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Category Archives: In the News

7 Tech Gift Ideas for Under $50

Published December 4, 2018

amazon echo dot sitting on a desk

If you’re in need of a gift idea for your tech-savvy family and friends, then you’ve come to the right place. There are plenty of great gift ideas that don’t have to break the bank. To help get you started, here are 7 ideas that are all $50 and under.

CanaKit Raspberry Pi Model B+—$48.99

The first Raspberry Pi came out six years ago and the Model B+ is faster and more powerful than its predecessors. The Raspberry Pi is essentially a credit-card-sized computer that holds a quad-core processor, dual-band wireless LAN, and Bluetooth. What makes it better is that you don’t need to be a programmer to use it. It’s perfect if you want to tinker with different projects and you can even make your own retro arcade.

Buy it from Amazon

Amazon Echo Dot—$29.99

We had to include the new Echo Dot. With the upgraded speaker, this gift is ideal for someone wanting to buy their very first Alexa speaker. Regardless if you have someone on your list that’s a Echo Dot newbie or if your buying to upgrade from an older model, this is great option for them.

Buy it from Amazon

Portable Battery—$49.99

It’s never a good feeling to be on the go and have your phone battery run out. Having a portable battery like an Anker PowerCore 20100mAH can really come in handy if you’re going to be using your phone more than usual. (As you go gift shopping, perhaps?) Small enough to fit in your pocket, it can charge an iPhone around 5 times and an Android phone around 4. So long are the days of worrying if your phone is going to make it through the day.

Buy it from Amazon

Handbag Illuminator—$35.95

Even your most organized bag can seem like a black hole when your trying to find that one thing that keeps evading your reach. This rechargeable, automatic light will help make everything easier. It fits perfectly in your handbag and turns on at the touch or approach of your hand. After you’ve found what you need, it will automatically turn off to conserve battery life. Extra perk: you can even give your phone a little power boost with the light’s charging port.

Buy it from Uncommon Goods

Cable Organizer—$19.99

If you have a large amount of computer, phone, and or camera accessories, having somewhere to put all your cables in a nice tidy package can help you immensely. Being organized while you’re traveling or just wanting to find a place to store it all can save you loads of time. Coming in at a weight of 3.2 ounces, this BAGSMART Travel Organizer can help make traveling with your computer, camera, and phone gear much easier.

Buy it from Amazon

Games of Phones—$20.00

It’s time to invite your phone to the party. Your phone goes with you everywhere and you use it for everything, so why not use it to play this fun game. Game of Phone lets you turn your phone into the subject of a scavenger hunt for you and your friends. Draw a prompt card and see who can use their phones to create an emoji masterpiece, show off the last photo you took, or find the weirdest Google Image result for your name. It’s perfect party game.

Buy it from Uncommon Goods

Touchscreen Gloves—$32.00

This time of year the cold, gloves, and phones don’t really mix well. Normally you’re having to take your glove off, send a quick email or text, and put it back on before your hand turns to ice. While living in Texas we don’t have to deal with this too often, someone on your gift list might benefit from these touchscreen gloves. When the temperatures get cold, these can be your best friends.

Buy it from Uncommon Goods

 

(We were not compensated by any brands mentioned in the article. These are just our personal recommendations.)


MyNCU Rewards/Purchase Rewards Name Change

Published December 3, 2018

On December 5, 2018, upon logging into Online Banking and your mobile app, you will notice that Purchase Rewards (mobile) and MyNCU Rewards (desktop) will now be called “Get Cash Back.”

This will coincide with your MyNCU Mobile App update and we wanted to let you know about the small change.

This is the only change to your Rewards Program. All other functionalities will remain the same and no action is required on your part.


Making the Holidays a Little Less Expensive

Published November 28, 2018

red ball holiday ornament sitting on a wood floor

By Jordan Ottaway 

Brace yourselves, the holidays are coming. But, you probably already knew that.

You’re also probably planning for all your holiday celebrations as we speak. However, as you’re planning, have you been making financial preparations as well?

Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the most expensive holidays, so it’s important to make sure your budget is prepared and that you and have a solid spending plan in place. I know the holidays are already upon us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t budget to help save some money this year.

So you ask yourself, how can you save money during the holidays?

Make it a potluck

Are you hosting this year’s Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner? Or do you normally host and cook all the food yourself? Either way, making this year’s dinner a potluck will save you time, and most importantly, money.

Making your dinner a potluck doesn’t make it less special. In my opinion, it makes it better. Let your guests know that you will be preparing the main dish and have them bring some sides, appetizers, drinks, and desserts.

My family has always done this, and it’s what I plan to do when my wife and I host our first holiday next year.

Track spending

What good does a plan do if you’re not actively monitoring your progress? By not keeping track of your spending, you’re risking the chance of saying “I know how much I have left. I’m good.” That’s just asking for trouble.

Instead, create a spreadsheet, use your mobile app, or a personal finance tool like Money Management to monitor how much you’ve spent and how much money you have left in your holiday fund. While I’ve been using the spreadsheet method, I now keep up with my purchases in real time so there isn’t any delay of me inputting numbers.

Say goodbye to the ‘extras’

Stopping by Starbucks, treating yourself to dinners out, and other extras can really eat into your holiday budget and leave you in a sticky situation. Think about it, if you spend $4.50 on coffee three times a week all month, that’s $162 you could have used for gifts or holiday travel.

I’ll be honest, I’m guilty of this too because I LOVE coffee. But I have learned my lesson when I went to buy a gift and saw that it put me way over budget and I had that “oh shoot” moment trying to figure out how this happened.

Prepare for next year

When the family has gone home and things have settled down, this is a good time to see how you did and what you can do to be more prepared for next year. Where do you need to cut back? What worked? What didn’t?

Go over all these questions so you can have a savings plan in place come January 1 and be well on your way to have a worry-free holiday season.

Not to mention, the few days after the holidays are the best times to stock up on decorations since they will be 60-75 percent off. That is if you’ve budgeted for it. This is what I plan on doing so I can have plenty of decorations for my new house.

While it’s easy to get caught up in holiday spirit and spend too much, taking some time to have a plan in place can take so much un-needed stress off you and your bank account.


Banking on the Go: Keeping Your Information Safe

Published November 13, 2018

cell phone sitting on the edge of a desk

Online banking has helped make our lives more convenient, but with online security being a big topic, it also makes us think about how secure our information really is. That’s not meant to worry you, but it’s always good to make sure you’re as safe as can be in our digital world.

Whether you’re checking your balance, using mobile wallet, making a payment, or even applying for a loan, here are some mobile security tips you need to follow.

Keep your phone close

Thieves and pickpockets are coming up with more deceptive ways to try and get their hands on your stuff, so protect your phone like you would jewelry or any other valuable. Make sure you know how to use and enable the Find my iPhone, Find my Mobile on Android, or other tracking features in case it’s taken.

Biometrics are the way to go

How many accounts do you log into with your fingerprint, eye scan, or facial recognition? With so many people using biometrics, they are the more secure way to keep your information safe. Keep in mind, it’s never a bad idea to password-protect your phone as well.

Whether it’s a pin number, pattern, fingerprint, or face recognition, making sure your phone is protected can help you in the long run.

Don’t use unsecure passwords

This goes without saying, but you would be surprised at how many people are using insecure passwords for their financial accounts. This goes back to the previous section where we talk about the benefits of biometrics.

However, if you don’t plan to go that route, using a password that is secure and is something you will be able to remember is critical to keeping your information safe. Just for fun, here are the top 10 worst passwords you can use. (Data credited to Splash Data)

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. 12345
  6. 123456789
  7. letmein
  8. 1234567
  9. football
  10. iloveyou

If you realize you’re using one of these passwords or other insecure passwords like family names, birthdays, phone numbers, pin numbers, or your mother’s maiden name, you might want to change it.

Instead, create a password that has an unusual mix of words, special characters, case, and numbers. Yes, it might be a little more difficult to remember, but it will make your account more secure.

Of course, there are also password manager apps like Dashlane, Keeper, LastPass, and many others that can help you manage all your passwords.

Use the app

When you use your mobile app to take care of your finances, you’re getting more security than you would using your web browser. While you’re probably getting the same features, using the app adds that additional level of encryption to keep your personal information safe.

Conclusion

Your security is our top priority, and we want to give you the resources to confidently do your financial business on the go. Make sure to periodically do a security check to make sure everything is safe and secure. You can never be too careful.


Properly Maintaining Your Home

Published November 5, 2018

By Jordan Ottaway 

We can all agree that buying a home is big financial commitment. However, you don’t want to forget about the time and labor that goes into maintaining a house. Just like your car, regular maintenance keeps you from spending unnecessary money at the repair shop. This same principle applies to your home.

Home maintenance can be intimidating—especially for new homeowners—when you see the list of all the things you have to keep up with continuing to grow. But if you break it down, you’ll see that you can do most of the work yourself with little to no experience. (Thank you YouTube!)

To help get you started, I’ve broken down the time of year and how often you need to perform these tasks. (I’ve also made this list into a downloadable document so you can refer back to it later.)

Monthly

  • Clean the kitchen sink disposal—After a while you’ll probably start to notice it not smelling too great. If you have vinegar, put some in an ice tray and make vinegar ice cubes, then drop them in the disposal. Not only will it get cleaned, but this hack will also sharpen the blades. This is what I do for my own disposal.
  • Inspect your HVAC—While the experts say you should change your HVAC filters every month, small families with no pets or allergies can get away with changing it less frequently, every 2-3 months. When checking each month, see if the filter is dirty and needs changing. If not, leave it and check again next month.
  • Check fire extinguishers—This is pretty straight forward and doesn’t take much of your time. Make sure the extinguisher is in an area that’s easily accessible and that it has the right amount of pressure, and that there is not visible wear and tear.

Quarterly

  • Test smoke detectors/carbon monoxide detectors—This is something that should only take you a few minutes. All you need to do is press the “test” button and see if the alarm sounds. If it does, you’re good to go. If not, you need new batteries. If it doesn’t work after new batteries, check for corrosion on the battery terminal.
  • Test garage door auto-reverse—I’ll be honest, this is something I’ve never thought about until I found it in my research. To test your garage door’s auto reverse, place a broom or a 2×4 on the ground where the garage door would normally The door should stop and go back up. All garage doors are required by law to have this feature. You can never be too safe, especially if you have kids and pets running around.
  • Run water in unused places—This applies to the guest bathrooms you hardly use. It’s a good idea to run the sink and shower every now and then so you don’t have grime build up.

Biannually

  • Replace smoke detector batteries—Even if your detectors aren’t giving you that annoying low battery beeping noise, you can never be too careful when it comes to your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make it a point to change them out when you’re deep cleaning your house.
  • Deep clean your house—This is probably my least favorite, but it’s something I keep doing at least twice a year. Take a weekend, or a Saturday, and clean every single corner of your house. Not only will it make your house look better, but it will also eliminate dust and help with any unwanted allergies.
  • Vacuum refrigerator coils—Your refrigerator can account for 15 percent of your home’s power, so you want it to run as efficiently as possible. With anything, your coils will get dirty over time causing your fridge not to run as well. Doing this can actually save you money and it doesn’t take very long to do.

Annually (By seasons)

While you’ll be performing different maintenance tasks throughout the year, there are some things that you’ll want to keep in mind for specific times of the year. Below I’ve broken them down for you by seasons. 

Spring

  • Check the exterior—I’m talking about paint, siding, brick, and any other surface that might get chipped or damaged. This is a great time to give it a once over and make repairs as needed. Don’t forget to also give your foundation a check while you’re at it.
  • Clean your gutters—your gutters have probably collected leaves, grime, and sediment from the recent fall and winter weather. It’s a good idea to clean these out so your gutters won’t overflow and get clogged with the spring showers.
  • Fix landscaping blemishes—Spring is the season of new life. Getting rid of leaves, dead shrubs and flowers will allow you to plant new and allow your seasonal flowers to bloom without anything getting in their way.
  • Inspect your trees—If you didn’t trim your trees in the fall now is a good time to do so. You don’t want your trees to interfere with power lines or have branches that fall and damage your property. It’s not a bad idea to have them professionally trimmed periodically.
  • Clean your garage—This is something that should be a spring ritual. It’s not glamorous but it’s important and helps keep your garage functional and in good shape. Plus, you don’t want to do it during the heat of the summer.

Summer

  • Check your grout—This will help your tile have a longer life and overall look better.
  • Inspect exhaust vents to exterior of your home—When you are drying your clothes, check to see if the exhaust is coming out. If it’s not, make sure the dryer hose is clear and unblocked.
  • Repair deck—Summer is the time you will enjoy your deck, so you want to make sure it looks its best after going through winter. While it will need a good power wash, go ahead and check for loose boards and consider re-staining.
  • Take care of any insect issues—Before bugs become a problem, make sure your window screens are repaired, keep cobwebs clear, and always have your doors fully closed.

Fall 

  • Get ready for winter—In Texas we never really get snow, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be ready just in case. Pick up some sidewalk salt, shovels, and other winter gear you think you might need.
  • Have your chimney cleaned—If you have one, it’s a good idea to have this done once a year before you begin using it in the winter.
  • Flush outdoor water faucets—Before storing your hoses, make sure to all water out so they won’t get damaged if they freeze. It’s also a good idea to winterize your sprinkler system and get any sitting water out of your pipes so they don’t burst.
  • Check pavement for cracks—Before that first freeze, make sure any cracks are re-sealed so they don’t expand and become big—and expensive—problems down the road.

Winter 

  • Check handles, knobs, shelves, etc.—Since it’ll be cold, winter is the perfect time to do some maintenance on the inside of your house. If you’ve noticed any drawer knobs, handles, or shelves that have come loose, go ahead and tighten them down.
  • Clean your basement (if you have one)—Another neglected room of the house. Take a day to go organize and give your basement a good inspection for dust, mold, or anything else you might want to get rid of.
  • Inspect and repair your shower—This will help get rid of any sediment build up and can help with your water pressure.
  • Get rid of ice dams—Icicles may look cool, but they can get heavy and cause damage to your home, cables, and sometimes people. When you see them, it’s a good idea to knock them down.

Whew…I know that was a lot, but it will help keep your house in the best shape possible. And if you want that downloadable document, you can find it here.

If you have any home maintenance tips, let us know!