Tax Code Changes 2019

TAXES 2019

The annual tax code changes can be confusing. No worries, though; we’ll walk you through everything you need to know for 2019.  

Though most changes won’t take effect until April 2019, some of them can impact the financial choices you’ll make this year. For that reason, here’s the details on the most important tax changes. 

1.)   Changes to the amounts taxed for each income bracket 

The 7 tax income brackets remain unchanged, but the amounts each bracket is taxed have gotten an overhaul. Here are the new rates for taxpayers filing as individuals. 

Taxable Income Bracket                Tax Due 

10%        $0-$9,700                         10% of taxable income

12%        $9,701 -$39,475               $970 +12% of income $9,700+

22%         $39,476 – $84,200          $4,543+22% of income $39,475+

24%         $84,201 – $160,725        $14,382.50+24% of income $84,200+             

32%         $160,726- $204,100        $32,748.50+32% of income $160,725+

35%         $204,101 – $510,300       $46,628.50+35% of income $204,100+

37%          $510,301+                       $153,798.50+37% of income $510,300+              

You can check out the taxable income rates for couples filing jointly and for individuals filing as heads of households here. 

2.)   Changes in standard deduction amounts

The standard deduction in 2019 will be $12,200 for individuals, $18,350 for heads of household, or $24,400 for married couples filing jointly and surviving spouses. 

3.)   Elimination of personal exemptions 

The personal exemption amount is being eliminated for the 2019 tax year.  

4.)   Changes to itemized deductions 

Some of the itemized deduction changes for 2019 include: 

  • Medical and dental expenses.  For 2019, you can only deduct those expenses exceeding 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
  • State and local taxes (SALT). The new maximum for SALT deductions is a combined total of $10,000 for taxpayers filing jointly.
  • Home mortgage interest. In 2019, home interest payments will be maxed at $750,000 for married couples filing jointly.
  • Job expenses and miscellaneous. In 2019, you can only claim work-related deductions that are less than 2%of your AGI.

5.)   Changes to tax credits 

There have been several adjustments to various tax credits for 2019, including the following: 

  • Child Tax Credit. The child tax credit has increased to $2,000 per child.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The maximum EITC amount for 2019 is $6,557 for married taxpayers filing jointly who have three or more children.
  • Adoption Credit. The maximum adoption credit in 2019 for a child with special needs is $14,080. The ceiling for other adoptions is $13,810.
  • Lifetime Learning Credit. For 2019, the AGI used by joint filers to determine the reduction in the Lifetime Learning Credit is increasing to $116,000.

6.)   Retirement account contributions 

For 2019, you can contribute a total of $6,000 to one or more traditional or Roth IRA(s) if you’re under age 50, and $7,000 if you’re age 50+. For 401(k)s, you can contribute $19,000, and $25,000 if you’re age 50+. 

Your Turn: Which tax credit or deduction helps your finances most? Tell us all about it in the comments.

FREE Tax Prep Resources

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2018/11/15/irs-announces-2019-tax-rates-standard-deduction-amounts-and-more/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.marketwatch.com/amp/story/guid/18A0A5AE-E9DD-11E8-8F27-5C6847258365

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.fool.com/amp/retirement/2018/12/23/the-6-best-tax-deductions-for-2019.aspx

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.usatoday.com/amp/2207406002

BEWARE! Tax Scams 2019

TAXES 2019

Each year, the IRS publishes the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of 12 scams that are rampant during that year’s tax season. 

This year, the IRS is cautioning taxpayers to be extra vigilant because of a 60% increase in email phishing scams over the past year. This is particularly disheartening, since it comes on the heels of a steady decline in phishing scams over the previous three years. 

Typically, an email phishing scam will appear to be from the IRS. Once the victim has opened the email, the scammer will use one of several methods to get at the victim’s personal information, including their financial data, tax details, usernames and passwords. They will then use this information to steal the victim’s identity, empty their accounts or file taxes in the victim’s name and then make off with their refund. 

Scammers have several means for fooling victims into handing over their sensitive information. The most popular tax-related phishing scams include the following: 

1.    Tax transcript scams. In these scams, victims are conned into opening emails appearing to be from the IRS with important information about their taxes. Unfortunately, these emails are bogus and contain malware. 

2.    Threatening emails. Also appearing to be from the IRS, these phony emails will have subject lines like “IRS Important Notice” and will demand immediate payment for unpaid back taxes. When the victim clicks on the embedded link, their device will be infected with malware. 

3.    Refund rebound. In this scam, a crook posing as an IRS agent will email a taxpayer and claim the taxpayer was erroneously awarded too large a tax refund. The scammer will demand the immediate return of some of the money via prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Of course, there was no mistake with the victim’s tax refund and any money the victim forwards will be used to line the scammer’s pockets. 

4.    Phony phone call. In this highly prevalent scam, a caller spoofs the IRS’s toll-free number and calls a victim, claiming they owe thousands of dollars in back taxes. Those taxes, they are told, must be paid immediately under threat of arrest, deportation or driver’s-license suspension. Obviously, this too is a fraud and the victim is completely innocent. 

If you’re targeted 

When targeted by any scam, it’s crucial to not engage with the scammer. If your Caller ID announces that the IRS is on the phone, don’t pick up! Even answering the call to tell the scammer to get lost can be enough to mark you as an easy target for future scams. If you accidentally picked up the phone, hang up as quickly as possible. 

Similarly, suspicious-looking emails about tax information should not be opened. Mark any bogus tax-related emails that land in your inbox as spam to keep the scammers from trying again. 

If you’re targeted by a tax scam, report the incident to help the authorities crack down on these crooks. Forward suspicious tax-related emails to phishing@irs.gov. You can also alert the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov. 

Protect yourself from tax scams 

Stay one step ahead of scammers this tax season by being proactive. Protect yourself with these steps: 

  • File early in the season so scammers have less time to steal your identity, file on your behalf and collect your refund.
  • Use the strongest security settings for your computer and update them whenever possible.
  • Use unique and strong passwords for your accounts and credit or debit cards.
  • Choose two-step authentication when conducting financial transactions online.

Remember, the IRS will never: 

  • Call about taxes owed without having first sent you a bill via snail mail.
  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone.
  • Threaten to have you arrested or deported for failing to pay your taxes.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes.
  • Ask you to share sensitive information, like a debit card number or checking account number, over the phone.

Be alert and be careful this tax season and those scammers won’t stand a chance! 

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

 

SOURCES:

https://clark.com/personal-finance-credit/taxes/beware-of-these-common-irs-scams/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2018/12/04/irs-warns-on-surge-of-new-email-phishing-scams/amp/

https://www.businessinsider.com/irs-phone-scam-what-to-do-if-you-get-scam-call-2018-2

Impulse Purchases

impulse purchase cartoon

Aisha was walking home from school with her best friend, Katie. They chatted about the upcoming Science Fair and the new Phys. Ed. teacher as they shivered in the cold.  

They passed The Coffee House and watched as a bunch of their classmates walked out holding steaming cups of hot chocolate. 

“Hey Aisha. Hi Katie!” their classmates called. 

Aisha and Katie waved back. Aisha grabbed Katie’s arm. 

“Let’s stop here for a minute—they make the best hot chocolate and it’s freezing outside!” 

Katie shrugged. “I don’t want any.” 

“Oh, come on, Katie, you can get a cup with mini marshmallows and a drizzle of caramel—it’s awesome!” 

Katie shook her head. “I really don’t want any, but I’ll come in with you if you do.” 

Aisha pushed open the door, and a few minutes later, she was holding her own cup of chocolaty deliciousness. 

“I don’t know why you never spend your money,” Aisha told her friend before taking a long sip. “That’s what it’s there for, you know.” 

Katie just smiled and they walked the rest of the way home in silence. 

That evening, Aisha was looking through her wallet. 

“Mom!” she called. “My allowance is gone again—and it’s only Tuesday!” 

“You need to be more responsible, honey,” Aisha’s mom said. “Those seven dollars should be enough to last you all week! Are you ready to go?” 

Aisha snapped her wallet shut and ran to grab her coat. She was going with her mom to pick up a some groceries at Target. 

As they passed the front of the store, Aisha turned toward her mom. 

“Mom—look! They have your favorite coffee store right here inside of Target. Why don’t you pick up a latte or a cappuccino to drink while we shop?” 

Aisha’s mom turned toward her. 

“Because that’s not on my list,” she said, pointing at the paper in her hand. “It’s just an impulse purchase, and if I make too many of those, I won’t have enough money to buy the things we need.” 

“What do you mean?” Aisha asked as mom grabbed a cart and started wheeling it toward the grocery section. 

“There are some things I need to buy, and all sorts of things I want to buy just because they look good—like those,” Mom pointed toward a rack of candy bars near a register. “Impulse purchases taste good now, but I don’t really need them. And they cost a lot, too.” 

Mom patted her wallet. “I’d rather save my money for the stuff I really do need and keep those impulse purchases for special occasions that only happen once in a while. Doesn’t that make more sense?” 

Aisha nodded. It did make sense. And she was finally starting to understand why her allowance never lasted long enough. 

Tomorrow, she was going to be like Katie and skip the stop at The Coffee House on the way home from school. 

She also wanted to save her money for the things she really needed. 

Talking points: 

  • Can you give three examples of impulse purchases?
  • How can you keep yourself from making impulse purchases when you shop?
  • What are some impulse purchases that might be worth buying?

Impulse Purchases Worksheet

Impulse Purchases worksheet

Ultimate Guide to Saving Money at the Grocery Store

Food is one of the biggest expenses after housing, so finding ways to save money at the grocery store can mean the difference between saving and living paycheck-to-paycheck. Here are some of our favorite strategies for saving money at the grocery store.

 

Find the Best Coupons

It used to be that you could only get coupons through your newspaper or mail, and you had to hope that there would be a coupon for something you actually wanted. Thankfully, we don’t live in that world anymore. If you need it, odds are good there is a coupon somewhere online for it. Here are some of our favorite websites to find coupons.

One note about looking for coupons. You might find one and think “What a great deal!” but remember, it’s not a great deal if you didn’t need it in the first place.

 

Shop Items by Unit Price

Looking at item prices isn’t a trick, we all comparison shop, but manufacturers know this and will make packaging that deceives the eye. Heck, we’ve all opened a bag of chips to realize we purchased packaged air.

save money by shopping by unit price at the grocery store

To find the best deals, look at the unit pricing for items. Typically this will be below the price and will show cost-per-ounce. The best deal might be purchasing an item in bulk, so make sure that you know how to properly freeze produce or other goods to make them last.

 

Get Grocery Store Loyalty Cards

Almost every grocery store will offer a loyalty card. These cards will grant you discounts or savings on certain items in order to reward you for being loyal to their brand. The thing is, you aren’t limited to only having one loyalty card. If it is a store that you shop at, get the loyalty card. Keep them all in a drawer somewhere so as to not clutter your wallet and just grab the ones you need before you hit the store.

 

Search for Grocery Store Specials

Grocery stores need to move inventory. If something goes bad or can’t be sold, that hurts their bottom line. In order to help keep merchandise moving, they will run specials. When you are doing we weekly meal planning, check out what specials the store is running and build your menu around them. If you feel like you really can’t use the special this week, ask the cashier for a rain check. This will usually only work when they are out of a given item, but it is always worth a try. You can compound these efforts by finding manufacturer coupons for the item and stack the savings.

 

Don’t Buy Everything at One Grocery Store

Imagine this week you feel like experimenting. You want to make an authentic Indian curry. You might be able to find the ingredient and spices you need at your usual store, but the prices are likely to be pretty high. These items aren’t as popular, so they occupy shelf space for longer and thus need to be sold for more. You’re better off trying to find a specialty store.

 

Avoid These Grocery Store Tricks

save money at the grocery store by looking at the bottom shelf

  • Grocery stores have refined store layouts in order to make it easier to buy the most expensive items and items you don’t need. For example, the most expensive items will always be at eye level, making them the first thing you see. Look at the bottom shelves for the better prices. Stores also put common essential items, like milk and produce, on opposite ends of the store so that you will wander down the aisles. Focus on going directly to what you came for.
  • Going hungry or indulging in samples is a surefire way to end up purchasing things you don’t need. Always eat before you shop, or, if you can’t grab a meal, then carry around a pack of mints. Sucking on a mint while you shop will help kill some of those cravings.
  • Carry the basket. Carts have two tricks that will help you shop. First, they are huge, giving you plenty of room to chuck random items in. Secondly, they are on wheels, so you don’t have the weight to remind you that you’re getting a lot of items. Using a basket will limit both of those and help you to stay focused on your shopping list.
  • Bring your own music. This one sounds like a conspiracy theory, but grocery stores play music with slower tempos to encourage you to stroll leisurely around. Listening to music with a faster tempo will help you speed through.
  • Never shop when you are tired or stressed. We have a limited amount of willpower and we are more prone to caving into temptations when we are tired, stressed, sad, or angry. Spending money you don’t have will only make those emotions worse.
  • Leave the kids at home if you can. Stores position tempting items at child height specifically to trigger the “Mommy, can we get this?” Aside from this being a horrible experience for everyone involved, it also causes you to run the risk of saying “Yes” to something you didn’t plan on.
  • Know thyself. If you’re an impulse shopper, then don’t go to the store. Seriously. If you have a roommate or partner who can go, then send them. Or, if you must, make a shopping list and order the groceries online and arrange for pickup. Searching for the items online will minimize the opportunities to add things you don’t need.
  • Double check the cashier. I’m not suggesting that they are trying to con you on purpose, only that they are humans that sometimes make mistakes. Always look at your receipt and make sure it reflects what you purchased.

 

Buy Produce That Is In Season

When do you think we have more apples, when they are in season or when they are offseason? Easy, right? Obviously, there is a bigger supply of certain products when they are in season. Economics 101 lets us know that when there is an excess supply, prices drop, and when there is a limited supply, prices increase. Buying produce that is in season also guarantees better quality and freshness. It’s an all-around better way to shop and eat.

 

Use Cash Back Apps

There are several cashback apps that will give you money back just for shopping. Wild, right? These apps make their money by earning a small affiliate commission off of the items you buy, showing you ads, or providing your data (like purchasing habits) to companies. Assuming you’re okay with that, then these apps can be a great way to save money at the grocery store.

 

Never Buy These Items At A Grocery Store

There are some items you should just never buy at a grocery store.

  • Toiletries. Drug stores will usually have better deals.
  • Canned beans. Dried beans are cheaper and better tasting. Just soak them in water the night before you want to cook with them.
  • Prepared foods or pre-cut anything. Yes, these things are convenient, but you are paying extra to save yourself how much time?
  • Herbs. Nothing goes bad more quickly than fresh herbs. Make yourself a garden, it’s incredibly easy, your food will taste better, and it will save you money.
  • Milk. Convenience and drug stores, on average, are 30 to 50 cents cheaper.

 

Meal Plan Like A Chef

Chefs have to be master meal planners. If an ingredient doesn’t get used or goes bad, then that is some of their profits wasted. Here are some tips to meal plan like a pro.

    1. Go meatless one night a week. Vegetarians save, on average, $746.46 a year on their grocery bill.
    2. Cook double batches. Buying ingredients in bulk is typically cheaper and then you can freeze a meal for later.
    3. Plan meals with similar ingredients. A couple pounds of turkey can be made into burgers, meatballs, tacos, spaghetti… you get the idea.
    4. Double check your pantry. Sometimes we buy things we already have but have forgotten about. Americans throw away roughly 25% of their groceries every year. That is literally throwing money away.
    5. Look for the deal, then make the meal. Not the other way around.

 

Revise Your Strategies

Now that you have some of the basics down, it is time to tweak these strategies to fit your lifestyle. At the end of the month, look through your grocery store receipts and do the following:

      1. Find the most expensive item on your grocery list and research for a cheaper substitute. This might be another brand, another store, or another ingredient altogether. For example, instead of using pine nuts in pesto, try using almonds.
      2. Look at the items you most commonly buy. For me, that is coffee, bread, and peanut butter. Compare prices at different grocery stores to see who offers the lowest price on your most common items. Saving here will really add up.
      3. Write down the cost of ingredients at the top of the recipes. Add them to a binder of recipes and organize by cheap, moderate, and expensive. Now when you need to find a cheap meal, you will know exactly where to look. Or, if you want to impress, you can go to your fancier recipes.

Do you have a favorite trick to saving money at the grocery store? We’d love to hear it. Leave us a comment or feel free to tweet to us @Kasasa. Happy shopping!

Featured

New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

Please enjoy this FREE E-Book from Mutual Credit Union as a gift to Kick Start your Successful Financial New Year in 2019! This workbook is designed to help you set goals, track them throughout 2019 and make your financial dreams a reality!

Click New Years Resolutions_eBook-interactive for the Downloadable Version. Enjoy!

New Years Resolution Workbook

 

WE Can’t Wait To SAY……………………………..

 

Congratulations on a Job Well Done

5 SCAMS TO WATCH FOR AFTER THE HOLIDAYS

The mad holiday rush may be over, but scammers aren’t slowing down. The post-holiday weeks bring an increase in scams that, unfortunately, are quite believable during this time of year. HOLIDAY SCAM ALERT

Don’t be the victim of a post-holiday scam! Read on to learn about five common ways fraudsters seek to dupe consumers after the holidays: 

1.) Gift-picking 

With the holidays behind us, many people are enjoying new, and often expensive, gifts. These can be top-of-the-line electronic devices, luxury entertainment systems or phones with four-digit price tags. If you’re the lucky recipient of such an expensive gift, you may be targeted by old-fashioned thieves who are looking for a good picking. 

Protect yourself by keeping your gift under wraps. Dismantle all packaging that contained your gift. Discard them in a covered trash or recycling bin instead of leaving them at the curb where potential thieves can spot them and peg you as an easy target. For extra precaution, consider hauling your boxes off to a communal dumpster or the local recycling station. 

2.) Charity scams 

The last two days of December see more charity donations nationwide than the rest of the year. While this may speak well of our goodwill, it also offers scammers another opportunity to help themselves to other people’s money. 

Be wary when giving charity this time of year. Don’t donate to any organization without first checking it out on a charity vetting website, like CharityNavigator.com. If you have a favorite cause you like to give to, contact them yourself instead of clicking on an ad or calling a number that appears to represent them. 

3.) Underpriced gifts for sale 

You may think you just found a real steal of a deal on Craigslist from a seller who is eager to get rid of a gift because “My wife didn’t like it.” But, be suspicious of any prices that seem too good to be true; they are likely to be scams. 

If an item for sale appears authentic, proceed, but with caution. Don’t rely on email communication. Instead, get the seller’s phone number and street address. If possible, ask for references and pictures of the item. If everything appears to check out, arrange to meet the seller in a well-lit, populated area, preferably one with ample security-camera coverage. Finally, never wire money online to any seller—let the cash and item change hands at the same time. 

4.) Belated holiday e-cards 

Don’t assume every e-card that lands in your inbox with a heading like “Oops! I’m late!” is legitimate. Too often, e-cards are ridden with malware and will infect your device as soon as you click on an embedded link. The e-cards may even bear the name of your friend, but don’t be fooled; scammers can easily pick these names off the internet. Authentic e-cards will include a confirmation code for you to copy and paste at the issuing website, so only open e-cards that are accompanied by a code. 

5.) Post-holiday ‘sales’ 

The holiday shopping frenzy is over and retailers are eager to drum up more business. This makes the post-holiday sale scam seem especially believable. Your social media platforms may be exploding with ads that are offering exclusive deals and deeply discounted prices at your favorite stores. While some of these ads may be legit, lots of them are scams. 

Here’s how to spot the fake ads and differentiate them from the real ones: 

  • The URL is off by one letter. Carefully check each landing page as you make a purchase.
  • The site is not secure. Always look for the “s” after the “http.”
  • The words “deals” or “discounts” are part of the URL. Authentic retailers sell from their home site and will rarely create a new website just to sell sale items.
  • The store’s logo is missing from the website. Look for a genuine store logo on every landing page.

Post-holiday scams are everywhere, but by knowing how to spot a scam, you’re already one step ahead of the criminals. Stay alert and stay safe! 

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

 

SOURCES:

https://blog.aarp.org/2017/12/30/protect-yourself-from-post-holiday-scams/

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.fox5atlanta.com/news/i-team/beware-post-holiday-loan-scams

https://dayair.atomicdevbox.com/blog/post-holiday-scams-to-know-about/

6 MISTAKES PEOPLE MAKE IN THEIR 20S AND HOW TO FIX THEM

Like many people, you may have blown through your 20s making financial decisions that served you well in the moment, but may not have been particularly responsible. 20s and 30s Dinner out several times a week, credit card bills you barely looked at and luxury cars way beyond your budget—life was practically a party!   

But now, the party’s over. You’ve woken up in your 30s and realized that all that overspending is going to cost you big—and it’s going to cost for years to come. 

Luckily, there’s hope. It’s not too late to fix the financial mistakes we all make when we’re young and blissfully ignorant. 

Here are six of the most common mistakes people make in their 20s and how to fix them: 

1.) The mistake: Racking up credit card debt 

Maybe you were broke while in college, but desperate for a good time, so you swiped your way through vacations and nights out on the town. Or maybe you knew you were falling into the debt trap to cover student-related needs on a shoestring budget. Unfortunately, it didn’t just go away like you’d hoped. 

The fix: Stop using your credit cards 

It’s time to be an adult and own up to your mistakes. Learn how to say no to impulsive purchases and to live within your means. Create a budget to help monitor and track your discretionary spending instead of mindlessly plowing through your paycheck each month. Stop swiping your credit cards and stick to debit or cash only. Don’t let those credit card bills get any higher! 

2.) The mistake: Ignoring your credit score 

Aside from being the gateway to endless spending, aggressive credit card balances have probably handicapped your credit score, making it difficult or impossible to obtain a personal loan. A poor score will also burden you with an unfavorable interest rate for the loans you do qualify for. And that means you’ll be paying off the mistakes of your 20s for years to come. 

The fix: Know your score and pay down your credit card debt 

It’s never too late to fix a credit score. Begin by monitoring your score. You can order a complimentary credit report once a year from each of the three major credit agencies at annualcreditreport.com. You can also check out your score on sites like CreditKarma.com and Bankrate.com. This will give you an idea of what you’re working with as you work on climbing out of financial hardship. 

Next, work on paying off credit card debt instead of only making the minimum payments each month. Look through your credit card bills and crunch some numbers until you know exactly how high your credit card debt really is. Then, choose one bill to pay down first and begin making the maximum payment your budget will allow. Once you’ve paid it off, divert all those funds onto the next bill until it’s gone and repeat until you have no more debt. Paying down your debt and minimizing the utilization rate on your credit cards will greatly improve your score. 

3.) The mistake: Skipping student loan bills

When you’re facing a debt in the tens of thousands of dollars while earning an entry-level salary, it’s tempting to just pretend it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, though, that’s the worst thing you can do for your loan and your credit.

The fix: Work it into your budget

Call your lender to work out a more feasible payment plan. You can also check if you qualify for a student loan forgiveness program. Most importantly, make your student loan payments a part of your debt payment plan so you never miss a payment.

4.) The mistake: Neglecting your retirement

Planning for your decades-away retirement may be one of the last things on your list. However, starting to fund your retirement later in the game means missing out on years of compound interest gains.

The fix: Think of it as a fixed expense

Don’t think of retirement savings as an extra; think of it as a necessary, fixed expense that belongs in your budget like your rent and phone bill. Work with the most you can afford and max out your contributions to an IRA or your company’s 401(k) plan.

5.) The mistake: Not having an emergency fund

Life’s great—who needs to think about emergencies? Unfortunately, you do. Scrambling for funds to pay for a large medical expense or to live off of during an unexpected layoff can be a nightmare. Turning toward credit cards to help you get through a rough time can also be the beginning of a debt cycle whose effects are felt for years to come.

The fix: Start small

Experts recommend socking away 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses, but if that’s just not possible for you, start small. Work with whatever you can to make monthly contributions to an emergency fund. Set up an automatic monthly transfer so you never forget. It’s best to keep your emergency money in an account that offers an attractive earnings rate but allows you to withdraw funds without paying a penalty. [Credit union’s Flex Certificates and Savings Accounts are both good choices. Call, click or stop by to speak to a MSRP about setting yours up today.]

6.) The mistake: Not creating financial goals

It’s understandable not to have your entire life planned out yet, but it’s important to set some financial goals.

The fix: Create goals now

Take some time to set some financial goals. Do you want to buy a house within the next decade? Do you dream of opening a business? Are you hoping to retire at 55? Having a concrete goal in mind will help you stick to your budget and manage your money responsibly.

Messed up while in your 20s? It’s not too late to get your finances on track! Follow our tips for a financially sound future.

Your Turn: How did you fix the financial mistakes of your 20s? Let us know in the comments!

 

SOURCES:

https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/2018-10-25/how-to-recover-from-financial-mistakes-made-in-your-20s

https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-fix-money-mistakes-in-your-twenties-2385529

https://www.mybanktracker.com/news/fix-financial-mistakes

Volunteer At A Soup Kitchen

This holiday season, take a break from frenzied consumerism by thinking about those who are truly less fortunate than you.Soup Kitchen Choose one block of time this month to volunteer at a local soup kitchen. When the colder weather draws larger than normal crowds, they can certainly use all the help you can offer. 

Once you’ve been given your job, roll up your sleeves and get to work – but be sure to keep your eyes open. Offer a smile to those who look especially downtrodden, a helping hand to the infirm and some warm words to anyone who can use it. Serve up lunch with an extra dose of kindness and brighten people’s day. 

When your shift is complete, you’ll find that you haven’t only given of your energy and time, you’ve also gained a new perspective in life by rubbing shoulders with the needy. When you dive back into your holiday prep, you’ll remember to appreciate all you have. 

Turn the holidays into a happy time for others! 

Ways to Serve or Donate in our Local Community:

United Way Holiday needs     United Way Holiday Ideas

Making The Holidays Count

Don’t spend your holidays sleeping in until noon and letting the time slip through your fingers with nothing to show for it.college break with laptop

Check out our handy list of ways you can make the holidays count while still getting some of that much-needed rest and relaxation you’ve been craving all semester. You can still get your beauty rest and sleep in, only not until noon – well, at least not every day.

1. Apply for scholarships and internships

During the semester, you’re so bogged down with schoolwork and other obligations that finding the time to pursue scholarships and internships can be daunting. Put your looser holiday schedule to good use by getting a leg up on your applications. Devote one afternoon – or more if you can swing it – to researching and applying for those scholarships and internships. One great resource can be found at careeronestop.org –  Scholarship Finder. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, this search provides great tools to find those scholarships that match up with you best. Don’t Delay! Many deadlines are December 31, 2018 at midnight! 

2. Catch up with old friends

Don’t let your childhood friendships die because of neglect! Take the time this season to call up your old neighborhood pals and high school friends and have fun hanging out with those who know you best.

3. Plan next semester

Get a head start on planning next semester’s schedule by taking the time to do it now. You’ll be able to think more clearly when you’re not pressured and you can make your decisions at leisure. You might also want to give a thought to creating a daily, weekly and/or monthly study schedule to help you give school work your best shot.

4.   Workout

Don’t go back to school with that telltale holiday bulge! Fit a regular workout routine into your more relaxed vacation schedule and skip the binge-eating this season. You’ll look and feel a whole lot better! Many gyms offer a visitors plan or a trial price to try out their facility. This would be a great way to workout on a budget!

5.   Perfect your resume, cover letter and personal essays

It’s always a good idea to review, update and improve these documents every few months or so. Why not do it now? All it takes is an hour or two to make sure your resume, cover letter and personal essays show you in the best possible light. Be sure to tweak with any changes you’ve had in your work experience and education level and, of course, triple check for those pesky typos!

6.   Spend quality time with family

This might sound obvious, but don’t forget to spend some relaxed time just catching up with your family and creating new memories to take back with you to the dorm. It’s more than just sharing meals; give them your undivided attention, away from your phone.

7.   Volunteer

You might not have much opportunity to give back to the community during the semester, but when you’re on holiday break, why not offer your time and energy to a local cause? To partner with local agencies, consider contacting the United Way of West Central Mississippi at 601-636-1733 to match your time and skills with serving others. Volunteer to be a part of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign or identify a need near to your home.

Your Turn: How do you make your holidays count? Share your best tips and techniques in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.fastweb.com/student-life/articles/the-10-things-you-should-do-over-holiday-break

https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/the-college-experience/2011/11/23/holiday-survival-guide-for-college-students-and-parents

5 SCAMS TO AVOID THIS BLACK FRIDAY

Black Friday Scam Alert

Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be great fun – but they can also put you at great risk. Scams abound on the weekend that heralds the holiday shopping season, and you don’t want a phishing scheme or a bogus bargain to turn you into a Grinch. 

Here are 5 scams to look out for as you brave the frenzied crowds while trying to snag the best deals after Thanksgiving.  

1. Crazy deals that are actually bogus 

The noisy crowds and flashy ads on Black Friday can lead you to make rash decisions and spend more than you planned. But be careful not to leave your senses at home. 

An iPhone X retailing at just $12? A pair of genuine Ugg boots for just $9? These deals sound insane because that’s exactly what they are. And yet, thousands of people happily send their money to online stores that are advertising these laughable prices on Black Friday. And of course, once the scammers have your credit card information, they won’t hesitate to use it for their own shopping spree – all on your dime. 

Be smarter: Don’t believe any advertised price that is ridiculously low. It’s only bait used by scammers to lure you into their trap. Black Friday deals tend to fall within the 20-30% off range or an offer of free shipping. 

2. Black Friday gift cards for cheap 

In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, you might see an explosion of cheap gift cards being sold at online marketplaces. The gift cards are linked to big-name retailers and are offered for a fraction of their real value. 

These cards are usually stolen from their real owners. The victim of the theft will likely report the loss and the card will be disabled. And you’ll have forked over your hard-earned money for a card that’s not worth the plastic it’s made from. 

Be smarter: Don’t buy any gift cards that are retailing at a heavily marked-down price. 

3. Bait and switch 

Want to be the lucky winner of a brand new iPhone X? Just fill out a form with your personal details and take this survey. You may just be the proud new owner of the super-expensive phone! 

If you know anything about online scams, you’ll already recognize this one. Your personal details and a site whose authenticity you can’t verify are two things that should never meet. The sweepstakes is just the scammer’s bait to get at your information. And, with holiday expenses growing each year, it’s the perfect time to lure an innocent victim into thinking they’ve just saved a ton of money. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re safe from this scam just because you’re doing all your Black Friday shopping at the mall. “Bait and switch” scams can happen offline, too. 

The brick-and-mortar version of this scam is somewhat less nefarious. Retailers will advertise deals so amazing you’ll find yourself travelling across town and battling impossible traffic to grab these bargains. Once you finally reach the store, though, you’ll be told that those items are all sold out, but you can check out the items they do have in stock. You’ll be shown similar, but inferior, products and cheap knockoffs, or nothing you’re interested in at all. These scams are just a waste of your time and often your money, too. 

Be smarter: Don’t enter any sweepstakes or believe advertisements for heavily marked-down prices on sites and stores you’re unfamiliar with. 

4. Delivery problems 

With so much of your shopping happening online, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to receive an email claiming there’s been a problem with the delivery of one of your purchases. But if you get an email like this asking you to click on a link or download an attachment to arrange an alternative delivery date, you’re looking at a scam. You may also receive a message asking you to pay an extra fee for delivery after you’ve completed an order. Again, this email is bogus and you’re being scammed. Ignore these emails. And, if you have a problem with the delivery of your purchase, contact the seller or company directly. 

Be smarter: Never download anything or click on a link from an unverifiable source. 

5. Online purchases that can only be paid for with a wire transfer 

If you’re planning on going on an all-out spending spree this Black Friday, use your credit card. It offers you the most protection against purchases that don’t turn out to be what you expected. 

A debit card can be a good choice, too, if you’re only shopping at stores and retailers you trust and frequent often. 

Never agree to an online purchase demanding payment via money order or wire transfer. These are favorites among scammers since they are similar to paying with cash – once the money has changed hands, there’s almost no way you can get it back. 

Be smarter: When frequenting unfamiliar stores and sites, use your credit card. 

Be an educated shopper this Black Friday and outsmart scammers! 

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

 

SOURCES:

https://www.finder.com/black-friday-scams

https://www.scam-detector.com/article/black-friday-scam

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-scams-watch-black-friday-cyber-monday/