Advantage One Credit Union has served the Downriver community since 1952. Our commitment to provide superior member service and quality products and services has remained our prime focus throughout our growth.
1952 - On January 24, 1952 the credit union's charter was approved as the McClouth Employees Federal Credit Union, serving employees of McClouth Steel Corporation.
1982 - The credit union's name was changed to Southgate Community Federal Credit Union and the field of membership was expanded to serve the families living or working in Southgate.
1991 - Our name was changed to Southgate Federal Credit Union and the city of Riverview was added to our field of membership.
1993 - The Riverview office was opened in 1993 to better serve members across our expanding field of membership.
2001 - The field of membership was expanded to include 15 Downriver communities. To better reflect the new, broader field of membership, the name was changed to Advantage One Federal Credit Union.
2003 - The Brownstown branch was opened on September 17, 2003. The branch was built to act as the new headquarters to house the growing support staff and to offer better convenience to our newly expanded field of membership.
2007 - We expanded our field of membership once again to include Taylor, Huron Township and Romulus.
2016 - We adopted a state charter and removed "Federal" from our name. We expanded our field of membership greatly to include the following Michigan counties: Clinton, Eaton, Genesee, Hillsdale, Ingham, Jackson, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Shiawassee, St. Clair, Washtenaw, & Wayne.
For a complete listing of the communities we serve, please click here.
Title: MoneyZen: The Secret to Finding Your “Enough”
Author: Manisha Thakor
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Harper Business
Publishing Date: Aug. 8, 2023
Who is this book for?
Readers of any age and background who have ever felt like they can never measure up.
What’s inside this book?
A breakdown of the personal, cultural and societal forces that lead people into believing they can never have or do enough.
Leading financial expert, Manisha Thakor’s joy-based approach to living with financial health and emotional wealth.
Inspiring stories of people from all walks of life who’ve struggled with “Never Enough”.
4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:
How personal traumas, cultural influences, societal pressures and biology make us believe that, if we just had “more”, all our problems would be solved.
How to get off the hamster wheel and reclaim your life.
Financial Health + Emotional Wealth = MoneyZen.
How to stop equating your self-worth with your net worth.
4 questions this book will answer for you:
How can I feel like I have enough?
Can I really achieve authentic joy?
Why are so many of us unhappy, exhausted and worn out – even if we’re following all the rules we’ve been taught?
How can my work and the rest of my life fit together?
What people are saying about this book:
“MoneyZen is an essential book for anyone who wants to reimagine their relationship with work and money, create more time for the things that really matter, and live a happier, more meaningful life.” – Ashley Willians
Too many professionals are caught in a never-ending trap of seeking ‘more.’ Manisha Thakor provides a way out—a sustainable path to building the lives and careers we want.” — Dorie Clark
“If ‘doing it all’ so you can ‘have it all’ was a successful strategy for health and happiness, it should have worked by now. Our exhaustion, sense of overwhelm, and joylessness begs us to take a very different route. MoneyZen offers you a seat on the life raft of ENOUGH. Get on it.” — Mary LoVerde
“MoneyZen is a manifesto for finding calm, confidence, and clarity around the role work and money should play in our lives. Drawing on her years of expertise, Manisha proves it’s never too late—and never too early—to embrace the MoneyZen mindset. An empowering must-read.” — Deepa Purushothaman
“A potent call to get away from one’s desk.” — Publishers Weekly
TikTok Inspo: What did you think of MoneyZen? Share your opinion in the comments.
Q: I’ve just discovered that my credit card’s been frauded. I’m in a total state of panic. What should I do now?
A: Credit card fraud is a serious problem that affects nearly half a million Americans annually. Learning that your card’s been frauded can be stressful and very worrying. However, there are proactive steps you can take to mitigate the damage and help you move forward. Keep calm, and take a look at what to do if your credit card has been compromised.
Notify your credit card issuer
As soon as you discover fraudulent activity on your credit card account, contact the card issuer through their customer service hotline. Let them know about the unauthorized charges and provide them the details of the transactions. Most credit card issuers have 24/7 customer support to promptly handle situations like these. By reporting the fraud immediately, you limit your liability for the fraudulent charges and prevent further unauthorized use of your card.
It’s important to note that major credit card companies have a zero liability policy for fraudulent charges. Even if your credit card company does not have this policy, your liability for credit card fraud is capped at $50 under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
Freeze your card and request a replacement
Once you’ve contacted your credit card issuer, ask them to freeze the compromised card so that no additional charges can be made on this account. Next, request a replacement card with a new account number and security code. The credit card issuer will guide you through the process and ensure that your old card is deactivated. Don’t forget to update any automatic payments or subscriptions that are linked to your old card.
Review your statements and dispute unauthorized charges
Often, when a scammer gains access to a victim’s credit card account, they gain access to all of their personal information. Consequently, it’s crucial that you continue to review your credit card statements for any other unauthorized transactions in the months following the fraud. Report all unrecognized charges to your credit card issuer and file a dispute. This typically involves filling out a form or submitting a written statement. Keep copies of all communication and documentation related to the disputed charges for future reference.
Contact a credit bureau and request a fraud alert
Next, contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) to ask that a fraud alert be placed on your credit reports. The bureau you contact will notify the other two, ensuring that potential creditors are alerted to the possibility of fraudulent activity. A fraud alert requires creditors to verify your identity before issuing new credit. This way, the scammer who’s frauded your credit card account can’t use your information to take out a loan or open an additional line of credit.
At this time, you may also want to place a credit freeze on your name, which will make it impossible for anyone to open a new line of credit in your name. This may, of course, prevent you from obtaining a new credit card at this time, but it will provide you with the ultimate protection against additional fraud. If you do go this route, you will need to request a freeze from each of the credit bureaus.
Monitor your credit reports
Keep a close eye on your credit reports in the months following the fraudulent activity. Check for any new accounts opened in your name or other suspicious activity. Consider subscribing to a credit monitoring service that alerts you to any changes or inquiries on your credit reports. Early detection of any fraudulent activity can help prevent further damage and assist in resolving any issues that may arise.
Strengthen your online security
Take steps to enhance your online security to prevent future incidents. Change your passwords for all online banking, shopping and other financial accounts. Consider enabling two-factor authentication for added security. Be extra careful about sharing sensitive information when online and be vigilant against phishing or smishing attempts. Regularly update your antivirus software and keep your devices and operating systems patched with the latest security updates.
Report the fraud to law enforcement agencies
If you’ve confirmed that you’re a fraud victim, it’s a good idea to report the crime to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s IdentityTheft.gov website, where you can file an identity theft report.
Credit card fraud can wreck your life, but taking the proper steps as soon as you’ve discovered the fraud can minimize the damage. Use this guide to know what to do in the event of credit card fraud.
Q: There have been so many changes to federal student loans over the last few years, and I’ve heard there are more coming. As a college graduate with a federal student loan, what do I need to know about these changes and how will they affect my payment plan?
A: Student loans have undergone quite a few changes over the last few years. Backtracked statements and moving rollout dates have only made the headlines more confusing. As a borrower, though, it’s important to keep up with these changes and stay informed about how they will impact you. Here, we’ve outlined the important changes you need to know about and included steps you might need to take to benefit from these adjustments.
A brief overview of recent student loan changes
First, let’s take a look at the timeline of student loan changes of the last few years:
Mar. 2020-Forbearance (a temporary pause) on student loans is enacted by the federal government in response to financial hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Apr. 2022-The Education Department announces an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
Oct. 2022-Congress passes the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act.
June 2, 2023- A debt-ceiling deal is passed by congress. A provision in this deal prevents any further payment pause extensions on federal student loans.
June 30, 2023-President Biden’s proposal to erase up to $20,000 in federal student loans is struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
July 14, 2023-The Education Department announces that the first major wave of loan forgiveness is coming for over 804,000 borrowers.
July 30, 2023-Parts of the IDR plan goes into effect.
Sept. 1, 2023-Interest on student loans resumes accrual.
Oct. 1, 2023-Student loan payments resume.
July 1, 2024-The rest of the IDR plan goes into effect.
Forbearance ending on Oct. 1, 2023
After more than three years of student loan pauses, payments are set to resume this October. In the meantime, though, interest will begin accruing again on Sept. 1. Borrowers who’ve grown accustomed to skipping their monthly payments will need to readjust their budgets for these “new” bills.
Steps to take: If you have an open student loan, prepare for the change in your budget instead of waiting until it hits you by surprise. Review your budget to see whether you have room for this new expense or if you need to make some major adjustments. If you are unsure of how much your monthly payment will be, contact your loan servicer now to find out.
PSLF account adjustment, or waiver
On July 14, the Education Department announced that loan forgiveness is coming for more than 804,000 borrowers who’ve been paying off their student loans for at least 20 years. In total, close to $39 billion in student debt will be automatically wiped out with this adjustment. Millions more borrowers will have three years of additional credit toward forgiveness under the new plans when their accounts are updated next year.
If you’ve been steadily paying off a student loan for at least 20 or 25 years (including forbearance) you’ll be student debt-free after the adjustment. If you borrowed less than $12,000, you’ll be debt-free even if you’ve only been paying off your student loan for 10 years.
Steps to take: The adjustment is mostly automatic. However, if you have a loan from the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, Perkins or Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL) Program, you must apply to consolidate them at StudentAid.gov by the end of 2023 to enjoy the full benefits of this adjustment. The consolidation process can take a while, so get started as soon as you can.
A new IDR plan
The existing income-driven REPAYE plan is being replaced by a new, broader plan called Saving on A Valuable Education, or SAVE. SAVE is expected to halve the monthly payments for many borrowers.
Steps to take: Borrowers can sign up for this new plan before forbearance ends this fall. However, the full plan will not take effect until July 2024. If you are already enrolled in the REPAYE plan, your loan will automatically be moved into the SAVE plan in October.
Also, if you qualify for the PSLF waiver above, but you’ll have a balance remaining after the adjustment, you’ll need to sign up for an IDR plan when payments resume this fall to keep building credit toward loan forgiveness. If you believe you are in this category, be sure to contact your servicer to get your paperwork submitted soon. This way, it’ll be set up to go into an IDR plan as soon as forbearance ends.
Student loan servicer switches
In April, 2023, the Education Department signed contracts with five federal student loan servicers, which are expected to go live in 2024. Eventually, the department plans to launch a central servicer portal at StudentAid.gov, but for now, it’s important to know the name and contact info of your servicer. If the department transfers your loans to another servicer, your current and new servicers will notify you of the change.
Steps to take: Make sure your contact information is up to date with your current servicer.
Other student loan changes underway
There are several other changes underway for student loans:
Fresh Start program for delinquent or defaulted loans. Borrowers with past-due loans now have more opportunity to get them back on track through the new “Fresh Start” program. Eligible borrowers must sign up for Fresh Start within one year of the end of forbearance on myeddebt.ed.gov or by calling the Education Department at 800-621-3115.
Updated bankruptcy guidance. The departments of Education and Justice jointly released updated bankruptcy guidance in November 2022 to standardize the requirements for borrowers to discharge their federal student loans in bankruptcy.
Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act. Passed in October 2022, this law allows consolidated student loans of spouses to be separated so that each partner can access debt relief for their loan.
Use this guide to stay informed on recent student loan changes.
Building a new home involves many decisions and expenses. As you work through the process, it’s a good idea to try making your new home as energy-efficient as possible. By incorporating sustainable design principles and utilizing innovative technologies, you can dramatically decrease your home’s energy utilization and save a significant amount of money in the long run. Let’s explore seven ways you can build an energy-efficient home that promotes a sustainable future.
Optimize site selection
The first step in building an energy-efficient home is to choose the right location. Consider factors such as solar orientation, prevailing winds and surrounding vegetation. Maximizing natural resources, like sunlight and wind, can significantly reduce the need for artificial heating, cooling and lighting. Additionally, selecting a site that’s close to amenities like public transportation, schools and grocery stores can encourage sustainable living practices and reduce reliance on private vehicles.
Efficient building envelope
A well-insulated building envelope is crucial for maintaining a comfortable indoor environment while minimizing energy loss. Use high-quality insulation materials, such as cellulose or spray foam, in walls, roofs and floors of your new home. Opt for double- or triple-pane windows with low-emissivity coatings to reduce heat transfer. Finally, properly seal any gaps or cracks to prevent air leakage, ensuring your home remains airtight. By focusing on the building envelope, you can significantly reduce the need for mechanical heating and cooling, resulting in lower energy consumption.
Use sustainable materials
Choosing sustainable and locally sourced materials can have a positive impact on both the environment and your health. Look for materials with low embodied energy, such as recycled content or renewable resources, like bamboo and cork. Consider using reclaimed or salvaged materials for construction and furniture. Also, choose finishes and paints that have low volatile organic compound (VOC) content to improve your indoor air quality. By opting for sustainable materials, you can reduce the carbon footprint of your home and create a healthier living environment.
Install energy-efficient appliances and lighting
Investing in energy-efficient appliances and lighting fixtures can significantly reduce your home’s energy consumption. Look for appliances with an ENERGY STAR® label, as they meet strict efficiency standards. LED lighting is another excellent choice, as it consumes less electricity and has a longer lifespan compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. You can also incorporate smart home technologies, such as programmable thermostats and motion-sensing switches, to optimize energy usage. By selecting energy-efficient appliances and lighting, you can save both energy and money every month in your new home.
Consider renewable energy systems
Integrating renewable energy systems into your home is a proactive step toward energy independence. These include solar panels, wind turbines or geothermal systems that generate clean energy while reducing your reliance on the grid. You can hire a professional to conduct a small study to determine the most suitable renewable energy source for your location and energy needs. Additionally, consider incorporating energy storage solutions, such as batteries, to store excess energy for later use. With renewable energy systems, you can generate electricity sustainably that will pay off for many years to come.
Water conservation strategies
Conserving water is an essential part of building an energy-efficient home. Install low-flow fixtures, such as faucets, showerheads and toilets, to reduce water consumption without sacrificing performance. You may also want to install graywater systems to recycle water from sinks, showers and laundry for non-potable uses. Implementing water conservation strategies will save water while also reducing the energy required for water treatment and distribution.
Building an energy-efficient home is an investment in a sustainable future. Use the tips outlined here to build a home that has a lower carbon output and saves you money for years to come.
TikTok Inspo: Can you sell us an energy-efficient home? Describe the most sustainable house you can imagine in a short video.
Q: Unfortunately, I’ve just lost my job and don’t know what to do next. As soon as my compensation check runs out, I’ll have no income. I’ve been laid off – now what?
A: Being let go can be devastating and unsettling. The job you’ve depended on for daily structure and livelihood is now gone. You’re understandably dealing with overwhelm, stress and confusion (and, possibly, some other emotions). As your credit union, we are here to help! Here, we’ve outlined the steps to take when facing a layoff, as well as various tips and advice that can guide you through challenging times like this.
Take time to process and reflect
It’s important to take the time to process the shocking development before moving forward.
First, remember that being laid off is not the same as being fired. Getting laid off means you lost your job because your employer can no longer afford to pay you or no longer needs your services. It’s through no fault of your own that you are currently not employed. In fact, if circumstances change, you may even be offered your job back.
Next, take the time to process, and even grieve, the layoff. While you may not be at fault, the job was likely a big part of your life that is now being taken away. In addition to financial security, you’re losing the sense of purpose, fulfillment and social life that came along with your job. It’s a big change, and it’s OK to spend some time just letting it all sink in.
Finally, reflect on the experience and what it means for your career and future employment goals. You may just find that the layoff isn’t all bad after all.
Talk to your former employer
Your ex-boss may be the last person you want to talk to right now, but it’s important to have this conversation so you can receive as many layoff benefits as possible. Ask for clarity on the layoff, in addition to the following questions:
When can I expect to receive my last paycheck?
Will I be compensated for my unused paid time off and/or sick leave?
Will I be receiving severance pay?
What will happen to my 401(k)/pension plan?
Will I have health insurance coverage after my last day of work?
Can I count on you to provide a positive reference for me and/or endorse me on LinkedIn?
Can you provide me with copies of my performance reviews?
Assess your finances and create a budget
Evaluate your financial situation and assess your immediate and long-term financial needs. Calculate your expenses and determine how long your savings can sustain you. Create a budget that aligns with your current circumstances, prioritizing essential expenses and cutting back on non-essentials for the time being. Consider reaching out to financial advisors or experts for guidance on managing your finances during what will hopefully be a short transitional period.
Polish your resume and enhance your skill set
It’s a good idea to update and polish your resume before diving back into the workforce. Make sure the document reflects your most recent work experience and accomplishments and highlights your most relevant skills.
You can also take advantage of this work-free time to broaden your skills and acquire additional training. You can enroll in online courses, in-person workshops or obtain advanced certification in your field. Taking steps toward improving your game at work will significantly boost your marketability and make you stand out to potential employers.
Network and leverage online platforms
The more people who know about your job hunt, the better. Attend networking events, both in-person and virtual, to connect with industry professionals and potential employers. Utilize online platforms, like LinkedIn, to expand your network and showcase your expertise. Engage in industry-related discussions, join relevant groups and seek out mentorship opportunities.
Explore alternative employment options
While seeking full-time employment, consider alternative options to stay financially stable. Freelancing, consulting or taking on temporary or contract work can provide income while keeping your skills sharp. Explore the gig economy and online platforms that offer flexible work arrangements. Additionally, entrepreneurship or starting a side business could be an opportunity to pursue your passion and create your own path. Be open to exploring different avenues, as these alternatives can offer valuable experience and potentially lead to unexpected career paths.
Getting laid off is never fun, but with these proactive steps, you can make the time between jobs stress-free and productive. Best of luck in your new job search!
TikTok Inspo: Play the part of the employee who’s just been laid off. Tell us what you’re looking for in a new job.
Q: I’m struggling to pay down my credit card debt and I’m wondering if it’s a good idea to use my home’s equity to pay it off. Maybe then I could make some real progress. Should I take out a HELOC to pay off my credit card debt?
A: Your home’s equity can be a versatile financial tool, but using it to pay off your credit card debt can potentially be risky. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using a HELOC to pay off credit card debt so you can make an informed decision about this financial move.
Pros of using a HELOC to pay off credit card debt
Under specific circumstances, it can be a good idea to use a Home Equity Line of Credit to pay off consumer debt.
Here are some of the pros of using a HELOC to pay off credit card debt:
Favorable interest rates. Interest rates on HELOCs tend to be lower than interest rates on most credit cards. Moving the debt to a HELOC can potentially save you thousands in interest payments.
Potential tax benefits. The interest payments on a HELOC can be tax-deductible if the funds are used to increase the value of the home. You may be able to pay off your credit card debt, improve your home and then enjoy the tax benefits of a HELOC. Be sure to consult with a tax professional about this before considering this factor.
Streamlined monthly payments. When you consolidate your credit card debt to a single loan, it’s easier to keep on top of the monthly payments.
Cons of using a HELOC to pay off credit card debt
Unfortunately, using a HELOC to pay off debt has significant possible disadvantages as well.
Here are some of the cons of using a HELOC to pay off credit card debt:
It uses your home as collateral. A HELOC is a line of credit taken out against your home’s value. This means if you default on the payments, you risk losing your home.
You can end up upside-down on your home loan. If your home’s value drops at some point in the HELOC’s term, you can end up owing more on your home than it’s actually worth.
You may end up in even more debt. If you don’t change your financial habits, transferring your debt to a HELOC can land you right back in deep debt. Without solving the underlying issue, such as insufficient income or the inability to control your spending, you can end up using your new line of credit (or even the credit cards you just paid off) to overspend and ultimately have more debt than when you started.
Fluctuating interest rates. While a HELOC’s APR may initially be lower than a typical credit card’s APR, its rates are generally variable and subject to fluctuations in the market. The APR can rise over time, increasing your monthly payment amount and making budgeting and affordability challenging.
Extended repayment terms. HELOCs can have repayment terms of 10 years or longer. This means that transferring credit card debt to a HELOC is not a quick fix for your debt.
Before using a HELOC to pay off credit card debt
If you decide to go ahead and take out a HELOC to pay off your credit card debt, first consider these factors:
Your debt repayment strategy. Evaluate your spending habits and assess whether a HELOC will help you address the underlying causes of your credit card debt. Develop a realistic debt repayment strategy that includes a budget, emergency fund and a plan to avoid incurring additional debt in the future.
Financial stability. Examine your overall financial situation, including income stability, employment prospects and future financial goals. Before opening a HELOC, you need complete confidence in your ability to make timely payments while maintaining your other financial obligations.
Loan terms and fees. Be sure to thoroughly research and compare HELOC offerings from different financial institutions. Pay close attention to interest rates, repayment terms, rate adjustments, fees and any potential penalties.
Taking out a HELOC to pay off credit card debt is generally not recommended, but it can be a viable option under specific circumstances. Use this guideline to make an informed decision about this financial move.
When you’re traveling on a budget, food expenses can quickly destroy all your carefully planned savings. From trying out the best local restaurants to splurging on snacks and drinks on the road, food costs while on vacation add up and can take a big bite out of your budget. Lucky for you, though, paying for your eats when you’re away doesn’t have to cost a ton of money. Here are six ways to save on vacation food costs.
Research local eatery options
When your stomach is grumbling and you’re desperate for a delicious, hot meal, you likely won’t have the willpower to make the best choices about where to go for dinner. Instead, if you plan on dining out while on vacation, research your options before you head out on your trip. This way, you can look up local eateries from the comfort of your home, and compare prices and ratings so you can make the best decisions for your vacation and your budget. Don’t forget to look up possible coupons on sites like Groupon and to check for possible deals the restaurants may offer at certain times of the day, or on specific days of the week.
Pack snacks and drinks
Those frequent rest stops to grab a bag of chips, some beef jerky and a cold drink to keep you going can eat up more of your vacation budget than you may realize. A little pre-planning, though, can go a long way. Stock up on non-perishable snacks like granola bars, trail mix, crackers and dried fruit for on-the-go snacking that’ll last throughout your vacation. You can also buy your beverages now and stick them in an ice-filled cooler for a chilled drink whenever you’d like it while you’re on vacation. Buying these items in your own town instead of on the road is more convenient and will cost significantly less money for the same exact products. That’s called planning ahead!
Cook while on vacation
If you’ll be staying at your vacation destination for a while and/or if the area only has expensive eateries, consider booking a rental or apartment that comes equipped with kitchen facilities. During your trip, pick up fresh ingredients at local grocery stores or farmers’ markets and whip up your favorite dishes. If the thought of cooking while vacationing makes you rethink the entire trip, you can also prep several meals at home and just reheat them while on vacation. This option is particularly beneficial for families or larger groups, as it reduces the need for dining out every day.
Explore the local street food
Get a real feel for the place you’re visiting and save on food costs by taking advantage of the nearby street food options. These tend to be a lot cheaper than dine-in eateries, and usually feature local cuisine that’s made fresh while you wait. You can enjoy iconic soft pretzels in New York City, sizzling hot gyros on the streets of Athens, authentic tacos in Cancun, fresh croissants in Paris and so much more!
When you dine out during your vacation, consider sharing meals with your travel companions. Sharing will allow you to sample a variety of dishes while reducing individual costs. Don’t hesitate to ask the waiter for portion sizes or recommendations for sharing options.
Alcoholic drinks can be the biggest expense of a restaurant meal. Check local regulations and policies, but if allowed, bring your own bottle of wine or other beverages to restaurants that offer corkage fees. This way, you can enjoy your favorite drinks without the hefty markup on alcohol prices.
Food costs don’t have to eat away at your vacation budget. Use the tips outlined here to save on food costs while on vacation.
TikTok Inspo: What’s your vacation food cost hack? Tell us all about it in a short video.
As summer slowly starts winding down, it’s a great time to reflect on your financial goals and implement strategies to boost your savings. Whether you’re saving for a vacation, preparing for upcoming expenses or building a nest egg, implementing smart strategies before summer fades away can set you up for financial success. Let’s take a look at some end-of-summer saving tips to help you supercharge your savings.
Review and adjust your budget
Take a close look at your budget and assess your spending habits. Identify areas where you can cut back or find more affordable alternatives. Consider trimming non-essential expenses, like dining out, unused or unnecessary subscriptions and impulse purchases. Allocate your saved funds toward your short- and long-term savings goals. With the new season approaching, plan your budget accordingly, accounting for upcoming expenses, like cold-weather wardrobe essentials, increased heating costs and school supplies, as necessary.
Optimize your energy usage
With the weather gradually cooling down, it’s a perfect time to ensure you’re optimizing your energy consumption. Utilize natural light whenever possible, and if you haven’t already done so, make the switch to energy-efficient LED bulbs. Keep the shades drawn during the hottest part of the day and set the thermostat at the highest setting that’s still comfortable. Unplug electronics when not in use to minimize vampire energy usage and consider investing in smart power strips that automatically cut power to idle devices. These small changes can lead to substantial savings on your energy bill, leaving you with extra cash to put into savings.
Take advantage of end-of-season sales
The turn of a season is always rife with big sales and items retailing at bargain prices. If you’ve been eyeing a new set of patio furniture all season, or you’ve been drooling over a new grill, this is the time to make your dreams come true without draining your wallet. As summer takes its final bow, look for discounted warm-weather clothing, outdoor furniture and equipment, gardening tools and more. You can enjoy these steals for the rest of the season and/or put them away for next year. Stocking up on essentials at less cost will free up more of your later cashflow.
Take a financial fast
Mild-weathered summer is the perfect season for free or low-cost entertainment options. Resolve to keep one weekend, or even longer, completely spend-free. Meals are whatever dishes you can throw together using contents in your fridge, freezer and pantry. Activities can include visiting local parks, hitting a scenic trail or an organized game night with friends. You can also check community calendars for free events, like concerts or outdoor movie screenings. By embracing cost-effective options, you can enjoy the season without compromising on your savings goals.
Automate your savings
Consider automating your savings to make it super-easy. Set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to a specially designated savings account. This way, a portion of your income will automatically be set aside for savings without any actual effort on your part. If your employer offers direct deposit, split your paycheck so a portion goes directly into your savings account. By automating your savings, you’ll be less tempted to spend that money, and it will steadily grow over time.
Open a Vacation Club Account
The end of summer is a fabulous time to start thinking about next year’s summer getaway. Consider opening a Vacation Club Account at this time. This special savings account enables the account holder to make regular contributions toward a predetermined goal. These accounts are designed to help the account holder save up for vacation expenses. By spreading the cost of a large, seasonal expense throughout the year, you’ll have an easier time saving the full amount by next summer. Also, you likely won’t be able to withdraw your funds until a specific date or sum of money has been reached. This makes it harder to use your vacation funds for another purpose.
Summer may be fading out, but it’s not too late to boost your savings this time of year. Follow the tips outlined here for end-of-season savings.
In today’s fast-paced world, we face unique financial challenges as we juggle multiple responsibilities. The constant pressure to earn enough for covering day-to-day expenses while remembering to put away money for short- and long-term financial goals never lets up. To make it even more difficult, life only gets more expensive as time goes on. Keeping up with growing expenses is super-stressful and can make it challenging to practice financial responsibility. However, despite the inherent hurdles, overcoming financial stress and living a financially fit life is very doable.
Let’s take a look at key strategies for building financial resilience.
1. Manage debt
Debt can be a significant source of financial stress. To effectively manage debt and gain control of your finances, it’s crucial to take a proactive approach:
Assess and prioritize. Start by listing all debts, including credit cards, loans and outstanding bills. Prioritize debts based on interest rates and payment terms.
Create a repayment plan. Develop a realistic repayment plan that fits within your budget. Consider strategies like the debt avalanche method (paying off high-interest debt first) or the debt snowball method (paying off smaller debts first).
Maximize debt payment. Trim your discretionary expenses or freelance for extra pocket money and channel all extra money to your first debt until you’ve paid it off. Then work through your list until you’re debt-free.
2. Build an emergency fund
Building an emergency fund is a crucial step in creating financial resilience. It serves as a safety net during unexpected events and reduces the reliance on credit or loans. Here’s how to build your emergency fund:
Start small. At first, set aside just a small portion of each paycheck, even if it’s just a few dollars. Consistency is key, and you can gradually increase the amount over time as your budget allows.
Automate your savings. Make saving automatic by setting up transfers from your checking account to a dedicated savings account each month. This ensures regular contributions without the temptation to spend the money.
Aim for three to six months’ worth of expenses. While this can take time, make this amount your ultimate goal so you can weather any surprise with peace of mind and your finances intact.
3. Set financial goals
Setting clear financial goals will empower you to take control of your financial well-being and build your financial resilience. Follow these steps to successfully set financial goals:
Identify your short-term and long-term goals. Determine what you want to achieve financially. Short-term goals may include paying off a specific debt or taking a small vacation at the end of the year, while long-term goals can involve saving for retirement or funding a sabbatical year in Europe.
Make your goals specific and measurable. Set specific targets, such as paying off a certain debt within a specific timeframe or progressively saving toward a designated amount for a down payment on a home. This will help you track your progress and stay motivated.
Break goals into actionable steps. Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks. Each accomplishment will provide a sense of achievement which will push you forward.
4. Practice self-care
Taking care of yourself is a crucial component in reducing financial stress. Make sure to find time to pursue your interests and to take frequent breaks from the daily grind. And it doesn’t have to put you into debt, either. You can go for a walk alongside a beautiful lakefront, learn a second or third language, visit free galleries showcasing your favorite art or develop a hobby by watching DIY videos online.
Managing money responsibly in current times is super-challenging, but financial resilience is within reach. Use the tips outlined here to achieve and maintain financial resilience.
TikTok Inspo: Tell us how financially resilient you are – or aren’t – in a short video.
Pet adoption can be an incredibly rewarding experience. After all, there’s nothing quite like coming home after a long workday and being greeted by a cuddly, furry friend. Unfortunately, though, scammers often exploit people’s adoration for animals through pet adoption scams. Let’s take a closer look at pet adoption scams and how to protect yourself from falling victim.
How these scams play out
In a pet adoption scam, fraudsters pose as legitimate pet sellers or rescue organizations to scam potential adopters. They may advertise pets online, usually at lower-than-market prices, and use emotional appeals to lure unsuspecting individuals. Variations of these scams include “puppy mills,” where animals are bred in inhumane conditions and then sold, or “phantom pets,” where scammers falsely claim to have pets available for adoption. In the first scam, the buyer is charged exorbitant fees for one of these neglected pets. In the second, the buyer eagerly makes the required payments and then waits for their new pet that never arrives.
Red flags to watch for
If you’re in the market for a new pet, or you’re the kind of person who will be in the market as soon as you lay eyes on a picture of an adorable puppy or kitten, it’s best to brush up on these red flags, which may indicate a pet scam:
The seller only communicates through email.
The seller demands upfront payment.
The seller refuses to provide necessary documentation and verifiable details about the pet’s background or health.
The seller asks for additional fees for shipping, vaccinations or permits.
The ad featuring the adoptable pet is riddled with grammar mistakes and misspelled words.
All photos of the pet are generic, stock photos.
If a potential pet seller shows any of these red flags, you are likely looking at a scam.
Search safely for a pet
When searching for a pet to adopt, take protective measures to ensure you’re only dealing with legitimate sellers. Carefully research and verify the authenticity of the seller or rescue organization before proceeding with an adoption. Look for a physical address, contact information and secure online presence. Check out any online reviews, testimonials or complaints about the seller. Confirm the organization’s affiliation with recognized animal welfare associations or governing bodies. Finally, reach out to local animal shelters or breed-specific rescues to validate the legitimacy of the seller.
Finalizing an adoption
Once you’ve found a pet to adopt, continue to exercise caution as you finalize the sale.
First, insist on meeting the seller and pet or visiting the rescue organization in person before going through with the adoption. This will enable you to observe the animal’s living conditions, assess its health and directly interact with it. Legitimate sellers or organizations will encourage these visits and provide an opportunity for you to ask questions or address any concerns. Scammers, of course, will provide any number of excuses as to why it’s impossible for you to meet them and your potential new pet.
If everything checks out and you’ve seen the pet and all necessary documentation, be sure to use a secure payment method that offers fraud protection, such as a credit card. As always, do not wire money to an unverified contact or pay them via gift card.
If you’ve been targeted
If you believe you’ve been targeted by a pet adoption scam, take steps to help the proper authorities apprehend the scammers. First, report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at FTC.gov. You can also alert local law enforcement agencies, and let your friends and family know about the ruse so they can be on alert, too.
Adopting a pet is a super-exciting time, but scammers can quickly turn this experience into a nightmare. Use the tips outlined here to learn what you need to know about pet adoption scams and how to avoid them.
TikTok Inspo: Can you scam us? In a short video, try to sell us on a pet that is oh-so-adorable but doesn’t actually exist.