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Bellwether's Blog on life and money

Refinancing your HELOC

Posted in Main Blog
October 23, 2014 by BCCU
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tiny house on top of cash on top of calculator

 

 

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) can also be referred to as a home equity loan. What to do when your HELOC is approaching maturity is something Bellwether Community Credit Union can help you with.

 

 

 

 

Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) are very useful. Actually, a line of credit secured against the equity in your home, a HELOC can help you complete home renovations, or take a dream vacation. But here are some important facts about your HELOC to keep in mind as it nears the end of its term.

Some facts about your HELOC—The "Draw Period"

Most HELOCs require interest-only payments during their term (although you have the option to make payments on the principal as well,) which is usually 10 years. This term is often referred to as the "draw" period, meaning you're able to "(with)draw" funds as you need them, at any time, provided you are making your interest payments regularly.

When the draw period ends, so does your ability to withdraw funds. The end of your draw period also triggers the start of the repayment period. Your monthly payments will now include a repayment amount of the principal, as well as interest on the balance. If you've withdrawn a significant amount of your HELOC funds during the 10-year period, your monthly payments could be considerably higher than what you had been paying each month. Still want access to your funds? Consider refinancing your HELOC.

Options When Nearing the End of Your Draw Period

Here are some steps you can take as your approach the end of your HELOC's term:

  • Ensure you know when your draw period ends.
  • Review the repayment details and determine if you'd prefer to begin repaying the HELOC, or if you feel it's more convenient to continue to have access to those funds.
  • Contact your lender (or Bellwether Community Credit Union—see our number below) to discuss your HELOC and get further advice on repayment or refinancing.

Did you know…

Bellwether can refinance your HELOC even if it's with another lender? We can help you choose the best option for refinancing your HELOC to meet your family's financial needs. Contact us to explore the possibilities—603-645-8181.

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Eat Local, Participate in a CSA

Posted in Main Blog
October 22, 2014 by Trish R.
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Have you ever thought about participating in a CSA? Whether to expand your vegetable repertoire or to just get healthier, a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture is a popular way to buy seasonal, local food directly from farmers. Participating farms sell a limited number of “Shares” to the public. A share is like a membership to the farm, where each week, for a set number of weeks, “Share” holders get a box of fresh, local produce. This past spring I decided to purchase a full share from a local farm. I really liked the idea of buying local and eating fresh organic produce all summer long.

Being a “newbie” I quickly realized there are pros and cons to participating in a CSA. Here are a few tips I learned from my first year.

Farmer loading tomatoes into woman's basket

  1. Plan your meals around the ingredients not the other way around. Pro: Planning meals around the ingredients is very cost efficient. Con: it can be a challenge some weeks to cook with what was harvested, but now is your chance to plan out your meals for the week and save yourself time and money. I had never heard of kohlrabi before, but a quick online search told me it’s similar to cabbage. I found a variety of coleslaw recipes but ultimately went with a great kohlrabi kimchi recipe.
     
  2. You may find yourself with an abundance of an item some weeks. Pro: This is your chance to expand your go-to side dishes. Take lettuce for example it isn’t just for salads, you can also use it for wraps, or try juicing it. Con: You may get a lot of an item several weeks in a row, consider canning or freezing the extras. I received zucchini and summer squash 3 weeks in a row and I couldn’t eat another bite so I froze the extra. Now I look forward to enjoying it in the middle of winter!
     
  3. Dare to be creative with your harvest. Pro: you’re more likely to eat fresh vegetables to get all the goodness they offer. Kale is wonderful superfood that goes great in soups, salads, smoothies. Con: You may have to spend some time researching recipes. Kale is wonderful superfood and everyone knows it goes great in soups, salads, smoothies, but have you ever tried kale chips? They are so simple to make and an amazingly tasty treat.
     
  4. My final tip as a CSA newbie is, not to get discouraged. Pro: You get fresh, local product every week. Con: farmers are at the mercy of Mother Nature, so your share may be larger (or smaller) some weeks. This also goes for the season. I was disappointed with the results from my first season’s CSA, because it was predominantly greens and root vegetables and I was really hoping for more summer veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers and corn.

While I was a little disappointed with my first season’s selection and yield, I really liked eating fresh, local produce while supporting local farms. I found many have vegetables that I now enjoy eating, and I look forward to participating again next year with a much better understanding and appreciation for local farmers. While I would’ve preferred a different selection of vegetables I did find that the cost of participating in a CSA was worth it, especially when I considered what I would’ve paid for the same organic veggies at the supermarket or co-op. The cost would’ve been double, even triple what I spent compared to the CSA. If you’re concerned about the upfront cost of a CSA, consider going in on a share with a friend or family member or consider purchasing a half share. After the first couple of weeks, it was very easy to work with each weeks share and I only purchased a few veggie staples at the supermarket every couple of weeks.

Sources:
Serious Eats
Local Harvest

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Columbus Day Weekend in New England

Posted in Main Blog
October 21, 2014 by Amanda N.
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I’m amazed at how quickly Fall is passing. Thankfully, college friends just called to let me know they’d be in town over this past three day weekend. This was my chance to stop, and enjoy some time off. Suddenly I was charged with planning a true New England weekend, with all that implies. These are southern people, never having stepped foot inside New England so my first thought was, spend the weekend with me! While I’ve lived in New England all my life (except for those years in college), foliage, and Fall have become kind of “been there done that” in my life, and I cherished the thought of having an excuse to do all those things I love about Fall. Foliage was at it’s peak, and even a rainy Saturday didn’t dampen our spirits.

Friday

People in warm clothing enjoying the outdoors

Expected Time of Arrival 3 pm. What better way to celebrate old friends gathering than to lift a glass or two. We had plenty to choose from in NH and opted for a visit to LaBelle’s Winery for a tasting, and a chance to wander through the fields, breathing in that crisp October air. We also made certain to pick up a few bottles for a very late firepit chat! It’s amazing how much fun you can have with friends, a firepit, and nothing to do the next day! This is definitely a cost-effective way to enjoy time with friends, and no worrying about what time you head home. Then again, I had the whole weekend booked tight, so it was lights out at 11!

Saturday

We totally planned for the Milford Pumpkin Festival or the Warner Fall Foliage Festival, but rain was on the agenda, so a drive north through damp but colorful leaves had us perusing guide books for something to do indoors. I’d booked a night at Colby Hill Inn in Henniker. My mom used to work there when she was in college. She tells me she worked in the kitchen, but based on her cooking, she must have washed dishes! A cozy, traditionally New England place, I’d made a great choice, and was really lucky because this place is usually totally booked unless you get your name in there far in advance! One thing I knew we could do without the rain causing an issue was shopping! NH has a lot of outlets, great deals, great food, and you can literally shop til you drop! Check out the list on newhampshire.com for a mall in your area. We did that, carrying all our bags back to the Inn for a nice dinner and an early night. Sunday was going to be the big adventure! Hiking and leaf peeping in what we hoped would be sunny weather.

Sunday

Hiking and leaf peeping in the mountains! We used the foliage map from YankeeFoliage.com to see when leaves are at their peak, and the best places for photographs, then headed to Franconia Notch and the Flume. A simple picnic, and layered clothing with good walking shoes prepared us for a day in the sun. It seemed everyone else had the same idea, but with so much to see and so many places to hike we didn’t run into that many people! By the time we were headed back to Manchester and the airport, we had enough photos of leaves, blue sky and fun to show anyone who didn’t already know, New England, and especially New Hampshire is a great place to visit in October!

Sources
Yankee Foliage
NewHampshire.com
BedandBreakfast.com
NH Magazine

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The Super Hero Scramble; More Than a Race, Itís an Adventure!

Posted in Main Blog
October 16, 2014 by Trish R.
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Has your adventurous side ever pushed you to participate in an obstacle course race? It’s the latest in racing. You run up and down hills, over rocky terrain while also scaling a variety of obstacles. Everything from rope climbs to 20 foot jumps into icy cold water, all in the spirit of fun. My inner super hero got the urge this past June and I found myself signed up for the Super Hero Scramble, an adventurous super hero themed obstacle course races that was held at Amesbury Park in Amesbury, MA. Everything about the race is super hero inspired, from the obstacles to the costumes. Athletes come dressed as their favorite super hero and run one of three course options. Dressed as “The Black Widow”, a few coworkers and I had a blast competing in this year’s Super Hero Scramble.

happy pariticpants of Smart for Life Superhero scramble

The Super Hero Scramble has 5 different course levels; Charger, Intimidator, Villain, Super Villain and Super Kid.

The Charger: The shortest race at around 4 miles and 20 obstacles. Participants run over hilly terrain through the woods and tackle 20 different obstacles including the Mounds of Doom, where you jump or climb over giant mounds of mud and dirt. It looked and sounded easy enough until we realized that we would not be able to jump from mound to mound. We ended up covered in mud.

The Intimidator: An 8+ mile course with 25 or more obstacles. This race is not for the timid, and includes obstacles like the Leap of Faith. “The Leap” involves climbing a structure then leaping 20 feet into the water below. If you have a fear of heights you’ll conquer that in no time.

The Villain: A 13 mile course with 30 or more obstacles. This course is designed to defeat any super hero who attempts it. The obstacles on this course are literally out to get you with muddier, more intense obstacles and surprise challenges.

The Super Villain: A 26 mile course with over 60 obstacles! This is a marathon distance course that is for elite athletes. Think you’re a true super hero, give this course a try. We just stood by and watched!

The Super Kid: This is a one mile obstacle race for kids ranging in age from 3-13. Kids get to experience a few obstacles and receive a t-shirt and medal. The kids have a blast climbing walls and running through the mud dressed as their favorite super heroes. My son is big into super heroes so I cheered on my own personal Captain America! He had a great time and was so excited to get his first race medal!

If you complete the Charger, Intimidator and Villain courses in one year you’ll receive a special medal and are recognized as a Super Hero Legend.

This is one of the more entertaining obstacle course races around, so if you want an exciting day with a few shots of adrenaline get your favorite super hero costume out of the closet (go on, we know it’s there), suit up and have fun!

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Could These "Saving" Habits Cost You?

Posted in Main Blog
October 10, 2014 by Guest
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Are you a diligent saver? Penny pincher? You probably have your own tips and tricks for saving a chunk of cash here or squeezing the last bit out of a dollar there. While saving money is a noble pursuit, the ways you save could cost you. Do you abide by any of these four bad “saving” habits?

Buying more of an item because it’s on sale

Store window sale signs

Especially at the grocery store, it may be tempting to stock up on an item just because it’s on sale. While you may be taking advantage of the store price, you might be overspending on the amount of items you buy. You may not use the extra items you buy before they expire or become outdated, which means you wasted that extra money you spent, regardless of how much you saved on the individual item. Even if you end up using all of the items in the right amount of time, you may find you’re forcing yourself to use those last items on dishes or for other uses you don’t need or are wasteful.

Always going for the cheapest option

While buying the cheapest option may mean upfront savings, you end up spending more money over time on repairing or replacing those cheaper products. Cheaper usually means lower quality parts, and these products are sometimes more likely to break or be made with harmful chemicals. Plan to invest a little more into a higher quality product if it’s something you’ll use a lot or something that would be more expensive to repair than it would be to just pay more for upfront.

Buying more online to qualify for free shipping

How many times have you gone to check out online only to find that’s you’re just $20 away from free shipping? Chances are, you’ve gone ahead and found an extra item(s) to purchase to save yourself a few bucks on shipping. You may not realize you’re spending more on the extra item and free shipping than you would if you just paid for the shipping outright. Plus, you might be purchasing items you don’t actually need or use.

Signing up for a store credit card or rewards credit card solely for the discount

Signing up for credit cards you don’t need is never a good practice, even if you end up getting a store discount or other rewards for using the card. You end up spending more money at the store or on a particular category of products just to get the discount or rewards points when you may not actually need the items you’re buying. You may benefit from the discount or rewards upfront, but you end up driving up the amount of debt and credit you owe, which could generate interest and waste your money in the long run.

While you may go into saving money with good intentions, some of your saving strategies can cost you more money instead. Beware these four “saving” tactics to ensure you make the most of your hard-earned cash.

Photo by Alan Cleaver via cc.

By Carolyn Heneghan Copyright 2014 brass Media, Inc.

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