CCU Blog: Insights and Education
November 22, 2019
Keeping Your Budget Merry and Bright
On the first day of Christmas, my budget sent to me, a big, fat warning, so here comes anxiety …
Don’t fret – the holidays don’t have to bring financial stress and strain! Planning and budgeting for the holidays is an important step to take – and early – to ensure your experience with family and friends is as joyous as it can be.
Where do you begin if you want to plan effectively for the holiday season?
Start thinking about the holidays and holiday spending early. They are the same time every year, so they should be no surprise.
To that end, if you start after the holidays are over to start planning for next year’s season, that will give you plenty of time to put together a savings plan that meets your gift giving and spending goals.
If you plan to transfer $15 per paycheck to a savings account for 18 pay periods, that will give you $270 to apply to your holiday shopping. Increase that to $25 per paycheck and you’ll have $450, with weeks to start shopping and complete it before the holidays roll around. You also can consider setting up automatic transfers to assist so the money goes straight to the savings account without you even seeing it or the need to make the transfer yourself.
Set your budget and spending plan and stick to it. Write it down or track it on an electronic document. Include everyone’s name who you’re buying for and how much you want to spend on them. To that end, talk with your family members and friends and set the parameters for how you’re handling gift giving. Maybe you’d like to draw names to narrow down the gift-buying needs, or maybe you’d like to set dollar-limits. Having the conversations early will help mitigate over-purchasing when the time for shopping rolls around.
You need to consider everything that’s associated with the holidays – this goes right down to your tree, wrapping paper, bows, tissue paper, decorations, and stocking stuffers if you do stockings. Don’t overlook food and beverages if you’re hosting gatherings for family and friends. You’re used to cooking for 4, and you’re entertaining 10 for the holidays? You’ll need to calculate the cost increase and include it in your holiday budget accordingly.
Ideally, gift buying should come from that disposable income – that is, liquid cash you have available in savings. If you started a savings plan for the following year, you’re ahead of the game on having the cash. If you ultimately need to use a credit card to assist with shopping, make every attempt to pay off the balances as soon as possible. This will help you avoid paying significant amounts of interest in the long run.
While you’re shopping, mark items off the list and cross people off when you’re done purchasing for them. If you’re shopping for the holidays as a team with your spouse or significant other, meet regularly to go over who has spent what and on who, and update your budget and tracking documents accordingly.
Don’t get sucked into Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Shopping early will prevent you from getting tempted by these deals that sometimes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. If you start early, you’ll be able to look for great deals and not feel the crunch and frenzy of tempting sales and specials.
It all comes down to developing the plan and sticking to it. Following your own guidelines will lead to reduced stress and happier holidays. No bah humbug required.
July 2, 2019
Fraud Protection and Prevention
Staying alert and on the lookout is the best way to protect yourself from becoming a scam victim. With rapid advancements in technology and social media platforms, scams are becoming easier to perform and harder to detect.
To avoid becoming a scam victim yourself, you must be proactive. Some best practices include reviewing accounts regularly, being wary of unsolicited calls and e-mails, and keeping all online account information, especially passwords, secure. Always confirm who you are connecting with online and never share account information of any kind.
The number of scamming tactics out there is overwhelming. Common tactics include a person who has won a lottery prize and is asked to pay some sort of fee to get the winnings. Another may be done online, asking for your personal information over e-mail to receive money in return. Scams can also be in the form of a phone call, and can be a scammer trying to imitate your financial institution.
If it seems suspicious, it very likely is.
As your financial institution, we have all account information necessary and will not call you to ask questions regarding this information. If you receive calls, e-mails, or messages asking for personal or financial information, always call us directly at 800-258-0023. That way, we can confirm whether or not CCU actually placed a call to you, or we can tell you that a call or request you received was illegitimate.
We are here to help if you have questions or are concerned you may be experiencing a scam. Don’t hesitate to reach out – we are happy to help.