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Bellwether's Blog on life and money

Top 5 Last Minute Gifts for Mom

Posted in Main Blog
December 23, 2014 by Amanda N.
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Here it is, 2 days before Christmas and I still haven’t bought a gift for my mother. Every year, it’s the same thing “oh, I don’t need anything, just seeing you is all I need for Christmas!” Yeah, ok Ma, we’re on to your lame routine. We’re not accepting that one. You aren’t going to be the only person not opening a gift on Christmas morning, so give it up! What’s on your list?

We know that many of us deal with a similar situation every year. That’s why we’ve done some research and come up with 5 “can’t miss” gifts to get your mom, or any “mom” in your life.

alarm clock on top of box

  1. Skip the gift card, get the real deal! While everyone would love to have a day at the spa getting pampered, massaged, and beautified, it’s not always convenient. So rather than buy a gift card that may never get used, treat Mom to an at home spa day to do at her convenience! You can save money by creating a custom basket full of shower gels, clay masks, exfoliating scrubs, moisturizing lotion, and don’t forget the aromatherapy candle! Or you can order a basket of relaxing & rejuvenating goods online.
     
  2. Tickets, tickets, tickets! And, no, I don’t mean scratch tickets! (However, you may want to pick up a few of those for her stocking, in case Santa forgot!) What does she like? Is she a music fan? Get her tickets to see one of her favorite artists, like Michael Bublé, Garth Brooks, or if she is a bit more of a rocker, Bush is touring again! If Broadway is her thing, you can always get her tickets to see a play or musical. Save money by seeing one at a local theatre, rather than dropping big bucks to see a show in Boston – you won’t be disappointed.
     
  3. Give ‘em an Oyster subscription. No, not the ones that come from the ocean, Oyster is an online ebook subscription service. (Think Netflix, but with books!) For $9.95/month the recipient will get unlimited access to their library. While it is available for iOS, Android, Nook & Kindle products, it can also be used thru a regular internet browser.
     
  4. The Gift of Speedy Shipping (and more)! If you’ve done any shopping in the past, well, decade, you know that Amazon.com is your one-stop shop for everything. For a busy mom, saving time is crucial! Help her out by giving her a subscription to Amazon Prime. She’ll receive FREE 2-day shipping on millions of items, instant streaming of tons of movies & TV shows, free books, and much more.
     
  5. The Season of Giving. Make a donation in her name. Is she passionate about animals, the planet, local community or world-wide causes? Whatever it may be, you can make a donation in her name and then print out a gift receipt to show her. And what’s even easier, MakeACharityChoice.org lets you choose from over 1,000 charities all on one site.

Looking for more ideas or maybe some DIY gift inspiration? Check out our Pinterest board! (Repin your favorite or share it below!)

Sources:
Heavy.com
Cool Mom Tech
Geeks of Doom

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Mobile Everything from Bellwether!

Posted in Main Blog
December 19, 2014 by BCCU
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woman using cell phone

 

 

Checking account balances, transferring funds, or paying bills…it's all possible on our Bellwether BCCU Mobile24 phone app (for iOS or Android devices.) Image from xpedientmail.com

 

 


Things we do online: Check the weather forecast, check movie times, check in at the airport, check in with friends and families…check, check and check!

But what about...checks?

With our mobile app, you can deposit checks—and handle other banking needs—right from your phone. Our mobile banking service is free, easy, safe, and practical.

Mobile Remote Banking

Bellwether members can enroll in our free Mobile24 service, which lets members access their Bellwether accounts from their iOS or Android devices via our app or our website. Mobile24 lets you check your account balance, deposit checks, transfer funds, pay bills, or find the nearest fee free ATM on your phone—where ever you may be, 24 hours a day.

What? Deposit Checks by Phone?

Yes, you really did just read that! Members can use our Mobile Remote Deposit Capture service to instantly deposit checks. All you need is a camera-equipped smartphone or tablet, and a check (of course!) To take advantage of this, download the our app and deposit away. We have step-by-step instructions here.

 

Our Bellwether BCCU Mobile24 app turns your hand-held device into your personal finance center—a free service for our members.

 

Screenshot of mobile app

BCCU.org is mobile-friendly too!

Our iPhone and Android app are handy, but for those who prefer using our regular website, we've made sure accessing it from your smartphone or tablet is a happy, easy experience as well. You can access everything you need, simply and efficiently.

Everything you need from wherever you are

Bellwether members can text, browse, or log into an app to manage all their financial needs. For more information, visit our website.

Download our App today!

iOS app (for Apple devices)

Android

Check account balances,
transfer funds and
more—easily and efficiently.

 

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Budget & Kid Friendly DIY Gifts

Posted in Main Blog
December 16, 2014 by Trish R.
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With three school-aged children who have an endless list of friends, teachers and coaches, I usually spend a small fortune on Christmas gifts. That stops this year!

Don’t get me wrong, I love giving personal and meaningful gifts, what I dislike is spending hours running from store to store or searching online and ending up with a pile of over-priced generic gifts. You know the gifts; snowman coffee mugs filled with candy or cocoa or the assorted perfumed candle gift set. The ones you end up re-gifting at the company Yankee Swap the following year.

little boy making cookies

This year I’m taking full advantage of the near endless supply of DIY gift ideas on Pinterest. I’ve found a few ideas that I’m sure will please everyone on a list. If you haven’t checked out Pinterest recently, or at all, you’re missing out. It’s a website full of neatly organized DIY crafts, recipes, exercise routines and gardening tips.

Glittery Snowball Ornaments are a great project that my younger kids can make and give to their friends. All you need is small balloons, string, liquid glue and glitter. My kids had an absolute blast making these, especially when they got to poke a hole in the water balloons.

DIY Wrap Bracelets are great gift ideas for friends and teachers, and they allow the kids to get creative with each bracelet. I found this was a project better suited to my older one, especially when, four days later I was stepping on the beads the younger ones had dropped.

These hand made snowflake ornaments are really cute! My youngest son wasn’t as excited about making the snowflake ornaments as he was the snowball ornaments, but my two older boys laughed for more than an hour making these.

Do you have friends, family or a teacher that has a furry four-legged friend? Why not make peanut butter dog biscuits for them? I found a really simple dog biscuit recipe that makes about a dozen biscuits. They smelled so good baking I had to try one – it was crunchy and delicious!

For my co-workers and friends, I made almond toffee bites and cinnamon sugar candied nuts and put them in festive, inexpensive containers with bows.

Making homemade gifts was as easy as typing in www.pinterest.com and searching for “DIY Christmas gifts.” My children enjoyed making gifts for all of their friends and teachers, and I enjoyed the quality time with them, as well. I’m so hooked on Pinterest now, that I’ve already created pin boards for other holidays.

If you have a favorite holiday pin or board, please feel free to share it with us and let us know what you like about it, in the comments below.

Sources:
Naturally Educational
Make It And Fake It
Dogbook
Shugary Sweets
Damn Delicious

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Be Prepared for a Winter Emergency!

Posted in Main Blog
December 11, 2014 by Trish R.
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What do a snowstorm, a power outage and three boys stuck at home with nothing to do and no interest in "living like they did in the old days" teach you? Be Prepared! That's the lesson we learned the hard way a few weeks ago, when snow fell heavy, and within two hours we were sitting in a darkening living room wondering whether we'd be celebrating Thanksgiving without football and with a raw turkey on the table. My boys are all Boy Scouts, so I definitely heard my fill of "I told you to put batteries in the flashlight!" But beyond that came

man snow blowing sidewalk"There's no water in the sink!"


"Mom, the fridge light went out too!"

And later, when my husband got home,

"Did you get that extra gas for the generator Honey?"

No heat, no water, no light, and at least for the time being, no generator either! My kids would be telling me, "add in that we didn't have computers either!" But for me that was the one ray of light in an otherwise very dark day!

5 Things to Keep You Warm, Bright and Cozy in a Winter Emergency

  • Batteries. Simple to do. Keep a flashlight in each room, and a stock of fresh batteries on hand. Go out and buy batteries for everything every January.
  • Water. Hydration is important. You're not preparing for Armageddon, but enough for 2 or 3 days isn't a bad idea. Purchase gallon jugs of water from the store, (they'll keep until opened). Store in a cool dark place like the basement. One gallon per person per day plus one extra.
     
  • Gas. For your generator, for your snow blower, for your snowmobile (if things get that bad). Remember. When power outages occur, even gas stations can suffer, and you don't want to wait in a mile long line for that one station with a working pump!
     
  • Generator. When I was younger we didn't lose power as much as we do now. Maybe that's just my poor memory. But these days it seems everyone has a generator. Buy yours in the summer when prices are low, or you'll end up in the Generator Lottery at the local box store, buying one much larger than you need for top dollar during the first or second big storm of the season. (I speak from experience on this one). Make sure to test start your generator every Fall so you know it's working.
     
  • Propane. I know it's winter but believe me. You CAN cook a turkey on your gas grill. So at the end of BBQ season, make sure you have one full tank to carry you through the winter "just in case". You won't regret it, and if it doesn't get used, you'll be the first to fire up the grill in February during that unseasonably warm day that tends to spring up on us every few years.

Other things to keep on hand:

Hand warmer packs, down comforters, wool afghans, wool or fleece socks, hats. Car chargers for phones, tablets, and other electronic items.

If you have natural gas, and you're not on a well, you probably will have access to a hot shower, and the burners on a gas stove will also work.

If you have elderly neighbors, check in on them at times like these. My mother-in-law was stuck for 4 days with this past storm, no generator, but thankfully she has a woodstove, and we'd lugged a bunch of wood in ahead of the storm so she was snug and warm!

Have a power outage story to share from this year or earlier! Let us know how you "weathered the storm".

Sources
Consumer Reports
Butterball
Ready.gov 

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4 "Must-Dos" for Winter Car Prep!

Posted in Main Blog
December 02, 2014 by Trish R.
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As the snow glows white on the mountain tonight, not a footprint to be seen.

I’m holding my breath, wishing and hoping, as I slowly turn the key in the ignition one more time. Please car, please start! Please start, and I promise to get you a brand new battery tomorrow.

Car problems in the winter

I can’t bear the thought of hearing “I told you so” from my husband if I have to call him to come get me and the kids again. Thankfully, there was a purr… stutter… purr… VROOM! Phew!

With this first snowstorm of the year out of the way, I figured it was a perfect time to make sure my car is ready for whatever the winter has in store for us. Sure, it would have been better to do this before the first storm, but here we are, better late than never! While a remote car starter, 4-wheel drive and a defroster can get you going in the snow, there are plenty of other essentials you’ll need to keep you going safely.

  1. Fill ‘er Up! In the winter, it is best to keep your gas tank as full as possible. According to Bankrate, “As temperatures change during the day, condensation forms on the inside of the gas tank, drips into your gas, descends to the bottom and finds its way into your fuel line. Because the fuel line is exposed, if enough water accumulates there, it will freeze and you won't be going anywhere soon.” In addition to gas, you’ll want to keep your vehicle’s windshield wiper fluid filled, preferably with “no-freeze” or winter mixture.
     
  2. Electronics & Wires. Did you know that your vehicle’s battery loses 33% of its power when the temperature dips below freezing? Help your battery out by checking the cables, posts & fasteners. Then, if you are still concerned, get it checked by a professional. They’ll be able to see any hidden corrosion and check for sufficient voltage. Other electronics to test are your heat and defrost. Operating a vehicle in frigid winter temperatures without either of these is not recommended.
     
  3. Tires, Tires, Tires! Did I mention tires? Whether you have your regular tires, snow tires, or studded tires, be sure they are inflated to the recommended pressures. Make sure there is sufficient tread by sticking a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, you’ll want to start watching for tire sales!
     
  4. Service Please! Vehicle maintenance is important year-round, however, winter challenges your car more than any other season, so start the season off right by making sure your vehicle is in its optimal condition. Get an entire vehicle checkup, soup to nuts, or in car terms, oil to bolts! Make sure they check your oil, anti-freeze, hoses, and brakes – any leak or bad hose should be repaired or replaced. Spending a little now could save you a lot later.

Investing an hour or two to have your vehicle checked is all it takes to give you peace of mind and help you avoid those extra costs and additional hassle caused by breaking down in severe weather. For a complete list, check out the checklist and tips for safe winter driving from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Ever been stuck on the side of the road, in the winter weather unprepared? Share your story below!

Sources:
Interstate Battery
Tire Rack
Song Lyrics from Frozen

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