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Mar 12, 2020

Spring break at the beach

Spring break is just around the corner! Whether you’re heading to warm weather or cold weather, it’s important to know that you can still have fun while on a budget. You don’t want to come home from your vacation stressed because you may have spent too much. So, let’s talk about how we can do spring break on a budget!

Planning Ahead for Spring Break

As spring break is approaching, there is not much more time for planning. Do what you can. Plan restaurant reservations, excursions, and just day-to-day activities as ahead of time as you can to avoid stress and extra last-minute expenses.

Get a Travel Agent

Have a travel agent help you plan your entire vacation and get you the best rates. Some schools even have on-campus travel agents that can help you get special discounts!

Deals, Deals, Deals!

LOOK for DEALS. Check out sites like Restaurant.com, Groupon, and Living social for your destinations. Deals will pop up on these sites for hotels and restaurants.

Talk to Locals

This is a great idea if you’re trying to find places to go on your trip! Locals can tell you the best spots and things that are overpriced.

Skip the Souvenirs

We know it’s fun to buy souvenirs on vacation. But be honest with yourself…most of these things end up sitting in a closet when they get home. Don’t waste your money.

Know the Laws

Make sure you do some research on your destination before going! Especially if you’re going out of the country. The laws can be very different and you don’t want to get a nasty fine that follows you home.

Split Costs

If you’re going with a group of friends, this is great! You can split the costs of cars, hotels, food, etc.

Make a Packing List

We know packing is NO fun. But we advise you to make a list of everything you need to bring and don’t pack last minute. Things like sunglasses, clothes, shoes, toiletries, camera, phone charger, bathing suits, etc. This will save you from forgetting anything and having to buy it on your vacation.

BYOB

Alcohol can get expensive. Different locations have different prices as well, so it’s smart to just bring your own.

Go for Walking-Distance

Vacations are so convenient when you can just walk everywhere! Pick a place where everything is close by so you don’t have to spend money on gas or a rental car.

Check with Friends/Family

You may have friends or family with a condo or house that you can use. This would save you loads of money if you do! All you would need to do is give them some money for electricity and any food you eat.

Look at Rental Sites

Go on Homestay, Airbnb or VRBO to look for places to stay. These sites have a lot of good deals!

Look up Happy Hours

Ask your hotel or look online for happy hour deals. This way, you can get your drinks for cheap and some restaurants even do happy hour food deals.

Cook!

If the place you’re staying has a kitchen, make a few of your meals. It’s a lot cheaper than going to restaurants each night.

Hotel Freebies

Many hotels offer a complimentary breakfast. That’s a free meal every day! Take advantage of that. Don’t let that mini-bar tempt you, though. That can be dangerous.

Everyone needs a vacation every once in a while. But you shouldn’t have to be stressed about money the whole time! Take advantage of these tips above. They will help you stay relaxed and stress-free on your vacation. We hope you all have a FUN and SAFE spring break. Share your adventures with us on our Facebook page!

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Mar 5, 2020

Applying for scholarships

The cost of college is going up. That is why most people have to take out a loan in order to cover the cost of their education. The good news is that you can offset the cost of college by getting scholarships. There are several reasons that you should apply for a scholarship.

Simple Application Process for Scholarships

The type of scholarship that you apply for will determine what you will have to do to apply. However, the application process is usually simple. In fact, there are some scholarships that you can get without writing an essay. Spending a few minutes filling out applications can help you get thousands of dollars.

Avoid Student Loan Debt with Scholarships

You probably know someone who has a lot of student loan debt. Student loan debt can be a pain to deal with. However, you may be able to avoid student loan debt if you apply for scholarships. There are millions in scholarships that go unclaimed each year.

State Support Has Decreased

In the past, you could get a significant amount of funding from the state. However, funding has decreased significantly. That is why you may not be able to get much funding. Furthermore, if you or your parents’ income exceeds a certain amount of money, then you may not be able to get any funding from the state.

Easy to Qualify For

Many people think that the only people who can get scholarships are the ones who make straight A’s and are star athletes. However, there are many other scholarships that you may be eligible for. It is a good idea for you to apply for as many scholarships as you can.

Take the Burden Off of Your Parents

There are many parents who foot the bill for their children’s education. Even if your parents are making good money, you do not want to put this burden on them. You will be able to take the burden off of your parents by applying for scholarships and getting funding from multiple sources.

Cover Basic Living Expenses

It is important to note that tuition is not the only thing that you will have to pay for. You will have to pay for housing, food, and basic living expenses. You may be able to use scholarships to cover your basic living expenses.

Improve Your Performance in the Classroom

Your main goal should be to make the best grades possible. However, it can be difficult for you to focus on your studies if you are worried about money. If you have a scholarship, then you will be able to worry less about how you are going to pay for college. This will improve your performance in the classroom.

Professional Benefits

You can still benefit from getting a scholarship after you graduate from college. You can list your scholarships on your resume. This can help you stand out from the other competitors and make you more appealing to the employers. A scholarship shows that you have worked hard to achieve something.

Eastex Credit Union – Scholarship

Did you know Eastex awards six $500 each year? Applicants should be 2019-2020 graduating high school seniors or current college underclassmen. All you need to do is be a good standing member, complete a simple application and submit a 250-word essay. For more information or details, go to https://eastexcu.org/isave-cu/scholarships/ and download your application. Don’t wait, the deadline is Friday, April 10, 2020!

Feb 28, 2020

Cleaning spending

Start Saving More Today by Cleaning up Your Spending

Each month it is the same battle. The month begins with plenty of money in the bank and ends with a budget shortfall. You are left wondering what happened to all of your money.

How to Find Spending Problems

Before you think there is a hole in the bottom of your wallet, you should do a little budget spring cleaning. The process is simple. Begin with a piece of paper, a calculator, and your most recent bank statements. Take some time to look over each debit.

Create several lists on your paper. Write down the amount you spend in a month on expenses like eating out, an extra coffee, or other items. Take note of the extras, add them up, and decide what you can live without.

The second step involves carrying a notebook and a pen around with you for a week. Write down each expense. Even if it is as small as a pack of breath mints it needs to be recorded. Even if you use the change in your pocket to pay for these extras, it is still money spent.

Subscription Services

Subscriptions are an easy spending leak to find. While you are looking over your account statements, make sure you are aware of each recurring charge and the reason behind it. If you see several charges for entertainment streaming services, for example, make sure you are actually using the subscription. 

If you have signed up for services that have similar content or shows you never watch, save money by canceling the subscription. Another thing to check for is free trials you might have signed up for that have gone beyond the cut off date.

Daily Spending Habits

Your morning ritual gets you through the day. You pull up, order your favorite coffee, then drive around, and swipe your card or pay with your phone. Imagine writing that amount you’re spending down each day for a week.

If your bill is a mere eight dollars a day, added up over a week it comes to forty dollars. That can add up to about two hundred dollars a month. In the scope of overlooked expenses, that can really add up.

Little habits matter. Each daily expense adds up to a larger amount. Consider instead brewing your favorite coffee at home and taking it along.

Food Shopping

You might have heard that you should never shop while you are hungry. The truth is shopping without a little preparation can be just as destructive. A trip to the grocery store without a written list and a meal plan can turn into a free for all with your budget.

Regardless of the size of your household creating a meal plan helps prevent impulse buys at the store and forgotten items. Forgotten items mean another trip to the store. The more you go, the more chances you have to buy things that are extra, unneeded items.

Data Overage Charges

Monthly data charges can add up. Depending on your service provider, home and mobile internet charges can add up over time. Especially if you have children and teens on their phones streaming videos and playing games, you may be charged for extra usage and not even know it.

The solution? Do a quick check through your service provider. Make sure your limits stay within range. If you are going over, don’t stop looking until you figure out where the overages are occurring. Most providers offer the ability to trace your usage to each device.

For more tips and financial advice, reach out to our team over at Eastex Credit Union!

Feb 20, 2020

Plant growing out of savingIs it your goal for your child to go through college debt-free? Well, we won’t sit here and tell you this is an easy goal to achieve, but it is doable! College graduates have an estimated loan debt of $37,172. That makes the overall total $1.3 trillion. That means your child’s student loans will follow them for a long time after they’ve graduated.

When Should I Start Saving?

We encourage parents to start saving as soon as they can. We know this can’t always be the case, though. There are many other expenses such as mortgage/rent, medical bills, credit card bills, or maybe even your own student loan debt. Don’t put yourself in a hole trying to save for your kid’s college. Scholarships and grants are another way to pay for college. You need to make sure you’re taking care of your most important expenses first.

There are three things you want to do before you start saving for college:

  • Pay off debt
  • Set up an emergency fund that allows you to be prepared for unexpected circumstances.
  • Take 15% of your income and put it into retirement savings through your employer-sponsored retirement plan.

If you haven’t taken care of these, it’s not the right time for you to start saving the college fund.

Get your Kid’s Involved

We know your children are in school, but they can help too! Not only will this help them save for their college, but also teach them good financial habits for the future. Some ways in which they can help would be:

Applying for Scholarships

If your child does well in sports, academics, or extracurricular activities, encourage them to apply for a scholarship! This is money they get that you never have to pay back.

Take AP Classes:

These are known as “Advanced Placement” classes. These allow your child to earn college credits while still in high school. This means any college credit they earn in high school you won’t have to pay for when they go to college!

Get a Job

During the school year, they won’t be able to work full-time. Have them babysit, dog walk, or even do a part-time job for after school. In the summertime have them take on a full-time job. This will also help them build up their resume!

Create a Savings Account

Any money they earn, they can put into this account! Encourage them to save the money they receive instead of spending it.

If you’re at a point where you can start saving for your child’s college, do it now! This will save them from loads of student loan debt when they graduate. We want to help our kids out as much as we can and we hope you are able to make post-college life a little easier for them. Don’t stress out if you feel like you’re behind, any amount saved can help them for their future. We encourage you to sit down with your kids and talk about a plan! They may not understand how important it is now, but down the road they will be so grateful. Start that college fund today!

Reminder: Eastex CU offers Scholarships for members. Click Here to learn more about eligibility requirements and application.

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Feb 13, 2020

Springtime

Springtime House Maintenance Checklist to Get Your House Ready for the New Season

When warmer weather arrives, it is time to think about the house maintenance tasks that you can perform during the spring. Throughout the winter, it is difficult to care for the inside AND outside of a house, but the cold winter weather and severe weather conditions can cause multiple issues for a house. Here is a checklist for springtime house maintenance.

Checklist Tip 1: Inspect a Home’s Rooftop

You should check your home’s rooftop to determine if there is any damage from heavy rain or strong winds. Use a safe extension ladder to look at the roof, making sure to avoid any utility lines. If you can take photographs of the damage, then you can talk to a professional roofer about the necessary repairs. Working on a roof is a strenuous and dangerous task, so you should hire a licensed technician to perform the job.

Checklist Tip 2: Cleaning the Rain Gutters

While you are using the extension ladder, it is a great time to clean your home’s rain gutters to remove tree leaves and other debris. The proper flow of water through the gutters can prevent damage to the siding of your home along with keeping rainwater from entering the house’s attic space. You can use a small shovel to chop out the debris that has dried in the rain gutters before using the water from a garden hose to wash away the remaining substances.

Checklist Tip 3: Prepare Your Home’s Air Conditioner

In addition to making sure that your home’s furnace is clean and has a new filter, you should check the cooling system to verify that it is working. Turn off the central heating equipment before turning on the air conditioner, making sure that the device is working optimally without making strange noises or creating a foul odor. You should check the exterior air conditioner equipment to verify that it isn’t covered with any debris that could cause it to overheat.

Checklist Tip 4: Are Your Home’s Windows Still in Good Condition?

It is important to inspect your home’s windows from the inside and the outside of the house. You should verify that no windows are broken and that the screens are not ripped. On a warm spring day, you can also squirt additional liquid caulking around the windows to keep the climate-controlled air inside your home. Replacing the window panes or the window frames is a specialized job, so if the windows are damaged, then you should call a window repair specialist for assistance.

Checklist Tip 5: Look at a Home’s Water Pipes and Plumbing Fixtures

Colder winter temperatures can cause problems for your home’s plumbing fixtures and water pipes. To look at the plumbing fixtures and water pipes, you will need a flashlight to see water spots on the floors or the walls. If you have a multi-story home, then you should also look at the ceilings areas that are below the fixtures in a bathroom. For exposed water pipes, you can touch the metal or plastic to find small holes that indicate that the items require replacement.

Checklist Tip 6: Washing Machine and Dryer Maintenance

Spring is the perfect time to remove the lint from your dryer’s venting system so that the appliance will work better. It is possible to remove the buildup of lint from the dryer’s hose, but if the hose has degraded, then you should replace it. You should also check the rubber hoses that are located on the back of a washing machine to make sure that the items are not leaking. Follow Eastex for more helpful tips!

Feb 6, 2020

Emergency Fund

As we all know, life can throw us a curve-ball at any point in time. Unfortunately, most of the time it’s when we least expect it. That’s why we should be prepared for the worst. One way to make sure you are prepared, is with what we call a safety net. This is the cushion you have to fall back on during those times. In other words, you may call it your emergency fund.

What is an emergency fund?

An emergency fund is money you set aside for those curve-balls that get thrown at us. This can be things like a car repair, medical bills, home repair, job loss, etc. And no, that new car or purse you want or vacation you want to go on is NOT an emergency. We know it’s hard not to splurge on these types of things but don’t do it! Having a safety net is so important.

Why should I use an emergency fund?

The reason for this is simple. You never know when or what life will throw at you. We don’t like to think about bad things happening to us but it’s better to be prepared than not at all. This will save you large amounts of financial stress.

How much should I have in my emergency fund?

This all depends on your income. Each month, we suggest pulling a certain amount of money from each paycheck and putting it in your emergency fund. Whether it be $20, $50, $100, anything helps. You will be surprised at how it adds up! This also depends on how many people you provide for and how many incomes you’re working with. If you’re married and both you and your husband work, then a three-month emergency fund is probably fine for you. If you’re working with one income, you may want to consider a six-month emergency fund.

Where should I keep this emergency fund?

Don’t keep it in the same place as your regular funds. Open a savings account and do not touch it unless it’s an emergency! It can be tempting to pull from this account, so you may want to open your account at a completely different bank than the one you usually use.

We encourage you to start your emergency fund today. You will be doing yourself a huge favor, one that saves you loads of stress. Imagine the feeling of having no debt and being in complete control. And when you do come across an emergency, you will be fully prepared. Your emergencies won’t feel so big after all! Let’s do 2020 different than 2019 and be more in control. Be prepared and start building your safety net! Stay up to date with news and blogs from Eastex for more helpful information in the future.

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Jan 30, 2020

ResolutionsMaintaining your New Year’s resolutions concerning finances takes a lot of resolve. Too many people take aim at Mars, then give up prior to building their rocket.

The reality is that keeping a financial New Year’s resolution is an exception to the rule. Only around 64% of the average American make it past the first month.

However, it’s not impossible to do. There are many strategies at your fingertips that can put the odds in your favor. If you’re looking to keep your financial resolutions, keep reading to find out how.

1. Keep It at the Forefront of Your Mind

There are studies that show how people who write down New Year’s resolutions are nearly ten times more likely to succeed. After writing it down, post it somewhere that will allow it to be a daily reminder. Even consider creating a vision board and placing your resolution in a prominent place on it so that you look at it as often as possible.

Another idea is to set reminders on your calendar so you continually check in on your financial goals and see if you’re on track. The important thing here is to find a way to remind yourself about your goal as often as possible.

2. Use Technology

Keeping and maintaining your resolution is simpler than ever thanks to budgeting, debt and savings apps. In recent years, these have been popping up all over the place.

Strongly consider utilizing budget tools provided by Eastex to help you stay on top of your resolutions and finance goals. If you struggle with your monthly budget, regularly utilizing these tools will help keep you in check.

As long as your phone is on you, you’ll be able to quickly check your budget situation and see where things stand at any given moment.

3. Make Sure Your Resolution Is Realistic

Sometimes, crafting a New Year’s resolution is a lot like swearing off drinking alcohol when you’re struggling with a horrendous hangover. It’s a pointless vow you make without considering the details of how you’ll maintain it down the road.

Instead of making wild proclamations, such as saving $2,000 each month or paying off your mortgage before the end of the year, set a goal you can reach.

As an example, take a look at your current budget and find areas where you can make simple changes. Decide what you can realistically cut out, then use that sum to help determine how much you’ll actually be able to pay off your mortgage or put in savings.

Perhaps your goal is to pay off $10,000 of unsecured debt by year’s end. At first glance, that may not seem realistic. However, when you break it down monthly you’ll see that you only need to cut out $833 of expenses each month. That may actually be doable.

Remember that no matter how realistic your goal looks on paper, you need to use accurate numbers. Then make sure you have a simple system in place that allows you to track all of your finances.

Find Resolution Success This Year

A New Year’s resolution is only as good as your ability to keep and maintain it. With these three simple tips, you’ll be well on your way toward keeping this year’s financial resolution.

Jan 23, 2020

consolidationDebt Consolidation combines high-interest debts into one monthly payment. It decreases and reorganizes your total debt allowing you to pay it off faster. So, why should you do it? First, it’s important to know the ways in which you can consolidate your debt.

Consolidate your debt in two primary ways:

  • With a 0% interest, balance-transfer credit card: All your debts would be transferred onto this card and you would pay the full balance at the time of the promotional period.
  • With a fixed-rate debt consolidation loan: the loan would pay off your debt, you would set-up a payment plan to pay the loan off over a certain amount of time.

Debt consolidation isn’t the answer for everyone. There are reasons when you should do it and when you shouldn’t.

Reasons why you should:

  • Your total debt without mortgage doesn’t exceed 40% of your gross income
  • You qualify for 0% credit card or low-interest debt consolidation loan
  • Your income covers payments towards your debt
  • You don’t let yourself fall into debt again

Reasons why you shouldn’t:

  • If you have a reasonable amount of debt, that’s small and easily manageable, you don’t need to consolidate. You can pay it off at the rate you’re going within 6 months to a year.
  • If you have an overwhelming amount of debt that is barely able to be managed, consolidating is not for you. At this point, you may want to consider filing for bankruptcy, debt management or debt settlement.

Do you think debt consolidation is right for you? If so, we can help you get started. Apply for an Eastex VISA credit card and pay that debt off! For more information visit: https://eastexcu.org/products-services/cards/visa-credit-cards/.

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Jan 16, 2020

Credit card debtFor many Americans, credit cards are a critical financial tool. They allow for financial flexibility and can be used to budget more effectively. But sometimes things happen, and credit card debt piles up. It might be an unexpected medical or vehicle expense. Or maybe you were temporarily unemployed. Whatever the case, you know you need to get your credit card paid off, but where do you start? 

This blog will explore the benefits of paying down your credit cards, how to pay off your credit card debt, plus offer some quick tips on making that dream a reality. 

Why You Want to Pay Off Your Credit Card Debt

While having some credit card debt can be okay, having a lot of credit card debt can be harmful to your financial future. 

Here are a few reasons you want to get your debt paid down/off as quickly as possible: 

  • Credit Score: The more debt you carry, the harder the hit on your credit score. 30% of your FICO score is determined by how much you owe on your credit accounts. 
  • Reduced Expenses: Paying off your credit card quickly means you’ll pay less in interest and free up your cash flow for other expenses. 
  • Financial Freedom: After you’ve paid down/off your credit card debt, the money you were putting towards credit card payments (and interest!) can be put into savings for the future.  

You’ll also have the satisfaction of being that much closer to being out of debt – and that much closer to your financial goals, whether that’s retirement or the trip of a lifetime. 

Pro tip: You don’t necessarily need to close your credit cards once you pay them off. Older accounts show you are able to manage debt responsibly

How to Pay Off Your Credit Card Debt Quickly

Figuring out how to pay off your credit card debt quickly is challenging. Where do you start? How do you start? Here are three things you can do today to start paying off your credit card debt. 

1. Make a List of All Your Credit Card Debts

If you’re like most people, you set your credit card payment on autopay and occasionally take a look at the bill to make sure you aren’t close to the limit. The first thing you need to do is make a list of your credit card debts.

These are popular approaches to listing your debts in order of importance:

  • List and pay off the smallest credit card debts first
  • List and pay off the credit cards with the highest interest rate first

Take a look at your overall list and see which approach makes the most sense to you. 

2. Carefully Review Your Budget 

To get really serious about paying off your credit card debt, you’re going to need to review your budget. You may need to cut expenses or redirect payments to get your debts paid off quickly. These cuts are usually just temporary, so don’t get too worried. 

Possible expenses to cut or redirect include:

  • Commit to cutting out expenses like streaming services, eating out, and any big purchases
  • Consider making the minimum payment on most of your cards while you approach one card at a time

While you still want to put money into savings if you can, see if any money you’re saving might make more sense as credit card payments for the time being. 

3. Consider Other Sources of Income 

Let’s face it – no one wants to work an extra job, but paying off credit card debt may be worth spending a few months putting in some additional hours. You don’t have to take some miserable part-time job, though. 

Consider these creative ways to boost your income: 

  • Put your skills to use in the freelancing world – you can design, write, consult, whatever suits your skillset
  • Network with your social group to see if anyone has part-time professional opportunities you can take advantage of

You may even talk to your current employer about taking on additional hours if that’s an option.

Quick Tips on How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt

The most effective way to pay off your credit card debt quickly is simply to tighten down your expenses and find ways to increase your income until the debt is paid off. However, there are some small ways to make dents in your credit card debt:

  • Cashback rewards: Make sure you apply your rewards to your credit card bill rather than redeeming them for gift cards or miles.
  • Balance transfers: A 0% APR offer on a credit card may help save you money on interest, so long as you pay off the balance before the promotion expires.

If your credit score has improved since you opened your credit cards, you may also ask your credit card issuer about lowering your interest rate. This may save money in the long run.

Get Help with Your Credit Card Questions

Planning for your financial future is important. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in, it’s never too early to get started toward financial freedom. A financial planner can help you figure out the best way to tackle your financial dreams, including your credit card debt.

Still have questions about how credit cards can impact your financial future?  Contact the team of financial professionals at Eastex Credit Union today. 

Jan 9, 2020

Group getting in shapeNow that the new year has begun, many of us are trying to get in shape. Getting in shape is something most of us struggle with, especially with the expense. We are here to tell you that there are ways to get in shape without breaking the bank. It’s easy to make excuses for yourself when it comes to getting fit. Make 2020 a different year without those excuses. Here are some tips on how you can get fit without hurting your bank account:

Say Goodbye to Your Expensive Gym Membership

You don’t HAVE to go to the gym to get in shape. Gym memberships can be very expensive. Only keep your membership if you get your moneys worth and go all the time. It’s not worth going to the gym to run on the treadmill. Go on a run in your neighborhood or a nearby park. After that, you can do some in-home exercises. There are many videos you can find online that provide you with many workouts you can do in the comfort of your home.

Ignore the Diet Ads

There are so many advertisements out there of people trying to sell you diet pills and supplements. These DO NOT work. Do not fall for these kinds of advertisements. They reel you in by telling you that you’ll be down 50 pounds in a month. That won’t happen, nor is that healthy. Don’t waste your money on a scam. Go buy veggies, fruit, and protein at the grocery store.

Plan Your Meals

Have your meals planned out before your week starts. Then, go get only the items you need at the store. Waiting until the last minute to decide what you want for dinner won’t do you any good. By that time, you are so hungry that you don’t care what you eat. You will be more likely to eat junk food if you do that. Eating out is also way more expensive.

Set Realistic Goals

Getting in shape is all about having patience. We know you want to lose the weight immediately, but you have to take it slow. Create a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Being organized will help you save money as well.

Tell a Friend

If you’re worried about you might lose focus on your goal, tell a friend. This is someone who can hold you accountable. Choose someone that will motivate you. Maybe they will even want to do it with you! Then you will have a workout buddy and you can hold each other accountable.

Losing weight is NOT easy. Especially when you have so many temptations around you. We’re here to tell you that you CAN do it, and you DON’T have to break your bank in the process! No more excuses. Make 2020 a happy and healthy year.

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