Don’t Get Caught in a Debt Collection Scam

No one likes to be in debt. It’s a downward spiral that never seems to end, and it’s an expensive burden to carry, too. Unfortunately, scammers often exploit the feelings of helplessness and overwhelm to lure victims into their debt-collection scams. Let’s take a look at these scams and how to keep yourself from falling victim. 

How the scams play out

In a debt-collection scam, a scammer posing as a debt collector will call a victim and demand payment for an outstanding debt. The caller insists on a specific means of payment, usually a wire transfer or prepaid debit card. The scammer will sometimes threaten to tell the victims’ family members about the debt if it’s not paid up immediately. The alleged debt may be completely fabricated, or an actual debt the victim has that the scammer has learned about through social engineering or by hacking the victim’s private accounts. In either scenario, though, the caller is not a debt collector and represents only themselves. Of course, any money the scammer collects will go directly into their own pocket. 

Red flags

Here’s how to recognize a debt-collection scam:

  • The alleged debt collector demands immediate payment. A legitimate debt collector will always provide you with the option to dispute the debt and discuss payment arrangements. 
  • The caller insists on a specific means of payment. Scammers love having their victims cough up money through a payment method that cannot be undone, such as wire transfer or prepaid cards. 
  • The “debt collector” knows very few details about the debt. A genuine debt collector will have all the information on the debt and be able to answer any questions you may have. 
  • There is no contact information for the debt collection agency the caller allegedly represents. Ask for a phone number and street address for the agency. If none are forthcoming, it’s likely a scam. 

Protect yourself

Debt-collection scams can be difficult to spot, but with the right knowledge, you can protect yourself. Follow these tips to stay safe.

  • When called by an alleged debt collector, verify the debt. Request written validation of the debt, including detailed information about the creditor, the amount owed and the nature of the debt. Legitimate debt collectors should be able to provide this information.
  • Never share personal information with an unverified contact. If you’re asked to provide sensitive information by an unknown contact, it’s likely a scam.
  • Check for licensing and credentials. Debt collectors are often required to be licensed in the state where they operate. Research the collector’s credentials and licensing status through your state’s attorney general’s office or consumer protection agency.
  • Know your rights.  Familiarize yourself with your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and other relevant consumer protection laws. These laws outline the rules that legitimate debt collectors must follow when attempting to collect a debt. For example, they can only contact borrowers at reasonable hours, they cannot call them at their workplace, harass them about a debt using threats or violence, lie about money owed or falsify the name of the agency they represent, among other restrictions. 
  • Keep detailed records. Maintain thorough records of any communication you have with debt collectors, including dates, times, names and contact details. If you suspect a scam, these records can serve as evidence if you need to report the incident.
  • Request written communication. Ask the debt collector to communicate with you exclusively in writing. Legitimate collectors should be willing to provide written documentation of the debt and any payment arrangements.
  • Stay informed. It’s a good idea to check your credit report on a regular basis for any unfamiliar or fraudulent accounts. Monitoring your credit can help you quickly identify any unauthorized activities related to debt collection. It’s also advisable to keep up with the latest scams so you are better equipped to identify and avoid them. 

Debt collection scams can make the nightmare of debt even worse. Use the tips here to stay safe!

How Can I Beat Inflation and Save on Back-to-School Shopping?

Q: With prices soaring and expenses mounting, I’m worried that back-to-school shopping will kill my budget and push me into debt. How can I beat inflation and save on back-to-school shopping?

A: While you may need to adjust your annual back-to-school budget to account for inflation, there are ways to save on these costs and keep your budget intact. Follow these tips to beat inflation this back-to-school season.

Shop with a budget

Your first step toward saving on back-to-school shopping is to create a budget for this shopping season. Determine how much you can afford to spend and allocate specific amounts for different categories such as clothing, supplies and electronics. Having a budget will help you stay focused and avoid impulse purchases.

Take inventory 

Before hitting the stores, take inventory of what you already have at home. Check your kids’ closets, drawers and study areas for supplies and clothing that can be reused or repurposed for the coming school year. This will give you a clear idea of what you really need to buy and help prevent unnecessary spending.

Plan ahead

Start shopping early and take advantage of sales throughout the summer. Watch for clearance sales, promotions and discounts. By planning ahead, you can secure better deals while avoiding the rush and price hikes that happen closer to the start of the school year. You can also take advantage of your state’s tax-free weekend for bigger savings.

Buy generic

Don’t hesitate to reach for generic brands when purchasing school supplies for your kids. Store brands, like Walmart, or Target’s Up & Up, are consistently cheaper than name brands without compromising on quality. 

Shop without your kids

While your kids may savor the experience of choosing their own school supplies for the coming year, shopping with kids is one of the best ways to kill a budget. Kids always have their own ideas of what’s best to spend money on, and their opinions may not necessarily align with yours–or with your budget. If your kids aren’t thrilled about you doing all the shopping on your own, compromise by allowing them to join you on one or two shopping trips, for example, when you shop for shoes and backpacks, but do the rest on your own. 

Think secondhand

Consider purchasing used textbooks, clothing and electronics. You can find gently used items at significantly lower prices on secondhand websites like ThredUp, and at thrift stores like Goodwill. 

When shopping secondhand, it’s important to ensure that items are in good condition and meet your requirements before making the purchase. Also, when buying a secondhand (or any) item online, only use secure platforms and ask to see the item, or a photo of the item, before finalizing the transaction. Finally, use a payment method with purchase protection, such as a credit card, so you can always reclaim your funds should the item turn out different than expected. 

Use discounts and coupons

Before you shop, look for coupons, promotional codes and student discounts to bring down the prices of the items you need to buy. Many retailers offer exclusive discounts to students and teachers. Sign up for newsletters or loyalty programs to receive updates on special offers. You can also use a discount-finder app or browser extension, like Rakuten or Honey to scour the web and automatically pull up any coupons for the items you need. Additionally, check with your child’s school or local community organizations for any available discounts or programs.

Buy in bulk

When possible and it makes sense, purchase supplies in bulk. This is particularly useful for items that are commonly used throughout the school year, like notebooks, pencils and paper. Buying in bulk often comes with a lower per-unit cost, providing long-term savings that will pay off all year long.

Prioritize quality and durability

While it may be tempting to opt for cheaper alternatives, prioritize quality and durability. Investing in well-made products can save you money in the long run, as they are less likely to require replacements later.

Prices are soaring, but that doesn’t mean you need to fall into debt when back-to-school shopping. Follow the tips outlined here to beat inflation and save.

TikTok Inspo: How are you going to beat inflation this back-to-school season? Share your best tips in a short video. 

Affordable Sustainability 6 of 12: Five Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Water Bottle Waste

Plastic water bottles have become a ubiquitous part of modern-day life. They’re convenient, portable and readily available. Unfortunately, though, their convenience comes at a cost. 

According to a report published by the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, more than one million bottles of water are sold every minute around the world. Approximately 85% of these bottles, which can take up to 1,000 years to degrade, will end up as waste, the report claims. This leads to an average of 25 million tons of plastic waste each year. To put that into context, this waste pile is big enough to fill a line of 40-ton trucks stretching from New York to Bangkok every year.

Plastic water bottles do a job on the wallet, too, with the average American spending $266 a year, or $17,290 over an 80-year lifespan, on these ill-packaged beverages. The good news is that reducing your plastic water bottle usage is easy and can have a significant impact on both your wallet and our environment. Here are five ways to reduce your plastic water bottle usage.

1: Invest in a reusable water bottle

One of the easiest ways to reduce your plastic water bottle usage is to invest in a reusable water bottle. Reusable water bottles are durable and easy to carry around.  You can find one in a wide variety of tastes and styles. Best of all, a reusable water bottle is environmentally friendly and easy on the wallet, too. 

When shopping for a reusable water bottle, look for one made from food-grade stainless steel or glass. These materials are non-toxic, highly durable and easy to clean. 

2: Use water filters

Another way to reduce your plastic water bottle usage is to invest in a water filter. Water filters are an excellent way to ensure that your tap water is clean and safe to drink. There are different types of filters available, such as pitcher filters, faucet filters and under-sink filters. Shop around until you find one that fits your needs and budget. Investing in a water filter will reduce your bottled water waste, and lower your exposure to the harmful contaminants that are often found in tap water, such as chlorine, lead and bacteria. 

With clean water available at home, you won’t have to depend on bottled water to stay hydrated. Just refill your reusable water bottle at home, and you’re all set!  

3: Carry your water bottle with you

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of carrying your water bottle around with you. This way, you’ll have clean water to drink wherever you are. Most workplaces provide filtered water for their employees, so you can always refill your bottle during the workday. Plus, leaving home while prepared with a drink means you’re less likely to waste money and plastic on a purchased beverage. That’s a win for the environment, and your budget, too.

4: Say no to plastic water bottles

It isn’t easy to break the plastic water bottle habit, but you can do it! Aside from ensuring you always have your own clean water to drink, be prepared to turn down offers for bottled water at various venues and events. When asked if you’d like a bottle of water, politely decline and explain that you’ve brought your own water. If you’re the one hosting an event, stay true to your values and serve water from pitchers or dispensers instead of distributing plastic bottles to all your guests. 

5: Support businesses that reduce plastic water bottle usage

Supporting businesses that reduce plastic water bottle usage is another way to make a difference. When choosing a restaurant, café or hotel, look for those that offer tap water or water in reusable glasses or bottles. Additionally, you can support businesses that offer incentives for using reusable water bottles, such as discounts or free refills. Supporting businesses that reduce plastic water bottle usage is a great way to create a demand for sustainable practices. 

Use the tips outlined here to change your drinking habits and do one for the environment.

Is it Ever the Right Time to Start a Family?

Q: My partner and I are looking forward to starting a family, but when we sit down to crunch the numbers and we see how much it costs to raise a child, we immediately put our plans on hold. We don’t see our financial situation changing anytime soon. Is it ever the right time to start a family?

A: It’s commendable that you’ve chosen to think about how you will afford to care for and raise a child before the pregnancy test comes back positive. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it costs $233,610 to raise a child to age 18. When adjusted for inflation, that number is closer to $288,094. It’s a massive budget that may seem unattainable right now, but that doesn’t mean you need to delay starting a family until you have all that money saved.

Let’s explore the financial details of starting a family and some steps to take for financially preparing yourself for this exciting and monumental step.

The real cost of raising a child

First, let’s take a closer look at the estimated cost of raising a child from birth to age 18. The USDA’s average, as mentioned above, is approximately $288,094. This number includes ongoing costs like housing, childcare and healthcare, but it does not include the cost of college. 

It’s important to note, though, that this number is only an average. Costs can vary tremendously with each family. For example, the USDA’s average annual housing costs of raising a child is $3,900 in an urban area, but only $2,400 in a rural area. Each family will also have its own spending habits in other areas, like food, transportation and entertainment. Therefore, you may want to do some of your own research to find out what it will likely cost you to raise a child to adulthood.

Another important point to consider is that you do not need to have all these funds available the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. Of course, some costs will need to be immediately incorporated into your family’s budget, but most of these expenses are spread across 18 years. This comes to an average of $16,005 a year, and $1,334 a month. Breaking down the numbers makes them a lot more manageable.

Now you’re ready to determine if you’re financially ready to start a family. 

Assess your current financial situation

Before you start stressing over baby costs, take a good look at your current financial situation. Review each of these components of your financial health:

  • Income streams
  • Ongoing and occasional expenses
  • Outstanding debt
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Emergency funds
  • Long-term savings and investments
  • Assets

If you have a monthly budget, review this as well. If you don’t have one yet, this is a great time to assign a dollar amount to all your monthly expenses. 

Assessing your current money situation will give you an idea of your financial health before you shake things up by bringing a tiny human being home.

Budget for new expenses

Next, jot down a list of baby expenses you expect to have when you start a family. Include one-time expenses like a stroller, crib and carseat, as well as ongoing expenses like diapers, clothing, food and childcare costs. You may need to do some research before arriving at an accurate number for each spending category. 

Once you’ve completed your list, incorporate these items into your monthly budget. You’ll likely need to make a choice to create room in your budget for these items. You can choose to cut all  discretionary expenses completely, to trim from several categories or to look for ways to boost your income. If drastic change is needed, consider a major career shift, such as going for additional training or looking for a new job.

Plan for future expenses

It’s best to plan for your child’s future expenses ahead of time as a means of lessening the financial burden. One way to do this is to create a savings plan for each expense. For example, you can set aside a certain amount each month for child care costs or start a college savings plan, like a 529 savings account.

Review employer policies

Lots of employers offer paid maternity and paternity leave for primary caregivers. This can lighten the financial burden for expectant parents and to ensure they have enough income to live on until they get back to work. Check the maternity/paternity leave policy at your workplace, as well as the policy at your partner’s place of work. If no paid time off is offered, you may need to apply for disability insurance.

Starting a family is a significant financial commitment, but with careful planning and preparation, you can ensure that you are financially prepared to welcome your new bundle of joy into the world.

TikTok Inspo: Are you ready to start a family? We’ll be the judges! Play the part of a financially irresponsible couple preparing to start a family. Tell us about your spending choices and we’ll tell you if you’re ready to start a family.

A Review of the Most Popular Workplace Communication Platforms

There are so many popular workplace communication platforms available today, each of them offering a range of features to support team collaboration and communication. Here are some of the most popular platforms, along with a brief overview of their key features.


Slack is a cloud-based communication platform that allows teams to communicate and collaborate in real-time. It offers a range of features including direct messaging, group channels, file sharing and integration with other tools. Slack also offers a mobile app for iOS and Android, which makes it easy to stay in contact with the team while on the go. 

Users love Slack’s screen share and video conferencing, claiming it’s quicker than competitors, but they don’t love the lack of customizable backgrounds or the minimal storage capacity on the platform. 

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a unified communication and collaboration platform that integrates with other Microsoft services, including Exchange, SharePoint and OneDrive. Teams offers real-time messaging, video and audio calls, file sharing and integration with a wide range of other tools and services. 

Microsoft Teams offers benefits like advanced chat features with badges, GIFs and stickers, which always make workplace communications more fun. Also, many companies will not need to make an additional purchase to use Microsoft Teams, as it’s included in Microsoft 365, which they may already have. However, there are some disadvantages to this platform as well, such as limited capability for internal communications, challenging navigation and a complicated search interface. 


The video conferencing platform that exploded during the coronavirus pandemic is still a favorite among businesses across the world. The cloud-based platform allows teams to hold virtual meetings and webinars at no cost, with extra features and unlimited meetings available through subscription. Zoombombs are an unwelcome part of this platform, but virtual backgrounds are a favorite among users, because who doesn’t love attending a work meeting from outer space? 

Google Workspace (formerly G Suite)

Google Workspace is a suite of cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools that includes Gmail, Google Drive and Google Meet. Workspace offers real-time collaboration on documents, spreadsheets and presentations, along with video and audio calling, making it a popular choice for remote teams. The live Docs and Sheets, which can be reviewed, edited and updated by any team member who’s been granted access, make teamwork easy. However, some users complain of integration issues with Google Meet. 


Asana is a project management and team collaboration platform that allows teams to track their work, set and manage tasks and share files. Asana offers integration with other tools and services, as well as a mobile app for iOS and Android. Users find the task calendar to be super-convenient and user-friendly, though some complain that the mobile app is too limited and that too many emails result from use of the product.

Each of these platforms has its strengths and weaknesses, so the right choice for your team will depend on your specific needs and requirements. 

Your Turn: Do you use one of these platforms at work? Tell us what you love about it in the comments.

Time to Move or Time to Improve? Moving Vs. Home Improvement

Q: My family is growing out of our current home and we’re desperate for more living space. My house can also use a major face-lift. I’m wondering: should I move to a new house, or make some major improvements to my current home?

A: Choosing to move to a new home or to make improvements to your current home is a big decision. The right answer will depend on your general financial situation and other personal circumstances. Here, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of each choice so you can make the decision that is best for you. 

Moving to a new home

For most people, a home is the largest purchase they will make during their lifetime. It can take years to save up for a down payment on a home, and many months of planning and wise decision-making before a home purchase is finalized. 

Pros of moving:

  • Opportunity for a fresh start. You can choose a new location that better suits your needs, such as a superior school district, proximity to family or work or a more desirable community.
  • More living space. This is especially beneficial if you have a growing family or want to add more amenities to your home, such as a home office, designated playroom or gym.
  • Potential for appreciation. If you buy a home in an area that is experiencing growth, your property value may increase over time, resulting in a return on your investment.
  • No dealing with renovations. If you purchase a home that’s already in move-in condition, you won’t have to deal with the headache of renovations at all. 

Cons of moving:

  • Exorbitant upfront costs. Moving to a new home doesn’t come cheaply. You’ll need to spring for closing costs, a down payment, the actual move and for any new furniture you may need to purchase for your new residence. Selling your current home will also cost you in renovations, agent fees and title insurance.
  • Emotional attachment to your home. Did your son take his first steps in the kitchen of your current home? Did your dog have her puppies in the garage?  If you’ve been living in this home for many years and it holds lots of happy memories, you may be reluctant to leave. 
  • Difficulty finding the perfect home. You may need to settle for a home that is less than perfect in many ways. That may end in more stress and regret.
  • Stress of selling your home. The housing market is unpredictable, and you may not be able to sell your current home for the desired price. Of course, if you don’t own your current home, this does not apply to you.
  • Potentially higher interest rate on your mortgage. If rates have increased since you bought or refinanced your current home, or your credit score has slid, you may end up with a higher interest rate on your new mortgage. That could mean paying much more over the long run.

Questions to ask before deciding to move

Before you go ahead with the decision to move to a new home, ask yourself these questions: 

  • What are the market conditions like in my current neighborhood? Will I be able to get my asking price on my home within a short amount of time?
  • What are the market conditions like in my desired neighborhood, and how are they trending? Will I be able to find a home that suits my needs and is within my price range?
  • Do I have enough money saved up to pay for the move? Will I need to wait until I sell my home or take out a bridge loan to cover the gap?
  • Is this a good time for my family to move?

Improving your current home

Now, let’s take a look at the option of improving your current home with a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). A HELOC gives you quick access to cash by using your home as collateral. You can withdraw the funds, as needed, over a period of time known as the draw period. When this time is over, you’ll no longer be able to advance funds and will repay the loan, with interest, over the repayment period.

You can also take out a Home Equity Loan (HEL), which will provide you with one lump sum, generally at a fixed rate and payment, and you start paying back immediately. 

Pros of improving your home:

  • Completely customize to fit your needs. When you design your own home, you can have it customized to perfectly suit your family’s needs and your own tastes. Think trampoline floors in the playroom and built-in bookshelves in the family room.
  • No stress of relocating. When you renovate your home, you can continue to enjoy the same home and neighborhood you’ve lived in for years. 
  • Increase the value of your home. Home improvement projects increase your home’s value, increasing your net profit when you do decide to sell in the future. 
  • Save on moving costs. Why pay thousands of dollars in closing and moving costs when you can have a beautiful new living room for the same price?

Cons of improving your home:

  • Stress of renovations. Dealing with a home improvement project can be super-stressful. There are loads of decisions to make, an endless mess and workers in your home at all hours of the day. 
  • Risk of foreclosure. Taking out a HELOC or HEL puts your home at risk of foreclosure if you are unable to make the payments. This can have long-term consequences on your credit score and financial stability.
  • Additional debt. A HELOC or HEL adds another debt to pay each month, which can be a burden on your budget. 

Questions to ask before deciding to improve your home

Before you go ahead with the decision to improve your current home, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Can I afford the monthly payments on a HELOC?
  • How much will a home improvement project cost me?
  • Will I be able to handle living in a construction zone?
  • Do I want to continue living in this neighborhood?

Your Turn: Have you chosen to move or to improve? Tell us what drove your choice in the comments. 

Travel Hacks 3 of 12-Choose a Vacation Date

If you’re planning a dream getaway, you don’t have to plan on spending a boatload of money. An easy way to bring down costs while still enjoying the vacation of a lifetime is to be flexible with your vacation date. Let’s take a look at why your vacation date has such a strong impact on prices and how to be flexible with your travel plans. 

Why flexibility matters

If your vacation dates are rigid, your flight and lodging choices will be limited. In fact, you may be paying an artificially inflated price just to travel during that time. 

Airline tickets, hotel stays and other vacation costs are established according to these economic variables:

  • SupplyDemandRandomnessNumber of options

If your plans include specific dates, you instantly constrain the last variable, making the costs dependent on the first three, which are all out of your control. You’ll have no choice but to pay whatever the cost is to travel during the time you chose. 

Of course, you can still luck out and find cheap tickets or next-to-nothing hotel stays during your chosen dates, but your chances for that happening are a lot lower than they’d be if you were flexible with your vacation timing. 

For a quick way to see how flexibility with your travel dates can bring down the price of your vacation, try a simple Google Flight Explore search. Input the locations for your departure and destination, and then provide the search engine with specific dates. You’ll likely be provided with several choices. Now, try the same search, but instead of giving the search tool specific dates, provide only a vague description of your travel date. For example, you can write “within the next three months” or even “in the next year” and see what Google returns to you. Now, compare your choices. How much can you save by being flexible with your travel dates?

How to be flexible with your travel plans

If this all sounds wonderful in theory, but not a very practical way to plan a vacation, especially when you need to make arrangements for missing work and for pet or child care while you’re out of town, keep in mind that you don’t need to be completely open-ended with your vacation dates to take advantage of off-season prices. You can search for flights and hotel stays during a specific season, or even during the last two weeks of your chosen month, and still enjoy discounted airfare and hotel stays. 

To increase your chances of landing bargain-priced airline tickets, you can also be flexible with your destination. For example, instead of searching for tickets to France during Independence Day weekend, you can look for tickets to landmark cities in Europe during the month of July. You’ll see a world of a difference in the prices when you’re willing to be open with your plans. 

Finally, be upfront with your workplace about your planned vacation search. Let them know that you want to go away sometime in July, or anytime in the summer, though it may not be during official vacation times. Chances are, they’ll be happy to have you around when most of the company is jetting off on vacation, and may even offer you more flexibility with your vacation dates when you travel off-season. 

Tech tools 

Of course, you don’t have to find those elusive airfare deals on your own. As mentioned, Google’s Flight Explore is an excellent way to find low-cost airline tickets for the time you want to travel. Check out other travel apps like Kayak, Orbitz and Hopper for exclusive deals on airfare. Some apps offer the option of signing up for alerts, which is a great way to ensure you don’t miss out on any fabulous price drops. 

Saving on vacation costs can be as simple as being flexible with your travel dates. Happy travels!

Your Turn: Have you traveled off-season? Tell us about it in the comments.

What is a Personal Line of Credit?

Q: I need access to an indefinite amount of funds for expenses, so I’m thinking of taking out a personal line of credit. What is the difference between this product and a personal loan or a credit card?

A: Personal lines of credit can be a great way to access necessary funds for covering various expenses, with minimal hassle and easy payback terms. Let’s take a look at how this loan product differs from traditional personal loans and credit cards, as well as why it can be a fantastic option. 

What’s a personal line of credit?

A personal line of credit (PLOC) is a form of revolving credit up to a specified amount that works much like a credit card. The borrower can use the money as needed until the maximum allowable credit line (aka “limit”) is used. As the borrower makes monthly payments toward the balance, the available credit is updated to reflect the principal balance that has been repaid.

A PLOC has two phases: the draw period and the repayment period. During the draw period, which typically lasts two years, the borrower can take out as much money as needed from the available credit line. Once the formal repayment period begins, the borrower can no longer take out cash from the credit line. It should be noted that the borrower does not have to wait for the repayment period to commence; they can typically begin repaying the used line as soon as they start drawing.                                                                                          

How is a personal line of credit different from a personal loan?

Unlike a PLOC, a personal loan provides the borrower with a lump sum of money that is generally used immediately for a specific purpose. Personal loans usually feature a fixed interest rate and a fixed payment amount throughout the term. You’ll make consistent payments toward the loan’s interest and principal throughout the life of the loan.

How is a personal line of credit different from a credit card?

As a form of revolving credit, a PLOC is similar to a credit card. Both are unsecured and can feature high interest rates, which will probably be adjustable rather than fixed. However, a PLOC generally has a lower interest rate than a consumer credit card. It also has a limited draw term, unlike a credit card, which can be open for years.  

When is it a good idea to choose a personal line of credit? 

While a personal loan can provide the freedom to use the money you borrow as needed and a fixed repayment plan, a PLOC can be a great flexible borrowing option in many circumstances, such as a home improvement project or any other ongoing purpose for which the borrower does not know exact costs. It can also be a good way for a borrower with fluctuating income to get through the tighter months. Finally, it can be used to pay for a major life event, such as a wedding or adoption, for which the borrower does not have an exact price tag, but for which they will be planning over the course of many months.  

A PLOC offers the borrower many benefits, including:

  • Flexible borrowing of funds spread out over many months
  • Instant access to funds when needed
  • No repayments unless the funds are used

Before you take out a PLOC

Before going ahead with your application for a PLOC, make sure you understand the exact terms and conditions associated with your line of credit. You should be clear on when your draw period ends and you’ll no longer be able to access your funds, whether there is a cap on your interest rate and the maximum amount of funds you’ll be able to use from your line of credit.

A PLOC can be an excellent way to access a large amount of funds with manageable payback terms. To learn more about this loan product, call, click or stop by Advantage One Credit Union today.

Your Turn: Have you taken out a PLOC? Tell us what you love about this loan product in the comments.

5 Ways to Save on Workplace Lunches

Did you know that spending $10 to buy lunch at work each day will cost you $2,600 a year? And if you spend $20 each day, well … that number doubles! That’s a lot of money that could be better spent toward a vacation, a luxury purchase you’ve been dreaming of, paying down existing debts or just sitting in an investment fund or savings account. Here’s how to save on workplace lunches by brown-bagging it and beyond. 

Check out your workplace kitchen

If you’ve been buying your lunch every day, you may not even know what space and appliances are available to you in the office kitchen. Check out what your workplace provides for its employees in the way of food storage and prep so you can be better prepared when planning and packing your lunches. Is there a microwave, toaster or another appliance at the office? Do you have access to cabinet space and/or a fridge? Are there spice packets and condiments for the taking? 

Love those leftovers

Don’t just use the bit of leftover dinner proteins to add to your work lunch salads; cook dinner with the next day’s lunch in mind. Add a bit of extra protein to your entree, and then slice it or shred it for your workday sandwich or salad. If you’re cooking up pasta, set some aside to take to work the next day before you add any sauces or cheese. Homemade pizza is great the next day, too. Pack some condiments, cheese and your favorite salad add-ons to add life to your leftovers at work.

Jar it

Mason jars are the perfect food storage solution, and they’re pretty, too! Pack a tight salad, layered meal or anything at all in small Mason jars and it’ll stay fresh for several days in your home or work fridge. Jarring your lunch is a great solution for the employee who finds it challenging to carve out time for lunch prep each evening or morning. All you need is one marathon food prep session over the weekend, and you’ll be set for the week.

Freeze it

If your office provides freezer space for its employees, you may want to load up on some frozen meal options. You can find some delicious and healthful frozen lunches at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and other grocery stores. Keep them at work for those days when you didn’t plan ahead for lunch but don’t want to blow a twenty on takeout. 

Partner up with a colleague

If you still want to spring for takeout at work, consider partnering up with a friend to bring down the price. You can split a lunch special, share a personal pie or even take turns sponsoring a lunch so you don’t have to pay for your meal each day. 

Use these hacks to brown-bag it like a pro and save on workplace lunches. 

Your Turn: How do you save on workplace lunches? Share your best hacks in the comments. 

Travel Hacks 2 of 12-Open a Vacation Club Account

Planning your dream vacation can be great fun – until you need to figure out how you’re going to pay for it. Stressing over every expense and dreading the bills you know will be waiting for you at home can be an epic killjoy to the best of vacations. 

Lucky for you, as a member of Advantage One Credit Union, you have access to a variety of savings options and loans that can help you save up for, or borrow money, to fund a large purchase, like a dream getaway. One of these options is the Vacation Club Savings Account [or the Holiday Club Savings Account]. 

Let’s take a closer look at this savings vehicle and how it can help make your dream vacation more affordable. 

What is a club account?

A club account is a type of savings account in which the account holder makes regular contributions toward a predetermined goal. Vacation club accounts are designed to help the account holder save up for vacation expenses. Spreading the cost of a large, seasonal expense throughout the year makes it easier to accomplish. 

Are there restrictions on vacation club accounts?

The funds in a vacation club account can generally only be withdrawn when the predetermined goal has been achieved. This may be a specific date or amount of money. To discourage the account owner from deterring their progress toward their goal, early withdrawals from a vacation club account may be penalized or the account may even be closed out. 

What are some advantages of a vacation club account?

As mentioned, vacation club accounts make dream vacations affordable by spreading the costs over the course of the full year. However, there are many more benefits to opening a vacation club account. Here are just a few:

  • Incentive to save. Having a separate place to keep your vacation funds makes it easier to track your progress and incentivizes you to keep saving.  
  • Name your account. Many financial institutions allow members to name their vacation club accounts with a custom title. For example, you may be able to call your account “Europe Vacation 2024.” Attaching your vacation plans to your club account helps make it real and can motivate you to stick to your goal. 
  • Builds strong saving habits. Making regular monthly contributions to a savings account is a great workout for your savings muscle and a big boost to your general financial health. Ideally, this new habit will continue well beyond achieving the initial goal. 
  • Prevents overspending and debt. Lots of vacationers will swipe or borrow their way through a vacay and then scramble for months after it to pay it all back. The financially responsible way to pay for a vacation is, of course, to save up for it before setting out. A vacation club helps you do just that. 
  • Keeps vacation money out of sight. Out of sight and out of mind. You’re less able to spend that vacation money when it’s in a savings account at the credit union. 
  • Favorable dividend rates. Vacation club accounts tend to offer higher dividends than other non-maturing share accounts.

Is a vacation club account for everyone? 

While vacation club accounts offer a convenient way to save up for a dream getaway, they may not be the best choice for every individual. 

First, club accounts restrict the account holder’s access to the money. If you do not have a sufficient emergency fund and/or another safety net, you may be better off building up your general savings before opening a vacation club account. 

Second, if you’re the kind of vacationer who likes to plan and fund bits and pieces of your getaway throughout the year, a vacation club may not be in your best interest, either. With your money tied up in your club account, you won’t be able to use the funds to book airline tickets in November, make hotel reservations in February and arrange a car rental in April. 

Vacation club accounts make dream getaways more affordable by spreading the costs throughout the year, but they may not be for everyone’s money management style. Consider this info about these specialty accounts and make an informed decision. 

Your Turn: Do you have a vacation club account? Tell us about it in the comments.