Holiday Shopping on a Budget

Tips to limit what you spend on gifts this season

Woman holiday shopping online using a laptop and a credit cardThe holidays should be time for celebration and generosity, not for accumulating credit card debt and draining your savings. By sticking to a budget and following these simple strategies, you can bestow meaningful gifts while staying within your financial means.

Create a budget
Donna Montaldo, contributor to TheBalance.com, advises that you make a spending budget before the holiday season hits. Make this an informed amount, based on what you can truly afford to pay.

Make a list
Maya Kachroo-Levine, contributor to Forbes.com, suggests making a list of everyone you want to buy presents for along with a certain amount you should spend on each person. This will help you stay within your allotted budget.

Avoid using credit cards
Montaldo recommends leaving your credit cards at home to avoid racking up debt while shopping. Mellody Hobson, writer for ABC News, recommends using your debit card instead. This way, you won’t be tempted to spend beyond your means and you won’t have to pay interest on your purchases.

Start saving early
Kachroo-Levine advises starting a holiday spending fund as early as possible so that when the holidays approach, you will already have a surplus to tap into. Consider setting aside $30 a week starting two to three months before the holidays.

Compare prices
Hobson suggests that you research prices before purchasing any gift. If you’re shopping in person, use your phone to check online to see if there’s a discounted price if you order an item online. You can also check prices of that item at similar stores.

Re-gifting
Another affordable option to stay within your budget this holiday is to re-gift an item that you received but don’t use or need, explains Montaldo. Make sure the gift is new and wrap it in an attractive package to give it a fresh look.

Go homemade
Browse ideas on Pinterest and others websites for simple gifts that you can make yourself. Montaldo suggests visiting the dollar store to purchase candy or nuts that you can package in mason jars and wrap with festive bows. Handmade items such as cookies or homemade bath salts are two additional ideas great for teachers and coworkers.

Rethink gifts for your partner
It can be easy to overspend on the people closest to you, particularly your spouse or significant other. Kachroo-Levine recommends setting money aside earlier in the year to purchase a high-cost experience or household item that you both have been wanting. Another great idea is to give your partner the gift of quality time this year, to avoid focusing on material possessions as gifts.

Amp up your gift’s appearance
Montaldo advises enhancing the visual appearance of your present by investing in quality gift wrap, ribbons, bows and accessories. You can also add a personal touch by making your own gift wrap, following do-it-yourself instructions on sites like Pinterest and Instructables.

Say “no” to holiday guilt
A thoughtful gift doesn’t necessarily mean an expensive one. Also, you don’t have to buy an item for every coworker and acquaintance you know, explains Kachroo-Levine.

Stay within your budget by applying these practical suggestions for giving affordable holiday gifts this season.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

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Security Warning Signs When Shopping Online

Remove the stress from shopping online by following these key shopping safety tips

Young woman shopping on a laptop while holding a credit card It’s an undeniable fact that many people shop online, either for personal shopping or gift giving. Companies like Amazon and Etsy have built modern empires out of their online operations. With each passing year, more and more brick and mortar stores close their doors. With all of these shopping venues shutting down, the variety of online shopping sites has only grown more diverse.

But for every trusted online retailer out there, there is a different website that is certainly not as safe or secure. Online security is always something to be concerned about, and this is even truer when money is involved. Keep an eye out for these warning signs and how to respond to them in an appropriate way.

Warning signs to check for
With the growing number of online shopping websites, there are guaranteed to be some bad eggs in the bunch. Shoppers might find themselves deceived and robbed if they aren’t careful. Even though the venue is online, most reputable online websites have both a physical address and a phone number according to Norton Security’s Mary O. Foley. If a site lacks either of these, then it might be one to avoid.

Pop-up ads are another red flag for shoppers. Not only are they annoying, they might also indicate that a particular site is not the best in terms of online security. Another sign of a scam would be extremely low prices. If the prices on a certain website seem too good to be true, the BBC’s website warns that they probably are. The easiest way to make sure that a website is safe, however, is to use the internet itself. A simple web search might yield the answer as to whether or not a shopping venue is legitimate.

Ways to pay safely
Even with these warning signs in mind, it can still be easy for online shoppers to fall prey to a trap on the internet. As important as preparation leading up to a purchase is, how someone actually goes about shopping and paying online is just as critical, if not more so. It might be tempting to purchase a product while out and about, relying upon a Wi-Fi hotspot for an internet connection. However, Elizabeth Weise of USA Today warns that hackers often monitor public connections, meaning that waiting to shop until you get home is the safer bet.

As is the case for all online activities, you will want to make sure that your passwords are rigorous without being complicated. That way hackers won’t be able to guess your password, but you won’t forget what it is, either. Similar to certain transactions offline, using a credit card is more advisable than using a debit card when it comes to shopping online. Paying with a debit card can lead hackers straight to a banking account, putting your money at greater risk.

After a purchase is made, it is vital to still practice your due diligence when it comes to protecting your cash. Eric Griffith of PC Magazine states that shoppers should not wait until their monthly bank statement arrives to check and see if something is amiss. Instead, they should check their banking accounts online on a consistent basis.

Shopping online can be a very enjoyable activity. With these tips in mind, you can remove a lot of stress from the entire online experience.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Furniture Restoration for Beginners

woman sanding an old wooden tabletopGive new life to hand-me-down treasures and thrift-store finds
Breathing new life into hand-me-down furniture, thrift store finds and flea market treasures is a creative way to save money and decorate your home with one-of-a kind, customized pieces. Whether using a new paint color to spruce up a table, new upholstery fabric to brighten up tattered chairs or a new stain to restore a youthful glow to a dresser, you can cultivate a stylish and signature look for every room in your house by letting your inner interior designer run wild.

Simple fix
Typically, second-hand furniture and thrift-store steals have seen better days in both style and condition, but if that couch or chair retains a solid foundation, making them look new again can be an easy fix. According to the experts at BHG.com, a slipcover can hide past damage and create a whole new look for an outdated piece; they suggest choosing one in a neutral pattern or color and using accessories for a punch of color and interest.

Style reinvented
Give new life to an old piece by giving it a totally new identity. CountryLiving.com writer Sienna Fantozzi highlights an antique ladder repurposed as a cute storage solution for pretty quilts and extra blankets, a table constructed from old shutters and an old metal washtub flipped upside down for a rustic addition to your décor.

A dining room table by any other name is a coffee table, says BHG.com, which suggests cutting down a dining room table to coffee table height, painting it a new color and adorning it with a fabric remnant for a distinct look.

Entertainment cabinets have fallen out of fashion as television sets have become sleeker with wall-mounting potential. BHG.com suggests turning these once-useful consoles into sturdy shelves, accessorized with decorative bins, perfect for a dorm room.

Picture perfect
Art is a captivating way to add warmth, style and texture to your walls. But sometimes you might love the frame more than the picture it surrounds. The experts at BHG.com suggest replacing an ugly picture in a beautiful frame with an eye-catching wallpaper remnant. The wallpaper can complement the look of your room, add color to a neutral room or dress your wall with an attractive pattern. Or, perhaps you’d like to incorporate your artistic ability into a new frame—paint, draw or reframe a photograph that has special meaning to you.

New hue
Sometimes fresh and clean is the best way to energize or downplay the look of old furniture and fixtures. BHG.com suggests recovering lamp bases and nightstand tables in white. With so many shades, you’ll have no problem picking the right one for your room.

If you are ready to try your hand at stripping, staining and refinishing a wood piece, HowStuffWorks.com writers Emilie Sennebogen and Jill Jaracz recommend putting safety first. Since chemicals in wood varnish and strippers are highly toxic, it’s essential that you protect your skin with proper clothing, your eyes with safety glasses and your lungs with a mask while you work in a well-ventilated area. Clean the piece well, repair areas of damage, follow the directions on any chemicals you use to strip the existing paint or finish, sand what’s necessary and take time figuring out what stain is right for your work of art, advise Sennebogen and Jaracz.

If you are a bargain hunter, a fan of DIY or just want to create something special for your home, a little time and effort can transform neglected hand-me-downs and overlooked treasures into wonderful, stylish additions to your home.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Vehicles That Offer the Best Retained Value

Blue Jeep Wrangler on scenic overlook with lake in backgroundThe following vehicles manage to best combat the effects of depreciation
One of the major drawbacks of purchasing a new vehicle is the steep depreciation that takes effect right after the purchase is completed. Once a vehicle is driven off the lot, its value usually begins to plummet significantly. Still, there are outliers in the automotive industry that retain quite a bit of their initial value. If drivers look to sell their vehicles down the line, these outliers will generate the best return on investment.

Spanning across several different segments and brands, here are just a handful of vehicles that offer the best retained value, according to experts at Kelley Blue Book.

Compact Car: 2017 Subaru Impreza
Subaru vehicles are some of the only in the industry to offer all-wheel drive standard, making them an increasingly popular choice, especially in areas with harsh winters. Because of this, many drivers hold on to their Subaru vehicles for far longer than usual, thus increasing their residual value. In the first three years, the 2017 Subaru Impreza manages to maintain 54.9% of its initial value. At five years, that amount only decreases to 36.1%, making it a standout in the sedan segment.

Compact SUV/Crossover: 2017 Jeep Wrangler
There really isn’t any other vehicle in the automotive world quite like the legendary Jeep Wrangler. Due to both its unique design and its cult following among automotive enthusiasts, the Jeep Wrangler has been able to maintain a high retained value for years. The latest iteration of the Jeep Wrangler manages to keep 60.6% of its initial value after three years have passed. Even after five years, the Wrangler manages to retain nearly half of its initial value at 47.4%.

Sports Car: 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman
Porsche is regarded as one of the world’s most recognizable and refined brands. Motorists who purchase vehicles from Porsche, like the 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman, don’t tend to turn around and sell those vehicles soon after, greatly increasing their resale value. In the first 36 months, the 718 Cayman’s value only decreases to 54.5% of its initial worth. At 60 months, the value is estimated at 39.5%.

Hybrid Car: 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid
Vehicles that utilize alternative energy and hybrid technology are quickly gaining popularity. Since such vehicles are still a minority in the industry, their rarity only makes their value grow. The basic version of the 2017 Honda Accord already retains a sizable amount of its initial value over time. Still, when the Accord is upgraded to its hybrid variant, the resale value in the first three years stays set at 42.7%.

Pickup Truck: 2017 Toyota Tacoma
Out of any segment in the automotive industry, pickup trucks managed to possess the highest retained value. The leader in this segment is the 2017 Toyota Tacoma. The Tacoma manages to achieve the highest-rated resale value of any truck, with 71.8% of its initial value retained after three years and 58.4% of its value retained after five years. According to Kelley Blue Book, those ratings make it the vehicle with the best retained value across all segments and brands of the automotive industry.

Originating from iconic brands and offering distinct collections of attributes, these vehicles manage to maintain a value that other automobiles tend to quickly lose.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

5 Best Money-Sending Apps

picture of person sending funds electronicallySend money easily with these convenient phone apps
In the modern economy, most financial transactions are entirely digital, which makes sharing money between individuals something of a dilemma. Luckily, there are a number of convenient phone apps available that facilitate this process with no physical cash required.

Facebook Messenger
One of the most prolific mediums of communication available is social media. Digital Trends and Quicken point out that Facebook Messenger allows its users to send money by simply asking users to link a debit card. To complete a transaction, the money sender just needs to tap the dollar sign and enter the amount being sent, which turns into a hyperlink that the receiver can click. Payments can take up to five days to process, but the app makes up for that time with its convenience compared to other methods like finding an ATM.

Google Wallet
Recommended by both Digital Trends and Quicken, Google Wallet acts, as the name implies, as a virtual wallet. Money can be sent and received within the United States via an email or a phone number. Once the money is in the Google Wallet account, it can then be used at retail stores that accept tap-to-pay or debit Mastercards.

PayPal
As one of the oldest names in the digital financial industry, PayPal offers the ability to transfer funds to other users. PayPal is one of the few apps to allow transfer of funds to people outside of the United States. While PayPal tends to take between five and 10 days to process, it also offers the ability to pay for purchases at a variety of establishments.

Square Cash
Gizmodo recommends Square Cash as one of the easiest-to-use money-transfer apps available. Square Cash doesn’t require the recipient have an account; instead, users just need an email address. It is free to use for most individuals, though businesses and those using a credit card must pay a fee. Standard deposits typically appear the next day; same-day deposits are available with Square Cash, but require a small fee.

Venmo
Venmo is recommended unanimously by Quicken, Digital Trends and Gizmodo, with Digital Trends even calling it the best money-sending app on the market. This app is intended for easy money transfers to and from friends and family, and although it requires that both parties have the app, debit transactions are free. Venmo is structured like a social media network for payments (including the ability to like and comment on specific payments) and is becoming well-known enough to have created the phrase, “Venmo me.”

Using these apps, sending money digitally has become easier and more accessible than ever before.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

How to Remove Coffee Stains from Your Life

person spilled coffe on shirt and work on deskTips and tricks for removing coffee stains from problem surfaces
Inevitable—coffee stains everything. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get those stains out. Depending on what material the coffee has been spilled on, there are a variety of tools you can use to remove the stains. Here are a few commonly coffee-stained items and the best ways to get those stains out.

Carpet
You make your morning coffee and walk into the living room to watch the news; on your way there, the dog jumps out in front of you and trips you. The mug goes flying, spilling black coffee all over the brand new carpet. Quick—grab a beer out of the fridge and pour a small amount over the stain, according to Reader’s Digest. Let it sit for a minute, then use an old towel to soak it up. The coffee, and the stain, should come right with it. You can repeat this process if necessary.

Dishes
If your beautiful wedding china has been stained by your grandpa’s insistence on drinking his five cups of coffee black, reach for some baking soda. Reader’s Digest suggests dipping a damp cloth in some baking soda and rubbing it directly on the dishes. The baking soda and water should combine into a thick paste for you to use as a kind of soap. Then simply rinse the dishes and put them away.

Car seats
According to Compare.com, the most important step in cleaning coffee stains out of your car is to act fast. The stain will become far more difficult to clean if it sets into the material. Use a towel, blanket or any other material that will absorb and blot until you’ve managed to soak up the liquid. Next, create a mixture: one-third vinegar, two-thirds water and a small amount of dishwashing liquid. Gently rub the mixture into the stain with a towel. Rinse the stain with plain water and blot up the rest of the liquid. To dry the area, Compare.com recommends using a blow dryer on a low setting.

Clothing
Did you spill coffee down the front of your dress shirt on the way to work? The Huffington Post recommends using paper towels to soak up the stain. It’s important that you blot the shirt, not rub. Rubbing the stain will just make it worse. Once you’ve soaked up as much of the liquid as possible, use a stain removal pen on the spot. If you’re at home, let some stain remover soak on the shirt before throwing it in the washing machine for its designed cycle.

Furniture upholstery
The dreaded stain: upholstery. You can’t just throw the beautifully upholstered chair in the washing machine, so what do you do? Stain Removal 101 recommends a combination of cold water and dishwashing liquid. After blotting the stain, mix two cups of cold water and one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid and apply it to a sponge. Use the sponge to blot the stain until it disappears. If necessary, you can repeat this process several times. Once the stain has been lifted, blot with plain water to remove any soap residue; then blot with a new towel until the spot is dry.

There is no reason you should have to give up your morning coffee to avoid coffee stains. You can kick those stains to the curb without a second thought, no matter what material it made its way onto.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Tips for Saving for Your New Car

Hands holdinga jar of moneyIdeas for affording that hot ride you have always wanted
It’s a common situation: your current car is on its last leg and you have your heart set on a new model that will last longer, look better and have more features. Unfortunately, your bank account isn’t on your side and is limiting your options. Instead of disregarding your financial limitations, find ways to overcome them by saving money and shopping wisely so you can eventually afford that dream vehicle.

Determining your financial goal
Before you establish a plan of action, it is vital to fully evaluate your current financial situation and what your goal is; a clear understanding will help you effectively plan how to reach your goal.

Once you identify which vehicle you want, you can estimate how much a down payment would cost. Ronald Montoya of Edmunds suggests that 20% of the total cost of the vehicle should be your down payment (resulting in a lower monthly cost), but that if you cannot comfortably afford that amount, a 10% down payment with GAP insurance mitigates risk while keeping money in your pocket.

Jamie Page Deaton of U.S. News & World Report emphasizes the importance of considering the ongoing price of monthly vehicle costs, such as repayments, insurance and maintenance. Depending on your cost of living and pre-existing debt, these expenses should not exceed 15-36% of your monthly take-home pay. Ensure you have a secure income to afford these monthly costs after you drive the car off the dealership lot.

Saving money on daily expenses
Now that you’ve established a target amount of money to save for both the down payment and monthly fees, you can analyze your current spending habits and find ways to trim your daily expenditures and divert the difference into a savings fund.

Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar outlines dozens of methods for cutting expenses. For instance, consider using public transportation or carpooling to work. Cancel your unnecessary memberships, subscriptions or paid services. Buy bulk, generic, non-perishable items from the grocery store and make your own meals instead of eating out. Other ideas include shopping at thrift stores, selling unused items, consolidating your loans, lowering home thermostats, unplugging electronics and pausing your travel plans.

Getting the best deal on the car
Saving money isn’t just about having enough cash in your bank account; it’s equally imperative to ensure you’re getting a deal on the vehicle you are purchasing. There are methods for knocking some numbers off the sticker price to ensure you are paying the lowest possible amount rather than simply handing over your hard-earned money at the first price presented.

Kerry Hannon of Forbes offers nearly a dozen ways women can save on a new car; all of the methods can be used by men, too. Time your purchase so that you can take advantage of a seasonal sale, a reduced price on last year’s model or a rebate program. Do your research and have a clear idea of what the car’s value is and what competing dealerships in the neighborhood are offering for the same model. Don’t be afraid to negotiate; hold firm on the target price and don’t get drawn into add-ons or upgrades.

Another way to get a better deal on your car is by improving your credit score and thus receiving a better deal on financing. Investigate all your financing options and find the best loan offer that is best for you, whether that’s through your bank, a local credit union or the dealership.

With a solid plan and frugal spending habits, you will eventually be able to afford that new car without putting your finances at risk.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.