COVID-19 Scams

No question – the past few weeks have been insane as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We’re seeing things unfold that most of us haven’t experienced before. Entire cities have shut down, people are being quarantined, and credit unions are being forced to find different ways to serve members.

While we’ve seen the best in humanity from Dollar General setting aside the first hour they’re open to serve the elderly to multiple restaurants providing meals for kids who are out of school, we’ve also seen scammers who are exploiting people’s Coronavirus fears.

Scams you should be aware of

Android malware and ransomware

Android devices in particular have been left vulnerable to malware attacks allowing scammers to spy on you through your smartphone camera, listen to you through the microphone and go through your text messages. The scammers, suspected of operating in Libya, send out text messages with a link promising an app that will allow you to track the Coronavirus. Once you click on the text message, the malware installs itself on your phone.

DomainTools, a Seattle-based security research team, has discovered that Android users are also the target of ransomware that threatens to erase their phone. Much like malware, users are promised an app with a real-time COVID-19 tracker. The app is actually poisoned with ransomware called CovidLock that denies users access to their phone by changing the locked- screen password. It requests $100 in bitcoin within 48 hours or the phone’s contacts, pictures and videos will be erased. It also threatens to publicly leak social media accounts.

Scammers impersonating organizations

The FBI, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and World Health Organization (WHO) are investigating multiple claims of scammers who are sending out emails impersonating these organizations and spreading incorrect information about COVID-19. The WHO is among the most-impersonated organization in the scam campaigns. Fraudsters pretend to offer important information about the virus in an attempt to get potential victims to click on malicious links. Typically, such links can install malware, steal personal information, or attempt to capture login and password credentials.

Exploiting charitable giving

Another common type of scam going around is an attempt to tug on the heart strings and attempts to get the recipient to help fund the vaccine for children in China. Currently, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. Officials at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have served cease-and-desist letters to retailers who are trying to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic by selling fake or misbranded products claiming to combat the disease directly.

How to protect yourself

Even though there are lots of ways to get taken advantage of, there are also lots of ways to protect yourself.

  • Don’t click on links from any sources you don’t know. It could download viruses on your computer or device.
  • Be aware of emails claiming to be from a government organization. If you receive an email from the WHO or CDC, don’t click on links in the email. Instead, go to the website to verify the information.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
  • Be wary of giving your personal information. Legitimate organizations will not ask for any of the following:
    • Full social security number
    • Account or card numbers
    • One-time password
    • PIN information
    • Usernames or passwords
    • Payment through Bitcoin, money cards, gift cards, etc.

While it seems that this unfortunate epidemic has come upon us most unexpectedly, there are fraudsters out there quickly taking action and prepared to hustle unsuspecting, innocent people. If you aren’t sure of the legitimacy on a certain request, take extra steps to verify to ensure you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself, your sensitive information, and your money. You can also keep yourself updated by following the Federal Trade Commission’s page here.

Your privacy and protection are important to us. Feel free to reach out to us if you receive communication from an entity claiming to be from our credit union to verify its legitimacy. Thank you for all you do to make our organization great and we wish you all physical and financial wellness through this trying time.

Wedding Planning on a Budget

So, you’re engaged! Congratulations! You’re probably over the moon and full of stars in your eyes and have visions of wedded bliss. 

You’ve been thinking about this day for as long as you can remember. You’ve got your Pinterest boards, a planning notebook, and you’re ready to hit the ground running. But, have you put a price tag on any of those ideas and visions? 

$35,329

That’s the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. And that doesn’t even include the honeymoon! After hearing this sky-high number, you’re probably ready to simplify the process, save money, and elope. However, It’s absolutely possible to have the wedding of your dreams without spending well over what you can afford. Simply prioritizing your must-haves, creating a budget, and allocating your money accordingly will go a long way in planning for the big day.

What’s important to you?

Before you can create a budget, there are a few things you need to decide. First, determine what kind of wedding you want. What do you see when you think of your big day? A country club wedding and reception? An elegant downtown loft? A backyard barbecue? 

Once you answer this question, have the budget talk with everyone contributing to the wedding. When you start talking money, make sure you talk about more than the total amount you’ll spend. For instance, break down the wedding budget into categories – ceremony, reception, decorations, etc. – and decide what you’ll spend in each category. 

Now that you’ve taken this step, you’ll need to determine the most important and the least important items on your checklist. Is there anything you can cut altogether? Sit down with your fiancé and determine what you both REALLY want and let that vision guide your budget. 

Track your spending

First things first, leave some room in your budget. No matter how down-to-the-penny it may be, unexpected expenses are going to pop up. Your budget will evolve over the planning process, so be prepared by giving yourself a little bit of a cushion. 

If you Google, “wedding budget worksheet,” you’re going to find a bunch of different options. Find what works best for you. This could look like an Excel spreadsheet, a Google Sheet, or one of the thousands of templates on wedding planning websites. Regardless of your template, tracking your spending throughout the entire process will be imperative. You’ll be able to ensure you’re staying well within the lines of your budget. Plus, it serves as a great guide or list to see what you’ve paid for, how much you’ve paid, and how much you have left to cover. 

There are apps. Use them!

There are a few fantastic wedding-related apps that are free or inexpensive. Use them! Most of those sites have the option to create free websites, invitations, and save-the-dates. Get started with these suggestions:

  • ZolaZola has everything you need in one place. They have a great selection of templates for you to design your wedding website for free! Your website is crucial for keeping your loved ones informed by sharing information about travel arrangements and relaying the important details of your day. You can also build your registry, design and order invitations or save-the-dates and manage your guest list.
  • ThumbtackPhotographers, DJs, bands or florists – no matter what service you’re looking for, Thumbtack will have it. This app allows you to browse services in your geographic region to compare prices, check out reviews and even talk directly to the vendor. 
  • WeddingHappyAre you a list maker? WeddingHappy is the app for you! It is the ultimate to-do list. It’s a great app that will help you manage your wedding-related tasks, payments coming up and vendors you’re working with. 

Your wedding day will be one of the most amazing days of your life! Don’t let money and budget-related stress take that away from you and your significant other. There are a lot of options out there to make this day incredible no matter your budget.

Once you have a set budget, financing your big day might be the best option for you. Talk to us. At Scient Federal Credit Union, we have options like personal loans, lines of credit and low-rate credit cards that could be exactly what you’re looking for. Let us help you make the big day one you’ll never forget!

4 Best Budgeting Apps

Budget. Did you just get cold chills reading that word? It’s not a popular word, and it’s certainly not a popular idea. Typically, the idea of a budget is enough to take away any sense of fun you have when thinking about spending your money.

But, it doesn’t have to be. There are several benefits to creating a monthly budget.

When you have a budget in place, you instantly:

  • Make your money work for you
  • Assign each dollar in your account a job
  • Gives you 100% control of your money
  • Allows you to track your expenses
  • Relieves some of the stress that finances can bring
  • Helps you create a “safety net”

There are obvious benefits to creating and maintaining a budget, and there are just as many tools to help you budget as there are benefits.

So, where do you start?

First, figure out how much you make each month. Then, figure out how much you spend. Once you figure out what you’re bringing in vs. what you’re spending, you can start creating specific categories for your money. This is where you get to tell your money what to do.

Now, you’ve got a basic budget in place. You know what you’re making, what you’re spending, and your money has a specific goal. But, how do you keep track of all that information in a manageable way?

Budget apps! The great thing about budget apps – not only do they keep track of your budget, but you can take it with you everywhere you go.

Check out some of the best budgeting apps for 2020.

  1. Wally — Get the intimate details of all your financial activity in an easy-to-digest template. Categorize spending destinations, set goals, and create charts. Wally provides you with the full picture of your account in a simple and colorful template. Easy to look at and easy to understand, Wally makes tracking and analyzing your financial habits easy.
  2. Acorns — You know how it’s hard to overcome the mental hump of setting money aside? Well, Acorn removes that struggle from the equation. By rounding up each of your transactions to the nearest dollar, it puts the funds into an investment portfolio. This app looks out for “future you” and makes sure you always have a few acorns hidden away for a rainy day.
  3. Mint – Create budgets, track bills and receive a free credit score when you use Mint. But, it’s the budgeting feature that really makes Mint shine. It allows you to link your credit union, loan and credit card accounts and then uses the information from those accounts to suggest budgets for you based on your spending. Mint takes it a step farther by breaking that spending down into categories like “entertainment,” “food and dining” and shopping. The best part? You’ll be able to see how much you can save by cutting back in each category.
  4. Mvelopes – A popular budgeting method is the envelope system, a style of budgeting, where you put cash in envelopes for different spending categories and when the envelope is empty, your budget category is spent for the month. This is great for people who mind a cash system, but for people who use credit and debit cards, this is challenging. Enter Mvelopes; an app that makes it easy to follow the cash style budgeting in a digital world.

Of course, while you’re downloading apps, make sure you’re using our app. At Scient Federal Credit Union, our app allows you to check your balances, transfer money, check your spending and deposit checks remotely. Still have questions about budgeting and financial planning? Talk to one of our member service representatives and let us help get you on track.

Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Even if you’re not a first-time home buyer, looking for and financing a home can be stressful. When you don’t know where to begin or what to do, it can be even more stressful. We’ve got a few tips for first-time homebuyers to get the most out of your home buying experience.

Determine how much house you can afford and get pre-approved.

When you’re ready to look for your dream home, it’s important to know how much home you can afford. This will narrow down your home search and will give you a realistic view of the types of homes you can buy inside of your price range. You will also avoid the temptation to purchase a home where you’ll struggle to make the payments.

Save up for a down payment.

With such a big purchase, having a down payment to invest in your home is important. A good rule of thumb for a down payment is to save 20% of your mortgage. For instance, if you have a $100,000 mortgage, your target down payment is $20,000.

If 20% of your mortgage doesn’t seem feasible, there are other options for first-time homebuyers that will allow you to save and invest a smaller amount into your mortgage. If you’re wondering how much you need to save to achieve your desired payment, check out a down payment calculator for reference.

Payoff as much debt as possible

One of the factors that will determine your creditworthiness is your debt-to-income ratio. A debt-to-income ratio measures the total amount of debt you’re paying off each month compared to the amount of income you’re bringing in within the same period. If the amount of debt you’re paying off is considerably more than your income, this will negatively impact your credit score. In turn, this will hurt your chances of being pre-approved for and financing a mortgage.

Try at all costs to avoid inquiries on your credit report

When you’re looking to finance your first home, one item that first-time homebuyers seem to overlook is avoiding new lines of credit. For instance, opening a new cell phone line, television service, or even setting up a utility account will all affect your credit score and your inquiries.

Before you buy a house, your focus should be on maintaining and improving your credit score while saving as much as possible for a down payment and closing costs instead of building new avenues of credit.

Save up for a down payment.

With such a big purchase, having a down payment to invest in your home is important. A good rule of thumb for a down payment is to save 20% of your mortgage. For instance, if you have a $100,000 mortgage, your target down payment is $20,000.

If 20% of your mortgage doesn’t seem feasible, there are other options for first-time homebuyers that will allow you to save and invest a smaller amount into your mortgage. If you’re wondering how much you need to save to achieve your desired payment, check out a down payment calculator for reference.

Buying your first home is no easy feat. Take the first step and contact one of Mortgage Specialists at 860 441 0902 to discuss all your options to owning your very own dream home in no time.

What’s the Difference Between a Tax Credit and a Tax Deduction?

“Just write it off.”

“Go ahead and deduct it.”

“I think there’s a tax credit for that.”

Although you might have heard or even uttered one of the sentences above, have you ever wondered what it actually means? While both tax deductions and tax credits can save you a significant amount of money on your taxes, they work in significantly different ways.

What is a Tax Deduction?

A tax deduction is a result of a tax-deductible expense or exemption which reduces your taxable income. A common tax deduction on your federal income tax return is the standard deduction. An example of how this works: If your income was $50,000, your standard deduction (if single or married filing separately) would reduce your taxable income by the 2018 standard deduction of $12,000, so your taxable income would now be $38,000.

What is a Tax Credit?

Unlike tax deductions, tax credits are subtracted from your tax liability (not taxable income). A common tax credit is the Child Tax Credit. If you have a qualifying child, you can take a credit of up to $2,000 per child against the taxes you owe in 2018. If you have a total federal income tax liability of $3,500, the Child Tax Credit for one child would reduce that tax liability to $1,500.

Is a Tax Deduction Better Than a Tax Credit?  Is a Tax Credit Better Thank a Tax Deduction?

If you were ever faced with a hypothetical choice between a $100 tax deduction and a $100 tax credit, you would most likely prefer to receive the credit. Unlike a tax deduction, a $100 tax credit reduces your tax dollar-for-dollar ($100). On the other hand, a tax deduction reduces your taxable income by $100. The resulting amount of tax you save depends on your marginal tax bracket (in everyday language: your tax bracket). If you are in the 24% tax bracket in 2018, a $100 tax deduction reduces your taxes by $24. On the other hand, a $100 credit would reduce your taxes by $100.

TurboTax Has You Covered

Don’t worry about trying to figure out which tax credits or deductions you should take, or if you should itemize or take the standard deduction. TurboTax will ask you simple questions about you and give you the tax deductions and credits you are eligible for based on your answers to get you the biggest tax refund. As a credit union member, you can save up to $15 on TurboTax federal products. Click here to access TurboTax and your savings!

The Benefits of Charitable Contributions

We all know the saying, “It’s better to give than receive.” Giving makes us feel good, right? And we usually don’t think about what’s in it for us.

But, what about charitable giving? Depending on the amount of your charitable contributions, you could be in for a sizeable tax benefit. As a matter of fact, if you factor your charitable donations into your budget, it will allow you to be more generous and lead to strategies that could improve your financial planning long term.

With tax season just around the corner, let’s take a look at some benefits of charitable giving and what can be deducted.

That altruistic feeling

Whether we donate to them or not, we all have causes near and dear to our heart. If you’re an animal lover, the ASPCA commercials probably tug at your heartstrings. If helping kids is where your passion lies, then charities like St. Jude’s and the Shriner’s Hospital probably resonate with you. Regardless of where your loyalties lie, we all love the feeling of helping other people. Scientific studies have even shown that charitable giving activates pleasure centers in the brain.

Tax benefits

Charitable donation deductions actually allow you to lower the amount of taxable income. Of course, you can’t donate to just any organization. In order for donations or gifts to qualify, they have to be recognized tax-exempt organizations. Typically, religious organizations, veterans’ organizations and community organizations qualify as tax exempt.

Have you made any donations to state, federal, or local governments for public purposes, like donating to rehab a public park? You can deduct those donations. You can also deduct any expenses you incur as a volunteer for a qualified organization or if you donate a qualified vehicle.

What does this mean for you?

Let’s be honest. Taxes, deductions, and tax law can be overwhelming and difficult to understand if you don’t speak that language. It’s always a good idea to sit down with a qualified financial planner to come up with a plan for donating to charities. Your financial planner can help you figure out what types of donations work for you and your future plans. They can also help you find organizations that share the same goals and ideals as you. If you’d like to speak with a Financial Planner, Rick Hoskins of Scient FCU would be happy to sit down with you.

Also, if you want to make charitable giving a recurring activity this year, look at setting aside money in a Scient Savings Account. That way, you can save smaller amounts at a time to make it easier to give back vs one lump sum all at once.

While you shouldn’t donate funds just for your benefit, if you happen to be donating anyway, there’s no harm in deducting the amount on your taxes. No matter which way you decide to give or which charity you choose, giving back to organizations that do good feels good.

If you’re looking to speak with a Financial Planner, Rick Hoskins, of Scient FCU would be happy to book time for a consultation. You can email Rick to reserve time.

Meal Planning on a Budget

The beginning of a new year is a great time to change up your diet in a way that fits your budget. Meal planning is popular among those who desire to eat healthy while maintaining a healthy budget. While there are many resources available for recipes, we have a few tips on how to make the most of your meal planning options.

Plan your shopping trips and meals in advance.

Take some time to look at the grocery store circulars or online deals to see what is on sale for the week. Once you know what meats and seasonal fruits and vegetables are being offered at a good price, you can research recipes to maximize your meal planning options for the season. These prices tell you how much they are by amounts so you can compare with your recipes to determine your budget before you’re in the store.

Check out meal planning resources via a Google search and on sites like Pinterest. There are meal preps and plans available from home cooks and more popular sources like Food Network. Be willing to try new recipes and look into meat-free recipes to conserve your funds. There are plenty of cost-effective options that can be a good source of protein.

Choose different recipes with the same meat.

Whether you’re making meals for a family or you’re making lunches for yourself, buying in bulk is always best. If you’ve found a few recipes for chicken that you think you’ll like, buy the chicken in bulk and freeze what you don’t use right away. This will keep your meat fresh and ready for when you’re ready to use it. For example, you could use chicken for the following meal planning recipes:

  • Chicken Burrito Bowls
  • Teriyaki Chicken Bowls
  • Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice

With the money you save on supplies, you will be able to allocate elsewhere for something you want and possibly didn’t have the funds for originally.

There are so many different choices that make meal planning flexible and customizable depending on your particular preferences and tastes. Make sure to mix it up so your tastebuds won’t get bored since this is easy to do with meal prepping.

Choose recipes that require a limited number of ingredients.

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re looking at what sounds and looks good for meals. Make sure to get recipes that have either a limited number of ingredients or items that you need to buy. If you find recipes that have common dried spices that you have in your kitchen, this could work as well and help you branch out and try different recipes and combinations.

Branch out and experiment with flavors that you’re confident will work well together.

Keep track of all your transactions and budget with a Scient FCU Checking Account. Use these tips and tricks and you will be well on your way to being a savvy meal planner that works for your tastebuds as well as your budget.

Which Credit Card Rewards Are Right for You?

Believe it or not, there isn’t a “one size fits all” credit card rewards program. For every card on the market, it seems like there are a million different ways to earn rewards.

With all the options, the research can be overwhelming and you might not know where to start. We’ve come up with a few ways you can choose the right credit card rewards program.

Is a rewards card right for you?

That’s the first question you need to ask yourself. A rewards card isn’t right for everyone. Here’s a handy checklist to run through to help you decide whether or not a rewards card is a good fit for you:

  • You have a good credit score. Most card issuers are looking for consumers who have a FICO score of at least 670. Of course, a higher credit score will help you get a lower interest rate, but a that mid-600 range will get your foot in the door. FYI, the higher your credit score, the more lucrative rewards programs you’ll have access to.
  • You can pay off your balance every month. Rewards card usually have a higher-than-average interest rate. When you carry your balance over each month, you could end up paying more in interest charges than you earn in rewards.
  • You can maximize the value of your rewards. A rewards card can cost you money if you don’t maximize your reward-earning potential. If you don’t earn enough points, you can actually lose money if your card has an annual fee.

Now that you’ve determined you could benefit from a rewards card, let’s talk about choosing the card with the program that best suits your lifestyle and spending habits.

Choosing the right card

There are three main things to consider when choosing a card: your spending habits, personal preferences and credit score. If you don’t look at your spending habits and personal preferences, you could end up spending a lot of money and racking up rewards that aren’t right for you.

Let’s say you have a large family and your primary expenses are groceries and gas. It would make sense for you to have a credit card that offers bonus rewards on those purchases. But, if you’re single, have a small grocery budget or don’t have a car, those rewards wouldn’t make sense.

Use your cards for everything

The more you use your card, the more rewards points you’ll rack up. But, don’t let that be an invitation to start spending money on things you don’t need. Instead, use your credit card in the place of cash or your debit card whenever possible.

Start looking for everyday situations where you can use your credit card instead of another payment method – gas, groceries, food, etc. But, always make sure you only spend what you can pay off every month.

What if a rewards card isn’t for you?

Rewards cards aren’t for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe your credit score isn’t in the right range for a rewards card, or maybe you’re not interested in using your card to gain rewards. Maybe you’re looking for a credit card for emergencies only. If that’s the case, we can help you. We have a number of credit card options, and some have super low APRs, great rates on balance transfers and low rates on cash advances.

We can help you find the card for you. Check out our website, stop by and talk to us or give us a call so we can answer your questions.

Getting Started: Establishing a Financial Safety Net

In times of crisis, you don’t want to be shaking pennies out of a piggy bank. Having a financial safety net in
place can ensure that you’re protected when a financial emergency arises. One way to accomplish this is by
setting up a cash reserve, a pool of readily available funds that can help you meet emergency or highly urgent
short-term needs.

How much is enough?
Most financial professionals suggest that you have three to six months’ worth of living expenses in your cash
reserve. The actual amount, however, should be based on your particular circumstances. Do you have a
mortgage? Do you have short-term and long-term disability protection? Are you paying for your child’s
orthodontics? Are you making car payments? Other factors you need to consider include your job security,
health, and income. The bottom line: Without an emergency fund, a period of crisis (e.g., unemployment,
disability) could be financially devastating.

Building your cash reserve
If you haven’t established a cash reserve, or if the one you have is inadequate, you can take several steps to
eliminate the shortfall:

  • Save aggressively: If available, use payroll deduction at work; budget your savings as part of regular household expenses
  • Reduce your discretionary spending (e.g., eating out, movies, lottery tickets)
  • Use current or liquid assets (those that are cash or are convertible to cash within a year, such as a short-term certificate of deposit)
  • Use earnings from other investments (e.g.,stocks, bonds, or mutual funds)
  • Check out other resources (e.g., do you have a cash value insurance policy that you can borrow from?)

A final note: Your credit line can be a secondary source of funds in a time of crisis. Borrowed money, however,
has to be paid back (often at high interest rates). As a result, you shouldn’t consider lenders as a primary
source for your cash reserve.

Where to keep your cash reserve
You’ll want to make sure that your cash reserve is readily available when you need it. However, an FDIC-insured, low-interest savings account isn’t your only option. There are several excellent alternatives, each withunique advantages. For example, money market accounts and short-term CDs typically offer higher interest rates
than savings accounts, with little (if any) increased risk.

Note: Don’t confuse a money market mutual fund with a money market deposit account. An investment in a
money market mutual fund is not insured or guaranteed by the FDIC. Although the mutual fund seeks to
preserve the value of your investment at $1 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in the fund.

Note: When considering a money market mutual fund, be sure to obtain and read the fund’s prospectus, which is
available from the fund or your financial advisor, and outlines the fund’s investment objectives, risks, fees,
expenses. Carefully consider those factors before investing. It’s important to note that certain fixed-term investment vehicles (i.e., those that pledge to return your principal plus interest on a given date), such as CDs, impose a significant penalty for early withdrawals. So, if you’re going to use fixed-term investments as part of your cash reserve, you’ll want to be sure to ladder (stagger) their maturity dates over a short period of time (e.g., two to five months). This will ensure the availability of funds,
without penalty, to meet sudden financial needs.

Review your cash reserve periodically
Your personal and financial circumstances change often–a new child comes along, an aging parent becomes
more dependent, or a larger home brings increased expenses. Because your cash reserve is the first line of
protection against financial devastation, you should review it annually to make sure that it fits your current
needs.

________________________________________________________________________________________
Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, LP (“CFS”) a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS:are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. The Credit Union has contracted with CFS for investment services. Atria Wealth Solutions, Inc. (“Atria”) is a modern wealth management solutions holding company. Atria is not a registered broker-dealer and/or Registered Investment Advisor and does not provide investment advice. Investment advice is only provided through Atria’s subsidiaries. CUSO Financial Services, LP is a subsidiary of Atria. This communication is strictly intended for individuals residing in the state(s) of CT. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident outside the specific states referenced. Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019.

Holiday Shopping on a Budget

‘Tis the season…to avoid going broke buying presents for your loved ones. It’s easy to do, right? Sometimes we get carried away and spend more money than we intended to. You don’t want to look like a cheap gift-giver, but you also don’t want to buy the whole store.

So, how do you buy awesome gifts for everyone without breaking the bank? We have a few tips for you to keep your trees and your wallets full.

Make a List, Check It Twice

Hey, the process works for Santa so it can work for us! Start with a list of people you plan to buy for, jot down the gifts you think they’ll love and then check it twice. Santa has to buy gifts for the whole world, but you don’t have to. If your shopping list includes more than five people outside of your immediate family, trim your list. Look at alternatives like homemade gifts or baked goods so you can spread holiday cheer without looking like a Scrooge.

Create a Budget Based on Your Finances

Your best friend started a great job a few years ago and always gets you the most amazing gifts. However, if you’re in a different place in your financial life, don’t overextend yourself to match gifts. Look at your budget and see what you can do. Don’t shop based on what you think you should spend. The saying “it’s the thought that counts” really does ring true. It’s still possible to give thoughtful gifts to your loved ones without breaking the bank.

Homemade From The Heart

While there are many options to choose from at one store or another, the best gifts sometimes don’t come from the store. Another way you could save some money on presents this season is by making your loved one(s) a gift. The possibilities are endless on what you can make. Often times, a gift that is handmade from the heart is priceless and more special. If you need some inspiration on what to make, check out Pinterest for a few ideas.

Keep It Local

Shopping local is a great way to save a little cash while also supporting local businesses. Because there are fewer hands involved, buying local can often save you some money. You’ll likely save money by purchasing green beans from a produce stand because the farmer doesn’t have to divvy up his profits the way a chain supermarket does. It’s also a great way to improve your local economy. For example, every $100 you spend at a local business, $68 stays in the community. Follow your local news and check Facebook pages in your area to see what area businesses are offering locally made products.

We know that holiday shopping can be stressful. You’re paying your regular bills, taking care of your everyday expenses, and planning for holiday shopping on top of that. It can be tempting to open multiple credit cards or store cards, which come with incredibly high-interest rates. Don’t get stuck paying big balances on multiple cards. We have numerous options that can help you fund your holiday shopping without spending more.

Let us help. Stop by, check out our website or give us a call to see what options we have to help you.