Valentine’s Day on a Budget: How to Find Love & Laughs for Less

When it comes to the topic of Valentine’s Day, public opinion seems to be split. Some people love everything about it. Hearts, roses, candy, flowers, Cupid—you name it, they’re here for it! On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find Valentine Scrooges who consider February 14th a day like any other. They’re convinced the celebration and fanfare are nothing more than Hallmark-sponsored money grabs. To be fair, these positions are extreme.

If you’re like most people, you probably enjoy spending the romantic holiday with your special someone, but you prefer to celebrate without spending a ton of money. Good for you. There’s nothing more attractive than someone who plans a financially responsible Valentine’s date. OK, maybe a few things—but you get the point. If you’re looking to create an inexpensive, fun-loving Valentine’s experience you’ll remember for years to come, we have a few suggestions you might enjoy.

  • Dress up and dine in.
    At first, this suggestion may seem like complete nonsense. Why would you go through the trouble of getting dressed up if you’re not going out in public? Because there’s a strange, yet undeniable appeal to doing something that doesn’t make sense to anyone else, that’s why. So, go ahead—go big. Glam it up. Suit and tie. Gown and heels. The more overdressed, the better. Whether you cook for yourself or order your favorite takeout, the food choice isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you’re both ridiculously overdressed for the occasion. And that’s the point.
  • Dress down and hit the town.
    Like the previous idea, this one involves an unexpected combination of date attire and meal selection—but with a completely different twist. Before the big date, you and your date head to the nearest thrift store (you can shop together or separately) and buy a complete outfit for the other person, spending no more than $10 in the process. The clothing selections can be as tacky and outrageous as you please—the tackier, the better. The only catch is that you both have to wear the outfits to dinner at a nice restaurant, no questions asked. If you play this one right, not only will you save money and enjoy your date, everyone around you will probably get a kick out of it as well.
  • Dollar store gift challenge.
    You and your date can play this one a couple of different ways. The first approach involves heading to the closest dollar store and seeing who can find the single best/craziest/funniest/most ridiculous gift for the other person. The second option involves setting a spending limit and seeing who can rack up the most entertaining gift collection. (No need to go above $10. After all, it’s still a dollar store.) For a little additional fun, take some selfies with your newfound treasures, and share your pics on social media using the hashtag #DollarStoreScore. After your adventure, head out and grab some dessert. Since you did your Valentine shopping at the dollar store, you’ll have plenty left to cover a sweet treat or two.

Whether you use the tips above or come up with a clever idea of your own, being smart about your Valentine’s spending goes a long way towards ensuring your day is filled fun-loving memories instead of expensive mistakes. And when you’re wondering what to do with all your savings, don’t forget to stop by and see us – We’re happy to help you find ways to make that money work for you. And let’s be honest, long-term financial stability is sweeter than a $10 box of chocolates could ever be!

Throw a Super Bowl Party That Doesn’t Break the Bank!

Now that Christmas and New Years are behind us, it’s time to plan for the next big holiday. That’s right—Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner! As the NFL’s top two teams prepare to battle at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the festivities leading up to the game will clearly show that the NFL has spared no expense in trying to make Super Bowl LIII the greatest championship game in history. When it comes to planning your Super Bowl party, we suggest taking a different—and slightly more sensible—financial approach.

8 ways to throw a budget-friendly Super Bowl party

If you’re looking for some ways to host a Super Bowl party that’s as frugal as it is fun-filled, here are a few of our favorite suggestions.

  1. Start with a financial game plan.  Sounds better than “make a budget,” doesn’t it? Since Super Bowl parties are all about football, it makes sense to prepare like a coach. Setting a spending limit before you shop will help you stiff-arm the creative displays and impulse items at the grocery store. To quote Super Bowl-winning QB, Russel Wilson, “The separation is in the preparation.”
  2. Team up with a co-host. Since football is a team sport, why not recruit a co-host to help you plan your party? Not only can the two of you share the cost of food and decorations, you’ll be able to split the stress of planning as well. Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it?
  3. Digital invites over classic invitations. Sure, Pinterest is packed with clever ideas for intricate Super Bowl invitations, but you know which detail those posts forget to mention? Postage costs. Rather than sending out old-school invites, create a Facebook event and share it with your friends or jump over to Evite.com, where you can design and send online invitations for free!
  4. Downplay the decorations. Let’s face it, even though extravagant decorations might make impressive Instagram posts, people aren’t coming to your Super Bowl party to marvel at your elaborate sandwich stadium and coordinated team napkin displays. Don’t overdo it with the decorations. Dollar store party supplies are perfect.
  5. Generic snacks: The Real MVP. Your guests will probably be snacking from the pre-game festivities to the post-game trophy presentation. What they won’t be doing is critiquing the subtle flavor undertones of your chips and pretzels. So rather than springing for brand name snack foods, grab the store-brand counterparts, serve them in a giant bowl, and kick back knowing you have money left in your food budget.
  6. Encourage crowd participation. Food and drinks are usually the most expensive part of a Super Bowl party—especially if the beverages are of the adult variety. A pot luck meal plan and BYOB policy are great ways to ensure refreshment costs are divided evenly and everyone is guaranteed to have at least one dish they’ll enjoy.
  7. Save big with Super Bowl promos. If you decide to provide all the food for your party, you might as well look for the best deals. Keep an eye on your local grocery store flyers, as they routinely run special sales on traditional party food.
  8. Make post-game meal plans. You plan, prepare, and present a spread of tasty food for your guests. Then, when the game’s over, you have to figure out what to do with the leftovers. Fortunately, game day favorites like burgers, chili, and sandwiches can make delicious meals for a few days after the big game. This makes meal planning easy and lunch costs less expensive.

With a little creativity and some careful planning, it’s entirely possible to throw a great party without throwing away money in the process. Whether you use all these ideas or just a few that work for you, following these tips will help you host a winning party without spending more than you should.

Brace Yourself: Santa Shock is Coming

Let’s talk about Santa Shock, shall we? No, not the “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus” kind. For this conversation, we will use “Santa Shock” to refer to that icy sense of regret that creeps in when you open those first post-Christmas credit card bills. If you’ve ever blown past your self-imposed holiday spending limit, you know exactly what we’re talking about.

The realization that you racked up additional debt can be an isolating frustration—something you’d rather keep to yourself, but it might help to realize that roughly 77% of Americans admitted to crashing through their respective financial barriers just like you. We know, we know. You don’t want to celebrate other people’s bad decisions, but when it comes to financial challenges, misery may not love company, but it kinda likes having it around.

You overspent. Now what?

Let’s face the facts. Once the gifts have been opened, the holidays have passed, and the bills roll in, your budget may be a little tighter than you’d like. When you’re faced with those oversized balances, it can be tempting just to make minimum payments and figure out your finances later. But thanks to those pesky credit card interest rates, that approach not only makes the problem last longer, it also makes it more expensive. This year, why not get creative and recover from Santa Shock as quickly as possible?

3 Practical Tips for Paying Off Holiday Debt

If you want to pay off your holiday debt sooner rather than later, try these simple ideas to free up some funds and get your budget back on track:

Cut cable. Since the average cable bill is roughly $107 per month, this step doesn’t require much of an explanation. Unless you’re in the middle of a long-term contract with early termination charges, canceling your monthly cable subscription can save you more than $1,000 per year—more than enough to pay off all or most of those holiday debts. And with affordable streaming options like Netflix and Hulu, you can still keep up with many of your favorite shows.

Closet clean out. If you got new clothes for Christmas, you have to make room in the closet, right? Instead of packing them away, gather up your gently used items and try to sell them online. Apps like ThredUp, Poshmark, OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace make it incredibly easy to reach thousands of potential buyers without leaving the comfort of your home.

Meal prep for a couple of months. Everybody has to eat. There’s no way around that. And while dining out is convenient, it can also end up costing you more than you realize. Depending on where you live, a single meal at a restaurant can set you back $10-12. If you go to a restaurant more than once a day, you may be spending far more than you need to. By planning ahead and preparing meals in advance, you can save on dining costs and redirect some of your food budget toward your credit card balances.

We’ve already established the fact that it’s fairly common to go over a holiday budget. However, sometimes we get carried away with the yuletide spending and wind up over our heads financially. If you find yourself deep in debt and unable to find a way out, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Our team of financial specialists can help you assess your current situation and then recommend the best programs, products, and solutions for your specific needs. With our help, you might even be able to avoid Santa Shock altogether next year!

Get in touch with us to see how we can help.  

5 Ways to Up Your Money Game in 2019

By now, most people have made their resolutions for self-improvement in the new year. While the most popular resolutions tend to focus on physical health, the start of a new year is also a perfect time to prioritize your financial wellness.

Ready to get started? Read on.

5 Ways to Up Your Money Game in 2019

  1. Make a Budget and Stick to it. Budgeting is one of most effective ways to manage your money. Creating and monitoring a budget allows you to track your expenses, adapt to changes, and achieve your financial milestones. Budgeting can also help you save for emergencies and plan for the long run – including retirement.
    Use our online budget building tool to break your budget down into simple, easy steps and get started.
  2. Build Your Emergency Savings. Unexpected expenses happen more often than we like to think. According to a 2018 Bankrate study, more than half of Americans are not financially prepared to cover the costs that come with emergencies, such as illness, job loss, or even home and auto repairs.
    Get more information on the immediate steps you can take this year to start and grow your savings.
  3. Plan for Your Retirement Now. Less than half of Americans take the steps needed to set themselves up for a secure retirement. While saving for the future is easy to put off in favor of more immediate needs, the earlier you start, the more opportunity you’ll have to grow your savings over time.
    There’s no better time than now to start planning for retirement. Learn about options, like IRAs and 401(k) plans, with our free retirement education.
  4. Get Ahead of Your Taxes. Taxes are confusing, and many people get bogged down by complex terms and lengthy paperwork. However, your taxes don’t need to be a source of anxiety. In fact, getting ahead of your taxes can reap many benefits, including lowering stress and having early access to a refund for year-long planning.
    Make filing your taxes a breeze with tips from our five-minute interactive learning module.
  5. Take Control of Your Credit. Your credit score can have significant impacts on your financial security and flexibility. Many people have never had the opportunity to learn what a credit score is, what factors impact a credit score, and what actions they can take to make sure their score is healthy.
    Take a few minutes to understand the factors that impact your credit score and you’ll be well on your way to building a more secure financial future. 

Access our entire library of financial education topics at scientfcu.everfi-next.net

Four Tips for Planning a Career Change

Changing careers can be rewarding for many reasons, but career transitions don’t always go smoothly. Your career shift may take longer than expected, or you may find yourself temporarily out of work if you need to go back to school or can’t immediately find a job. Consider these four tips to help make the financial impact of the transition easier.

1. Do your homework

Before you quit your current job, make sure that you clearly understand the steps involved in a career move, including the financial and personal consequences. How long will it take you to transition from one career to the next? What are the job prospects in your new field? How will changing careers affect your income and expenses in the short and long-term? Will you need additional education or training? Will your new career require more or fewer hours? Will you need to move to a different city or state? Is your spouse/partner on board?

You should also prepare a realistic budget and timeline for achieving your career goals. If you haven’t already done so, build an emergency cash reserve that you can rely on, if necessary, during your career transition. It’s also a good time to reduce outstanding debt by paying off credit cards and loans.

Assuming it’s possible to do so, keep working in your current job while you’re taking steps to prepare for your new career. Having a stable source of income and benefits can make the planning process much less stressful.

2. Protect your retirement savings

Many people tend to look at their retirement savings as an easy source of funds when confronted with new expenses or a temporary need for cash. But raiding your retirement savings, whether for the sake of convenience, to raise capital for a business you’re starting, or to satisfy a short-term cash crunch, may substantially limit your options in the future. Although you may think you’ll be able to make up the difference in your retirement account later — especially if your new career offers a higher salary — that may be easier said than done. In addition, you may owe income taxes and penalties for accessing your retirement funds early.

3. Consult others for advice

When planning a career move, consider talking to people who will understand some of the hurdles you’ll face when changing professions or shifting to a new industry or job. This may include a career counselor, a small-business representative, a graduate school professor, or an individual who currently holds a job in your desired field. A financial professional can also help you work through the economics of a career move and recommend steps to protect your finances.

4. Consider going back to school

You might be thinking about pursuing additional education in order to prepare for your new career. But before applying to graduate school, ask yourself whether your investment will be worthwhile. Will you be more marketable after earning your degree? Will you need to take out substantial loans?

In your search for tuition money, look first to your current employer. Some employers might cover the full cost of tuition, while others may cap reimbursement at a dollar amount. Generally, you’ll be able to exclude up to $5,250 of qualifying educational assistance benefits from your taxes.

In addition, it’s likely that you’ll have to satisfy other requirements set by your employer to be eligible for reimbursement benefits. These may include, and are not limited to:

  • Discussing course of study with a manager or supervisor prior to enrolling (and receiving approval)
  • Pursuing a degree or training that is job-related
  • Maintaining a minimum grade-point average
  • Working a certain length of time for the company before taking advantage of the benefit
  • Meeting eligibility requirements for regular benefits

Check with your human resources department to learn more about tuition reimbursement qualifications. Be sure to find out whether you can continue to work at your company while you attend school part-time.

Students attending graduate school on at least a half-time basis are eligible for Uncle Sam’s three major student loans: the Stafford Loan, Perkins Loan, and Graduate PLUS Loan. Also, at tax time, you might qualify for certain tax benefits, such as the Lifetime Learning credit. For more information, see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.

Do You Know What It Takes to Run a Successful Side Hustle?

The process of finding financial security has gone through some dramatic changes over the last few decades. As recently as the 1980’s, conventional wisdom suggested following a career path that went something like this: Go to school. Get a good job. Work for one company for 20 years or more. Collect a pension. Retire in relative comfort.

If that approach sounds completely foreign to you, you’re not alone. On his personal finance blog, 20SomethingFinance, G.E. Miller observed, “Most twenty-somethings have never and (unfortunately) probably will never sniff the sweet security provided by a pension plan.” So, if there is almost no hope of finding financial stability by following the same path as previous generations, how can you set yourself up for success? Two words: Side. Hustle.

What Does “Side Hustle” Really Mean?

With more and more people realizing that working a single job leaves them living paycheck to paycheck, side hustles are experiencing a considerable spike in popularity. Since we’ve already used the phrase twice in this article, you may be wondering exactly what constitutes a side hustle. Is it a second job? An online business?  In his new book (conveniently titled Side Hustle), Chris Guillebeau provides some much-needed clarity. “A side hustle is not a part-time job. A side hustle is not the gig economy. It is an asset that works for you.” This definition reveals a crucial distinction between trading hours for dollars and building something that pays dividends for years to come.

Side Job vs. Side Hustle

Thanks to a surging economy and advances in technology, finding a side job is easier than ever. From Uber and Etsy to barista gigs and seasonal retail work, potential work opportunities are plentiful. But if Guillebeau is right, the additional income you can earn from these jobs might not give you the long-term security you want. So, are they even worth pursuing? Do they offer any asset-building benefits? Absolutely. You just have to adjust your motivation for doing the work.

Rather than focusing on the job itself or the hourly wage it provides, South Carolina-based entrepreneur Jeremiah Dew recommends looking a little deeper. “Find an endeavor that makes you become a better person—something that requires you to build a skill set that will help you in future ventures as well.” Drive for Uber so you can learn to interact with people from all walks of life. Sell crafts on Etsy in order to get better at e-commerce and digital marketing. Become an Airbnb host to upgrade your customer service skills. You get the point.

Success Requires a Different Perspective

When you’re trying to earn additional income, it can be tempting to jump at the first opportunity that offers real money. And while a traditional side job isn’t necessarily a bad thing, be careful not to confuse it with a legitimate side hustle. You may be able to earn extra money, but if your income is still tied to your ability to show up and perform a specific set of tasks, you’re not developing an asset. However, if you utilize those opportunities to gain experience and lessons that transcend a specific job or industry, you may be on your way to developing a successful, sustainable side hustle.

You Won’t Win Alone

Now, before you rush out and start a supplemental career, it’s important to remember the value of a good mentor. As the old saying goes, “A smart person learns from his mistakes. A wise person learns from the mistakes of others.” If you’re going to be wise about building your business, it pays to develop a relationship with someone who has experience running a business of their own, someone who made mistakes you can learn from. Whether you find them yourself or ask for suggestions from people you trust, the impact of a business mentor can be priceless.

From a financial standpoint, business ownership requires some extra money TLC. We’ve got some great, financial recourses to help you to stay on top of your money and budget effectively so you can take on your new venture with confidence! 

Can Buying Your First House Actually Hurt Your Credit?

For generations, owning a home has been considered an integral part of the American Dream. Life without a home of your own, the two kids, golden retriever, and white picket fence just don’t make sense. Okay, that last part may be a bit of an overstatement, but the fact remains—well-meaning family members and financial experts alike have long recommended homeownership as a sensible path to financial stability.

When done correctly, buying a house can be one of the smartest investments you’ll ever make. It will undoubtedly be one of the biggest. As a first-time home buyer, your finances will face the scrutiny of mortgage underwriters, so it’s essential to have all your economic ducks in a row before you even begin applying for a mortgage. And while a smooth financing process is reason enough to be smart with your money, financial stability can also help when your credit takes a hit for five or six months following your big purchase. Wait. What?! Yep. That’s right. Your credit score can—and probably will—drop for a few months after you become a homeowner.

Great for you. Not so great for your credit.

Why does buying a house—which, by all accounts, is a wise financial decision—have a negative impact on your credit? The answer isn’t as crazy as you might think. When you apply for real estate financing, mortgage companies pull your credit report to determine whether it makes sense for them to lend you money. In credit industry terms, this is known as a “hard inquiry.” Since these inquiries signal you could be incurring additional debt, they often result in a small, temporary dip in your credit score.

Fortunately, it’s relatively simple to limit the negative impact of hard inquiries. If you’re going to apply for financing with multiple mortgage lenders, do your best to conduct all of your searches within a 30-day window. Because they understand that many people shop for the best rate even though they’ll only secure a single loan, major credit bureaus structure their rating systems to account for multiple inquiries within the same one-month reporting period. While there may still be a dip in your score, grouping your credit pulls will help you minimize the damage. And don’t worry, once you start making payments on time and establishing a positive mortgage history, your credit score should bounce back to where it was before.

Experience a little short-term pain for a long-term gain.

From the opportunity to build equity to the satisfying sense of home ownership, there are a variety of excellent reasons to leave the renting life behind. A temporary dip in your credit score shouldn’t scare you away. If you entered the home-buying process with your finances in order and you resist the temptation to rack up additional debt as you furnish your new home, your credit rating should be just fine in the long run. And let’s be honest, you’ll probably be so busy remembering the new route to work and rearranging your living room furniture that six months will pass before you’ve had a chance to think about your credit score anyway.

If you’re just beginning your home search, your local Scient Federal Credit Union branch is a fantastic place to start. In addition to reviewing your current financial situation, our representatives can also help you determine how much house you can afford and which mortgage program is right for you. We may even be able to help you get pre-qualified, which can give you the extra leverage you need when you find the perfect house.

 

5 Easy Ways to Save for the Holidays in Just A Few Weeks

Facts are facts. When it comes to holiday planning, lists are long and time is short. If you’re one of those mythical people who has already finished your Christmas shopping, this article may not pertain to you. But you can still share it with the normal people in your life…that’s right you prepared people are the weird ones. Now, if you’re part of the 53% of people who wait until the last minute to tackle your holiday shopping, you’ll want to keep reading.

Ever Ascending Holiday Spending

Every year, Americans spend more on winter holidays than any other occasion in the calendar year. Staying in line with this upward trend, shoppers are expected to spend more during the 2018 holiday season than ever before. According to the National Retail Federation: “Consumers say they will spend an average $1,007.24 during the holiday season this year, up 4.1 percent from the $967.13 last year.” And that figure doesn’t even include travel expenses!

Regardless of whether your seasonal spending will top the national average or you skate by just under the line, we want to help you save money. While there may not be enough time to implement a long-term plan, here are five practical tips to help you stretch your holiday dollars a little further this year:

  • Know your limits. Set your limits. At this point in the game, time is of the essence—and so is your money. Rather than trying to overwhelm people with the quantity of your gifts, focus on the quality. It’s always better to give someone one gift they’ll love than to flood them with a variety of forgettable trinkets. Save your time (and hopefully your cash) with more meaningful gifts.
  • Go with gift cards. Don’t stress an opinionated recipient. Let them do the heavy lifting, you just give them the gift of shopping guidance. Plus, nothing says “treat yourself” like a gift card. Why not get creative and make those very same gift cards work for you? Many retailers offer gift cards at a discount during the holidays. If a store is selling gift cards at a 10% discount, buy a $100 gift card for $90 and use it to pay for your gift purchases. Hidden savings will help you through.
  • Abandon your cart. If you’re planning to do your Christmas shopping online this year, slowing down can save you money. Instead of finding the item you want, adding it to your shopping cart, and checking out immediately, try a new approach. The first two steps are the same. But then, instead of completing the purchase, leave the item in your cart and exit the site. When something sits in your cart for an extended period of time, many online retailers will send you a reminder email offering a discount if you’ll come back and complete the transaction.
  • The search for savings is on. Thanks to the Internet, you no longer have to cross your fingers and wonder if the store you’re shopping from will offer a coupon or promo code. Websites like Retailmenot, Groupon, and Ebates do the work for you. If you’re a frequent Amazon shopper, the Honey app will automatically search the web for coupons or promotions on the items you’ve added to your cart. The holiday season is the perfect time to let modern technology work for you!
  • Patience pays. Failing to plan ahead is rarely a good strategy. But in the case of holiday travels, it just might work in your favor. If you’re hitting the road for Christmas vacation, websites like HotelTonight and  LastMinuteTravel have created their entire business around helping travelers like you score last-minute deals on hotel rooms. Don’t just book the first available hotel room you see in the search results. Shop around. Outstanding savings are out there — you just have to find them.

While the tips we’ve offered can help you get through this holiday season with your spirit intact, there’s an even better way to prepare for next year.  At Scient, our Holiday Savings Club makes it simple to set aside a little money each month. Start a new tradition of stress-free shopping. Contact us today to learn more about our Holiday Club!

5 Steps to Set Yourself Up for Cyber Monday Success

Everyone knows about Black Friday. With its midnight madness and jaw-dropping promotions, Black Friday became a can’t-miss event! For decades, it was the day for shoppers to find the best deals of the Christmas shopping season. But then, just as it’s done with virtually everything else in our lives, the Internet changed the face of holiday shopping.

Cyber Monday: The Origin Story
While Black Friday has long been considered the official start of the Christmas shopping season, retailers began to notice a curious trend in the early 2000s. On the Monday following Black Friday, there seemed to be a spike in online purchases—mainly between the hours of 8am-5pm. While it seemed odd at first, the trend was relatively simple to figure out.

As more and more companies shifted their business practices online during the Dot-Com Boom, employees needed Internet access. And even though participating in e-commerce may have violated more than a few corporate Internet usage policies, employees faced the irresistible convenience of shopping online. After the trend continued for several years, the term “Cyber Monday” was coined in 2005, and the online version of Black Friday became a holiday fixture.

5 Tips for Making the Most of Cyber Monday
In 2017, online consumers spent more than $6.5 billion on Cyber Monday, which was a 16.8% jump from the year before. As mobile technology continues to improve and make digital transactions easier, it’s safe to assume Cyber Monday’s popularity (and profitability) will only increase. That means whether you’re shopping from home, your smartphone, or your workplace (don’t worry, we won’t tell), there will be millions of other virtual shoppers searching for holiday bargains along with you. Luckily, you still have time to prepare your digital shopping strategy.

To make your Cyber Monday shopping experience as smooth and rewarding as possible, be sure to follow these practical tips:

  • Bookmark your favorite websites. This step is the digital equivalent to planning out your Black Friday shopping route. But thanks to mobile phones and streamlined web browsers, you can mark your favorite e-tailers with just the tap of a screen or the click of a button. A little quick-and-easy planning can save you time—and money!
  • Stay tuned to social media. As stores and companies look for creative ways to connect with potential customers, many are offering special deals and promo codes via social media. So before Cyber Monday rolls around, make sure you’re following your top stores on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
  • Sign up for newsletters. While newsletters aren’t traditionally a great way to get up-to-the-minute sale details, online specialty stores occasionally offer special discounts to customers who join their mailing list. Receiving the occasional newsletter email is a small price to pay for saving big on items you love.
  • Set a spending budget. We know, we know. This tip can apply to just about any shopping experience. But since making online purchases doesn’t involve manual payments for physical items, it feels effortless—and that can be expensive. So, before you load up that digital shopping cart, know how much you’re willing to pay at checkout.
  • Keep an eye on your cards and accounts. Cyber Monday draws millions of customers. This is good news for retailers—but it can also provide a virtual playground for scammers and cybercriminals. Since regular monitoring is one of the best defenses against financial fraud and identity theft, don’t forget to check your banking and credit card statements for unauthorized activity.

Whether you do your holiday shopping on Cyber Monday, Black Friday, or random days throughout the year, a Holiday Club Account with us gives you a smart way to pay for your purchases. When you open one of these specialized accounts, you can set aside money all year long, earn interest on your savings, and gain access to your funds just in time for the winter holiday season. Ask us for more information today!

Holiday Shopping Hacks: Your Black Friday Survival Guide

Judging from the massive marketing blitz and predictable purchasing frenzy, one could make the argument that Black Friday is a holiday all its own. But despite the fact that we all have that one friend who feels like it’s perfectly acceptable to listen to Christmas music as soon as Halloween is over (it’s not ok—but that’s another post for a different blog), the day after Thanksgiving is traditionally considered to be the official start of the Christmas season.
Black Friday by the Numbers
With this yearly retail extravaganza just around the corner, you might be asking yourself, “What will an estimated 174 million Americans do on Black Friday this year?” Before you start googling, we’ll save you the research. They’ll spend the day—the entire weekend, actually—shopping. Wait. You knew that already? Fair enough. Did you know that the average Black Friday shopper is expected to spend more than $500? Even though we’re dealing in estimates and averages, that adds up to a lot of people and purchasing!
As online and mobile sales increase, the traditional Black Friday crowds may thin out a little—but not much. Even though 2017 saw a 4% drop in the number of in-store shoppers compared to the previous year, there were still more than 102 million people that joined the retail masses. So, with millions of people frantically scouring stores for the best deals of the season and even more hunting for deals on their smartphones, a little strategy may help you keep the holiday shopping season merry and bright!
7 Tips for Having the Best Black Friday Ever!
While there are probably as many shopping hacks as there are shoppers, we’ve narrowed the suggestions down for you. Here are 7 ideas to help you survive Black Friday with your sanity and your budget intact:

  1. Create a shopping strategy. Since most major retailers advertise their Black Friday specials ahead of time, it’s easy to plan ahead by scanning sales flyers and online promotions. Knowing exactly what you’re looking for will save hours of wandering and wondering.
  2. Get in and get out. Most of the time, it pays to shop slowly and carefully—but not on Black Friday! If you’re going to score the best values at multiple stores, you need to grab the items you want, check out, and head to the next store. The midnight madness is no time for browsing.
  3. Maximize your mobile experience. If you’re planning to take advantage of mobile deals or online specials, you can save time and frustration by downloading all the necessary apps in advance.
  4. Prepare your profiles. How many times have you found a deal online, placed the item in your cart, and then had to waste time setting up a customer profile before checking out? Don’t miss out on limited-time-only deals. Create your profile on websites before it’s time to shop.
  5. Look for the lock. Before you enter your personal details and credit card information on a website, make sure the web address starts with “https” and there’s a closed padlock icon next to address. These details indicate the site is secure. If the address starts with “http” or the padlock is open, see if you can find a deal somewhere else.
  6. Team up for double the fun. Finding amazing bargains is fun—but isn’t it better when you have someone to share in the excitement? If you’re going to engage in shopping shenanigans at 2:00 AM, you might as well do it with your favorite shopping buddy!
  7. Shop early. Shop often. It would be logical to think that Black Friday is limited to—well, Friday. But in an attempt to boost sales, stores like Amazon and Best Buy are running early sales. And with the rising popularity of Cyber Monday, you may be able to find money-saving specials all weekend long!

Hopefully, these ideas will help you save some money this winter holiday season and have a little more fun in the process. When the new year rolls around, it will be a great time to start planning ahead for Black Friday 2019. To avoid any last-minute budget crunches, come talk to us about setting up a Holiday Club account. Setting aside money throughout the year is a great way to avoid financial stress and focus on the festivities!

On February 17, Online Banking may be unavailable from 2:00am - 6:00am EST due to scheduled maintenance. On Monday, February 18, Scient Service Centers will be closed for Presidents' Day.