Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Home Improvement Hacks


 
 
Home Improvement Hacks                                           

 

                    

Tags:  home improvement hacks, home improvement, DIY home improvement

 

You've finally finished scrubbing and purging your home from top to bottom in honor of spring. And now, with every surface, closet, and room sparkling clean, you're starting to see all the areas that could use a facelift. Maybe you're hankering after a complete kitchen makeover. You might be dreaming of a fresh coat of paint for your bedrooms. Or maybe your window treatments are in desperate need of an overhaul.

 

The only thing standing between you and your dream home is finding piles of cash for funding it, right?

 

Maybe not. Lucky for you, you don't need to spend a fortune this spring to give your house a new look. Read on for our list of home improvement hacks and learn how to upgrade your home on a budget.

 

1. Cabinet makeover

 

Instead of dropping a ton of money on replacing your kitchen cabinets, you can give a tired kitchen a fresh new look by replacing just the cabinet fronts. You'll pay a fraction of the price and no one will know it's your old, shabby cabinets hiding behind those beautiful new doors.

 

Want to go even lower-cost? Consider painting the front of your cabinet to upgrade the look without spending much money or time. You can also replace those dated cabinet pulls with something nicer and trendier for a more modern look.

 

2. Cover your countertops with contact paper

 

Granite countertops can be gorgeous, but they're also incredibly pricey. Instead of taking out a second mortgage for beautiful counters, try covering them with pretty, patterned contact paper. You'll find loads of granite lookalikes at home improvement stores and you can learn how to apply your knockoff covers neatly from DIY tutorials on YouTube. You might even fool your friends and family into thinking it's the real thing. But don't worry: We won't tell anyone it's fake!

 

3. Use PVC pipes for curtain rods

 

Pretty curtains and drapes add a splash of color and personality to any room. You can make your own inexpensive curtains by picking up some fabric from a sewing supply store. The only issue? You'll need rods to hang up those curtains-and if you need specific measurements and colors, that can get pricey.

 

Make it happen with this hack: Use PVC pipes instead of curtain rods. You can paint your pipes to match the d├ęcor of the room and hang them with inexpensive hooks that fit well. Curtains, done!

 

4. Create a mirrored backsplash

 

All you need for this fantastic hack is a pack of self-adhesive mirror tiles. These retail for about $15 per 20-tile pack and you can find them online or at a home improvement store. Use your snazzy tiles to create a mirrored backsplash in your kitchen. Decorate with inexpensive decals to up the glam or just leave it bare. The mirrors will give the illusion of greater space and you won't have to deal with grout and caulking. It's a super-cheap way to make your kitchen sparkle!

 

5. Slipcover your sofa

 

If your sofa is hopelessly stained and you'd love to update it, but can't spare the cash, try covering it in a slipcover. You can find a leather-look slipcover to match the shape of your sofa for $100 or less. They're not just for protection; the right slipcover will give you an (almost) brand new couch! Make sure you read reviews before purchasing, because quality really makes a difference here.

 

6. Let the light in

 

Light fixtures can really make or break an area in your home, and you don't have to spend a fortune to get it right. Walk through your home and take note of the light fixtures that are relics from a past life, paying close attention to highly visible areas. Then, take a trip to a home improvement store or check out sites like Wayfair and Hayneedle for trendy, striking light fixtures. For less than $100, you can give your house an entire new look!

 

7. DIY paint

 

If the walls in your home desperately need fresh coats of paint, look no further than your local home improvement store. No, you don't have to be a genuine DIYer to get this right; it's fairly simple. You'll find loads of painting tutorials on YouTube, and you'll only have to spring for the actual paint plus a few supplies. Best of all, when you're in charge, you can get as creative as possible. Using painter's tape and your imagination, you can paint funky designs on your walls, like diamond contrasts, vertical and horizontal stripes, or, if you're feeling really artsy, go for a full-blown mural!

 

These hacks will make your home beautiful this spring for just a bit of money. If you need more major home improvements that require serious cash, though, we can help. Call, click or stop by [credit union] today to ask us about opening a HELOC or taking out a home equity loan. We can make that happen, too!

 

Your Turn: Are you making home improvements on a budget? Share your best tips and tricks with us in the comments!

 

 

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

SCAM ALERT! Beware Tech Support Scams


 
 
 
Scam Alert!

Beware Tech Support Scams                                          

   

Computer on the brink? Careful who you contact to fix it! That's because the FTC is warning of a surge in tech support scams, many of which can be difficult to spot.

 

In a recent widespread scam, a company that called itself Elite IT Partners, Inc., purchased keywords on Google so they showed up in searches for password recovery assistance. Victims contacted the bogus company, which asked the assistance seekers to complete an online form to provide their contact information.

 

Scammers then reached out to the victims, asking for remote access to their computers. Once inside, they were able to scrape sensitive information off the victims' computers. But they didn't stop there; they also used phony evidence to convince many victims that their computers were in desperate need of repair that required pricey software. The scammers gladly accepted payment for this software, which of course they never provided. Many victims lost thousands of dollars to these scammers and had their information compromised as well.

 

Tech support scams don't always follow the above script. Here are two other ways they may go down:

 

1. Phone calls

 

In this variation, scammers spoof the numbers of well-known companies and call people randomly, claiming they've found a problem with the victim's computer. They'll ask for remote access to the computer, run a "diagnostic test" and then plant bogus problems in the computer. They'll ask the victim to pay an exorbitant amount of money to get the issue fixed. They may even demand an ongoing subscription payment to prevent the "problem" from returning.

 

Red flag: Legitimate tech-support companies will never initiate contact by phone. If you ever receive a call as described above, don't engage with the caller. Hang up immediately and report the call to the FTC at FTC.gov. You can also let the spoofed company know about the scam (using their actual contact info) so they can do their part in taking down the scammer.

 

2. Pop-up warnings

 

Sometimes, a tech-support scammer will try to lure you into their scheme by using an alarming pop-up warning. The pop-up might look like a legitimate error from your system or antivirus software. It may even have a realistic-looking logo from a company or website you know and trust. The message will warn you about a major security issue with your computer and instruct you to call a listed number. Once you make that phone call, you'll be asked to allow the person on the other end of the line to have remote access into your computer. The scam will then proceed similar to the one outlined above.

 

Red flag: Legitimate security pop-up warnings from tech companies do exist. However, they will never ask you to call a phone number. If you get this kind of warning on your computer, ignore it. If you have reason to suspect a security vulnerability, run a scan and update your security software.

 

If you've been scammed

 

Are you a victim of a tech-support scam? It's not too late to reclaim your money.

 

If you paid via credit or debit card, you may be able to stop the transaction. Contact your Credit Card Company or First City about contesting the charge as soon as possible.

 

If you used a gift card to pay the scammers, it might be more difficult to recoup your losses, but it's still worth a try. Call the company that issued the gift card and explain what happened. Many companies will be happy to assist you if you've been targeted by a scam.

 

Aside from trying to reclaim your lost money, you'll want to strengthen your computer's security. If you've given a scammer remote access to your computer or shared your username and/or passwords, you are now vulnerable to identity theft. If you haven't yet done so, update your computer's security software and run a scan. Delete any files or data your computer legitimately identifies as a security issue. You'll also want to change your usernames and passwords. If you use identical passwords across multiple sites and accounts, be sure to change those, too.

 

Finally, don't forget to report your scam to the FTC as soon as possible. If the scammer spoofed Microsoft, report it to the software giant as well.

 

Always stay alert when online and proceed with caution. Remember: When in doubt, opt out.

 

Don't be the next victim!

 

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a tech-support scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

 

Tags:  scams, tech support scams, phishing scams, malware

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

9 Ways For Kids To Make Money




Article      

9 Ways For Kids To Make Money                                         

 

                     

Tags:  kids, kids and money, financial education, kid jobs, summer jobs

 

The best way to teach a child financial responsibility is by encouraging her to earn and manage money on her own. As the weather warms and summer nears, there are many opportunities for your kids to pull in some extra money.

 

If money-making is not on your children's minds, you may need to direct them toward that line of thinking. The next time they ask you to buy something that's out of budget, tell them they can earn the money to buy it themselves. As an alternative, suggest that you'll cover half the cost if they earn the other half. Talk to them about finding a summer job, the work they can do on weekends, or suggest a one-time gig they can initiate.

 

In honor of Youth Savings Month, let's take a look at 9 easy ways your kids can earn some extra cash.

 

1. A lemonade stand

 

It may be old-fashioned, but kids can bring in good money by selling cups of America's favorite hot-weather drink. For optimal exposure, let your kids set up their stands near a local yard sale or another neighborhood event. Don't forget to check local municipality laws to make sure your stand is completely legal.

 

2. Help a senior

 

Your pre-teen can be a huge help to a local senior while earning money on the side. Let your child run some errands, take out the trash, clean the litter box or just chat with a lonely senior. If your own parents or in-laws live nearby, speak to them about having your child help them out for payment.

 

3. Hold a yard sale

 

Spring-cleaning season is the perfect time to host a yard sale on your front lawn. Let your kids be in charge by having them choose the items to feature, set the prices and run the sale. You'll want to be available to oversee their work and to make sure the prices are fair, but let them make most decisions on their own. Take off your helicopter-parent helmet and let your kids learn lessons that will stay with them for life.

 

4. Do yard work

 

If your children are old enough to handle a gas-powered mower and can be relied upon to trim shrubs and weed gardens, let them hire themselves out to do yard work. Your neighbors will be glad to have the help, and your kids will be out in the sunshine while earning some money on the side.

 

5. Help with pets

 

Are your kids animal-crazy? Let them use their penchant for pets to help people with pet-related chores. They can walk dogs around the neighborhood and offer to pet-sit for the afternoon while a neighbor is out. If your child is truly a budding entrepreneur and has the necessary skills, they can even set up a pet-grooming station out in the yard. Let them scrub the neighborhood dogs and cats, brush the hair and trim claws for some extra cash.

 

6. Be junior tech-support

 

Generation Z kids are practically born holding smartphones in their hands. Let your kids use those skills to help some older folks who may not be as tech-savvy. They can offer to organize digital photos and create albums, assist with data entry and filling out online forms, or help a senior create a Facebook page or learn how to use a new phone or device.

 

7. Help a mom

 

Your child may be too young to babysit on their own, but they can offer their services assisting a neighborhood mom while she's at home. Let your child take the kids out to the yard while mom watches from the deck, play with the kids at home while mom does laundry or help them with their summer homework while mom's busy in the kitchen.

 

8. Collect recyclables

 

Call up a local recycling plant to find out how much they pay for every pound of recyclable materials. Then help your child gather empty bottles, cans, cardboard boxes and old newspapers to bring to the plant. You'll be keeping the planet green and helping your child earn some pocket money at the same time.

 

9. Wash cars

 

Let your child try out her car-washing skills on the family car. Once she's got the technique down pat, have her offer the service to the neighborhood. Your neighbors will cross another weekend chore off their list and your child will be learning that hard work can really pay off.

 

Encourage your kids to earn their own money and you'll be teaching them financial responsibility in the best way possible.

 

Your Turn: How do your kids earn money? Tell us about it in the comments.

 


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

New First City Website


Everything you know and love made better and easier

We are proud to announce the launch of our great new website for you to explore and use to get everything you need from your credit union.  It has been streamlined into a cleaner, fresher, contemporary look, with easier to read pages and a design that will fit any device it is convenient for you to view it on.

First City is always working on making your member experience better, and we believe this website redesign will do that for you.  Your favorite sections, links, and services are all still here, organized to make your visit more efficient.  

Additionally, the website search function has been vastly improved to make finding the services you need easier.  Both the Login section and the Main menu are located on the top right of the home page and will get you anywhere you need to go.  Opening a membership or account, applying for a loan or calculating the cost of one, and even locating a branch or ATM is all just one click away.  


We know that your time with family, work, or leisure is important to you, so we’ve done our best to make your tasks easier to complete on our new site.  As always, we thank you for being a member of your credit union, while we improve our ability to serve your needs.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

7 Signs You're Living Beyond Your Means And How To Fix Them


                   

1. You're carrying a credit card balance from month-to-month


If you have a high credit card balance and you're paying just the minimum each month, you can end up carrying this balance for years while paying a lot in interest. You might also be tempted to make more purchases on this card since it already has a balance.


The fix: Try to make double payments and stop using the card until the debt is paid off.


2. You stress about bills


Monthly bills should be fixed into your budget. You should be able to pay them easily without any stress.


The fix: Take a look at your monthly budget and find ways to cut back.


3. You can't save 5% of your monthly income


If you can't put away at least 5% of your monthly income into savings, you're living beyond your means.


The fix: Again, trim your expenses and restructure your budget to include at least 5% for savings.


4. You don't have emergency and rainy-day funds


Ideally, you should have an emergency fund to cover major unexpected expenses, and a rainy-day fund for small expenses you can anticipate.


The fix: Start building your funds now by putting away as much as you possibly can each month.


5. Your mortgage payment eats up more than 30% of your monthly income


Most financial experts agree that your monthly mortgage payment should not exceed 30% of your take-home pay.


The fix: You have two choices here:

  1. Find ways to boost income. Seek a raise at your current job, freelance for hire or find another side hustle for extra cash.
  2. Scale back your mortgage payments. Consider a refinance. Speak to our Mortgage Loan Officer here at First City to see if this is right for you. If your mortgage is crippling your budget, consider downsizing to a smaller and cheaper place.

6. You lease a car you can't afford to buy or finance


Can you afford to pay for or finance your car? If the answer is no, you're in financial trouble.


The fix: Downgrade your vehicle to one you can actually afford.


7. Your financial decisions are influenced by your friends' spending habits


Thanks to the hyper-sharing culture of social media, the pressure to keep up with the Joneses is stronger than ever. If you find yourself making financial decisions based on your friends' choices, you're likely spending more than you can afford.


The fix: Stop looking over your shoulder and keep your eyes on your own life and your own wallet.


If you're in over your head, First City Credit Union can help! Stop by today and our Branch Service Representatives will be happy to guide you out of any financial mess. Or give us a call and our Loan Officers can assist you over the phone.


Your Turn: What's your personal red flag that your spending has gotten out of control? Share it with us in the comments.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A Guide To Opening Your First Credit Card


College Credit   

A Guide To Opening Your First Credit Card

 


Tags:  credit card, college student, college finances, first credit card     

 

Opening your first credit card is one of the rites of passage into genuine adulthood, but with so much conflicting information, it can all get confusing fast!

 

Let First City walk you through the process to help you build a strong credit score and credit history that will serve you well throughout your life.

 

Choosing a credit card

 

The way people typically build a credit history is by opening a credit card. But ironically, many credit cards won't accept your application because you don't yet have that credit history!

 

You'll need to build your credit history from the ground up, starting with cards that offer a very low limit or a secured credit card, such as our Secured Visa Platinum. Our Secured Visa Platinum credit card is funded by a specific designated dollar amount in your shared savings account, which would also be your credit limit for the card. Once you feel you've established enough credit history, you can always apply for a regular unsecured credit card.  You can always stop by any of our branch locations and ask about our credit cards or visit our website.
 

Don't apply to just any card that'll have you. Look for these features when making your choice:

  • No annual fees. You shouldn't have to pay money to use your card. Sometime in the future, you may want to open up a high-perk card with an annual fee to match, but for now, just concentrate on building your credit score.
  • A low interest rate. For your first credit card, you likely won't be offered a really low interest rate, but that doesn't mean you should be taken for a ride. Shop around for a card offering a reasonable rate, maybe only slightly higher than the average rate.
  • Incentives for good behavior. Why not earn brownie points for playing by the rules? Look for a card that offers incentives, such as a bonus each month when the bill is paid on time, a waived first late-payment fee or no foreign-transaction fees.

Credit card dos and don'ts

 

Once you've opened your card, or cards, make sure you use them to build and maintain that excellent score. Follow these guidelines and you won't go wrong:

 

Do ...

  • Pay your bill on time each month.
  • Check your credit score monthly.
  • Review your statements for suspicious activity.
  • Keep your cards in a safe place.
  • Accept offers of a higher line of credit.

Don't ...

  • Pay just the minimum balance due each billing cycle.
  • Open new cards just before taking out a large loan, like a mortgage or auto loan.
  • Use all of your available credit.
  • Allow unsecured websites to save your card information.
  • Share your card information with anyone.

Your Turn: Did you recently open your first credit card? Share your best tips on the process with us in the comments!

 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

8 Valentine's Day Hacks


 
 
 
                     

It's time to celebrate the significant other in your life! If you're thinking that means pricey gifts, expensive dates and blowing an entire day's salary on a restaurant meal, think again. There's no need to drain your wallet while trying to create the perfect Valentine's Day.  

Instead, use these eight hacks for a dream Valentine's Day that doesn't break the budget.  

 
1. Dine In

 
Restaurants typically up their prices when the whole world is going out to eat, so you'll likely be paying extra just because it's Valentine's Day. Plus, trying to carry on a conversation in a noisy restaurant while keeping your elbow out of the soup on the next table is hardly a recipe for a romantic evening.

 
Instead of shelling out big bucks for a sub-par experience, cook up a gourmet meal at home. You can easily spend less than half of what you'd pay for the same food in a steakhouse by opting to DIY. If you both like puttering around the kitchen, prep your delicious dinner together. Don't forget to set the ambiance with scented candles and soft music!

 
2. Explore the great outdoors

 

It may be cold out, but you can still spend some shared time together outdoors. Bundle up and take a refreshing walk under the stars. Watch the waves crash onto shore at a nearby beach. If it's snowy out, you can let your inner child free and build a snowman together. Afterward, go home and warm up in front of the fireplace with steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

 

3. Laugh it out

 
Comedy clubs are always a ball of fun-and they're cheap, too! It's also something that's a bit off the beaten track. Check out the local comedy club together for a rollicking good time that can cost you as little as $5 each.
 

4. Hit the gym
 

Gym memberships and day passes usually decline in February when many people have abandoned their New Year's resolutions to get fit. Take advantage of the lower prices to hit the gym as a couple this Valentine's Day. A shared workout can be a great bonding experience that's good for your health and your wallet, too.

 

5. Make a memory box

 
Instead of expensive gifts and overpriced cards, take a long walk down memory lane together by making a memory box. Cover a small box or container in some decorative material, or spray-paint it in your chosen color. Then, sift through your collection of ticket stubs and other mementos you've saved up from your months or years of dating each other. Throw in tourist pamphlets of places you've visited, random photos and any other trinkets that bring up warm memories.  

 

Grab a tub of ice cream, two spoons, and enjoy a wonderful evening reliving some of your best shared moments.

 

6. Get cultured together

 
Give your date a refreshing twist by hitting a spot you've never visited together: like a local museum! Choose a place with an inexpensive entrance fee and displays that appeal to each of your interests. Then, spend an evening soaking up the culture and absorbing fascinating information. It's a great way to breathe fresh life into a dating rut. Plus, studying works of art or historical artifacts makes for fabulous conversation.  

 

7. Gift them with a thoughtful gesture

 

Everyone has a guilty pleasure they can't get enough of. Give your partner an all-out indulgence fest this Valentine's Day for a truly thoughtful gift. If your significant other loves nothing more than waking up to a huge stack of pancakes with an iced latte on the side, surprise them with their dream breakfast-in-bed. If they have a thing for Snicker bars, fill a huge, funky container with their favorite chocolates.

 
You can also go in the other direction with this idea and offer to do a household chore you know your partner loathes, like laundry or washing dishes. Decorate a small piece of cardstock and write up a "certificate" that gifts the recipient with four loads of laundry, washed, dried and put away, or three evenings of dirty dashes rinsed, washed and drained. It won't cost you anything, and it's sure to put a smile on your partner's face!

 
8. Movie matinee
 

Instead of paying full price for movie tickets, see your favorite picture at a daytime matinee. You'll save a bundle on tickets just by going a bit earlier in the day. Theaters are also less crowded during the afternoon, making for a more enjoyable experience all around.

 

You don't have to break your budget this Valentine's Day. Use these hacks, or another creative money-saving idea, to enjoy a wonderful day with the love of your life!

 

Your Turn: How do you save on Valentine's Day? Share your best tips and tricks with us in the comments!