21 Aug

How to Create a College Budget

college budget coins stacking higher with graduation cap on top

It’s back to school season and an important thing to talk about is your college budget. Whether you’re living at the dorms for your freshman year or renting an apartment, having a budget and sticking with it will shape healthy financial habits for the future. Creating a college budget will not only help you in the future by building healthy financial habits, but it will also cut stress and overspending.

Define Ground Rules

Before you build a college budget, you need to go over some important details with people who will be involved in financing your education. Discussing the situation together will ensure everyone is on the same page. Some important ground rules to go over are:

  • FAFSA and taxes
    You should determine whose information is required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, and who can claim tax credits and deductions. This will play a huge role in your tax return when the time comes and if you can receive any federal aid or grants.
  • Who is paying for college and how?
    You might already know this, but just to solidify the answer, it’s good to have a conversation before the start of each school year to decide whether your family will pay for costs out of pocket or if you’ll need to get a job, rely on financial aid, or combine the two options.
  • What expenses to expect
    In addition to tuition, there are other expenses for college costs like transportation, school supplies, and more. Make a list of likely expenses and estimate the cost to get a more accurate understanding of your budget.
  • Credit cards and bank accounts
    If you’re opening a credit card or a bank account for college funds, you’ll want to define ground rules with yourself or the cosigner to your card. If the credit card is only for emergencies, define what constitutes an emergency.

Anticipate Expenses

The next step in budgeting is to anticipate your expenses. You’ll need to try to account for all areas of spending before creating your budget. Some common college-related expenses you should be wary of are:

  • Textbooks and school supplies
    Course materials can eat up a large portion of your budget. On top of textbooks, you’ll need to also plan for purchases like notebooks, a laptop, a backpack, and more. There are also plenty of ways to reduce spending on textbooks, like using the college library.
  • Room and Board
    When it comes to food and living arrangements, keep your options open. Compare the cost of living on campus and getting a meal plan versus renting an apartment. If you’ll be renting an apartment, consider the number of roommates and the cost of the apartment and the proximity to campus.
  • Transportation
    Most colleges provide a bus pass, but if you’re bringing your car, be sure to factor in gas, maintenance, and insurance.
  • Clothing
    Budget for seasonal clothing and job-fair/interview outfits.
  • Entertainment
    All work and no fun makes Jack a dull boy! Factor in a budget for fun stuff like travel and social activities!

 Track Your Spending

Now that you’ve determined your college budget, it’s time to track your spending to see if you actually meet it. Tracking your budget has gotten a lot easier than the old spreadsheet days. There are multiple apps you can use, depending on personal preference, that link to your bank account and track your transactions. However, you need to be sure these apps are safe and are password encrypted to ensure your information is safe.

After you’ve managed to stay on top of your college budget as a student, you’re in good shape. Continue with your financially healthy habits with life after graduation. You’ll be able to build financial goals like saving for a trip or an emergency fund and, if you have student loans, you’ll need to pay them off too.

RMLEFCU offers financial planning and advice with every membership. Call or contact us today at (303) 458-6660 or click this link to speak to our financial planner.

13 Aug

How to Get the Best Auto Loan

new car guy in car keys happy car loan

Finding your dream car is only half of the battle. The other, and quite possibly harder, half is finding the best auto loan rate. If you’re going to borrow money for your purchase, the loan you choose is extremely important.

If you borrow wisely, you can enjoy two important benefits. You’ll spend less on your vehicle, and you’ll have the flexibility to change vehicles and fund other goals within a few short years. Properly planning for a loan before you shop for a car can improve your chances of receiving the loan and car that fits your budget and your style.  Here’s how to get the best deal for your auto loan.

Shop the Loan Separate

Before starting to negotiate on the exact car and price you want, you should begin your loan application process. You can prequalify for a loan which will enable you to set a budget for yourself and have leverage at the dealership. RMLEFCU offers prequalification with auto loans and through September 2019, there is a limited time Relationship Rate offer that’ll knock .75% APR* off your auto loan!

Shop the Total Loan

The only time you should consider the monthly payment is when you have privately calculated how much you want to spend for your car. After that, monthly payments are out of the discussion. Some lenders may focus on the payments to persuade you to borrow more money by extending the number of months in your term. This way, they make more in interest and you have to keep your car longer.

Utilize a Credit Union

A credit union is a nonprofit organization that returns profits to its members through higher savings rates as well as lower fees and loan rates. Membership comes with benefits. Credit unions generally offer lower interest rates than banks do. If you have poor credit, a credit union may be more flexible than a bank. Credit unions build relationships with their members that allow them to offer a more personalized experience. RMLEFCU is Colorado’s only law enforcement credit union and our service to our members is unparalleled. Be sure to check with us before settling on an auto loan with a higher rate!

Your financial situation and the type of vehicle you’re purchasing are key factors in determining the type of lender that’s best for you. If you can’t qualify for a car loan or are being offered high-interest rates, consider getting a cosigner, saving up for a larger down payment, or taking some time to build your credit. If you’re ready to take advantage of RMLEFCU’s limited-time Relationship Rate offer and knock off an extra .75% APR*, contact us now at lending@rmlefcu.org or give us a call at (303) 458-6660.

07 Aug

What to Consider When Choosing Credit Cards

When you’re looking for credit cards, you want to make sure you get one that fits your wants and needs. It might be a little overwhelming trying to navigate through all the different choices being offered, and instead of choosing the first one that sends you a letter in the mail, you should shop around to see which card fits your spending habits and has the rewards you want.

Why Do You Want A Credit Card?

This is the first question you should answer before beginning to look at any credit cards. There can be a variety of reasons ranging from building your credit score, earning card rewards, or making large purchases! These common reasons often have different cards that work best for each.

Building Credit

Credit Cards are a fantastic tool for building credit. If this is the reason you’re looking into a card, you should look for something with no annual fee. To build credit, you should pay off your card every month, which means you can afford to go with a card with a higher interest rate.

Some credit cards require you to pay an annual fee that can range up to hundreds of dollars, however, this is an easy requirement to fulfill. Due to the sheer volume of credit cards available, many of them have no annual fees. Be sure to check the fine print as some cards won’t charge you an annual fee until the second year of being a cardholder.

Earning Rewards

Different cards come with different rewards, while some come with no rewards at all. Rewards typically include cashback, free trips, airline points, hotel stays, gift cards, and merchandise! There is an unlimited number of rewards you can find on credit cards now, in fact, there are great cards that give you rewards just for spending! RMLEFCU credit AND debit cards allow for LEO Card Rewards where you can redeem gift cards, cash back, charitable donations, travel, experiences, event tickets, and merchandise.

If you want to earn rewards, try to find a card that offers rewards based on how you’re already spending. This is so you can get maximum rewards without having to go out of your way to spend differently.

Large Purchases

If you’re looking for a card to make a large purchase, credit limit and percentage rate are the two things you should focus on. Credit cards usually have high-interest rates, but if your credit score is looking good, you can shop around for a lower APR*. You can also find cards with 0% interest for the first few months – 1 year, which means an interest-free loan, for the time being, given if you pay it back within the time.

If you’re looking for a large credit limit, some cards will allow you to request an upgrade your credit limit after a year or more if you continuously pay your card on time. Some cards even offer balance transfers with no fees for better APR, credit limit, or a grace period!

Having a plan to know what to look for in a credit card is important so you’re not stuck with a card that doesn’t match your needs and wants. To have good credit card usage, remember these guidelines: always pay your bill on time, pay your bill in full each month, and have a plan for large purchases. Speak to an RMLEFCU representative today for any questions you have regarding our variety of credit card options! Contact us at (303) 458-6660 or lending@rmlefcu.org.