5 Shopping Tips for Preventing Fraud

August 31, 2015 by

Credit card fraud arrests

Are you worried about credit or debit card fraud? Lately there have been several high profile cases of card fraud, and it’s more important than ever to be careful when you’re shopping. Take a look at these tips to protect your wallet and help prevent fraud:

5. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be cautious.

4. Shop online with trustworthy merchants who require security information like address verification and security codes located on your card.

3. Review account activity online daily to be sure transactions are accurate.

2. Be sure that receipts reflect the correct transaction amount before signing.

1. When using a debit card, you may select ‘credit’ on the card machine, which requires a signature and extends the VISA zero liability to that transaction.

Enjoy your shopping and don’t forget to stick to your budget!

Saving for College?

August 24, 2015 by

College_Clip_Art18

Whether they are two or twelve, if you have a child, you have probably already thought about paying for college. It’s really never too early to start thinking about how you will pay for that huge expense. So, we’ve reached back into our blog archives and pulled out an oldie but goody, full of great tips for saving for college. Check it out, here.

At What Point Is Car Maintenance Not Worth the Cost?

August 17, 2015 by

car-maintenance-tips

If you have an older model car, or one with higher mileage, you know the maintenance costs increase as a car gets older. So, when do those costs become so high that it makes more sense to cut your losses and buy a newer car? That is a tricky question, and the answer might be different for everyone. There are lots factors to consider. Check out this article from Moneycrashers to see what makes sense for you. If you decide to keep on driving that older car, check out our blog post for car maintenance tips.

Happy Driving!

Organic or Not?

August 10, 2015 by

We all know it’s important to eat fresh, healthy foods. The trouble is deciphering which ones, exactly, are fresh and healthy. All those labels can be confusing, and deceiving: organic, all natural, free range, non-GMO? What does it all mean? Does organic even make a real difference? And, what will buying these often more expensive items do to our wallets? Here are some tips to help make sense of it all.groceries-canvas-bag-lg

  1. Buy in season. Perhaps one of the easiest things we can do to ensure fresh, healthy, AND affordable food is to buy things when they are in season. Visit farmer’s markets, roadside produce stands and local farms for the freshest in-season fruits and vegetables. You can often ask the farmer directly how it was grown, and what pesticides were used. Even at the regular grocery store, when you buy in-season produce, it is most likely grown at least regionally. This makes it fresher and more cost-effective than produce flown in from South America or elsewhere.
  2. Thinking about going organic? Studies have shown that eating fruits and vegetables without pesticides can reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases. This is a great reason to switch to organic produce. Check out the dirty dozen and clean 15 list so you know which fruits and vegetables contain the most harmful pesticides, and which non-organic varieties are okay.
  3. Consider cutting out highly processed foods altogether. Cutting out processed foods reduces the amount of chemicals and harmful additives you and your family consume. But, it is not an easy task. Almost everything we find at restaurants or in the grocery store has been processed in some way. Check out 100 Days of Real Food to read about one family’s journey to cutting out highly processed food, and how to manage the costs. Generally speaking, when you are no longer spending money on highly processed foods, you can allocate those dollars to buying the sometimes more expensive organics.
  4. Take a small step. If you aren’t ready to take the drastic step of eliminating all highly processed foods, choose one processed staple your family consumes regularly, and substitute with something more healthful. For example, eliminate refined sugar. You can substitute honey or 100% maple syrup in most places where you would normally add sugar or sweeteners. Or, choose a handful of items that you buy every week and replace those with organic, all-natural choices.

What tips do you have for feeding your family a healthy, fresh diet on a budget?

Mom, What’s for Dinner?!

August 3, 2015 by

It’s back to school time again, and for many families, that means back to the hustle and bustle of school, work and extra-curricular activities. Transitioning from slower-paced summer evenings to busy school nights can be a challenge.  Especially when it comes to making sure everyone gets a healthy dinner. It can be all too tempting to blow the budget by picking up take-out or heading out to a restaurant. But, with a little planning, you can have a delicious meal on the table in no time without breaking the bank.

My routine is to use Saturday morning as a planning period. I spend a little time planning my family’s menu for the week, then make a grocery list from that. I usually plan meals based on my local grocery store’s weekly sale paper. That alone can be a big money-saver. Then, I hit the store, coupons and shopping list in hand. (Another money-saving tip: stick to your list!).

grocery list large

Sunday afternoon or evening I spend an hour or so prepping ingredients for the upcoming week’s dinners. This makes the weeknights run much more smoothly, and dinner can usually be on the table in 30 minutes or less! With a little effort and planning, weeknight dinners can be fun instead of panic-inducing. Here is a sample week, with 5 nights of cheap and quick recipes.

On Sunday, fire up the grill, and throw on some extra chicken. You can use that for meals later in the week. Shred some of it and throw it in the freezer for Wednesday’s dinner.

Monday: Grilled Chicken Salad

Pull out that grilled chicken from the day before, slice it up and serve on top of a bed of romaine lettuce, piled high with fresh veggies and your salad dressing of choice. Delicious served with a side of garlic bread. The veggies can be sliced during your Sunday afternoon prep time, and this meal comes together in less than 20 minutes!

Tuesday: Black Bean & Corn Quesadillas

These yummy quesadillas are sure to pass the kid test. Adults love them, too!

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1/4 cup salsa
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (may omit if you don’t like things too spicy)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
8 (8 inch) flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
Sour cream and salsa for serving

Directions:
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onion, and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in beans and corn, then add salsa and pepper flakes; mix well. Cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.
2. Melt 2 teaspoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Place a tortilla in the skillet, sprinkle evenly with cheese, then top with some of the bean mixture. Place another tortilla on top, cook until golden, then flip and cook on the other side. Melt more butter as needed, and repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.
3. Use a pizza cutter to cut each quesadilla into quarters. Serve with sour cream and salsa on the side.

Recipe courtesy: Allrecipes.com

Wednesday: Slow-Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

There is nothing better than dinner waiting for you when you get home, and the slow-cooker is a great secret weapon for busy weeknights. This is my go-to chicken and dumpling recipe; great for leftover chicken. Remember that grilled chicken you shredded and put into the freezer on Sunday? Here’s where you use it!

Ingredients:
3-4 Boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 tablespoons butter
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 can chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 can refrigerated biscuits (10 count)

Directions:
Place chicken, butter, soup, milk and broth in slow cooker. Cut biscuits into quarters and put in slow cooker. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Thursday: Make Your Own Mini-Pizzas

mini pizzas

Photo by Kraft

Everyone loves pizza, right? This is a great recipe to get the kids involved. Put all the toppings out, and let everyone create their own pizza! Use your imagination, the topping possibilities are endless. Serve them up with a side salad.

Ingredients:
4 English muffins, cut in half, toasted
½ cup pizza sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
24 slices pepperoni
¼ cup black olives
¼ cup diced bell pepper
¼ cup chopped mushrooms

Directions:
Heat oven to 400ºF.
Place muffin halves on foil-covered baking sheet; spread with pizza sauce.
Top with desired remaining ingredients.
Bake 8 to 10 min. or until cheese is melted.

Recipe courtesy: Kraft

Friday: Breakfast for Dinner

By the time the end of the week rolls around, your cupboards may be getting a little bare. This is a great time to serve up breakfast for dinner! My son loves the novelty of eating pancakes and eggs in the evening. It can be a fun way to celebrate the end of the week. Scramble up some eggs, and serve them with these delicious pancakes from the Pioneer Woman.

Bon appétit!

Back-to-School Supply Drive

July 24, 2015 by

back-to-school-supply-drive

Founded as a teacher’s credit union in 1961, NWGACU is a financial institution which has its heart in education.  Since our credit union supports education in every way possible, we get excited at the start of every school year to help kids at the Open Door Home! They are always in need of back-to-school supplies at the beginning of the school year – and YOU can help us support them!

The Open Door Home is a terrific organization in Rome “providing for the needs of the dependent, neglected, and/or abused children of Northwest Georgia and helping them to live a healthier, happier and more productive life.”

To be sure these kids are totally prepared we are holding a school supply drive right here at the credit union. Employees and members are invited to drop off anything and everything related to back-to-school supplies. A few specific requests from the Open Door Home include:

• Gender neutral book bags
• Binders (1 inch and 1 ½ inch)
• Dividers
• Loose leaf paper, no spiral notebooks
• Pens
• Pencils
• Folders
• Flash Drives

So as you are back-to-school shopping with your kids this year, remember this great organization and pick up a few extra supplies. Drop-off boxes are located in both branch lobbies and will be there from Wednesday, July 22, to Friday, July 31.

Thank you!

When to DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

July 20, 2015 by

We live in a world where everyone wants to be a DIY-er. Pinterest has made DIY projects look so appealing and fun, but, sometimes, we need to realize our limits. There are several things to consider when getting ready for a home improvement project, and it’s very important to find out if you should DIY or hire a professional.

According to this helpful article, there are 4 questions you should ask yourself. If you can’t say yes to all of them, you should hire a professional.

DIY or Hire a Pro

1. Do you know what’s needed for the project?

2. Do you have the knowledge and tools you need?

3. Do you have the time and stamina?

4. Do you feel like dealing with any needed permits or licenses?

Check out the full article here to make sure that you’re totally prepared to DIY or to call in a pro!

Can you think of any other questions you should ask yourself before deciding to DIY or not? Let us know in the comments!

How Much Should I Save?

July 13, 2015 by

Everyone knows saving money is important. But, how much should you be saving? Well, that depends. How much you should be saving depends on what your goals are. Saving just for saving’s sake will not only be difficult to stick to, but not knowing what you’re saving for makes it impossible to know how much you need. So, first things first; set a few goals.

  • First, set a short-term savings goal or two. Short-term goals are something you want to complete within a year. For example, paying for a nice vacation, your property taxes or a new television are all good short-term goals. Figure out exactly how much you’ll need and by when.
  • Next, identify a mid-range goal. This is a goal that you plan to reach within 10 years. Things like purchasing major appliances, a new roof, a car, or a down payment on a home are good mid-range goals. Again, jot down approximately how much you think you’ll need.
  • Finally, identify your lifetime goals. For most people, this is saving for retirement.

So, how much should you save? It’s easiest to look at this by goal.

#1: Retirement

You should save 10 – 15 percent of your income for retirement. Be sure to take advantage of your employer’s 401k, if offered, as well as any employer match. This will help you reach 10-15 percent more quickly. Also, whether you’re using your employer’s 401k, an IRA or another savings vehicle, make the contribution automatic. You are much more likely to stick to it when the contributions are automated.

Many people ask – but how much should I have in my nest egg now? Is it enough? In 2012 Fidelity Investments put together an age-based savings guideline, as reported in Time Magazine, which suggests

  • At age 35, you should have saved an amount equal to your annual salary.
  • At age 45, you should have saved three times your annual salary.
  • At 55, you should have five times your salary.
  • When you retire at age 67, you should have eight times your annual pay.

In general, using the 10-15 percent rule should get you to these milestones.

#2: Emergencies

You should establish an “emergency fund” that can cover 3-9 months of your living expenses.

How can you save such a large sum? First, calculate your monthly cost-of-living. Assume that if you lose your job, you’ll sacrifice luxuries such as eating out or your premium cable TV package. How much do you really need to survive? Divide that number in half. Can you save this monthly? If so, you’ll build a six-month emergency fund within the next year.

#3: Everything Else

Make a list of the short-term and mid-range goal items from above. If it’s easier, or you’re not sure about mid-range goals, you can list broad categories like “home repairs,” “holidays” and “vehicle expense.”

Write down each savings goal and deadline. Divide by the number of months remaining to see how much you should save. Want to pay cash for a $15,000 car in five years? You’ll need $250 per month.

When you run through this exercise, you’ll probably discover that you can’t save enough for every goal on your list. You have four options:

  • Re-think your goals
  • Lengthen your timeline
  • Cut your current spending so you can allocate more to saving
  • Earn more

Most people opt for a combination of those four choices. You might decide you’d be happy buying a $10,000 car, which will require only $167 per month. You cut your $50 cable bill and pick up a babysitting gig one night per month, and voila – now you’re on-track to pay cash for your next car.

In general, most experts advise that at least 20 percent of your income should go towards savings. More is fine; less is not ideal.

At least 20 percent of your income should go towards savings.

Meanwhile, another 50 percent (maximum) should go towards necessities, while 30 percent goes towards discretionary items. This is called the 50/30/20 rule of thumb.

What are your tips for spending less so you can save more?

Get to Know the Unbelievable NWGACU Team: Joy

July 7, 2015 by

Joy

It’s time again to get to know more about your friends at NWGACU. This week you get to  learn more about our unbelievable Director of Accounting and HR, Joy! She lives in Rome and first began working at the credit union in 1983! We all know you love Joy, so why not get to know her a little better? Here are some fun facts:

What do you like about working at NWGACU?: I love seeing how we have progressed from a small operation with very little technology to a large operation with the latest and most up-to-date systems and services. I also love that we are recognized as a well-respected leader in our field.

If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go?: Paris, France

What was your first job?:  Secretary at Griffin Foundry. I started as temporary and lasted for five years!

What’s your favorite food?: Mexican or anything spicy!

What is the best financial advice you’ve ever given or received?: Do not spend more than you have.

 

Garage Sales: What to Buy & What to Skip

June 26, 2015 by

It seems like a lot of people move over the summer, which means, most weekends, you can find a yard or garage sale going on. If you’re not into thrifty shopping, you might drive by these sales without a second glance, but you can often find some great deals if you’re willing to look.

Ready to get started? Make sure you have cash on hand–sometimes, you can use cards, but you can often get a better deal if you bring cash with you.

Garage Sales

Here are 20+ garage sale finds to snap up when you see them. If that’s not enough to help you on your search, here are 8 more items to try and snag at garage and yard sales this summer.

Some of these things, like large pieces of furniture or books, might seem like obvious yard sale purchases, but there are some unexpected and fun things you should be on the lookout for, as well!

Garage sales can have all sorts of random things for sale, but be sure you steer clear of these 21 things–sometimes, what seems like a great deal is just a waste of your money. No one wants to wear someone’s old shoes or swimsuit, do they?

Estate sales might be harder to come by, but, if you do stumble upon one, here are some great tips on what to purchase as well as what to skip!


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