What to Buy and What to Skip in May

The month of May kicks off summer and hosts one the biggest shopping holiday weekends of the year. Because of this, you can pick up fantastic deals this month, but some purchases are best pushed off a bit longer or for another season.  

Here’s what to buy and what to skip in May. 

Buy: Furniture 

Memorial Day sales feature great prices on major home-related purchases. Look for new furniture like dinette sets, sofas and more at your favorite stores and through online sites. Sales often start a full week before Memorial Day, so shop early for the best selection.

Skip: Swimwear and lingerie

Beach season may be starting soon, but you’re best off waiting another month to pick up your new swimwear and lingerie. The sale cycle for these is set by lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret. The company usually hosts a semi-annual sale each June, and competing retailers are quick to join. Hold out just a little longer before perfecting your beach look for the season to save yourself a bundle!

Buy: Athletic apparel and loungewear

It’s time for cooler workout clothing, and that means retailers will be slashing prices on their leftover workout gear from the winter to make room for the new lines. You’ll also see bargain-priced loungewear as people get outside and spend less time indoors. If you need new footwear, check out major shoe retailers and department stores for steep discounts on sneakers as old styles must move to make room for the new. 

Skip: Home electronics

May is not the time to pick up new electronics. Laptops, gaming consoles and more always see their lowest prices in November during Black Friday sales events. If you can’t wait that long, you can also find deals on electronics during the back-to-school shopping season in August. 

Buy: Spring apparel

The weather may have only turning turned reliably milder,now, but in the world of retail, May is well into the warm-weather season. Spring clothing will see steep discounts this month, so you can fill out your spring wardrobe without busting your budget. Check for sales on your favorite retailers’ social media pages, websites or by signing up for email and/or text alerts so you never miss a sale. 

Skip: Summer apparel

While spring clothing may be discounted in May, it’s still too early to start stocking up on summer wear. Leave the flip-flop and tank-top shopping for the July Fourth weekend, or even August, for truly bargain prices. 

Skip: Outdoor furniture and grills

There’s lots of grilling holidays coming up, including Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, but hold off on purchasing a new grill for now. Grills will be steeply discounted at the end of the summer during Labor Day sale events. If you must buy a new grill for this season, though, you can find them at slightly lowered prices during Memorial Day sales. 

Buy: Major home appliances

Is your fridge on its last legs? Is your oven about to give out? Pick up major home appliances for less during Memorial Day sale events. You can also replace or buy new small home appliances like coffee makers, blenders and more during these sales. Be sure to check out competing retailers before making a purchase to ensure you’re getting the best price on your appliance. 

Skip: Outdoor furniture

With all the time spent outside in these warm-weather months, you’re likely itching to upgrade your patio furniture. However, it’s best to hold off on these purchases until Labor Day weekend sale events, when prices can be slashed by as much as 50%. 

Buy: Mattresses and bedding

If you’re itching to upgrade the quality of your sleep, you can pick up new mattresses at bargain prices during Memorial Day sales. Check out major retailers, like Macy’s and Sleepy’s, as well as online sources, like Overstock.com, for the best prices. You can deck out your new mattresses in stylish and comfy bedding for less this month as well. 

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great bargain buys in May? Tell us about them in the comments. 

How to Prepare Your Home for Spring

Winter is on its way out, and spring is on its way in. That means it’s time to stop hibernating and get outside! Before you do, though, you’ll need to help your home recover from the damage incurred during winter and take steps to prepare it for spring. Don’t stress about what you need to do; just follow our lead with these six steps for preparing your home for spring. 

Step 1: Clean your yard

It’s been a while since you’ve spent an extended amount of time in your yard, and it’s likely got leaves and other debris scattered about. Take time in early spring to rake up all the leaves, loose twigs and anything else your yard has collected over the winter. If you own a mulching mower, you can shred the leaves and allow them to compost on your lawn to provide it with important nutrients. 

Step 2: Prep your grass and other plants and trees

At winter’s end, you’ll want to ensure your grass, shrubs, flowers and trees are all set to bloom in the spring. Prune all dead and diseased branches from trees with a handsaw and use a strong bypass lopper for pruning smaller bushes and shrubs. Be sure to cut all branches away from you so they don’t fall toward you. 

At this time, you’ll also want to prep your lawn for optimal grass growth. Pull up all weeds and crabgrass, making sure to pull up the entire root. Use a shovel or a weed-whacker to make the job easier. If your lawn has heavy weed growth, you may want to use a strong herbicide to stop the weed before it takes over your entire lawn. Finally, fertilize and seed your lawn to promote new, healthy roots and strong grass growth in the coming seasons. 

Step 3: Clear your gutters

Clogged gutters can cause severe damage to your home. After a long winter, your gutters may be full of leaves, twigs and other debris. Use a gloved hand to clear your gutters of all objects and then flush the gutters with a running hose. This will help you find any leaks that need to be repaired. Also, if using a ladder, be extra cautious to avoid falls and injury.

Step 4: Clean the exterior of your home

It’s time to get the outside of your home looking beautiful again! If you own a pressure washer and already have the specialized cleaning solution to use with it, you’re ready to go. Otherwise, you can rent a pressure washer from a home improvement store, like Lowe’s or Home Depot, and purchase the cleaning solution in these stores as well. Load the washer with the solution and clean the outside of your home with slow movements. Let the solution rest for a few minutes, and then rinse with water from the washer or a garden hose. 

Step 5: Prepare your patio

To prepare your patio or deck for spring, check for any damage it may have incurred over the winter. Make any necessary repairs and clean the entire area with a broom, garden hose and/or pressure washer. If there is any mildew growth, use a scrub brush and specialized deck cleaner to remove it. You may also want to reseal your deck if it’s showing significant signs of aging. 

Next, take your patio furniture out of storage and check it over for damage. You may need to wipe each piece down with a damp cloth or wipe. Set up your outdoor rugs, planters, lighting and wind chimes as well. 

Finally, prepare your grill. It’s best to remove your grates and scrub them with a wire brush to remove any caked-on debris. For tougher stains, use a spray-on grill cleaner. Be sure to clean the inside and outside of the grill thoroughly with hot, soapy water and then rinse with water, then allow it to dry before using. 

Step 6: Prepare your A/C units

Make sure your home is ready to handle the heat by inspecting your A/C units early in the season. Check your outdoor unit panels, removing all leaves, twigs and other debris that may have accumulated over the winter. Also, check the interior of the unit to be sure it’s clear of any debris that may have blown inside. Finally, it’s a good idea to change your HVAC system’s air filter before you turn it on for the season. 

Your home is ready for the new season! Have a wonderful spring. 

Your Turn: How do you prepare your home for spring? Share your tips with us in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in April

The days are getting longer and warmer, and that means summer is just around the corner! Though April is a mid-season month without any major shopping holidays, you can still score some great deals. There are also many items you’ll want to put on your waitlist until prices drop in another month or so. We’ve got all the info for you so you can shop smart! Here’s what to buy and what to skip in April. 

Buy: Cruise tickets

If you’re looking to get away from it all, April is a great time to book that springtime or summer cruise. You can find deals on cruise tickets to Bermuda, Europe and other exotic locations this month. Take action and score the vacation of a lifetime at a discounted price.

Skip: Mattresses

Unless your mattress is giving you unbearable back pain, you’re best off waiting until Memorial Day when deep discounts make purchasing a new mattress easier on your wallet.

Buy: Car parts and accessories

If you need new wipers, tires, brakes or another car part or accessory, this is the month to pick them up! April is National Car Care Month, so auto parts stores and service centers will be running promotions. If your car needs servicing, or even just a tune-up, you can get this done for less this month, too. 

Skip: Grills and patio furniture

Spring is just getting underway, and all things outdoors are still retailing at full price. If you can wait until Memorial Day sale events happen, you can upgrade your grill and deck out your patio in the finest gear for a lot less money. If you wait even longer, until July or August, you’ll potentially find even steeper discounts. 

Buy: Secondhand treasures

Spring-cleaning season means crowds of people are clearing out the clutter in their closets and around their homes. Many of these treasures may end up in secondhand stores or get sold at garage sales around the neighborhood. If you’re looking for already-loved clothing to spruce up your wardrobe, or gently-used furniture to replace your outdated pieces, April can be a great time to pick up priceless pre-owned treasures. Hit the secondhand stores early in the week for the best pickings, as they tend to get the most donations over the weekend when people do their cleaning.

Skip: Vacuums 

April might be time for deep-cleaning, but that doesn’t mean cleaning gear is discounted this month. Unless you’re desperate for a new machine, you’re better off waiting until vacuums go on sale during Black Friday sale events. 

Buy: Tax day giveaways

Filing taxes can be a headache at best, and downright painful at worst. Retailers want to make April 15th a little easier on the wallet for consumers, so many of them will run special promotions and events on this day. Look for giveaways, freebies, deep discounts on goods and more when tax day rolls around.

Skip: Refrigerators

If your fridge seems to be on its way out and you’re in the market for a new one, it’s best to hold off a bit on this purchase if you can. Retailers will soon be rolling out new models, and if you can wait until Memorial Day, you can find a new fridge in last year’s model at a fantastic price. 

Buy: Mother’s Day gifts

It’s never too early to think about making mom happy! And if you buy your Mother’s Day gifts in April, including jewelry and chocolate, you can save a bundle, too. 

Skip: Baby gear

Like all products that are upgraded annually, baby gear sees its biggest discounts when new models are rolled out, in January and February. This includes cribs, strollers, car seats, highchairs and more. 

Buy: Cookware

April is the unofficial kickoff of wedding season, when cookware becomes a popular gift. In a bid to attract customers, retailers offer steep discounts on pots and other cookware this month. Round out your own collection of cookware, or start stocking up on wedding gifts for less.

Tax day notwithstanding, April can be a time of fantastic finds and springtime memory making. Have a wonderful, bargain-filled month!  

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great deals this month? Tell us about it in the comments. 

How Can I Save on Entertainment Costs?

Q: With inflation driving up costs on everything imaginable, my monthly budget has really taken a hit. I’m trying to trim it wherever possible and I’d love to cut back on the money I spend on recreation. How can I save on my entertainment costs?

A: Being proactive about a budget that doesn’t work any longer due to current prices is commendable. Fortunately, there are ways you can trim your recreation budget without feeling the pinch. Below, we’ve listed eight ways you can save on entertainment costs. 

  1. Attend amateur sporting events

Instead of spending big bucks on professional sporting events, get your fix at local high school or college games. You’ll get the same excitement and a game that features high talent without the high price tag. 

  1. Volunteer

Volunteering your time and services at local organizations won’t cost you a dime, but it will provide you with an outlet and the opportunity to meet new people. Reach out to local soup kitchens, animal shelters, food banks and hospitals to find out how you can help. You’ll make the world a better place while enjoying free social events hosted by the organization. 

  1. Turn a hobby into income

If you’re crafty, you can make money through your hobby by selling your creations. Set up a seller’s account on sites like eBay and Etsy to market your products. You can use some of the money you earn to purchase new supplies and improve your skills. 

  1. Get your workout at home

There’s no need to drop a ton of money on gym memberships or fitness equipment. Get your workout at home by designating a small corner of your home for exercise and checking out online workout videos on YouTube. Stock up on a few pieces of inexpensive fitness gear like jump ropes, a fitness ball and weights to take your at-home workout up a notch. Shop secondhand sites like Craigslist for great deals on your workout equipment. You can also get your heart pumping by going for a run in your neighborhood and choosing to take the stairs when possible. 

  1. Spend less on dining out

You don’t need to stop eating out and buying takeout food, but there are ways to cut back on these costs. First, don’t walk into a restaurant without checking for coupon codes and discounted gift certificates on sites like Groupon and Restaurants.com. Next, when choosing what to order from the menu, look left. Most people automatically look right, and restaurant owners knowingly place the most expensive items on this side of the menu. Finally, take a break between courses before ordering more to give your body a chance to feel satiated from what you’ve already eaten. 

  1. Buy season passes

If you find yourself visiting the same museum, amusement park, zoo or another entertainment center often, consider purchasing a season pass where available. These often run for as little as just two one-time entrance tickets. You’ll need to splurge at the start of the season, but once you’ve paid it off, you’ll have your fun outing for the rest of the season without it affecting your monthly budget. 

  1. Attend local art shows

There’s no need to pay big-ticket prices to enjoy a beautiful work of art. Check out local galleries for free events and shows for a night of fine art. Some towns also host monthly art walks featuring several galleries on display at no cost to the viewer. 

  1. Catch a performance at a local college

If you live near a college town, be sure to find out about performances and concerts they may be hosting. Many artists and performers include colleges as part of their tours. Score an inexpensive ticket to a big-name concert by attending these venues. 

Inflation doesn’t have to fully deflate the fun in your life. Use the tips outlined above to save on your recreation costs. 

Your Turn: How do you save on entertainment costs? Tell us about it in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in February

Are you looking to snag some bargain buys this month? We’ve got you covered! We’ve done the legwork so you don’t have to, researching items that get marked down in February, and those that’ll see steep discounts in the coming months so you’re better off putting them on hold for now. 

Here’s what to buy and what to skip this February. 

Buy: TVs

Whether you’re a diehard football fan or you are a binger of the latest streaming seasons or movies, you can pick up a fantastic deal on big-screen TVs in February. TVs tend to go on sale in the beginning of the year, but it’s not until the middle of February that home entertainment systems see their lowest prices. These sales often continue through President’s Day and may even run until the end of the month. 

Skip: Flowers

Flowers might have their big day in the middle of February, but that doesn’t mean fresh blooms are discounted this month. In fact, you’re better off skipping the flowers in February and finding another way to show your sweetheart how much they mean to you.

Buy: Winter gear 

In the world of retail, “Old Man Winter” is well on the way out when the calendar hits February. To make room for the spring stock, stores will generously mark down winter gear this month. You can snag a great deal on all kinds of winter stuff in February. Prices on sporting equipment, like skis and snowboards, can be slashed by up to 30%, while winter clothing may be discounted as much as 80%!  You’ve still got a nice chunk of winter to enjoy the goods, or you can store them for next year’s cold-weather season. 

Skip: Electronics

Aside from TVs, you’ll want to skip pretty much all major electronic purchases vthis month. Computers, smartphones, gaming consoles and other electronic items are full price right now. You’re better off purchasing these items during Black Friday sales in November. If you can’t wait that long, you can also pick up great deals on electronics during “Black Friday in July” events.

Buy: Furniture

You can pick up some beautiful new furniture at great prices during Presidents Day sales, which can run for a full week or two. Be sure to check out prices at several stores before splurging on a big-ticket item, since prices on furniture can vary tremendously between retailers.

Skip: Fitness equipment and gym memberships

Fitness equipment and gym memberships are usually at their lowest in January to attract the hordes of people seeking to get fit in the New Year. By February, these markdowns on workout gear and promotional offers on gym memberships are gone – and you likely won’t see them again until the warmer weather sets in and people take their workouts outside. 

Buy:  Tax software

Tax season is underway, and that means tax software companies are looking to attract customers with super specials on their products. Score a great price on tax software in February to make this tedious task super-easy and smooth. 

Skip: Patio furniture

It’s tempting to upgrade your outdoor furniture as soon as a hint of warmer weather arrives, but February is only the start of the spring season. Prices will still be high and will only start to see discounts during Memorial Day sale events. For the best deals on outdoor furniture, wait until September, when retailers need to clear out the season’s inventory to make room for next year’s updated selection. 

Buy: Jewelry

During the second half of February, prices on jewelry plunge up to 80%. You can snag a great deal on a beautiful ring, bracelet, necklace or pair of earrings during post-holiday sales. Hold onto your bargain-priced jewel buys until Mother’s Day, your love partner’s birthday or your shared anniversary. 

Use our tips to learn what to buy and what to skip for the best deals this February. 

 Your Turn: Did you pick up a great deal in February? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Step 2 of 12 to Financial Wellness: Creating a Budget

Now that you’ve tracked your spending and kept a careful record of where your money goes over the course of a month, you’re ready to move onto the next step of financial wellness: creating a budget. Budgets play a crucial role in promoting financial awareness, which then helps to facilitate more responsible money choices. This discipline will benefit you individually, as well as all who are part of your household. 

Let’s get started by taking a look at how to create a budget and review some popular budgeting systems and how they work. . 

Create a budget in 5 easy steps

  • Track your spending and income. This includes all your financial documents, such as your account statements, bills and pay stubs. [If you’ve followed Step 1, you’ve already completed this step–nice work getting ahead of the game!]
  • Tally up your totals. Calculate the totals of your monthly expenses and all your streams of income. If your income exceeds your expenses, you’re in a good place. However, if your expenses exceed your income, or the numbers are too close for comfort, you’ll need to trim some discretionary expenses to make it through the month without falling into debt if an unforeseen big expense happens. 
  • List your needs. Your needs include anything that is essential for living and basic functions, such as rent or mortgage payments, savings, food and clothing. Needs always take priority in a budget. As you list each need, write down its corresponding cost. Sum up the total of your needs when you’ve finished. 
  • List your wants. This includes anything that is not essential for living, like entertainment costs, brand-name clothing and eating out. Here, too, note the monthly cost of each item on your list and add up the total when you’re done. 
  • Assign dollar amounts to your expenses. Open a new spreadsheet and copy your list of expenses, starting with fixed-cost needs, then non fixed-cost needs, and finally, your wants. Assign an appropriate dollar amount for each of these costs, making sure the total does not exceed your estimated total for monthly expenses. 
  • Review and tweak as necessary. You will likely need to adjust the amounts in each expense category at least once a year to keep your budget relevant. Likewise, you will hopefully be able to increase the amounts in the income column as you move upward in your career path or find additional income streams. 

Budgeting systems

While every kind of budget involves tracking expenses and committing to a maximum spending amount each month, there is a wide range of budgeting systems to fit every kind of personality and money management style. 

The traditional budget doesn’t involve much more work than the steps described above. After working out a number for every expense category, you’ll simply need to track your spending throughout the month to ensure you’re sticking to the plan. You can use a spreadsheet for this purpose, or utilize one of the popular budgeting apps, like Mint or YNAB, and do it digitally. 

The money-envelope system works similarly. However, instead of simply committing to sticking to your spending amounts for each expense category, you’ll withdraw the amount you plan to spend on all non-fixed expenses in cash at the start of the month. Divide the cash into separate envelopes, using one for each of these expenses. Then, withdraw cash from the appropriate envelope when making a purchase in that category. There’s no way to blow your budget with this system; when the money in the “Dining out” envelope runs dry, that’s all for this month!

The 50/30/20 budget is simpler, but requires more discipline. Set aside 50 percent of your budget for your needs, 30 percent for wants and the remaining 20 percent for savings. Of course, you’ll need to make sure your income and expenses will work with this kind of budget. Does 50 percent of your income cover your needs? If yes, this budget allows for more individual choices each month and less accounting and tracking of expenses. 

A well-designed budget can provide its creator with a sense of financial security and freedom. When you stick to a budget, you’ll always know you have enough to get through the month and save for the future. Start budgeting today!

Your Turn: Do you stick to a strict monthly budget? Share your best budgeting tips with us in the comments. 

Practical ways to save on heating costs this winter

As the outside temperature falls, we raise the temperature inside, and with it, heating costs go up, too. While peaceful white snowfall may be picturesque, the winter utility bills are not quite as pretty.

If you’ve been to a gas station or store recently, you’ve seen first-hand how the 6.8% inflation rate is affecting prices on just about everything nowadays. The smaller supply along with increased demand for fuel will really hit home as a result.

Almost half of U.S. households use natural gas heat as their primary fuel source, which costs over 25% more than last year, and consumers are projected to spend 30% more than last winter, on average.

The 41% of U.S. households that heat with electricity, which is up 6.5%, are slated to spend 6% more, according to the Winter Fuels Outlook 2021 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The 4% of households that heat mostly with heating oil, or the 5% who use propane, could see even bigger cost hikes, between 43-54%.

While we can’t change the weather or the economy, we can change our habits to be smarter for our budget and more environmentally friendly.

Here are some practical ways to keep more heat inside your home and more money inside your wallet.

  1. Add rugs to your floors, such as in the bathroom, to help keep rooms insulated. Dress in layers, warm sweaters and socks. Use flannel sheets and more blankets at night to keep your body heat inside.
  2. Clean or change air filters for heating devices. Debris is unclean for breathing and will keep the warm air from circulating. Move furniture and curtains away from heaters to enable air flow and prevent fire hazards.
  3. Lower the thermostat by 7-10 degrees when everyone is out for the day. An electronic thermostat usually allows you to set the temperature to automatically increase or decrease as your schedule changes each day. If going away for a few days, do not reduce temps to less than 55 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing.
  4.  Call a professional to inspect your furnace and either clean it or upgrade it. The cost can be well worth the savings in heating. An old and dirty furnace system can work at 60 to 70% efficiency; switching to a newer, high-efficiency system can work at 90 to 98%.
  5.  Contact your utility company for a free home check-up. Costs for service or upgrades can be offset by federal tax credits, and utility rebates are available for many energy-efficient upgrades.
  6. Check windows for leaks. Detect air leaks by lighting a candle and watching if it blows in a certain direction. Seal windows with caulking or spray-foam insulation, or cover with plastic insulation sheets. Put draft stoppers under doorways.
  7. Open the shades during sunlight hours to let the sun naturally heat up your space. Close curtains at night to retain your heat and prevent cold night air from entering. Insulated curtains can help to better trap the heat than basic curtains would.
  8. Use plug-in space heaters to warm up isolated areas instead of turning on entire heating zones if all the space is not in use. Place them in open areas, away from flammable items and children or pets. Close vents in rooms that are not being used to avoid unnecessary output.
  9. Switch to LED light bulbs. They use about 75 percent less energy and last about 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Though their initial cost is higher, it pays off in the form of reduced electric bills over time. Unplug devices that are not in use.
  10. Reduce your water heater temperature to 120 degrees. Many houses or buildings have water heaters set to a burning temperature of 140 degrees. Reducing it to a comfortable 120 degrees is safer for skin and easier on heating costs.

Following a few of these easy-to-implement tips and hacks for saving on heat costs can make a big difference. Put them to good use so you can sit back and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa during this cold winter, content that you are staying warm and also saving money.

Your Turn:  Are you thinking about putting any of these heat-saving tips into action this winter? Any that should be on our list that we missed? Share in the comments. 

Beware Tax Filing Scams

It’s tax season, so it’s time to get your paperwork in order and hire a tax preparer. Unfortunately, though, there are thousands of scammers looking to steal your information and your tax refund by posing as authentic tax preparers. It’s important to learn how to recognize the signs of a fraudulent tax preparer so you don’t fall victim to a tax filing scam. Here’s all you need to know about these scams and how to keep your money and your information safe.

How the scam plays out 

In a tax filing scam, a victim hires an alleged tax preparer to do their taxes. They may be pulled in by the nominal fee the “preparer” is charging, or lured by the scammer’s extensive advertising which makes a frequent appearance on their social media platforms and on websites they often visit. Or, they may be tempted by the large return the “preparer” promises to secure for them.

The victim then shares their information with the supposed tax preparer without suspecting anything is unusual. Unfortunately, though, when the scammer has the taxpayer’s information, they’ll use it to file a tax return in the victim’s name while changing important details, such as a checking account number or mailing address. They’ll swap in their own information and collect the victim’s refund. By the time the victim realizes what’s happened, they’ve lost the money owed to them by the IRS and are at risk of falling prey to identity theft. 

Protect yourself

The best way to stay safe from a tax filing scam is to do your research carefully before hiring a tax preparer. 

First, avoid pop-up ads when choosing a tax preparer, especially those riddled with typos and spelling errors and those that market their services aggressively. Research any preparers you consider hiring by asking for references of previous clients, Googling the name of the preparer and/or their agency and looking for a physical address and phone number on their website. Be suspicious, as well, if they promise a large return without knowing the first detail about your finances.

Second, before hiring an individual or an agency to do your taxes, ask to see their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Every legitimate tax preparer must have one of these federally issued identification numbers. If the “preparer” refuses to share their PTIN, you’re being scammed. 

Finally, if you’ve already hired a preparer but you are harboring some doubt about their authenticity, look for these red flags that can prove your suspicions are likely on-target:

  • The preparer inflates numbers that directly affect your tax liability, such as charity donations and business-related expenses. 
  • The preparer claims ineligible individuals as your dependents. 
  • The preparer asks you to sign a blank or partially completed form while promising to fill out the remainder after you sign. 
  • The preparer refuses to sign your form.

 If your tax preparer follows any or all of the above practices, terminate your relationship with them immediately.

If you’ve been targeted

If you’ve been targeted by a tax filing scam and you’ve only recognized that you were being scammed after your form has already been filed, report it to the authorities as quickly as possible. Let the FTC know about the scam, alert the IRS and tell your friends and family about the circulating scam, too.

If you’ve shared your personal information with the scammer, take some additional steps toward protecting yourself from further implications of the scam. For example, if you’ve shared your financial information with the scammer, such as your checking account details, you’re best off closing your account and opening a new one. Also, if the scammer knows your Social Security number, you are now vulnerable to identity theft. Check out the federal government’s page on identity theft recovery to learn what steps to take next. 

Stay alert during tax season and keep your money and your information safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a tax filing scam? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Leaving Your Job? Make Sure Your Wallet is Ready

One of the many pandemic’s lasting effects on the U.S. economy is the so-called Great Resignation of 2021. Employees are voluntarily leaving their jobs in droves. In fact, according to data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, a whopping 20.2 million workers left their jobs from May 2021 through September 2021. Reasons for the high turnover range from availability of federal economic aid to general burnout, which reached a turning point during the pandemic. 

If you are considering becoming a part of the Great Resignation, it’s important to make sure your finances are in order before you give official notice at your job to cover any gaps in employment. Below, we’ve outlined some important steps to take before you leave your job.  

Review your savings

Before giving up a steady paycheck, make sure you have enough savings to tide you over until you find new employment. Ideally, you should have an emergency fund with 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses to help you survive periods of unemployment, such as when you’re between jobs.  If you don’t have this kind of money saved up, consider pushing off your resignation until you can put together a nest egg to help you get by without a paycheck. 

Check your benefits 

If your job includes employee benefits, like retirement funding, be sure to review them carefully before giving notice. Here are different options to consider for the most common employee benefits: 

  • Health insurance. Work-sponsored health coverage generally ends on an employee’s last day at work, though coverage will sometimes continue until the end of the month. Similarly, some companies start covering new employees on their first day of work, while others have a waiting period that can last from 30 to 90 days. If you’ll have a gap in coverage, try to negotiate for early coverage when securing your new job. If this is not possible, thanks to COBRA, you can continue your current health coverage at your own expense for 18 months after you leave your job. It’s important to note, though, that this can be a pricey option. You can also purchase a short-term policy through the marketplace. 
  • Pension. If your previous place of employment came with a pension, you may be able to keep it or take out the money when you leave. This depends on whether or not your contributions are vested and the other rules of the pension plan. In general, if you were only at this job for a short while, you likely will not be able to hold onto your pension. If you have a choice, it can be better not to take out a pension in a lump sum because you will likely get a better return with a pension than on other investments. If you do take out your pension, you may want to roll it over into an IRA or a 401(k), which is tax-deferred. 
  • 401(k). If your old job came with a 401(k), you’ll need to decide what to do with the funds. You can keep the account as it is without making any additional contributions, roll over the funds to a new 401(k) program, roll the money over into an IRA or cash it out. Consider the investment options in your current 401(k) when making your decision. 
  • Life insurance. Don’t forget to consider a possible gap in your life insurance coverage when leaving a job. You may be able to continue paying for coverage until you have a new plan through your next place of employment. 

Assess your risk tolerance

Before accepting a new job, make sure you can handle a possible blow to your income. Many jobs will present new employees with the possibility of better pay in the future, while initially only offering a starting salary. How comfortable are you taking a risk with a new job that doesn’t guarantee as much financial security? 

Adjust your budget for your new salary

If your new job comes with better pay, or you’ll be bringing home a smaller paycheck for now, you’ll need to adjust your budget accordingly. You may want to increase the contributions you make toward your investments or find a new place to park your cash, such as a Advantage One Credit Union Savings Account, for the extra income while you decide on a more permanent strategy. On the flip side, if you’ll be earning less money now, look for ways to trim your budget so your paycheck can stretch to cover all your expenses. 

Leaving an old job and looking for a new one can be an exciting opportunity, but it’s important to make sure your finances are in order before taking that leap. Follow the tips outlined here before giving notice at your place of employment to ensure ongoing financial security.  

Your Turn: Have you recently changed jobs? Share your best tips and strategies in the comments. 

My Money My Way: Taking Back Control of Your Financial Life

Title: My Money My Way: Taking Back Control of Your Financial Life

Author: Kumiko Love

Hardcover: 240 pages

Publisher: Portfolio

Publishing date: Feb. 1, 2022

Who is this book for? 

  • Single women looking for tips on managing finances on their own. 
  • Anyone who’s ever battled feelings of guilt, shame, doubt and/or deprivation in relation to money. 
  • Individuals looking to live a financially emancipated life. 

What’s inside this book?

  • Kumiko’s story of how she went from a newly divorced mom pulling in just $24,000 a year and facing $77,000 in debt to living completely debt-free in a home she bought with cash. 
  • Stories of moms, like Kumiko, who successfully navigated divorce and the financial challenge of making it alone.
  • Practical tools and tips for letting go of shame and deprivation for living a financially secure and fulfilling life. 

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. How to harness your emotions to your financial benefit, instead of letting them control you and drive your money choices. 
  2. How to create a budget based on your actual life, not a life of self-deprivation.
  3. How to create a debt payoff plan that can work.
  4. How to build a positive relationship with money. 

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. How can I reverse negative thinking patterns that I’ve grown accustomed to?
  2. How can I align my emotional health with my financial health? 
  3. Can I take control of my finances with a low income and high credit card debt?
  4. Do I need to live with constant deprivation to have a financially secure life?

What people are saying about this book: 

  • “It’s no surprise that millions of people flock to Kumiko Love for her financial advice. She’s able to do the impossible: teach others about money in a non-judgmental, down-to-earth way while also making concepts, like budgeting and debt-repayment, exciting and fun.” – Jessica Moorhouse
  • “No shame. No condescension. Just real, practical money talk from a woman who lives it. Kumiko reminds us that our money struggles and mistakes are not a reflection of who we are or what we can achieve. And her tools and strategies offer an easy-to-follow framework for using money to build a lifestyle you love.” – Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez
  • “If you’re ready to break free from a dysfunctional relationship with money and build wealth from a place of strength, Kumiko’s book is a must-read.” – Marie Forleo
  • “It’s so wonderful to see more voices join the movement that money shouldn’t be rigid or restrictive. Kumiko Love and her money management style will help you feel seen and capable instead of shamed and distressed — no matter the money mistakes in your past.” – Erin Lowry

 Your Turn: What did you think of My Money My Way? Share your opinion in the comments.