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!

8 Ways To Save On Valentine’s Day

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Having the perfect night out doesn’t mean you need to break the budget. Here are eight ideas to help you save this Valentine’s Day.

  • Cook a romantic dinner at home instead of eating at an overpriced restaurant. Set the ambiance with some scented candles and soft music, and save a bundle! Giving each other massages or a foot rub could be an added bonus.
  • Make your own gift. Instead of buying a pricey piece of jewelry, frame a nice picture of the two of you or write a meaningful card.
  • If you are going out to eat, make sure to check sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and RetailMeNot for deals on restaurants near you before making reservations.
  • Skip the wine bottle at the restaurant and pop the cork at home instead.
  • Explore the great outdoors! It may be cold out, but you can still have fun just enjoying the fresh air. Bundle up and take a refreshing walk under the stars. Then, go home and warm up with steaming mugs of hot chocolate.
  • Get yourself a great work out and have a fantastically fun date by going ice or roller-skating! You can even take a class together.
  • Get cultured on a budget by taking advantage of a local museum’s free or discounted rates at specific times or nights.
  • Have an awesome time at the neighborhood comedy club. Entrance tickets can be as cheap as $5 apiece!

We’d love to hear from you. How do you save on a date without compromising on the quality of the evening? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

Should I Make A Balance Transfer?

 

Q: I’m considering a balance transfer to an interest-free card. Is that a good idea?

A: Transferring some or all of your credit card debt to one that includes an introductory interest-free period can help you move toward a debt-free life. However, there are some things to be aware of. Consider these pros and cons:

Pros

Interest-free debt
Your biggest push for making a balance transfer is to get a break from the interest that’s added to your balance. Depending on the offer, that may be up to 21 months. Making a balance transfer will allow you to take a real bite out of your debt and make progress toward getting rid of it completely.

Convenience
The more monthly bills you need to pay, the greater the chance of missing a payment. A balance transfer lets you consolidate the balance on several different cards into one, decreasing the number of monthly payments you need to make.

Motivation
Taking this significant step toward paying down your debt may motivate more careful spending habits.

Cons

High interest fees
At the end of a predetermined amount of time with your new card, you’ll be hit with interest rates that are unusually high. While you may plan on paying down your balance before the interest rate kicks in, you may not be able to do so. Also, many balance transfer cards do not offer the same interest-free deal for new purchases.

Transfer fees
Most balance transfer offers charge a minimum of 3-5% of the balance you’re transferring. So, while you may not be incurring interest, the transfer isn’t always free.

You need excellent credit
If you’re considering a transfer, know that you often need to have a credit score of at least 700.

Increased monthly bills
Often, a company offering to accept interest-free balance transfers will only accept a portion of the amount, adding one more monthly bill to track. This increases your chances of missing a payment. If your entire balance can’t be transferred, give priority to your interest-free payment, but don’t neglect other bills.

Negative impact on your credit score
With the recent changes to the VantageScore system, having less available credit while using a small percentage of it is considered the smart choice. Opening a new card without closing an old one means you will have more available credit and may lower your score. Also, having lots of open cards will make lenders view you as a risk.

If you’re sinking in credit card debt but don’t think a balance transfer is for you, we can help! A personal loan might be a solid first step toward debt freedom. Call, click, or stop by an Insight Branch today, to hear about our competitive rates and options.

Have you ever made a balance transfer? Tell us all about it in the comments!

What Happened With Security At Intel?

Early this month, two security flaws were found in the architecture of chips designed by Intel. This potential breach may affect thousands of devices. Here’s what you need to know about the vulnerabilities.

The two flaws: Meltdown and Spectre
Meltdown is considered the less significant threat and has already been patched in many computers.

The Spectre vulnerability, on the other hand, is more problematic. It involves the foundation of the chips that form the computer’s infrastructure. This means it is likely that the problem can only be fixed by redesigning and replacing affected devices. It also impacts an allegedly secure area of the chip architecture, where information like passwords and encryption keys are stored. If exploited, it can grant hackers unchecked access to this information.
Since the two flaws represent problems in the hardware of the product, and not in the software, they are more difficult to patch. This also means the number of affected devices is astronomical and includes operating systems like Windows, Android, macOS and more.

Can the flaws be fixed?
As mentioned, the Meltdown vulnerability can be amended with a patch. While the patch resolves the vulnerability, it slows down computer systems by a full 30%. Despite this drawback, Intel urges all consumers to use the patch.
Spectre, though, has no known fix. Many experts claim that redesigning computers may not even resolve the flaw, as there is currently no known solution for the problem. It can be many years before computers and chips include fixes for the Spectre flaw.

Have the flaws been exploited?
Fortunately, there have been no known exploits of the flaws thus far.

How has Intel responded to the flaws?
Security researchers have actually known about the flaws for months – and have been working to patch them during that time. In fact, most consumer systems are already patched against Meltdown.

Intel has also made several statements in response to the discovery, though it hasn’t addressed the problem of Spectre and the potential need for a massive redesign of its product.

“Check with your operating system vendor or system manufacturer and apply any available updates as soon as they are available,” Intel said.

Intel claims that Spectre and Meltdown patches will be coming to 90% of the company’s affected chips.

Is Intel the only company that has been affected by the discovery?
While Meltdown mostly impacted Intel chips, Spectre has affected other chips, including AMD and ARM processors and IBM’s Power chips.

Fingers continue to point at Intel. The company clearly knew about the problem for a while and failed to let the public know. Critics also claim Intel has not responded to pointed questions about Spectre.

What do I need to do now?
Be sure to apply any updates as they reach the market and keep your antivirus software updated and operating at its strongest level.

Why Do I Need To Get Preapproved For A Loan?

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Q: Is there any reason to get pre-approved for a loan?

A: For a large purchase, such as a home or car, having that pre-approval in hand before you start shopping is crucial. A pre-approval is a written letter from a lender specifying how large of a loan you will be eligible for. The letter will also detail your estimated interest rate on the loan.

Here are some other key advantages of getting a pre-approval:

1.) You’ll know what you can afford

Having this information in hand will simplify your search. It will also help you avoid disappointment later. Be sure to calculate other monthly costs, such as property taxes, home insurance and increased auto insurance rates when determining the amount of money you’ll need to shell out each month.

2.) Don’t get taken for a ride

When you’re unsure about how much you can spend on a car, the dealer will capitalize on your uncertainty by trying to sell you a car that barely skims the maximum amount you’ve told them you can afford. They may also focus only on a monthly amount you can afford. They’ll then try to inflate the payment with unnecessary charges and fees only because they fit within your named payment amount. In contrast, when you show the dealer your pre-approval letter, they will have to show you cars with price tags that fit within your loan amount.

3.) Be taken seriously

A car dealer will take you more seriously when you walk in with a pre-approval. Having that information in hand shows you’re ready to buy. When purchasing a home, a realtor will be able to assist you more efficiently when you know exactly how much house you can afford. They’ll also give you better service since you’re showing that you’re serious about buying a home. In fact, many realtors will only work with buyers who’ve obtained a pre-approval.

4.) Know you have financing you can trust

When you show up at the car dealership with a pre-approval from your credit union, you know the deal is in your best interest. Many dealers have access to several financing options and they’re almost always going to offer you options that are in their own wallet’s best interests.

5.) Purchase your dream home

A pre-approval helps you stand out from the pack. If you’re house-hunting in a competitive market, having your pre-approval will give you a leg up on bidding wars. A seller will be more eager to work with someone who’s already started the mortgage process.

In the market for a new home or car? Don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Insight Credit Union to hear about how we can help with your mortgage and auto loans!

Based on your own experience, why do you think it’s important to get pre-approved for a loan? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!