A QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER FOR ACCLAIM FEDERAL CREDIT UNION MEMBERS

THE
CONNECTION

SECOND QUARTER
Spring 2024

We CONNECT

Community Connect: Empowering Communities through Food Security

2024 Dora Maxwell winners

At Acclaim Federal Credit Union, we are dedicated to establishing strong ties with our community and making a positive impact. Our mission is centered around building trustworthy connections, delivering outstanding member service, and offering high-quality financial products. In line with this commitment, we launched a new initiative called Community Connect. This program aims to cultivate ongoing community engagement by showcasing diverse opportunities for involvement and giving back. In 2023, our focus was on addressing the issue of food insecurity. Through various activities and initiatives, we were dedicated to supporting and providing nourishment to those in need within our community. By dedicating our efforts to this cause, we aimed to con-tribute to the well-being and support the basic needs of individuals and families in our area.

The Community Connect project aimed to help people in our community who don’t have adequate food and to support their basic needs. We started by teaming up with local groups already working on these issues to make sure we could do the most good.

Our employees volunteered at several organizations including Feed The Hunger, Food Pantry for First Lithonia SDA Church, The Lord’s Cafe, and Backpack Beginnings. We particularly made a strong connection with the organization One Step Further. One Step Further is a member agency of both the United Way of Greater Greensboro and the United Way of Greater High Point, whose services include Adult Mediation Services, Juvenile Mediation Services, Guilford and Alamance County Teen Court, Guilford and Alamance County Juvenile Community Service-Restitution, the Community-Offender Resource Program, Family Factor, Guilford and Alamance County Junior/Senior Life Skills, and the Community Support and Nutrition Program. We invested our time in their Community Support and Nutrition Program (CSNP), a comprehensive program that aims to have a positive impact on health. The CSNP program includes nutrition education, monthly health

screenings, grocery assistance, and home delivery. The program treats all individuals seeking assistance with kindness and respect. Services are free and available as long as needed. Grocery assistance is provided through self-choice shopping at distribution sites, with the option of ordering groceries online. Home delivery is available for those with disabilities or transportation barriers. The program’s goals are to address food hardship, reduce poverty, and promote self-sustainability for its patrons.

Through their Community Support and Nutrition Pro-gram (CSNP), they collaborate with grocery stores and other organizations to acquire food donations, which are then stocked in their warehouse grocery stores for individuals in need to shop from. Running this operation requires significant volunteer efforts, and Acclaim consistently stepped up to fulfill these needs. Our volunteers engaged in tasks such as collecting donations from grocery stores, transporting them to the facility, and working in the warehouse to facilitate online grocery orders, restock inventory, and ensure the smooth functioning of operations. We were recognized by the United Way for our volunteer efforts and it earned us a Dora Maxwell award for the third year in a row.

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8 Financially Responsible Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

tax check and cash

It’s tax refund season! How are you going to be spending the pile of cash that Uncle Sam’s giving back? 

Before you blow your refund on a sinfully expensive weekend, take a step back and try to determine the best approach you can take with this money. To help you get started, we’ve compiled this list of eight financially responsible ways to use your tax refund this year. 

  1. Build or boost your emergency fund

Having a strong emergency fund is a crucial part of your financial health and stability. If you don’t have a fund with three to six months’ worth of living expenses set aside to cover unexpected events, work on setting one up now. Use some of your tax refund to start building your emergency fund or boost an existing one. 

  1. Pay down high-interest debt

High-interest debt can kill the best of budgets. If you’re carrying outstanding debt with high interest, consider using some of your tax refund to pay it down. 

  1. Invest in your education

If you’ve been looking for a way to advance your career and increase your earning potential, this may be your chance. Consider furthering your professional education by allocating some of your tax refund to career workshops, conferences or additional certifications.

  1. Feed your savings

It’s always a good time to boost your savings, and tax refund season is no exception! Set aside a portion of your refund for your long-term savings to help you get closer to your financial goals. 

  1. Prepay your mortgage

Making an extra mortgage payment or two can be a great way to free up some money for the long term. Reducing the principal can have an exponential effect on your loan since so much of it goes towards interest over the life of the loan. 

  1. Make home improvements

Spending some, or even all, your tax refund on improvements that increases the value of your home is an investment in your equity. Similarly, using some of these funds to increase your home’s energy efficiency can pay off for years to come.

  1. Start or contribute to a college fund

If you have children, or plan to start a family in the future, consider allocating a portion of your tax refund to a college savings fund, such as a 529 savings plan. Contributions to a 529 plan may be deductible on your state taxes, and earnings are tax-free when used for qualified education expenses.

  1. Invest in your retirement

If eligible, consider allocating a portion of your tax refund to your employer-sponsored 401(k) or an IRA. The earlier you start investing for retirement, the more you can potentially accumulate for your golden years.

Use our list for some financially responsible ways to use your tax refund. 

Practical Budgeting Made Easy

looking at a spreadsheet with charts

With the right tools and information, building a budget can be quick and easy. Here’s how to create a simple and practical budget for the time-strapped consumer. 

Review your income and expenses

Most budgeting plans recommend tracking income and expenses for three months. If you’re pressed for time, though, you can choose to look at one month and review your spending and income throughout this time. Review your checking account details and credit card statements to see where your money went and what funds came in. 

Compare income and expenses

Hold up your two numbers from the previous step and see how they compare. If your income outweighs your expenses, you’re doing great! If it falls short, you’ll need to trim your expenses in the next step or look for ways to boost your income. If the numbers balance each other out, it’s still a good idea to trim expenses to leave some budget wiggle room.

Assign a dollar amount to every expense category

Next, review the ways you spend your money and assign a dollar amount to each category. Include fixed and changing expenses as well as savings contributions.

If you’re pressed for time, you can make your categories more broad. For example, instead of setting a separate number for groceries, work lunches and dining out, you can set a larger number for all monthly food expenses.

If your income does not cover your expenses, or just barely covers them, look for ways to trim the fat however possible. 

Jot down your dollar allocation on paper, or create a digital version of your budget and upload it to your personal devices for easy access.

Use technology

Harness the power of technology to help you track and manage your expenses well. A budgeting app can make tracking your monthly spending super-easy. You can upload your budget to the app and track expenses throughout the month. The app will let you know how much you’ve spent in each category and warn you when you’re approaching the limit. 

Live with your budget

You’re ready to live with a budget! Remember to keep your monthly expense categories in mind as you spend throughout the month. 

If you find it too hard to keep track of your spending throughout the month, the money envelope system can make it easier. Simply withdraw cash amounts for each non-discretionary expense category in your budget at the start of the month and only use the money in these envelopes to pay for these costs throughout the month.

Review and adjust

Your budget is up and running! Review your spending plan regularly to see if it’s still working for you and adjust as needed.

Budgeting doesn’t have to take a lot of your time or be overly complicated. Use this guide to learn how to create a practical, easy budget that works. 

Budget-friendly Meals Under $8

Eggroll in a Bowl
eggroll in a bowl

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • 1-1/2 C. sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger root, minced
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 1 (14-oz.) package coleslaw mix
  • 1 T. sesame oil
  • 3 C. hot cooked rice
  • 1/2 C. sweet-and-sour duck sauce

Directions:

  1. In a large, heavy skillet, cook and crumble chicken along with mushrooms, onion and garlic over medium-high heat until no longer pink, approximately 6-8 minutes; drain. Stir in soy sauce.
  2. Add coleslaw mix; cook and stir until wilted, 3-4 minutes. Stir in sesame oil. Serve with rice and sweet-and-sour sauce. 

Yield: 4-6 servings

Prep time: 5 min.

Cook time: 12 min.

Pro Tip: Top with fresh spinach, tomatoes, or bacon.

6 Ways to Tell if a Website is Safe

person typing on keyboard with lock symbol

Here are six ways to tell if a website is safe.

  1. Look for an SSL certificate 

Secure websites have an SSL, or a Secure Sockets Layer. An SSL is a digital certificate that verifies a website is authentic and will automatically encrypt all personal information and financial data. There are two primary indicators of an SSL, and both are clearly visible in the site’s URL:

  • An ‘s’ after the ‘http’
  • A padlock icon
  1. Evaluate the URL structure

Review the URL carefully. Are there misspelled words? Does the URL mimic a well-known site? Scammers often lure victims by creating 

bogus sites that look like they represent well-known companies. However, careful scrutiny of the URL will reveal basic spelling errors that give the scam away. 

  1. Look for the company’s contact info

Legitimate companies are eager to have you connect with them for any reason. They’ll generally display their contact info on their home page or provide a link for easy access. Scammers, on the other hand, try to keep themselves as invisible as possible. You likely won’t find any tabs that say “Contact Us” or “About Us” on their website. 

  1. Check the spelling and graphics

Authentic companies will take the necessary steps to make a professional impression on site visitors. Scammers, on the other hand, will not. Use their carelessness to your advantage by looking out for spelling mistakes and typos throughout the site. You can also be on the lookout for cheap design elements, including recycled images and logos that are poorly created. Each of these clues can signify a scammy website. 

  1. Heed your device’s security warnings 

If you put a site’s address into your computer, and a warning pops up alerting you that the site you’re attempting to access is unsafe, don’t ignore it. Unless you’re absolutely sure the site is secure despite the warning, it’s best to not advance to the site. 

  1. Opt out of sites that flood you with pop-ups 

Scammy websites will try luring you into downloading malware through pop-ups and embedded links. Sometimes, the links will be used to generate ad revenue through clicks. Whatever the intent, it’s important to know that reputable sites will not flood your screen with pop-ups and random links for you to click. If you encounter a site like this, you’re likely looking at a scam. Exit the site, close your browser and have your security system run a scan on your device.

Stay alert online and stay safe!

CLOSINGS:

May 27, 2024 - Memorial Day
June 19, 2024 - Juneteenth Day
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Address: P.O. Box 29527
Greensboro, NC 27429
Telephone: 336.332.5302
Toll-Free: 888.794.1001
Email: Admin@AcclaimFCU.org

Lost/Stolen Debit or Credit Card: 888.241.2510
Fax: 336.332.4103

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