time using an Instant Pot, be sure to read the instructions carefully.

 

White Chicken Chili

 

Creamy, hearty, and comforting, this recipe is a new take on a classic chili. If you aren’t a bean fan, feel free to cut back on the specified amount or omit them completely. Serve this chili with tortilla chips for a completely Southwestern meal.

Ingredients

 

2 Large Chicken Breasts

15 oz can black beans (drained and rinsed)

15 oz can white kidney beans (drained)

1 medium red onion, diced

15 oz can of corn (not drained)

10 oz can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilis (keep juice)

½ cup chicken broth

1 ½ tsp chili powder (you can use less if you want to cut down on spice)

2 tsp cumin

Ranch dressing packet

8 oz package of cream cheese cut into six pieces

 

Instructions

 

  1. Place all of your ingredients into your Instant Pot bowl in the following order: 2 chicken breasts (uncooked), your drained black and white beans, chopped onion, undrained corn, undrained Rotel, and ½ cup chicken broth.
  2. Add 1 ½ tsp Chili Powder and 1 tsp cumin, as well as ranch packet. Stir everything to combine. Be sure to lift the chicken breasts slightly so that some of the juices will get underneath the chicken.
  3. Place your cut cream cheese dotted across the top of your chili. Place the lid onto the Instant Pot and seal.
  4. Cook the chili for 20 minutes on manual high pressure. Once the cooking is done, allow the Instant Pot to de-pressurize naturally for 10 more minutes. Then, completely release the pressure.
  5. Remove the chicken breasts from the mixture and shred them. PRO TIP: You can easily shred cooked chicken by placing it in a bowl and using a hand mixer. Before putting the chicken back into the chili, stir the chili. Once everything is combined, return the chicken to the chili. You’re now ready to serve.

Tip: If you want even more spice, add a diced jalapeno to your chili mixture. For more spice, use more seeds.

Money Saving Tip: If you don’t use much Cumin, buy a packet of taco seasoning. You’ll be ready for tacos and won’t have to spend money on a spice you rarely use. 

Slow Cooker Chicken and Stuffing

 

Even if it isn’t Thanksgiving, there is something soothing about a good stuffing. (You may prefer the term dressing, but that’s an argument for another day). The good thing is, it pairs just as well with chicken as it does with turkey. And with a recipe this easy, you can have it any time of the year! This recipe takes minimal effort and will make your home smell AMAZING. Note: for this recipe, you can use an Instant Pot or a traditional Crock Pot.

 

Ingredients:

 

14 oz bag dried seasoned stuffing mix

1 sweet onion, diced

2 stalks of celery, diced

2 10 oz cans of cream of chicken and herb soup

½ cup chicken broth

1 tsp ground sage

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Instructions:

  1. Spray your Instant Pot or slow cooker with non-stick spray.
  2. Add the chicken broth and stuffing mix to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
  3. Sprinkle the sage over the top.
  4. Lay your chicken on top of your stuffing mix and season with salt, pepper, and garlic.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours and 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the chicken and shred, cube, or serve the breasts whole.
  7. You’re ready to eat!

Tip: Sage is what will give this meal a holiday flavor, but if you aren’t a fan, you can substitute for rosemary.

Money Saving Tip: Both recipes so far use chicken broth, buy a large carton of chicken broth. It will go a long way and will keep for quite some time.

Instant Pot Spaghetti

 

This is the ultimate in ease. You cook everything in your Instant Pot. From the noodles to the sauce. Not only that, but this is a supremely versatile dish. You can add as many veggies as you want or take out any of the veggies listed in the ingredients. Of course, you’re going to want to serve this spaghetti with garlic bread (with cheese for a real crowd pleaser).

Ingredients

1-pound lean ground beef

½ teaspoon Garlic Powder

½ teaspoon Onion Powder

1 tsp Italian Seasoning

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (more or less depending on your spice tolerance)

1-pound Spaghetti noodles

24 oz jar of your favorite pasta sauce

5 Mushrooms, diced

36 ounces of water

1 can of crushed tomatoes

 

Instructions:

  1. Turn on the Instant Pot to the sauté setting and add the ground beef. Sprinkle in the garlic powder, onion powder, Italian Seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook the meat until completely browned, breaking up any large chunks. Once the meat is cooked, you may want to drain any excess grease.
  2. Break your spaghetti in half and place it on top of your meat. Pour over the spaghetti sauce, crushed tomatoes, water, red pepper flakes, and mushrooms. Make sure the pasta is completely submerged in the water.
  3. Seal the Instant Pot and cook for 8 minutes on manual high pressure. When the time is up, manually release the pressure. Once the pressure is released, open the Instant Pot and stir.
  4. Serve immediately.

Tip: If you aren’t the biggest beef fan, you can easily substitute Italian sausage for beef.

Money Saving Tip: Pasta is essentially universal, save yourself a couple of bucks and buy generic.

There you have it. Three meal ideas that won’t break the bank and don’t require a Michelin-Star chef to prepare. When it comes to cooking at home, just get started. Not every meal will be perfect, but the money you save will be worth it (pun intended).