The Holidays

‘Tis the Season…Not to Go Broke!

The season of giving is upon us! But, before you head out
the door to join the hustle and bustle at your local mall or begin filling your
shopping cart at your favorite online shopping sites, here are a few tips to keep
you from overspending and going into debt this holiday season.

Develop a holiday
shopping budget…and stick to it!

The first and most important thing you need to do is to
develop a realistic and reasonable holiday budget.  This will save you from impulse buying and
overspending.

If you haven’t saved already, look at your current household
budget and determine how much money you can allocate each week (paycheck) to
holiday spending. This includes gifts, food (items you only purchase during the
holiday season), decorations and travel. There may be items on your current
household budget you can eliminate until after the holidays (e.g. your daily
latte) and/or you could pick up a part-time holiday job to save even more
money.

Look for deals

Start browsing for people on your list, looking for the best
deals.  Beware…the best prices are not
necessarily found on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. These days typically offer
good deals on items like electronics, apparel and beauty products. You will
usually find better deals on toys and outerwear later in December.

Many stores will negotiate their prices to meet competitors
so you will buy from them. Doing your homework, comparing prices, before you
hit the big box stores will put you in a better negotiating position.

Use your credit cards
wisely

Using your credit cards for your holiday purchases may save
you money, especially if you utilize your card member perks/rewards, but only
if you’re able to pay off the monthly balance. The interest you will have to
pay if you don’t far outweighs the value of the card’s rewards.

Save money on
purchases with discounted gift cards

Sites like GiftCardGranny or CardPool sell discounted gift
cards. You can use them to make in-store purchases and save on whatever you
buy. If you couple the discounted gift card with a coupon, you’ll really save
money on your purchase.

Don’t go overboard
buying holiday attire

You don’t need a new outfit for every holiday function. Make
a few solid pieces unique by accessorizing. That same little black dress will
have a whole new look with different jewelry and shoes or a colorful scarf or a
dressy sweater or jacket. Be creative!

Hold off on self-purchases
until after the holidays

Many people like to buy that special something for
themselves during the holiday season. But, resisting this temptation will give
you more wiggle room in your holiday budget. Wait until after the holidays to
satisfy this urge by using gift cards you may have received. You will also reap
the benefits of the post-holiday sales.

DIY

People love receiving homemade gifts. So, bring out your
inner Martha Stewart and make your money go even further. Come up with more
sentimental gifts that won’t break the bank.

When it’s all said and done, consider your long-term
financial goals. Is it worth depleting your savings or racking up high-interest
debt for one day? Think about the true meaning of the holiday season…the
special time spent with friends and loved ones.

Have an open and honest conversation about your budget with
your family prior to the holidays. Most likely, they have been stressing about
overspending too.

From our Intracoastal Bank family to yours, have a safe and
blessed holiday season!

‘Tis the Season to Shop Safely Online

tis-the-seasonBy now most of us have exhausted our turkey recipe concoctions, securely tucked away the cornucopia and the Mr. and Mrs. Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers, and have pulled out the Christmas and Hanukkah decorations. And if you’re like many Americans, you’ve also made your list, checked it twice, determined who’s been naughty and nice and commenced your holiday shopping.

Each holiday season, more and more holiday shoppers make their purchases from the comfort of their recliner or local coffee shop, using phones, tablets and other mobile devices. A recent study by Webroot found that 50 percent of mobile device users are likely to purchase holiday gifts using their smartphones or tablets this shopping season. According to the National Retail Federation, online sales are forecast to increase between 7 and 10 percent over last year to as much as $117 billion.

Huge deals, free shipping and convenience continue to increase online holiday shopping sales year after year. Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift for that hard to buy someone on your list or a wide assortment of holiday trimmings, including the fruitcake, you can accomplish this with the effortless click of your mouse, donned in your favorite festive flannel and warm, comfy slippers.

There is no better time to shop online than the holidays, avoiding the congested big box store parking lots and hoards of shoppers that can sap your energy and put a damper on your holiday spirit. But, this convenience doesn’t come without strings attached. If you don’t take a few precautions for safe online holiday shopping, the Internet savvy Grinch may end up stealing more than your presents. He may end up stealing your personal information.

Here are a few online shopping tips to protect your personal information during this bustling, holiday season:

  1. Don’t be too eager to click on a link in your email. Beware of clicking links you receive from unfamiliar senders/websites, no matter how enticing they may be. This could be a “phishing” scheme, where you’re led to a bogus website developed to steal your personal information. If the deal the company is offering in your email is too good to pass up, enter the website name by hand into your browser to make sure it’s legitimate. Look for the closed padlock on your web browser’s address bar or a URL address that begins with shttp or https. This indicates your purchase is encrypted or secured. For new sites, do a little extra homework – check out their online reviews as well.
  2. Beware of Wi-Fi Hotspots. Don’t share your personal or financial information over an unsecured network – a connection that doesn’t require a password for access. Public Wi-Fi can be hacked by someone with the right tools, exposing your passwords, billing and other sensitive information. It’s best to limit yourself to window-shopping and price comparison when using a public connection.
  3. Make sure you have up-to-date security software on all the devices you use for shopping. In addition, make sure any new apps are downloaded from a trusted source, such as Android Market, Apple App Store or the Amazon App Store.
  4. Be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete your transaction. Make sure that the information the website requests is necessary to complete the purchase. Check the website’s privacy policy – make sure you understand how your information will be stored and used.
  5. Use safe payment options. Credit cards are generally the safest online payment option. Your monetary exposure is typically limited and a credit card allows you to seek a credit from the issuer if the product wasn’t delivered on time or wasn’t what you ordered or expected.
  6. Keep records of all purchases. Save records of all online transactions to include the online receipt and terms of sale. Also make sure to review your credit card statements carefully to make sure there are no pricing discrepancies or unauthorized charges.

Unfortunately, approximately 12.7 million U.S. consumers had their personal identities stolen or misused last year, and thieves are poised to take advantage of the growing number of online shoppers this holiday season. To avoid becoming part of this growing statistic, you must be wise. Just as you would exercise caution with your wallet and belongings in a crowded store, remember to be just as cautious while you’re shopping in the World Wide Mall.

Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy and merry holiday season!

 

 

 

 

 

November – Let’s Make it a Month of Thanks

give-thanksAs we head into the month of November, many of us are already contemplating the Thanksgiving holiday. This is a time devoted to preparing a delicious meal, spending time with family and friends, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and football, and conjuring up every possible creative concoction for the turkey leftovers. Yes, it’s truly a special day, and if you’re like me, it’s a day you eagerly anticipate every year.

But, it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of this day, and the pre-holiday pangs of worry over everything that must be done in the next two months. It’s this added stress that often distracts us from slowing down and remembering the true meaning of this day.

So, perhaps this year we might allow this special day…feeling to permeate our lives for more than just one day. How about we celebrate this special day… feeling for the entire month? Let’s spend some time everyday, during the entire month of November, to express gratitude for the many blessings in our lives.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Send a note or make a phone call of thanks to someone who has enriched your life over the past year. Let that person know how they’ve positively impacted your life and how much you appreciate them.
  1. Take a quiet meditative walk or hike. Take in and appreciate the many sights, sounds and smells the season and nature has to offer.
  1. If you don’t already do this, begin each meal everyday by giving thanks for the nourishment to your body.
  1. Be thankful for your health. It’s easy to overlook this when we have no major health issues. But, each day that we live is a day for which to be thankful. Take time out from your busy and often hectic life to show gratitude…appreciation for a healthy body. Participate in a run/walk or some other healthy activity, pamper your body in some way (e.g. get a facial or a massage, soak in a bubble bath, etc.) or be extra mindful of what you eat.
  1. Keep a daily thankfulness journal. Each day, during the month of November, make a list of three things for which you are thankful. You could even post these on your favorite social media site and encourage your friends and family to do the same.
  1. Show appreciation for all your blessings by helping those who are less fortunate. Make a donation to your favorite charity, host a food drive or volunteer your time.
  1. Pay homage to our planet. With all the damage Earth sustains today, we’re lucky she’s in such good shape. Show acts of global kindness…thankfulness by recycling, planting a tree and/or picking up litter on the side of the road. Future generations will thank you.
  1. Forgive someone. Although it’s not always easy to forgive others who have hurt us, whether it’s a stranger who has rudely inconvenienced us by overtaking our spot in the grocery line or a close friend who has betrayed, we reap more benefits than we realize by making the choice to do so.
  1. Speak truthfully. One of the greatest things we can do to show thankfulness for those we love is by speaking truthfully – saying what we mean and meaning what we say.

Through these small daily gestures, during the month of November, we can come to appreciate the world around us and express our thankfulness for the many blessings we often take for granted. And remember, November doesn’t have to be the only time in our lives we give thanks. It can provide a great starting point for a change in our attitude for the other 11 months.

 

 

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