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Bellwether's Blog on life and money

Santa has Arrived During the Heat Wave!

Posted in Main Blog
August 19, 2014 by Amanda N.
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Summer Savings to prepare for Upcoming Holidays and Events

Christmas in July is a tradition that celebrates the joy of the holidays during the warm summer months. It has many different possible origins, but the first known celebration was back in the 1930’s at a summer camp, as a fun way to look forward to the holidays during the heat of summer.
Retailers have added a new twist to the fun, and savings are being celebrated all summer long! Whether you are looking to stock up on last minute summer gear, getting a head start on school shopping, or shopping early for those winter holidays, it’s your chance to celebrate the most wonderful time of year, twice!

Go Ahead, Treat Yourself with a Bargain!happy woman with shopping bags

Was there something you wanted in the beginning of the summer that you didn’t buy? Maybe a new bathing suit, camping gear, or some new summer wardrobe? Well it’s not too late!

USA Weekend outlines 3 recommendations for summer savings:

  • Shop for Summer wardrobe. Retailers are already looking ahead to Fall and clearing their shelves. This includes major retailers like Target and Walmart as well as specialty shops.
  • Find cheaper gym memberships. It’s their off season since people prefer to be out enjoying the sunshine.
  • Take a trip to a warm destination. Prices will be lower because most people plan a getaway during the cold winter months.

More concerned about that summer gear that you need? Patio furniture, lawn equipment, and outdoor camping and fishing gear are all on sale too! 

Coupon Stacking is another method helping shoppers to get the best deals. Which retailers allow you to use multiple coupons? Lifehacker.com lists the following 7 retailers:

Back to School Never Looked so Good!

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again. I remember when I was younger feeling like school had just ended and it was already time to buy supplies for the upcoming school year.

Check out this link from Greatschools. It offers 10 tips for smart back to school shopping. Some of the tips from the list include:

  • Don’t forget your list
  • Buy in bulk
  • Shop Summer Sales (If you only remember one tip, remember this one).

Major retailers already have school supplies on sale. Don’t delay. Check out your local sale papers.

Sales are Seasonal when it Comes to Coupons

The end of August and the end of October have been the best time of year for coupon deals for the past 2 years. Keep your eyes open for upcoming sales and markdown deals on:

  • Large appliances – BBQ grills, lawn mowers, snow blowers
  • Small appliances – computers, printers, air conditioners
  • Cars – new models arrive in the fall, which means last year’s models need to go!

Now is a great time to save big bucks on items for the whole family! Don’t miss out on buying the stuff you need for the best prices.

Sources:
Consumerreports.org
Lifehacker.com
USAtoday.com

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The Rising Cost of Being a Bridesmaid

Posted in Main Blog
August 15, 2014 by Amanda N.
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How much will it really cost you to be part of her special day?

Planning a wedding can be a stressful time for the bride, but having her friends become a part of it should make it fun. The dresses, shoes, hair styles, shower, and bachelorette party all seem enjoyable until you start adding up the costs. How much exactly will it cost you if one of your friends presents you with this “special honor”?

Cost of Wardrobe

photo of bridesmaid and brides bouquets

Mint.com, a personal finance management service, says the average cost of a bridesmaid dress BEFORE alterations is $150, and the dress always needs alterations. Have you seen the movie 27 Dresses? Alterations aren’t the only thing you need to worry about. The bride may or may not allow you to have some input in the dress, but the funds don’t stop there.

  • Jewelry
  • Shoes
  • Hair
  • Make-up

If you’re lucky, the bride may help with some of the costs or in a few instances at least allow for a DIY hair and make-up option. Doing your hair and make-up yourself will save a lot of money, maybe $100 or more. Don’t be afraid to recommend this option. The other bridesmaids may thank you!

Paying for the Shower

The bridal shower is another part of being a bridesmaid that adds up. There are ways to cut the price if you are in charge of the planning. Get creative and think of alternative methods to give her a special shower without going to the extreme.

  • Host it at a friend’s home
  • Use eVites instead of printed invites
  • Cater it yourself
  • Create your own games & decorations. I suggest checking out Pinterest for ideas to get you started!

Affording the Bachelorette Party

The third responsibility of a bridesmaid is planning the bachelorette party. Use these tips to cut the cost of the event:

  • Stay local and plan a party at a venue in town.
  • Book travel in advance. The longer you wait the more it will cost. (See this list from USA Today for the cheapest days to travel in 2014.)
  • Organize the party at the same location as the wedding. This way you will only deal with flights once.
  • Research group discounts.

Buying a Wedding Gift

US News recommends setting a budget for the wedding gift first, as a separate item. Consider buying a group gift from all the bridesmaids. If you’re crafty, DIY projects are another recommendation for a personalized, budget-friendly gift. Ideas for this can also be found on Pinterest.

Being a bridesmaid is possible without completely breaking your savings account. Just remember, it’s the thought that counts, unless your bride turns into a Bridezilla. Then your best bet is to accept that you’ll both look back on this and laugh later.

Sources:

http://www.moneycrashers.com
http://www.huffingtonpost.com
www.usnews.com

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Get Ready to Sweat

Posted in Main Blog
August 12, 2014 by Jenn R.
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Crossfit: The increasingly popular, high intensity workout

Do you ever get bored with running on the treadmill? Are you tired of your dead end workout plan? I know I am. What if there was an alternative to boring workouts and feeling like you’re not gaining the results that you want? There is! The answer is CrossFit.

If you work out regularly, you can’t avoid it. The popularity of this high intensity workout is growing.

Learn the Crossfit Lingo

3 terms you’ll hear when you speak the Crossfitters language:

  • A Box – No, it’s not a type of storage unit. A box is a gym that specializes in Crossfit.
  • WOD – In case you thought you were only going to be working out occasionally, the Workout of the Day is posted every day on the Crossfit website.
  • AMRAP – This stands for as many reps or rounds as possible. You didn’t actually think you would just do the workouts one time did you?

Crossfit provides a great total body workout, but joining a CrossFit gym can be expensive. Luckily, there are other options that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

Most CrossFit workouts can be done at these alternative places:

  • Your local gym
  • A park
  • At home (yes, even there!)

Research local gyms in your area to find out if they offer discounts or free trial periods for new members. I found that my local gym has everything I need to do the workouts!

Park workouts are a new trend where Crossfitters meet outside and use park benches, monkey bars, and their own body weight. This is a great way to get your workout in and enjoy the fresh air with friends and maybe make a few new ones!

Some local parks that offer fitness trails include:

woman on monkey bars

Check out the CrossFit website for the free WOD. Many exercises don’t require special equipment. You’ll be able to do them right in the comfort of your own home. Remember to do modifications based on your fitness level. This helps avoid injuries.

Workout of the Day

CrossFit is a combination of weights, cardio, and Calisthenics to build strength. Workouts may include exercises such as burpees, box jumps, lunges, and deadlifts. Check out this link for a complete list of Crossfit exercises from the official Crossfit website.

Every workout is different. This is why each workout has its own name. The average workout is only 20 minutes in length.

The CrossFit WOD will have a name and recommendations for the amount of time and reps you should spend on each exercise.

Health and fitness is fun when you find the workout that’s right for you. Stay physically and financially healthy by exercising without breaking the bank.

www.crossfit.com
http://dailyburn.com
http://time.com

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Is a 5/5 ARM right for you?

Posted in Main Blog
July 17, 2014 by BCCU
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What is an ARM?

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) is an important term, especially if you are in the market to buy a new home.

dog sitting on welcome mat

ARM Definition: a mortgage having an interest rate which is usually initially lower than that of a mortgage with a fixed rate, but is adjusted periodically.

Bellwether’s 5/5 ARM is unique because it is a variable rate mortgage with longer periods of stability. Most ARMs have an initial term, but then switch to adjusting every year. Bellwether's 5/5 ARM rate is set at the start and stays at that rate for the first 5 years, then adjusts every 5 years. Our 5/5 is more stable than a 3/1 or 5/1 ARM which adjust annually after the first period.

Understanding the Rate System

The most appealing feature to the 5/5 ARM is that the rate only fluctuates every 5 years. As with all ARM products there are limits, and the rates cannot continue to fluctuate past a certain point. These limits are called caps. At Bellwether Community Credit Union the 5/5 has 2/2/5 caps.

  1. Initial Adjustment Cap
  2. Periodic Adjustment Cap
  3. Lifetime Cap

The initial adjustment cap is the amount the rate can change up or down at the first adjustment period. With the 5/5 ARM this cap is 2%.

The periodic adjustment cap is the maximum the rate could change up or down in subsequent adjustment periods. With the 5/5 ARM this cap is every 5 years up to 2%.

The lifetime cap is the maximum percentage that the rate can change over the life of the loan. With the 5/5 ARM the maximum percentage is 5%.

Why Bellwether’s 5/5 ARM is perfect for you

Bankrate recently posted their “Top 10 Tips for Mortgage Borrowers in 2014” and an Adjustable Rate Mortgage landed on the list. The average family moves every 7 years. If you are one of these families, a 5/5 ARM would be a great option because your rate would only be subject to change once in that time frame and only by 2% maximum. This allows you to plan for that “worst case scenario.” ARMs are also perfect for:

  • First time home buyers
  • Families planning to relocate within the foreseeable future
  • Refinancing your ARM or Fixed Rate Mortgage

If you determine that a 5/5 ARM is right for you, check our current rates and find out more!

Sources:

Lending Tree

Realtor.com

Merriam-Webster

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Summer Activities on a budget in New Hampshire

Posted in Main Blog
July 15, 2014 by Amanda N.
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How to be cost efficient and still enjoy your summer

For most New Englanders, summer is a time to venture outside, enjoy the warm weather, and stay active before the snow comes back. Even on a budget, there are ways to make the most out of your summer without an elaborate vacation.

Check out this link to Visit NH and you’ll find that New Hampshire is a great state to explore because it offers coastline, mountains, arts and culture.

Venture to the White Mountains

If you enjoy the great outdoors, the White Mountains are the perfect spot for a summer getaway! State parks usually also have low admission fees. I'd suggest the following as activities in the White Mountains that won’t break your budget:woman with rucksack sitting in woods

  • Camping - A fun activity for the whole family. Check out this great list of campgrounds from the NH State Parks website. Most are near lakes so you can enjoy an afternoon of swimming or boating, and another plus, a number of campgrounds are also pet-friendly.
  • Hiking - The Granite State is full of trails and mountains available to the public. Check out this list from Hike-NH. You’ll have fun, and enjoy a good workout!
  • Sightseeing - Only have a day to travel? Discover everything New Hampshire has to offer by taking a scenic drive! Visit the National Scenic Byways Program to discover the most scenic routes! If you prefer to take a train ride, the White Mountains have several stations that offer both scenic rides and dinner trains.

Enjoy the Seacoast

If you enjoy the beach, visit the coastline in the southern part of the state. New Hampshire is home to 5 State Park beaches along the beautiful Northeast seacoast. The beach can be a free activity if you try the following tips to avoid added costs.

  • Street parking - Arrive early to find spots that don’t require feeding a meter or paying a lot fee.
  • Pack your own lunch - Bring a cooler, sandwiches, snacks, and drinks instead of paying high prices at a concession stand.
  • Bring your own gear - Pack your own sunscreen, towels, floats, and toys rather than buying them when you get there.

Discover Arts & Culture

Find live music events, museums, fairs, and community activities. These are all great places to bring the whole family without breaking the bank. Be as frugal as possible and look for:

  • Free child admission
  • Discount days
  • Group deals

Every little bit counts! Don’t miss out on all that NH offers.

Appreciate at Home Fun

Back yard barbeques are great for a friends-and-family get together. To create added entertainment and save money, US News outlines the following recommendations:

  • Shop for foods at your local farmers market
  • Create recipes for themed meals.
  • Take turns hosting

Remember, you don’t have to miss out on a fun, enjoyable summer just because you’re living on a budget. Use these tips and track your spending to have a fun, safe, and more affordable summer season!

Sources:

Visitnh.gov
Money.usnews.com
Nhstateparks.org 

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