Rising Interest Rates

If you follow the national business news, you are likely getting mixed messages about thenewspaper with interest rate headline state of the economy. While never very reassuring, pundits’ opinions on the stock market and the country’s economic state are changing as frequently as the weather.

But there’s one area that’s been constant for some time now: rising interest rates. If you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage, or any other large loan, in the near future, you might be waiting until those rates start going down again.

Here’s why that might not be the best idea.

Interest rates will continue to rise throughout 2018.

Experts predict that interest rates on financial products will continue to increase throughout the year. There are several factors triggering this rise, none of which are likely to be resolved anytime soon. Whether you’re interested in taking out a personal loan or a second mortgage, 2018 may not be a very good year for borrowers.

It’s not looking too great for those who are looking to take out short-term loans either. The U.S. central bank raised short-term interest rates a total of three times in 2017, and that trend is expected to continue. Experts claim 2018 will see an additional three interest rate hikes, each being 0.25%. If you need to borrow money from Destinations Credit Union, it’s best to consider your plans sooner rather than later to ensure you can lock in before rates get higher.

The inflation factor

Unemployment rates may be down across the country, but wage growth continues to crawl at an almost nonexistent pace. This, in turn, leads to limited price growth, which keeps the inflation rate stagnant. However, the feds are expecting all of this to change in the coming year. They expect wage growth to finally kick off and then set in motion an uptick in inflation and price growth.

The government wants to stay ahead of any surge in inflation. It does so by increasing interest rates even before there is clear evidence of an inflation peak. In fact, just last month, the feds raised interest rates on short-term loans yet again, citing an inflation scare at the beginning of February as the primary factor behind their decision.

Financial institutions and credit card companies pattern their own interest rates after the government’s rate. For this reason, it’s best to work on aggressively paying down outstanding debt you have before you’re hit with increased interest rates.

Government deficits and tax cuts

Long-term interest rates have been rising since December. This is largely due to the growing government deficit linked to recent tax cuts. The pending two-year budget plan will put the government even deeper into the red and likely cause those rates to climb even higher.

In short, this trend of rising rates will not become history for a long while.

Mortgages

Mortgage interest rates are now at an all-time high; they are currently close to 4.6% and are up more than 20% from a year ago.

There are multiple factors driving this increase, including the administration’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum and the associated concerns over the U.S. trade market.

For the most part, though, mortgage interest rates are based on the 10-year Treasury yield. When bond yields rise, so do mortgage rates. The recent tax overhaul caused investors to favor stocks over bonds, and consequently mortgage rates have been climbing since the tax plan was first introduced in September.

Some experts are actually predicting a turnaround for mortgages in 2018. They are hopeful that the expected volatility in the yield curve will trigger a similar curve for mortgages, possibly even causing them to dip below 4% sometime this year. However, all agree that by year’s end, the mortgage rate will settle at a stable 4.5%.

No one can be certain of anything, though. And waiting until the rates drop might prove to be pointless. In fact, you might even end up paying a higher rate because of that delay.

The good news

Take heart; it’s not all doomsday forecasts on the economic front!

Greg McBride, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst, predicts a great year for returns on savings. He claims that 2018 will be beneficial for all savings accounts, and especially for CD holders, with an average one-year CD yielding a 0.7% return by the end of 2018.

If you’ve been thinking about opening a share certificate or other ways to grow your savings, talk with Destinations Credit Union, and start putting your plan into action!

What it means for you

Let’s review the practical steps you can take in this economic environment:

1.)   If you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage or another long-term loan, don’t wait for rates to decrease; it isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

2.)   Try to pay off your debt at a quicker pace than you’ve been doing until now to avoid getting hit with rising interest rates.

3.)   2018 is a great time to increase your savings and to open a share certificate.

Volatile economy got you stressed? No worries! At Destinations Credit Union, we’re always here to help you through any financial turn. Call, click, or stop by today!

Your Turn: What steps are you taking in the current financial climate? Paying down debt? Increasing your savings? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.kiplinger.com/article/business/T019-C000-S010-interest-rate-forecast.html  

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/interest-rates-forecast.aspx/amp/  
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/mortgages/analysis/amp/ 

Cryptocurrency Hacks

Cryptocurrency is all the rage. Money you can’t see? Online accounts that aren’ttwo people looking at computers regulated by big banks or even the feds? It has a futuristic feel, and anyone and everyone seems to be buying into the trend.

Lots of those folks who are buying up bitcoins by the hundreds claim cryptocurrency investment is the ticket to a richer tomorrow. But security experts think otherwise. They’ve repeatedly warned that all cryptocurrency is extremely vulnerable and at risk of being hacked – and that includes yours.

Is cryptocurrency the wave of the financial future, or is it really as risky as experts would have you think?

Before making your decision, read on to arm yourself with all the information you’ll need about cryptocurrency hacks.

How it works

Cryptocurrencies are decentralized and unregulated. That means there is no single country or institution controlling bitcoin, Ethereum or Litecoin. These currencies are, consequently, extremely volatile and vulnerable to risk. Since all cryptocurrency transactions are processed online, a hacker can simply break into crypto exchanges, drain people’s wallets and disappear without a trace.

As you may expect, hackers have been following the meteoric rise of cryptocurrency and are eager to cash in on the prize. They’ve been systematically frauding the system for years, and have only gotten bolder over time. In the most recent major heist, hackers made off with an incredible $530 million in cryptocurrency from Coincheck, the leading Asian bitcoin exchange, this past January.

And experts predict that it will get worse.

An Ernst & Young report studied 372 preliminary coin offerings between 2015 and 2017 and found that more than 10% of the funds were stolen, amounting to as much as $1.5 million a month.

It’s not only individuals who’ve been defrauded; the report shares that huge companies have lost several million dollars on hacked cryptocurrency.

According to Chainalysis, a risk management software company for virtual currencies, more than 50% of these hacks occurred through phishing.

In other instances, hackers have modified malware to redirect bitcoins to their own wallets during a trade or purchase. This scam is particularly nefarious because the hackers snag the victim’s exchange credentials and login information so they can gain complete control of the mark’s bitcoin wallets.

By extension, this means the hackers have also accessed the victim’s credit card information and can do untold damage to their credit score while racking up huge bills in the victim’s name.

Any way you slice it, cryptocurrency hacks pose a major risk to all investors and users.

Who’s paying?

Nearly 20% of bitcoin investors purchase their cryptocurrency using a credit card – and almost 25% of them cannot pay off their credit card balance after making this purchase.

Some credit card companies are ready to throw in the towel on cryptocurrency. They’ve had their fair share of headaches caused by cryptocurrency hacks aimed at their cardholders, including disputed charges, fraudulent transactions and the inability to pay for large purchases.

Earlier this year, many major credit card companies, including Discover and Capital One, announced they will no longer allow cardholders to purchase cryptocurrencies using their credit cards due to the high level of risk and potential fraud associated with such transactions.

Lots of financial institutions have followed suit with similar announcements, claiming the increased volatility poses a loss to the institution, which may be forced to pick up the pieces for their member if a cryptocurrency investment or purchase is hacked.

Are cryptocurrency exchanges government-regulated?

The short answer is no. The very attraction of bitcoins and Ethereum is that they are decentralized, answering to no institution or government.

A little digging reveals that some foreign countries, like China, are actually taking stronger approaches toward protecting their citizens from cryptocurrency fraud and are coming down hard on all scammers and hackers.

For the average U.S. citizen, though, when it comes to cryptocurrency, you’re on your own.

Protecting yourself

Cryptocurrency transactions pose an extra risk by being absolutely final. There’s no way to cancel a cryptocurrency payment, back out on a purchase or secure an anti-fraud guarantee from a reputable financial institution. In case of fraud, you may be able to trace the computer that was used for robbing you, but it’s nearly impossible to identify the scammers that took off with your money.

In other words, by using cryptocurrency, you’re putting yourself at significant risk. There’s no one protecting you and no way to undo the damage once you’ve made a payment that’s been hacked.

The only thing you can do is take proactive steps to be as careful as possible when engaging in crypto-payments:

1.) Stick to established, recognized exchanges, like Coinbase.

Only use exchanges you’ve heard of, and only those that utilize two-factor authentication.

2.) Don’t store too much digital currency online.

It’s best to store your money as actual greenbacks in a brick-and-mortar financial institution. You can keep some cash in your wallet or even hoard it in a home safe, but be careful not to put too much in an online digital exchange.

3.) Keep your OS and security software up-to-date.

Always accept and install the most recent patches and updates when they become available. To ensure your system doesn’t fall behind, elect to have it update automatically.

4.) Be wary of suspicious emails and links.

Never share sensitive information over the internet, no matter how sincere or urgent an email or link may appear to be. Don’t download anything from an unverifiable source, and keep your spam settings working at their strongest capacity.

Cryptocurrency may be the dollar bill of the future, but don’t fall prey to the many criminals who are counting on consumer naivety to make a quick buck. Use caution and be on guard to keep your money safe!

Your Turn: Do you use or invest in cryptocurrencies? What precautions do you take against hacks? Share your own tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/amp/hidden-dangers-buying-virtual-currency-go-beyond-simple-hack-n852706  

http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/29/technology/coincheck-cryptocurrency-exchange-hack-japan/index.html  
https://www.fool.com/investing/2018/01/29/after-the-biggest-cryptocurrency-hack-ever-bitcoin.aspx

Fifteen Tricks To Sell Your Home Quickly

If you’re looking to sell your home and start over somewhere else, you likely want to see

For sale sign in front of house

that sale happen as quickly as possible. After all, it isn’t easy to be paying two mortgages at once! You might also be counting on the proceeds of the sale to help make a down payment on your new home.

Read on for 15 fantastic tricks to get your home into the hands of its

Spring is in the air! And aside for the hum of lawnmowers, newly bloomed flowers and

the chime of the ice cream truck, spring means the chance at a fresh start in a fresh, new home.

new owners as swiftly as possible.

1.) Price it right

You want to get as much as you can for your home, and ironically, that means pricing it lower than the going rate. Find out the true worth of your home, and then hack 20% off that price. You’ll have the buyers rushing to your home – and then bidding up the price to what you really wanted. They may even offer more!

2.) Choose the right agent

Do your research before hiring a realtor. Your broker should have an excellent track record that includes lots of recent sales, being updated on the latest market trends and knowing how to use technology to get the word out about your house. Ask for references and credentials before making a decision.

3.) Let the light shine

After location, the amount of light in your home is the second-biggest selling factor. Change your lampshades, add more lights where necessary and use the maximum possible wattage for every light fixture in your home. You can also scrub your windows, remove the drapes and let the sunshine in.

4.) Rent a storage unit

You want your house to be clutter-free and your closets to look as spacious as possible. To do this, you’ll probably need to get rid of half the stuff around your home and stored in your closets. Consider renting a mini storage unit to house your belongings until your home is sold. As a bonus, you’ll have a leg up on the packing when it’s time to move!

5.) Amp up your curb appeal

First impressions matter the most. Attract buyers by sprucing up the exterior of your home. Splurge on a striking patio set, trim your shrubs and plant some pretty flowers along your walkway. You’ll likely get a 100% return on the money you spend.

6.) Focus on the kitchen

The kitchen is where it’s at. Buyers will spend the longest time here, and the offered price will fluctuate according to how updated your kitchen is. Depending on the state of your kitchen, you might want to do a quick remodel, including a fresh coat of paint, new cabinets and more.

Not convinced? Consider this: Replacing your old countertops will run you a few thousand dollars, but a buyer can easily shave $10,000 off the asking price by claiming your kitchen is outdated.

7.) Upgrade – but don’t go overboard

In addition to the kitchen, you’ll want the entire rest of the home to look its best. It’s a good idea to do basic repairs and some remodeling to make your home sell faster. But don’t go overboard, or you may end up losing money. A paint job and some new light fixtures, door handles and rugs can do the trick.

8.) Make it impersonal

To you, it looks homey and lived-in. To potential buyers, it’s just a mess. We’re talking personal effects. Get rid of them before showing your home. You want your visitors to envision their own family and personal belongings here – not yours.

9.) Market it yourself

Be your own best agent. Let everyone and their neighbor know that you’re selling your home. Post an attractive picture of your house on your favorite social media platforms, tell your friends to tell their friends and be sure to speak in glowing terms about your house to anyone who asks for details.

10.) Make it sparkle

Don’t skimp on this one! Give your entire home a deep cleaning before showing it to buyers, scrubbing and buffing until every corner gleams. Nothing turns a potential buyer off like grimy counters or streaks on the bathroom mirror.

11.) Hide your pets

Not everyone is an animal lover. If you’ve got some furry critters at home, hide the evidence! Don’t leave out a bowl of dog food or a half-chewed ball of yarn. If you’re hosting an open house, send your pets to a friend’s place for the day.

12.) Time it right

Spring and summer are by far the most popular times for house hunting. Placing your home up for sale when more people are looking to buy will put you ahead of the game from the start.

13.) Hire a professional to help you set up your home

Unless you’ve got an awesome eye for aesthetics, you might want to hire a professional to help you stage and photograph your home. They can help you arrange your furniture so it maximizes space and then shoot photos showing your house in the best possible light.

14.) Use extra rooms

Do you have a spare bedroom that houses your baby gear or boxes of your college stuff? Now’s the time to clear it out! Set up an empty room as something useful, like a guest room, an exercise nook or even a hobby room. It will look a lot more attractive to potential buyers than a room full of stuff!

15.) Encourage people to explore the entire house

Entice visitors to check out the upstairs and to peek into bedrooms by placing a piece of artwork, a pretty vase of fresh flowers, an interesting light fixture or even painting an accent wall near the end of a hallway or at the top of a set of stairs.

You’re all set! Now get out there and put your home’s best face forward!

Your Turn: Have you recently sold your home? Tell us how you made it happen! Share your best tips and tricks with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.hgtv.com/design/decorating/design-101/10-best-kept-secrets-for-selling-your-home  

https://www.google.com/amp/www.foxnews.com/real-estate/2012/07/29/21-staging-tips-for-selling-your-home-fast.amp.html  
https://www.trulia.com/guides/how-to-sell-your-house/

Saving On Home Renovations

Is your kitchen in desperate need of a facelift? Bathrooms haven’t been remodeled sinceTwo men measuring boards Bush was in the White House? (And we’re not saying which one!)

With the warmer weather approaching, many homeowners are thinking of making minor and major household improvements. And for most, the cost will be prohibitive: The average kitchen remodel tops $60,000 and a bathroom overhaul can run $18,000.

No worries, though! With some careful planning and smart choices, you can shave thousands off the cost of renovations.

Here’s 7 terrific ways to save when remodeling.

1.) Don’t do a complete remodel

It’s tempting to want to go all out once you’re remodeling, but unless structural damage demands that a room or area be completely gutted, there’s rarely a reason to start from scratch. Instead of knocking down walls and hallways, try to envision the outdated area with a fresh coat of paint, new light fixtures and some minor décor changes.

Is your kitchen a total blast from the past? Instead of giving it an overhaul, consider replacing the drawer handles and knobs, staining the cabinets and refacing the moldings. Perfecting old cabinets can be a full 50% less expensive than putting in brand new ones.

Potential money saved: $30,000.

2.) Shop around for a contractor

Choosing a contractor is not a decision to take lightly. You’ll want to find someone honest, professional and reliable – and willing to give you a decent price.

Don’t hire anyone on the spot; check out at least three different contractors before making your decision. Ask for references and meet with each contractor in person to get a feel for their character and professional conduct. Take note of whether they show up on time and their willingness to answer questions. Doing these simple tasks will provide you with important clues about their reliability. Be sure to ask your prospective contractor if they generally stick to their schedules or tend to fall behind. In this business, time is money, and a delay in a project’s completion can cost you a pretty penny.

Finally, be sure to sign a detailed contract before making any final decisions. The contract should stipulate the final cost and estimated timeframe for the project.

Potential money saved: several thousand dollars.

3.) Consider long-term costs and benefits

You don’t want to choose the most expensive option for every remodeling decision you’re going to make, but it often makes sense to pay more now if it’ll save you big further down the line.

For example, if you’re installing clapboard siding, you’ll save in the long run by paying more for pre-primed and pre-painted boards. Using the more expensive prefinished claps means you’ll need half as many paint jobs in the future.

Money saved: $1,250 (for a 10×40 area).

4.) Pick decent but midgrade materials

Choosing the cheapest materials usually ends up costing more in the future. But that doesn’t mean go with the most lavish and expensive. in general, it’s best to go with the midgrade option whenever possible.

One significant area where you’ll see this at play is in carpeting. Basic olefin and polyester carpeting will run you $1 to $2 per square foot, while wool costs upward of $9 to $11 per square foot.

Money saved: $400 (for a 40-square-foot area).

5.) Bring in natural light without windows

Looking to add a splash of sunshine in your kitchen? Don’t cut that gigantic hole in the side of your house just yet! Adding windows is a major deal and there are other, less expensive ways of bringing sunlight into your home.

Instead, consider installing a “light tube.” This genius contraption slips between the rafters on your roof and works to funnel sunshine down and into the living space below.

Adding a double-pane window can run you $1,500, while a light tube is only $500.

Money saved: $1,000.

6.) Lend a hand

You don’t have to be super-handy to help out and save money at the same time. You can easily do some of the demolition work yourself, paint some walls or even sand the walls to prep them for painting. If you think you’re too clumsy for even these minor jobs, lend a hand with the cleanup at the end of a project. Why pay a cleanup crew $200 a day to sweep up sawdust when you can handle a broom just fine on your own?

Money saved: $200 a day or more.

7.) Increase efficiency, not size

If you feel like your kitchen is too cramped and you need to push out some walls to make it work, think again. You can easily reorganize your kitchen for maximum efficiency and save tens of thousands of dollars.

Replace large, clumsy shelves with pullout drawers that are equipped with racks for easy, aesthetic storage space. Upgrade your cabinets with lazy susans, dividers, pullout trays and more. Consider hiring a professional organizer to show you how to maximize the space you’ve got; the organizer’s fee and the money you’ll spend on the specialized cabinets will still fall way below the cost of an expansion.

Money saved: up to $60,000.

However you choose to go about your renovations, don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union today to learn about our fantastic rates on Fixed Home Equity Loans and Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC)!

Your Turn: Have you recently remodeled? How did you save money? Share your best hacks with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/ways-to-save-on-home-renovation-costs/  

https://www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/21-ways-to-save-your-remodel-0  
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.remodelista.com/posts/expert-advice-15-secrets-for-saving-money-on-home-renovation/amp/

How To Use The Money Envelope System

If you’re like many of us, you’ve been trying to stick to a budget for a while, but by the man putting money in envelopetime each month is over, you’ve busted your budget – again.

Because of this recurring pattern, you’re probably wondering if there’s a better way. Fortunately, the answer is yes!

The money envelope system has been around for years, and it’s an incredibly motivating and powerful way to keep spending in check.

Destinations Credit Union is proud to bring you this handy guide to understanding and implementing the money envelope system in your household.

Note: If you already have a workable monthly budget, you can skip to step 2.

1. Determine your monthly income and expenses

For the next few months, track all of your expenses. Hold onto every receipt or record each purchase you make, being sure to indicate which category of expense it falls under. Hold onto every pay stub, too. When a three-month period has passed, you’ll sit down to figure out exactly how much discretionary income you’re left with each month. This will not include fixed amounts, like insurance premiums, mortgage payments, savings and investments.

2. Create a budget for every expense category

Now, divide your discretionary income into different categories. The categories you need and the amounts you’ll set aside for each will depend on your individual lifestyle and habits, but you’ll likely need categories for food, gas, entertainment, transportation and clothing costs.

Review the way you’ve been spending your money in the last few months for an idea of how much you’ll need to set aside for each category. If you see you’ve been overspending in a certain area, this is a great time to resolve to cut back.

3. Create your envelopes

This is where the money envelope system differs from a regular budget. Instead of having money set aside for each category in your head, or even scribbled on a paper somewhere, take one envelope for each expense category and mark it clearly. Now, put the exact amount of cash for this month in the envelope for each category.

Do this with every expense category, and voila! You’ve created your new budgeting system!

4. Stick to your budget

As in any budget, following through on a plan is the hardest part. With the envelope system though, it’s a whole lot easier.

Say you need to make a grocery run. You’ll peek inside your “groceries” envelope, take note of how much cash is inside, and figure out how much you can afford to spend. Take that amount of money to the store with you, and only use that cash. No cheating! There’s absolutely no card-swiping allowed and no sneaking money from another envelope to beef up a skimpy cash supply in another. You need to work with what you have.

Instead of walking out of the store with a dozen items in hand that weren’t on your list, you’ll be forced to stick to your budget. And, if you find yourself running low on grocery money one month, you’ll have to make do. You can take the pantry challenge and dream up a menu created around the ingredients you have on hand, or you can shop the sales and cook according to what’s cheapest this week.

Do whatever it takes – but no cheating!

5. Reward yourself!

If you find yourself with extra money in any category at the end of the month, it’s OK to celebrate. Dave Ramsey recommends rewarding yourself with a dinner out or an expensive drink. Alternatively, you can treat that money as “rollover cash” and use it to enjoy a roomier budget next month.

Tips and tricks

Here are some variations and different approaches to this ingenious system:

  • Use a small accordion file folder instead of individual envelopes. It’ll be easier to keep track of your envelopes when they’re all in one place, and it’s sturdier than paper envelopes.
  • Go cashless! Love the idea but hate the thought of only using cash? You can still use the envelope system with some minor adjustments. There are apps designed to create virtual envelopes for you to use, such as Mvelopes. You can also use a cost-free budgeting app that allows you to divide and track your spending into different categories, such as Mint, Quicken and Monefy.
  • Trim your fixed expenses. If you’re finding it difficult to stick to your self-created budget, try to cut back on your non-discretionary spending. Search for a cheaper auto insurance plan. Ditch your cable. Find ways to trim your electric bill and gas expenses. Use the money you save to add to the envelopes that never seem to have enough to get you through the month.
  • Create an emergency envelope. Set aside $20 or $50 to use in case another envelope runs out of money.
  • Use Destinations Credit Union “You Name It” accounts as your envelope for larger expenses, like emergency savings, gift-giving or vacations.

Congratulations! You’ve got the money envelope system down pat! Here’s hoping it helps you on your journey toward financial wellness.

Your Turn: Have you tried the money envelope system? Has it worked for you? Why, or why not?

SOURCES:
https://www.moneycrashers.com/envelope-budgeting-system/  

https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/envelope-system-explained  
https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-budget-using-the-envelope-system-1389001  
https://www.pennypinchinmom.com/cashless-cash-envelope-system/  

6 Ways To Know You’re Using Your Credit Cards Responsibly

Credit cards are an important financial tool, but they need to be used responsibly. Here’s woman shopping online with credit cardhow to know you’re okay.
  1. You can easily pay more than just the minimum payment each month.
  2. You don’t rely on your credit card for everyday purchases.
  3. You are using less than 30% of your credit limit.
  4. You never take out cash advances.
  5. You use it mostly for large, necessary expenses.
  6. You read all the fine print in every letter you receive from your credit card company.
Your Turn: In what ways do you use your credit card? Share with us in the comments!

Energy Saving Tips – What To Look For When Buying New Appliances

There’s no getting away from the fact that our dependence on energy increases daily. Couple buying appliancesWith energy-dependent technology driving our lives, ecologists continue to search for ways to save our environment. Focusing on energy-efficient appliances is one way to do that.

Your monthly electric bill may not itemize the specific usage of each appliance in your home. If you are interested in a breakdown, though, you can ask your local electric company for a listing. But about 30% of the charges on your statement stem from your electrical appliances. That’s why the government, as well as the majority of appliance manufacturers, encourage consumers to replace standard devices with new energy-saving ones.

So, if your dishes aren’t coming out clean after a run in the dishwasher, or if the ring around your shirt collar has not disappeared after a hot laundry wash, you may be in the market for a new appliance.

There could be some good years left in that 10-year-old refrigerator or oven. But, generally speaking, prices for electrical appliances have come down across the board over the years. And once you consider the cost of a new part for your old apparatus, plus the charge for the visit, it just might be worthwhile to chuck the old and buy new.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the new energy-efficient appliances save you money on a monthly basis because they use far less electricity. They also help the environment by cutting down on greenhouse gases emitted into the air.

What is Energy-Efficient?

So what does it really mean if an appliance is energy-efficient? In simple terms, it means the process used to make the appliance function – spin, clean, cool, heat, etc. is using less energy. This can be achieved in a number of ways, and manufacturers are always adapting new techniques, such as using renewable sources of energy like water or sunlight.

Now that you have decided that a modern and energy-efficient refrigerator is what you need, how can you be sure you’re choosing the best product at the most reasonable price?

Here are some tips to guide you in your search:

  1. Determine the total cost. Since the purpose of your new purchase is to save on monthly energy costs, the first thing to consider is the operating costs. That, along with the actual purchase price, should give you the real cost of the appliance.
  2. Look for the energy rating. There are several reliable rating services that provide information about appliance energy consumption. The federal government uses the yellow and black Energy Star Standard sticker to inform consumers about operating costs and annual energy consumption. This helps buyers compare one clothes dryer to another. Energy Star tests each item independently.
  3. Select the right size appliance. Running a large machine – even the most energy-efficient one – uses more electricity than a compact one, so don’t buy something bigger than what you need.
  4. Look for economy choices. Many dishwashers and washing machines offer a variety of different cycles. If you find one with an economy cycle, that will save you money when you need to wash only a small load of clothes or dishes.
  5. Stay Simple. When it comes to choosing a refrigerator, go easy on the add-ons. According to one independent rating service, a water dispenser or ice maker uses a lot of extra electricity. Also, top-to-bottom fridge/freezer models are more energy-efficient than side by sides. The auto-defrost feature uses heat to speed up defrosting and makes running the refrigerator less efficient.

This holds true for self-cleaning ovens as well, so consider the value in this upgrade.

  1. Contact your utility supplier for the latest ways to save on utility charges. With today’s smart devices, appliances can be programed to use less energy at certain times of the day.
  2. Check out your home. If you have the time and the extra cash, it may be worthwhile to call in a home assessor to help identify ways you can save on your overall energy and water costs. He or she may be able to tell you how to use your appliances at the most energy-efficient times of day.
  3. Comparison shop. Never buy the first model you see. Household appliances are not cheap, and to find the most energy efficient one at the best price, shop around. Well-known name brands are always more expensive than lesser-known companies. However, they don’t always offer a better product. If you check carefully, you may find that heating element in the name-brand laundry dryer is exactly the same as the one in a model selling for hundreds of dollars less. Compare the details. You might be surprised.

Your Turn: Do you own an energy-efficient appliance? How much has this purchase trimmed from your monthly electricity bill?

SOURCES:
http://matteroftrust.org/13895/energy-efficient-appliances-and-their-benefits 

https://energy.gov/energysaver/shopping-appliances 

Saving as a Family

By Sarah M. Ellis, UF/IFAS Extension Citrus CountyFamily sitting in front of house

When you have a family, it seems like there is never enough money to go around and saving money frequently gets pushed aside. However, saving money can help stabilize your family’s financial life.

Saving is putting money aside for future use and requires discipline and, at times, denial. Therefore, it’s important to discuss the importance of saving with the whole family. Generally, people save with a goal in mind. Do you have an emergency fund? Do you need a new car? Would you like to take a family vacation?

If you do not have an emergency fund, establishing one should be your first goal. Life happens and you never know when a family member or pet might get sick or have an accident. Having money set aside in case of an emergency helps you avoid building debt if a crisis occurs.

How much money should be in your emergency fund depends on your family size, income, spending habits, and job security. It is recommended, if possible, to have three months of income in your emergency fund. Saving three months of income might seem impossible, but how much you save is less important than how often you save. Small, but consistent, savings add up over a period of time.

Once you have your emergency fund established you can start saving for other needs or wants!

For saving tips visit America Saves’ 54 Ways to Save Money.

Saving as a Family

By Elizabeth Kiss, Ph.D.; Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Kansas State University/Kansas Saves

Sometimes when children hear their parents or other adults in their lives talking about cutting spending or saving money, they assume that the family is going through a rough patch. As appropriate based on children’s ages, family conversations about money goals, including saving and spending plans, reassure children. It is also a great way to introduce (or remind) children about the reasons we save.

Talking about family saving goals helps children understand that putting money aside for the future – whether to be prepared for unexpected expenses, for short-term goals such as summer vacation, or for longer term goals such as paying for college – is important to you. They will also likely be interested in knowing how they can help. They may even want to set their own savings goals and be motivated to work toward achieving them!

Get Your Family Involved

Get your family involved with your saving plan by brainstorming ways to cut expenses in order to free up money to put toward your saving goals. Explore low- and no-cost activities you can do together as a family. Consider selling rarely used books, toys, clothes and other items in a garage sale or other marketplace.

Involve children by:

  • Encouraging them to be aware of their energy and water use by turning off lights and electronics when not needed and by turning off the water when brushing teeth and taking showers
  • Thinking about things that the family regularly spends money on and talking about if the family stills wants or needs the items or if they can select cheaper alternative or perhaps do without them
  • Teaching them to comparison shop and choose generics or use coupons when it makes sense
  • Challenging them to suggest ways to enjoy time together as a family for less. Not sure where to start? Check out these suggestions

Including children in trips to your financial institution (or an ATM) to deposit or transfer money into a saving account helps them to visualize the process. Consider posting a running total of the dollar amount of deposits and the progress made toward a family saving goal on the refrigerator or a bulletin board.

Encouraging Children to Save

Saving money is a habit that is developed over time. In addition to letting children know that you save, help them begin to develop their own saving habit. Money as You Grow, a framework that links money-related activities to children’s developmental stages, is a great resource for conversation starters and activities for children of all ages at consumerfinance.gov.