Should I Go Solar?

Q: My summertime electric bills are sky-high. For this reason, I’m really thinking aboutsolar panel installation on roof having solar panels installed on my roof. I figure it’s gotta help me save on energy costs, but I hear they can be super-expensive. Should I go solar?

A: Solar panels are popping up on roofs all across the country. This year, with a 30-percent federal tax credit on solar panels extended until the end of 2019, solar panel installation is especially popular. It’s also incredibly effective: A solar panel system can lower a three-digit energy bill to less than $10.

But, are they worth the price? Let’s take a closer look at the cost-effectiveness of solar panels and highlight some important questions that will help you determine whether a solar energy system is the right choice for your home.

The dollars and cents of going solar

Most residential homes will need a five-kilowatt solar panel system for meeting their energy needs. According to the Center for Sustainable Energy, this will cost homeowners between $15,000 to $25,000, or $10,500 to $17,500 after the federal tax credit.

That’s a whole lot of money! Let’s take a look at four ways you can pay for your solar panel system:

  1. Cash. If you can afford it, paying for your panels upfront will bring you the biggest return on your investment since, after the initial startup fees, your panels likely won’t cost you a penny. Depending on your system and your general energy consumption, your solar panels can reduce your electric bill by 70 to 100 percent. This means most systems will pay for themselves in five to seven years.
  2. Lease agreement. Solar leasing is available in about half of the country. Like a car lease agreement, you’ll pay a monthly rent instead of an upfront fee for your panels. The leasing company will then install your panels and collect the federal tax credit, as well as any government incentives available in your state, on your behalf.

    Leasing solar panels is generally not recommended for several reasons. For one, after the lease agreement is over, the company will either remove the panels or charge you full price for the privilege if you want to keep them. You also may end up saving less on your energy costs than you assumed since many leases contain an escalator clause, which increases lease payments by 3 percent a year. Finally, a leased solar panel system can scare off potential homebuyers should you decide to sell your house before the lease is up.

  3. Solar loan. If you’d rather not lease your panels but you don’t have the cash available to pay for them upfront, you can take out a loan created just for the purpose of funding this purchase. A secured solar loan will use your home as collateral and offer tax-deductible interest, while an unsecured solar loan will likely have higher interest rates. Prepare to pay high origination fees with any kind of solar loan as well.
  4. Home Equity Loan or Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). Excluding cash, the most financially responsible way to finance your solar panel purchase is through a loan or a line of credit taken out against your home’s value. Speak to a Loan Officer at Destinations Credit Union to learn about the low startup costs and interest rates on our home equity lines of credit. Interest is often tax-deductible (talk with your tax professional), and the funds you need can be available to you in very little time.

Are solar panels for you?

Ask yourself these questions before you make a decision:

  1. Which way does my roof slant? In the United States, south-facing roofs are the best recipients for solar energy. Next up is west-facing, and then east-facing roofs. North-facing roofs are the least desirable for solar.
  2. How much sunlight does my roof get each day? Are there obstructions, like neighboring homes, trees or hills that block the sun from reaching your roof? It’s best for sunlight to hit your panels for a minimum of five hours a day.
  3. How large is my roof? An average residential solar system will need 20 panels to receive sufficient sunlight, which comes to roughly 500 square feet of roof space.
  4. What type of roofing do I have? The cheapest and easiest solar panel installations work on roofs made of asphalt shingles or corrugated metal.
  5. How old is my roof? It only makes sense to install your panels on a roof that has many more years of life left. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay to have the panels removed and then reinstalled when you replace your roof. Similarly, it’s not worth installing panels if you plan on moving out of your home within the next decade or so.
  6. How expensive is my electricity? The higher your local electricity rates, the more cost-effective your solar panels will be. You can determine the rate you pay per kilowatt hour by looking at your most recent energy bill.
  7. Are there any government incentives in my state? Aside from the  federal tax credit mentioned above, many states offer their own incentives for going solar. You can check for any available state credits on the  database of state incentives for renewables and efficiency.

The bottom line

Should you go solar? At the end of the day, it’s your call. If you can afford to pay for the panels or take out a HELOC to help fund the purchase, and all other factors are in your favor, you may want to consider getting solar panels. Especially consider it while the federal tax credit is still active.

However, if you don’t think you can afford another monthly payment and you don’t believe solar panels would be in your best interest, you can find other ways to cut back on your energy costs without going solar.

Your Turn: Is your home solar-powered? Tell us what drove this decision and how your solar panels are working out for you in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/considering-getting-solar-panels-here-are-the-right-questions-to-ask/2018/03/09/3190c71a-20c0-11e8-94da-ebf9d112159c_story.html%3FoutputType%3Damp

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/save-money-putting-solar-panels-roof/
https://www.tdworld.com/commentaries/5-reasons-why-i-don-t-have-solar-panels-my-roofyet
https://www.consumerreports.org/energy-saving/real-cost-of-leasing-vs-buying-solar-panels

Beware Emergency Scams!

“Grandma? Is that you?”elderly woman with adult grandchildren

“What’s the matter, honey?”

“Grandma, you gotta help me! They’re going to arrest me if I don’t pay the fine – and I lost my wallet! I don’t have a penny on me or any ID. Can you wire me some money?”

Does this sound like a phone call that can really tug at your heartstrings? It’s actually more like a diabolical plot by devious scammers. There’s no emergency, no imminent arrest and no lost wallet. In fact, it isn’t even your grandchild on the line; you’re speaking to a criminal who wants to get their hands on your money.

Family emergency scams, often referred to as “grandparent scams,” are some of the most nefarious around. They prey on the elderly and take advantage of the natural affection a grandparent has for their grandchild. They’re usually pulled off in the guise of a frantic phone call, though they sometimes show up as an urgent email, text, or social media post using the same panicky message.

Don’t be the next victim of this ruse! Read on to learn how to identify an emergency scam and what to do if you’ve been victimized.

3 ways to spot an emergency scam:

  1. The caller will insist upon absolute secrecy

Once your “grandchild” has had their say, the scammer will then take the phone, impersonating an authority figure who is out to make the arrest and demanding that payment be made immediately. They’ll stress the importance of keeping the entire business hush-hush so nobody gets hurt. But, of course, the real reason behind their need for secrecy is to keep you from doing too much digging and identifying the scam for what it is. Any true law enforcement officer would have no request for such secrecy.

  1. The “authority figure” will only accept certain means of payment

If you ever receive a phone call insisting that you wire money, send a prepaid debit card, cashier’s check, or certified check in return for helping your grandchild from a distressing situation, you can be certain it’s a scam. Criminals love these payment methods because they provide the victim with very little recourse once they’ve discovered the scam.

  1. Your “grandchild” does not know basic information about themselves or family

It’s hard not to be duped into helping out your grandchild when they sound so stressed on the phone. It can also be hard to recognize your grandchild’s voice over a phone that has iffy reception, or from an overseas phone call if your grandchild is abroad. To make it even more complicated, scammers will use any information they can find about your grandchild’s life to appear legitimate. If the scam is carried out through email, they may even hack your grandchild’s email account so their missive appears to be coming directly from your grandchild.

If you ever receive a call or an email like the one described above, simply ask the caller about some personal details that a stranger would not be able to scrape off of your grandchild’s social media accounts. Ask about specific family memories or even jokes that will immediately let you know who you’re really dealing with.

If you’ve been scammed

If you’ve gotten a frantic phone call from your grandchild and you believe it to be true, don’t react just yet. You’ll be urged to act quickly, but take a minute to call your grandchild on your own to verify his or her whereabouts. You can also call the grandchild’s parents to ask where they might be at this time. You may be surprised to learn that your grandchild is safe at home!

If you’ve fallen for the scam and you’ve only recognized the ruse after you’ve sent your money, you may still be able to reclaim some or all of your funds by reporting the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. Even if you can’t reclaim your lost funds, you’ll be doing your part to help the authorities put those crooks behind bars.

Grandparenting is a wonderful experience. Don’t let scammers abuse your relationship with your grandchild by pulling the wool over your eyes. Stay one step ahead of them by being alert and knowing how to spot these scams. Show them that no one messes with grandma!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by an emergency scam? Tell us all about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/07/scammers-create-fake-emergencies-get-your-money

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0204-family-emergency-scams
https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/family-finance/articles/most-common-phone-scams

Beware Natural Disaster Scams

When disaster strikes, so do the scams. It’s the season of hurricanes, earthquakes, man and woman sitting on sofa in flooded hometornadoes and more. If you live in an area that’s prone to storms and flooding, or you volunteer to help the victims of natural disasters, beware of these four post-disaster scams so you’re not taken for a ride.

Bogus charities

As soon as a major natural disaster hits, fake charities spring up like dandelions after a spring rain. You might get solicitations for donations via email, social media posts, text messages or phone calls. These appeals are usually accompanied by a tear-jerking story designed to play on your emotions and get you to loosen your purse strings. Unfortunately, these scams are often successful at swindling victims out of thousands of dollars.

Never take a request for monetary aid at face value. Check out the charity’s authenticity at Charitynavigator.org and see what the Better Business Bureau has to say about them. If you find the charity does indeed exist and is a reliable organization, double-check that the website address (URL) is correct so you can be sure you’re not handing over money to a copycat site. If you want to be absolutely certain that your donation is going to the right address, you can simply contact the charity or The Red Cross on your own.

FEMA imposters

The days following a natural disaster can be chaotic, as victims try to put their lives and their homes back together.

Devious scammers capitalize on this misfortune to impersonate FEMA representatives to collect victims’ personal information and/or their money. They’re counting on victims being too preoccupied to check their legitimacy.

If you applied for FEMA, stay one step ahead of the scammers by remaining alert and cautious. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent the federal organization, only share your FEMA claim number over the phone, keeping all other personal details to yourself. If the caller is legitimate, they should already have any other information they need.

If a FEMA representative shows up at your home, ask to see a FEMA-issued photo ID badge. The “representative” may promise to speed up your claim if you pay a deposit, but this is completely false, as FEMA does not offer any such arrangement. Do not give the “FEMA rep” any of your money – or any of your personal information.

Shady repair contractors

Many so-called contractors will make the rounds of neighborhoods that have seen storm damage to offer their services to homeowners seeking repairs. They may ask for upfront payment for any work you need and then do a sloppy job or never complete their task. You won’t realize you’ve been conned until the worker has left your home with your money in their pocket. To avoid getting caught in this scam, carefully research any contractor you’d like to use before hiring, and never agree to pay for all or most of the repairs before the work is done.

In a different variation of this scam, someone may show up at your door claiming to represent a utility company you use. They’ll threaten to shut off your service if you don’t provide immediate payment for any repairs you might need. Ask to see proof that they indeed represent the company they claim to work for and do not make any upfront payments until you have checked out their authenticity.

Damaged cars

It’s not only homes that can be heavily damaged by storms; vehicles can get hit hard, too. Sometimes, a car that’s been in a flood or hurricane can be fixed up so it looks fine on the outside despite a heavily damaged interior. Shady car salespeople might try to sell these vehicles to unsuspecting consumers who have no idea the car has been in such a storm.

If you’re shopping for a car in an area that has recently been hit by a natural disaster, be sure to check out the car’s history on sites like Carfax.com.

Don’t let scammers make a natural disaster more difficult than it already is. If you suspect fraud, let the FTC know at FTC.gov.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a natural disaster scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.ridester.com/doordash-vs-grubhub/amp/
https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2019/03/04/defend-against-disaster-related-scams#
https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/disaster.html

Why You Should Finance Your Next Car Loan At Your Credit Union

When shopping for a new set of wheels, your first stop should be right here, at cars in dealer showroomDestinations Credit Union. Though many people start their process on the dealer’s lot, you’ll enjoy a lower rate, a simpler loan application and other benefits by choosing to finance your car with your credit union. And, if you prefer to shop online before making your decision, check out our Car Buying Service – you never have to leave our site to research, find all available inventory, compare your vehicles and more!  Best of all, you can avoid the pesky ads and phone calls.

This is why people are increasingly choosing to finance their cars directly through credit unions. In fact, auto loans comprise more than a third of all the active loans across the 5,600 credit unions in the U.S.

Let’s take a look at the differences in the auto loan process at a car dealership versus Destinations Credit Union.

Financing an auto purchase at a car dealership

When you visit a dealer’s lot with the intention of purchasing a car, the dealer will likely ask you how much you’re willing to spend on your vehicle of choice. You may have already worked out your numbers, or, you may just have a vague idea of how much you can realistically afford. Either way, the dealer will probably try persuading you to push your self-imposed limits to the max or even to go over your ceiling price.

But, if you’re financing your car through the dealer, that’s only the beginning. Once you’ve chosen the car you’d like to buy, you’ll need to submit a complicated auto loan application form, which the dealer will send to the finance companies it partners with. This can include lenders and financial institutions. The dealer will then share the lenders’ offers with you and ask you to make your choice.

However, in most cases, the dealer is only the middleman. This means they are going to present your options in a way that most benefits them – and not you. Thanks to this practice, even a fantastic offer from another lender will be presented as higher than it actually is, or may not be presented at all.

For example, say your dealer contacts three lenders: Lender A, Lender B and Lender C. Lender A agrees to offer you a 5% Annual Percentage Rate (APR), Lender B offers a 6% APR, and Lender C offers a 7% APR. But the lender will not automatically present you with Lender A’s offer. Instead, they will first determine which lender would afford them the greatest profit.

The rates presented by the above lenders are known as the “buy rates,” or the lowest possible rate the lenders will grant the borrower.

Lender A might offer the dealer a flat fee for each new loan the dealer nets them at the buy rate, with more profit granted for each new tier of a car price, such as $10,000. Lender B, on the other hand, allows the dealer to increase the buy rate by 3% to a new “contract rate.” The dealer then pockets the difference as his own profit. Lender C allows the dealer to offer a contract rate at 2% higher than the buy rate.

In the above scenario, it isn’t hard to picture the dealer pushing you to accept an offer from Lender B or Lender C at the new contract rate of 9%. If you complain that this rate is too high, the dealer may then suddenly “remember” that Lender B is willing to finance the loan at a 7% APR. In either case, there’s very little chance you’ll end up being presented with the offer that is truly in your best interest. And you’ll never even know you’ve been duped!

Financing an auto purchase at a credit union

Getting an auto loan with your credit union is a completely different experience. Why? Because we exist to serve your best interest.

When you walk into Destinations Credit Union with the intention of taking out an auto loan, you’ll be dealing with people who know who you are and what your financial reality is like. No one will try to push you into a loan you can’t afford.

The process of applying for a Destinations Credit Union Auto Loan is simple, quick, and easy. You can even apply for a loan online. Also, as a member of Destinations Credit Union, you already have a headstart on getting that pre-approval.

One of the biggest advantages you’ll have when financing an auto loan through your credit union, though, is a lower APR. Because you’re working directly with the lender, you’ll only hear the actual rate we offer instead of a marked-up rate the car dealer presents to you.

Also, as member-owned and operated institutions, credit unions famously offer loan rates that are consistently lower than those offered by large lenders and banks. In fact, according to Bankrate, the average APR on a credit union auto loan in the beginning of 2019 was a full point lower than the rates offered by banks.

Another key advantage you’ll enjoy from a credit union-financed auto loan is a more relaxed setting when determining how much you can afford to pay each month toward your new car. There’s no rush and no pressure when you’re sitting at Destinations Credit Union and working out your budget. In contrast, when you’re standing in the dealer’s lot surrounded by cars you wish you could afford, you’re far more likely to make a decision you’ll later come to regret.

If you’re in the market for an auto loan, make your credit union your first stop. You’ll enjoy a lower rate and the friendly, professional service you’ve come to expect at Destinations Credit Union.

Your Turn: Have you financed a car purchase through your credit union? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.magnifymoney.com/blog/auto-loan/why-you-should-avoid-financing-a-car-through-a-dealership/

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/auto-loans/auto-financing-before-dealership/
https://www.bankrate.com/loans/auto-loans/6-reasons-to-get-a-credit-union-car-loan/amp/

Do My Child’s Activities Really Need To Make Me Go Broke?

It’s back-to-school season and you’re just about ready to zip that backpack closed before children with uniforms posing for cameratossing that supply list into the trash. You’ve been shopping for weeks to get the right pencils and pens, binders and the dozens of other must-haves. This, of course, is in addition to the perfect school shoes and autumn wardrobe. But now you’re done, done, done! Your sanity and your budget are ready for a breather – at least until the holiday shopping season starts.

But then your darling daughter comes home breathless from school telling you she’s made it onto the school’s soccer team. She’s thrilled and can’t wait to start attending practices and games! Oh, and did she mention she’ll need some money for her uniform and equipment?

Before you can finish digesting this piece of news, your son barrels through the door and announces he’s decided to take drum lessons. It’ll only be, say, $600 for the drum set, plus the price of lessons. But that’s not a big deal for you, is it?

Extracurricular activities are an important part of a child’s development. They allow students to shine in ways that may not be possible for them in the classroom. Plus, it helps kids step out of their social circles to forge new and lasting friendships. They serve as a creative outlet and can improve your child’s physical and cognitive health. If you have a real prodigy in your family, they may even be your child’s gateway to a college scholarship, and possibly a lucrative career.

But there’s no getting around the truth: Extracurricular activities are expensive. If you’ve got several school-aged children at home and each one wants to participate in two activities, you can be looking at an investment as high as $10,000 or more because of fees, equipment, uniforms, instruments and supplies.

No worries, though; you don’t have to choose between your budget and your children’s happiness. Here are some ways you can save on your kids’ extracurricular activities this year:

  1. Limit the number of after-school activities you allow for each child

If you’ve got several over-ambitious young ones at home, consider limiting extracurricular activities to just one per child. You’ll actually be doing your children a favor by forcing them to pick one activity of focus where they’ll be channeling all their energy in one direction.

They’ll also be more dedicated to perfecting their game or hobby when they own their choice. Plus, it’ll be easier for them to keep track of just one practice and performance schedule – and a lot easier on your carpool calendar, too! Finally, you’ll help your children avoid taking on too much so they are less likely to wind up neglecting their schoolwork or not having any time to spare for family and friends.

  1. Register early

Lots of children’s sports programs offer discounts of up to 30 percent just for signing up early. Speak to your children about after-school programs and sports teams months before the official season launch so you can register early and snag those early-bird specials. You might also be able to net a discount by pre-paying for the entire season instead of paying on a monthly basis.

  1. Purchase used equipment

Save big on sports gear by purchasing gently used equipment from sites like PlayItAgainSports and SidelineSwap. Some of these sites also allow you to sell your own used equipment.

  1. Swap equipment

If you have friends with kids who are (or were) also into sports and music, see if you can swap equipment and instruments from year to year. Maybe your friend’s son was into guitar last year and baseball this year, while your daughter’s interests ran in the opposite direction. Swapping with friends allows you to save on expensive equipment while putting your own unused gear to good use.

  1. Rent musical instruments

If you’ve got budding musicians at home, consider renting the instrument they’ve taken up this year. There’s no way to tell if that burst of passion they’re currently nursing for the oboe is just a passing phase or the beginning of a hobby that will last a lifetime. Why blow hundreds of dollars on an instrument only to see it lying forgotten in the attic in a few months time? Some instruments, like the French horn, can cost as much as $1,000 but can be rented for as little as $50 a month.

If your child is convinced they’ve found their instrument of choice or you’ve already been renting one for a while, you can purchase gently used musical instruments from resale sites like Craigslist and eBay or through Reverb, a site devoted to selling used musical instruments.

  1. Volunteer your time

If you’ve got the time to coach or manage a team, or even just to walk around selling refreshments during games, you might be able to nab a discount on the program’s fees and equipment.

Don’t let a tight budget stand in the way of your child’s creative and physical development. By making smart, frugal choices, you can turn your children’s dreams into reality without draining your wallet.

Your Turn: How do you save on your children’s extracurricular activities? Share your own tips and tricks with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/g27678115/back-to-school-hacks/

https://www.moneycrashers.com/save-extracurricular-activities-kids-after-school/
https://www.parents.com/parenting/money/saving/11-ways-to-save-on-after-school-activities/

The Ultimate Smart Shoppers Cheat Sheet

You’ve already perfected your monthly shopping schedule to get the best possible pricescouple looking at new appliances throughout the year: linens in January; luggage in March; household appliances in May; patio furniture in September and wedding dresses in December.

But, did you know you should be timing your shopping throughout the week as well? That’s because each weekday brings its own deals and specials. There are some items you can get the cheapest on Wednesdays, others that are best bought on Fridays and still others that will see their biggest markdowns on Sundays.

Here’s the ultimate cheat sheet for your weekly shopping.

Sunday: Large household appliances

Does your refrigerator need replacing? Looking to swap out your oven for a newer model? Home improvement stores, like Lowe’s and Home Depot, tend to mark down their large appliances on Sundays.

Monday: Deals on wheels and electronics

If you’re in the market for a new car, hit the dealer’s lot on Monday. Car dealerships are busiest over the weekend, and the comparative quiet of a Monday will put you in a favorable position to negotiate a great price on a new car. Don’t forget to get preapproved for your loan and use Destinations Credit Union’s car buying service to get great rates and terms!

You’ll also want to check out the large chain stores for discounted electronics on the first business day of the week. Stores like Best Buy offer exclusive manufacturer rebates on Mondays, which can significantly lower the price of an expensive product.

Tuesdays: Houses, airline travel and more

Tuesdays are the recommended weekday for making an offer on a house, particularly the first Tuesday of the month. This is when most sellers will review the activity surrounding their home from the last month and be more open to accepting an offer that’s considerably lower than their original asking price.

If you’re looking to fly in the near future, book your flight on a Tuesday morning. According to data analyses performed by travel-planning company Skyscanner, airlines mark down flight prices by 15-25 percent late each Monday evening. By Tuesday morning, competing airlines will offer matching or lower prices, giving you the best selection of affordable flights.

Tuesdays are also great for purchasing computers online from major retailers, like HP or Dell. Don’t look for discounted MacBooks, though, as Apple rarely marks down its products.

For a terrific way to end your Tuesday, go see a movie. Tickets to the latest blockbusters are usually discounted during the mid-week slump.

Wednesdays: Groceries, discounted apparel and fuel

Forget the weekend grocery run; the best time to restock your pantry and fridge is on Wednesday. Most supermarkets roll out their new sale events on this day, rearrange their aisle end-caps and slap discounts onto perishable products that are left over from the beginning of the week, such as meat, poultry and cheese. If you can swing it, shop early to take full advantage of the sales. Feel free to load up on the marked-down perishables, which will still be days away from their sell-by date. Stick them in the freezer if you won’t use them before they go stale. You’ll also get the biggest bang for your buck in the produce aisle on Wednesdays, when most groceries set out a fresh display of fruits and vegetables.

If you’re a fan of discounted quality clothing, you’ll want to hit TJ Maxx and Marshalls on Wednesdays, as this is when these stores post their new markdowns. Old Navy also features new discounts on Wednesdays.

Unless gas prices are on a downward spiral, fill ‘er up on Wednesday! Weekly gas hikes will take effect over the weekend, often as early as Thursday morning.

Thursday: Clothing, shoes and handbags

Get first dibs on weekend clothing sales at the big-name stores by hitting the mall late on Thursday. Shop for matching footwear with in-store coupons, which also debut on Thursday. Then, complete your new look with a new handbag, which see steep online discounts each Thursday.

Friday: Accessories

Pick up your costume jewelry, belts and scarves on Fridays to score the best prices. According to Lifehacker, online accessories see an average discount of 42 percent on the last workday of the week.

Saturday: Books and yard sale treasures

Amazon offers discounts on books and e-books on most Saturdays, so you’ll want to check out the e-tailer giant at the beginning of the weekend for the best selection at the best prices.

Saturdays are also prime time to pick up treasures at neighborhood yard sales and thrift stores. You’ll get the best picks in the early morning hours, but you’ll score the hottest deals later on in the day when the owners are itching to get rid of all their wares and close up shop.

Your Turn: Is there a weekday shopping hack that has worked for you? Tell us your secret shopping strategy in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.thekrazycouponlady.com/tips/money/back-to-school-shopping-hacks.amp.html

https://www.aol.com/article/lifestyle/2018/07/29/the-best-day-of-the-week-to-go-grocery-shopping/23491169/
https://www.dcrstrategies.com/shopping-guide-best-days-of-the-week-to-buy/
https://www.thekrazycouponlady.com/tips/store-hacks/retailer-clearance-markdown-cheatsheet.amp.html
https://www.rather-be-shopping.com/blog/2014/06/09/insider-tips-on-store-markdowns/

7 Steps To A Mid-Year Financial Checkup

It feels like you just packed away the holiday decorations yesterday, but believe it or not,man with laptop and phone 2019 is already half over. As we sail into the season of barbecues and beaches, take a few minutes to give yourself a mid-year financial checkup. A small investment of time can spur important changes that can affect your financial wellness for the rest of 2019 or even for years to come.

Use the seven steps detailed below to guide you through your checkup.

Step 1: Revisit Your Budget

Remember sitting down in December and crunching all those numbers? There’s no need for such a detailed job again, but take some time to review your monthly budget. Are you sticking to the planned budget for every category? Are you overspending in some categories or under-spending in others? Do you need to adjust your allotted budget in some areas or maybe trim your discretionary spending across the board?

Review your spending over the last few months and make any necessary changes so your budget can continue working for you. Be sure to account for any significant life changes that may alter your financial needs, such as a marriage, the birth of a child, a divorce or a job change.

By reviewing and adjusting your budget, you will avoid falling into the mindless spending trap and you will be taking proactive steps toward staying on top of your finances for the rest of 2019.

Step 2: Anticipate Large Expenses

Now that you’ve updated your monthly budget, take a moment to list any large expenses you anticipate having in the next six months. This can include household appliances that may need replacing, expensive car repairs that will likely become necessary or an anticipated medical expense that is not fully covered by insurance.

Once you have this information in hand, determine which spending category you will take the money from to cover these expenses. Do you have a rainy-day fund that can pay for one or several of these costs? Can you use the money in your emergency fund? Make the decision about sourcing this money now so you don’t make the wrong choices when you’re stressed and pressed for time in the future.

If you do not have enough money set aside for these expenses, build a savings plan into your monthly budget now so you have the funds available when you need them.

Step 3: Review Your Tax Withholdings

Review your tax withholdings to see if they need any adjusting. If taxes and numbers are not your thing, ask your accountant for assistance with this step. Your goal here is to pay the perfect amount so you’re not hit with a huge tax bill at the end of the year but also not lending the government your money interest-free.

Step 4: Check Your Credit Score

Your credit score is like your money grade, indicating the degree of your financial wellness and responsibility.  Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for your free credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

If your score has gone up in the last six months, you’re doing great! Keep up the good work.

On the flip side, if your score has dropped, review your report in detail. Are there any errors you’ll need to contest with the Federal Trade Commission? Is there a credit card bill or another line of credit you’ve been neglecting that is dragging your score down? Are you having trouble remembering to pay your monthly bills in a timely manner? Take the necessary steps to fix your score today, whether that means contesting a charge, setting up an automatic payment on some of your bills or lowering your credit utilization rate by paying with plastic less often.  HOPE Inside Destinations Credit Union can assist you in bringing up your credit score, paying down debt and saving more.  Call today.

Step 5: Review Your Investments

Now is the time to review and adjust all of your investments. This includes your contributions to your retirement funds, any stock investments, bonds, trust funds or savings certificates at Destinations Credit Union. Make sure you are maximizing your contributions when possible and that your other investments are performing according to plan, making adjustments as necessary.

Step 6: Tackle Your Debt

List every single outstanding debt you carry, including credit card debt and loans. Designate one debt to tackle first, either choosing the one that carries the highest interest rate or the one with the lowest balance. Next, work on a plan to get rid of your chosen debt, being careful not to neglect the others. See if you can trim your budget or boost your income in any way to increase your payments on this debt. Once you’ve paid it off, move to the next one on your list so you’re on your way to a debt-free life.

Step 7: Review Your Financial Resolutions and Long-term Goals

Which financial resolutions did you jot down at the end of 2018? What are your dreams for the future? Did you want to start socking away another $200 a month? Is your goal to retire comfortably at 55?

Take some time to review these goals and to determine whether you are indeed taking the steps necessary for making them happen. If you’ve been neglecting them for the first half of 2019, create a plan for working toward them for the rest of the year. Remember: With determination and proper planning, nearly any financial goal is possible!

Now that you’ve given yourself a thorough financial checkup, you can kick back and enjoy the sweetness and the sunshine of the season, guilt-free. Happy summer!

Your Turn: What’s on your list for your mid-year financial checkup? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://money.cnn.com/2016/07/28/investing/financial-checklist/index.html

https://onebiteblog.com/its-time-for-your-mid-year-financial-checkup/

4 Vacation Scams To Watch For This Summer And How To Avoid Them

With summer in full swing, you might be planning and packing up for the vacation of afamily taking selfie by a pool lifetime. Before you load the car and head out, though, read through our list of four common vacation scams and learn how to avoid them. You don’t want to take a permanent vacation from your hard-earned money!

  1. The bogus prize vacation

In this scam, you’ll receive notification via snail mail, phone call or email, that you’re the lucky winner of an absolutely free vacation stay. You’ll eagerly start planning your trip, only to find that you’re constantly asked to pay various “prize fees,” “taxes,” or “reservation deposits” as the departure date draws near. Your “free” vacation isn’t really free at all!

You might get suspicious and pull out. Or, you might be too deeply ensnared in the trap and only realize that, when you arrive at your destination, you’ve been conned. The vacation destination will either not exist at all, or be so substandard that you’ll need a vacation from your vacation when you get back home.

  1. The dream-priced rental

You’re scrolling through Airbnb, searching for that perfect vacation rental house when you suddenly strike gold. There it is! The rental you’ve been looking for – and at a dream price!

You’ll contact the renter and begin making make arrangements for your trip. The renter will offer you an even steeper discount if you pay them through a third-party processing site instead of through the Airbnb website. Their likely preference is wire transfer. You’ll then be asked to pay a deposit or even the full price of the rental before you arrive. While it’s completely expected to pay up front through Airbnb or another rental service, you will not have the same protection if you’re not using the site.

The problem starts when you arrive at your vacation spot – or try to do so, that is. The address you’ve been given does not actually exist and the gorgeous pictures you’ve been looking through belong to another renter. Sadly, you’re now out your money and have nowhere to stay during your vacation.

  1. Phony “experiences”

Aside from vacation rentals, sites like Airbnb also allow you to book “experiences,” or days out on the town with locals.

Unfortunately, this platform has become a breeding ground for scammers who offer phony tours to eager vacationers. You might find yourself booking a tour or an experience, and even paying for it, only to find out you’ve been scammed.

  1. Travel-club membership with a catch

In these scams, unscrupulous travel companies work hard to persuade you to join their travel club with the promise of significant benefits and kickbacks, including dream vacation stays, discounted cruises or resort tickets and completely free getaways. Unfortunately, once you’ve joined the club, you’ll be charged high dues for perks that are so hard to access, they’re practically worthless. The discounted tickets will only be eligible for certain vacation dates that probably will not align with your own plans, and the “free” trip you were promised also comes with severe restrictions.

How to spot a vacation scam

Now that you know the many ways you can be conned while planning for or being on vacation, let’s take a moment to review the red flags that will clue you in to these scams.

  1. Upfront fees. Whether it’s a vacation rental, a tourist experience or a sweepstakes prize, you should not have to pay more than a small deposit before your arrival. If you’re asked to pay steep upfront fees or even the full amount before your vacation, run the other way and don’t look back.
  2. Specific payment methods. Similarly, if you’re asked to pay via wire transfer only, you can be sure you’re looking at a scam. According to the FTC, a demand for payment by wire transfer is the surest sign of a scam.
  3. Skimpy details and absent reviews. When booking any kind of vacation, do your research. If your contact refuses to provide you with anything more than the most basic of details and you can’t find much info online, you’re likely looking at a bogus vacation.
  4. Prices that are too good to be true. Trust your instincts. If a vacation rental, experience or package is priced ridiculously low, do some digging. Google the travel company or the renter’s name with the words “scam” or “bogus” to see what results come up.
  5. Pressure tactics. If you’re urged to sign on a vacation package quickly or risk losing out on the deal, opt-out. Scams succeed with speed.

Scammers never go on vacation. Keep your guard up when planning your getaway and stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a vacation scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2019/05/make-it-scam-free-vacation

https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/vacation.html?CMP=KNC-DSO-Adobe-Bing-FRD-VacationRentalScams-General&s_kwcid=AL!4520!10!73873646340258!73873595875939&ef_id=XQkCmwAAAKChlBOg:20190618160907:s
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0073-timeshares-and-vacation-plans

6 Ways You Can Use A Personal Loan this Summer

Summer is a time for fun and excitement, but it can also be super expensive. people at a picnicSummertime can be a season of major life changes like household moves and weddings; purchasing that boat you’ve been eyeing and let’s not forget those dream vacations!

Before you start swiping the plastic for everything under the sun, Destinations Credit Union recommends considering a personal loan to stay within your budget.

At, Destinations Credit Union, the application process is smooth and quick, and, as a member, you don’t need flawless credit to qualify for a great rate. We also offer fantastic terms, with low interest rates. When you use a personal loan instead of racking up credit card debt, you are making a responsible choice that can positively impact your finances for years to come.

To help you accomplish this, we have outlined seven ways to responsibly use a personal loan this summer.

1. Getting married

According to Brides.com, the average wedding in 2018 cost more than $44,000. That’s a whole lot of money you may not have sitting around.

If you’re tying the knot this summer, consider taking out a personal loan to help cover your wedding costs. Use your loan to fund the larger expenses, such as your rings, wedding dress and venue, or to cover the smaller costs like the flowers, travel arrangements and photographer.

2. Moving to new home

Since the kids are out of school, summer is the most popular time of year for household moves. Whether you’re moving a few blocks or a few states away, moving costs can be prohibitive. You’ll need to consider the expense of moving supplies; paying the mover; plus the cost of new furniture and other household items to help turn your new residence into a home. Taking out a personal loan to help you cover these expenses can make a household move a lot less stressful.

3. Consolidating debt

Summer is all about freedom and what better way to feel free than getting rid of that nagging credit card and student loan debt?

Paying off multiple loans and credit card bills each month can make you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle thanks to skyrocketing interest rates. Wouldn’t life be simpler if you only had one debt with a nominal interest rate? A personal loan can make that happen.

A personal loan can be used to pay off all your credit card and other outstanding debt, and with a single loan to pay off with a manageable interest rate, you’ll be able to make steady progress toward living a debt-free life.

4. Taking a dream vacation

Perhaps the road trip you take every summer is getting stale and you’re ready for something bigger, like a luxury cruise or trip abroad. You might be celebrating a milestone anniversary or college graduation, or maybe you want to cross something off your bucket list; however, your budget is not equipped for the tens of thousands of dollars you need for your dream getaway.

A personal loan can help you fund the trip of your dreams with a payment plan you can afford so you won’t need a vacation from debt when you return.

5. Renovating your home

When the weather warms up, homeowners want to upgrade their homes. Whether it’s installing a swimming pool, giving your kitchen a complete makeover or turning your garage into a guest suite this summer, a personal loan can make it possible. Personal loans may be a better option for homeowners who don’t have a great deal of equity in their homes and consequently would not be a good candidate for a fixed Home Equity Loan, or a HELOC.

6. Funding medical expenses

If there are medical procedures you’ve been putting off because they’re not covered by your health insurance plan, a personal loan can help you look and feel great this summer. A personal loan can help borrowers fund elective cosmetic surgery, dental work, fertility treatments and consulting with alternative practitioners about chronic health conditions.

Apply Online, stop by Destinations Credit Union or give us a call at 410-663-2500 to ask how you can get started. We’re always here to help make your summer dreams come true.

Your Turn: What are your summer plans and how are you going to pay for them? Share it with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/what-can-a-personal-loan-be-used-for/

https://www.thebalance.com/reasons-to-get-a-personal-loan-4684106
https://www.bankrate.com/loans/personal-loans/top-reasons-to-apply-for-personal-loan/amp/