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The Difference Between Credit Unions and Banks

Choosing where to keep my hard earned money is just as important as choosing where my kids go to school, or the house I want to live in. There are so many options out there it can be overwhelming.

Choosing where to keep my hard earned money is just as important as choosing where my kids go to school, or the house I want to live in. There are so many options out there it can be overwhelming. As a working mother I want to make sure I am getting the best value for my time and money. I often hear friends complain about the way their bank treats them, which makes me glad I am a part of a credit union.

I bet you are wondering what is the big deal, right? Well, being a member of a credit union is like having a big extended family. You aren’t just another number. You actually own a portion of the credit union and your deposits are even called “shares” for that exact reason! You get to vote on who is on the board of directors and could even join yourself.

Unlike banks, credit unions are not-for-profit, meaning they aren’t out to make money off their members.  Profits made by credit unions are returned back to their membership in the form of reduced fees, lower loan rates, and higher savings rates providing more value for your hard earned money.

Now, you may be wondering why I keep referring to credit union users as members instead of customers.  That is because people must meet certain qualifications (pretty simple ones at that) to become members, but at a bank anyone can join. River Valley, for example, serves the counties of Butler, Clark, Greene, Montgomery, Miami, Preble, & Warren. All you have to do is live, work, or worship in one of the 7 counties.  Seems easy enough, right?

Credit Unions also are more involved in their communities. At River Valley, we will be partnering with three local charities: Shoes 4 the Shoeless, Special Wish Foundation, & 4 Paws for Ability, over the course of the year.  We hope to bring more awareness to these wonderful organizations! Credit unions also are more attentive to local businesses and their needs in their areas.

Also, since credit unions are typically smaller than banks it allows for a more personalized experience. Each time I go to make a deposit the staff greets me as soon as I walk in. Since they are more community based, they get to know their members on a more personal level.  This also allows for behind the scenes staff to catch fraud on members’ accounts as well, which helps you save your hard earned money.

Want even more information on credit unions? Check out www.mycreditunion.gov.

Valentine’s Day on a Budget

It’s February 14, so it only feels appropriate to make my first post about Valentine’s Day. Each year I struggle to find the perfect way to make my spouse feel special while staying on budget.

It’s February 14, so it only feels appropriate to make my first post about Valentine’s Day. Each year I struggle to find the perfect way to make my spouse feel special while staying on budget. This year I vowed would be different, so I have compiled a list of ways to make Valentine’s Day meaningful on a budget!

Dinner at Home

  • I know what you are thinking: I make dinner every night, and this should be the night to go out. Wrong. Restaurants are overcrowded on Valentine’s Day, which means longer wait times and cramped seating. Instead, try cooking a special dinner at home with these sure-fire recipes.

Head Outdoors

  • Just because it is February doesn’t mean you have to stay cooped up indoors. Gather the family and go on a hike at one of the metro parks around town or have a family sledding day. You’ll get some exercise and have an excuse to make a few mugs of delicious homemade hot chocolate to get everyone warmed up. Feeling really ambitious? Do a 5K run or walk with your special someone. Register for the Chocolate and Beer 5K here:
    http://chocolateandbeervalentinesday.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=4858

Paint a Picture

Don’t Forget the Kids

  • I have found kids love Valentine’s Day just as much as adults. Here are some simple ways to include your kids in the festivities.
    • Write a letter or poem describing all the reasons you love them.
    • Plan a scavenger hunt.
    • Have an indoor picnic complete with heart-shaped food.

    No matter the activity you choose, remember to keep the focus on enjoying quality time with those you love.

Budgeting Tips and Tricks

The word “budget” has a negative connotation associated, similar to the word “diet.” Just thinking about starting a budget is enough to make some people anxious.

Budgeting

The word “budget” has a negative connotation associated, similar to the word “diet.” Just thinking about starting a budget is enough to make some people anxious. I prefer to think of a budget as a smart plan for my money; it makes me less anxious about budgeting. Having a budget helps you spend your money with purpose. It also helps identify ways you can save money to help increase the ever-important nest egg. Having a budget can help achieve financial freedom. The best part is you can adjust the budget whenever needed! So, if you are new to budgeting or just need a refresher like I do, here are a few tips to help.

Teamwork: Are you the only one in your household? If not, formulate a plan everyone can work with and follow. Having everyone on the same page can help keep things on track.

Assess your current spending habits: Look at what money you have coming in and where it is spent each month. Try to give each dollar a place so everything equals zero. Now, that doesn’t mean you have zero dollars in your account, it just means what you have coming in and what you spend equals zero. Imagine you have a big bucket filled with water. This represents all your money coming in – the total income you have for your budget. Then you have three smaller empty buckets (Needs, Goals, and Extras) to help you work out where you want your money to go. Of course you can’t pour out more water than you have. So, with the amount available, you decide how much to put into each bucket.

Start with the most important items first: When creating a budget, I always start with the most important things first: mortgage/rent, groceries, utilities, and transportation. I then look at what I am spending and create categories appropriately. For example, I may create a category for credit card payments or for eating out. Also, don’t forget to add special categories for Christmas shopping or back-to-school time.

Pay off debt: Make paying off debt a priority. I know, I know it’s easier said than done, but if you see where you can trim expenses you can then allocate those funds to paying off debt such as a high-interest credit card or a car.

Have a goal: Have a goal to work toward. The idea of creating a budget is to have a plan for your spending and help you save some money. The goal could be as simple as building your nest egg by a few thousand dollars or saving up for your dream vacation. Whatever the goal, it gives you something to work toward and helps keep you on track.

Have fun: Make sure you leave some funds for fun things like seeing a movie or going out to dinner. It is important to treat yourself every so often; life would be incredibly boring if we didn’t have fun!

Re-evaluate: Take a step back and re-evaluate the budget after the first few months. This allows you to see what works and what doesn’t or where you could possibly save a few more dollars. Don’t be afraid to tweak the budget!

Free Family Activities in the Dayton Area

Often times I am faced with the difficult task of finding ways to entertain my family. I have spent countless hours looking for fun events that are family friendly as well as easy on my pocket book. Are you in the same boat?

Often times I am faced with the difficult task of finding ways to entertain my family. I have spent countless hours looking for fun events that are family friendly as well as easy on my pocket book. Are you in the same boat? Good news! I have found some fun events coming up in the Dayton area, and the best part is they are free! Know of any other free events coming up? Send them to Val@Rivervalleycu.org!