Tips for First Time Homebuyers

Woman Moving Into New Home Talking On Mobile Phone
Woman Moving Into New Home Talking On Mobile Phone

Tips for First Time Homebuyers

Even if you’re not a first-time home buyer, looking for and financing a home can be stressful. When you don’t know where to begin or what to do, it can be even more stressful. We’ve got a few tips for first-time homebuyers to get the most out of your home buying experience.

Determine how much house you can afford and get pre-approved.

When you’re ready to look for your dream home, it’s important to know how much home you can afford. This will narrow down your home search and will give you a realistic view of the types of homes you can buy inside of your price range. You will also avoid the temptation to purchase a home where you’ll struggle to make the payments.

Save up for a down payment.

With such a big purchase, having a down payment to invest in your home is important. A good rule of thumb for a down payment is to save 20% of your mortgage. For instance, if you have a $100,000 mortgage, your target down payment is $20,000.

If 20% of your mortgage doesn’t seem feasible, there are other options for first-time homebuyers that will allow you to save and invest a smaller amount into your mortgage. If you’re wondering how much you need to save to achieve your desired payment, check out a down payment calculator for reference.

Payoff as much debt as possible

One of the factors that will determine your creditworthiness is your debt-to-income ratio. A debt-to-income ratio measures the total amount of debt you’re paying off each month compared to the amount of income you’re bringing in within the same period. If the amount of debt you’re paying off is considerably more than your income, this will negatively impact your credit score. In turn, this will hurt your chances of being pre-approved for and financing a mortgage.

Try at all costs to avoid inquiries on your credit report

When you’re looking to finance your first home, one item that first-time homebuyers seem to overlook is avoiding new lines of credit. For instance, opening a new cell phone line, television service, or even setting up a utility account will all affect your credit score and your inquiries.

Before you buy a house, your focus should be on maintaining and improving your credit score while saving as much as possible for a down payment and closing costs instead of building new avenues of credit.

Buying your first home is no easy feat. When you finance your home with United Community Credit Union, we’re with you every step of the way. Pre-approval has never been easier, and you’ll be well on your way to opening the door to your new home. Start today!

TurboTax

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TurboTax

Take the stress out of tax season. Save up to $15 on TurboTax!

 

Simple filer? Homeowner? Investor? Freelancer or side-gigger? TurboTax has you covered and makes it easy to find the best solution for your unique tax situation. File with confidence, knowing that TurboTax guarantees 100% accurate calculations, running thousands of error checks as you go.

 

United Community Credit Union members can save up to $15 on TurboTax online products. Start today!

*TurboTax® $25,000 Payday Sweepstakes. NO PURCHASE OR FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States or the District of Columbia, 18 years of age or older at time of entry. Void in Puerto Rico and where prohibited by law. Sweepstakes ends 2/13/20. Subject to complete Official Rules and all applicable federal, state and local laws. For Official Rules including odds of winning, alternate method of entry, and prize descriptions, visit the turbotax.intuit.com/microsite/sweeps-rules.jsp. PRIZES: One (1) Grand Prize: A check for $25,000. Retail value, $25,000. Twelve (12) First Prizes: A check for $1,000. Retail value, $1,000 each. Maximum retail value of all prizes is $37,000. The odds of winning a prize depends upon the total number of eligible entries received by the end of the Promotion Period. SPONSOR: Intuit Inc., 7535 Torrey Santa Fe Rd., SDG-2A-03-22H, San Diego, CA, 92129. Intuit, TurboTax® and TurboTax® Online, among others, are registered trademarks and/or service marks of Intuit Inc. in the United States and other countries. Other parties’ trademarks or service marks are the property of their respective owners. See credit union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.iscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Snuggle up to Savings

a girl and her dog snuggled up in a blanket outside in the snow
a girl and her dog snuggled up in a blanket outside in the snow

Snuggle up to Savings

Are you paying a high-interest rate on your auto loan?

Don’t settle for high auto loan rates. Instead, let United Community save you some money on your rate. We offer some of the lowest rates in the area for auto loans.

When you bring your auto loan to United Community, we’ll cut your auto loan by up to 2% APR* AND we’ll give you a cozy UCCU blanket

Don’t snuggle up to high auto loan rates. Let United Community help.

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Please contact the credit union for current rate information. Applicants must meet UCCU credit guidelines. Federally insured by NCUA.

The Benefits of Charitable Contributions

clipboard with empty registration form and charity goods on table
clipboard with empty registration form and charity goods on table

The Benefits of Charitable Contributions

We all know the saying, “It’s better to give than receive.” Giving makes us feel good, right? And we usually don’t think about what’s in it for us.

 

But, what about charitable giving? Depending on the amount of your charitable contributions, you could be in for a sizeable tax benefit. As a matter of fact, if you factor your charitable donations into your budget, it will allow you to be more generous and lead to strategies that could improve your financial planning long term.

 

With tax season just around the corner, let’s take a look at some benefits of charitable giving and what can be deducted.

That altruistic feeling

Whether we donate to them or not, we all have causes near and dear to our heart. If you’re an animal lover, the ASPCA commercials probably tug at your heartstrings. If helping kids is where your passion lies, then charities like St. Jude’s and the Shriner’s Hospital probably resonate with you. Regardless of where your loyalties lie, we all love the feeling of helping other people. Scientific studies have even shown that charitable giving activates pleasure centers in the brain.

Tax benefits

Charitable donation deductions actually allow you to lower the amount of taxable income. Of course, you can’t donate to just any organization. In order for donations or gifts to qualify, they have to be recognized tax-exempt organizations. Typically, religious organizations, veterans’ organizations and community organizations qualify as tax exempt.

 

Have you made any donations to state, federal, or local governments for public purposes, like donating to rehab a public park? You can deduct those donations. You can also deduct any expenses you incur as a volunteer for a qualified organization or if you donate a qualified vehicle.

What does this mean for you?

Let’s be honest. Taxes, deductions, and tax law can be overwhelming and difficult to understand if you don’t speak that language. It’s always a good idea to sit down with a qualified financial planner to come up with a plan for donating to charities. Your financial planner can help you figure out what types of donations work for you and your future plans. They can also help you find organizations that share the same goals and ideals as you. Also, if you want to make charitable giving a recurring activity this year, look at setting aside money in an United Community Credit Union Savings Account. That way, you can save smaller amounts at a time to make it easier to give back vs one lump sum all at once.

 

While you shouldn’t donate funds just for your benefit, if you happen to be donating anyway, there’s no harm in deducting the amount on your taxes. No matter which way you decide to give or which charity you choose, giving back to organizations that do good feels good.

Meal Planning on a Budget

Healthy meal prep containers with quinoa, avocado, corn, zucchini noodles and kale. Takeaway food. Dark background, top view.
Healthy meal prep containers with quinoa, avocado, corn, zucchini noodles and kale. Takeaway food. Dark background, top view.

Meal Planning on a Budget

The beginning of a new year is a great time to change up your diet in a way that fits your budget. Meal planning is popular among those who desire to eat healthy while maintaining a healthy budget. While there are many resources available for recipes, we have a few tips on how to make the most of your meal planning options.

Plan your shopping trips and meals in advance.

Take some time to look at the grocery store circulars or online deals to see what is on sale for the week. Once you know what meats and seasonal fruits and vegetables are being offered at a good price, you can research recipes to maximize your meal planning options for the season. These prices tell you how much they are by amounts so you can compare with your recipes to determine your budget before you’re in the store.

Check out meal planning resources via a Google search and on sites like Pinterest. There are meal preps and plans available from home cooks and more popular sources like Food Network. Be willing to try new recipes and look into meat-free recipes to conserve your funds. There are plenty of cost-effective options that can be a good source of protein.

Choose different recipes with the same meat.

Whether you’re making meals for a family or you’re making lunches for yourself, buying in bulk is always best. If you’ve found a few recipes for chicken that you think you’ll like, buy the chicken in bulk and freeze what you don’t use right away. This will keep your meat fresh and ready for when you’re ready to use it. For example, you could use chicken for the following meal planning recipes:
  • Chicken Burrito Bowls
  • Teriyaki Chicken Bowls
  • Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice
With the money you save on supplies, you will be able to allocate elsewhere for something you want and possibly didn’t have the funds for originally.

There are so many different choices that make meal planning flexible and customizable depending on your particular preferences and tastes. Make sure to mix it up so your tastebuds won’t get bored since this is easy to do with meal prepping.

Choose recipes that require a limited number of ingredients.

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re looking at what sounds and looks good for meals. Make sure to get recipes that have either a limited number of ingredients or items that you need to buy. If you find recipes that have common dried spices that you have in your kitchen, this could work as well and help you branch out and try different recipes and combinations.

Branch out and experiment with flavors that you’re confident will work well together.

Keep track of all your transactions and budget with a United Community Checking Account. Use these tips and tricks and you will be well on your way to being a savvy meal planner that works for your tastebuds as well as your budget.

Cut Your Debt

child pulling her hair threatening to cut with scissors
child pulling her hair threatening to cut with scissors

Cut Your Debt

The holidays are over. The decorations are put away. Out-of-town guests have gone home. And those credit card bills are beginning to come in.

 

Don’t get stuck paying high-interest rates. Instead, let United Community cut your debt and give you cashback.

 

When you transfer a credit card balance of $1,000 or more to a UCCU Visa® Card, United Community will give you 5% cashback.*

 

Switch now and let us help you cut your debt.

*Some restrictions may apply. Minimum balance transfer amount is $1,000 for promotion. The credit union reserves the right to change or end promotion at any time. See credit union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

Testimonials

father throwing child into the air
father throwing child into the air

Testimonials

United Community Credit Union has a great story to tell, but we want our members to share it.

 

What do you love about us? How have we been able to help you accomplish your goals? We want to hear from you.

 

Share your stories with us so we can share them with current and potential members. The first 10 people to respond will each win a $10 Visa gift card, and one lucky respondant will win $100!*

*Promotion can be changed at any time. See credit union for details. Federally insured by NCUA. 

Which Credit Card Rewards Are Right for You?

A midsection of customer and shop assistant making wireless or contactless payment using credit card in a shop.
A midsection of customer and shop assistant making wireless or contactless payment using credit card in a shop.

Which Credit Card Rewards Are Right for You?

Believe it or not, there isn’t a “one size fits all” credit card rewards program. For every card on the market, it seems like there are a million different ways to earn rewards.

With all the options, the research can be overwhelming and you might not know where to start. We’ve come up with a few ways you can choose the right credit card rewards program.

Is a rewards card right for you?

That’s the first question you need to ask yourself. A rewards card isn’t right for everyone. Here’s a handy checklist to run through to help you decide whether or not a rewards card is a good fit for you:

  • You have a good credit score. Most card issuers are looking for consumers who have a FICO score of at least 670. Of course, a higher credit score will help you get a lower interest rate, but a that mid-600 range will get your foot in the door. FYI, the higher your credit score, the more lucrative rewards programs you’ll have access to.
  • You can pay off your balance every month. Rewards card usually have a higher-than-average interest rate. When you carry your balance over each month, you could end up paying more in interest charges than you earn in rewards.
  • You can maximize the value of your rewards. A rewards card can cost you money if you don’t maximize your reward-earning potential. If you don’t earn enough points, you can actually lose money if your card has an annual fee.

Now that you’ve determined you could benefit from a rewards card, let’s talk about choosing the card with the program that best suits your lifestyle and spending habits.

Choosing the right card

There are three main things to consider when choosing a card: your spending habits, personal preferences and credit score. If you don’t look at your spending habits and personal preferences, you could end up spending a lot of money and racking up rewards that aren’t right for you.

Let’s say you have a large family and your primary expenses are groceries and gas. It would make sense for you to have a credit card that offers bonus rewards on those purchases. But, if you’re single, have a small grocery budget or don’t have a car, those rewards wouldn’t make sense.

Use your cards for everything

The more you use your card, the more rewards points you’ll rack up. But, don’t let that be an invitation to start spending money on things you don’t need. Instead, use your credit card in the place of cash or your debit card whenever possible.

Start looking for everyday situations where you can use your credit card instead of another payment method – gas, groceries, food, etc. But, always make sure you only spend what you can pay off every month.

What if a rewards card isn’t for you?

Rewards cards aren’t for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe your credit score isn’t in the right range for a rewards card, or maybe you’re not interested in using your card to gain rewards. Maybe you’re looking for a credit card for emergencies only. If that’s the case, we can help you. We have a number of credit card options, and some have super low APRs, great rates on balance transfers and low rates on cash advances.

We can help you find the card for you. Check out our website, stop by and talk to us or give us a call so we can answer your questions.

Scholarship

In-crowd shot during graduation
In-crowd shot during graduation

Scholarship

young girl laying on the grass smiling
Get more money for college tuition with a United Community scholarship.

We know college is expensive, but United Community wants to help you with the costs associated with higher education.

In 2020, United Community will be awarding three graduating seniors with scholarships. One graduating senior will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship and two graduating seniors will be awarded with a $500 scholarship.*

Applications will be accepted from January 1 through March 31.

*Must be a member to qualify. See credit union for details.

Holiday Shopping on a Budget

Beautiful Christmas holiday gift shopping background. View from above with copy space. Element for design
Beautiful Christmas holiday gift shopping background. View from above with copy space. Element for design

Holiday Shopping on a Budget

‘Tis the season…to avoid going broke buying presents for your loved ones. It’s easy to do, right? Sometimes we get carried away and spend more money than we intended to. You don’t want to look like a cheap gift-giver, but you also don’t want to buy the whole store.

 

So, how do you buy awesome gifts for everyone without breaking the bank? We have a few tips for you to keep your trees and your wallets full.

Make a List, Check It Twice

Hey, the process works for Santa so it can work for us! Start with a list of people you plan to buy for, jot down the gifts you think they’ll love and then check it twice. Santa has to buy gifts for the whole world, but you don’t have to. If your shopping list includes more than five people outside of your immediate family, trim your list. Look at alternatives like homemade gifts or baked goods so you can spread holiday cheer without looking like a Scrooge.

Create a Budget Based on Your Finances

Your best friend started a great job a few years ago and always gets you the most amazing gifts. However, if you’re in a different place in your financial life, don’t overextend yourself to match gifts. Look at your budget and see what you can do. Don’t shop based on what you think you should spend. The saying “it’s the thought that counts” really does ring true. It’s still possible to give thoughtful gifts to your loved ones without breaking the bank.

Homemade From The Heart

While there are many options to choose from at one store or another, the best gifts sometimes don’t come from the store. Another way you could save some money on presents this season is by making your loved one(s) a gift. The possibilities are endless on what you can make. Often times, a gift that is handmade from the heart is priceless and more special. If you need some inspiration on what to make, check out Pinterest for a few ideas.

Keep It Local

Shopping local is a great way to save a little cash while also supporting local businesses. Because there are fewer hands involved, buying local can often save you some money. You’ll likely save money by purchasing green beans from a produce stand because the farmer doesn’t have to divvy up his profits the way a chain supermarket does. It’s also a great way to improve your local economy. For example, every $100 you spend at a local business, $68 stays in the community. Follow your local news and check Facebook pages in your area to see what area businesses are offering locally made products.

 

We know that holiday shopping can be stressful. You’re paying your regular bills, taking care of your everyday expenses, and planning for holiday shopping on top of that. It can be tempting to open multiple credit cards or store cards, which come with incredibly high-interest rates. Don’t get stuck paying big balances on multiple cards. We have numerous options that can help you fund your holiday shopping without spending more.

Let us help. Stop by, check out our website or give us a call to see what options we have to help you.