Home Renovations On A Budget

Is your home in desperate need of a face lift? As you probably know, renovations don’t come cheap. In fact, the average kitchen remodel tops $60,000 and bathroom overhauls can cost $18,000! With some careful planning, though, you can shave thousands of dollars off these price tags. Keep reading to find out how.

1.) Don’t do a complete remodel. Instead of knocking down walls, give the outdated area a fresh coat of paint, new light fixtures and some minor décor upgrades. Potential money saved: $30,000.

2.) Shop around for a contractor. Find someone professional, reliable and willing to give you a decent price. 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 professional conduct and character. Also, be sure to sign a detailed contract. Potential money saved: several thousand dollars.

3.) Consider long–term benefits. It often makes sense to pay more now if it’ll save you big 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 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. When long-term functionality is not a criterion, choose the midgrade option. One area where you’ll see this at play is in carpeting. 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-feet area).

5.) Bring in natural light without windows. Looking to bring a splash of sunshine into your kitchen? Instead of adding a window, consider installing a “light tube.” It slips between the rafters on your roof and works to funnel sunshine down into the living space below. Adding a double-pane window can run you $1,500; a light tube costs $500.Money saved: $1,000.

6.) Lend a hand. Save big by doing some of the demolition work yourself, painting some walls, or even sanding walls to prep them for painting. You can also lend a hand with the cleanup instead of hiring a crew. Money saved: $200 or more.

7.) Increase efficiency, not size; Cramped kitchen? Don’t assume you need to push out walls to make it work. Instead, reorganize your kitchen for optimal efficiency and save tens of thousands of dollars. Upgrade your cabinets with lazy susans, pullout drawers, dividers and more. Consider hiring a professional organizer to show you how to maximize your space – you’ll still save big overall.

Money saved: up to $60,000. Before making any decisions, be sure to call, click or stop by Insight Credit Union today to learn about our fantastic rates on Home Equity Lines of Credit!

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

Sell Your Home Quickly With These 12 Tips

If you’re looking to sell your home and start over elsewhere, you likely want that sale to happen as quickly as possible. Here are a few simple tips that will help it sell faster and for the best price!

1.) Price it right 

Find out the true worth of your home, and then lower it 20%. You’ll have buyers rushing – and then bidding up the price to what you really wanted.

2.) Choose the right agent 

Do your research before hiring a realtor. Your broker should have an excellent track record that includes recent sales and being updated on market trends. Be sure to ask for references and credentials, too.

3.) Let the light shine 

Change your lampshades 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 in your closets. Consider renting a mini storage unit to store your extra stuff until your house sells.

5.) Amp up your curb appeal 

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.

6.) Focus on the kitchen 

The kitchen is where it’s at. 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. Remember: A buyer can easily shave $10,000 off the asking price by claiming your kitchen is outdated.

7.) Upgrade – but don’t go overboard

It’s OK to do some light remodeling throughout your home, but don’t go overboard. A paint job, new light fixtures, door handles and rugs can do the trick.

8.) Make it impersonal 

Get rid of your personal items before showing your home. You want visitors to envision their own belongings here – not yours.

9.) Market it yourself 

Be your own best agent. Let everyone and their neighbor know you’re selling your home 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.

11.) Hide your pets 

Not everyone is an animal lover. If you’ve got some furry critters at home, hide the evidence! If you’re hosting an open house, send your pets to a friend’s place for the day.

12.) Hire a professional 

Consider hiring professional help for staging and photographing your home.

With these tips and trick, you’re all set! Now get out there and put your home’s best face forward! For mortgage options on your next home, visit Insight Credit Union’s website for more information.

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

Medical Identity Theft

Medicare is replacing its old cards with new ones which contain an 11-digit code instead of a Social Security number. Unfortunately, even though the cards have not yet been fully issued, scammers are taking advantage of this change.

A caller pretending to be a Medicare representative will ask for payment in exchange for the new ID. Alternatively, the caller might claim to need the victim’s medical information to send out their new card. In reality, the cards are free and will be mailed automatically.

In another variation, a caller will wrongly insist that the victim must purchase Medicare’s prescription drug coverage or risk losing all coverage.

In another ruse not limited to Medicare members, the caller asks for the victim’s checking account number and Social Security number to deposit a supposed refund from their insurer.

Once the scammer has the victim’s medical information, though, they can:

  • Pose as the victim to see a doctor
  • Obtain prescriptions
  • File a false health claim

Don’t be the next victim!

Here’s what you need to know about medical identity theft.

The cost 

The average medical identity theft costs $13,500 to fix, but can affect other areas of life and home, such as:

1.) Loss of health coverage

Scammers might max out your benefit limits, leaving you with no coverage.

2.) Ruined credit history

Scammers can destroy your credit history by racking up hospital bills in your name and then disappearing.

3.) False medical records

When the scammer receives treatment in your name, it’s documented on your medical records. This can be extremely dangerous when you seek medical attention in the future.

4.) Higher premiums

The scammer’s medical activity may cause your premiums to rise.

Preventing medical scams 

Take proactive steps to ensure you’re not the next victim.

  • Know that Medicare will never call you. They always contact members via mail.
  • Be wary of suspicious-looking bills from third-party providers. If you receive any, alert your insurer immediately.
  • Study your Explanation of Benefits (EOB). If you spot treatments you don’t remember receiving, notify your provider.
  • Check your medical records regularly for suspicious doctor visits, prescriptions or maladies.
  • Review your credit history often. If you see unfamiliar charges, immediately ask for a fraud alert and place a freeze on your credit.

Fixing your medical history 

If you spot an error on your medical records, it’s crucial that you correct it so it doesn’t affect your medical treatment in the future. Send a copy of the documents detailing the discrepancy to every medical professional and facility involved in your care.

Fighting back 

If you’ve been victimized by medical identity theft, be sure to report it!

Alert the FTC using their website at ftc.gov, or at 1-877-438-4338.

If you are a member of Medicare, call 800-MEDICARE or visit Medicare.gov. Alternately, report the scam to your own insurance provider.

Now that we’ve given you red flags to look for, you’re armed with information to keep your medical identity safe. Be sure to check out the Security Center of our website. It offers a variety of valuable materials regarding information security. Check back often as content is updated regularly.

6 Ways To Know You’re Ready To Start A Business

Have you been bitten by the business bug? Would being your own boss be a dream come true?  It all sounds very exciting, but check this list first to be sure you’re truly ready to leave your 9 to 5 to become an entrepreneur.

  1. You feel a burning passion for the product or service you want to market, and you’re not just looking to open a business because you hate your current job.
  2. You’re certain there is a true demand for your product. You’ve researched it carefully, surveyed your family and friends, and got a good feel for the market before you plunge into it.
  3. Your personal finances are in a good place and can handle the risk. Speak with an Insight Credit Union representative to help crunch the numbers and be sure you can swing it financially. We offer a variety of services for business owners.
  4. You have the physical strength and the head space to give your new business your all.
  5. You have a sound financial plan for your business.
  6. You have the full support of your spouse and family.

If this list sounds like you, then congratulations!  You’re on your way to starting your business.

Are you already a small-business owner? What advice do you have for those who are just starting out? Share your wisdom in the comments!

11 Ways To Scale Back On Food Costs

Next to your mortgage or rent, you probably spend the most money on food. We have some helpful tips to get- and keep that food bill under control.

  1.  Never shop before making a detailed menu for the week.
  2.  Use coupons whenever possible.
  3.  Cook with seasonal produce.
  4.  Use the generic brands for cleansers, shampoos and detergents instead of brand-name products.
  5.  Never buy something just because it’s on sale unless you use that item regularly. You aren’t saving if you got a great deal on something that will just sit in your pantry.
  6.  Whenever possible, make your own instead of buying convenience foods.
  7.  Never shop for groceries without a list.
  8.  Buy in bulk instead of making smaller, more frequent trips to the store.
  9.  Consider having your groceries delivered instead of going to the store to avoid impulse purchases.
  10.  Never shop before taking full inventory of your fridge, freezer and pantry.
  11.  When possible, buy larger containers of food instead of individualized portions. This includes snack bags, yogurts, ice cream, cheeses and drinks.

We want to hear from you. How do you save on food? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

5 Ways To Save Time Without Spending A Dime

People often pair convenience with cost. In other words, if you want to save time, you’ll have to spend money. Here are five ways to prove that isn’t so.

  1. When meal planning, mainstream your salad prep. You don’t have to buy pre-washed and pre-cut vegetables to save time. Simply have a marathon cutting session at the beginning of the week, rinsing, slicing and dicing all the vegetables you’ll want to include in your salads throughout the week. Store in airtight containers in the fridge and enjoy the convenience all week long!
  2. Get your workouts while cleaning. Yes, you can multitask and skip the expensive exercise class! Do your lunges while vacuuming, squat when checking the oven or picking up toys, lift all grocery bags yourself, and – if you need to get from one side of the house to another – jog to get there. And, of course, walk to all nearby errands instead of driving the car.
  3. Don’t buy the frozen pancakes or mix. Instead, once a month, mix up a huge batch of pancake batter and freeze separately in single-breakfast-sized containers. You can do this for nearly everything you make often and save yourself a ton of time.
  4. Skip those annoying runs to the grocery for one missing ingredient by keeping a small marker-board on the fridge and writing down each ingredient you need as soon as you’ve used it up.
  5. Make all your bill-pays automatic. You’ll never make a late payment or be stuck with a late fee again, and you won’t have the hassle of remembering when each one of your bills is due. For the convenience and peace of mind of knowing your regular bills will be paid automatically – even if you forget or go out of town – take advantage of Insight’s Online Bill Pay feature.

How do you save time while spending less money? Share your cost saving techniques with us in the comments!

Protect Yourself Against Card Cracking Scams

In a recent scam targeting millennials, fraudsters are once again cashing in on people’s naivety and goodwill. Only this time, they’re using social media to make it happen.

What makes the scam especially cruel is that fraudsters specifically look for cash-strapped victims who are desperate enough to believe almost anything in the hope of earning a quick buck. This vulnerability, coupled with the broad reach of social media, has made card cracking especially successful.

So what is card cracking? Card cracking scams start with an innocent-looking social media post. It will always showcase some form of quick cash. It might be an easy-to-win contest with a huge cash prize, a dream job that will instantly be yours – as soon as you follow the instructions – or a gift card that you’ll be granted just for sharing information. If you click on the embedded link, you’ll be asked for your checking account information, your PIN or your online banking credentials.

Once the scammers have this information, they can do any of a number of things, from withdrawing large sums of cash from your account to using your debit card number for a massive shopping spree.

In another variety of card cracking, scammers will claim their personal accounts are frozen and they have no access to money. They’ll ask the victim to allow them to access the victim’s account for simple transactions such as depositing checks. The scammers will then cash the checks and, a few days later, when the check bounces, the scammer is long gone. This variation is sometimes played out in person, on college campuses.

In yet a third scheme, card crackers will promise victims a cut of fraudulent funds if the victim allows them to use their accounts. Of course, the victim will be held liable when the scammers are busted.

Don’t be the next victim! Here’s how to protect yourself from card cracking:

1.) Never share personal information with a stranger   

Never share sensitive information with a correspondent whose identity you cannot verify with absolute certainty.

2.) When it’s too good to be true, it usually is   

Free or easy money exists only in fairy tales. Don’t believe social media post that sounds too good to be true.

3.) Never cash a check for someone else   

If someone asks you to cash a check for them, politely refuse. Unless you would trust this person with your life, there is no reason to believe their tale is legitimate or that their check will be honored.

4.) Report suspicious activity   

If you notice any suspicious activity on your account, report it immediately. You may have fallen prey to a card cracking scam and you don’t even know it!

When you’re educated, alert and aware, you’ll spot most scams before it’s too late.

Have you recently spotted any card cracking scams on your social media pages? Share what tipped you off in the comments!