5 Ways to Budget for Your Wedding

Q: I’m ready to tie the knot, but I don’t know if I can afford a wedding! How can I cut costs without compromising on my special day?

A: You don’t need to skimp on the wedding of your dreams or go deeply into debt to pay for it. By planning ahead, choosing wisely and prioritizing what’s truly important, you can say “I Do” without stressing over wedding costs.

Here’s how:

1.) Start saving now 

Instead of waiting for that special someone to pop the question, start saving now! The average age of marriage is 27 for men, and 26 for women. It may sound crazy but, if you start saving for your wedding when you’re 20, you’ll only need to put away roughly $333 a month. But, if you start at age 26, you’ll need to put away $2,333 a month! You can establish any number of share savings accounts at Insight Credit Union and watch your money grow for whatever purpose you choose, especially a wedding.

2.) Time it right

Think off-season and mid-week, and you’ll save a bundle!

First, consider a winter wedding. You’ll shave thousands of dollars off the venue price by choosing an unusual time of year to get married. Second, think beyond Saturdays. If you can find a church with a vacancy on a Sunday, grab it! Venue prices drop dramatically with just a one-day switch.

You can also opt for a mid-week wedding that precedes a national holiday date, like July 4th. This way, your guests will still be able to enjoy the evening without rushing home.

3.) Skip the cake

A slice of dessert for $2.50 that doesn’t even taste good? Meh, who needs it? Here are some other ideas for the sweets at your wedding:

  • Fake your cake. If you can’t stomach the idea of a cake-less wedding, ask your baker to fake it for you by creating a false cardboard bottom for your cake and only baking a genuine top layer or two. You’ll get the same look without the huge cost.
  • Set up a dessert bar. You can serve hot waffles, brownies or chocolate chip cookies with ice cream, caramel sauce and a selection of other fun toppings. You’ll pamper your guests at a fraction of the cost!
  • Serve a sheet cake instead. Your guests will be happy to savor a slice – even without all that fondant and frosting.

4.) Save on your gown

Save big on your gown by looking for a pre-owned gown on eBay, OnceWed.com or PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com. You can often find a beautiful gown for under $100!

5.) Vary your venue 

Save a ton by choosing a venue that allows you to hire your own vendors. This way, you can shop around for the cheapest caterer, photographer and DJ.

If you really dare to be different, have your wedding in one of these budget-friendly venues:

  • College campus. You might even be able to snag a student discount!
  • Vacation home.  Rent a vacation home and let it serve as your wedding venue, lodging for out-of-town guests and a honeymoon destination for after the wedding.

Already married? Share your best wedding savings hacks with us in the comments!

Texting Scams: What You Need to Know

Text messaging has come under attack as one of the most vulnerable mediums for identity theft and more. Here’s what you need to know about an SMS message-based scam called “smishing.”

How it works

Smishing scams use text messages to establish contact with the intended victim to later access their personal information.

The scam begins with a supposedly urgent text appearing to be from the victim’s financial institution. The text may claim that the victim’s checking account is locked, or that there has been an unauthorized purchase charged to the victim’s account. The scammer will warn that immediate action must be taken.

The victim is then instructed to call a specified number and, upon doing so, will be asked to share their financial information. Once they’ve got their hands on this info, the scammer is free to steal the victim’s identity, empty their accounts or go on a shopping spree on the victim’s dime.

Who are the victims?

Smishing scams primarily target people who do their banking online, but fraudsters will use any cellphone number they can find. If you own a checking account and a cellphone, you are a candidate for a smishing scam.

Recognizing smishing scams

Insight Credit Union will not alert you of a possible fraud or account lockdown via text; we prefer more personal means to help you know it’s us.

Also, the phone number the smishing text instructs you to call is not ours. You can reach us at 407.426.6000 or Toll-Free 888.843.8328. If you’re told to contact us at a different number, it’s not us you’re calling!

What to do if you’ve been targeted

If you receive a suspicious-looking text, do not engage the texter! Jot down the scammer’s number and delete the message. Let us know about the smishing attempt, tell all your friends and alert the FTC.

If you’ve fallen for the scam and your accounts have been compromised, alert your credit card companies and be sure to let us know, too.

Protecting yourself

  1. Always use two-factor authentication for banking app and sites.
  2. Use strong and different passwords across your accounts and apps.
  3. Ignore all text messages from unknown numbers.

Don’t let those crooks get their hands on your money!

Preparing for Hurricane Season

As a homeowner, a hurricane can prove to be your biggest nightmare. Storm damages caused by flooding, strong winds and airborne projectiles can cost thousands to fix. Of course, there are steps you can take to protect your property, but where do you begin? It’s all so overwhelming! No worries; we’ll walk you through keeping you, your loved ones, your home, and your property safe when the wild storms blow in!

1.) Check your insurance coverage. Your first step should be a review of your homeowner’s insurance policy. If it seems insufficient, now is a good time to consider upgrading to a plan that will provide more extensive coverage.

2.) Protect your property against flooding. Before storm season, spend an afternoon cleaning your gutters and downspouts to ensure they’re in optimal working order. During the next rainfall, do a quick scout of your external drains and pipes, checking that they’re working effectively and that there are no areas where water gathers. If you spot a problem, take note of what needs to be fixed and tackle the job as quickly as you can after the rain.

3.) Inspect your property’s structure. Ensure there are no structural issues on your property that can be worsened by a hurricane. Shaky roofs, loose shingles and weakened external walls can all give storm winds entry to your home where they can do substantial damage. Check your windows too. Be sure to seal up leaks and secure window latches.

4.) Review your evacuation route. Prepare your evacuation route in advance and make plans for where you’d stay in case of a storm.

5.) Stock up! To ease your pre-storm prep, get your stock ready now. Designate an area in your home for storm supplies and keep it stocked with bottled water, flashlights, extra batteries, a first-aid kit and non-perishable food items. You might also want to purchase a crank-powered or battery-operated radio in case of a power outage.

Here at Insight Credit Union we want to help. Call, click, or stop by today to ask about our fantastic rates on loans for flood-related expenses. We’ll help you stay safe and dry this hurricane season!

How do you prepare for hurricane season? Share your own tips and strategies with us in the comments!

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!