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How to Save on Summer Superfoods

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Summer is right around the corner, and there’s no shortage of delicious, nutrient-packed superfoods to indulge in. There’s just one catch: We tend to associate clean eating with high price tags.

While this is indeed the case for some foods (fresh raspberries go for about $2.29 per cup), eating healthy doesn’t always have to break the bank. It’s more than possible to weave nutritious, wholesome foods into your diet without destroying your budget.

Here’s an insider look at some of summer’s best and brightest superfoods — and how to save money stocking up on them.

Avocados

Avocados top the list, boasting a ton of health benefits.

“The reason they’re so healthy is that you’re getting a good combination of mono and saturated fatty acids, which are the ones that are good for the heart,” said dietitian Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. “They’re also a very good source of fiber. In about a half of a medium-sized avocado, you’re going to get about 4 grams of fiber.”

That goes far, since the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends getting 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day. Another kicker: Avocados are a great source of vitamin E, which has been linked to improved cognitive functioning. To cut costs, Cording suggested keeping an eye out for store sales, then storing your avocados in the refrigerator to preserve their freshness.

Berries

Berries are a standout superfood. Blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are especially healthy, thanks to their strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help tame dangerous free radicals that can wreak havoc on our cells and potentially leave cancer in their wake.

Cording adds that blueberries have also been shown to promote heart health and cognitive functioning: “A lot of the pigments that give berries those beautiful colors are due to the anthocyanins that are also doing a lot of that awesome work taking care of us and fighting cell damage.”

Just be mindful when purchasing strawberries: while super healthy, they also top the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen” list, meaning they have a higher risk of pesticide contamination. Going organic is your best defense, but it can get pricey. You may be able to curb your costs by opting for frozen berries over the fresh stuff, which also reduces food spoilage.

“For the most part, when you freeze fruits you’re not going to use, it actually preserves the nutrients as they are,” said registered dietitian and nutritionist Emily Dunn, M.S., R.D.L.D. “Freezing is almost like taking a snapshot of the nutrients as they are the day that they’re frozen. They do degrade a tiny bit over time, but nowhere near as fast as fresh.”

Use sales on frozen berries as an opportunity to stock up your freezer. Dunn added that your local big box store, like Sam’s Club or Costco, may also be cheaper than the regular supermarket.

Nuts

Different nuts tout different health benefits, but the bottom line is that nuts are indeed a superfood.

“Brazil nuts have a lot of selenium, which is good for your thyroid,” Dunn said. “Walnuts have some omega-3s in them, which are really good for brain and heart health, and almonds have a lot of vitamin E and some fiber in them, and fiber is good for digestion.”

So which ones should you buy? Dunn said to find ones you like, then go wherever your wallet takes you. Peanuts, for example, may be way more affordable than Brazil nuts, depending on where you live. You can also think about your own individual health needs — for example, if you’re trying to up your antioxidant intake, almonds might be a great choice since vitamin E is an antioxidant.

Bulk shopping is another option. Buying an 10-ounce bag of Mauna Loa dry roasted macadamia nuts will cost you $19.99, plus shipping, if you purchase it through the manufacturer. Meanwhile, BJ’s Wholesale Club is currently selling 10-ounce bags for just $10.99.

Chia seeds

Chia seeds are an often overlooked superfood that pack a big health punch.

“They’re a really good source of the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids,” Cording said. “The main reason I recommend chia seeds, honestly, is that they’re a really good source of fiber. In a tablespoon, you’re going to get 4 grams of fiber.”

Chia seeds are also extremely versatile. Toss them into a smoothie or sprinkle them on your yogurt for an automatic fiber boost. In terms of affordability, Cording says they’re pretty inexpensive at most markets — you can snag a 2-pound bag at Walmart for under $9.

Fatty fish

Fatty fish is brimming with the good stuff — protein, omega-3s and vitamins galore. It’s little wonder the American Heart Association recommends getting at least two servings per week. The downside is that larger, predatory fish, like swordfish and king mackerel, have higher mercury levels; not so for smaller fish.

“I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m a really big fan of sardines,” Cording said. “My favorite way to enjoy them is to take the boneless, skinless ones packed in olive oil, and mash those up and throw them in a salad with some leafy greens, some other veggies and some balsamic vinegar.”

The main reason she recommends sardines, though, is that they’re very budget-friendly, making it a great way to incorporate some seafood into your diet at a more accessible price point than, say, wild salmon.

Extra virgin olive oil

“There are a lot of popular oils out there, from avocado oil to coconut oil to grapeseed oil; and honestly, in my experience, olive oil trumps them all,” said Dunn, adding that it has the most antioxidants of any oil.

What’s more, one 2011 study published by the American Academy of Neurology found that those who regularly used olive oil for cooking and as a dressing had a 41 percent lower stroke risk than those who had no olive oil in their diet.

You can likely save by buying in bulk, but Dunn warned that olive oil usually goes bad after six months. (Translation: only buy what you’ll reasonably consume within that time frame.) Your local big box store isn’t your only option, though. At the time of this writing, organic extra virgin olive oil was cheaper at Walmart than at Costco.

The bottom line

Eating well this summer doesn’t have to be costly. Buying in bulk, looking for sales and opting for frozen fruits and veggies can go a long way. Dunn also suggested being mindful of the cheapest option within a specific category. Take dark, leafy greens, for example.

“Kale is typically more expensive than spinach, but the nutrient profile is pretty similar,” she said.

Meal planning can also help stretch your budget and prevent food waste, which is no small thing when you’re investing in clean eating.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Marianne Hayes
Marianne Hayes |

Marianne Hayes is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Marianne here

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Banking

The Best Military Credit Unions

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Banking services probably aren’t at the top of the list of reasons why the men and women who serve our country in the armed forces put on a uniform. Nevertheless, their service entitles them — and in some cases, their immediate family — to membership in exclusive credit unions.

When you’re serving the country in uniform, you never know where the call of duty will take you. A good military credit union should provide overseas locations that overlap with the places where you serve. This is why many of these credit unions have branches on bases in Germany, Guam and other areas where service members are currently stationed. They should also offer superb online banking services.

Another benefit to look for in military credit unions is whether they offer special programs for active or retired service members, such as ultra-competitive rates on home or auto loans, or special high-earning accounts for you to place your pay. Perhaps more than anything else is the great feeling you get from interacting with a credit union that knows how to deal with the complexities of having customers in uniform.

We’ve compiled the best credit unions for members of the military based on the ubiquity of their branches and ATMs, the competitiveness of their rates and their overall financial health.

The best nationwide military credit unions

Navy Federal Credit Union

Share Savings Account

Money Market Savings Account

Flagship Checking Account

12-Month EasyStart Certificate Special

0.25%
APY

0.80% APY ($2.5k - $10k)

0.85% APY ($10k-$25k)

0.90% APY ($25 -$50k)

0.95% APY ($50k and up)

0.45% APY

3.50% APY

Although based in Virginia, Navy Federal Credit Union opens its doors and its accounts to potential members nationwide, with an exclusive focus on those who serve or have served in the armed forces, as well as civilian employees of the Department of Defense. With more than $100 billion in assets and 8 million members, this credit union ranks as not only one of the largest military-focused financial institutions out there, but one of the largest credit unions, full stop.

Beyond the personal and business accounts available to all members, special deals, such as a 100% financing option on home loans, early access to military pay via direct deposit and more are offered to active-duty members.

Learn more Secured

on Navy Federal Credit Union’s secure website

PenFed Credit Union

Premium Online Savings

Money Market Savings Account

Access America Checking Account

12-Month Money Market Certificate

2.00% APY

0.05% APY (up to $10k)

0.10% APY ($10k-$100k)

0.15% APY($100k and up)

0.20% (up to $20k)

0.50% APY ($20k-$50k)

2.25% APY

PenFed Credit Union provides financial services to more than 1.7 million members in every state of the union and in Washington D.C., Guam, Okinawa and Puerto Rico. Their membership requirements are more expansive when compared with Navy Federal. Not only members of the military, but federal government employees, residents (or workers) in several Virginia military bases, and anyone who makes a $17 donation to the National Military Family Association can join.

Some of PenFed’s most competitive products are its money market certificates (which is what it calls the CDs it offers). The 12-month certificate, for example, offers an APY of 2.25% (with a required minimum of $1,000) making it a much higher earner than the market average APY of a CD of that term.

Learn more Secured

on PenFed Credit Union’s secure website

America’s Credit Union

Regular Share Savings Account

Money Market Account

Affinity Checking Plus

12-Month Standard CD

0.05% APY

0.05% APY (up to $5k)


0.20% APY ($5k - $15k)

0.22% APY ($15 - $25k)

2.00% APY (up to $25k)

2.38% APY

Based in Washington state, this credit union is open to any member of the armed services (both active and retired) in the country. Founded in 1954 to provide banking services to families living around Joint Base Lewis-McChord (located near Tacoma), this credit union provides strong rates for its members.

In addition to the strong rate ACU offers with its 12-month CD, the Affinity Checking Plus account also makes for a competitive product. Customers should keep in mind that the 2.00% APY it offers on balances up to $25,000 comes with the following requirements: 1) 15 debit card transactions have to post and clear from the account each month. 2) You must log on to ACU Online (the online banking for ACU) or the mobile app at least once per month. 3) You opt in for e-statements.

Learn more Secured

on America's Credit Union ’s secure website

Service Credit Union

Standard Club Savings Account

Money Market Account

Five Star Service Checking

1-Year Share Certificate

0.20% APY (up to $5k)

0.25% APY ($5k and up)

0.75% APY ($2.5k to $25k)

1.00% APY ($25k $100K)

1.25% APY ($100k and up)

0.05% APY ($1.5k - $5k)

0.10% APY ($5k and up)

2.15% APY

Originally founded as the Portsmouth Air Force Base Federal Credit Union to help out with the finances of the military personnel working at the base (and their families), this credit union has expanded its membership eligibility to include all employees of the Department of Defense as well as all active and retired military members.

One standout service offered by the credit union is a special savings account for active military members either currently deployed to a combat zone or who have recently returned from one within 120 days. Called Warrior Savings, qualified customers may deposit up to $10,000 in the account to earn a 10% APY.

Learn more Secured

on Service Credit Union’s secure website

Andrews Federal Credit Union

Base Share Savings Account

Money Market Account

Advantage Checking Account

12-Month Share Certificate

0.31% APY

0.25% APY (up to $1k)

0.35% APY($1k - $10k)

0.40% APY ($10k - $50k)

0.50% APY ($50k - $100k)

0.60% APY ($100k and up)

0.20% APY

1.41% APY

Formed from humble beginnings between eight people with a $5 deposit apiece, Andrews Federal Credit Union fulfills the banking needs of more than 120,000 customers located in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and more exotic locales such as Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Anyone in the country — regardless of military service — can become a member by joining the American Consumer Council (which is free if you use the promo code “Andrews”). Military personnel living assigned to Joint Base Andrews or Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst also qualify for membership, as do select civilians working for the military.

The base share account of this credit union earns a great APY for a basic savings account with 0.31%. Usually these accounts earn a pittance, so the high interest offered here, combined with the credit union’s variety of locations, make it a competitive entry on the list.

Learn more Secured

on Andrews Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Best regional credit unions

Air Force Federal Credit Union

Regular Share Savings Account

Money Market Account

Elite Checking Account

1-Year CD

0.10% APY

0.05% (up to $2.5k)

0.25% ($2.5k and up)

1.10% APY ($250k minimum)

1.85% APY ($1k-$2.5k)

1.90% APY ($2.5k - $12.5k)

1.95% ($12.5k - $25k)

2.00% ( $25k - $100k)

Founded by former airmen in the 1950s, this credit union services a smaller geographic region than some of the bigger institutions in this roundup. In general, membership eligibility not only requires you to be a member of the military (either active duty or retired) or a Department of Defense employee, but also living or working in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana or Mississippi.

Besides the accounts listed in the table above, one relatively rare product offered by AFFCU is a second-chance checking account called SAF-T Checking. For a $25 minimum deposit, customers gain access to a no-fee account with free online bill pay, free online banking and other services not necessarily offered by second-chance accounts.

Learn more Secured

on Air Force Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Security Service Federal Credit Union

Basic Savings Account

Money Market Account

Power Protected Checking Account

1-Year CD

0.10% APY

0.30% APY ($5k - $25k )

0.40% APY ($25k - $50k)

0.45% APY ($50k - $100k )

0.60% APY ($100k - $250k)

0.85% ($250k and up)

0.05% APY (up to $10k)

1.90% APY ($500 - $25k)

1.95% APY ($25k - $50k)

2.00% APY ($50k and up)

Security Service Federal Credit Union serves select communities in Texas, Colorado and Utah, including qualified members of the military residing in the area and Department of Defense employees (unfortunately, you’ll have to try and open an account to find out if you qualify).

For those who are able to avail themselves of this credit union’s services, they’ll find they have access to an attractive and competitive array of accounts and products. Chief among these is the 1-year CD, which offers a high APY of 1.90% with a deposit as low as $500.

Learn more Secured

on Security Service Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union

Savings Account

Classic Money Market

Really Free Checking

12-Month CD

0.25% APY

0.65% APY

0.05% APY

2.07% APY

Another Texas-based credit union, Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union specializes in serving those who live or work at Randolph Air Force Base. While there are other ways to qualify for membership, such as working for a qualified employer in the region, the credit union retains a focus on those living in the Lone Star state.

The basic savings account offered by RBFCU earns a decent APY while not charging any fees or requiring a minimum balance above $1, making it a nice no-frills account to place your money. Its 12-month CD also shines, only requiring a minimum deposit of $1,000 to start earning 2.07% APY.

Learn more Secured

on Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

James Ellis
James Ellis |

James Ellis is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email James here

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College Students and Recent Grads

8 Things to Know Before Applying for Student Loans

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

8 Things to Know Before Applying for Student Loans
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If you’ve never borrowed money before, applying for student loans can be confusing. You might have to choose between federal and private student loans, for example, or a fixed or variable interest rate. With all your options, it’s crucial to learn how to apply for student loans before entering any kind of contract.

By understanding how to apply for college loans, you’ll be empowered to make smart decisions about paying for your education. This beginner’s guide will go over what you need to know about how and when to apply for student loans.

What to know before applying for student loans

1. Your loans might be federal or private

As a college student or parent of a college student, you have two options for student loans: federal or private. Federal loans come from the Department of Education and are available for any student attending an eligible school.

You can access federal loans, such as subsidized and unsubsidized loans, by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. In most cases, it’s smart to max out your eligibility for federal loans before turning to a private lender.

This is because the federal government offers relatively low interest rates and a variety of flexible repayment plans. But since federal student loans come with borrowing limits, you might need more help to pay for school.

In this case, you could turn to private student loans, which come from a bank, credit union or online lender. Unlike federal student loans, you’ll need to meet underwriting requirements for credit and income to get a private loan.

Most undergraduates apply with a cosigner, such as a parent. Although private student loans can help fill the funding gap, be careful about borrowing a loan with a high interest rate. Private lenders typically aren’t so flexible if you run into financial hardship.

2. You may pay interest right away

Whatever type of student loan you borrow, you’ll have to pay back the principal amount and interest. As of July 1, 2018, federal student loans have an APR of 5.05% for undergraduates and 6.6% for graduate students.

Private loan interest rates vary depending on which lender you choose and how strong your credit is. Lenders in MagnifyMoney’s private student loans marketplace offer fixed APRs starting at 5.25% and variable APRs from 4.07%.

Because of interest, you’ll end up paying back a good deal more than you borrowed, especially if repayment spans 10 or more years. Plus, interest typically starts accruing from the date your loan is disbursed.

For example, let’s say you borrowed a $30,000 loan at a 5.05% rate. Over 10 years, you’ll end up paying $8,272 in interest. If you can pay off your loan in five years, you could save $4,263 on interest.

Note that subsidized federal loans, which are available to students with financial need, work slightly differently. The government covers interest while you’re in school on subsidized loans, so you’ll only have to start paying interest once your repayment period begins after graduation.

3. You’ll likely have a grace period

As a college student, you probably won’t have a lot of money to pay back your loans. Luckily, federal loans, as well as most private loans, don’t require immediate repayment.

Instead, you can postpone payments while you’re still in school and for six months after you graduate. This deferment is called a grace period, and it lets you focus on your education before having to worry about student loan payments.

But since interest might be accruing, you could choose to make small payments while you’re still in school. If you can swing small payments, perhaps with income from a part-time job, you won’t be facing such a big balance after graduation.

Note that some private lenders require you to make in-school payments, sending your first bill just a month or two after your loan was disbursed. Make sure you understand all the terms and conditions of a private loan before borrowing so you don’t accidentally fall behind on repayment.

4. You have various repayment options

Learning how to apply for student loans is a crucial first step, but you also need to know how to pay them back. Your options will look different depending on whether you’re borrowing federal or private student loans.

Federal student loans come with a variety of repayment plans. The standard plan spans 10 years, but you can opt for a different plan to adjust your bills, such as income-driven repayment or extended repayment.

Income-driven plans, which span 20 or 25 years, can lower your payments and end in loan forgiveness. But if you stretch repayment over two decades, you’ll end up paying a lot more in interest.

If you owe $35,000 at a 5.05% rate, for example, you’d pay $9,650 in interest over 10 years. But if you stretch repayment out over 20 years, you could pay $20,669 in interest. With a 25-year loan, you’d pay $26,688 in interest. So even though your monthly payments feel more affordable on an income-driven plan, you’ll end up paying more on your loan overall.

Private student loans work a bit differently. When you apply, you’ll choose your loan terms, typically somewhere between five and 15 years. After this point, you might not be able to change your terms.

Some lenders will be flexible if you run into financial hardship, and you might be able to choose new terms through refinancing. But you won’t have access to the many plans available for federal student loans, so make sure to choose your repayment plan carefully before applying for student loans from a private lender.

And no matter the repayment plan you select, you can always prepay your federal or private student loans without penalty.

5. Your private loan could have a fixed or variable interest rate

Federal student loans come with fixed interest rates that remain the same over the life of your loan. But private lenders set their own rates and assign the best ones to creditworthy borrowers. Plus, they typically let you choose between a fixed rate and a variable rate on your student loan.

A fixed rate stays constant, while a variable one could rise over time. If you’re spreading out repayment over a decade or more, a variable rate could cost you. But if you’re planning to pay back your loan quickly, electing a variable rate could save you money on interest.

6. You might be able to pause payments in certain circumstances

Even if you have every intention to pay back your student loan on time, you can’t help it if an emergency pops up. Maybe you lose your job and don’t have an income for a few months. Or perhaps you decide to return to school and want to pause payments again.

If you have federal loans, you can postpone payments temporarily through forbearance or deferment. Both programs let you pause payments, but you won’t have to pay interest on subsidized loans during a period of deferment — only on unsubsidized loans.

Forbearance is typically used during times of financial hardship, while deferment is more often used when you return to school, go on active military service, join the Peace Corps or experience unemployment.

Some private lenders also offer forbearance and deferment, but this varies by lender. Plus, there’s not much of a distinction between these two programs when it comes to private loans, since private loans will always keep accruing interest.

If you’re worried about your ability to keep up with payments, consider applying for student loans with a lender who offers this benefit.

7. You could qualify for loan forgiveness or repayment assistance

Depending on where you live and work, you could get some of your student loan debt wiped away through forgiveness or repayment assistance. Federal programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and teacher loan forgiveness offer partial or total forgiveness after a certain number of years of service in a qualifying organization or profession.

Many states also offer student loan repayment assistance to certain professionals who work in a shortage area or with a high-need population. Several of these programs offer assistance to pay off both federal and private student loans.

A growing number of companies are offering a student loan-matching benefit to their employees to help them cut through debt. If you’re looking to get your debt discharged ASAP, explore your options for loan forgiveness and repayment assistance.

8. You can restructure your debt through student loan refinancing

With Americans owing more in student loans than ever before, many are looking for relief. For some, student loan refinancing can help.

When you refinance, you give one or more of your old loans (federal or private) to a lender. That lender then issues you a new loan in their place, hopefully with better terms.

Creditworthy applicants can snag lower rates on their debt as well as choose new repayment terms, usually between five and 20 years. Not only can refinancing save you money on interest, but it also lets you adjust monthly payments in a way that works with your budget.

Along with these benefits, though, keep in mind one potential downside: Refinancing federal loans turns them private. As a result, you lose access to federal protections like income-driven plans and forbearance.

But if you’re confident you can pay back your loan on time, applying for student loan refinancing could be a strategic way to manage your debt.

Learn how to apply for student loans to pay for college

Most students should borrow federal student loans before turning to a private lender. Submit the FAFSA and you’ll have access to the world of federal financial aid.

But if you need more funding, learn how to apply for student loans with a private lender. You’ll need to fill out an application and submit your (or your parent’s) documents, such as pay stubs and tax returns.

It’s a good idea to shop around with lenders before choosing one. That way, you can find a private loan with the best rate to finance your education.

The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publishing.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Rebecca Safier
Rebecca Safier |

Rebecca Safier is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Rebecca here

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