Wednesday, January 7, 2015

ARE YOU PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM IDENTITY THEFT?




The holiday season may have come to an end but that doesn't mean your risk for identity theft has come to an end. In fact, Identity theft is the fastest-growing non-violent crime in North America. That’s pretty scary if you ask me. The good thing is there are ways to protect yourself from becoming the next victim of identity theft.

Protect yourself!
When it comes to protecting your password, change is key.  Be sure to change it often and don’t use the same password for all your stuff.  For example, your phone password should not be the same as your ATM PIN. It’s smart to use password-protection but be sure that it’s a password you can remember but is hard for others to guess.
Social media has become our lives. But are you posting more than you should be? When you go on family vacations are you posting real time photos? DON’T! Wait until you come home and post the photos. Letting people know you are out of town is like sending an invitation to burglars and identity thieves waiting for the opportunity to tamper with your mail or rob you.

Also, watch what you say… and who is around! Don’t talk about your finances in public. You never know who is listening to your conversations.   And never share you passwords or PIN numbers with anyone!
When it comes to your identity you can never be too careful. Be sure to check your credit card and account statements on a regular basis for any unauthorized purchases or activity. Also, be sure to check your credit once a year to be sure you no one is opening accounts using your identity.  No one likes surprises when it comes to our identity and our finances.

^Alysha


Monday, January 5, 2015

HAPPINESS IN A JAR


Each year when we think about the New Year, we think about resolutions, something that we want to achieve in the coming year. Sometimes they are family driven, sometimes they are career goals and often times they are personal achievements.

For 2014 year, I decided to change up my New Year’s resolutions. Instead of doing the usual get healthy, eat better resolutions, I made my resolution financial. I love to travel and I thought what better resolution than to save up for a trip. So, I found a trip, booked it and then set up a savings plan that had me saving up for my trip throughout the year. To get started on a financial resolution, check out last week’s 53- Week Savings Challenge.  

I think it’s important to create goals with timelines including end dates when setting New Year’s Resolutions. For instance, if you are setting a fitness goal, have the end date be a school reunion, wedding or even a next year’s company holiday party. This way you have a clear date in mind, a clear vision to follow and a timeline to work with.

“Whatever you decide to do, make sure it makes you happy” Paulo Coelho

When it comes to bringing in 2015 and setting resolutions, be sure that whatever resolutions you set for yourself, they bring you lots of happiness. With that being said, our marketing department decided we wanted to fill 2015 with happiness so, we are putting our happiness in a jar.

Our Jar of Happiness

We are starting the year off on a positive note. Literally. For 2015 each of us will keep a happiness jar.
All that is needed is: A jar, fish bowl or any container that can hold paper. You will need paper and a pen or pencil.

Now, in 2015 anytime something happens that makes you smile or happy, write it down, date it, fold it up and place it in the jar. Do this every time something positive happens in your life. Don’t forget to date it.

Then, on New Year’s Eve of 2015, read through all the happiness that you encounter in the year. Open each folded paper and see what joy 2015 has brought you. You might be surprised to think back on some of the happier times in the start of the year.

Not only is this a great way to reflect on the year, but who doesn't want to relive good moments in their lives!

^Alysha



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I CHALLENGE YOU... FOR 53 WEEKS!

The New Year is quickly approaching and that means it’s time to set our New Year’s Resolutions. Most times our resolutions center around our health and well-being. For 2015, I want to challenge you on a financial resolution.

What’s the challenge?

For 2015, I am going to challenge you to save $1,431. I know, it sounds like a random number but it’s all part of the 53- Week challenge. For those of you that did the challenge with me in 2014, you remember it was a 52-week challenge where we saved $1,378.  Well,  there are 53 weeks in 2015, which gives us an extra week which means we can save more money.

The way it works is, each week you save a specific amount of money starting with $1 and every week the amount increases by $1. So the first week of the New Year, you collect $1. The second week $2. The 15th week… $15 and so on until you hit week 53, which at that point, you collect $53. The challenge is easy to do… it’s remembering to put the money aside that’s the hard part. 

How to get started

I did this challenge last year and I found the easiest way to was to open up a new savings account. This way I could direct my challenge money to that account and it was out-of-sight, out-of-mind and it prevented me from “borrowing” money from that account.

In addition, you will need to create a 53- week challenge chart so that you can keep track of what needs to be set aside. Check out an example of the 52- week challenge.

Most importantly, you will need determination. It’s not easy to pay yourself first, but it’s worth it in the end.

Want to challenge yourself even more?

I know how hard it is to save money each week, I've always been told, “It takes 21 days to set/break a habit.” So, once you get 21 days into the habit will become easier. But, if you are up for it, let’s make this challenge harder by reversing it. Instead of starting with $1 for week one, $2 for week two and so on. Try starting with week 53. Put away $53, then week 2 put away $52 and work your way down so that on week 53, you only have to save $1.

I prefer this way because it get the larger amounts out of the way. Plus, when we get into the holiday months, I don’t have to worry about putting in the larger amounts.

There are many ways to do the 53- Week Challenge, find the way that works for you and be sure to stick to it. It’s nice having some extra money come the end of the year.


^Alysha

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

WINTER BREAK FAMILY FUN


Winter break is here! Well, for us Floridian’s it’s more like a mini summer break since we don’t have the snow and cold weather. But nevertheless it means school is out and your homes have just become camp. That means two glorious weeks of keeping your children entertained… Good luck!

But how?
I remember when I was in school after we had summer and winter breaks, we’d always come back to school and compare stories to see who had the best breaks, and it was always a competition. So, it’s important to plan fun and exciting things for your children while home on break.

Jump around!

Children are full of energy! So what better way to help your child release energy then an indoor trampoline park? Not only can they bounce around for hours, but invite their classmates and they can shoot hoops, play dodge ball and just have a fun time… being kids! Plus, the adults can jump around too and it’s a great way to make memories as a family and burn some of those extra eggnog calories.
Light show!
Take a drive through the neighborhood and various other neighbors and view the holiday lights. Play some holiday music, sing along as a family and enjoy all the hard work people put in to decorating their homes. Tradewins Park in Coconut creek, has an awesome light show that will be sure to amaze your children. I know as an adult I still love to go and see the lights.

Give back!
Teach your children that the holidays are also about giving. Have them spend a day cleaning out their room of toys and clothing they no longer need or use and bring them with you to donate the items. This way, they see how they are helping others less fortunate and it allows them to realize the holidays are more than what gifts they unwrap.
It’s Craft Time!
I am not one for arts and crafts but children love to express their inter artist. With websites like Pinterest, you can come up with some fun arts and crafts for your children to complete. Have them make gifts for their teachers, or get a head start of Valentine’s Day cards for their classmates. Maybe have them work on Mother’s Day and even Father’s Day gifts. Or keep it simple and create some fun holiday decorations for around the house.
Box Office!
Children love the movies! Use their Student ID card to get a discount at the movies or check out an afternoon movie to save a few bucks. Another fun way to view a movie is the drive in. Take your children and their classmates to the drive in movie. Set up lawn chairs, bring your own food, drinks and candy and let the children have fun while the adults hang out too! It’s another great way to make family memories and a fun way to enjoy the beautiful South Florida weather.
 Discounted Fun
Sometimes fun can cost, but check out sites like LivingSocial, Groupon and even the Greater South Florida webpage for discounts and freebies for fun times with your children. Family time is what matters and making memories is what counts, these websites have things the entire family can enjoy.
And don’t forget… we live in SUNNY SOUTH FLORIDA, where we have FREE beaches, plenty of parks and beautiful weather to enjoy year round. So, grab a football or soccer ball and enjoy the open field. Bring some snacks, have a picnic and make some fun family memories.
Keep up with School
Parents, please also be sure to check your children’s backpacks for winter break homework packets, you don’t want your children to fall behind. Have them complete their homework assignments early in the break so they can get it out of the way and the whole family can enjoy the much-needed break.
Whatever it is you might be doing with your children this winter break, be sure to have fun and make ever lasting memories!
^Alysha


Monday, December 22, 2014

HANDLING HOLIDAY STRESS!



The holidays always bring the best memories to me, but they also bring the most amount of stress too.

Growing up, I remember having huge holiday parties with over 20 guest at my place and my mom doing all the cooking. I remember the smell of my mom’s home cooking filling the house and the laughter of everyone’s stories filling the rooms. But I also remember the struggle of putting up our 18 foot Christmas tree. Yes, we have an 18 foot Christmas tree. And while the tree is beautiful, it’s also very stressful.


With the holidays in full swing our stress levels are on the rise. But don’t worry, I've got some tips and tricks to help you relieve some of your stress this holiday season.


Stop and breath
When it comes to the holidays, we all do way too much! Just stop, and take a deep breath. Instead of feeling the need to take on all the responsibilities, delegate to family and friends.


If YOU are doing the cooking, ask someone else to help with shopping. Simply give them a list of the items you need and this will save you a few hours of your day. If you are going to someone else’s home, insist that you bring something so they don’t have to worry about every aspect of the meal. Offer to bring desserts, or appetizers or even the beverages.


Gift wrapping can also cause a lot of unnecessary holiday stress. My mom used to stay up all hours of the night wrapping gifts. Try to schedule time to do it ahead of time. If you can’t find the time, have your children help. Have your kids wrap gifts for each other. As we got older, my mom would box the gifts so we couldn't see what was inside and we’d just wrap the box. It helped her a lot and we didn't know what our gifts were.


Laugh more!


Sometimes we get so involved with our everyday stress that we forget to laugh. If you mess something up, laugh over it. It’s not the end of the world. If your gifts don’t come out as nicely wrapped as you’d like, who cares, the paper just gets torn off anyway. Let your children help too and don’t stress over the Apple Pie not being perfect but instead encourage them to help you. Reminisce over older memories and just laugh. You can even play old holiday family films and laugh about the jokes that took pace. Every year my mom creates a family video…but, we've never seen one of them so we laugh about it. This year might be a good year to take them out and play them while we help with Christmas dinner.


Shut down!


Turn off the electronics, shut down the e-mails and just spend time with your family and friends. If you’re on PTO time, work e-mails can wait. Turn off your cell phone and don’t worry about the content, ding or messages but rather the people around you and the conversations that are around you, I guarantee they are more important than the messages on your phone.


Always remember, the holidays are about being with loved ones, don’t stress so much if something isn't perfect, chances are no one will know or care.



^Alysha 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

LAST MINUTE HOLIDAY TRAVEL



What do the holidays mean to you? For me, the holidays are about spending time with my family and friends. It’s about laughing and making new memories while reliving the old memories. But, sometimes this means last- minute travel. 

We all try and plan ahead when it comes to travel, but there are so many factors that could result in last- minute travel, like your work schedule, your child’s school schedule and even just living a busy life and forgetting to make plans.


Making last-minute travel plans can be very stressful not to mention sometimes very expensive! But don’t worry, I’m all about finding the best deals so I’ve found some great tricks to use this holiday season should you find yourself booking last-minute travel.


*Be Flexible: I know that everyone ones to pick out the perfect travel plan for themselves and their families. Maybe it’s a mid-morning flight. But, if you click the flexible date option when searching for airfare you are more likely to find a cheaper flight.
 
*Rewards… Use them! If you are lucky enough to have rewards points, USE THEM! The holidays are the best time to use rewards points when flying because they can really cut down on the cost of a ticket.


*Nonstop! I know I know, everyone hates layovers. You never know if your connecting flight will be on time. But, when it comes to last minute travel, adding stops to your flight is really going to cut down the cost.


*Airports: Be sure to compare the various airports around the area that you are flying in to. We are lucky in South Florida to have several airports that are not too far. If you have a family member doing some last minute travel, it might be cheaper for them to fly into Palm Beach International airport. Always check the surrounding airports.


*One way? Believe it or not, sometimes buying two (2) one way tickets is the best way to go. Instead of limiting yourself to one carrier you are opening the doors to better deals for one-way flights.


There you have it, if you’re traveling last-minute there are still ways to get some great deals on airfare! Whatever it is you’re doing this holiday season, be sure to enjoy spending time with friends and family and be sure to make new memories while laughing at the old ones.



^Alysha

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

HOLIDAY CREDIT CARD SAFETY



I LOVE to shop and that’s no secret. But, I like to think of myself as a smart shopper. I try to find the best deals and bargains. This holiday season, I set out to do my holiday shopping early. I wanted to beat the rush, I knew what I was buying so I watched pricing and did a lot of my shopping on-line to avoid the lines and the crowds.

While sitting at work one day, I got a call from Tropical Financial’s Fraud department. My heart sank, it’s the holidays and credit card fraud is always on the rise during the holidays. They went over a list of purchases that appeared on my credit card and wanted to verify if my account had been compromised. Fortunately, my account hadn't been as they were all my purchase. That’s when I realized… exactly how much I LOVE to SHOP! But it also made me thankful that my Credit Union called me to verify since there was so much activity.

Take precaution

The holidays are upon us and that means a lot more account activity.  So it’s time to take precautions.

Online shopping

*Stick to ONE Credit Card: When you plan on doing a lot of online shopping, try sticking to ONE credit card, this way you can track the purchases, and limit the damage should your card be compromised. Also be sure to use a card that has purchase alerts, so you know every time your card is processed. This will help you keep track of your spending and be able to watch first hand for any unauthorized purchases. 

*Third- Party Payment: If you find yourself using the internet for your holiday shopping, link one credit card to a third party payment plan like PayPal or Google Checkout. This way you can enter your username and password and refrain from continuously entering your credit card information.

* Watch your internet access: Often times we are on the go, we see a great deal come through our email and we make the purchase. Be careful when it comes to “Free Wi-Fi” This is an easy way for someone to gather your personal information.

Offline shopping

*Keep your credit card out of sight: When you are in line getting ready to make a purchase, keep our credit card tucked away until you need it. You never know who is around you and who might be looking at your credit card number and memorizing it.

*Keep your credit card secure: When you are out shopping in the stores, take the few extra seconds to place your credit card back in your wallet. Don’t put it in your jeans pocket, or throw it in your purse, this is an easy way for someone to get a hold of your information.

*Check your statement: Whether you are shopping online or off, be sure to check your credit card statement daily. Review your receipts with your purchases and be sure you were not over charged and that everything matches up. Monitoring your account daily during heavy shopping periods is very important and can help if your card is compromised.

Have fun!

Enjoy the holiday season, enjoy shopping for those on your list but be smart about your shopping habits. If you see something on your statement that doesn't look right, be sure to call Tropical Financial right away and research that charge and be sure to never loan your credit card out to others.
Have a wonderful holiday season and have a blast shopping too!


^Alysha