Trying to Save Money While Paying Off Debt?


Student loans. Car Payments. Rent. Credit cards.

The list of debt for Millennials can go on and on, but those four mentioned above are the biggest income drain of all. It may seem impossible to save while trying to pay off debt all while trying to have somewhat of a social life. But no matter how hard you try to avoid it, saving money is crucial. 

Saving money is more than just creating a good habit that will serve you well – it’s tied to your emotional well-being and your financial future. If you are living paycheck to paycheck but still want to save money, here’s a roadmap to start you on your savings journey.

1. Cut Back on Going Out.
It’s okay to enjoy life. If your guilty habit involves happy hours after work, or dining out on the weekends, by all means—do it! But once per month, say “no” to drinks with the guys or that weekend shopping trip. Take the $40 and put it away! After a year, you’ve saved $480! Easy enough, right?

2. Don’t let your emotions guide your financial decisions.
This is extremely important. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed paying your bills each month and seeing money go straight to your student loans, but you have to keep a level head to avoid making poor financial decisions. It’s not easy to save and pay off debt, but remember that you’re far from being the only one struggling and you can ask for advice any time.

3. Refinance your debt.
Stuck at a high interest rate? It’s time to refinance! Many credit unions even offer a cash incentive for members to refinance. From the cash bonus to lower interest rates, you could save over $100 per month just by moving your auto loan elsewhere.

4. Switch to a Credit Union
On the refinance note, save yourself on monthly fees as well. If you’re paying money just to have a basic checking account, it’s time to say goodbye. Find yourself a credit union and save the average $7 per month. That’s another $84 per year in savings!

5. Downgrade, if possible.
If refinancing your student loans or credit card debt won’t save you much money, it might be time to dig a little deeper. Look at your spending to see where you can cut back. Move into a cheaper apartment, get a roommate, get a cheaper car with better gas mileage. If you’re overspending, you simply need to cut back. If you’re not overspending, take time to find a side hustle or other means of increasing your cash flow to save and pay off debt at the same time.

Don’t stress over your finances. Do what you have to do until you can do what you want. It’s hard, but in the end, it will all be worth it!

Do you have any tips on saving money while paying off debt? Leave a comment below!

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Budget Friendly Thanksgiving Menu

Embraced extended family celebrating Thanksgiving day

Getting together with friends and family for the holidays may be priceless, but putting food on the table can cost a lot of money!

The average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people exceeded $50 for the first time since the American Farm Bureau began tracking it in 1986.  The total price of the feast increased 70 cents (or 1.4 percent) to $50.11 from 2014.

The most expensive item on the list is a 16-pound turkey, which costs an average of $23.04 this year. That’s up $1.39 from last year, or 6.42 percent, the largest percentage increase of all the grocery items.

So how can you make the perfect Thanksgiving dinner without breaking the bank? Well, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve carefully come up with recipes and tips for preparing a Thanksgiving dinner all while staying on a budget. The entire meal will please your appetite and will keep your wallet happy too. Now that’s something to be thankful for!


  1. Meat: Turkey is usually about 40 percent of the cost of the meal. And as mentioned above, the cost of turkey has increased this year. You can save money by purchasing a store-brand frozen turkey (with a coupon) instead of a fresh turkey. Be sure to allow enough time to thaw the bird: one day in the fridge for every five pounds. Then do some research on how to prepare it and spice it up with flavor! Here is a super easy recipe for you first time turkey bakers out there! If you want to forgo the Turkey this year to save some cash, switch it up with Ham or Chicken! They are both just as delicious and you will be saving yourself a few extra bucks!
  2. Stuffing: Although it is probably more fun to make stuffing from scratch, I think it’s easier to just buy it at the store and prepare it. My all time favorite stuffing is the Pepperidge Sage and Onion which you can buy from any grocery store. Instead of adding water though, I like to add chicken brother to give it a little more flavor.
  3. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy: If you are crunched on time, there is nothing wrong with making boxed potatoes. These are cheap and can be made in just minutes. But, if you are looking for the real deal, check out this simple yet delicious recipe! Don’t forget the gravy!
  4. Green Bean Casserole: It’s the dish everyone’s expecting on the holidays, but it’s so easy to make, you can serve it any day. What makes this green bean casserole so good?  A secret ingredient – cream of mushroom soup. Check it out here!
  5. Corn: You can buy corn on the cob, canned corn or frozen corn. Whatever you decide, it’s easy and quick to prepare! Just add a little butter, salt and pepper to give it some flavor and there you have it!
  6. Dinner Rolls: Buy them in the package or make your own. Whatever the case, these are always great to add to your Thanksgiving dinner!
  7. Deviled Eggs: These are one of my absolute favorite appetizers at Thanksgiving time. For those of you who are unsure how to make deviled eggs, click here for the recipe! I always like to add a little more mayo to mine to make them softer and sweeter.
  8. Pumpkin Pie: What’s Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie? I have yet to make my own pumpkin pie but I found a simple recipe online for you guys! Check it out here! Just don’t forget to double up on the whipped cream!
  9. Veggies: Veggies and dip are a good appetizer for everyone to snack on. Buy your favorite veggies (carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, cherry tomatoes), chop them up and spread them out on a platter for everyone to enjoy!
  10. Cheese and Crackers: This is another great option for you and your guests to snack on before and during the main meal!



  1. Make It a Potluck: Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. People are happy to pitch in and bring a dish or two, and potlucks are trendy right now. Not only will it save you time and stress, but it will save you quite a bit of money as well!
  2. Make a list and stick to it!: Without a plan for what you’re going to serve for Thanksgiving dinner, you are likely to spend more money than you would with a set menu. Make a list and stick to your list in the grocery store. You’ll save both time and money!
  3. Use Coupons!  There’s a reason millions of people use coupons – simply put, they’re free money. After you’ve made up your menu, look through your local Sunday paper and clip coupons for any of the items on your list. For those of you who don’t get the paper, you can go online to or to get coupons for your favorite Thanksgiving items!

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Holiday Fraud Fighting

I shared this post last year but I wanted to share again as a reminder to be smart while doing your holiday shopping. Check out this guest post from Cait Klein at Nerdwallet! NerdWallet is a personal finance website that is focused on helping people lead better lives through financial education and empowerment. When it comes to credit cards, insurance, loans or expenses like hospital costs, consumers make almost all their decisions in the dark. NerdWallet is changing that by building accessible online tools and providing research and experts that can’t be found anywhere else, all to balance consumer finance in favor of the consumer. They call it putting knowledge in your wallet.

No fraud

The holidays are a time of family, friends and fun, but for an unfortunate few, it’s also a season marred by fraud and even theft. Here are some tips to help you protect yourself while shopping online and at the store.

Online Safety Tips

  1. Shop smart: If you plan on making purchases online, only use secure websites with URLs prefaced with https://,  rather than http://. Think of the extra “s” as standing for safety.
  2. Bolster passwords: If it’s been a while since you last changed your passwords, now’s the time. Avoid using the same one across multiple sites so that if one gets hacked, others won’t fall as well. Make passwords a mixture of upper- and lowercase letters and numbers, along with symbols. For example MeRRyXmaS!* is a much safer password than MerryChristmas.
  3. Log out when done: After completing an online transaction, make sure to log out of the website and close the browsing tab instead of hopping directly over to another site. It may be tempting to keep multiple sites open at once to speed movement between them, but avoid creating this browser mall. For each purchase, open a new browser to ensure security.
  4. Watch for porch poachers: As online purchases are shipped, keep track of when the orders are set to reach your door. You can track packages online to make sure they don’t sit on a porch or step for hours, presenting a tempting target for thieves. Try to be home to accept deliveries, or ask a neighbor to grab them.
  5. Beware of identity theft: Personal information about tens of millions of people in the U.S. has been exposed by data breaches, mostly involving big retail chains like Target, Home Depot and T.J. Maxx. While taking precautions such as changing passwords can help you avoid becoming a victim, keep an eye on your accounts for any suspicious activity. Most bank, debit and credit card accounts can be monitored online and with smartphones as well as through mailed monthly statements. Financial services providers like Community 1st Credit Union often offer online andmobile apps to help you keep an eye on things. If you think one of your accounts has been compromised, report it to the account provider first, then file an identity theft report  with theFederal Trade Commission.
  6. Shop smart: If an online deal sounds like a holiday hoax, chances are it is. Be skeptical about closeouts, super discounts and terms that seem too good to be true.

In-Store Safety Tips

  1. Shop in numbers: The more the merrier—as well as safer. Shop with a friend or family member to help you avoid in-store predators. If you’re lugging more bags than you can easily carry, it can attract a thief who could grab a sack or slip something out of one unnoticed.
  2. Hide and lock: Keep purchases hidden from view in your vehicle’s trunk or covered cargo space, and remember to lock the doors. Bring along a blanket or extra jacket to toss over any purchases you must leave on a seat.
  3. Watch out: Heading to and from the parking lot, keep an eye out for sketchy characters hanging around, and keep your purse or wallet tucked inside a jacket. Danger isn’t everywhere, of course, but it’s better to be safe than sorry — and it never hurts to be alert to your surroundings.

Simple precautions like these can help keep you safe this holiday season, both online and in stores.

Cait Klein, NerdWallet

‘Tis the Season to Shop on a Budget


Can you believe Christmas is a little over a month away? Well if you’re anything like me, you haven’t even started to think about Christmas shopping. However, now is the time to start making your list and checking it twice, because ready or not, the holidays are on their way! Check out some of these tips to survive the holiday shopping season without busting your budget….

Make a List.Write down everyone you plan to buy a gift for, no matter how small the gift may be. Include ideas of what to give each person, along with the maximum amount you’re willing to spend. This will help you manage your holiday budget.

Black Friday Shopping. If you’re looking for great deals and aren’t afraid of battling the crazy long lines, the day after
Thanksgiving is a shopping must. Get a head start by checking before the big day. The site lists Black Friday ads from various stores and updates the information as it becomes available, allowing you to plan out which stores to hit and what products you intend to buy. Some stores even offer advance “Black Friday” sales before Thanksgiving! Make sure to check them out!

Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is the biggest online shopping day of the holiday season and many online retailers will offer special discounts on their products the day of. It takes place the Monday after Black Friday. Beat the crowds and shop online.  Don’t miss your chance to find some great deals!

Plan ahead.  If you’re not already a Christmas Club member, consider opening an account at C1st. Christmas Club accounts are unique savings programs that allow you to save throughout the year for the holiday season. Deposit any amount throughout the year or let us help you with automatic deposit options. On October 1stof each year, we will return your yearly savings along with the dividends – just in time for the holiday shopping season.

  • No minimum balance
  • Funds transfer automatically into checking or savings on October 1st
  • Two withdrawals (emergency only) allowed per year

Skip-A-Pay. Take a break this holiday season! We all know the holidays can be an expensive time of year but why not make yours a little less stressful. Enjoy some extra cash with our Skip-A-Pay program and skip your December loan payment. C1st will extend the term of your loan by an additional month.  Then, what you do with the extra cash is up to you!

Do you have any holiday spending tips or tricks?  Share them in the comments below!


Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

How-to-Tuesday: DIY Halloween Decor on a Budget

Halloween is by far one of my favorite holidays! It’s a perfect way to channel your inner child and I encourage you all to do so! Get creative, dress up, make spooky recipes and have fun with your friends! Whether you throw a Halloween bash, or just want to impress the neighborhood trick-or-treaters, decorating for Halloween has never been easier! Check out this list of DIY Halloween decorations that are sure to add to the holiday fun while saving you some extra cash!

  1. Floating ghosts: Blow up a balloon and drape a white sheet over it. If you place the tied end of the balloon at the top, you can insert a safety-pin through the sheet and the tied end of the balloon to suspend the ghost from the ceiling or from a tree using ribbon, string, etc. Once the sheet is on, secure the bottom with a rubber band to make the shape of the head. Use a black sharpie to draw the face.
  2. Tombstones: Use Styrofoam to shape gravestones. Color the tombstone with gray spray paint. Use a black marker or paint to write on the front of it. Hang your tombstone on a door, or to stake it in the ground, by inserting long dowel rods through the bottom of the gravestone.
  3. Spider Webs: Hang fake spider webs and plastic spiders to spook up a hall, corner, or chandelier.
  4. Window Silhouettes: This is more of an indoor/outdoor decoration. Cut out popular Halloween shapes in black paper and stick them to your windows. When the indoor lights are on, the shapes will come to life!Window Stencils
  5. Glowing Eyes: These spooky eyes are super easy to make. Cut the eye shapes out of cardboard tubes and place a plastic glow stick inside the tube. Once they are finished, tuck a few sets of eyes in bushes around your front yard to give the trick-or-treaters a little fright.EyesGlowing Eyes
  6. Specimen Jars: Fill old glass jars with plastic rats, toy bugs and doll heads or whatever you have lying around the house, then add a little colored water. Stick a label on the jar with the name of your specimen – shrunken heads, poisonous tarantulas, baby rats, human brain, etc.


What are your favorite Halloween decorations to make? Share with us in a comment below!

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Fall Wardrobe and Beauty Essentials on a Budget

Fall is officially here and that means boots, leggings and oversized clothing are in. Instead of going out and spending hundreds of dollars on fall essentials, I have some simple ways you can re-vamp your wardrobe to make it a little more trendy and fall like on a budget. These tips will be focused mostly for ladies but I’ll make another post about this for guys later.

DIY scarf – Yes, you can go out a buy some scarfs, but you might be able to save more money by doing it yourself. Check out your local fabric store for some plaids, deep colored (maroon is my fall favorite), or textured fabric. Take that fabric and transform it into an infinity scarf by sewing, using no sew iron on adhesive or hot glue! If you are looking to start a new hobby, try crocheting! Check out this great tutorial:

Layers–  Purchase some warm toned undershirts or t-shirts to layer with a flannel, hoody or denim jacket. I recently have been loving the white under shirt with a flannel and black distressed jeans.

Over-sized clothing– Over-sized clothing is in, and it’s cozy! I think it’s worth it to splurge on a good quality, over-sized white tee or v-neck. Basics are a necessity and you can add jewelry, scarves,  or layers to class it up a bit. So many possibilities with just one shirt. Over-sized sweaters are always a plus too! Not only are they warm, but they extremely comfortable!

Shoes- Fall is all about the boots. My go to fall shoes are my beige booties I purchased from Target last year. They were only $30 on sale and I get complements on them everywhere I go. They are super cute, comfortable, and go with every outfit. They are currently at full price online, but keep checking back! They may go on sale or you could check Target’s Cartwheel app for shoe coupons.


Makeup/Beauty Essentials– Instead of revamping your clothing, switch up your makeup look! For the frugal route, I suggest shopping for a new lip color, blush, nail polish or eye makeup at CVS or Ulta. CVS is awesome if you don’t mind drug store cosmetics. I love shopping at CVS because they usually have great deals that include extra bucks, or money back! Whenever you shop at Ulta, ALWAYS use a coupon. Here are some of my favorites below:

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 9.29.21 AMNail color:  Dark Dahlia by CND


Lipstick Color: Zoe’s Red by L’Oreal Paris 


What is your Fall go to look? Let me know in a comment below!

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.


What is a Credit Union?

No, really. What’s a credit union?

They’re kind of like banks, only better. They offer many of the same products and services as banks – checking accounts, debit cards, CDs, car loans – only their not for-profit status allows them to focus on what’s really important: helping you get great interest rates on savings accounts and loans. What’s more, credit unions are community-oriented. They probably even know you by your first name.

It may seem that credit unions and banks offer the same products and services upon first glance, but they are actually quite different. Click here to visit our website to learn about the major differences between the two financial institutions and see how a credit union can benefit you!

So, here is the challenge. Community 1st Credit Union is declaring September as “Credit Union Advocacy Month.”

What does that mean?

As not-for-profit financial cooperatives, credit unions direct earnings back to their members and community. Since credit unions are owned by their members, it is important that all members know about pending legislation and actions that could affect them. Because we are stronger together, we may ask you to lend your voice on important issues that could impact your financials lives. The purpose of our credit union advocacy efforts is not to influence your vote, but rather to:

·         Explain the political and legislative issues facing credit unions

·         Educate on the unique structure of credit unions

·         Show where elected officials stand on these issues

·         Provide educational links so that you can make informed decisions

·         Offer ways for you to take action!


With more than one million credit union members in Iowa, we are all stronger together! Click here to show your support of Iowa’s Credit Unions by joining the advocacy database.


Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Dorm Room Shopping on a Budget


For many, school is back in session! But for those of you incoming freshmen starting next week, it is time to finish packing up your things to start a new chapter in your life…. College! Shopping for your college dorm room can be fun if you love to shop, but it can also be a huge hassle because there is so much to get. Not only is there a large variety of items to choose from, but there are a lot of unnecessary and expensive things that you don’t need in your room. Here are some tips to help make your dorm room feel like home without breaking the bank!

Make a list
Before you head to the store, make a list of the items you really need! This will eliminate the impulse shopping. Stores like Target and Wal-Mart reel you in with all of their back to school stuff on display right when you walk in the entrance! Heck, I graduated four years ago and it still gets me sometimes! Be smart and don’t give in to the cool – but unnecessary items!

Here are 4 things that I DO recommend buying:
1. Mini Fridge
2. Storage Bins
3. Shower Caddy and Shower Flip Flops
4. Laundry Hamper
5. Mattress Pad

Shop at home
Before you go shopping, go through your school supplies from last year and figure out what will still work for you this year. There is no point to purchase new school supplies when you have left overs from the years before! You most likely have a backpack and a calculator left over from high school that you can reuse. Not only is it good for your wallet to reuse your old things, but it is also good for the planet.

Partner with your roommate
Chances are you and your soon-to-be roommate have similar shopping lists. Avoid doubling up and wasting money by touching base before hand to figure out what you each can bring. After all, in a crowded room who really needs two printers? If you are assigned a random roommate, dorm furnishings are a good way to break the ice via email or Facebook!

Ask friends and family
Who said hand-me-downs are a bad thing? Check with your friends or family to see if they have any dorm furnishings they are looking to get rid of! This will save you money and you may be doing them a favor by cleaning their basement and getting rid of their unwanted stuff! First-time students can turn to family and friends for more than a used microwave or rug, though. Those who have been to college recently may just have some tips for your first year on campus!

Make Craigslist your new best friend
Craigslist in a college town is an awesome way to get nice and affordable furniture and electronics! Many students move away after graduation and sell all of their college stuff on Craigslist! Take advantage of this! Spend some time to look for those items you need such as a mini fridge, mattress or futon! This time of year you will be sure to find good deals on these items! Just remember to be smart and safe and always take someone with you when shopping from a random person on Craigslist. If shopping online isn’t your cup of tea, check your local consignment stores! They always have used college necessities and more often than not, they are as good as new!

With these smart tips to save on college dorm needs, you can save yourself some much-needed cash. Your wallet will thank you for thinking ahead when school is back in session. Now that you are all ready for college make sure to have fun and enjoy the next four years! Cherish these moments because they will be over before you know it!

Good Luck!

Jessica M.

30 Day Money Saving Challenge

PicMonkey Collage

Want to save more money this summer? The 30 Day $100 Challenge is the perfect way for you to save an extra $100 in 30 days. Easy enough right? I’m excited to start the challenge, and I’ll be in it with you. Saving money doesn’t have to mean restricting our lifestyles, it just means being more conscious of where your money is coming from and where it is going.


How does the challenge work? 

  • Commit to the 30 Day $100 Challenge. If you want to change your financial lifestyle, increase your savings and cut back on spending. It’s time to get in control of your finances! The challenge will go from August 1 – August 30. Try this challenge with a friend or family member! It will be easier to have someone holding you accountable for your spending.
  • Check my blog and Instagram over the next  30 days. You will get frequent financial tips and I’ll challenge you with new money saving or moneymaking tasks throughout the month. These challenges will be a way for us to save money, cut spending, and will inspire us all to be financially savvy.
  • Comment on my blog and Instagram. Stay accountable by sharing pictures of your savings struggles, successes, and splurges using the hashtag #30daysofsavings and tag @Community1stcu so we can all connect. Don’t forget to leave your support on other community members’ photos too.


How much do I save each week?

  • Week 1: Save $25
  • Week 2: Save $25
  • Week 3: Save $25
  • Week 4: Save $25
  • End: $100

If you think this challenge is too easy for you, try saving more money! You’ll be surprised on what items you can cut back on.

Just a few days before we begin! Are you ready to take the challenge?


Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Money Monday: A Millennial’s Guide to Investing

InvestYour 20’s are the best time to begin investing your money

It’s true that millennials have a tendency to want to put their money toward anything instead of socking it away — from clothing to concerts to a night out. In fact, only 28 percent of millennials believe that long-term investing is an important path to success, compared to 52 percent of non-millennials, according to a UBS report. But the truth is, your twenties might be the best time to begin investing money.

“The sooner you start saving and investing, the easier it is on your budget,” says Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of the Charles Schwab Foundation. “The sooner you start, the less you have to save because you have time on your side.” That’s because money invested throughout your 20s will continue to gain interest. Think of it this way: Investing a mere dollar at age 25 could be more than five times as valuable as doing so at age 45.

So how can you start investing? It might be easier than you think. Take these first steps and you’ll be on your way to meet your retirement goals:


1. Evaluate your current financial situation. It’s important to not jump right into investing if you can’t afford to do so — that won’t help anybody.

“If you don’t have at least three to six months’ [income] in a cash reserve account, I don’t think you should start investing,” says Dominique Broadway, a financial planner, personal finance coach and founder of Finances Demystified and the Social Money Tour. “You don’t want to lose your cash cushion or emergency fund.” So if that’s the case, save up a reserve and then take on investing.


2. Put away 10 percent of each paycheck. Or as much as you can. The key here isn’t so much about what amount to put away but rather understanding to do it now, because time is on your side. Even if you’re just setting aside 5 percent of each paycheck, the amount, over time, will blossom into a good-sized amount in retirement.

“Building habits, especially in your 20’s, is so important for long-term success,” says John Deyeso, a certified financial planner.

3. Start a 401(k) or IRA. Many jobs offer a 401(k), and if yours does, you’ll definitely want to take advantage. A 401(k) allows employees to contribute a percentage of their paychecks tax free. Try to invest as much as you can into a 401(k), and take advantage of whatever your company will match. If you don’t have access to a 401(k), you can open an IRA. It’s important to open one of these accounts in your 20’s. In your 30’s, you can contribute twice as much and still not have as much as if you’d started in your 20’s.

“Every $1,000 saved in your mid-20’s grows to over $10,000 at retirement, assuming 6 percent growth every year. But waiting until your mid-30’s means that same $1,000 will only grow to $6,000,” explains Shane Leonard, a chartered financial analyst and the CEO at Stockflare.


4. Don’t be afraid of risks. When you’re young, you can risk jumping at every opportunity and not having them work out, because it gives you more leeway for a reward later in life.

“You may need to take risks when you’re younger,” says Erin Baehr, author of “Growing Up and Saving Up.” “You may take one job over another and find it doesn’t work out. But when you’re younger, you have the ability to do that. And then that can parlay into a bigger return down the road.”



Investing early should pay major dividends in the future. Any questions? Leave a comment below or stop by your local Community 1st Credit Union location to speak with one of our representatives today.


Until Next Time,

Jessica M.


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