How Can I Make New Year’s Resolutions That Stick?


Q: Every December, I draw up a list of New Year’s resolutions that look depressingly similar to the ones I wrote last year. How can I make things different this year?
A: It’s fairly easy to dream of change, but it’s another thing entirely to actually make it happen. In fact, research shows that only 8 percent of people achieve their annual resolutions. However, with careful planning and the right approach, it is doable.
Whether your resolutions are about getting into shape, taking control of your finances or being a kinder person, you can reach your goals in 2020. Here are some tips on making change last.
Make it SMART
  • Specific. Don’t be vague about how you want to improve. Resolutions like “Get myself into shape,” or “Try to be a kinder person,” don’t translate into tangible steps. Instead, make goals like “Start working out twice a week,” or “Do one random act of kindness each day.” This way, your resolutions are clear and easy to put into action.
  • Measureable. Make sure your goals have clear markers to help you track progress. Some resolutions, like losing weight, naturally lend themselves to tracking, but others, like self-improvement goals, are more challenging to measure. Take the time now to create markers for your progress to make it easier for you to stay the course.
  • Achievable. Be realistic about what you intend to accomplish. If you haven’t worked out in years, don’t resolve to run a 10K this year. Instead, start small, like committing to a 10-minute daily workout. When you set goals that are within your reach, you’re less likely to abandon them when the going gets tough.
  • Relevant. It’s best to concentrate on the areas where you most need to improve. While other goals may sound nobler, work first on the areas where you know you are lacking.
  • Time-based. Set a specific date for achieving each goal. A self-imposed deadline will push you to work on your resolution today.
Write it down.  Don’t make a list in your head or scrawl your resolutions on a piece of paper you’ll lose by Jan. 2. Instead, save your resolutions on your phone, using a note-taking app like Evernote or OneNote. If you prefer to work with old-fashioned paper and pen, you can slip the paper with your resolutions into a plastic sheet-protector and hang it up in a prominent place where it won’t get lost.
Chart your progress. Use a calendar to check off every day you’ve stuck to your resolutions. Visual reminders of your success can be a powerful motivator. When you look at your calendar and you see you’ve been sticking to your goal for the last six days, you won’t want to break that consistency the next day.
Don’t keep your resolutions to yourself. One of the best ways to ensure success is to share your journey with others. Here are three ways you can do this:
  • Enlist the help of a friend. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you’ve changed; it’s a lot harder to fool a friend. Pair up with a pal this year and commit to keeping each other in check. Share your resolutions and designate one day a week, or twice a month, as a check-in day, in which you note each other’s progress and give honest feedback on how you can each improve further.
  • Post your progress on social media. This will make you accountable to an entire audience and just might give you the motivation you need to keep going.
  • Join a support group. The American Psychological Association recommends joining a support group dedicated to your goal, such as a workout class at the gym or a group of coworkers determined to quit smoking.
Celebrate each win. Don’t wait until you’ve shed the last pound or reached your savings goal to celebrate your achievements. Reward yourself for the smaller goals you reach along the way, like a 10-pound target or the first $1,000 you sock away in your savings account. Celebrating your progress will give you the motivation you need to keep on improving.
Embrace imperfection. Don’t expect a 180-degree change this year in the area you’ve decided to improve. While you should never lose sight of your goals, it’s important to accept that perfection is a myth. Trying to force it can leave you feeling frustrated and discouraged. You can be a wonderful, better you without being perfect.
With careful planning and hard work, you can make 2020 the year your resolutions stick.
Happy New Year from all of us here at Mutual Credit Union!
Your Turn: How do you make your New Year’s resolutions stick? Share your tips with us in the comments.

All You Need To Know About Applying For FAFSA


Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) season is in full swing! Whether you’re a college student, a high school senior or you’re seeking financial aid for your college-age child, it’s time to fill out those forms. The rules and deadlines can be confusing, but we’re here to help. We have answered all your questions on applying for FAFSA.
When is my application due?
There are three FAFSA deadlines you need to know: federal, college and state. The federal FAFSA submission has one set date, while each college and state sets its own separate deadlines.
The 2020-21 FAFSA form became available on Oct. 1, 2019. This form is for the 2020-21 award year, which runs from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021.Online applications for this form must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Central time (CT) on June 30, 2021. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CT on Sept. 11, 2021. You can look up the 2020-21 deadlines for your college and state using these links:  College deadlines 2020-21State deadlines 2020-21.
You can still submit an application for the 2019-20 FAFSA form, which became available on Oct. 1, 2018. This form is for the 2019-20 award year, which runs from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020. Online applications for this form must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CT on June 30, 2020. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CT on Sept. 12, 2020. You can look up the 2019-20 deadlines for your college and state using these links: College deadlines 2019-20State deadlines 2019-20.

Who is eligible for FAFSA?

To qualify for FAFSA, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Demonstrate financial need.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen.
  • Have a valid Social Security number (unless you are from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia or the Republic of Palau).
  • Men must be registered with Selective Service.
  • Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program.
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school.
  • Have a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent.
There are more eligibility requirements for FAFSA. You can view the full list of criteria here.
How do I apply for FAFSA?
You can now apply for FAFSA using the free  myStudentAid app. If you use the app with an Apple device, be sure to disable the “smart punctuation” feature before filling out the form to avoid errors.
If you’d rather not download an app, you can also apply for FAFSA online at
You can still send in your application via snail mail, but this is not recommended for several reasons: The online applications are simpler to complete and generally have fewer errors because they only ask you relevant questions and are designed to detect common errors. Your application is also likely to be processed quicker when submitted online. Finally, when applying for FAFSA online, you will be given the option to have your IRS data automatically retrieved and then populate the relevant fields, significantly lowering your chances of errors in your tax reporting.
What are some common mistakes people make on the FAFSA form?
A careless mistake on your form can delay your application and limit your eligibility for aid. To avoid errors, be sure to read every question carefully and to review your application before submitting.
Here are some of the most common errors on FAFSA forms:
  • Leaving blank fields. If a question does not apply to you, enter a “0” or write “Not applicable.”
  • Using commas or decimal points in numeric fields. There is no need for either of these symbols; simply round to the nearest dollar.
  • Listing an incorrect Social Security number or driver’s license number. Triple-check these numbers to ensure accuracy.
  • Using the wrong name. Be sure to use your full legal name as it appears on your Social Security card.
  • Entering the wrong address. Use your permanent address only to avoid confusion.
  • Forgetting to list your college. Be sure to obtain the Federal School Code for the college you plan on attending and list it along with any other schools where you’ve applied for admission.
  • Forgetting to sign and date. Don’t forget this crucial step!
Can I apply for FAFSA as an independent?
If for whatever reasons your parents are not paying any part of your college tuition, you may be able to apply for FAFSA as an independent. If you can apply as an independent, your parents’ income will not be considered when your eligibility is determined.
You may be able to apply for FAFSA as an independent if you meet any of the following criteria:
  • You will be 24 years of age or older by Dec. 31 of the award year.
  • You are an orphan (both parents deceased), ward of the court, in foster care or you were a ward of the court at age 13 or older.
  • You are a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States or serving on active duty.
  • You are a graduate or professional student.
  • You are legally married.
  • You have legal dependents (excluding a spouse).
  • You are an emancipated minor or in legal guardianship.
  • You are homeless.
If you do not meet any of these requirements, consider contacting a financial aid administrator to discuss your options. The administrator may be able to provide a dependency override if you can prove you’re living or fleeing from an abusive or hostile home environment. They may also be able to deem you eligible for unsubsidized Stafford loans if you can prove your parents no longer support you financially. Finally, you may qualify for some education tax benefits, such as the Hope Scholarship tax credit and the student loan interest deduction.
The sooner you apply for FAFSA, the greater your chance at obtaining the limited financial aid offered by your college and state.
Don’t delay! Apply today!
Your Turn: Have you filled out your FAFSA forms? Share your tips with us in the comments.


Holiday Shipping Calendar: The Days You Need to Know for 2019

shipping package

With a whopping six fewer shopping days in 2019 than 2018, holiday deadlines are going to creep up on you faster than ever—and that includes your holiday shipping calendar.

The secret to making sure all your packages arrive on time is knowing how mail and package carriers work and the various deadlines for each type of holiday shipping. If you’re thinking you might be edging up to the last minute on shipping holiday cards and gifts, it’s important to know the cut-off dates for the 2019 holiday season.

The Inside Scoop on Holiday Carrier Deadlines

What do the terms “Priority Overnight,” “Next Day Air” and “Priority Mail Express” have in common? They all mean that a package is arriving the next day—but FedEx, UPS and USPS call these services by different names.

That alone can seem confusing, but there’s another anomaly you should be aware of: Three-day doesn’t always mean “three days” during the super-busy season. For example, close to the holidays, you have to send something nearly a week before the big day to take advantage of UPS’ “3 Day Select Shipping.” With December 25 falling smack in the middle of the week on a Wednesday, you have to think ahead a bit given that we are dealing with “business days.”

Here is UPS’ official recommended last-chance dates for the various types of service:
UPS Ground: Dec. 13
UPS 3 Day Select: Dec. 19
UPS 2nd Day Air: Dec. 20
UPS Next Day Air: Dec. 23

Refer to their complete “recommended” delivery schedule so you’re not caught in a bind. FedEx has a whopping 12 shipping options to and from some locations.

Finally, the dates the United States Postal Service (USPS) recommends as the final option for getting a package to your loved one on time in the contiguous United States:First-Class Mail Service (1 to 3 business days) Dec. 20
Priority Mail Service (1 to 3 business days) Dec. 21
Priority Mail Express Service (overnight delivery guaranteed) Dec. 23
USPS Retail Ground (ground shipping for items larger than a letter) Dec. 14

Location Plays a Part

Do the specified days seem a little confusing? Where you’re shipping from and to can play a role in how many days it takes, but it’s best to plan for the longest-case scenario, to be safe.

You’ll also want to check the carrier location closest to you to verify the availability of specific shipping services, such as overnight delivery, so you’re not caught in a last-minute bind. FedEx, for example, allows senders to send mail overnight only to locations within their overnight service area.

If you’re really cutting it close, check the pickup time at the mail carrier location. Dropping your mail off before that time can save you money on shipping or get your mail to the recipient a day sooner.

And if you plan to ship anything internationally, send it well in advance, as the delivery time frame is significantly longer. You can check the carriers’ websites for more information.

Packing For Success

Getting your holiday gifts to the recipients by Christmas is important, but it’s just as important to get them there in one piece. And since you don’t have the benefit of Santa’s elves preparing your packages, your best bet is to purchase the right type of shipping supplies. Check your holiday shopping list twice for these holiday package shipping necessities:

A sturdy shipping box that can withstand the journey
High-quality packaging tape
A permanent marker for addressing the box
Festive gift wrap
Plenty of packing peanuts or bubble wrap to fill the box any space left in the shipping box. The less room the item has to move, the less likely it is to get damaged during holiday shipping.

When it comes to holiday shipping, preparation makes all the difference. Save yourself money and stress this holiday season by getting your gifts packaged up and sent out by the deadline of your mail carrier of choice.

About the Author

Source: Office Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer who specializes in small business, finance and real estate.

Holiday Scams and Tips to Avoid Being Caught in a Fraudulent Scheme

Fraud schemes are hardly limited to the holidays, but they tend to spike during this high-spending and stressful time of the year. Mutual Credit Union would like to help arm you, our members with information on the fraud practices you may encounter and how to avoid becoming a victim.
Technology has created many more options for you to access accounts and make purchases, fraud too has opened up more sophisticated avenues. But it is always good to be reminded of the basics: to continue to be skeptical about calls, texts, and emails. Here is a refresher of several important fraud methods you might see:

Brute Force schemes are attempts to crack a password or username, find a hidden web page, or find the key used to encrypt a message using a trial-and-error approach to guess correctly. This is an old attack method, but it’s still effective and popular with hackers.

Skimming is perpetrated by using electronic devices to secretly scan and store credit and debit card numbers and PINs. ATMs and some unattended terminals, such as gas stations, are targets for this practice. This information can then be sold to fraudsters or used to commit theft directly. Fraudsters can use the numbers to make online purchases or to create fake cards for in-store transactions.

Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails claiming to be from reputable companies in order to make you reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

SMiShing (SMS phishing) is the act of attempting to acquire personal information such as passwords and details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity through SMS text messages on cell phones. SMiShing messages may come from telephone numbers that are in a strange or unexpected format with links directing to fake websites.
A typical SMiShing occurrence can begin with a you receiving a text message inquiring about a suspicious transaction on an account. In reality, the fraudster is looking to obtain other information from you such as debit/credit card numbers, CV2 codes, expiration dates, PINs and other web login credentials. Please note that legitimate SMS text messages from Mutual CU will NEVER include:

• Requests for cardholder’s data, such as card numbers, PINs, CV2 Codes, or Expiration Dates
• Vague reference of a “merchant” transaction; details should be included
• Hyperlinks to unknown websites
• Phone numbers as hyperlinks

Vishing is the telephone equivalent of phishing. It is described as the act of using the telephone to scam you into surrendering private information that will be used for fraudulent purchases or identity theft.

Some holiday scams your cardholders may see:

Seasonal Travel Scams

• Beware of deals that are too good to be true
• You should always know who your travel is being booked through

Holiday Charity Scams

• A legitimate charity will welcome donations whenever the cardholder chooses to make it. Fraudsters will pressure them to make it immediately.
• Don’t make any donation with a gift card or wire transfer.

Fraud Fighting Services at Mutual Credit Union:

  • Enroll in two-factor authentication to login to online banking
  • All members are enrolled in Text (SMS) notifications for any fraudulent activity that is detected on debit or credit cards
  • Enrolling in CreditSense will alert you to any changes on your credit report
  • Setting up SAMCards Manager allows you to set alerts for places, dollar amounts, regions and to turn your cards on or off

Visit for any additional information you may need for any of these services.




Waging War Against Porch Pirates

front door with christmas wreath and packages

Ahoy, mateys!

Holiday shopping season is upon us and your (not-so) friendly neighborhood porch pirates are gearing up to pilfer the holiday treasures being delivered to your doorstep.

We’ve all seen the familiar footage from a home security camera: a fish-eye view of a home’s front porch sporting a stack of smiling Amazon Prime boxes. An unexpected car pulls up. A stranger approaches the cardboard booty. He or she looks to the left, looks to the right, scoops up the bounty and runs back to the car, ruining the holidays for everyone.

The holiday season can be stressful enough with arranging travel or hosting overnight guests; baking; cleaning; shopping and wrapping gifts. You don’t need the extra burden of some crooks stealing your joy and peace of mind.

Here are some ways you can conquer the porch pirates and lay claim to the best holiday ever.

Have your packages delivered elsewhere

If you have the luxury of being able to have your packages delivered to your office, this is one of the best options. As a bonus, you can easily hide the gifts from your family.

If this isn’t an option, have your orders shipped to a neighbor or family member who is home during the day.

FedEx packages can be picked up at one of their offices or a local participating Walgreens location.

UPS packages can be received at a local UPS Store, CVS or Michael’s stores or you can arrange to have them delivered on a day when you are home.

Let the delivery person in

Most respondents to a recent PCMag survey of 1,500 people said they are willing to spend an average of $110.86 on home protection gadgets. A total of 28 percent said they have a security camera, 25 percent have a video doorbell,and 17 percent have a smart lock.

Smart locks allow you to unlock your door from your smartphone or computer. Video allows you to see who is at your door. You can instruct delivery people on where to drop the packages and then lock up after they leave.

Smart locks range in price from $100-$300, which is worth it if your family is safe and happy.

Have packages delivered to your car

Key by Amazon allows Amazon Prime members to have their packages left in their home, garage or even their cars.

Download the app to have your items shipped to your car within hours. Check the app or website to see if your product, vehicle and address of the vehicle are eligible for delivery. Pick a delivery time and you’re set. You will receive notification of when your package is out for delivery and when the driver is en route.

According to the Amazon website, “Key In-Car Delivery is available with select makes and models. It is available with model year 2015 and newer Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC and Volvo vehicles and requires an active connected car service plan, such as OnStar and On Call.”

Key In-Car Delivery is available on tens of millions of Amazon items and works with Same-Day, One-Day, Two-Day and Standard Shipping. They cannot deliver heavy or bulky items weighing more than 50 pounds.

Track your packages

If high-tech gadgets aren’t your thing, simply use your low-tech skills to track your packages. UPS, the U.S. Postal Service, Amazon and FedEx all offer tracking online.

Sign up for USPS Informed Delivery to automatically get a daily email containing scans of the mail being delivered and tracking numbers of expected packages.

UPS offers the My Choice program. and FedEx’s Delivery Manager also helps keep track of deliveries.

Tracking information for Amazon packages can be found in your order details.

Your special deliveries are at risk, and the porch pirates are sure to be marking their spots of opportunity this holiday season. Use these tips from Mutual Credit Union, and ensure your gifts are received by those you intend.

Your turn: How do you do battle with the scourge of porch piracy? Let us know in the comments.