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An Easy Way to Make $1,400 By the End of This Year

FE_DA_0526brink.moneyHave you heard of the 52-week Savings Challenge? It’s so simple that it seems practically fail-proof. In a nutshell, you deposit money to a savings account once a week for an entire year (52 weeks). On week one, you deposit $1. Week two, you deposit $2. Week three you deposit $3 and so on. By week 52, after you deposit $52 to your savings account, you will have saved $1,378. That doesn’t include interest, so you’ll actually have more in your account by the end of one year. Check out this chart to see how the savings add up.

What I really like about this idea, aside from the ease of it, is that you can change it up a little to fit your own schedule without getting off track. For example, you may not have an extra $52 the week after Christmas. If you start the plan by saving $52 the first week in January and end by saving $1 the last week in December, that might work better.

You might prefer to save money with direct deposit every payday. That equates to about $53 every two weeks or $25 a week. Have that deposited into a Prize Savings Account, and you’ll have 52 more entries toward the Prize Savings Account’s $25,000 grand prize at the end of the year.  You’ll also have all those chances to win quarterly prizes throughout the year. Another option it to set up weekly transfers from your checking account to your savings account, through online banking.

The important thing is that you do something. Financial experts used to recommend that people have three months of income in savings. That was before the economy went bad. Now, they are recommending we save a minimum of six months of income. As prices rise and jobs take longer to find, we all have to save more than we used to. The 52-week Savings Challenge won’t get you all the way there, but it’s really good start.

Think of it like working out. The first time you go to the gym, you’re not going to run a mile on the treadmill or lift the heaviest weights. You’re going to start small and work your way up to a comfortable level. Savings in moderation is the best way to save without missing your money. Before you know it, you’ll forget you’re saving money at all. But boy will you be happy when you see an extra $1,400 in your account at the end of the year.

Get started now. We are in week five of January. Deposit your $5, plus your $10 from the four previous weeks. You’ll be well on your way to a year full of savings.


Making Life Easier with Online and Mobile Banking

FinanceWorksWhat did we do before the Internet? Do you ever find yourself asking this question? I remember when I was a little girl and would ask my mom how to spell a word. She would tell me to look it up in the dictionary. Sadly enough, I’m not even sure I own a dictionary today. When my son asks me a question to which I don’t have an answer, I tell him to Google it.

The other day I was out and about and needed to deposit some checks in my credit union checking account. I’m that person who never remembers my account numbers. Never. But I am a wiz when it comes to remembering usernames and passwords. Before I pulled up to the drive-up lane, I grabbed my smartphone, logged in to online banking and found the account number I was looking for. Just a few minutes later, I was on my way to my next destination.

If you think about it, the internet has really revolutionized the way we manage our money. I’m not just talking about paying bills online or transferring money between accounts. I do everything online – manage my accounts, pay bills, manage my credit card, check interest rates, follow the credit union on Facebook. If I could, I would even deposit checks online.

Now that NCU has mobile apps, everything is even easier. The other day I needed to buy something and it was really close to payday. I wasn’t sure if I had enough money in my account to pay for it with my debit card. Out came my smartphone again, only this time, I didn’t have to surf the net. I pulled up my mobile app, transferred money from my other checking account and was good to go. If I needed to, I could have contacted a branch office or found a nearby ATM – all from the app on my phone.

When you were a teenager, did a parent or teacher show you how to balance a checkbook? Did you watch your mom write a million checks every month to pay bills? Did your mom or dad use an adding machine with a roll of paper on it to keep track of their calculations?

It’s hard to believe that we’ve come so far in such a short amount of time, but I encourage you to embrace it. Online banking and now mobile banking has made everything easier. If you are not using everything available in online banking, start doing it. If you haven’t yet downloaded the mobile banking app, do it. Once you do, you will never look back.


The Benefits of Having Your Money in One Place

The_best_way_to_consolidate_bills_1Busy people have a lot to think about, and who isn’t busy these days? I know I am, and whenever I can find a way to condense everything I have to think about, I’m much more productive. That’s one of many reasons I have most of my accounts at the same financial institution.

I’m not one of those people who moves money from account to account very often, but when I need to do it, I want it to happen immediately. I don’t want to go to online banking on financial institution A’s website and schedule a transfer to financial institution B or C, then wait up to three days for my money to get there. (And trust me. I do have one loan at a bank that takes longer to process auto payments than it does to process paper checks.) I want it done now. If my line-of-credit payment is due and I forget about it until the last second, I want to be able to transfer money from my checking account and pay the bill right then and there. If I need to buy something with my debit card and I’m out of money until pay day, I want to be able to transfer money from my secondary checking account without getting dressed, leaving my home and traveling to one or more branch offices to make sure there is money in that account.

Having your accounts in the same place could save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over the years, not to mention countless hours of time. Think about it. Have you ever paid a late fee because you made a payment on time, but it didn’t reach the other financial institution on the same day? Or even worse, it reached the other financial institution, but they don’t post payments after a certain time of day? That is infuriating. Have you ever received a discount on services or had a fee waived because you had many accounts or services all in one place? Many insitituions and financial product offer this benefit, including Kasasa checking accounts.

What about budgeting? Have you ever had the luxury of doing your budget all from one online banking screen or program? It’s blissful and makes the budget process so much more painless.

Having your accounts in one place just makes life easier. As you finalize your financial goals for the year, think about condensing the number of credit cards you have, the number of loans you have and the number of financial institutions you have. You’ll be glad you did.


Don’t be a Prisoner to Your Budget

128497e57c535e91_b90e2808e0943272_200432737-001.previewJanuary is my “start over” month. I am one of those people who has to implement change gradually. By the end of January, I hope to have all my new plans in place.

This is the first January in many years that I have had to focus on our family budget so closely. 2012 was a difficult year for my family, financially, and my most important change this year is to try to get our family budget under control. That means coming to terms with the “B” word. Can you relate?

For years, I looked at budgets negatively. In my mind, having a budget meant limiting the amount of money I had to spend on the things I wanted, instead of the things I needed.

This year, I’m taking a different approach. My budget is not going to tell me what I can’t spend. It’s actually going to help me find the money I need to enjoy life a little more – even if it takes me a little longer to pay off the debt I incurred as a result of my husband being out of work last year.

A friend of mine has asked me to help her clean her home twice a month for $100. I don’t know yet how I will spend that money – debt, bills, or pleasure. What I do know is that I won’t be a prisoner to my budget this year. I’m not saying it will always be easy, but I’m going to do my best to make it work for me. Here’s how we can all make that work: 

  1. Instead of paying your regularly scheduled bills once a month, pay half with one paycheck and half with the next paycheck. That may clear up your budget for other things. Paying credit card bills that way may actually help you pay them off faster, because reducing outstanding balance reduces the amount of interest charged to your balance.
  2. Ideally, you want to pay more than the minimum payment on your credit card bills. Try doing this every other month, instead of every month.
  3. Only pay for services you use. We never use our home phone, yet we continue to pay for it. Do you use all the cable channels you have? Call the company and work out a plan more compatible with the channels you watch.
  4. If you have more than one credit card, pay off the smallest balance first. It’s the fastest way to add wiggle room to your budget.
  5. Set aside a certain amount every paycheck for a splurge, whether you splurge immediately or save that amount for a larger purchase. Reward yourself for being responsible with your money.

Don’t be a prisoner to your budget. You still want to be responsible with your money and pay your bills on time, but make your budget work for you. For more help with budgeting, or to easily build a budget you can maintain, try FinanceWorks - a complimentary service of Neighborhood Credit Union or visit our Financial Education Center


Goal Setting Made Successful

DB1D25FE50AF778AF3D8B6CEACF55B_h369_w526_m2_bblack_q100_p100_cVKScJxPfHappy New Year!  You know what’s coming next. It’s the question you may have answered 10 times already in the last two days. What is your new year’s resolution?

I prefer setting goals over resolutions, although many people consider that to be the same thing. The difference for me is that goals have specific action plans, short-term milestones and measurable outcomes. For example, if I want to lose weight, I’ll choose a specific number of pounds I want to lose, make a specific plan for how I will lose it, divide that goal into months or quarters, track my progress regularly and celebrate my victories. And that’s the abbreviated version. I don’t just “resolve” to lose weight. I make a plan that will help me be successful.

If you really want to make some changes in 2013, here are some tips for setting goals which can actually lead to success.

1. Set realistic goals you can achieve. You will not be successful if you set yourself up to fail. For example, if you have $20,000 in credit card debt and you can barely ends meet as it is, becoming debt-free by the end of the year may not be possible – even with a consolidation loan. Research consolidation options, take an honest look at your budget and decide how much you can spend each paycheck toward paying down your debt. It may be that you aim for $5,000 this year.

2. Step outside your comfort zone, but comfortably. Change requires doing something different. Doing something different is often uncomfortable. Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone, but do it in baby steps. If you’re afraid of heights, jumping off the high diving board may be a little extreme. You might start by climbing the ladder a few times, then actually standing on the board, then gradually inching your way to the edge before you jump.

3. Limit the number of goals you set at one time. The brain can only handle so much change at one time. To truly be successful, set your sights on two or three goals at the most. As you achieve one, you can add another, but give yourself time to truly focus on your goals and the adjustments those goals will require you to make.

4. Write your goals down, carry them with you and share them with others. The best way to keep yourself accountable is to put yourself out there. Tell the people in your life what you want to accomplish. Post your goals in prominent places in your home, office and car. Read them daily and live them.

5. Set intermediate milestones and celebrate your progress. Intermediate milestones help keep you on track. Celebrate the baby steps to the bigger picture.

Have you heard the definition of insanity? It’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you want to change, you have to do something different. Good luck with whatever you set out to accomplish this year.


What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

Newyear2013Before I had kids, I was convinced that the only way to spend New Year’s Eve was out. It didn’t have to be a big expensive party. It just had to be somewhere that wasn’t wherever I was living at the time. Now that I have a family, I’d rather stay home and enjoy them after the hustle and bustle of the past month. I also don’t feel like spending any more money, and if you’ve been out on New Year’s Eve, you know how fast it can add up.

If staying home on New Year’s Eve is appealing to you, here are some ideas to help you enjoy the evening with your family, affordably.

Family Game Night

Twister anyone? Pull out the family’s favorite board game, rent a fun game on DVD or even pop that Just Dance game into your Wii, Playstation or other video game console. Nothing makes me smile more than watching an adult and a child go head to head in a video dance competition. Family game night is fun, virtually free and builds memories your entire family will hold with them forever.

Movie Night

Sometimes movie night starts as pajama day and just never ends. If you’re not tired of Christmas movies, a good one to watch on New Year’s Eve is It’s a Wonderful Life. If you start early enough, you can have each family member choose a movie and still have time to switch the TV to Times Square in New York to watch the big ball welcome in the New Year.


For several years our New Year’s tradition was to head out to the country for the evening and light off our own fireworks with friends on their property. Don’t let living in the suburbs keep you from closing out 2012 with a bang. Get some sparklers for the kids and celebrate a shiny new year.

Make Your Own {Fill in the Blank} Contest

My husband and I started this long before our son was born, and now he likes it as much as we do. We make our own pizzas, and the sky is the limit on creativity. Of course, three pizzas and three judges generally ends in a tie, but when you get to eat the contest entries, everybody comes out a winner. You can do this with anything. Make your own ice cream sundaes. Decorate your own cookies. Build your own nachos. The possibilities are endless.

NYE Under the Stars

What’s the next best thing to a telescope? Apparently it’s a smartphone. Using apps like Google Sky Map (Android) or Sky Walk (iPhone/iPad), simply point your phone to the night sky and it will tell you what you’re looking at. Want to look at a different planet or star? Tell your phone where you want to go and it will help you navigate your led screen to the right spot in the sky. Go ahead. Grab your smartphone, build a fire, gather the family and reminisce about your favorite moments of 2012.

Happy New Year!


Shedding Light on Holiday Animal Adoptions

Ws_Christmas_Puppy_1024x1024Admit it. You like it when your pets wear clothes. The sweater may keep Chuy warm on the two days a year it gets cold here in Dallas, but the tutu on Fifi is just plain fun. You don’t even care if it embarrasses them because it just makes you smile. That’s the kind of fun that could win you $50 cash. Learn more here.

If you don’t have a pet, this is a great time think about adopting one from a local shelter. Adopting pets gives them a second chance at life. Rescue shelters can also help pair you or your family with a pet that’s right for your lifestyle. A pet that needs lots of attention or companionship may not do well in a home where nobody is home 10 to 12 hours a day. A pet easily frightened by a lot of noise and activity may not be the best choice for a home with one or more children. Shelters know the right questions to ask before you adopt a pet. Most shelters are non-profit facilities dedicated to the humane treatment of animals. Adopting a pet from a shelter is much more affordable than going to a breeder and helps support the care of the animals still waiting to be adopted.

Do pets make great Christmas presents? Absolutely they do when the right pet is paired with the right family. That is more difficult to do when the entire family is not present to choose a pet. The best approach to take is to get a gift certificate for a pet that your child or family can bring to the shelter with them when they pick out a pet. Yes, it’s probably exciting for a puppy or kitten to jump out of a box on Christmas morning. However, if the pet doesn’t bond with your family, you may be creating more problems than you are solving by adopting a pet from a shelter in the first place.

For more information on adopting a pet this holiday season or any other time of the year, check out the wealth of information available at the American Humane Association website. We wish all of our members and their pets a Happy Paw-i-days!


Happy Paw-i-days!

The holiday season is upon us! Do you LOVE to embarrass your pet by dressing them up for the holidays? Show us and you could win $50 COLD HARD CASH!
The Rules –
1. Each member has the option to submit up to three (3) entries by e-mailing your pet’s photo to marketing@myncu.com with the subject line “Happy Paw-i-days”.
2. To be considered for the prize, all entries must be posted by January 1st at midnight.
3. On January 4th we will select the photo as our winner and announce them on Facebook and here on our blog!
4. This contest is only open to legal U.S. residents ages 18 and older who are members of Neighborhood Credit Union.
Be sure to include your current e-mail address with each entry so that we are able to contact you if you are the winner of the contest


Skipping Your Loan Payment Will Help Save a Child's Life

IStock_000013372887LargeWe’re about two weeks away from Christmas. By now, I’m usually kicking myself for failing to make my list and check it twice so I know exactly who to buy for and how much I can spend. I actually have some friends who are selling things they own for extra money. Wouldn’t it just be easier if a money tree could sprout up in the back yard? (I know, I’m still waiting on that one, too.).

NCU has the next best thing to a money tree. They’re letting us skip a loan payment this month. Yes, you read that correctly. For a $10 donation to the Children’s Miracle Network, you can skip your December auto loan or unsecured loan payment. You don’t have to worry about late fees or credit scores or anything like that. You’ll just have to figure out how you’re going to spend the extra money you just came into, and that’s probably not hard to do this time of year.

This is a win-win situation. You skip my loan payment. You don’t go into debt from holiday shopping. You  help raise money for a really good cause. If you listened to the radio-thon our credit union was a part of this past weekend on  KVIL, you know Dallas Children’s Hospital works miracles every day, and they don’t always get paid for what they do. That’s why our donations are so necessary. Children who are sick don’t get turned away if their parents can’t pay. They are treated, because every child deserves a fighting chance.

I have personal experience with Dallas Children’s Hospital and I can say this much. You never want your kid to be sick and in the hospital, but if that day comes, you want him or her in Dallas Children’s Hospital. They don’t just treat kids for illnesses. They do their best to make each child’s hospital visit as normal as possible. There are playrooms where they can go play with toys and other kids. There are several libraries with both children and adult books. There’s an arts and crafts room. They even had a Valentine party while my son was in there a few years ago. He got to decorate a cookie, make a craft play bingo and win a stuffed animal. That type of distraction is exactly what children need when they are ill and probably confused.

Can we do this together? NCU wants to raise $10,000 this holidays season, and it’s only going to cost you $10. Skip a loan payment this month and help make life better for an ill child. To skip your payment, click here and fill out the online form.


FREE Santa Photos & Other Free Holiday Events

Showimage.aspxThere’s a song that calls this holiday season the most wonderful time of the year. When you’re watching every penny, or even if you’re not, this also tends to be the most expensive time of the year. It’s not just gifts. It’s all those “little” extras that add up, like the ornament and cookie exchanges, the cost of a Christmas tree, replacement lights for the artificial tree and, of course, the  photos with Santa. If your budget could use a little free holiday, you have come to the right place.

Free Photos With Santa

It is generally free to sit on the lap of any mall Santa, but they get you with the photos, which often start at $20 and keep getting higher. There are at least two totally free Santas in the DFW area.

Bass Pro Shops give you a free 4x6 photo with Santa, plus free games, crafts and more.

North Park Center does not give you a free photo but allows you to take photos with your own camera. Other locations may let you do that, as well, but they don’t advertise it. You’ll have to ask.

Holiday Lights

Kaleidoscope of Dreams Light Show at the Village at Fairview  - come see one of the largest holiday light shows in North Texas with 250,000 sparking LED lights. Shows run every 30 minutes between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Macy’s fountain entrance.

Village at Allen Interactive Tree Show - features more than 100,000 LED lights dancing to music. Runs daily from 10 a.m to 10 p.m.

Frisco's Christmas in the Square runs from the day after Thanksgiving through early Jan, featuring choreographed holiday lights and music, as well as special activities on select dates in Dec.

Carriage Rides

Watters Creek at Montgomery Farm offers free holiday carriage rides through the streets every Friday night from Nov 26 - Dec 18.


Santa's Village in Richardson is fun for the whole family! Join Santa and all his pals as they celebrate the season with crafts and good cheer! Come visit your Credit Union family at Polar Bear Credit Union.

Slappy’s Holiday Circus
at the Dallas Galleria- experience a classic European Circus with puppets, magic, clowns, contortionists and jugglers in a fast-paced show fun for the entire family. Presented by Slappy’s Puppet Playhouse on Saturday, Dec. 1, 8, 15 and 22 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Location: Level 1 near Saks Fifth Avenue.

Macy’s Grand Tree Lighting Celebration - The Macy's Grand Tree Lighting Celebration at Galleria Dallas features Missile Toes, Galleria's ice-skating, back-flipping, pyrotechnic Santa Claus, live performances from Olympic and National Champions and local children performing to introduce the lighting of the country’s tallest indoor tree. Saturdays, December 1, 8, 15 and 22 at 5 p.m.

Celebrate Chanukah with our custom-designed Menorah. Following the first lighting on December 8, enjoy entertainment, refreshments and goodies for the kids. As with tradition, another candle is lit each subsequent night of Chanukah. Dallas Galleria, Level 1, near the guest reception center at 5 p.m.

What are some other free activities you have planned for the holiday season? Please leave a comment here or on our Facebook page so all of us can benefit from your information.

Equal Housing LenderNCUA: Your savings federally insured to at least $250,000 and backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government. National Credit Union Administration, a U.S. Government Agency.

Neighborhood Credit Union does not endorse or guarantee 3rd party links. The products and services offered on 3rd party sites are not products of NCU. NCU cannot attest to the accuracy of information provided by the linked sites. Linking to a website does not constitute endorsement by NCU, or any of its employees, of the products presented on the site. Other websites which you may link to from Neighborhood Credit Union's site are not bound by the NCU Website Privacy Policy.