Free budget planning calculator and reasons to use credit unions

We are proud to be part of a credit union sustainability partnership with Westcountry Savings and Loans and eight other housing associations in the south west. As today is International Credit Union Day we thought it was a great opportunity to share more information about a credit union and why it is worthwhile investing your money in one, rather than in a bank or building society.

We’re also offering a free download to help you budget and plan your money matters. All you need to do is download the calculator below! It can be opened in any spreadsheet programme such as Excel or Google Sheets. 

So, what is a credit union

A credit union is a member owned organisation and all money saved within the union is used to support other local members. All money is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and so even though your money is being used to help others with loan funding, your money is 100% protected and can be withdrawn at any time, or in line with your chosen account terms.

Joining the credit union is completely free and you only need to save £1 with them to become a member. As they are non-profit, unlike other banks, annual dividends are paid out to members depending on how well they perform during the year. Everyone has an equal say in how the union is run – no matter how much you save with them.

Credit unions are run by a board of volunteers who are elected by members.

What are the top five reasons to join

  1. They provide affordable and responsible loans – most loans being able to beat interest rates on many lenders.
  2. Safe, secure savings with a chance to win monthly cash prizes – your money is protected and with special accounts to win monthly prizes you have nothing to lose.
  3. Ethical, co-operative financial services – your money, as part of the credit union is invested back into the local community and to help other local people.
  4. Manage your money on your terms – Westcountry Savings and Loans have online banking, a mobile app and have an online customer service app, Nivo, so whichever way you choose to bank it is on your terms.
  5. Have a say in how your financial institution is run – one member one vote.

Bonus reason! With the ongoing economic climate and interest rates for savers being almost non-existent now is an even better time to save with a credit union. Credit unions cannot guarantee interest rates on savings accounts like banks do, but now, with rates being so low with other banks you have nothing to lose by saving your money with a credit union that will make an annual dividend pay-out if they finish the year in profit. Plus, your money is going to help other people in your community so you can sleep easy knowing you are helping while your money is protected.

What do customer say?

“I have been saving with Westcountry for two years now. I regularly use the app and online account to move my money between my building society where my wages go, and my CU account. I’ve also had to contact them a few times to help with setting up new accounts and I’ve found the Nivo app perfect as you can carry on with life and you’ll get a notification when they’ve replied to your message” Customer, Cornwall

“I have used the credit union for years as a Christmas Savings account. It is taken straight out of my wages each month, so I don’t miss it. It is a great way to save for those special occasions especially when you don’t realise you are doing it. I am very grateful for the ability to do it and takes away the worry at a very expensive time of year.” Customer, Devon

“I use my account to save each month, and as it goes straight in to the savings account from my salary I don’t miss the money. I was using the account to help me save some extra money to help with a special family holiday that we had planned (but lockdown put a stop to that), so I have kept the money in the account and kept the regular payment so when we do finally get to go away we will have more money than first planned!” Customer, Devon

“When we partnered with WSL I was banging the drum but never had chance to set up an account. Time went by, continually thinking I’ll do it one day. A new starter joined my team and when I was reminded of it again by telling them what it was all about, I set out to finally join and create an account. After getting a password reset (as I figured I must have signed up to emails at some point when my email was recognised), I had a wonderful surprise of over £500 in an open account! Not only had I already set up an account with an automatic payroll deduction, but I had completely forgotten I had done so and never noticed the small amount missing from my pay. That money paid for a new sofa! Moral of the story – if you save a little every month through payroll deductions you won’t even know it’s missing!” Team NDH member

“We found them by chance a couple of years ago , and they were a god send, very quick replying and transferring the money , a lot less interest than many places, and thanks to West Country we were able to move home twice at short notice....highly recommend them and their staff” Customer, Devon

“Always there when needed... never any unnecessary communication... straight yes or no decision and money is wjth you within hours. Nothing but good experience s in the last few years I have been a member... EXCELLENT!” Customer, North Somerset

“My husband lost his job overnight 2 weeks before we were due to move home. West Country loans quickly arranged a loan for myself to support the move. My husband quickly found a job and now whilst paying off the loan we are saving as well. The communication has been excellent” Customer, North Somerset

“I have been with them for some years, wonderful kind caring people, always willing to help when they can, they are so understanding of people’s needs. I have been financially stuck a few times and they have gone out of their way to assist, brilliant.” Customer, North Somerset

“You were my only option at a time when we had spiralled into payday loans and a debt management scheme. Staff were friendly, non judgemental and reassuring. I have since been able to get back on track financially but when my mum's boiler needed replacing you were able to help at a time no one else would.” Customer