A fter talking last week about how busy we all are, and how to be cheap even if you don’t have much time, I’ve been thinking about other ways to save money quickly.

I realized a big part of money saving has to do with where you keep it in the first place: in your bank or credit union, under your pillow or in a hole in the floor, if that’s your style.

I know that there is dissent over the relative merits of credit unions and banks. While I’d like to say I’m no expert (I’m an ENVS major; I like to think about photosynthesis and evaporation, not interest rates), I’ve come down firmly on the credit union side of things.

Ever since the fee-for-debit-card debacle last year, I’ve banked at Elevations Credit Union, mostly because it has an office right in the UMC. In general, I think using a credit union does save real money, but it tends to be over the long term. Maybe it’s not something as obvious as getting free sandwiches or half-off ski passes, but in a matter as integral as to where you keep your savings, small differences are pretty important.

In credit unions, every member is also a co-owner of the institution, which is democratically run and not-for-profit. This means that their goal is to maximize the members’ financial successes, not to maximize the profits of the institution. That’s what the investment decisions are based on.

Also, most credit unions hold resources such as free seminars, classes and financial counseling. I know that long-term financial planning isn’t on my mind right now, but it should be soon, and this is a way to get a solid, trustworthy plan underway without wading through all the details alone.

Beyond that, most credit unions generally have lower loan rates, fewer (or no) fees and higher returns on savings — much due to not-for-profit status. Equally important to me, at least, is that there’s not that slightly skeezy feeling of possible fees or hidden rates in fine print.

Again, these aren’t major differences — but they grow over the years.

Also, credit unions are usually local, so instead of reporting to some main headquarters in Chicago or New York, they hire locally, invest locally, and most give relatively large amounts to community programs.

Maybe, as college kids who will disperse soon anyway, this is less important to us — but I still think it’s important. Maybe a credit union in your hometown supported your public schools, and that’s why you got a received a good education to attend to college. Things may sometimes be more interrelated than is immediately obvious.

Most of my friends bank at one of the two main credit unions in Boulder: Elevations and Boulder Valley Credit Union. Learn more at elevationscu.com and bvcu.org; there are differences between the two, so pick the one that fits best.

The most important thing is that it’s a one-time switch. So, think about it now for a few days, then the rest of the time your money will hopefully be adding up a smidge faster.

Vivian Underhill is an environmental sciences major at CU and writes about being cheap once a week for the Colorado Daily.

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