Shoppers always need to be alert and prepared to protect themselves against credit card fraud, particularly during the holiday shopping season. The good news is that there are some simple things you can do to make you less vulnerable. Here are a few tips on how to avoid becoming the victim of credit card fraud.
If you're expecting a refund from the IRS this year, resist the temptation to splurge on luxuries and instead invest that money in ways that will pay off in the long run. Here are five smart ideas to put that tax refund to good use:
Open an account for emergencies. Any financial advisor will tell you that an Emergency Fund is one of the most important steps in building financial security. Get peace of mind knowing you have cash for emergencies or unexpected situations by opening a special account with your tax refund. Advisors typically recommend to build a fund that covers three months of your salary.
Pay off those credit cards! If you have credit card debt, paying it off is a smart way to use your tax refund. If your refund doesn’t cover the entire outstanding balance, roll your remaining debt to a credit card with a lower interest rate or look for a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.
Invest in yourself. Your skill set is your greatest commodity in revenue generation, so use your refund for training, education, conferences and other programs to help build your talents and sharpen your strengths.
Get energy efficient. Use that extra cash to make your home energy efficient to save money over time on electrical, heating and water bills. For example, by adding fiberglass attic insulation, you’ll recoup 107% of the $1,343 average cost for installation. Plus, energy efficient homes help with a home’s resale value.
Invest in your community. Giving to charitable causes in your community that you care about not only helps those in need, but makes you feel good about yourself and helps improve your community. Think about using a portion of your refund to make a difference in someone’s life for the ultimate gift to yourself.
If you're married and have felt the stress of dealing with financial matters with your spouse, then you're pretty normal! Money is a leading cause of stress in marriages because money is often used to express love and security. So how can you deal with money matters while maintaining a strong relationship with your spouse?
GET IN SYNC: Create a budget TOGETHER so that you both can agree on and understand how your family dollars are being spent. Building a budget helps prioritize your life goals as a family. Perhaps education is something that you both value, or maybe it's world travel, or maybe it's a bigger house. By working through the budget process, spending and savings priorities for both spouses will be revealed and will create better understanding of the financial goals each of you are working towards.
SPEAK UP: Perhaps you have an outstanding loan or debt and to avoid conflict, you haven't quite mentioned it to your spouse. Being dishonest about your financial situation is a sure-fire way to lead to hurt feelings and suspicion in your relationship. Your financial situation affects your spouse so you owe it to them to share you situation no matter how uncomfortable it may be. On the flip side, if your spouse is overspending and being careless with finances, it may be time to have a talk to reel in their spending habits.
REMEMBER WHAT HAS TRUE VALUE: Don't let money be the driver of your relationship. Take time to be grateful for the things that bring you joy in your relationship - laughter, walks, talks, watching your children grow. Show your spouse that you love them by showering them with things that don't cost money like running an errand for them, cooking their favorite dinner, and just being kind. It's true, the best things in life are free!
The holidays are the time of giving and when many people choose to help those in need by making donations to favorite charities. Did you know that these contributions can actually reap benefits for you?
You’ve probably heard the phrase “write off” or “deductible expense” but many people don’t fully understand what that means. Simply put, the purpose of tax deductions is to decrease your taxable income, thus decreasing the amount of tax you owe to the federal government.
Any charitable contribution is tax deductible up to 50 percent of your income. And you can get tax savings with non-cash donations as well. Eligible deductions include the purchase of a new coat for a coat drive or food for a food drive, or making a donation to Goodwill, Salvation Army or other charities that accept gently used items. Follow these tips to make the most of your charitable deductions:
Source: Forbes.com and CNBC.com
Back to school clothes, computers, and other expenses can add up in a hurry. Results from a study conducted by the Rubicon Project’s Back-To-School Consumer Pulse Survey found that parents will spend an average of $917 per child gearing up for school this year. Use the following planning and budgeting tips to help stretch those back to school dollars:
Start with a list of needs. Make a list for each child that includes what they need, not want, for school, and add up those expenses to compare to your budget. Remember to include school fees, lunches, Comb through closets, drawers and last year’s backpack to inventory what you already have to avoid duplicate purchases. You may be surprised at the amount of school supplies left over from last year.
Get the kids involved in budgeting. Don’t shy away from including your children in your back to school budget process. Show them what the budget is versus what the expenses are so that they understand spending limitations. As an incentive, you may want to offer to split the savings with them if you come under budget.
Go coupon clipping online. Consolidation websites post downloadable coupons and sale codes for online retailers, including: CouponCabin.com, CouponCode.com, CouponCraze.com, Dailyedeals.com, DealCoupon.com, DealHunting.com, Dealnews.com and MyBargainBuddy.com.
Buy only the clothes you need for now. Kids grow and fashion changes quickly, so purchasing a lot of clothes at once may not be your best strategy. Spread out your clothing budget throughout the year and take advantage of sales that pop up each season.
Pool resources. Talk with other parents about buying supplies in bulk together and splitting costs, setting up carpools, and swapping gently used clothing, uniforms and unused supplies.
Rent versus buy. For musical instruments and sports equipment, renting is a much more affordable option than buying. As your child’s interest change, they may decide they don’t want to play trombone or lacrosse.
If you’re faced with a layoff, here are some things you can do to prepare:
Most people aspire to become financially independent, but few actually think about or take the actions necessary to reach independence.
Financial independence means having sufficient financial resources to comfortably choose whether to work or not work, or perhaps work in a highly desirable job that otherwise couldn’t support your standard of living. It means being able to withstand the inevitable financial storms along the way. But what key steps does it take to achieve financial independence?
Our BALANCE Financial Guide is dedicated to helping you balance life’s important decisions.