How to Turn Your Backyard into an Oasis

Most of us have spent lots of time at home this spring, and it looks like summer might not be much different. With many attractions still closed and some states seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, safe travel will be challenging. For many Americans, this means choosing to staycation at home instead of hitting the road this summer.

A stay-at-home summer doesn’t need to be boring. You can turn your own backyard into a summer oasis without breaking the budget. Here is how to cost effectively maximize your outdoor space. From entertaining in style to keeping the kids busy, we’ve got you covered!

Upgrade your outdoor furniture

Chances are, you’ll be spending lots of time out in the yard this summer, and whether that means sunning on the patio or sipping lemonade under the shade of a tree, you’ll feel more of that vacay vibe with the right furniture. It doesn’t have to be pricey; a little ingenuity will really make those dollars stretch.

Make your outdoor space seem bigger by creating different seating areas for different purposes. Think a cozy coffee nook for mornings, a lazy hammock for getting lost inside the pages of a summer thriller, a pair of lounge chairs for catching the afternoon sun and a patio table for entertaining guests. You can even go all out and designate a small area for nighttime fireside fun.

If you’ve already got a nice patio set, freshen it up by replacing the cushions and adding some summer throw pillows for a whole new look.

Don’t forget to take a look at your outdoor lighting as you spruce up your patio and yard. Brighten up your outdoor space with some sconce lights along the walls or string up some old holiday lights for a truly festive feel.

Add a splash of fun

It may be too late in the season to think of installing an in-ground pool, but you can still have your floating fun with an above-ground pool this summer. Above-ground pools can cost as little as a few hundred dollars or as much as a few thousand for a larger, upgraded model. Most take a week or less to install. And then it’s an endless splashing summer!

Make it natural

Yes, you’re already outdoor, but that doesn’t mean you’re surrounded by greenery. Even city slickers can add the natural touch to small apartment porches with some potted plants, a container garden or a trellis with climbing flowers. Stick that greenery wherever it can go for an added layer of relaxation.

If you want to go all-out to get that resort-like feel, consider building your own waterfall this summer. It may not be on your bucket list, but it’s a super-fun project with rewarding results.

Fun for the kids

Don’t forget to create a fun space for your kids in your backyard oasis. The sky’s the limit when it comes to outdoor play; just have fun and let your creativity flow freely. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Put up a rock-climbing wall. If your kids are climbing the walls from being home for too long, try a DIY rock-climbing kit for endless fun that also builds strength and coordination.

Build a swing set. Swing sets provide hours of entertainment, but they can get pricey. Save money without compromising on the fun factor by choosing to build a swing set yourself instead of purchasing it pre-made. You’ll have to buy materials and maybe the tools, but you’ll still come out way ahead. Plus, you can make the construction a family project that will keep everyone involved for days.

Install a backyard splash pad. Your favorite spraygrounds might be closed this summer, but you can have your water fun at home with a DIY splash pad kit. Splash pads promise hours of fun for kids of all ages.

Create a natural playspace. According to a natural playground study by the University of Tennessee, children who play on natural playgrounds, or playscapes, tend to stay more engaged than those playing on brightly colored equipment. Building a natural playspace is easy — think a small pile of sand, a set of logs arranged as stepping stones and some tall grass or plants to act as hiding spaces.


If you’re short on the cash you need to turn your backyard into an oasis this summer, we’re here to help. Our loan terms are flexible and our payback plans are affordable. Connect with us today at 503-275-0300 option 2 or email loans@usacu.org.

Watch Out for These Scams as the Country Moves Toward Reopening

As the coronavirus continues spreading across the country in waves and peaks, every state is making bold moves toward reopening under a strange new set of circumstances dubbed the “New Normal.” Face coverings are de rigueur. Floor markings have been slapped down exactly 6 feet apart near checkout counters in retail stores. Shoppers are weary, cautious and careful. And, as the country moves forward and adapts to the new realities, scammers aren’t far behind.

Watch out for these trending scams as the country reopens:

Account Takeovers

Even as retailers work toward reopening, shorter hours and percentage-capacity rules mean many consumers are still shopping remotely. Retailers are also busier than ever now as they comply with new rules and work to meet customers’ changing demands. This leads to an increase in online retail scams, like account takeovers, in which scammers hack a company’s database and break into a customer’s account. Using the customer’s remembered payment information, the scammer goes on to place large orders to their own address — all on the client’s dime.

Protect yourself:

Account takeovers are most commonly pulled off on dormant accounts. The scammer assumes these accountholders won’t notice this activity, but you can outsmart them by checking your retail accounts for sudden orders or deleting the remembered information from accounts you rarely use.

Business owners can spot these scams by looking out for sudden large orders from customers who haven’t purchased anything in months, or even years.

Job Scams

“Help Wanted” signs and ads are a welcome sight for the more than 40 million workers who have filed for unemployment since the pandemic hit American shores. Unfortunately, though, the flood of unemployed people looking for work has led to a rise in job scams. The FBI is warning against a surge in scams where cybercriminals pose as employers by spoofing websites and posting bogus job openings on online job boards. They may even go as far as conducting interviews with applicants. The scammers ask for personal information, and sometimes demand payment, before the “application” can be processed. Of course, there is no job waiting for the applicant, their information is now in danger of being abused and they’ll never see that money again.

In a variation of this scam, “employees” are given work to do remotely, and then paid with an inflated paycheck. They’re told they had been overpaid and instructed to cash the check and reimburse the employer for the surplus funds via money order or prepaid debit card. The check will appear to clear, but in a few days, it will bounce and the victim will never be able to reclaim the lost funds.

Protect yourself:

Beware of outrageous job claims that promise big money for little work; they’re likely bogus. As always, never share sensitive information online with an unverified source. Don’t accept a job that overpays and asks you to refund the extra money; it’s likely a scam. Finally, before agreeing to an interview, research an alleged employer and company on the BBB website.

The Contact Tracer Scam

Many states have hired armies of contact tracers to track the movements of individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19. The FTC is warning of a new ruse in which scammers impersonate a contact tracer and reach out to people via phone call or text message. They’ll ask for the victim’s personal information, including their Social Security number, claiming they need this information for their work as a contact tracer. Of course, they’ll use this information to pull off identity theft or hack the victim’s accounts. The scammer will sometimes ask the victim to click on an embedded link, which will grant them access to the victim’s phone.

Protect yourself:

Contact tracers will always identify themselves and the department where they work. If a contact tracer reaches out to you, you can easily determine their authenticity by researching this information. The tracer will also have a basic understanding of COVID-19 and how it spreads. Most importantly, they have no need for your Social Security number nor will they ask you to share it.

As the country moves into a new period of healing and recovery, scammers are doing all they can to continue disrupting daily life. Stay aware and stay safe!


Get into the habit of checking for the latest scam alerts on a regular basis. USAgencies Credit Union will never contact you to ask for any personal or account information, when in doubt, connect with us at (503) 275-0300 or toll-free (800) 452-0915.

Member Moment: Dave’s Story

At USAgencies Credit Union, our members are always greeted with a smile and a team who is ready to help, because every member is part of the family. Not only are we truly invested in our members’ financial wellness, we also strive to go the extra mile to make sure our members are well taken care of. Our member, Dave, would like to tell you why he’d be a part of the family for life!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Portland in the 60s and 70s, in St. Johns specifically. It was a great time! Back then we all needed a cause to get behind and we all found one of some kind. I ended up serving in US Navy for three years. After my tour of duty, I came home and went on to college, which was fantastic for me! Then job opportunities took me to another state, but with my childhood memories, my heart has always remained in Portland. I love to travel and come back to the Northwest often. I have always enjoyed visiting with people and getting to know them and listening to their struggles and successes. In addition to my career I discovered a great love for teaching. I have been an Adjunct Instructor at a local university near my home for the 21 years. I have found that when you look deeply for the best in others, you will always find the best in yourself.

What is your favorite USAgencies’ moment as a member?
Everytime I call USACU with a question or transaction it’s always been an outstanding experience. One time I called with a question and the individual helping me went completely out of their way to assist me. I remember at the end of the call, they gave me several options how to contact them if I had more questions. I was so impressed when they called me back to follow up on my situation. I was shocked and surprised! Before the call was over I asked their name and what they did at credit union? The gentlemen on the phone told me his name was Jim Lumpkin and that he was the President and CEO. I just about fell off my chair! 🙂 I couldn’t believe that the President and CEO took the time to personally help me out. Ever since then, I told myself I’m a USACU member for life.

Also, Callie and her crew, in the loan department, have always been wonderful! They have been a fantastic source of knowledge and advice. I have had several loans and they have all been timely and with great terms and conditions. Callie and her crew were so helpful with my Son. He had never had a car loan before and needed to get one. I called Callie and she helped him set up an account and qualified him for a loan (turned out his credit was great.) I appreciated Callie’s efforts because it allowed him to continue to build his own credit history.

USACU is not just a credit union, but a great financial partner. USACU ROCKS!


Thank you Dave for sharing your story! We’re glad to be a part of you and your family’s financial journey.

Want to share your USAgencies moment? Submit your story to social@usacu.org or via telephone at 503-275-0300. We’d love to hear from you!

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