4 Unique Valentine’s Gifts Under $15

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Luckily, there’s still time to impress your significant other with something clever that won’t drain your wallet. Here are four unique but inexpensive ideas.

“What I love about you” journal

If you want to express your love but you’re not a poet, this sweet little book is for you. Each page contains a fill-in-the-blank entry, such as “I love your taste in _____” or “I love the stories you tell about _____.” The structure prevents writer’s block, while the blanks allow you to customize the book to perfectly suit your partner. You can make it funny, romantic or however you choose. This book also makes a great anniversary gift. Available for $9.95 on Amazon Prime.

Gummy Xs & Os

Trader Joe’s never disappoints, and this Valentine’s Day is no exception. This year, TJ is offering gummy candies shaped in adorable X and O shapes. Packaged in an adorable old fashioned bag design, the gummies are clear, pink and red. Perfect for sharing with your love or playing a yummy game of tic tac toe. Only $2.99 for a 14-oz bag!

Pink Himalayan Salt Massager

Foodies and natural health enthusiasts will love this 6 oz round sphere made from 100% natural raw Himalayan crystal salt. Heat in the microwave or chill in the freezer and use to ease tension. The stones also exfoliate and mineralize the skin, providing healthy magnesium and 84 other minerals and trace elements that alkalize the body. Sold at Urban Outfitters for just $8.00.

Zodiac mug

If your Valentine loves astrology, American Eagle’s zodiac mugs are a perfect gift. Each mug is a generous 22-oz size (that’s larger than a Starbucks venti!) and features a lovely blue and gold constellation design. Inside each mug is a sweet message and it comes in a nice box, too. Get yours for $14.95 at ae.com.

Article Source: Heather Anderson for CUInsight.com

Break the Bank this Holiday Season? Get Back on Track!

Even if you didn’t storm the shelves at 3am on Black Friday, there’s a good chance you may have overspent during the holiday season. If you’re fretting about your finances, there are a few things you can do to remedy your wallet. Follow these tips for reversing the damage and getting back on financial track.

Make some returns.

It may be tough to do but it’s time you take a hard look at the purchases you made. Did you buy gifts for others or splurge on yourself? If you intentionally made purchases for your loved ones you will probably be safe holding on to those items, as chances are you were budgeting for them. But, if you spontaneously spent on things you may not need just because they were on sale, consider returning those extras to put more money back in the bank.

Save what you bought for the future.

Just because you bought your child ten toys doesn’t mean they all have to end up under the tree this Christmas. If you decide to keep them all, hold on to a few for future holidays. That way when it is time to celebrate Timmy’s birthday, you’ll have already spent money on his gifts and won’t be out even more cash down the road.

Cut costs elsewhere.

If you overspent and are feeling stressed, you may have to make some sacrifices until you can get your money back to where it was. That means it’s time to scale back on the extras. Simplify your life and remember what’s of real value during this special season. Instead of eating meals at restaurants, save money and spend quality time together by cooking at home as a family. Forget spending a ton at the movie theater and opt instead to enjoy movies from the comfort of your couch.

Article Source: Wendy Moody for CUInsight.com

3 Easy Ways to Make Some Extra Holiday Cash

Black Friday has come and gone and Cyber Monday is in the past too. Did you take advantage of any big sales? Did you overspend on your holiday shopping budget? Whether or not you spent too much over Thanksgiving weekend, it’s always nice to have a few extra bucks in your pocket over the holidays. Here are three ways you can accumulate some extra money for the holiday season.

Keep the change: A piggy bank is a very simple item, and that’s what makes it so genius. You need $100 in a couple of months? Start putting away your spare change now and by the time that day arrives, you’ll be ready to go. The best part is, you can find the money without having to budget it and then cash in all your coin for dollars.

Answer some questions: Taking surveys online or at the mall may not seem like the best way to spend a couple of hours, but it can put a few extra bucks in your pocket. Check out Make Money Taking Surveys and discover some easy ways to make $25-$50 a day.

Go into sales: People love yard sales. It’s a great way to get something cool at a great price. You probably won’t get rich from having a yard sale, but you can definitely make $50-$100, depending on what you’re willing to sell. Ready to part with that drum set that’s been collecting dust? Put it on Craig’s List or use an app like Let Go, and see what happens.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

6 Scams to Watch Out For this Holiday Season

The holiday season is a joyful time for family, friends, celebrations, and gifts. And unfortunately, it can be a time for scams. Now that the holiday season has officially arrived, authorities are warning local residents to beware of scams and deceptive advertising while shopping at stores or online this year.

Here are some tips on how to protect yourself:

The Bait and Switch: Take retailers’ advertisements to the store with you. Unscrupulous retailers may advertise goods at low prices, but when you get to the store the price may be higher than advertised or the product might not be there at all.

Skimming Devices: Skimming devices are often placed on gas pumps or ATMs to capture data from the magnetic stripe on the back of credit and debit cards. If something looks out of place or easily wiggles, use a different ATM, gas pump, or register.

“Cybersquatting” Sites: Crooks try to impersonate well-known websites by inverting characters or slightly altering the name of a well-known website. The copycat sites may look similar to the real website – and they can steal your credit information. Carefully read website addresses to ensure you are shopping on a legitimate website.

Copycat and Fraudulent Websites: Fake websites set up by scammers target online shoppers during the holiday season. Sometimes appearing as ad results in online searches, these sites may contain malware or steal credit card data. Avoid making purchases from untrustworthy sites.

Security Certificates: To ensure you are shopping on a secure website, make sure the website begins with “https” and has a small padlock icon next to the webpage address. Keep your computer, tablet or smartphone up-to-date and install security software.

Retailers Who Request Payment through Wire Transfer: Legitimate online businesses will not use wire transfer to collect payment for purchases, ever. This is a sure sign of a scam.

Some other important holiday shopping tips:

  • Sign up for transaction alerts on your credit and debit cards, or at least monitor your accounts closely online and report any suspicious activity immediately to your financial institution. Enroll in Visa Purchase Alerts for your First Financial debit card here. Sign up for Visa Credit Card alerts in Online Banking.
  • Think before you click! This doesn’t just pertain to emails, also be leary about clicking on online ads, applications and electronic greeting cards. Cybercriminals often mimic content, so be on the lookout for altered URLs.
  • Don’t trust a site or name you don’t know, and don’t fall for too good to be true prices.
  • Use payment methods that offer tokenization. This includes using a digital wallet to pay for purchases like Apple Pay, Samsung/Android Pay and the like.
  • Have unique, complex passwords for websites that store your information and change your passwords frequently.
  • Be cautious of charities you give to online, in person and over the phone. If you are going to donate, be sure to investigate the charity on the web first and make sure they are legitimate (or a well-known organization like the Salvation Army, St. Jude, etc.).
  • Ensure home computers are protected with antivirus software, anti-spyware, and a firewall.
  • Look for ATM and gas pump tampering, or skimming devices. Do not use the ATM or gas pump if you suspect anything suspicious. Watch our short video on how to spot a skimming device here.

Article Source: Kara Seymour for Patch.com and 11-28-17 CUNA Risk Alert

3 Tricks to Save Money for the Holidays

If the holidays have crept up on you, then you probably haven’t started your decorating or shopping yet. If you’re in need of a few extra bucks for the holidays, here are three easy tricks to cut back for the rest of the year.

Cash only: We’re living in the world of Apple Pay and Venmo, which makes spending money easier than ever. If you’re not the cash type, just remember that it feels a lot more personal (and sad) every time you complete a transaction with paper money. It’s enough to make you second guess handing over your cash.

Bundle up: If you want to save a few bucks the “very easy” way, turn down your thermostat. It’s getting colder, but it’s an easy fix and it will save you money. Grab a blanket and some wool socks. Having a few extra bucks to spend will be satisfying when you get ready to buy your niece that karaoke machine she’s been wanting.

Keep tabs on yourself: Every single time you make a purchase, write it down. By physically jotting down every dollar you spend, you’ll quickly realize just how much money you spend on the “must-haves” in your life. This may be just the wake-up call you need to start cutting back on some of the not-so-necessary things you regularly purchase.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

4 Tips to Plan for Holiday Toy Shopping

Want the holiday season’s hottest toys? Or maybe you want a retro game. Whatever the goal, with some holiday toys already in stores, shoppers may want to start planning their strategy ASAP.

GET THE HOT TOYS EARLY: Try shopping online because in a few clicks you can search sites like Walmart, Target, Toys R Us and Amazon to find out quickly if the item is available. Also, it’s good to follow retailers on Twitter, where some post when they get in their next order of certain hot toys in the final weeks before Christmas.

KNOW WHEN THE SALES ARE: If you can afford to wait, stores offer toy discounts of up to 50 percent and also bundle toy deals during the Black Friday weekend. But the best time to get deals on basic toys is two weeks before Christmas, when toys are discounted up to 70 percent, according to DealNews.com. Take advantage of deal trackers. With CamelCamelCamel.com, shoppers can set up alerts when the price of an item falls to a certain level. It also offers a price history of all products sold on Amazon.

Overall, Amazon.com offers the lowest toy prices, with Walmart a close second, according to Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing for the DealNews site, which combed deals during last year’s holiday season. Target, Kohl’s and Toys R Us were ranked third to fifth.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LAYAWAY:  Walmart kicked off its layaway service in September and customers have until December 11 to pay off their account. As in past years, there’s no opening fee to start a layaway account but customers need to put down 10 percent or $10, whichever is greater. Shoppers can put items as low as $10 on layaway with a $50 minimum basket.

At Sears Holdings Corp.’s Kmart, members of the Shop Your Way loyalty program get special perks for the holiday season. They have a $1 down payment for in-store and online layaway contracts. For non-members, it’s a $10 down payment. For Sears, there’s no difference between members and non-members — they don’t have to put any money down for layaway in the store and can put just one penny down online at all times.

EMBRACE SERVICES: Walmart offers curb pickup for online shoppers at 1,000 stores — mostly for grocery items but also some seasonal general merchandise like toys. Walmart, Target and Sears also have pickup services inside the store for online shoppers. Many are trying to improve the speed of service.

Follow these tips and get a jump start (while saving money) this holiday season on toys!

Article Source: Anne D’Innocenzio for the Associated Press on USAtoday.com