Do Your Kids Have Virtual Shopping Smarts?

Did you know that 73% of millennials questioned in a Bazaar Voice survey do all theirshopping kids shopping on their smartphones? It’s not surprising. The world of commerce is constantly becoming more digitized as retailers focus on improving their online presence to cater to cyberspace shoppers.

Online shopping has its downsides, though, mainly in the form of surprises when the item arrives, costly shipping expenses and impulse buys that are made too easily.

Fortunately, it has its upsides, too. Comparing prices between stores is a lot simpler when all it takes is clicking through a few sites instead of traipsing all over town. Couponing is now also just a matter of seconds, with no need for tedious clipping and saving.

Teach your kids to make the best of online shopping with this fun, educational activity. All you need is a computer!

Sit down with your child to brief them on the ups and downs of online shopping. Talk about comparing prices, checking for discount codes and being wary of overspending or buying items of inferior quality. Teach them about reading reviews and looking for reputable companies. Mention comparison-shopping engines like Google, and others they may have never used, like Nextag, Price Grabber, and Shopzilla.

When they have the information down pat, tell them they will now be tasked with buying an item online! The item should be something popular and one they’re interested in.

Give your child a debit or credit card, a fixed budget for the item and the following instructions:

The goal is to purchase the lowest-priced, yet best-made product. This will earn a minimum of 100 points. They will earn points for each part of the process, using the following guidelines:

  1. The purchase must be of decent quality. They can earn 25 points for this category.
  2. Shipping costs should not constitute more than 10% of the object’s price. The lower the shipping costs, the more they earn for this category, with free shipping earning the full 15 points.
  3. They must search for discount codes and coupons before making the purchase. This can be done by checking coupon sites like Retailmenot and Couponcabin, or by signing up for a store’s emails and earning a promotional discount. 5 points will be rewarded for every discount search/website visited in search of a coupon code. Actually finding and using a discount can earn them 15 points.
  4. If your child is ordering from eBay or another site with multiple sellers, they should be careful to only make purchases from sellers with excellent ratings. Buying from a badly rated seller can cost them 5 points and using a high-rated seller can earn them 5 points.
  5. Price is of utmost importance. If their object is of decent quality and very well-priced, they can earn up to 40 points. 5 points will be given for every search for a cheaper product.
  6. Points will be taken off for any random ad-clicks, failure to do substantial price-checks and comparisons, and for ignoring discount offers.
  7. Sit back and watch, being careful not to offer any advice as your child makes a purchase.
  8. Tally up the score and explain the points you gave, congratulating your child on their online shopping skills.

Your child is now cyberspace-savvy!

Your Turn: How do you teach your kids to avoid the pitfalls and make the most out of online shopping? Share your wisdom with us in the comments!

Back-To-School Savings

Back-to-school shopping can kill your budget each year. Is there any way to start the year mom and childoff right…without spending a small fortune?

Rows of freshly sharpened pencils, an unopened box of crayons and a pair of shiny, new shoes will provide a thrill for any child.

As the parent, though, you’re the one footing the bill. If the thought of all that back-to-school spending makes your head pound, you’re not alone. The National Retail Federation reports that parents of children entering kindergarten through 12th grade plan to spend nearly $700 per child on school supplies, new clothing and shoes this season. That’s enough to fill any budgeting parent with dread.

No worries – as always, Destinations Credit Union has your back! Let us help you navigate the second-largest shopping season of the year with your budget and sanity intact. Read on for 12 ways to save on back-to-school shopping.

1.) Do a house-wide sweep

Before you spend a penny on new supplies or clothing, scour your closets and drawers to see what you have lying around the house. Round up all the supplies you find and take inventory. Write it all down and keep the list handy – in your phone, purse or car – so you don’t forget what you already have and end buying unnecessary items.

While digging through your kids’ closets, sort and purge. Donate outgrown clothing (take note and get a receipt for tax deduction purposes) and throw out everything that isn’t wearable. This way, their closets won’t be cluttered with junk and you’ll know exactly what you have and what each child still needs.

2.) Get the teacher-approved list

Most schools and teachers will send you a school supply list that details exactly what your child will need. Those lists are also often available at major retailers. Pay close attention to specifics on the list instead of buying supplies at random. This will prevent you from buying items your child can’t use and being forced to later repurchase according to teacher criteria.

3.) Spread your purchases

Spreading your back-to-school purchases throughout the summer will allow you to take advantage of weekly sales. One week there might be a great deal on pencils, the next week, folders will be dirt cheap. Over the course of the summer, you’ll get all your supplies at terrific prices. Also, by picking up a few items a week, you won’t feel the financial squeeze as much as you would if you’d buy everything at once.

4.) Take advantage of sales-tax holidays

Many states have a sales-tax holiday during the first week of August; others have tax-free days in July. Look up the timing of your state’s gift to budgeting parents and do your shopping then. You’ll save big! Maryland Tax Free Week 2017 is Sunday, August 13 to Saturday, August 19, 2017.

5.) Organize a clothing swap

The clothing your best friend is trashing may be the perfect fit for your daughter. Organize a clothing swap party with other parents in your area. Choose a date and venue, and instruct all attendants to show up with three or more items of gently used children’s clothing. At the party, parents can exchange their kids’ outgrown clothing and go home with incredible finds – all free of charge!

6.) Find the best prices

This doesn’t have to mean touring your town in search of the best deal on crayons. Instead, hunt for specials in the Sunday paper and weekly circulars and look up coupons and deals online, at sites like RetailMeNot and CouponCabin. To make it even easier, check out or use the ShopSavvy app for help in snagging the lowest possible price on an item.

7.) Use Twitter and Facebook to save

Many companies will send coupon links to their followers and let them know about upcoming sales. Monitor your favorite stores’ Twitter feeds and Facebook updates to find super deals.

Follow these stores on Twitter:

Staples: @StaplesTweets

Office Max:@OfficeMaxDeal

TJ Maxx:@tjmaxx


8.) Save through Ebates

When you buy through Ebates, you earn cash back on every purchase. You’ll also find exclusive deals and offers on the site. You can shop major brands and stores like Macy’s, Walmart, and Kohl’s on Ebates. Some users receive upward of $300 from the site throughout the year. That’s like getting paid to shop!

9.) Time it right

Your child needs to be ready for the first day of school – they don’t need a year’s supply of paper or a full autumn wardrobe before Labor Day. Purchase what your kids need now, and save the rest for later. You’ll find deep discounts on school supplies and fall clothing just a few weeks into the school year.

10.) Set limits

Every year there’s a must-have school supply or clothing trend. You want your child to fit in, but you don’t have a money tree growing out back!

That’s why it’s important to set limits. Share your budget with your child. If your budget allows, let them choose one or two pricier items – but that’s it! Don’t give in to every whim; you’ll be enforcing bad habits and breaking the budget at the same time. If your child insists on more, you can always check out sites like eBay and Craigslist for discounted high-end items.

11.) Cash and debit card only!

Paying with cash or using a debit card that draws from your checking account will help you stick to your budget. Resist the urge to charge supplies if you can. You don’t want to end up paying interest on pencils for months after they’ve already broken.

12.) Plan ahead

Finally, start thinking about the next school year now! When school supplies and backpacks are ridiculously discounted a few weeks into the school year, stock up for next year. Stash away your extra supplies to pull out at the end of next summer. You’ll be grateful you did!

Your Turn: Do you have a great back-to-school shopping hack? We’d love to hear it! Share your best saving tips with us in the comments.


Top Ten Reasons for Buying American

Finding a product that doesn’t bear a foreign label is a nearly impossible task. After all, 200514832-001when manufacturers can find labor and materials overseas for a fraction of the price, why would they bother building factories on American shores?

The short answer is that every choice we make affects our surroundings and our country, for better or for worse. When companies chose to produce their goods on American shores, that choice creates a positive ripple effect across the country that can be felt for years.

As the consumer, you can help influence manufacturer’s preferences by selecting products that were made in the good ‘ole USA.

In honor of Made in America Week, Destinations Credit Union is proud to bring you the top ten reasons to buy American-made products.

1.) Create jobs

When you buy American, you create American jobs. According to a 2015 report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the USA lost 5.7 million jobs to overseas workers between 1998 and 2013. Help reverse the trend by choosing American goods!

2.) Decrease pollution

We can regulate our own carbon emissions and protect the environment in the USA, but we can’t tell other nations what to do.  Many of the countries that produce goods for American companies have little regard for the environment and for green usage of resources. Soil, air, and water are regularly abused and priceless resources are needlessly wasted.

When you buy American, you are helping to preserve our beautiful world for future generations.

3.) Guaranteed quality of goods

Sure, the clothing, toys, and trinkets that bear the “Made in China” label come with a cheaper price tag, but you’ll usually get cheaper quality as well. In contrast, products proudly tagged as “Made in the USA,” can be counted on for unsurpassed quality, expert craftsmanship, and attention to detail.

In fact, when you consider the cost-per-use of each item, foreign-made goods that don’t last as long as their American counterparts end up being more expensive.

4.) Health

It’s not just the health of foreign workers that’s at risk when you buy products manufactured overseas – it’s also your own that’s in jeopardy. Products made abroad are not subject to strict rules and regulations like American-made goods are. There were several instances during which toys made in China and sold in the USA were declared unsafe and had to be recalled. Many posed a choking hazard; others contained dangerous chemicals like lead paint and kerosene.

5.) Boost American investment opportunities

A boost in American manufacturing means a boost in American investment opportunities. Naturally, increased investments mean a surge for the entire economy.

6.) Protect human rights

Many countries that produce goods for American companies have few or no regulations protecting the rights and safety of employees. An astonishing 2015 report from the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights revealed that the Chinese workers producing toys for American brands, like Mattel, Hasbro, and Disney, were forced to work 12- to 13-hour days and sleep on wooden bunk-beds in dingy, unheated dormitories. Another report discovered child labor at a factory created to produce clothing for Walmart and JCPenney.

By supporting American-made goods, you are silently protesting these atrocities.

7.) Ripple effect

When you choose “Made in USA,” your money does more than create manufacturing jobs. The wages those American workers earned because of your choice goes back into our own economy. American taxes are paid. More American products are purchased and services paid for. The economy grows, thanks to your choices.

Incredibly, the EPI estimates that every USA manufacturing job creates an additional 1.4 jobs in other parts of the economy.

8.) Reduce the trade deficit

Tough economic times have placed the USA in an unfavorable position with foreign markets. Help reduce and eventually eliminate our country’s trade deficit by investing in American products. Let’s get back to being the proud country we once were: independent and standing on our own two feet!

9.) Conservation

Every foreign-made product you purchase needs to be shipped to the USA. That’s often from practically across the world. All that travel comes with a hefty price in carbon footprints. Precious resources, like petroleum, are wasted in transport and unnecessary, harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere.

Conserve our resources and buy American!

10.) Avoid foreign political debates

Importing goods to the USA can mean facing loads of red tape and barriers, especially with nations that currently have tense relationships with America. By buying American goods, you’ll avoid those obstacles completely.

So, you’re convinced: you’re buying American. But what now? How can you follow through on your resolution when nearly every product you pick up is created on foreign shores?

To find those elusive American products, you may need to be persistent and spend some time checking labels. To make that task easier, check out the hundreds of sites dedicated to supporting American goods, like Made in USA, Americans Working, and the  USA Love List.

Remember, for every American product you buy, you are creating endless positive ripples for our wonderful country!

Your Turn: Show your loyalty to our country by telling us about your favorite Made-in-the-USA product in the comments!


The Best Deals On Wheels For College Students

You’ve shopped for weeks and you’ve packed for hours. Now, you’re finally ready to load kids with caryour trunk and pull out of the family driveway toward your next stage in life.

Which set of wheels will accompany you on your rite of passage into the grown-up world?

Yes–you’ve chosen your college, your major, and perhaps your roommate. Now it’s time to choose your car.

There are loads of factors at play when making this decision, though.

First, you’ll need to determine if it makes more sense for you to lease or to purchase a car.

Leasing offers flexibility. It’s the perfect choice for those who aren’t ready to commit to a car for long-term usage. It’s also more practical if you can’t afford to be solely responsible for a car’s maintenance and repairs. Monthly lease payments – even with repair warranties and liability waivers – also tend to be cheaper than payments on a purchased vehicle.

Of course, a lease won’t net you anything of value in the long run. When your lease is up, you’ll be out the thousands of dollars you spent “renting” the car, and have nothing to show for it. Also, if you max out the annual mileage limit, you may end up paying a small fortune in fees.

Purchasing a car, on the other hand, is a commitment that pays off in the long run. If you can afford the down payment, monthly fee, and can foot the bill for any repairs (talk to your credit union about affordable coverage for mechanical breakdowns), it may be the choice for you. Remember, though, that cars depreciate as soon as you take them for their first spin. It’s also hard to predict which vehicle will serve you best a few years down the line.

If you do decide to purchase a vehicle, first determine exactly what you can afford. Don’t take on a monthly payment that’s going to squeeze your budget. Building and maintaining a good credit history is crucial – at every stage in life.

Be sure to do extensive research before signing on a car. As a cash-strapped college student, you need to make the most cost-effective decision possible – but that doesn’t mean buying the cheapest car you can find. Your vehicle should serve its purpose without draining your wallet on fuel costs and repairs.

Carefully screen every car you’re considering for fuel efficiency, safety, warranty inclusion and coverage, and cargo capacity.

To make your search a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of the top six cars for the budget-wise college student. Each one is fuel-efficient, offers excellent cargo capacity, and is well-priced. (Cargo capacity listed is with the rear seats folded.)

1.) 2016 Kia Soul

Starting price: $15,900

Cargo capacity: 24.2/61.3 cubic feet

Fuel economy: 27 mpg combined

2.) 2017 Honda Fit

Starting price: $15,990

Cargo capacity: 16.6/52.7 cubic feet

Fuel economy: Up to 36 mpg combined

3.) 2017 Chevrolet Sonic Hatchback

Starting price: $18,455

Cargo capacity: 19/47.7 cubic feet

Fuel economy: 32 mpg combined

4.) 2016 Mazda 3 Hatchback

Starting price: $18,545

Cargo capacity: 20.2/47.1 cubic feet

Fuel economy: 33 mpg combined

5.) 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT

Starting price: $18,800

Cargo capacity: 23/51 cubic feet

Fuel economy: 27 mpg combined

6.) 2017 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback

Starting price: $19,895

Cargo capacity: 22.8/52.7 cubic feet

Fuel economy: 29 mpg combined

Before heading to the dealer’s shop, it’s best to get pre-approved. This way, you’ll know exactly what you can afford, and you’ll be taken more seriously by the dealer. Be sure to drop by Destinations Credit Union for your pre-approval and auto loan! [Our credit union offers low rates on pre-owned vehicles, so call 410-663-2500 or apply online.

Your Turn: Are you a college student with a new set of wheels? We’d love to hear all about your car! Share your pick with us in the comments.