Tag Archives: Spring

Saving on Landscaping

For the green-thumbed homeowner, there are few things as pleasurable as running fingers through soft, moist earth, catching sight of the first flowering buds of spring and inhaling the scent of freshly cut grass.

Tending to a lawn and garden can get expensive. Between seeds, fertilizer and gardening supplies, costs can be high enough to take the pleasure out of lawn care.

Here are 10 creative ways to save on landscaping, so you can have your well-tended lawn and your budget, too.

1. Plant perennials

Go green with your garden by choosing plants that flower year after year. You’ll have to pay more out of pocket when you first plant these blooms, but the cost-free plants you’ll have each year will more than make it worth the price.

2. Make your own compost

Mulch and other soil products may keep your garden healthy, but they’re not as kind on your wallet. Save money by going the DIY route with compost. All you need is a designated outdoor bin to collect your old fruit and veggie peels, plant clippings and dead leaves. After a few weeks, you should have a pile of nutrient-rich soil ready to give your garden the boost it needs to grow and glow.

3. Grow and trade

For a colorful variety of flowers, plant perennials that grow and multiply quickly, like hostas or daylilies. Within a few years, you should have more of these flowers and plants than you need. Then, you can trade them with friends and neighbors for new and interesting plants.

4. Propagate your plants

Grow your garden by helping your plants propagate. You can do this by separating an already growing plant into two and replanting; rooting a leaf or rooting a small stem with leaves. You can propagate new plants in soil or in water. Find out more about propagating here.

5. Choose plants that are natural to your region

For lower-maintenance plants, choose species that grow naturally in your area of the country. You’ll save on extra watering, soil correction and special plant food.

6. Shop the end-of-season sales

The plants in the nursery and home improvement store won’t look too attractive in the fall, but that doesn’t mean they’re useless. Plants that look wilted now can grow beautifully in the spring, as long as the roots are alive and well. Best of all, you can score these healthy plants at bargain prices.

While you’re shopping during the fall sales, you can pick up discounted potted plants, planters, gardening tools, lawn chairs and more.

7. Leave your grass clippings

Looking for an easy and cost-free way to improve your lawn? You already have one! Just leave your grass clippings on the lawn after mowing instead of cleaning them up. The clippings will break down quickly, adding organic matter and nutrients to your grass.

8. Don’t cut your lawn too short

Shorter grass attracts more weeds and will need more herbicides. Higher grass will shade out those pesky weeds while also developing a deeper root system, thus requiring less watering. Keep your grass at 2- 2 ½ inches for best results.

9. Pay attention to pH

It’s important to measure and control the pH level of your lawn. If the ground is too acidic or alkaline, your plants and grass won’t absorb nutrients, no matter how much fertilizer you feed them. Ideally, pH levels on lawns should be between 6.5 and 7. If your lawn’s pH level is too high or too low, you can add lime or sulfur to correct it.

10. Save extra flower seeds

Bought too many seeds to plant this year? No worries; you can save them for another year! Most flower seeds will keep well if stored in a cool and dry place. You can even buy seeds in bulk with plans to save the extra for a more cost-effective purchase.

Gardening is fun and rewarding — and it doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. Use our tips to cut back on landscaping costs without compromising on the health of your lawn.

Home Buying 101: The Housing Market

Throughout the next several weeks we’ll be posting articles and info on various aspects of the home buying process. Topics will cover everything from saving for a down payment, to refinancing, to purchasing investment properties, and more. We encourage you to connect with us on any questions you might have, and to share this information with friends and family!

 

Spring is in the air. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, and skies are clearing. Spring is also a time when potential homebuyers start to peek out of their doors and more actively pursue a new home. With the typical springtime bump in inventory, better weather for those heading from open house to open house, and kids heading towards summer break soon, this time of year can be the ideal time to buy for some. With all of the changes we’ve seen in the housing market over the last several years, you may have questions about whether or not this is the “right time” for you…

Should You Try to “Time the Market”?
One problem with attempting to time your home purchase to the business cycle is that no one can accurately predict the future. Another challenge is that interest rates are generally higher during a depressed market and income may not be keeping up. For that reason, fewer people can qualify for a home purchase than in more prosperous times.

The “wait-and-see” strategy generally works best for first-time buyers. People who already have a home usually need to sell it in order to buy their next one. If a “move-up” buyer wants to buy a home during a depressed market, that means they usually have to sell one during the slow market, too. If a seller wants to sell his home to take advantage of a hot market when prices are fairly high, they generally have to buy their next home during that same hot market, so it tends to equal out.

How Do Changes in the Market Affect Supply & Demand?
There are times when the economy is brisk and everyone feels confident about his or her prospects for the future. As a result, they spend money. People eat out more, buy new cars, and…they buy new homes.

Then, for one reason or another, the economy slows. Companies lay off employees and consumers are more careful about where they spend money, perhaps saving more than usual. As a result, the economy decelerates even further. If it slows enough, we have a recession.

During such a time, fewer people are buying homes. When the supply of available houses is greater than the supply of buyers, appreciation may slow and prices may even fall, as happened in the early eighties and the early to mid-nineties.

If you are lucky enough to purchase a home during a slow period, you can be reasonably certain the economy will begin to show strength again. At times, real estate values may even surge drastically. In many regions of the country, this is precisely what occurred in the late eighties and nineties.

What’s the Current Market Temperature?
The past few years have seen a major boom in housing sales. And it appears things aren’t changing anytime soon. Low rates and a relatively low amount of inventory make it a prime seller’s market. Sellers are oftentimes seeing multiple offers for over asking price. What’s the best thing someone can do to buy in the current market? “Get preapproved. Get all of your ducks in a row ahead of time so you know how much house you can afford and are ready to make a quick decision on a home,” says Steven Raymond, Vice President of Residential Lending at USAgencies Credit Union. “The market is very hot. And we’re just heading into spring, which can be prime home shopping time, so it can be pretty competitive out there. Getting preapproved ahead of time ups the chances of a closed sale for buyers.”

The Take Away
Markets slow and surge, as does housing inventory and buyer confidence. No matter what the situation in the market, or in your own family, it pays to be prepared. Knowledge is power. Knowing ahead of time what you’re pre-qualified and/or pre-approved for can help put you in a better position and allows you to make the best decision for you and your family.

 

Questions?
Steven Raymond, VP or Residential Lending at USAgencies Credit Union, has over 30 years of experience in the mortgage industry. Steven’s just about seen it all, as far as mortgages go. If you have questions—about the current market, getting pre-approved, or anything else mortgage-related—talk to Steven!

Steven Raymond 
Vice President of Residential Lending, NMLS#: 234025
Direct: (503) 275-0329
Toll-free: (800) 452-0915 x329
Email: sraymond@usacu.org

Ready to go?
Apply for a mortgage online now.

 

 

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USAgencies Credit Union
NMLS#: 441193

Freshen Up Those Finances for Spring

Give Your Finances a Checkup This Spring
Spring brings showers, flowers and an urge to tidy up. When you dive into spring cleaning this year, don’t forget your finances. Here’s how to give your money a thorough checkup to prepare for a great summer and beyond.

Check the health of your credit report
By monitoring your credit regularly, you can identify problems early. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get your free annual report from each of the three national credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Your credit score is not on your credit report, but what’s on your report influences what your score is. You can pay to see your score for a small fee.

Some financial institutions, like USAgencies Credit Union, will connect members with free financial counseling. They can discuss things that may be affecting your credit standing, as well as look at whether options such as consolidating debt or refinancing your home might be worthwhile.

Bolstering an anemic credit score
To bolster credit, take steps to clear demerits on your reports. Dispute errors and contact creditors to see whether they’d be willing to make “goodwill adjustments” to remove legitimate blemishes in return for paying a balance in full.

Another strategy for rebuilding credit is taking out a secured credit card. With a secured card, you deposit enough money to cover the limit you’re applying for, and your financial institution keeps that amount on hold for as long as you have the card. A secured card lets you establish a record of responsible credit use — boosting your credit standing in the process.

Tackling costly debt
High-interest debt from credit cards and loans can spiral out of control. To lower interest rates and reduce monthly payments, look into debt consolidation, which combines debt from multiple sources into a single loan. Choose from several solutions including home equity loans and lines of credit as well as personal loans.

With mortgage rates still near historic lows, those holding older mortgages might also benefit from refinancing to get a lower-interest loan.

Tuning up your credit score and tidying up your debts can refresh your finances. Before you know it, your budget will be in healthier shape, and you’ll be able to afford more summer fun.

Roberta Pescow, NerdWallet
© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Questions about how USACU can help you freshen up your finances for spring? Contact us.

 

Drive Into Reading Spring Car Sale

 Get 1.00% APR off already low rates*

From March 1st – April 30th, get 1.00% APR off already low rates* with USAgencies when you purchase a vehicle from Enterprise Car Sales. As a bonus, we’ll donate $70 to SMART (Start Making a Reader Today). This will buy 1 year of SMART books for 2 children in their program!

 

To learn more about this sale and other ways to give to SMART, visit USACU.ORG/CARSALE.

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*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. 1.00% off current rate offer is offered to qualified USAgencies Credit Union members by USAgencies Credit Union. Offer valid for terms up to 72 months. Current rate will vary based on credit worthiness and terms. Financing for qualified USAgencies Credit Union members. Offer valid only on Enterprise Car Sales vehicles purchased from 03/01/2015 – 04/30/2015. This offer cannot be combined with any other offer.