Thanksgiving dinner

Ways to Save Money on Holiday Dinner


Hosting dinner for Thanksgiving? These helpful tips will keep money in your pocket so you can purchase that perfect gift.

Size does matter: Using smaller plates helps prevent wasting food. Guests can always go back for seconds if needed. Get an accurate head count. If you are expecting a large group, purchase in bulk from Sam’s Club or Costco.

When purchasing that delectable bird, try to buy it early. Having meal options can help relieve the stress and cut the cost of getting that large turkey. Vegetarian options, baked chicken, rice and beans can all be a new tradition and help save money. Make a note of the least eaten dishes and cut them out.

Buy seasonal: A great way to save money is by purchasing food that’s in season such as corn, eggplants, asparagus, peas and onions. Try the Farmer’s market or local supermarket. Look for items on sale, and create a menu.

Decorations: Use things around the house or items that are in season from the yard. Check websites such as Pinterest or YouTube for decorating ideas. Leaves, branches and twigs can be attractive if used correctly. Seasonal food and fruits can also be used and eaten later. Still looking to buy decorations? Go the local dollar store.

Potluck: There is less stress when you have a plan. A potluck gives variety to your meal. Friends and family can swap recipes. Delegate the menu so that everyone knows what to bring. Simple meals are easier to make and costs less.

Keep it real: Use real plates instead of purchasing paper plates and plastic cups, knives and forks. Yeah, it may be a hassle when it comes to cleaning up but get everyone to chip in. It is also better for the environment. Borrow from family or friends if needed.

Recipes for left overs: Sandwiches are great, try stews or soups, fried turkey bites, gumbo or pot pies. Look up fast and easy recipes online. This will help reduce waste and throwing money in the garbage.

If you are looking to try something new, why not volunteer at a food bank? The best way to show how grateful you are, is by giving back.

Holiday Travel on a Budget

It is always great to be with family and friends for the holidays, especially during Thanksgiving. Hopefully by now you have figured out your plans for Turkey Day. Remember, it is the busiest time for travel. Here are tips to take into consideration:

Flying? Book early!

Book your trip at least 2 weeks in advance. Check discount sites on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Saturday evenings. If possible, do not fly the Wednesday before, or the Sunday after Thanksgiving; the priciest and busiest times to fly.

Traveling with the family or in groups? Book as early as you can or consider flying on Thanksgiving Day. Check out smaller airlines or airports to help save money.

Pack smart! Do you really need all that?

Check the weather before you go. Pay attention to guidelines for carry-on luggage. Airlines have specific guidelines which may result in expensive fees. According to Independent Traveler, it is best to fit everything in your carry-on as it saves time and worry when transferring. Remember TSA guidelines in regards to liquids.

Driving instead? Check out your ride

Check out your car before you go on the road. If you can avoid it, don’t drive on Thanksgiving Day. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, it is the busiest day of the year for cars being on the road. Leave on the Wednesday or Tuesday before Turkey Day instead.

Driving late at night can be an option. There is less traffic and the kids will be asleep. Make sure you are well-rested and have a co-pilot. It is dangerous to drive tired.

Try an alternative

Try using alternative transportation such as a train or bus. Amtrak offers great discounts for the family. Avoid spending on food or snacks by carrying your own.

Place to stay

If you are unable to stay with family members or friends there are some great, affordable alternatives. Sites such as AirBnB can be a great resource. You can read reviews from other travelers who have stayed at the same location. This alternative is much more cost effective as opposed to staying at a hotel or motel.

However you decide to travel, be safe and treasure the moment.

Tips on saving this Halloween

Halloween is quickly approaching which means pumpkins, trick-or-treat, costumes and spooky festivities. According to U.S. News and World Report, Americans spent $7.4 Billion on this ghoulish holiday in 2014. The average person will spend from $40-$80 on decorations, costumes and candy. Depending on family size, that amount can quickly spin out of control. Thankfully there are ways to enjoy the festivities without screaming when you see the bill. Here are a few tips:


Sam’s Club and Costco are great places to purchase candy in bulk. If you are not a member, ask friends or family who are members to take you shopping with them.

Non-candy treats such as stickers, erasers, pencils or plastic bugs can be a great alternative. Stop by your local dollar store for affordable options. Create your own trick-or-treat sacks by using pillow cases, sand buckets, baskets, gift bags or reusable grocery bags.


There are several websites where you can order affordable spooktacular decorations. Check coupon sites such a Groupon to see if there are additional savings available. The neighborhood Dollar Store is also a great option.

Activities or parties for the entire family

Events such as Halloween Horror Nights or your FREE community activity can be a great alternative. It’s also great to pool together with friends when having a fright night. Homemade Halloween goodies will be a scream at your howling party. Have a potluck where guests can win a prize for “the spookiest dish.” Groupon and Living Social are also great for events the entire family will enjoy.

Costume options

Make your own costume, shop at consignment stores or swap costumes with friends and family. Another alternative is the toy section for dress-up options. Use make-up instead of purchasing masks will also save green. Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube can assist with the make-up D-I-Y.


Purchase pumpkins last-minute at your neighborhood grocery stores or farmer’s markets to keep the cost of Halloween to a minimum. According to US News and World Report, stores may have drastically-reduced prices on pumpkins to save on the post-Halloween price drop. Have a pumpkin carving competition on, or, the night before Halloween.

In addition, a scary movie night can be a cost-effective option; create and print your own invitations; capitalize on the after-Halloween sales and make a note of how much you spent in order to save additional funds next year.

6 Ways to Save on Back to School Shopping

Back to school typically means back to spending for most families. Who remembers being a kid and being so excited to go shopping for brand new clothes, shoes, and supplies? Well now that I’m looking back on it I can only imagine what financial stress I put on my parents.

Maybe you have older kids. Chances are that they will want the latest and greatest of what is out there, whether it be jeans, shoes, or electronics. Those items often come with the greatest price tag. These tips will help you save money when you go back to school shopping this year.

  1. Check Your Inventory

Before you begin your quest to the malls and office supply stores, check your closets. Often times there are notebooks, binders, and pens that are still like new. Don’t be afraid to ask your family and friends if they have any supplies lying around. You can always swap supplies with each other if they need something that you have.

This rule also applies to clothes. Clean out your children’s closets before you shop. Something doesn’t fit? Make it a hand me down, donate it, or sell it. Clothes with holes and stains in it? Throw it out. See what your kid really needs for school and make that a priority item to shop for.

  1. Give the older children a budget

This is a great idea for high school students. As previously mentioned, older kids will most likely want the newest items. Consider giving them a set budget they can’t go over. This will make them think twice about buying shoes for $120 when their budget is $250. You can even give them their limit in cash and let them shop on their own. If they come back asking for more money simply explain to them that they need to budget their money better and go through the items to help them decide what should be returned.

  1. Look for Sales

IMO (In My Opinion), when it comes to clothes back to school sales are better than the sales during The Holidays. Many teen stores (Hollister and American Eagle*) will have the entire store 40%-50% off. Department stores will also have opportunities for you to save (Macy’s* One Day Sale that occurs every week.)

Want to save even more? Go the extra mile. “Like” companies pages on social media and sign up for texts. Businesses will often share deals and coupons on their pages and through texts. Use this to your advantage, especially when it’s a store your kid loves.

Since we are on the topic of sales, if your child doesn’t need school supplies right away consider shopping after the rush of the first week of school. Office supply stores and retail stores, like Target and Walmart will have markdowns on whatever is leftover from the rush of buying school supplies.

Some other options to save money are:

  1. Shop on Sales Tax Holiday
  2. Download textbooks online for up to 50% off
  3. Check with a religious center in your area to see if they are having a School Supply Drive

*BrightStar Credit Union is not affiliated with any of the stores mentioned above.

How to: Save Better & Eat Better

Chipotle, Panera, and Jason’s Deli. What do these three restaurants have in common? They were all rated as America’s Top 10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants by Americans actually prefer these restaurants to Burger King and McDonalds.

In the current “Food Apocalypse” Americans are choosing healthier options when it comes to dining out and eating at home. Organic produce is also experiencing a rise in popularity as consumers try to avoid food with pesticides. Susan Schwallie of NPD Group, a research company, said the rise of “better-for-you snacks” like yogurts and nuts are predicted to take over the sale of candy and cookies by 2018.

However, when people think about eating healthy they may have dollar signs flash in front of their eyes. There are steps for consumers to take to buy healthy foods on a budget.

Buy In-Season

When you walk into a grocery store and head to the produce section and look at the strawberries your jaw might hit the floor. When strawberries are not in season, they could cost you nearly $5.00. Look for the sales! You can get 3 packages of strawberries for $5.00 on a good day. Buying what’s on sale is a great way for you to save money and try fruit and vegetables you’ve never heard of. Publix often has BOGO deals with their fruit.

Buy Canned

When it’s not on sale, produce and meat can hurt your wallet. If you’re having a hard time finding fresh food on sale, head to the aisles. Choose fruit canned in 100% fruit juice (beware of the sugar content) and vegetables with “low sodium” or “no salt added.” As for protein, canned meat is very affordable and we’re not talking about SPAM. Canned salmon and canned chicken are great ways to add protein to your salads. But it doesn’t stop there. Use canned meats to make Asian-Style Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Quinoa Salmon and Avocado Salad, even Coconut Curry Salmon.

If you’re trying to cut down on the amount of meat you’re consuming black beans and lentils are another great option. You can find a bunch of recipes where the main ingredients come from cans, like this one.

Keep Breakfast Simple

Most people don’t want to put too much effort into their breakfast. Some are satisfied with cereal. A great breakfast should have protein and carbs to give you energy to start your day. Egg whites are a quick, simple, delicious breakfast. This food is high in protein and low in fat. Liquid egg whites in the carton are the easiest for making your daily breakfast. You can spice it up by adding veggies like peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms (cut these up and store them in the fridge so they’re easy to grab). Along with egg whites, oatmeal is another great low-cost breakfast item. This power food boosts energy, supports weight loss and boosts heart health. Avoid the instant oatmeal with the fruit added in already. These are especially high in sugar.

Here are a few more quick tips you can follow:

  1. Tap water is relatively free. If water is too bland for you, add frozen fruit for a refreshing summer drink.
  2. Don’t buy things just because they are on sale. Only buy them if you have been wanting to try that food or it’s something you always eat.
  3. Look up and down. Stores typically put the higher cost item at eye level. Look above and below that item for cheaper options.
  4. Eat before you shop and stick to your list.

4 Ways to Lower Your Credit Card Debt

shutterstock_62123887A dinner here, a trip there, a pair of shoes every once in a while. You think to yourself “Oh I can afford this, I just won’t go out to dinner for a full week.” It’s the cycle some are familiar with. But when you start maxing out credit cards and your 25% interest rate is adding on unnecessary debt, it’s easy to feel like your finances are spiraling out of control.

Many people use credit cards to build their credit but lose track of how much they’re spending. Credit cards are a quick and easy fix when you want something and don’t have the means for it. If you’re swimming in credit card debt, these tips will help you get to dry land.

  1. Organize your debt

This may seem standard but sit down, get all of your recent credit card statements and add up how much money you owe all together. The key is to get organized and know exactly how much you owe rather than making assumptions.

  1. Pay off the credit card with the lowest balance

This may sound odd but here me out, paying off the credit card that has the lowest balance will motivate you to finish paying off your debts. You know the saying “Tackle the small things first.” Well that applies perfectly to lowering your debts. Don’t get frustrated and flustered with bills that will take years to pay off. By paying off the credit card with the lowest balance, that’s one less thing you have to worry about.

  1. Transfer your high-interest debts

Before we even begin talking about balance transfers, let’s discuss credit card annual fees. If you’re paying an annual fee on any of your credit cards, it’s time to end your relationship with that company. Why should you be paying $80 a year to a company that is already charging you 25% on your purchases? For the rewards? Well, there are a ton of credit cards out there that offer rewards with no annual fee.

When it comes to balance transfers the first thing that may come to mind is to transfer your balances to another credit card, but that isn’t always the best case. Many times credit unions have great rates (as low as 1.89% APR) on Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC). For those who may not know a HELOC is basically borrowing money from the equity in your house. You can typically borrow up to 80% of the equity in your home.

Let’s take this real life example: Maria has $50K in credit card debt and needs to reduce her monthly payments. She talks with a credit union employee and learns that a HELOC is her best option. Once she got her house fully appraised to confirm its equity, her maximum loan amount was $20,000.00, allowing her to pay off 2 high balance/high-interest rate credit cards. She ended up saving $3,408 in interest in the first year.

If a HELOC is not a viable option for you credit card balance transfers are also a great option to lower the amount of interest you’re paying. Since credit unions are not-for-profit, they typically have fewer fees on their credit cards, like no annual fee and no balance transfer fees. Plus, they have lower interest rates. For example, BrightStar Credit Union has interest rates from 8.99%-18.oo% APR.

Many cards offer a lower interest rate for balance transfers for the first year or so. With that being said, this window is a great time to pay down and pay off your high balances. It will be hard but you will save hundreds of dollars in interest.

  1. Lower your rate

If you’re not willing to do a balance transfer call your credit card company and see if they are willing to lower your rate. A few kind words and a good attitude can go a long way here. If you’ve had that credit card for years, have a good standing relationship with them, and are on-time with your payments you will most likely be able to talk them down a bit. Even if it drops one or two points you will save money on interest.

10 Reasons to Finance Your Vehicle with BrightStar

There are many advantages when it comes to having a credit union as your primary financial institution. Lower interest rates on loans, higher earnings on savings accounts and not to mention the personalized attention you receive from a community-based business.

As a not-for-profit business we offer lower rates on our auto loans, which means you will be paying much less than if you finance with a dealership. It’s important to do your research before you make such a huge decision, so why not discover benefits of financing your vehicle with BrightStar Credit Union.

  1. Earn Cash Back

You may qualify for a cash rebate just for re-financing your existing loan from elsewhere to BrightStar. Cash that can go towards paying down debts, home renovation, or your savings.

  1. Skip-A-Pay

Now this is a great perk to have. Take a vacation from your loan payment. Members may qualify to “skip” up to 2 payments per loan account in a twelve month period. Does your other lender offer this benefit?

  1. Take a 90-Day Break

You may qualify to make no payments for up to 90 days on your new loan.

  1. Super Low Loan Rates

Save money with a lower interest rate from your Credit Union. Our loan rates often beat the competition. Consider this: has certified that BrightStar’s auto loan interest rates are substantially lower than the average rates in South Florida. Plus, a recent Credit Union National Association (CUNA) report shows that credit union members save an average of $950* when they finance their auto loan with their credit union versus a bank.

  1. No Hidden Fees On Your Loan

No pre-payment penalties, just a straightforward loan with no gotchas.

  1. FREE Auto Advisors Service

Our Auto Advisors can locate your next new or used vehicle and eliminate the stress from the car buying process. We may be able to get you a better price and more for your trade-in. Tell us what vehicle you want, and we’ll do the rest.

  1. Save Even More Money

We offer lower pricing on GAP Insurance, Extended Vehicle Warranties and Payment Protection Plans. Some GAP policies cost $1,000 or more. BrightStar policies are as low as $499. Ask us for details.

  1. E-Sign Your Loan Documents

If you prefer, we may be able to close your loan online, saving you gas and time!

  1. Payments Made Easy

Easily make your payments online via automatic transfers from your BrightStar account, at a BrightStar branch, or at thousands of credit union shared branches nationwide.

  1. We’re Your Credit Union

We listen to your needs. Need a shorter term? Need a lower payment? We’re happy to discuss a variety of terms and options to suit your individual needs.

So stop by a branch, give us as a call at 954-486-2728, or apply online today at Our loan officers are happy to answer any question you have.

5 Tips to Plan a Better Vacation

With summer quickly approaching, the thought of a summer vacation may have crossed your mind. You may be thinking about location, activities to do, and your budget. If you opened up a Summer Saver/Wish account with us last year and made deposits regularly to the account, your budget should be in check.

A survey conducted by AAA in 2013 found that the most frustrating thing about traveling was unexpected expenses such as “airline fees, resort fees and parking,” and the third most frustrating was “finding the best price for lodging and transportation.”

If you’re looking for the best ways to save money on your summer vacation look no further than these 5 tips to help you plan a vacation the family will never forget.

  1. Avoid Peak Season

Popular times to travel during the summer are the second and third weeks of August and any holiday weekends. Avoid these times because you will be facing sky-rocket prices for flights, hotels, and cars. Not to mention tours that will be completely booked to the brim. Consider traveling in June for the best rates.

  1. Look into Other Hotel Options

If you’re planning on going to a major city for vacation like New York City or London, consider staying in a nearby city to save a ton of money on your room rates. If they city you’re visiting has a great public transportation system, even better! You’ll be able to see the city and save money at the same time. If you’re feeling more adventurous with your accommodations, consider a Home exchange program. is a great website where people open up their homes to visitors. It’s a great way to see another side of a city

  1. Do Your Research on Activities

If you plan on doing excursions be sure to book early. Peak season comes along with peak pricing and large crowds. If you have your heart set on an activity whether it be a tour, visiting a landmark, or some type of excursion try and book it as early as possible to get the best price as well as secure your spot. A great website for finding great deals is Just put in your vacation destination and they will have great deals on everything from paintball to spa packages. You can even book hotel packages with them. Just be sure to research the hotel and how far it is from your destination.

  1. Be a Backyard Explorer

Living in Florida, we have tons of access to exploring the area we live in. If you’re looking for an adventurous vacation a state park is right up your alley. Many state parks in Florida, whether it be in The Keys, Miami, or Central Florida have activities suitable for every age. Snorkeling in a coral reef, hiking trails, kayaking through mangroves, bike trails, and tubing through clear springs are just a few options. Plus, pets are typically allowed in these areas (as long as you clean up after them!)

If you’re looking for a more relaxing vacation, take a day trip to a nearby beach town. Naples and Marco Island are great locations for family trips and you won’t pay much for transportation.

  1. See the Slopes in Summer

This sounds silly but during their off-season ski resorts have tons of things to do that don’t involve the snow. Lakes, ropes courses, golf, and zip-lining are offered at many of these resorts. Beat the rush of people and peak prices at the beach and head to the mountains for a different kind of summer vacation.