What Will You Do With Your Tax Refund?

According to the IRS, the average refund for 2012 was just over $2,800. That’s over $309 billion refunded to over 110,000 filers. Does Uncle Sam owe you some money this year?  If so, what are your plans? Pay off debt? Save? Invest? Splurge?

Here are a few ideas on what to do with your refund:

That New Car Smell

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Mmmmm, it’s tough to beat that new car smell. Not because the scent itself is so mesmerizing, but rather it signifies that you’ve just bought yourself a new vehicle. If you’re in the market for a used vehicle, no problem, you can still satisfy that new car smell thing with something along these lines.

In any case, looking for a new set of wheels to get you around town can be both exciting and daunting. It’s not like we’re out there on a weekly basis buying vehicles. For many of us, it happens only once every handful of years. We tend to forget all that goes into the buying process. Because vehicles are such a big investment, let’s review some of the things to consider when buying one.

Consolidate Your Debt

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Life is rarely easy. There are bumps in the road with no map that allows us to see what the road ahead has in store for us. And that means things happen for which we aren’t prepared. We lose a job. An illness strikes. It can be any number of things, big or small, that put a dent in our financial situations.

If you’re in a bit of a squeeze financially, know that you’re not alone. First, there are others in that same boat. And second, you have your friends at Vantage Credit Union. As a Vantage member, your financial health is very important to us.

Are you feeling the pinch? We may be able to help. One option is debt consolidation, simply grouping existing debts into one combined debt. These debts could include student loans, auto loans, or maybe a few credit card balances. There are a number of consolidation solutions we can offer, but your particular solution depends on your situation.

Chairman of the Hoard?

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O.K., the holidays are over, and the Elf on a Shelf and his holiday buddies are put away for another year. But for some reason, the clutter around the house seems to have multiplied. Every counter is overflowing, every corner is occupied. Where does all the stuff come from?

Where it comes from shouldn’t matter as much as where it’s going. Perhaps it’s time to take a good, hard look at your home and make an honest effort to eliminate that clutter. But where to start? Here are some tips from assorted experts (yes, there are clutter experts!).

Crunching the Auto Financing Numbers

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Be aware that specials like 0% financing are often limited to specific models and can come with qualifications that limit who takes advantage of the offers. Also, 0% financing offered through the dealer means you’ll be involved with such companies as Ford Motor Credit or GM Financial. Customer support there can come from places like Omaha, Nebraska, or Fort Worth, Texas.

Putting the Stay in Vacation

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So you can’t book flights to Key West or load the car for the Grand Canyon, but booking a staycation doesn’t have to leave you feeling cheated. There are numerous things you can do to make time spent around home central both relaxing and fulfilling. Here, let’s take a look at just a few ideas.

Avoid Used Vehicle Fraud With CARFAX

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that consumers on the lookout for reliable used vehicles lose billions—yes, that’s BILLIONS—of dollars each year to odometer fraud. And that’s just one fraud possibility you need to watch for when shopping for a used vehicle.

To help members verify the history of used vehicles before potential purchases, and avoid fraud, Vantage now offers CARFAX, a respected source for obtaining reliable information concerning pre-owned vehicles. 

Triskaidekaphobic? Have No Fear in 2013!

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Are you a triskaidekaphobic? It’s a big word associated with a big fear…fear of the number 13. And you’re in good company. Winston Churchill was a triskaidekaphobic. Napoleon feared 13. So did Christopher Columbus.

The fear stems from a number of 13-related events, such as 13 Disciples at the Last Supper. Friday the 13th actually has a fear all its own – Paraskevidekatriaphobia! 

But enough with the trivia. Have no fear in 2013 with Vantage loans and extra cash! You could win one of four $1,300 prizes!*

Our Mobile App is Now Available!

Pay a bill while waiting in the drive-thru. Transfer money while in a long-winded meeting (very discreetly, of course). Make a deposit while relaxing in the park. Some of this was possible via smartphone browser before, but now it’s much easier with our mobile banking app, MyMobile! 

We’re very excited to be offering our members yet another convenience, starting with the app for iPhone and Android.

With MyMobile, you’re able to manage your Vantage accounts anywhere via your mobile device. All you have to do is download the app on your device from the App Store or Googleplay (search for Vantage CU). Then simply use the same credentials you use when logging into MyVantage online banking, follow a few validation prompts, and you’re ready to go!

Impulse--Bye!

It’s easy to promise that we won’t spend excess money as we’re sequestered away in our living rooms, relaxing in our easy chairs. But when we’re standing within arm’s reach of the best-looking jacket we’ve ever seen, well, that easy chair promise seems so very far away. That jacket has jumped into our psyches and hit directly on the hard-to-ignore impulse button.

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with rewarding yourself once in awhile with an off-the-chart purchase. After all, you keep your nose to the grindstone; a little reward can be in order. The problem steps in when that reward becomes more of a standard practice, happening on a regular basis. Your budget could suffer, which in turn means you could suffer down the road.

The object here is to put some real clamps on impulse buying. But how? The peeps at Freeintenyears.com have some tips.

Wheels and Deals

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Mention buying a new car, and after the euphoria of imaging yourself behind the wheel of a new auto wears off, you could be hit head-on by the realization that you hate the whole car-buying process. Ugh. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Not with Vantage as your partner.

Vantage can be your complete car-buying resource, whether you’re looking for a new or used vehicle. Let us help you in a number of ways:

Bank On MOre: The Credit Unions of Missouri

Bank On MOre is a campaign developed by the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) to raise awareness about credit unions in Missouri and our distinct differences from banks. You will see this campaign all around the area.

So you know the benefits of being a member of a credit union, but your friends and family don’t. Here’s a quick list of what credit unions offer that banks don’t, from the Bank On MOre campaign:

The Gift of Choice!

Aunt Jeanne already has enough cowhide-themed knick-knacks in her kitchen, and your brother doesn’t really need another tool. What to get them this time around? How about the gift of choice? Give them a pre-paid Visa gift card from Vantage, and they can choose whatever they want from just about anywhere they want it.

The GAP, What It Is Worth vs What You Owe

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Ahhhhh, a new car! Check you out! But as great as it feels to close the door on that new car smell, reality tells us a new vehicle isn’t exactly the best investment. We don’t mean to be Debbie Downer, but did you know a new car can lose 15% to 20% of its value the instant you drive it off the dealer’s lot? Ugh.

So what if a few months down the line, you’re fiddling with your new radio and don’t see that dog in the road until the last instant? You veer madly to one side (not hitting the dog...whew!), but you do slam into a telephone pole. You’re not injured, but your new car has suffered life-threatening damages. This could be where GAP insurance comes into play.

Our College Resource Center Has Answers!

Higher education can be a real challenge with both an abrupt lifestyle change and some serious education. Unfortunately, that education could include a course in personal finance via The School of Hard Knocks. College is already expensive and doesn’t need additional financial pitfalls. According to College Board, an average college student at a public university will pay nearly $18,000 for tuition, fees, room and board for the 2012-2013 school year. That’s some real-world finance right there.

Many students aren’t ready for the financial grind of living on their own. There are mistakes that are easy to make. That’s where Vantage Credit Union’s College Resource Center can help. You’ll find all kinds of advice on all kinds of topics. One includes the seven worst money mistakes made by students. Let’s take a look.