How to Avoid Gift Card Fraud This Holiday Season

gift cardGift cards will be the most requested gift this holiday season for the eighth consecutive year, the National Retail Federation reports. Unfortunately, this also creates an opportunity for fraudsters who want a piece of an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

Just ask James Bregenzer, 32, of Chicago, who purchased a $500 airline gift card as a Christmas gift a few years ago for his mother – who was planning a trip to Disney World. After he brought the gift card home from the grocery store where he purchased it, he noticed the PIN area on the back of the card was scratched off, so he called the airline. “I asked if there was any way they could exchange my gift card for a new one, use it to purchase a new one or otherwise protect my purchase with the potentially compromised PIN,” he said.

The airline said there was nothing it could do for him and suggested he use the gift card immediately while it still had its $500 value, but his mother didn’t know her travel dates yet, and he wanted to save the gift for Christmas. Sure enough, when she tried using the card just a week later, it had a zero balance.

Watch Out When Buying or Redeeming

Gift card fraud can happen when a gift card is purchased or redeemed, according to Pete Kledaras, chief risk officer at CashStar, a gift card platform that works with hundreds of major retail brands. Thieves can purchase a physical or digital gift card using a stolen credit card or simply steal the gift card number and PIN and leave the physical gift card. In the latter case, thieves will typically use the balance themselves. “Once cards are stolen, there are any number of ways that thieves can turn that into money for themselves,” Kledaras says. “They can re-sell them, or they can go into the store and purchase physical goods that they can sell.”

Another example of gift card fraud is when a thief tries to return stolen merchandise, and the retailer issues a gift card as a refund. “The criminal is getting $75 cash back from an item that they never purchased in the first place,” says National Retail Federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis. Then the schemer might turn around and sell that gift card for cash.

To make sure you don’t become a victim of gift card fraud this season, follow these tips:

For the Giver

  • Only buy from trusted sources. Gift card resale markets offer gift cards for less than the face value of the card, but not all of them guarantee the stated value. For example, if the original purchaser still has the gift card and PIN, he or she may be able to use the gift card online even after selling it. Or, if the retailer discovers the gift card was purchased using a stolen credit card, it can cancel the gift card. To avoid these potential issues, Kledaras recommends buying directly from the retailer issuing the gift card. “If you want to buy a Best Buy gift card, it’s best to buy it from Best Buy,” he says.
  • Watch for signs of tampering. In the past, Grannis says thieves would walk into stores and write down the numbers of the gift cards on display. “Since that was first discovered, large retailers have taken steps to remove any opportunity for criminals,” Grannis states. If a card is not in plastic casing, make sure the PIN hasn’t been scratched off. Digital gift cards are also becoming increasingly popular and don’t have potential for physical tampering.

For the Recipient

  • Register your gift card. Some retailers, including Crate and Barrel and Starbucks, allow gift card holders to register their gift cards and protect the balance in case the card is ever lost or stolen. Not all merchants have this option, but if yours does, it’s a good idea to register the card just in case.
  • Treat gift cards like cash. Many states prohibit gift cards with expiration dates, but it’s still a good idea for the recipient to use the card sooner rather than later. This helps not only to prevent fraud, but also to avoid losing or forgetting the gift card. “It’s like having cash sitting on a table,” Kledaras says, “and you want to use it before something happens to it.” In fact, advisory company CEB estimates that over a billion dollars in gift cards were unredeemed in 2013. So it’s better to get the value out of the gift card now than later, when the retailer may be out of business or you misplace the gift card.

Make gifts merrier (and safer) with First Financial VISA® Gift Cards and currency envelopes! Available in denominations of $20 to $500, a First Financial VISA® Gift Card* is the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday list at a small cost of $3.95 per card. Gift card envelopes are just $1 and currency envelopes are free (limited 5 per person)!** All proceeds from the envelopes sales go directly to the First Financial Foundation for local classroom grants and scholarships.

*If the gift card is inactive for 360 days, an inactivity fee of $2.50 per month will be charged to the card – starting from the date of activation. If the card is lost or stolen, the replacement fee is $15.00.** 5 currency envelopes limit per person, or purchase 10 currency envelopes for $2.

Article Source: Susan Johnston of The Daily Finance, http://www.dailyfinance.com/2014/11/19/how-to-avoid-gift-card-fraud-this-holiday-season/

4 Ways to Save on Your Holiday Shopping Now

Art Img 7 TipsIt is hard to believe, but the holiday shopping season is here. If you’re like most families, holiday shopping can be a strain on the budget. Many shoppers also fear looking cheap when passing out gifts, which can lead to over-spending and blowing the budget.

According to the American Research Group, Americans on average spent $801 on Christmas shopping in 2013. That kind of number will have a big impact on a budget. If you’re looking for ways to cut down the cost of holiday shopping and still get great gifts, these tips will help.

Start now:

The best way to save money on holiday shopping is to start early. There is a belief that the best deals are available around Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and that is not always the case. Instead of waiting, be on the lookout for even bigger deals that might be hitting stores sooner. The ever expanding influence of online shopping has moved many retailers to begin pushing major holiday campaigns back as early as Halloween, if not earlier. The added benefit is being able to avoid the craziness that Black Friday shopping brings.

Check out the Dollar Stores:

It might not be too common, but shopping at discount or Dollar stores can be a great way to shave some spending off of your gift budget. You might not find your gifts there, but you can probably save on other holiday-related items, such as wrapping paper, gift bags and decorations.

While they might not have good options for a traditional gift, Dollar stores can be a great option for gag gifts, office Christmas parties and white elephant gift exchanges. Beyond that, Dollar stores are a useful alternative for party favors or decorations for parties you may be hosting. Since many of those items will likely be thrown away anyway, there is no point in spending more than you need to.

Shop at stores that match prices:

Price matching has become increasingly expected as many brick and mortar retailers deal with the presence of online shopping. While not every store offers price matching, it can be a great way to save money when added to your shopping strategy. The trick is to know the terms and conditions of the given retailer you’re shopping at. Some will match any retailer while others will not match online-only retailers.

If you have a smartphone, bring it with you when you go shopping. There are many apps available now, from Amazon to others, which allow you to scan the item to see what is charged for it elsewhere. Add that to your arsenal to save money while shopping. Lastly, make sure to check the retailer’s site itself to make sure it’s not offering a cheaper price online than in-store. If you find a discrepancy, you can always ask for a price match, or at least allow a free shipping option.

Watch the daily deal sites:

Like the Dollar store option, daily deal sites may not be commonly thought of as options for gift shopping but they can be a great way to save money. Many daily deal sites regularly sell significantly reduced deals for national retailers that can be great options for presents. They might also give you ideas for items that you can then go track down in local stores.

The problem with daily deal sites is they have a limited window in which you can get the deal. This can definitely pose a problem when shopping for that special someone. However, there are options available if you missed out on the deal you were looking for. CoupRecoup, for example, allows those who have bought deals they’re unable to use to sell them. This can be a great way to potentially score a deal on an item you were looking for.

The holiday shopping season can be a stressful one, especially on a tight budget. By using some simple tips like the ones mentioned above you should be able to shave some money off your holiday shopping budget, and maybe even have some leftover for yourself.

Make gifts merrier with First Financial VISA® Gift Cards and currency envelopes! Available in denominations of $20 to $500, a First Financial VISA® Gift Card* is the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday list at a small cost of $3.95 per card. Gift card envelopes are just $1 and currency envelopes are free (limited 5 per person)!** All proceeds from the envelopes sales go directly to the First Financial Foundation.

Check out First Financial’s Holiday Savings Club Account – don’t put yourself into debt over holiday spending, save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!***

  • Open at any time
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
  • Accounts automatically renew each year
  • Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
  • Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account

*If the gift card is inactive for 360 days, an inactivity fee of $2.50 per month will be charged to the card – starting from the date of activation. If the card is lost or stolen, the replacement fee is $15.00.** 5 currency envelopes limit per person or purchase 10 currency envelopes for $2. ***A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

Click here to view the original article source written by John Schmoll of U.S.News.

8 Ways to Protect Your Identity While Shopping Online

Concept of mobile shoppingAs we move into the most frenzied shopping season of the year, scam artists will be on the prowl for vulnerable shoppers. To avoid becoming a victim, consider taking steps now to keep your financial accounts and personal information safe.

1. Skip attachments and hyperlinks. Even attachments from people you know can be nefarious, since those acquaintances could be infected with a computer virus. If the email contains unusual or scant wording, don’t open the attachment. The same logic applies to hyperlinks in emails (or requests for information received over text message). First hover over the link to make sure it’s going to direct you to a valid address.

2. Don’t make purchases over coffee shop lattes. Any public Wi-Fi connection, such as those offered at coffee shops or libraries, carry extra risks, since they aren’t private. Try to avoid shopping online or engaging in any financial transactions, like logging into your bank account, from such hot spots.

3. Protect your smartphone. Web browsers and retailer apps on mobile devices make it easy to shop on the go, but doing so can also expose shoppers to extra risks since many phones don’t have the same kind of data encryption that’s often installed on computers. Even taking a relatively simple step, like enabling the password lock feature on your phone, will make it harder for a thief to access private data stored on the phone in case it’s lost or stolen. The computer security company McAfee also warns against downloading apps that might steal personal information.

4. Don’t trust your “friends.” Hackers target social media, including Facebook and Twitter, because they know it’s easier to get people to click on a link that appears to be recommended from a friend. McAfee has identified dozens of examples, including free dinner offers at Cheesecake Factory and fake mystery shopper invitations. Offers that sound too good to be true, such as free iPads or free iPhones, are also a common lure. The company cautions against clicking on fake alerts from friends, who may have been hacked themselves, and avoiding shortened links on Twitter that claim to offer deals.

5. Open e-cards with caution. They can be cute, but they can also be malicious. McAfee warns that some e-cards download viruses onto your computer when you download them. To avoid that outcome, the company suggests only opening e-cards from domain names that you recognize.

6. Upgrade your passwords. The holiday season can serve as a good reminder to give your passwords a makeover; security experts recommend changing them regularly as a precaution against hackers. Avoid common and simple words, use long combinations of words that also incorporate numbers or symbols, and never use duplicate passwords for multiple accounts. Sites that offer two-step authentication, such as Twitter and Gmail, can also add another layer of protection.

7. Check up on an e-retailer before making purchases. Some fly-by-night operations take advantage of the uptick in shopping around the holiday season to collect cash without ever mailing out the goods in return, warns the Better Business Bureau. The same applies to in-person exchanges on Craigslist or other online sites. To protect yourself, the bureau recommends never wiring money or paying in advance, and bringing a friend to any in-person exchanges.

8. Review your statements. The first sign of identity theft is often an unfamiliar charge on a credit card or bank statement; reviewing those statements carefully and contacting your financial institution or card provider with any concerns can prevent a theft from expanding. Credit cards usually come with some measure of automatic protection, as long as you report the scam relatively quickly.

Following these tips might leave you feeling overly cynical about the world, but the real downer would be dealing with a stolen identity just as the holiday season is heating up.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored and you can try it FREE for 90 days!*

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!**

Article Source: Kimberly Palmer for US News – Money, Http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/09/16/8-ways-to-protect-your-identity-while-online-shopping

*Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program. 

**Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

Help – I spent too much on the holidays and I’m still paying for it months later!

tighten belt on dollar conceptIf the holidays have left your budget overstretched, there are ways to recover (even if 3 months have passed) … you just need to act as quickly as you can.

While it might be tough to admit it (case in point: you’ve ignored the debt you racked up over the last few months), the first step to reducing your post-holiday debt is realizing and prioritizing it.

Beverly Harzog, author of Confessions of a Credit Junkie, says the best way to start a re-payment plan is to go after the debt on the highest interest rate card first and once that is paid off, go after the next one and so on and so on.

If you overspent this holiday season and know you won’t be able to pay off your credit card bills when they arrive next month, you need to adjust your spending habits ASAP.

Consumers should look at their spending categories and aim to shave small amounts off of each area (even if it’s $5 or $10 to start). Making many small cutbacks will be less painful than trying to find an extra $1,000 all at once to help pay off the credit card balance.

If you put a lot of your holiday gift spending on a high-interest rate credit card, Harzog recommends transferring the balance to a credit card with a lower interest rate. Even if you can reduce the interest rate just a little bit, it will help pay it down faster.

Did you know First Financial Federal Credit Union has a lower rate VISA Platinum Credit Card, great rewards, no annual fee, and no balance transfer fees? Apply today!*

If you are facing significant debt, it might be time to find new ways to generate extra income that is earmarked solely to paying off the debt. If you don’t want to get a traditional part-time job, review your talents and skill set to find alternative ways to make money, whether it’s giving piano lessons, fixing computers, catering, or doing web design.

Ed Gjertsen, Vice President at Mack Investment Securities, recommends the seven-day cash challenge to break an overspending habit. With this challenge, you estimate how much money you spend each week and then take out that amount of cash at the start of the week and see how long it lasts.

“When people do this, by Wednesday or Thursday they are usually out of money,” he says. “They don’t think of all the times they swipe that card. It gives them a reality check of how much they are spending.”

If you need an anonymous, online tool to help you get your debt in check – try Debt in Focus – First Financial’s free and anonymous online debt management tool. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/12/24/help-spent-too-much-on-holidays/

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Holiday Shopping Budgeting Tips

holiday_budget_630x420We’d like to thank everyone who participated in our Holiday Facebook Contest and shared your unique ways on how you budget yourself for holiday shopping. Congratulations to our Facebook Contest winner, Phyllis Ann Taylor, who earned a $75 VISA Gift Card for the holiday season. Here is what she shared:

“Set a firm budget that you can afford. Then list the gifts you need to purchase, remember to calculate wrapping, travel, luncheons, office grab bags, etc. If you start early and take advantage of coupons, etc. you will probably surprise yourself. Stop spending when you reach your limit and get creative! Give of yourself instead of gifting purchased items if necessary. Merry Christmas!”

We received so many great holiday budgeting tips so we thought we’d share them with everyone!

  • Barbara L.: I use the same list each year, adding or deleting as needed. I shop all year at sales for those items I know will be appreciated by the person who receives it. I don’t like to buy gifts just for the sake of giving a gift. I seek things special to their interests. I don’t buy for the youngsters until a few months before Christmas so I can decide upon that year’s “must have” for the children. Money is put in cards for the older children during the year so I don’t get a big hit in December.
  • Lisa B.: We make our list of those we buy gifts for and budget cash spending only, no credit cards, and no more than half of one month’s income.
  • Jennifer M.: I make my list early in the year. Starting in June I buy one gift per pay period. This allows me to stay debt free and not feel the pressure of it all coming out at once. Happy Holidays!
  • Susan R.: Our family makes a list of the most wanted items we would like for the holidays then use our holiday account that we’ve set aside and have continually paid into. We also shop around for sales and those pre-holiday deals like Black Friday or Cyber Monday to further help us save.
  • Francine O.: I shop for sales, use coupons, and to look for the best deals to save me money — that is how I budget myself for holiday shopping.
  • Teri S.: I’m fortunate in that I get “longevity pay” from work and that is my Christmas money!
  • Jamie D.: First Financial has become my newest bank with savings and checking accounts and I can’t wait to apply for the Visa credit card because it has great rates!!!
  • Alice W.: I use my First Financial Christmas Club. If I need any additional money, I use part of my income tax return. If I use my credit card I pay the Christmas expenses in full when the bill comes.
  • Melissa S.: I normally keep a list, and put a little bit away each pay check (pay cash for everything)! We also set limits with each other, so I can be budget conscious with everyone. I think next year I’ll open an FFFCU Christmas Club to help me budget even better!
  • Zanada J.: I give friends and family gift cards to stores that I know they enjoy shopping at AND coupons for that store. The best deals are ALWAYS after Christmas. Happy Holidays!
  • Tom S.: We utilize a Christmas Club account every year. The Christmas Club is our budget and it makes shopping a breeze.
  • Kelly Ann: I start writing my list in September and every pay period I spend a set amount of money on Christmas gifts. I do it little by little, so that I’m not relying on credit cards or putting myself in a bad financial situation, and I stick to the weekly budget that I set so that I don’t go overboard.
  • Susan C.: I use my First Financial Credit Union Christmas Club!
  • Terry D.: Budgeting is easy….you figure out how much money you have left after the bills are paid. Since we are on a “budget” for everything, birthday gifts and Christmas gifts all get factored in with the rest of the household expenses. One way or the other, everyone wins! Happy Holidays to everyone and especially my FFFCU family – my son has been blessed to have become a member through his auto loan, savings account and his Rutgers student loans as well. We will always remain a part of the best Credit Union there is!
  • Erin W.: I always open up a holiday club account in October every year with a certain amount and I only spend that amount. When I get the check in October I start then and just use that money and ONLY that money.
  • Patty B.: I set a certain dollar limit for each person’s gift and stick to it.
  • Margaret P.: I try to buy gifts that are practical and within budget. I allot an amount to spend on each recipient and stick to it because I don’t want to pay for Christmas long after the decorations are down.
  • Aggie R.: I set a reasonable dollar amount per child, all equal. Then I purchase one main item with that. No small cutesy, seasonal items I used to feel pressured to buy — it is all about the reason for the season! Last year I made homemade bath scrubs and that went over well with my daughters! I appreciate home made gifts and the effort it takes to make them.
  • Lynette B.: I never buy anything that is full price. I cut coupons, look for early bird specials, and I DO go shopping on Black Friday. I’m usually home by 8:00am with lots of bargains. My children are older so we really don’t go crazy at Christmas – they get everything they need during the year. I usually buy one large gift for each of my children and then a few little things. My husband and I don’t exchange, we save our money for a trip in the springtime to go visit both of our elderly parents who both live in Florida right around the corner from each other. For friends and other family members…I love to bake!!!
  • Joshua E.: I make sure I plan well ahead for all the shopping that I will do by setting a budget for all gifts, then searching for the best deals!
  • Stacy M.: I have a holiday club through First Financial that I set up years ago. It makes saving so much easier for the holidays!
  • Maria S.: It’s really hard to budget myself on shopping for my son so I don’t let myself go to the toy department in any store so I’m not tempted! The temptation is tough to fight!!!!
  • KellieRose W.: I don’t buy anything that is full price and I save gift cards all year to use for holiday shopping!
  • Susan P.: I save a certain amount every month so when December comes, I have what I need to buy the gifts I need.
  • Jennifer M.: Shop gradually don’t save it for last minute!
  • Paula P.: I start buying gifts early.
  • Joanne P.: I love the Direct Deposit to the Holiday Club and I love getting the money deposited right into my checking account in October! Makes shopping a lot easier!
  • Cindy W.: I save by not eating out as much!
  • Ann S.: I always budget myself very well and I never fall short of money because I have First Financial to fall back on. Happy Holidays to all of you.
  • Lois T.: I don’t buy more than I can pay off! First Financial’s easy to navigate web page makes it easy to keep track.
  • Ajane D.: I make sure I purchase all the necessities first and if I have extra money then I buy some new clothes or cosmetics. Last holiday I got an extra cash bonus from work and I gave some money to my mom. I always share because it makes me happy!
  • Laurie D.: My husband and I have 3 children and 1 granddaughter. In order for us to have enough money to purchase holiday gifts we start a savings club at the beginning of each year. Then we take what was saved and divide it amongst them. We try and purchase the things they need most. Although it’s a hard time of the year, we love Christmas and make the best of it.
  • Marcy V.: New this year, I put all my silver change into a big jar all year long. In November I turned it into cash at a machine. This year I netted $316.42. This will allow me to get at least seven or eight decent gifts (on sale of course)!
  • Michelle J.: List, limit, leave! Make a list for who you need to shop for, decide a dollar limit, leave the store once you get what is on your list so you are not tempted to impulse buy!
  • Jess E.: I budget myself by starting to shop before the holiday season so my wallet isn’t hit all at once!
  • Joe V.: I budget myself for holiday shopping by starting to buy some gifts as early as October through November. Then by December I have half of my shopping done, and know how much I’ll have in my budget for the up to the last minute shopping!
  • Joanne O.: I budget my holiday spending by always having a Holiday Club. I save $50-$100 per week and usually have enough left over to treat my husband and I to a little vacation also!
  • Pamela G.: Have been a credit union member since I began my career as an educator with the Toms River schools — loyalty with this credit union has its rewards. I do my Christmas shopping early and pace myself so that I don’t incur a huge debt. I always look for gifts for family and friends and buy when I see what is suitable for each person. This way I don’t feel a financial crunch all at once and it works for me.
  • Karen L.: I put $100 a month in my holiday savings so by October 1st I have $1200! I also buy gifts as I see them through the year – though I tend to spend more that way!
  • Debbie T.: I always have a First Financial Holiday Club and always stay within that budget, deciding ahead of time how much will be spent on each person.
  • Brownie’s Woodcrafts: My best plan involves participating in local craft shows to help shoppers buy great products made in the USA.
  • Saul H.: I budget for holiday shopping with sales, coupons, comparison shopping, rewards points, bargain hunting as a sport and saving on a regular basis to fund what I want to purchase.
  • Judy B.: I shop all year long and try to find the perfect gift for everyone. I splurge as long as I know it will make the recipient happy. Spreading the generosity throughout the year is a lot easier on my budget.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and receive the most recent information about First Financial including monthly trivia, seminars, financial tips, event information, promotions, and so much more! Thank you again for participating and on behalf of everyone at First Financial we wish you all a very happy holiday season!

Affordable Holiday Gift Ideas

holiday-shopping-womenWant to buy for everyone on your holiday list, but don’t want to go broke while doing so? Here are some tips to keep your holidays fun yet affordable!

  • Make a list. Many people spend as they go, buying presents when they see them and end up surprised when the bills arrive in January. You can avoid this problem by creating a list in advance of who you plan to buy gifts for, and you should budget for each. Then, check this total against your holiday savings to decide if you need to adjust your spending.
  • Be creative. As you begin your shopping, remember that thoughtfulness really does count. Instead of searching for one expensive present, you may be able to save money, and give the perfect gift, by putting together a number of small items that relate to a loved one’s special interest. Someone who truly loves chocolate, for example, might appreciate a small basket full of treats you’ve chosen for them. Anyone with an interest in sewing or crafts could probably use a gift bag with a fresh stock of supplies for the new year. By putting together a lot of inexpensive items, you may be able to save money and show how much you care.
  • Hit the kitchen. If you are a good cook, or you simply have a foolproof recipe, gifts of food are inexpensive and very popular. Whether you give a mixture of great holiday cookies or your grandmother’s prize-winning banana bread, your friends and family are sure to welcome the effort. In fact, you might not need to cook at all. If you’re fortunate enough to have some great family recipes that have received compliments over the years, write them out on attractive cards and tie them with a festive ribbon. These great gifts will spread the joy of delicious cooking throughout your circle of friends.
  • Good deeds are gifts, too. Many of the people on your list may value a favor done for them more than any expensive present. Couples with young children would probably be delighted if you offer to babysit so they can have some time together. You can surprise a friend with a very busy schedule by promising to do the weekly shopping for a month. Present each recipient with a beautiful card describing the good deed to be performed. Such efforts cost nothing more than a few hours of your time, but they are greatly appreciated.
  • Check your list twice. First, plan and purchase all you need for the lower-cost presents recommended here. Then, when you move on to higher-priced presents, keep an eye out for sales and comparison shop to get the best prices. You may find you can get the items on your list for less.
  • Consult your financial planner. These ideas will help limit your spending during the busy holiday season. Your local financial planner can offer great advice on how to manage your money throughout the year. Be sure to turn to him or her for answers to all your financial questions. Financial planners promote personal and professional financial security all year round. If you would like to set up a no-cost consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your brokerage, investments, and/or savings goals, contact us at 732.312.1565 or stop in to see us!*

Click here to view the article source.

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC , a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.