Personal Finance Manager


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Personal Finance Manager


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Prepare: Financial Literacy Blog

We're here to help our members prepare for their financial journeys. The advice and tips below are here to help you along the way.

April 7, 2017

The Credit Tango

By Rachel Siford - MSR Portland

For many, the thought of credit and how to use it can bring about a lot of anxiety and fear. Don’t be afraid! You can be the master your own credit, all you need is the right steps to get you there. Below are just a few beginner steps on how to get in the groove with your credit score:

Step 1: Get help from a choreographer.

- Seek out credit builder options if you need them! The truth is our credit scores are used for so many different transactions, from loan applications to leasing. There are countless tools and products out there to get your credit score out of the gutter, just reach out to your local credit union to find out what they offer. It’s never too late or too early to get your credit score on the right track.

Step 2: Don’t perform just one song and dance.

- For an optimum credit score, you’ll want to have more than just one type of loan reporting back to the credit bureaus. This includes loans such as car loans, credit cards, student loans, and mortgages. But don’t take out too much and stay away from specialty credit cards, such as store credit cards - they can actually have a negative impact on your credit.

Step 3: Don’t use all of your moves at once.

- Try not to use more than 50% of your available lines of credit (such as credit cards), unless you have to. Using too much or maxing out your lines of credit will lower your credit score.

Step 4: Keep in time with the music.

- The simplest way to keep a good credit score is just to make your loan payments on time. Each month your payments are reported back to the credit bureaus, so maintaining a healthy momentum of paying your bills on time will increase your score.

Step 5: Review your routine.

- Check up on your credit report, which is different than checking your credit score. A credit report is an in-depth report of your credit history. Keeping an eye on your report will ensure all of the information is correct, and any misinformation or fraud can be disputed and corrected as quickly as possible. There are 3 major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian – each of which will provide you with one free credit report per year.

Following these basic steps will get you started, but there is so much more to be learned! Don’t hesitate to reach out to your credit union with questions. As always, the representatives here at University Credit Union are ready to bust a move to help you with your credit. We’ll set the stage and get you ready to tango with your credit score!

March 20, 2017

Financial Spring Cleaning Tips

By Lesley Ridge, Campus Branch Manager, USM Brooks Student Center, Gorham

When the calendar says March 20th, we all know what that means-The First Day of Spring!

Definition of SPRING: The season after winter and before summer; A sudden jump upward or forward.

To many of us, the Spring Season signifies more sunlight, flowers blooming, spring break, or working on some spring cleaning projects. Spring cleaning does not have to be limited to household projects, decluttering, or being more organized. This is also a great time to spring clean from a financial sense.
A few Tips:

  • Review your Credit Report. Take advantage of the one free credit report annually from each of the credit bureaus. Monitor your report, and know what is on it.
  • Organize/Shred old documents. Reduce paper clutter and keep what is absolutely necessary for recordkeeping. Remember to shred important documents and not just throw in the trash. This will help protect your identity, as well as put your mind at ease with being more organized with your important documents. Many communities sponsor shred day events, so take advantage of these.
  • Review your budget. Is your budget up to date? Has your income/expenses changed in any way? Take a look, and make some modifications. University Credit Union is a great resource to help you with your budget as well.
  • Set up Auto Bill Pay. Spring Cleaning isn’t just decluttering, but also a great start to being more efficient. Try setting up Auto Bill Pay with UCU!
  • Pay off Holiday Debt before summer. This is also a great time to look at outstanding debt and credit card balances you may have. Cleaning up debt, or consolidating, could save you money and interest and put you in a better financial positions for the rest of the year. UCU can also help with this with our loan products that are available!

Try one or all of these Spring Cleaning tips, and by the time summer gets here, you will be happy you did some Financial Spring Cleaning!

February 13, 2017

By Norah St. Peter, Campus Branch Manager, University of Maine Memorial Union, Orono

Budgeting on Campus

Making a budget is crucial to financial success at all stages of life, and getting comfortable with budgeting early in your college career will help you in the future! Your budget will have two important components: income and expenses. It seems simple enough, but it’s easy to get tripped up when you’re creating your budget if you don’t realize that there are different types of expenses for which you need to be prepared. UCU is here to help you understand the differences!

  • Fixed Expenses: These are the expenses that are the same each month like your rent and your car payment. Budgeting for fixed expenses is straightforward because you know exactly what to expect.
  • Variable Expenses: Slightly more complicated than fixed expenses, variable expenses like groceries and gas are items that you know you’re going to need to include in your budget each month, but that don’t stay exactly the same. To factor these expenses into your budget, take a look at your bank statements from the previous month (if you bank with UCU you can find these on your Personal Finance Manager) to get a ballpark figure, and always make sure to budget high just in case!
  • Periodic Expenses: This is the category for expenses that come regularly but not monthly. Periodic expenses include things like car registrations and holiday gifts. Figure out how much you’re going to need to spend on each periodic expense that you identify, divide that number by the number of months you have to save for the item, and then you’ve turned that periodic expense into a fixed amount to put away each month. UCU offers club accounts designed to help you put aside money for specific things, and they come in very handy when you’re saving up for periodic expenses!

If you want to know more about the different types of expenses or get some help with starting your budget, reach out to UCU!

January 19, 2017

Lesley Ridge, Campus Branch Manager for our University of Southern Maine, Brooks Student Center branch, was interviewed by the Young & Free Spokester for MECUL, Jake Holmes. Check out Lesley’s great tips for student budgets in this video:


December 6, 2016

Budgeting Basics: Types of Expenses

By Norah St. Peter, Campus Branch Manager, University of Maine Memorial Union, Orono

You’re ready. You’ve got your spreadsheet open, you’ve got your last three bank statements spread across your desk, and you’ve read and reread all of UCU’s Prepare: Financial Literacy Blog posts. You are doing this budget thing and you are doing it now! Financially literate student that you are, you know that your budget is going to have two basic components: income and expenses. But you hesitate as you start to list your expenses. Your rent and your car payment are easy enough. But what about gas and groceries? And at some point you’re going to have to buy a birthday present for Great Aunt Jemima – that’s an expense too, right? Right you are! You have noticed that not all expenses are created equal, and UCU is here to help you understand the differences.

  • Fixed Expenses: This is the easy part. These are the expenses that are the same each month like your rent and car payment. You know exactly what to expect, so budgeting for fixed expenses is straightforward.
  • Variable Expenses: These bad boys are a little more complicated. Variable expenses like groceries and gas are items that you know you’re going to need to include in your budget each month, but you won’t be sure exactly what they look like. So how do you factor these expenses into your budget? Here’s where those bank statements come in handy! Take a look at your history to get a ballpark figure, and always budget high. Then when the Ramen noodles go on sale you’re left with a little extra!
  • Periodic Expenses: Don’t worry, Great Aunt Jemima. We didn’t forget about you! This is the category for the expenses that come regularly but not monthly. Think car registration and holiday gifts. They’re easy to forget about, but luckily UCU has a perfect solution to keep your budget on track and Great Aunt Jemima happy. As you might recall from Rachel’s October blog post, UCU offers club accounts which provide a simple way to put aside money for specific things. Figure out how much you’re going to need to spend on each periodic expense that you identify, divide that by the number of months you have to save for the item, and there’s the magic number! Plan to tuck that amount away into your appropriately named club account each month, and you will be good to go when the time to pay up rolls around!

Armed with your new knowledge of the three different types of expenses, you are now truly ready to dive into that spreadsheet and get budgeting. Don’t forget to swing by your nearest UCU location if you run into any other roadblocks along the way!

November 15, 2016

Eating Healthy on a Budget to Reduce Stress

By Lesley Ridge, Campus Branch Manager, USM Brooks Student Center, Gorham

There are a lot of stressors in everyday life. One way to keep your stress down is to eat healthy and stay on budget. Sometimes it seems easier to not think about it, and just grab and go, right? Wrong! Over time this way of eating is expensive, and is not as healthy as some of the tips we have for you!

  • Try to buy fresh produce when in season and freeze. The $1 Blueberries on sale in summer will be awesome in fall/winter in smoothies, oatmeal, and cereal to name a few.
  • Buy sale items and plan meals around them. The sale meat items could make three different meals, stretch your dollar!
  • Try less expensive cuts meat. Marinate, grill, and ask your grocery meat manager some tips on this!
  • Make meals bulky with rice and beans. An inexpensive way of making a meal last.
  • Plan/Prep meals. This will save you money and is a known way of eating healthier.
  • Try different foods.
  • Organize your fridge/use leftovers. Keep your fridge clean and up to date with food to minimize waste.
  • Try local farmers markets. Usually at end of day, these markets tend to mark down fresh food which is a steal. #BuyLocal

Once you get used to these tips to help improve healthy eating, it will also make your wallet happy!


October 14, 2016

Managing Finances with Club Accounts

By Rachel Siford - MSR Portland

Using UCU club accounts has helped many members budget out their expenses every month. It’s an easy way to separate finances, and each club account can be named something different so members can better keep track of them. Once members figure out how much is needed to put away with each paycheck, they can set up auto share transfers into each of those club accounts (i.e. “Rent,” “Car,” “Student Loans,” etc.), then whatever’s left could be used for groceries and other fun until the next payday. When bills come due, simply login to home banking or the mobile app and transfer what’s needed for bills into your checking account and pay them using bill pay. This can make budgeting just a little bit easier!

September 23, 2016

Norah St. Peter, Campus Branch Manager for our University of Maine, Memorial Union branch, was interviewed by the Young & Free Spokester for MECUL, Jake Holmes. Check out Norah’s great tips for students in this video:




September 12, 2016

Money 101-Budgeting Basics for Students

By Lesley Ridge, Campus Branch Manager - University of Southern Maine, Gorham Brooks Student Center

Another school year is upon us and one of the most popular questions asked of me from students at USM is “How do I manage money when I feel like I have very little to none to manage?” I chuckle to myself, as I have been in their shoes before as a college student thinking –how am I going to make it to Spring Semester, live on Ramen Noodles? Managing money, even if a small amount, is a constant challenge. The biggest thing to remember is making sure you do not run out of money before the semester ends. We all try to avoid it, but it all begins with a budget. You guessed it! The next most popular common question from students- “What is a budget?” Developing a steady personal budget is one of the most important steps towards being in control of your finances. A simple look at your income and expenses will determine if you are living within your means. Once you have a personal budget, you will be able to spend your money more wisely and use it towards your financial goals.

Three important pieces to know for your personal budgeting plan are: cash flow, tracking spending, and knowing your needs & wants of life as a college student. It seems easier to understand when you break it down, which I have done many times with students that stop by the campus branch. First, tally up all the money you expect to have for the semester (regular income from job/parents, money left over from all your sources after paying your semester bill, etc. Next, look at the past couple months and see where you spend your money. This is an eye opener for many students and is a Wow! factor. I have had some students gasp when they look at their spending and see that they have spent more than $40 in a week at their local coffee spot! Finally, make a needs and wants bucket list. Things like food, clothing, transportation, and school stuff can go in the Needs Bucket. Things like concert tickets, extra pizza deliveries, or the fourth cup of your favorite latte would fall into the Wants Bucket.

Budgeting isn’t about not spending $, it is about making sure the things you need to be a successful college student are taking care of first and then you can move on to the fun stuff that you want to do! Once you have a plan in place and stick to it you will become a better money manager and be able to afford some fun things along the way!

August 15, 2016

Financial First Steps for the First Year Student

By Norah St. Peter, Campus Branch Manager - University of Maine, Memorial Union

With the independence and freedom of young adulthood comes independence and freedom with your finances. The fall semester is right around the corner, and University Credit Union wants to make sure that the University of Maine’s incoming first year students get started on the road to financial success early! Here are some tips to help:

  • Start saving now! It’s good to have a little something put away to help with anything from an unexpected expense that arises, to that dream vacation you’ve always wanted to take after college. Save a few dollars here and there and pretty soon you’ll be surprised at how much you’ve got in your savings account!
  • Keep track of your bank account! Most financial institutions offer online or mobile banking so that you can stay on top of your balances and avoid fees that come with overdrawing your account. Take advantage of these services so you never get blindsided.
  • Be cautious with credit! Avoid cards with astronomical interest rates and annual fees. If you do get a credit card, make sure to pay off your balance monthly so you can start building a good credit history.