Is Black Friday Still On This Year?

Black Friday has gotten a bad rep in recent years.

From shoplifting to stampedes, nothing rings in the holidays more fondly than a couple of soccer moms doing battle in the aisles over the last bargain Barbie on the shelf.

Violence aside, though, Black Friday is the high holiday for serial shoppers. Social distancing and mask wearing are not going to keep them away from the thrill of the deal at a brick and mortar store. But it does beg a few questions. Here’s some answers.

Is Black Friday canceled this year?

The answer is a resounding NO!

Camping out at Best Buy to snag a giant TV at rock-bottom prices might not be a thing this year, but, despite the pandemic, a total of 9% of those surveyed by Shopkick are planning to shop in store only; 71% said they will shop both online and in-store and 13% said they will only shop online.

How is shopping different this year?

Black Friday deals have been happening since the Halloween candy was cleared off the shelves. Many retailers are already offering online and in-store deals with lengthier sale periods to keep shoppers safe and happy.

Some stores, like Work the Metal in Louisville, KY, have made special accommodations to keep shoppers safe like widening the aisles, adding cash registers to avoid congestion and limiting the number of shoppers allowed in the store at any one time. They are even offering shopping appointments.

How can I get the best deals?

  • Be prepared with a game plan, and most importantly, a budget.
  • Study the circulars and online ads.
  • Collect online coupon codes.
  • Know the pre-discount prices, so you know if you are truly getting a bargain.
  • Shop online early to avoid shipping delays.
  • Use ship-to-store with curbside pickup to avoid shipping costs.
  • Downloads apps, like Dealnews, to view the most updated sales.

I own a business; how can I keep my customers and employees safe?

  • Keep high-touch areas clean and sanitize often.
  • Provide hand-sanitizing stations at store entrances.
  • Limit the number of shoppers in the store at any one time.
  • Require shoppers and employees to wear a mask (already a mandate in most states).
  • Install barriers between checkout aisles and between the customer and cashier.
  • Offer curbside pick-up.

Destinations Credit Union hopes you will enjoy a safe and thrifty holiday season!

Your turn: What’s your plan for Black Friday?

Sources:
https://www.shopkick.com/partners/blog/how-top-performing-black-friday-marketing-campaigns-will-look-this-year-fc/
https://fokoretail.com/customer-safety-black-friday-2020/
https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/kentucky/articles/2020-10-25/how-retailers-are-reinventing-black-friday-during-covid-19
https://www.dealnews.com/features/black-friday/black-friday-strategies/

Tracking Holiday Spending Keeps Seasonal Stress Down

Nothing is more heartwarming than seeing your loved ones’ faces light up when they open that perfect gift you (err, Santa) gave them.

Tyler’s new bike, Olivia’s new tablet and that gift card to mom and dad’s favorite steak place all add up to wonderful holiday memories… until the credit card statements show up.

The holidays will look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why most people will try even harder to make the season brighter for others. But, you don’t have to dip into Tyler and Olivia’s college savings to create a special time for everyone!

The most important thing to remember is to plan ahead: Have a set spending amount for gifts, wrap, entertaining, donations and travel.

Make a list and check it twice

Many are struggling financially this year, so it will be no surprise to those outside your family if your gift-recipient list is shorter this year. Once you trim your list, make a holiday treat or handmade token for those who got the cut. It really IS the thought that counts.

Once you have your list complete, figure out a realistic amount to spend on each person. Jot down a couple of gift ideas in your price range for that person. Try a budgeting app like PocketGuard, Clarity Money, Goodbudget, or Mint to allocate/track your money and see how much you can really afford.

The iSpending app uses charts to show your expenses and how much you have left to spend, while CashTrails allows you to separate your normal expenditures from special purchases like holidays and travel.

Shopping

Due to the pandemic, holiday shopping is already in full swing. Most people want to avoid crowds, so they are already hitting the malls. Retailers are well aware of this trend, and are offering pre-Black Friday sales and discounts.

Spreading out your holiday shopping over several weeks also makes it easier on your budget. Always shop with a list and keep track of your spending. As you buy your gifts, subtract from your total budget.

In addition to shopping the sales and collecting coupon codes for online purchases, know when to buy. December is the best time to buy cars, appliances, winter clothing and electronics. Also, know how much items cost before a markdown to know if you’re really getting a deal.

It is expected that online shopping will increase by 35% this year because shoppers don’t feel comfortable being in stores. Some states still have restrictions limiting retail establishments’ capacity and store hours.

If you’re shopping online, order early and expect delays in shipping. Increased shopping during the holidays will affect already-strained delivery companies. To avoid shipping delays and higher shipping costs, shop at stores that offer “buy online, ship to store” service. This service is free at most retailers, some of which offer curbside pickup.

Get the best deals on cards, decorations and gift wrap during the days right before and after Christmas. Discounts of up to 75% off can shave a lot off your holiday budget for next year.

Entertaining

Still reeling from the pandemic, most folks will host smaller holiday gatherings this year, which will save tons on food, treats and adult beverages. Many people are still working from home, so work parties and gift exchanges also will be virtual or postponed, keeping cash in your wallet.

If you’re hosting guests, keep costs down by asking everyone to bring their favorite side or dessert and include festive recipe cards with the chef’s name.

For the adults, serve a warm mulled wine or holiday punch or make one festive signature cocktail.

Use DIY decor featuring natural items, like holly and pine cones. Gather the kids and go on a hike to find outdoor holiday decorations. Not only will it save you money, but it will also give you some stress-free outdoor time with your family.

Save more by partying without plastic. Disposable plates and dinnerware are not great for the environment or your budget.

Travel

If you must travel home for the holidays, don’t forget to figure in other incidentals beyond gasoline and the cost of a plane ticket.

If you’re traveling by car, gas prices have luckily seen a steady dip. Still, the GasBuddy app can help you find the best prices for gasoline wherever you are, and you can even pay from the app. Don’t forget to figure in tolls and any emergency costs that may come up.

If you’re flying, consider baggage fees, parking and shuttle costs and the expense of ground transportation once you arrive.

And don’t forget Fluffy! You’ll need to pay someone to take care of your furry friends. The Rover app can help you find pet care options near your home.

Charitable giving

The holidays are a time for goodwill toward all. But if your budget cannot accommodate a monetary donation, volunteer your time. If you are able to make a financial donation, be sure to check that the charity you are supporting is legitimate by consulting Charity Navigator.

Keep your holidays dollars in check, and you may have some holiday spirit left over even after the last elf is packed away and the January bills start rolling in.

We at Destinations Credit Union wish you all a happy, healthy and stress-free holiday.

Your turn: What are your best tips for sticking to your holiday spending plan?

Sources:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2020/10/26/5-ways-holiday-shopping-will-be-different-in-2020/?sh=637316b51558
https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-stick-to-your-holiday-budget-2385688
https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/60171/11-innovative-ways-track-your-holiday-spending
https://www.hgtv.ca/entertaining/photos/holiday-entertaining-on-a-budget-1922279/#currentSlide=1
https://www.gasbuddy.com/app
https://www.moneycrashers.com/create-holiday-budget/

5 Quick Tips To Save Money

Review your miscellaneous spending this month and find ways to cut back. Try to give up a subscription you don’t really need, brown-bag it to work another few times a week and skip the gym membership by getting your workout at home. Small purchases add up quickly!

Fast food is super convenient — and expensive. It’s not that great for your health, either. Try to slow down on your fast-food purchases this month by thinking ahead. Keep some snacks in the car to help tide you over when you’re pulling a late night and have some drinks on hand as well. Save time, calories and money by putting the brakes on your fast-food purchases.

It’s time to get your house ready for winter! As you weather-strip your home and check for air leaks, look for exposed pipes as well. If you find any, wrap and insulate them carefully so they don’t freeze up when the temperatures fall. A few minutes of your time now can save you the hassle and cost of fixing burst pipes in the dead of winter.

Give your car the care it deserves by getting it a routine service check this month. You’ll possibly catch any developing issues before they become major, and add years of life to your vehicle. You may even get better fuel mileage by making sure everything is in proper working order.

Putting aside money each month to use for some vague purpose sometime in the future can be super challenging. Make it easier by creating a spectacular goal for your savings. Is there a dream vacation you’d love to take? Maybe you’re hankering after an RV or a new entertainment system. Write down your secret dream and figure out exactly how much money you need to make it happen. Then, set up an automatic monthly transfer from your Destinations Credit Union checking account to your savings account to make it even easier. Start your savings momentum today!

Why You Probably Don’t Need an iPhone 12

Apple’s recent announcement  about its newest lines of smartphones had all the makings of a typical Apple unveiling: the hype, the buildup, the mystique — and the prohibitive price tag.

Picture of the New iphone 12 Pro in Pacific Blue

iPhone 12 features an edge-to-edge screen, a sleek new look and innovative features that will bring the smartphone’s functionality to another level. The most prominent upgrade for the new line of iPhones — and the one Apple is pumping most — is that the iPhone 12 supports 5G networks. Many consumers are jumping at the chance of upgrading their browser speed and assume that 5G will be the default network of the future. While this may be true several years down the line, it’s still a bit too early to embrace an all-5G world.

If you’re only buying an iPhone 12 for the 5G compatibility, here’s why you may want to hold off on that purchase:

5G is currently not available in most areas

The long-term plan is for 5G towers to be built all across the country. This means that faster downloads, less delays and lightning-speed browsing is in our future. And we’re talking dizzyingly fast — Verizon claims its ultra-wideband network clocks peak downloads of 4 gigabits per second! That’s between 10 and 100 times faster than a typical 4G connection. In practical terms, as CNN reports, this can potentially translate into the ability to download a two-hour movie in fewer than 10 seconds, as opposed to seven minutes with 4G. Or, as Apple put it, it’s “Hi, Speed.”

Right now, though, for private consumers looking for high-speed networks on their smartphones, the optics are sketchy. According to OpenSignal, in June, T-Mobile users who’ve already had the option to use the high-speed bandwidth were only able to connect to a 5G network 22.5% of the time, which was more than twice what AT&T users reported (10.3%). Verizon users shared even more dismal statistics, with users connecting to 5G networks just 0.4% of the time. In other words, four of every five calls made using the best provider of 5G cannot even use 5G!

If you pay for an iPhone 12 because you’re looking for an upgrade in speed, you may just be wasting your money.

Plans will still have data caps

Many consumers mistakenly believe a higher-speed connection means more data. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Even plans that offer unlimited data aren’t really unlimited. Instead, there are no overage charges and data will slow down considerably once it hits a cap. A faster connection, in this case, means you’ll likely blow through your data quicker.

General uses for 5G are unrelated to smartphones

Most of the highlights of 5G have nothing to do with your personal phone.

5G is reportedly less expensive for carriers to operate and maintain. Unfortunately, this bonus has no effect on private consumers at all. Don’t expect your bill to be lowered because your carrier is saving money on costs.

5G is also being touted for these current and future uses: driverless automobiles, AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality), cloud computing, advanced IoT (Internet of Things), and health care. Most of these functions have very little to do with the average smartphone user.

5G is not a perfect technology

Controversies surrounding 5G abound, from the practical, to the conservational and beyond.

Primarily, 5G towers, while smaller than their 4G counterparts, need to be installed relatively close to each other without any large obstacles in the way. 5G also needs many more towers than 4G. All of these towers in close range can potentially interfere with weather satellites, which in turn, can adversely affect weather forecasting, aviation and naval defense operations. Also, as the Wall Street Journal reports, many people across the country aren’t happy about these armies of towers springing up around them.

In an attempt to show it’s on the right side of environmental issues, Apple has announced that iPhone 12s will not come with a pair of headphones or a charging brick. According to the tech giant, there are already 700 million corded white EarPods in the world and 2 billion Apple power adapters. The obvious downside here is that many customers will now need to purchase a pair of headphones and a charging brick after paying for their new phones — to the tune of $38.

If you plan on purchasing an iPhone 12

If you’re in the market for a new iPhone despite the drawbacks of 5G technology, here are some of the better features you can expect from an iPhone 12:

  • Night camera improvements. The pricier iPhone 12 pro models have been fitted with a telephoto lens on the back and a lidar sensor, both of which improve depth measurement and focus, especially when in the dark.
  • Increased durability. The iPhone 12 has been fitted with a Ceramic Shield, a new layer of protection which Apple claims is four times as crack-resistant as its older versions.
  • Immersive display. iPhone 12 models feature all-screen Super Retina XDR displays with superior color accuracy. Apple claims its newer model phones offer an immersive viewing experience with nearly twice the peak brightness of iPhone 11s.

There are four options for iPhone 12s, each with its own price point:

  • iPhone 12, $800 – 6.1-inch screen with two cameras on the back.
  • iPhone 12 mini, $700 – 5.4-inch screen with two cameras on the back.
  • iPhone 12 Pro, $1,000 – 6.1-inch screen with extra camera features.
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max, $1,100 – 6.7-inch screen with extra camera features.

Apple’s latest products may be riding on the wave of the future, but be sure to do your research carefully before blowing big bucks on a feature you may not be able to use for another few years.

Your Turn: What do you think about the iPhone 12? Tell us about it in the comments.

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving During COVID-19

It’s turkey season! But this year, due to the COVID-19 environment we’re experiencing, the holiday festivities will look a bit different than before. With some precautionary measures and careful planning, though, you can celebrate Thanksgiving in the era of the coronavirus without compromising on your health or safety. Here’s how:

Planning a Thanksgiving dinner 

Colorful picture of a cornucopia, Indian Corn, Apples and a vase of Flowers.

If you plan on hosting an in-person Thanksgiving dinner this year, it’s best to take steps to ensure your day is as safe as possible.

First, consider hosting your dinner outside. If the weather is still relatively mild in your part of the country and you have the space for it, moving a Thanksgiving dinner outdoors greatly reduces the risk of spreading coronavirus, according to the CDC. If an outdoor dinner isn’t possible, make sure your home is well-ventilated during your Thanksgiving dinner by opening some windows and doors.

Second, try to limit the number of attendees. The CDC currently does not impose a limit on the number of attendees at any indoor gathering, but cautions that larger gatherings, by default, pose a greater risk of spread. Keep in mind that you may have state or local laws that do limit the number of attendees, so be sure to review these regulations before creating an invite list. You can look up state and local laws here.

It’s also important to consider your guests’ hometowns when drawing up an invite list. The CDC recommends keeping this year’s Thanksgiving dinners to local guests only. The risk of infection increases when there are guests in attendance who are coming from areas currently experiencing an outbreak.

Finally, while traditional Thanksgiving dinners can last for hours, the CDC cautions that longer gatherings pose a greater risk than shorter dinners. You can cut down on the hours your guests linger around the table by adding a finish time to your invitations.

Attending and hosting a dinner

Whether attending a Thanksgiving dinner or welcoming dinner guests into your own home, follow the CDC’s general guidelines for reducing the risk of contagion.

Set up a sanitizing station for guests to use upon arrival or offer to bring one to your host’s home. Include an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for guests’ personal items that may land on the dinner table, such as phones and purses.

If possible, space the seating so there are several feet between each chair.

It can also be a good idea to serve individualized portions instead of passing around a large platter for the entire table to share.

Finally, don’t forget to follow basic hygiene practices at Thanksgiving dinner, such as covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow and scrubbing your hands with soap and water before eating or preparing food.

Going virtual

According to the CDC, anyone who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not met the criteria for when it is safe to be near others, currently has symptoms of COVID-19, is waiting for COVID-19 test results, may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days or is considered high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should not attend any in-person holiday celebrations.

Here’s how to keep the holiday festive with a virtual celebration:

  • Plan a shared dinner experience in advance. The next-best thing to sitting around a Thanksgiving dinner table together with your loved ones is sharing the same dinner experience on Thanksgiving Day. Sync your dinner plans with the plans of the people with whom you’d be sharing the dinner in non-COVID times. This can include a shared menu or even lighting the same scented candles.
  • Prep together. Video chat with your virtual guest list as you all prep your Thanksgiving dinners in your own homes.
  • Send care packages. If you usually host a dinner, you can drop off a basket of Thanksgiving treats at each of your virtual guests’ doorsteps.
  • Video chat your “shared” Thanksgiving dinners. Eat your Thanksgiving dinners at the same time as your virtual guests. To make it special, you can create a program for the evening with highlights, like opening and closing remarks, a shared song and a short slideshow of family pictures.

Dstinations Credit Union wishes you and your family a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Your Turn: How will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year? Tell us about it in the comments.

Achieve the Perfect Home Office Upgrade with These Ideas

By guest blogger Lisa Walker Neighborhoodsprout.org

Photo via Unsplash

Working on your home-based business at the dinner table might be getting a bit old. After all, taking your company seriously involves a dedicated area where you can immerse yourself in work.

If you’re ready to finance home office upgrades (or a new home), contacting Destinations Credit Union is a smart step. For more ideas and resources for upgrading your home office, keep reading.

Set Up Financing for a Home-Based Headquarters

If you don’t have a room (or the equipment) you need for a work-at-home space, there are ways to reconfigure your finances. Think about these options for financing the headquarters your at-home company needs to be successful.

Home Equity Cash Out

Using a home equity line of credit (HELOC) can help you extract funds from your property to finance updates. Whether you want to buy equipment, replace flooring, or make more significant upgrades, a HELOC could be an ideal solution that doesn’t involve credit card debt or high interest rates.

Whole-House Relocation

Buying a new home might be ideal, given the availability of low mortgage rates and great home prices in many areas. Relocating could be the solution to making space for your office and ensuring you have room to expand. However, you’ll want to research home prices in your ideal neighborhood or city to ensure you can afford a house with enough storage and office space.

Choose a Spot for Your New Home Office

Once you’re in the house you plan to remain in while launching your home-based business, it’s time to sketch out your office space. No matter the size or floorplan of your property, you have options for carving out a work area. Consider these options when picking your office spot.

Corner Office

Using an existing area in your home could be ideal for a small office. If you work online or meet with clients outside your home, a corner office with a space-saving desk might be the perfect fit. From a DIY Murphy desk to a desk riser that lifts your laptop to the appropriate height, The Spruce offers plenty of inspiration for custom-tailoring a tiny office to suit your needs.

Garage Renovation

Renovating your existing garage could be an excellent use of the square footage. But moving your desk in without cleaning up properly isn’t a good idea. Hiring a professional to prep and epoxy coat the floor is one way to improve the look of your new work area. As far as renovations go, epoxy flooring is one of the least expensive ways to upgrade the space. Epoxying a concrete floor costs about $2,150, and you can avoid the potential for bubbling and buckling that may happen with a DIY job.

Attic Overhaul

Improving your attic space so it’s conducive to business activities is another way to work with what you’ve got. Insulation will likely be a priority in most attic spaces, as will appropriate ventilation. Making up a modern workspace is possible in almost every home’s attic, however, and even exposed beams can be chic.

Room Addition

If your home truly lacks the square footage to accommodate a desk and chair combination, investing in an add-on could be the ultimate solution. Expanding your home’s footprint requires proper licensing, a professional contractor, and a bit of an up-front investment. However, expanding the square footage could boost your home’s value, making it a worthwhile project before your business opens.

Get to Work!

If you’re launching a new business, now is the time to get your paperwork in order and get to work. Before you can officially open for customers (whether digitally or otherwise), it’s wise to check out your state’s rules on business formation and licensing.

Forming an LLC may be an excellent option to help you avoid piles of paperwork and excessive fees. Using a trusted formation service or going the DIY filing route can help you cut down on expenses, too.

Working at home might be the perfect way to expand your business without leaving the house. But if you need financial support to pursue the home office of your dreams, contact Destinations Credit Union to find out your options. With the right resources and a trusted credit union backing you up, you can get to work in your new office in no time.

5 Ways To Prepare For Your College Graduation

After four years of late-night cramming sessions, a grueling class schedule, too many term papers to count and lots of hard-core partying, the big day is finally within sight. Graduation! You can hardly wait to toss your cap into the air and start making your mark in the big wide world.

As you count down toward graduation, don’t forget to check off these important tasks you’ll need to tend to before you can get your diploma.

1. Put your papers in order    

Don’t celebrate the end of college paperwork just yet! Before graduation, you’ll need to submit an application to graduate. You may also need to officially confer your degree. These steps can differ in each school, so find out what your particular requirements are before the end-of-term rush.

2. Polish your resume, cover letter and portfolio

Hopefully, at this point, you’ll have already written up your resume and cover letter and organized your portfolio. During these last few months in college, take the time to perfect these gateways to the working world. Ask a few friends to read through your resume and cover letter and check them for typos and inconsistencies.  You can also show these documents and your portfolio to a career counselor at your school to ask for professional tips on making them shine.

3. Find a summer job or a paid internship

It isn’t easy to find that first post-college job. But, whether you’ve landed the perfect position for next year or you’re still hunting for a job, the clock starts ticking on that student loan debt as soon as you graduate. If you won’t be starting your new job until fall, or you haven’t found one yet, it’s best to accept a temporary summer job or a paid internship so you have some kind of income to put towards payments.

4. Find a place to live

In the rush to find a job for next year, you may have forgotten about another crucial decision you need to make: Where are you going to live? If you plan on moving back in with mom and dad, you’re good to go. Otherwise, start apartment hunting as early as possible to get the best picks. You can look up rentals in the area on sites like Rent.com, and ApartmentGuide.com.

5. Spend time with your friends

As you tie up the loose ends of your life in college, don’t forget about the people who matter most to you in school. The relationships you form in college can last a lifetime. Make sure you get a few good late nights in with your best buddies before graduation.

Use these last few months of college wisely by making sure you’ve got your post-college life in order, and taking the time to live it up just a little bit more before adulting for real.

Your Turn: How did you prepare for your college graduation? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

5 Steps To Take After Being Hacked

Uh oh — you’ve been hacked! Finding out someone has cracked open your accounts and helped themselves to your information can be alarming, but there are ways to mitigate the damage while jump-starting your recovery process.

Here are five steps to take after being hacked.

Step 1: Assess the damage

First, take a step back and determine how much damage was done. Unfortunately, one hacked password can often be the gateway to multiple hacked accounts and even complete identity theft. This is especially true if you use the same password for several accounts, or use the hacked account or device for password recovery on other accounts. So, first things first: Review your credit card and account statements for any suspicious activity.  Also, try accessing your email, social media accounts and mobile devices to see if they’ve been hacked.

Step 2: Change your passwords

Once you know which accounts and devices have been hacked, change the passwords and PINs on these accounts. For an added measure of protection, it’s a good idea to change the passwords on all of your accounts that may hold sensitive information. Remember to choose strong, unique passwords for every account. A strong password uses a combination of letters, numbers and symbols; varies the use of capital letters; and does not use a piece of personal information that can easily be scraped off the internet, such as your date of birth or home address. You may want to use a password service like LastPass  or  StickyPassword to make this step easier.

While completing this step, consider signing up for two-factor authentication for any accounts that do not already have it in place.

Step 3: Protect your credit

Now that you’ve blocked the hacker(s) from your accounts, it’s time for damage control.

First, dispute any fraudulent charges on your compromised account(s). If necessary, have the account(s) locked, or even shut and/or deleted.

Next, place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This serves as a red flag to potential lenders and creditors, making it more difficult for the scammer to open up additional lines of credit or to take out a loan in your name.

Consider a credit freeze as well. This blocks potential lenders from accessing your credit report, making it impossible for the hacker to open new credit accounts in your name. (Note, you will need to lift the freeze for any legitimate credit you are applying for).

Step 4: Alert the authorities

You can alert the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about a possible or confirmed identity theft at identitytheft.gov.  You’ll also find a detailed recovery plan on the site to help you repair your credit and reclaim your identity.

Hacking is usually done remotely, but it’s still a good idea to let your local law enforcement agencies know about the breach. This way, they can be on the alert if the hacker decides to assume your identity and use your credit cards in stores near your hometown.

Also, if you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to let Destinations Credit Union know what’s happened! Whether it’s a credit card that’s been stolen, a checking account that’s been breached or a social media account that’s been broken into, we’ll do all we can to protect your accounts. If you’ve been hacked, give us a call at 410-663-2500 to see how we can help.

Take additional precautions with your Destinations Credit Union credit and debit cards by using card controls in our mobile app. You can set up an alert to get a message each time your card is used. You can also temporarily or permanently lock your card from the mobile app.

Step 5: Proceed with caution

Once you’ve taken all necessary steps toward damage control and mitigation, you can start thinking about the future.

It’s important to keep a close eye on your accounts for the next month. Look out for any suspicious activity on all accounts, including charges you don’t recall making, large withdrawals of cash and even new loans being opened in your name. If you find any fraudulent activity, be sure to let the account holders know and to follow the steps suggested above.

If you’ve opted to go with a credit freeze, it will generally lapse after 90 days. If your accounts are determined to be safe, consider opening new lines of credit now to jump-start the recovery of your credit health.

If the hacker went all out and stole your identity, it’s best to follow the recovery plan outlined by the FTC . This plan may include replacing your Social Security number, driver’s license and more.

Getting hacked is never fun, but taking immediate and decisive action can help mitigate the damage, as well as speed up the recovery process.

Your Turn: How have you dealt with your accounts being hacked? Tell us about it in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.allthingssecured.com/identity-protection/what-to-do-when-youve-been-hacked-step-by-step-guide/
https://digitalguardian.com/blog/data-breach-experts-share-most-important-next-step-you-should-take-after-data-breach-2014-2015

Can Halloween be Celebrated Safely This Year?

Q: With COVID-19 still disrupting all kinds of plans, I’m wondering about Halloween celebrations this year. Is there any way to safely celebrate Halloween in 2020?

A: How to safely celebrate this year is a question that’s frightening Halloween lovers all over the globe. Fortunately, the answer is not all that scary. With some flexibility and wise precautions, Halloween can still be a frightfully fun day for the entire family.

Here’s all you need to know about celebrating Halloween safely in the era of COVID-19.

Should I take my family trick-or-treating this year? 

According to many medical health professionals, the answer depends largely on where you live.

“In an area where there’s still ongoing community spread [and circumstances] haven’t gotten to the point where things are opening up again, I don’t think trick-or-treating is a great idea,” says Dr. Sandra Kesh, an infectious disease specialist and the deputy medical director at New York’s Westmed Medical Group. “In areas where the community prevalence is lower, I think it’s OK to plan to trick-or-treat, but it’s going to be a different experience than it was last year.”

What safety precautions do I need to take when trick-or-treating?

If you plan on taking your kids trick-or-treating this year, or making the rounds yourself, here’s how you can keep safe from infection:

  • Stick with family: The risk of transmission grows exponentially when people spend extended time with members of another household. It’s best to keep your trick-or-treat group to family only this year.
  • Keep it small: If your child insists on trick-or-treating with neighbors or friends, keep the group as small as possible. Kesh recommends limiting groups to three or four members and, preferably, sticking with families that are also careful about social distancing.
  • Mask up: Halloween costumes make following this coronavirus precaution super-easy.
  • Keep face-to-face exposure to a minimum: If possible, trick-or-treat from a distance. Knock on doors and then retreat down the steps. The homeowner can toss you your treats instead of handing them over. The less close interaction you have with others, the lower your risk of infection.
  • Sanitize often: Keep some hand sanitizer with you at all times and soap up after touching germy surfaces, like doorknobs or communal treat baskets. It’s equally important for everyone to wash up once you get home, especially before digging into any treats.

How can I safely invite trick-or-treaters to my home?

The thought of hordes of kids traipsing through your doors and reaching grubby hands into a communal basket of candy might scare you, but that doesn’t mean you have to lock your doors on Halloween night and be the neighborhood party-pooper.

“The best thing you can do to reduce your risk is to limit your interaction with others as much as possible,” says Molly Hyde, an infection control practitioner. “If you are going to hand out candy in person, make sure you are wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth when giving out candy.”

If you’d like to be extra cautious, you can avoid face-to-face interaction with trick-or-treaters by setting up a bowl of candy outside and letting your visitors help themselves. Keep a bottle of sanitizer nearby, or a box of disposable gloves, with a helpful sign to remind kids to keep their germs to themselves. You can also choose to ditch the bowl and space individual treats out on your front porch with a sign instructing kids to take one.

At the end of the night, it’s best to disinfect doorknobs, doorbells, buzzers, outdoor railings and any other surfaces that might have been touched by dozens of trick-or-treaters.

Can I throw a Halloween party this year?

Crowded indoor parties are out, but with a bit of creativity, you can still celebrate Halloween with friends. Here’s how:

Choose an outdoor venue, such as a local park, and invite your friends to your Quarant-een bash.

Have everyone bring along their Halloween costumes, comfortable lawn chairs, hot autumn beverages and individual party bags, or packaged treats, in their trunks.

At the party, have everyone park so the trunk of every car is in full view. Set up the chairs at safe distances and let everyone show off their costumes.
Pop open the trunks for “trunk-or-treating,” corona-style!

Don’t let COVID-19 scare all the fun out of Halloween this year. With the proper precautions, you can spook the entire neighborhood this Halloween and still keep it safe.

Your Turn: How are you celebrating Halloween safely this year? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/09/09/will-halloween-2020-be-canceled-coronavirus/
https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/halloween-ideas/a33826132/halloween-trick-or-treating-health-safety/
https://www.jsonline.com/story/life/wisconsin-family/2020/09/10/halloween-2020-trick-treat-wisconsin-during-coronavirus/3458109001/

The Importance of Being Financially Fit

Are you ready to stretch those financial fitness muscles? We hope so, because it’s time to get financially fit!

Being financially fit means living a life of complete financial responsibility. The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), also known as the Financial Health Network, defines four basic components of financial health: Spend, Save, Borrow and Plan. These components reference everyday financial activities. As such, every choice you make in terms of these four activities either builds or detracts from your financial fitness. Like physical fitness, you can beef up those fitness muscles a little bit more each day.

Being financially fit is crucial for a well-balanced, stress-free life. Here’s why (and how):

Expand your financial knowledge

A financially fit person is constantly broadening their money knowledge. They read personal finance books and blogs, attend financial education seminars and are aware of the evolving state of the economy. This enables them to make monetary decisions from a position of knowledge and power, leaving much less up to chance or luck.

Stick to a budget

A financially fit person knows that tracking monthly expenses is key to financial health. They are careful to set aside money from their monthly income for all fixed and discretionary expenses and to stay within budget for each spending category.

Minimize debt

A financially fit person is committed to paying down debts and seeks to live debt-free. Constant budgeting, ongoing financial education and planning ahead enables them to make it through the month, and through unexpected expenses, without spiraling into debt.

Maximize savings 

A financially fit person prioritizes savings. In fact, savings is a fixed item on their monthly budget instead of something that only happens if there’s money left over. This allows them to think ahead and build a comfortable nest egg or emergency fund. In turn, having a robust safety net means sleeping better at night knowing there’s money available to cover unexpected expenses or a change in life circumstances.

Maintain complete awareness of the state of your finances

A financially fit person knows exactly how much money they owe, the accumulated value of their assets and the complete sum of their fixed and fluctuating expenses. This awareness takes the stress out of money management, allowing them to make better financial choices.

Maintain a healthy credit score

A financially fit person knows that an excellent credit history and score is a crucial component to long-term financial health. They are careful to pay all bills on time, hold onto their credit cards for a while and to keep their credit utilization low. This enables them to qualify for long-term loans with favorable interest rates, which saves them money for years to come.

Help your money go further

A financially fit person does not waste large sums of money on interest charges for purchases made using borrowed funds via credit cards or loans. They live within their means and only use these resources for purchases they can actually afford, or for large, long-term assets, like a car or a house. This means they have more funds at their disposal to help build their wealth through savings and investments.

Create concrete financial goals

A financially fit person has long-term and short-term financial goals. This enables them to keep their focus on the big picture when making everyday money choices, empowering them to actually realize their financial dreams.

Achieve financial independence

A financially fit person is independent. They don’t rely on loans from friends or family members to get by, and they don’t need to pay with plastic at the end of the month because they ran out of money. Their well-padded emergency fund means they don’t depend on their monthly income to put bread on the table, either. By sticking to a budget, prioritizing savings and maintaining an awareness of their finances, they are strong, secure and completely independent.

Being financially fit means living a life without battling anxiety about getting through the month or stressing about the future. You can achieve financial fitness by committing to making choices in each of the four components of financial health (spend, save, borrow, plan) that are forward-thinking and help to build your financial wellness.

If you’re not sure where to start in your journey to get your finances in shape, contact Destinations Credit Union’s HOPE Inside financial well-being coach and get started! It’s free and with the investment of a little time and effort, you get get on solid financial footing in a relatively short period of time.

Your Turn: Why is financial fitness so important? Share your reasons with us in the comments.