Our Top Tips for Starting an Emergency Fund

 

516077862Most people are familiar with the term emergency fund. In theory, it’s just a separate stash of savings that is meant to help you through the typical emergencies that every person faces at some point in time. It could be a car repair, a leaky roof, a lay-off, or even a vet bill. Whatever you define as your “emergency”, when it happens, it’s a great feeling knowing you don’t have to stress about getting a loan or maxing out you credit card to get through it. Here are our top 3 tips for getting started on your emergency fund:

1. Think Small (to start) 

Some experts will recommend aiming for savings that will cover ALL of your expenses for 6 months or even 12 months. While reaching either of these goals would be ideal, they are both ambitious and can seem overwhelming or unattainable when you’re starting out. That’s why we recommend you start small. Set a goal of $500 or $1000 and see how long it takes you to reach it. Then, look at how long it took you and decide how much you can comfortably stash away every pay day. It might be $25, $50, or $100—only do what you’re comfortable with. It’s better to stay small and consistent than to overextend yourself and be dipping into your emergency fund all the time.

2. Take Stock

You might be asking “Where in my budget am I going to get this extra money to put aside?”. There are actually a few easy things you can do to help you come up with that magic savings number and where it will come from. Aside from the obvious expenses such as mortgage and loan payments, utility bills, groceries and gas, etc., take a look at where your money is going. Do you really need to go out for dinner every Friday or pick up a latte on your way to work? What other expenses can you cut out? You would be surprised at how quickly these frivolous purchases can add up. Simply ditching one of these habits could more than make up your savings contribution. Here are a few more ideas to find more wiggle room in your budget:

  • Ask your insurance company for a loyalty discount or shop around
  • Find out if you can bundle your utilities for a better price or consider downsizing that fancy cable package
  • Ask your credit card company for a rate reduction
  • Try to reduce your gas consumption by walking when you can
  • Pre-plan your weekly meals and stick to your grocery list
  • When you come into unexpected money from selling something or getting a birthday gift, consider saving a portion instead of buying something new

3. Set it and Forget it 

Get in touch with your branch and ask for an automatic transfer to be set up for your pay day from your chequing account to your emergency savings account. Leaving the responsibility on yourself to transfer to your emergency fund every pay day will leave you tempted to spend it and to find excuses as to why you can’t save it “this time”. There will ALWAYS be a reason why you think you need the money for something else so this will help eliminate that disruption in your savings plan. It’s also wise to choose a savings account that pays a higher rate of interest and is not accessible with your debit card.

If this is your first kick at the emergency savings can, you’ll be surprised at how accomplished you will feel when you start to see your savings grow; especially when you are forced to dip into it and realize not every unexpected expense in life needs to be met with stress and anxiety. Before you know it you’ll be looking for new ways to bring in money to add to your fund just to keep the momentum going (no pun intended). Then, once you reach your initial goal, aim for one month’s living expenses and keep going up from there. Living a financially stable life is something to be proud of and your future self will definitely thank you!

RESPs 101

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With the beginning of another school year upon us, it seems fitting to talk about the one savings plan that is sometimes overlooked by many parents. Most people are familiar with RRSPs and the options that come with planning their retirement finances, but many parents aren’t well versed on RESPs or the extra benefits that come with this type of long-term savings for their kids. RESPs could not be more simple! Not to mention important.

With an RESP, parents are essentially able to build a risk-free savings account for their child that earns tax-free interest over time. Here’s an overview of RESPs (in a nutshell):

What is an RESP?

RESP stands for Registered Education Savings Plan and it is a means for parents to save for their children’s post-secondary education. Any parent or legal guardian can open up an RESP at their financial institution and name their child as the beneficiary of the plan. Parents will contribute to the plan over time up to a maximum of $50,000 and once their child is planning to attend school, money is withdrawn from the plan to help pay for school-related expenses.

What are the main benefits?

– 100% Guaranteed principle

– Competitive interest rate

– Tax-free Interest (until withdrawn by the child at a lower rate)

Government Contributions

The Government of Canada also offers additional contributions to RESPs. Parents  have access to the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) and the Canada Leaning Bond (CLB), both of which essentially provide FREE money to your child’s RESP!

Canada Education Savings Grant

No matter a family’s income, a child’s RESP will receive a basic CESG of 20% of the annual contributions parents make to the plan up to a yearly maximum of $500 and a lifetime maximum of $7,200. That means that if parents put in $2,500 per year, the Government will contribute $500 per year as well (up to the $7,200 lifetime maximum).

Additional CESG

There is an additional CESG available based on net family income so some parents could qualify for an additional 10-20% on top of the 20% already provided through the basic CESG.

Canada Learning Bond (CLB)

Also dependent on net family income, the CLB will contribute up to $2,000 over the lifetime of the RESP. This includes up to $500 in the first year and $100 per year until the child turns 15.

And that covers the basics! As with all savings plans, the earlier parents can start investing in an RESP, the more they will be able to reap the benefits of long-term savings plus the added bonus of Government contributions.

For more information about RESPs, visit the Government of Canada’s website or contact us to open one today!

“EPIC” Student Finances

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It’s hard to believe the beginning of another school year is just over a month away. While students everywhere start to plan for another exciting year, finances may not be the first thing on their mind.

It’s a well known fact that school is expensive! According to Statistics Canada, the average cost of tuition fees alone for the 2016-2017 school year averaged around $6,373 – a number that leaves some students (and parents) scrambling for resources to cover additional costs such as books, transportation, and living expenses.

That is why we’ve designed The EPIC Student Bundle to help students through this milestone moment in their lives and ease some of the financial strain parents can feel as they send their kids off to school. With a loan or line of credit at MCU prime rate of 3.25%, students can borrow up to $10,000 per year and only have to cover the interest while in school. We’ve also put together some handy money savings tips below for students to use throughout the school year to help keep them on track with their finances.

Contact us to learn more about our student financing and what’s included in The Bundle.


MONEY SAVING TIPS

KNOW YOUR WANTS FROM YOUR NEEDS—Learn how to balance your wants vs. your needs and always remember your needs come first. You will likely have to sacrifice some of your wants, but remember it’s not forever!

DIVIDE YOUR MONEY—It’s a good idea to put money for rent and other living expenses in a separate account that you won’t access on a daily basis, especially if you’re getting all your education money at the beginning of the year (ie. student loan). Then you can safely budget the rest on a monthly or weekly schedule.

CONSIDER USED BOOKS—you’ve seen the prices of some of those textbooks, shop around! Many institutions run second-hand book salse or rental programs and you can also check out online sites like Amazon or eBay to shave off a few bucks (and for future reference—you can sell your books too)

SET A WEEKLY SPENDING LIMIT—and stick to it! Always take the time to pay yourself, but don’t go overboard on shopping and other entertainment. Those expenses add up quickly!

SCOPE OUT STUDENT DISCOUNTS—many businesses offer deals to students to help make everyday purchases more affordable to you (keep in mind that most require a valid student card). You can also sign up for a student discount card like SPC and save up to 15% on certain purchases. Some schools even offer deals to students for their health and wellness programs or gym memberships.

BUY BULK SUPPLIES—school supplies can be pricey, but if you can buy it in larger quantities you will be saving in the long run.

DON’T LET FOOD EAT UP YOUR BUDGET—learn to cook! Try to save more by eating meals at home and not buying a coffee or lunch every day (just $6 per day equals $180 in a month!) Keep an eye on grocery store specials and coupons so you can stock up when your favorite items go on sale.

AVOID CREDIT—if you don’t have the money for something, you really don’t need it. Try to pay with cash whenever possible so you can avoid those high interest credit cards.

START AN EMERGENCY FUND—try to put some extra money away every week into an account you won’t touch. You don’t want to be left short when your car gets a flat tire, or you get a phone bill that’s bigger than usual.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT ATM—if you find yourself in need of cash fast, try to scope out an Exchange ATM so you won’t pay inflated service fees (download The Exchange ATM Locator app so you always have it handy)

TRACK WHAT YOU SPEND—Review your bank account on a weekly basis and see where you can cut costs going forward (maybe you really didn’t need that expensive pair of shoes!) You’ll be amazed at how much you can downsize your spending when you really commit to it.

CHOOSE ACTIVITIES WISELY—there’s plenty you can do that doesn’t require spending a lot of money. Consider having your friends over for dinner and a movie instead of going out every weekend or split the cost of a group activity. When the day is over, you will be glad you made the thrifty choice.

WALK, WALK, WALK—if you are within walking distance to school, the store, your job, or the gym, do it! Park your car and save the extra money you would have spent on gas (plus exercise is good for you!).

Celebrating Canada 150

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Celebrations are taking place across the country this month in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary and our staff couldn’t be more excited to join in on the fun!

Our branches are hosting various activities throughout the month of June including raffles for some awesome Canada Day prize packs! All the fun will lead up to June 30th where the Oakville and Hamilton branches will be hosting fundraiser BBQs and the Brampton branch will have a selection of sweet treats available for members who stop by.

All proceeds will be donated to the following non-profit organizations in our communities:

  • Ian Anderson House
  • Hamilton/Burlington SPCA
  • Charity Chicks

Giving back in credit union-style seemed like the best way to honour our wonderful country and we thank everyone in advance for celebrating with us!

For more information on Canada 150 events happening in our area, visit the Government of Canada’s website.

CU Succeed Youth Bursary Program

The Ontario Credit Union Foundation (OCUF) is one again accepting applications for their student bursary program.

Last year, this exceptional organization provided $51,000 to 42 students in need to help pay for post-secondary education. How awesome is that?! This program has become a great resource for youth who are planning on attending a post-secondary school, or participating in technical or vocational training, who may not otherwise be able to afford higher education.

The goal this year is to provide $60,000 in bursaries ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 so many lucky students will be able to reap the benefits of the program. The average tuition cost in Canada in 2016 was $6,400 so every bit helps! We encourage anyone who is eligible to apply before the deadline on June 30th.

For full eligibility requirements and to apply, visit the OCUF website.

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Join us at The Vintage Marketplace

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We are excited to announce MCU will be a Presenting Partner of The Vintage Marketplace on April 22nd and 23rd!

This is the 5th year for this local event which hosts a massive collection of vintage vendors selling everything from décor and fashion to furniture and collectibles. This year’s event will feature the addition of a Wedding Inspiration section hosted by MCU and our team will be on-site talking wedding finances. And yes, you can expect delicious vintage-inspired eats and cold drinks too!

Last year’s event hosted over 5000 people and we can’t wait to be a part of what promises to be the best year yet! For tickets and more information, visit The Vintage Marketplace website.

We hope to see many of you there!

Protect Yourself from Fraud

March is Fraud Prevention Month so there’s no better time to learn about how to recognize, reject and report fraud! The Competition Bureau of Canada spearheads this campaign every year in hopes to educate Canadians about fraudulent activity and how to better protect themselves from vulnerabilities.

Thousands of Canadians are victims of fraud every year and it’s important for everyone to do their part to help minimize their risk and protect themselves from fraudsters.

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Some important tips from the Competition Bureau:

  • don’t be fooled by the promise of a valuable prize in return for a low-cost purchase
  • don’t be afraid to hang up the phone, delete the email or close your Internet connection
  • don’t disclose personal information about your finances, bank accounts, credit cards, social insurance number or driver’s license numbers to any business that can’t prove it is legitimate
  • shred unwanted personal information such as bank statements, credit card bills, unwanted receipts, cheques, pre-approved credit applications and old tax returns
  • check your credit report every year and report problems immediately

Get more information on Fraud Prevention Month and what else you can do to protect yourself on the Competition Bureau’s website.  You can also join the conversation online using the hashtag #FPM2017.

Baking a Difference

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ommunities across Canada come together each year to support SPCAs and Human Societies by hosting a cupcake fundraiser on this special day to help homeless and neglected animals.

Our branches have been selling paper cupcakes all month and we invite you to drop by our Oakville or Hamilton branches on February 27th to pick up a delicious cupcake for $1 to help support this great cause. Cupcakes and helping animals – what could be sweeter?

More information on National Cupcake Day can be found on their website.

Save the Date for our AGM

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We are excited to announce our 2016 Annual General Meeting is being held in Burlington on March 26th this year. We hope to see many familiar faces (and some new ones!) in attendance as we receive the annual reports and elect Directors. We encourage our members to attend and cast their vote for the candidates they feel are most qualified to help guide our Credit Union in the years to come. More information on the AGM and election can be found here.

 

Our Toy Drive is back!

We are excited to announce the return of our Holiday Toy Drive!

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Our branches will be accepting new, unwrapped toys until December 19th to be distributed to local children in need over the holidays. We are also accepting monetary donations for those without the time to shop.

Toys will be provided to:

Last year, it was through the generosity of our members and staff that we were able to help make the Christmas season a little brighter for hundreds of local kids. We thank you for helping us spread the joy again this year!