7 Ways To Save Without Suffering

We all know we should save more money than we do. Whether we need to pay down debt, build an emergency fund or save for retirement, we need to cut spending and increase our savings. It’s the only way to build financial security.

Yet before considering what to cut back on, try these handy tips to save money without noticing the difference.

1.) Stop subscription music.
If you pay for a subscription Internet radio service like Pandora or Spotify, you’re probably overpaying for music. The same is true if you’re paying on a per-song basis through a service like iTunes. Consider, instead, buying CDs. You can find Imagine Dragons 2012 project Night Vision for under $5 on Amazon, or the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack for less than $8. Streaming music services have cut the bottom out of the physical media market, and you can pick up the savings. Just copy the songs to your computer and transfer them to your mp3 player, and you can jam out for less.

2.) Cut back on cable
Take an honest look at how many movies you watch in a month. If you’re paying $15 a month for HBO or a similar fee for another premium channel package, you’re paying for a lot of content you probably never watch, and the overall selection is limited. For half the price of HBO, you can subscribe to Netflix or another streaming service and get a lot more viewing options. You could even go with Amazon Prime and get free two-day shipping on all your purchases while getting access to a fairly hefty video library.

3.) Time your vacations to travel for less
Summer tends to be the most popular travel time for tourist-happy destinations like Miami and New Orleans. If you’re planning a trip to one of these stops, traveling between February and April can save you money on your hotel reservation. Hotwire, the hotel booking site, sees an average decline of 30% at tourist locations during the offseason.

4.) Swap to an off-brand cell provider
You can cut down your cellphone bill considerably by switching away from a big-name carrier. If you’re on Sprint, AT&T or Verizon, you can save a considerable chunk by switching to a brand like Cricket, FreedomPop or Straight Talk. These carriers buy time in bulk from the major companies and resell it at a discount. They don’t subsidize phones or maintain well-staffed stores, so their costs are lower. You can get unlimited talk and text for one line for less than $15, and data, if you need it, for less than $20 for a 2 GB per month plan. These services don’t always travel particularly well, so if you need your phone while far from home, they may not be right for you. Still, at that price, it can be hard to say no to savings on a phone bill.

5.) Start reading paper books
Just like the streaming service has cut the core out of the price for physical media, the popularity of e-readers has done the same thing to the dead tree pulp market. This is particularly true in used books, where time-tested classic paperbacks can be had for as little as a penny. More current and popular titles, like John Green’s The Fault in our Stars, can be had on eBay for under $5, compared to the $10 for an ebook. Cheaper still, head over to your local library to get your fill of new releases, old classics and great books you’ve never heard of.

6) Check out Amazon Subscribe and Save
For commonly used goods, like tea and coffee, Amazon’s Subscribe and Save function can cut back on the time and money you spend shopping. If you go through a 72-count box of K-Cups every month, you can save $2 per month off your coffee bill by scheduling automatic deliveries of your java through Amazon. A dedicated tea drinker can save $1 per month on a 160-count box of Yorkshire Gold. With free shipping for orders over $35 (or if you have Amazon Prime, as mentioned above) and automatic ordering, this system can be your set it and forget it path to savings.

7.) Get rebate shopping!
For costs you can’t avoid, like groceries, it’s best to avoid as much pain as you can. That’s where online rebate apps come into play. Newly released iBotta, available for iOS and Android devices, offers a list of participating retailers and a list of rebates, usually between $.25 and $1.00. One of the most popular is a $.25 rebate on a gallon of milk – something you’ll likely buy anyway. After you finish shopping, you take a picture of your receipt with a smartphone or tablet and upload it to iBotta. They confirm your purchase and credit your rebates, along with bonuses for regular redemption, referring friends, and completing other challenges. iBotta can be an easy way to knock $5-10 off your grocery bill.

Payday Loans: A Serious Problem

We’ve all been there. It’s the middle of the month and you’re two or three weeks from your next paycheck. You’re driving to work like usual when a dashboard light starts flashing. The engine starts making noise. You don’t know what it means exactly, but you know it won’t be cheap. It’s weeks until payday, and you don’t have the money you need right now.

Ideally, you’ll have an emergency fund, a credit line or a HELOC you can use for those sudden, unexpected crises. Sometimes, though, you don’t have the best tools available.

If you’ve seen ads on TV for quick cash services, you probably thought they were too good to be true. They are. Most often, these are “payday loans.” This is a short-term loan against your next paycheck. It’s a really bad deal.

You write a personal check to the lender for the amount you want to borrow plus the lending fee. The lender holds the check until your next payday. At that point, they either cash the check or extend the loan for a longer period of time. Those extensions usually cost the same as the fee. They charge a new financing fee on the loan, and then you’re responsible for the whole amount. This fee adds up quickly, which can turn your one-time emergency into a crippling debt crisis.

The fees are usually the highest that are allowed by law. $15 charged per $50 loaned is not uncommon. In a hypothetical scenario, if you borrowed $100, you’d have to write a check for $130. If you need an extension, you’d have to pay a new fee – $45 for the new loan. You’d now owe $175. If this pattern continues, you can be in serious financial trouble very quickly.

If you miss a payment on one of these loans, you can be in for terrible consequences. For starters, your credit score will suffer. The terms of repayment can also allow the lender to garnish your wages, seize your car, harass you at home or work or even take you to court. The contract you sign with a payday loan provider has all kinds of terrible traps that are hidden in the fine print. These costs are why most people who use payday loans use them only as a last resort.

New Responsive Design Site


Today we officially launched our responsive design site. Now you can access our full website from your tablet or smartphone seamlessly. See the updated site now on your smartphone or tablet by visiting nasafcu.com or just resize your browser image by dragging the corner and watch how our site changes to fit your screen size.

Have any comments for feedback about this update? Use the contact form below to let us know what you think.

New Credit Score Rules: What You Need To Know

Credit scores are a serious source of worry for most folks. You already know they can affect the interest rates you are approved for on your loans, your car insurance payments, and even your job prospects. What you may not know is that, last week, the Fair-Isaac Corporation (better known as FICO), changed its rules governing the formulation of credit scores.

In a statement, the company said it was making these changes to better serve the changing demographics of borrowers. FICO’s new criteria will make it easier and cheaper for more people to borrow. They’re updating their standards in response to the financial reality that most Americans are facing. However, the changes could take as much as a year to take effect.

Consumer advocacy groups have been after FICO for years to ease their scoring criteria, and with good reason. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, says around 15% of home buyers have been turned down for mortgages because of what he calls “excessive tightness” in credit score procedures.

For an average consumer, the change will probably be about a 25 point increase. That’s often not enough to move a loan application from denied to accepted, but it is enough to improve interest rates for most borrowers.

The company was quick to point out that this was not about making it easier for people to borrow. Rather, the move was based on valuation. The old model was making credit seem too risky, leading to higher prices. The new FICO 9 scoring system provides a more accurate picture of the risks that are involved in lending.

This is a bold step for the credit scoring agency, and it will provide some much-needed relief to consumers. It could also help spur growth in the housing sector as more people get mortgages at lower rates. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

  • Unpaid medical bills matter less. If you have a large bill that’s outstanding at a hospital, even if it’s been referred to collections, it will no longer impact your credit score. Previously, any unpaid medical bill, even if it was a result of insurance delays or billing complications, would appear as an account in delinquency. Under the new system, though, medical bills of any size will no longer affect your credit score. Given how common medical bankruptcies are, FICO has decided that unpaid medical bills are no longer a reliable indicator of whether someone will pay their bills on time.
  • Accounts that have been settled or paid off with a collection agency will no longer count on your credit score. Under FICO 8, accounts that had been referred to collection, even after they had been settled or paid in full, were a negative on your credit report. In the aftermath of the recession, 77 million adults have at least one debt in collection. Under the new system, those accounts with a repayment plan in place will not factor into your score. People who have been responsible users of credit for the rest of their lives but ran into trouble in the last several years will see their lives improve considerably.
  • FICO is changing the way it handles people with little to no credit history. So-called “thin files” had previously been categorized as bad credit risks. The new model takes a more nuanced look at how people have used their limited credit in addition to a lot of other data. This change should make it much easier, especially for young people, to get home loans and other lines of credit.

While not all lenders will adopt these standards immediately, most experts expect institutions will flock to the new standard. Industry leaders believe the most conservative institutions could take as long as 18 months to analyze the effects of implementation. Still, they will come around once they realize that FICO 9 offers them a chance to expand their lending portfolio with confidence.

Top 7 Home Improvements You Can Do Yourself With A Little Help From NASA FCU

Stop and take a look around your house. Are you delighted with everything in it? This is where you spend a good portion of your day, and where you and your family build happy memories. There’s no reason why it should be anything less than your dream home.

It can be expensive to hire a professional to redo some part of your home, and choosing a contractor can be a stressful process. Instead of shelling out tens of thousands for a contractor, why not consider these great home improvement ideas that you can do yourself!

1) The deck of your dreams

With cooler fall weather on the way, you might be thinking about turning your boring outside space into an outdoor living room! Whether you’re after a raised wood deck to give your guests someplace to sit or a classy brick patio for lounging by the grill, a usable outside space can make a big difference in how you enjoy your home. The charming visual addition to the outside of your home is a great way to add value, too.

While this is a big project, it’s big on rewards, too. Start by drawing up some plans – remembering that you’re basically building a series of wood boxes that are bolted together. Draw up a shopping list of things you need, and click here to get the financing done. Then, head to your local home improvement store for lumber, bolts and a few new power tools.

2) Paint a room … or a whole house!

If you’re not feeling up to building much, you can make your house feel new again with a fresh coat of paint on the interior. Choose colors that complement your furniture and flooring, but choose slightly different shades for different parts of the house. Maybe you want to paint your kitchen and dining room in mellow earth shades to give it a sense of coziness, but you want to paint your bedroom a calming blue to help you sleep.

This can be a great project to get the kids involved in, too. Wall paint, sponges, and scissors can let children paint fun and imaginative shapes on their walls. A sense of ownership over the design might encourage them to help keep it a little cleaner as well. You can get creative in main spaces, too! Try painting an accent wall to change the light effects in your living room! Aside from paint, brushes, and rollers, make sure you get covers for furniture and floors and painters’ tape.

3) Fix up an entryway!

Your front door is the first thing people see when they come into your home. You want to make sure it says great things about you and your family. A little bit of time and effort can make this part of your house feel more welcoming while also saving you time and effort.

You can make relatively minor changes here. Metal house numbers, trim paint and a few planters can make your front stoop look much nicer. You can also make some serious investments. A new door can really liven up the front of your house. New weather stripping can make your front door more energy efficient to save on winter heating costs. Nice light fixtures can take a little time to install, but they can make your house both more charming and a little safer. Sketch out some ideas, then head to your home improvement store to figure out what you need to make your front door the talk of the neighborhood.

4) Add a splash of class with a tasteful backsplash

The section of wall above the sink can see a lot of water damage. Left uncovered, this can lead to mildew and even mold behind the sink. A backsplash is an attractive option for preventing that damage.

While these are typically done in tile, there’s nothing stopping you from looking at wood bead board, ceiling tile or wallpaper. You could even turn them into a functional addition to your organization system with chalkboard, whiteboard or magnetic film! Write up a recipe or meal plan to help keep your prep work organized in the kitchen, or write a fun morning greeting to your kids in the bathroom! There’s no limit to what a backsplash can do for your home. Head down to your local home improvement store to see what kind of material you want to use, and don’t forget to pick up adhesive to stick it all together!

5) Create a new outlook with new windows!

Installing new windows can seem like a daunting task, but they’ll pay for themselves. Energy efficient windows with new molding and stripping can significantly reduce your energy bills. Plus, having new windows and screens will make your home look well-cared-for when it comes time to sell.

Do some research on energy efficient two- and three-ply windows. Figure out which will both fit your budget and hold long-term value. Remember, though, that the general rule is you get what you pay for. Cheap windows won’t conserve much energy.

6) Refresh a tired kitchen or bathroom with new fixtures!

Your faucets and knobs see a lot of abuse. They get touched by grimy hands, splashed by soapy water and can build up calcium and rust even if you’re careful about washing them. Because they’re usually metallic, they tend to draw a lot of eyes. Dull, streaky fixtures can suck all the energy out of a kitchen or bathroom.

Replacing them, though, is pretty easy. In the bathroom, you can get sleek, modern fixtures that will save you sink space for storage. In the kitchen, consider getting a detachable head with a vegetable sprayer to make cleanups easier. Whatever you do here, you’ll end up with a nicer looking kitchen or bathroom.

7) Bring your stuff together with built-in storage!

If your house looks like most others, it’s chock-full on the inside with memorabilia and keepsakes. Tossed about the room, this can look cluttered and dingy. It makes it hard to clean and dust. Adding more furniture, though, can make a space feel cramped and tiny.

Instead, think about adding more built-in storage. Whether you just want to hang a shelf over an entryway, put some coat hooks by the door, or build a bookshelf into a living room wall, built-in storage is a great way to display your treasured memories without shrinking a room with too much stuff. Installing it requires lumber, mounting tools and a few other gadgets that DIY experts should have no trouble identifying.

When it comes to improving your home, NASA FCU is ready to be a partner every step of the way. You may have heard about home equity loans and lines of credit, but you may have thought you can’t use it for small remodeling projects. However, it’s actually one of the most common uses for those accounts.

Let’s talk. You supply the ideas, NASA FCU can supply the home equity loan or line of credit to make your dreams a reality. Apply online or call 1-888-NASA-FCU to speak with a representative and start enjoying the equity in your home today.

Predatory Student Loan Relief Organizations: How They Work And How You Can Avoid Them

Student loan debt is not just financially draining. It can also be emotionally damaging. The tens of thousands of dollars of debt can feel like an anchor hanging around your neck, weighing you down and preventing you from achieving prosperity. You were told to go to college and study hard, so you did. You were told there would be jobs waiting on the other side. There were not. Now what?

There’s usually a 6-month grace period after graduation before you have to start repaying your student loan(s). That started the minute you received your diploma. If, like most of the class of 2014, you don’t have a job lined up immediately, that ticking clock can be pretty panic-inducing.

This is the kind of emotionally vulnerable situation scammers love to exploit. They take advantage of the fact that you’re desperate to get out. Your “too good to be true” alarm doesn’t go off like it should.

You see an advertisement online, at the bus stop, on the radio or on a light post in your neighborhood. The ad tells you there are new student loan forgiveness programs that can free you from your debt. You might not have to pay any of it, thanks to official-sounding programs like the “Obama Forgiveness Program.”

Eagerly, you call the number or visit the office. You tell them your situation and they explain that there are a variety of programs to help people just like you. All you need to do is pay them an up-front fee, which can be as much as $1,200. Compared to the size of your debt, that’s an insignificant cost.

The catch? These agencies, like First American Tax Defense and Broadsword Student Advantage, either don’t offer any services at all or provide information on services that are readily available for free. They’ll send you forms that you could have found at no cost and pocket the difference.

These particular companies have been the target of a lawsuit from the Illinois Attorney General’s office. The Attorney General alleges that these scammers have broken an Illinois law prohibiting the collection of money upfront for debt relief services. That’s a start, but these organizations are likely just the tip of the iceberg. As long as people are desperate and afraid, organizations will be trying to defraud them.

If you have student loan debt, be on guard against these schemes. Getting rid of your loan debt is the obvious solution, but it may not be practical right now. Here are four concrete actions you can take to protect yourself today:

1.) Educate yourself about government loan relief programs. The Department of Education’s website, studentaid.ed.gov is a great place to start looking. Three very popular options are public service loan forgiveness, teacher loan forgiveness, and Perkins Loan cancellation. If you qualify for these programs, you can have your debt forgiven, sometimes altogether.

2.) Speak personally to your lender. Under most of these programs, you don’t need to fill out a standardized form. Each lender has their own paperwork that they’ll provide. They don’t lose money on the forgiveness process; they get the loan paid in full immediately. Even if you don’t qualify for forgiveness, you may be eligible for income-based repayment or some other system to lower your monthly payments. You can ask these questions directly – you don’t need an intermediary.

3.) Make repaying your student loans a priority. As soon as you land a job, set a monthly budget that includes both savings and an aggressive debt repayment plan. Getting out of debt and moving toward financial security will give you the confidence to resist these scams in the future.

4.) Get re-consolidation help from a lender you already trust. If you’re juggling student loan debt, a car payment, and credit card bills, you might be able to save a bundle by getting a debt consolidation loan from NASA FCU. This loan takes all your outstanding debt and re-bundles it into one easy monthly payment. This consolidation can make it easier to make your monthly payments and give you the breathing room to gain financial peace of mind. Speak to a representative about your debt repayment options today!