Tips for Saving Money While Dining Out

Who doesn’t love grabbing a meal at a restaurant? Whether it’s a national chain or a local mom-and-pop, the dining out experience is about enjoying great food and taking in a fun restaurant atmosphere. Unfortunately in many cases, it also means spending cash and putting a dent in your budget. Here are some tips to consider before visiting a restaurant, that can help save you money so you can enjoy a good meal out without feeling guilty.

Hit up happy hour
Happy hour isn’t always just about deals on drinks. Many establishments also have special food menus during certain times. So, plan ahead of time and hit up happy hour for cheaper food and drink selections.

Plan ahead
If you can’t make happy hour, once you decide where you want to eat, check out the menu right away. Then, you can discuss what your budget will allow and plan accordingly. The key to this tip is sticking to your guns; if your plan was to get a less expensive dish but once you arrive at the restaurant the specials sound tempting, don’t give in. You can still enjoy yourself and have a great meal while abiding by the budget you’ve put in place.

Buy the bottle
This tip applies to occasions when a large group plans to order similar beverages. Discuss what everyone’s tastes are and find a common ground. Then, instead of each of you ordering a $9 glass of wine, opt for the bottle instead, then divvy up the cost.

Skip dessert
When the server comes around and asks if you’re ready for dessert, it can be incredibly hard to say no. That chocolate cake always sounds so delicious. But use your willpower and just say no, as chances are, dessert menu items are overpriced. Instead, opt for the ice cream parlor down the road. Or, stop at the grocery store on the way home and pick out something more budget-friendly from the bakery.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

Don’t Give to a Charity Imposter this Holiday Season

When you give to a charity, you’re giving because you care and want to help — and you want to be sure your money actually gets to those you’re trying to help. But scammers who are pretending to be a charity, will try to get to your wallet.

Typically people feel as though the holiday season is one of the most important times of the year to donate to a charity – which is a great thing, just be sure you are doing your research and know where your money is going first!

Consider these tips before you give:

  • Rule out anyone who asks you to send cash, pay with a gift card, or wire money.
  • Confirm the exact name of the charity and do some research, especially when donating for the first time. Search for the name of the charity online — plus the word “complaint” or “scam.” That’s one way to learn about a charity’s reputation.
  • Give to charities you know and trust, with a proven track record. Before you give to any charity, check them out with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Avoid charities that seem to pop up overnight in connection with a natural disaster or other tragedy.
  • Don’t assume that pleas for help on crowdfunding sites or social media are legitimate. Real victims’ pictures and stories can easily be misused to con you.
  • Before you text to donate, confirm the number on the charity’s website.
  • Be cautious of clicking on links or opening attachments in emails, even if they appear to be from a charity. You could unknowingly install malware on your computer or be taken to a look-alike website run by scammers.

For more information, visit ftc.gov/charity. If you think you’ve spotted a charity scam, report it at ftc.gov/complaint.

Article Source: Emma Fletcher, FTC.gov

 

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

Smart Money Moves to Make Before Year’s End

Build a monthly budget.

Now is the time to set a game plan for how you’ll regulate your spending in the coming year. At the beginning of each month, come up with a budget that works for your lifestyle. Taking a hard look at things as the month is beginning will set you up to make good money decisions. Because each month is different, don’t expect your budget to be the same for each one. For instance, if you know you’ll be attending a wedding in the month of April, plan in advance to cut back on “extras.”

Learn how to create a budget with our simple budgeting guide!

Make weekly card payments.

Instead of waiting for your bill to come each month, decide now to make payments each week instead. It can be so easy to charge without thinking about the mountain of debt you’re acquiring, so hold yourself accountable on a more regular basis. This will help you to more quickly pull yourself out of that debt, especially after the expensive holiday season.

Use cash, not card.

As mentioned above, because we so quickly swipe our cards without keeping track of our purchases, it can be incredibly easy for our spending to get out of hand. As you look toward 2018 and the money habits you’ll develop, decide now to withdraw cash and only use that amount for a specified period of time. Studies have shown that an average person spends about 15% less when they use cash only. So, put your cards away, pay down those bills, and give yourself a cash limit to help keep your spending at bay.

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