A Long, Cold Winter? Simple Energy Projects Can Save You a Bundle

With heating prices up, it’s time to consider saving energy with programmable thermostats, insulation, weatherstripping and upgrading windows and doors.

Programmable thermostat
Electronic thermostats that lower the temperature while you are in bed or away from home are the fastest, easiest way to save energy. In a cold climate, you can save about 5% for a 5° setback that lasts for eight hours. Most of these thermostats sell for less than $100, and they’re ultra-easy to install.

Floor of unheated attic: Check recommended insulation levels, and lay new insulation at right angles to the old.

Basement or crawl space: Fasten foam or fiberglass panels to the walls and cover with drywall. Either glue panels to the wall or fasten them to furring strips.

Heating ducts: Insulate in unheated attic or basement by wrapping with fiberglass insulation.

Weatherstripping is a flexible sealer for the moving parts of windows and doors. Many new windows and doors require a specific type of weatherstrip, which you may locate in hardware stores or on the Web. The generic “V-strip” adapts to many doors and windows and can even be applied in cold weather. The weatherstrip at the threshold often needs replacement. If the door bottom is still leaky, add a door sweep to seal against the floor or threshold.

Caulking seals exterior cracks around windows, doors, pipes, and vents. Scrape away old caulking and dirt, then squirt caulking into the crack.

Replace windows
Jamb kits are an easy way to update double-hung windows, with a product that can be installed and cleaned from the inside. You can install a jamb kit in less than an hour without touching the storm window, jambs, or casing molding. Order a kit to match the size of your window. Nail the vertical tracks inside the side jambs and insert the replacement sash.

Replace storm door
Battered storm doors are easy to replace on a standard-size door opening. A wooden door has better durability and will insulate better. Strip off the old door and follow directions while screwing the new one to the jambs, using a drill and other basic tools.

Preparing Your Home for Sale: Small Improvements Make Big Impact

In real estate, a good first impression pays off. Sellers can walk away with thousands of dollars more if they make their home look as good as possible. Appearances may make the difference between selling quickly and waiting months for an offer.

Before showing your home, consider these tips:

· Create curb appeal. Buyers are making a judgment about your house as they pull into the driveway. Hide unsightly hoses and garbage cans, rake leaves, trim the lawn, plant flowers, clean windows, paint the front door, and open the curtains.

· Put your home’s best face forward. A well-maintained house gives buyers confidence that the property is structurally and mechanically sound. Shampoo carpets, clean drapes, replace shower curtains, dust light fixtures, clean kitchen appliances, and change filters. Fix leaky faucets, oil squeaky hinges, tighten loose cabinet knobs, replace burned out light bulbs, patch holes in the walls, and apply touch-up paint.

· Declutter your home. Giving the impression that there’s ample storage space will enable buyers to visualize their own belongings in the home. Pack excess photos, get rid of countertop clutter in the kitchen and bathrooms, unstuff closets, and clean the garage. Rent storage space to hold belongings you remove, or have a garage sale.

· Create a cozy atmosphere. Burn scented candles or bake cookies to eliminate pet or cigarette odors, display fresh flowers, put out new hand soap and clean towels, play soft background music, and, depending on the weather, build a fire in the fireplace.

Scholarships Aren’t Just for Athletes and 4.0 GPAs

Scholarships can seems like they’re available only to valedictorians and jocks, but in reality, thousands of scholarship are given away every year that are open to everyone.

Colleges offer scholarships for the arts, academics, sports, and financial need. As long as you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, there are likely numerous scholarships you have a shot at winning.

The most common scholarships are merit-based. Students who excel in high school because of their grade point averages (GPA) or SAT/ACT scores receive these kinds of scholarships. Although harder to receive, you might qualify for a merit-based scholarship for the arts and athletics, as well as for academics.

You can also receive grants and scholarship based on financial need. For these, you will have to fill out a free application for federal student aid (FAFSA). There are also scholarships available for students studying for a specific career, local scholarships from businesses and charitable organizations, and student-specific scholarships based on race and other factors.

When applying for scholarships, don’t discount smaller ones. Though the awards may be lower, those small sums add up, and smaller scholarship can be easier to win. As you apply for scholarship, spend time on writing a well-composed essay. Here are some tips:

• Make sure you are directly answering the prompt given for the essay. Stay away from tangents and come up with a thesis to help you stay on track.
• Add personality to the essay by sharing a powerful personal experience or even a bit of humor. This is what will make your essay stand out from others.
• Build yourself up by talking about the organizations you are involved in without just listing your accomplishments. By simply listing each involvement, you may sound repetitive or dull.
• Have others read the essay so that you are getting input from other viewers’ eyes.

Also, keep a list of mentors, bosses, and teachers who would be willing to write you a recommendation letter, as those can be one of the most influential parts of a scholarship application.

Stay organized to keep on top of the different scholarships you are applying for. It may be useful to create a list of all the scholarships you are interested in so that you fulfill all the requirements on time. On your list, you can include materials like transcripts, letters of recommendation, and the application itself.

Hopewell Federal Credit Union and the Ohio Credit Union Foundation both offer scholarships to graduating students each year.  Take a moment and visit our website at www.hopewellfcu.org and click on the scholarship links at the bottom of the page for details.

Three Programs That Protect Your Passwords

Password managers are programs that store and encrypt your passwords. With a password manager, you have to remember only one password to log in to all of the websites you use.

Here are three of the most reliable, user-friendly options:

1. LastPass. This cloud-based password manager syncs with your browser and imports saved passwords. Or simply navigate to the websites you use, and LastPass will prompt you to manually enter and save your logins. LastPass offers multifactor authentication, which adds a second login step for additional security. The free version allows you to sync your account to multiple computers. LastPass Premium costs $12 a year and adds mobile and tablet access.

2. Dashlane. Like LastPass, Dashlane imports passwords from your browser and saves them in a secure “password vault.” Dashlane can rate the strength of your existing passwords and automatically generate stronger ones. Dashlane gives you a choice between storing data locally or in the cloud. The free version covers use on one device, while the premium version is $19.99 and syncs across all devices.

3. Roboform. Roboform mimics a browser bookmark: You select your desired website from a dropdown list, and Roboform fills in your login information. It also saves form data, such as name, address, and online payment information. Like Dashlane, Roboform allows you to choose between local or cloud storage. Roboform Everywhere, which offers one license across multiple devices, costs $9.95 for the first year and $19.95 each year after that. Roboform Desktop, which offers local storage on one computer, costs a one-time $29.95. Finally, Roboform2Go costs a one-time $39.95 and allows you to store passwords on a USB drive and use with any computer.

Whichever password manager you choose, make sure your master password is as strong as possible. Your trusty password manager will take care of the rest.

Five Steps to Organizing Your Finances

Do you know your net worth? Or how much you spend each month, and on what? Or how much you can expect from your pension plan or Social Security in retirement?

A no to most of these questions puts you with the majority of the population who have been too busy with life to get a handle on their finances.

Fortunately, there’s a five-step action plan to help you take control of your money.

1. Set up a financial filing system. Create a personalized filing system by labeling accordion file pockets with broad financial categories. Then label regular file folders with subcategories that fit your situation and file them into the accordion pockets. For example, create a Property & Casualty Insurance accordion file and fill it with a Vehicle Insurance regular file folder.

2. Gather records. Look through your records to identify missing information. For example, you need an estimate of your Social Security retirement benefits. To request one, contact the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213. Gather copies of your health, disability, life, homeowners, and vehicle insurance policies, and get a copy of your credit report. Contact the three national credit bureaus for information about how to request a copy of your credit report and how to correct any errors you find (Experian 888-397-3742, Equifax 800-685-1111, Trans Union 877-322-8228).

3. Size up your situation. Add the estimated current value of all assets, including your home, car, personal property, savings, investments, and retirement accounts.

Next, add all liabilities, including mortgage, credit card balances, and any other outstanding debt. Then subtract liabilities from assets to figure net worth.

Then, make a list of income and expenses by reviewing paycheck stubs, checkbook register, and credit card statements from the past year. Finally, track spending for a month by saving all receipts or recording cash purchases in a notebook. A spending plan form or money management software program helps organize spending by category.

4. Chart a course. Set financial goals–long-term and short-term–and figure how much money you’ll need for each. Create a target saving and spending plan that meets needs using your list of income expenses. For a month or more, track actual spending to see how you’re doing, making changes as necessary

5. Brush up on money management basics. Contact or visit Hopewell Federal Credit Union for more information about how to save and spend finances wisely.