Thursday, February 11, 2016

ROMANTIC DATES WITHOUT THE HIGH PRICE

Everyone loves to be romanced, yes even the guys. Who doesn’t love sweet gestures to let you know someone cares. Anything from a romantic dinner date to gifts and even trips. I know I do and I know that costs money too. But romance shouldn’t take a back seat when funds get tight. Therefore, I’ve come up with ways to keep the romance alive when the funds are dead, especially with Valentine’s Day around the corner.

Step Outside

We live in South Florida! We are very fortunate that we don’t have to plan around snow days and winter weather. So take advantage of that, by packing up a few blankets and heading to the beach one night. Sit and stargaze with your significant other. And to really impress them, check out this awesome StarDate site and have some fun seeing what’s out there in the sky. Plus, you can cuddle up with the blankets and just enjoy a beautiful night. 

Try heating up your romance by sitting around a fire pit. If you don’t already have one, they are not too pricey to buy and I know you’ll get more than one night use out of it. Bring a blanket, some chairs, maybe play some music and don’t forget the S’mores. This could be a great way to spend a romantic night with your loved one. 

Maybe the idea of sand and fire are not you’re thing, that’s okay because there are plenty of outdoor things you can do like a drive in movie. Don’t forget to pick up the snacks before you get to the theater (to save some money), this is a great way to relax, not have to worry about the loud talking behind you and a great way to be cozy with your other half.  

Bring it inside

My boyfriend Chris cooking
Maybe the idea of being outdoors isn’t for you, and that’s okay too because I know how humid it can get in South Florida. So, bring it indoors. Instead of going to a fancy restaurant, try cooking a meal together. I am a terrible cook, but my boyfriend is phenomenal.  So I enlist his help in the kitchen and we cook dinner together.  I find it so romantic when we laugh, joke and are extremely silly while we prepare our meal. Plus that way there’s no, “I cooked, you clean”. We both do that together too.


Another date night idea that I love is game night, show your competitive side yet have fun. To enhance the date night, invite other couples over and play on teams of two. This will be fun as you learn to play together and work towards the same goal… beating your friends.



Keeping with the indoor theme, try creating a scavenger hunt. These can be so many romantic when done right. Ask questions that will trigger previous dates and write cute poems to hint at memories. A scavenger hunt is a great way to take a walk down memory lane and relive why you love your guy/gal.

Make a Day of it

Sometimes day romance is the best romance. Surprise your significant other with a day movie, it will save you some money, plus the theater will be less crowded and it will feel like a private viewing. After the movie, go to a late lunch, again the prices will be cheaper and if you plan it right, you’ll be there in time for happy hour which almost always includes food items.

Now that your adults, who said you couldn’t have dessert before dinner? Go to your favorite spot for an afternoon desert, or go bowling and be silly in those tacky shoes. Be sure to check out your city calendar too because sometimes they have free events in the community that could be fun to attend.

Day dates can be just as romantic as night time dates… if you make them. And being romantic doesn’t have to break your budget either. There are many great ways to be romantic this Valentine’s Day… you just have to be creative! 

^Alysha 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

PREDATORY LENDING

We've all heard of debt and we've all heard of the quick fix options to get out of debt. But are they really as good as they seem or are they too good to be true?
How often have you picked up a magazine because the cover was awesome but you start reading and the content isn't what you expected at all? It's the same thing with loan offers. Sometimes they appeal to the eye and you quickly go and apply for the offer, however, you don't take the time to read the details and when you finally do, and you realize it's not what it seemed.
In this episode of "it's A Money Thing," Jen learns the risks involved with those "Quick Cash" offers and how it's important to read the fine print... Even if it involves a magnifying glass. 


There are sharks all around looking for easy ways to collect YOUR money! Don't let them take advantage of you. There are many others way to get the money you need without burying yourself in debt.
Set up a payment plan with creditors—the best alternative to payday loans is to deal directly with your debt. Working out an extended payment plan with your creditors may allow you to pay off your unpaid bills over a longer period of time.

Credit union loan—Credit unions typically offer affordable small short-term loans to members. Unlike payday loans, these loans give you a real chance to repay with longer payback periods, lower interest rates, and installment payments.
Consumer credit counseling—there are numerous consumer credit counseling agencies throughout the United States that can help you work out a debt repayment plan with creditors and develop a budget. These services are available at little or no cost. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (nfcc.org) is a nonprofit organization that can help you find a reputable certified consumer credit counselor in your area.
Emergency Assistance Programs—many community organizations and faith-based groups provide emergency assistance, either directly or through social services programs for weather-related emergencies.
Cash advance on your credit card—Credit card cash advances, which are usually offered at an annual percentage rate (APR) of 30% or less, is much cheaper than getting a payday loan. Some credit card companies specialize in consumers with financial problems or poor credit histories. You should shop around, and don’t assume that you do not qualify for a credit card.
You are in control of your financed not let anyone tell you different and don't get caught up with the Sharks. There are many alternatives to high-cost borrowing so take the time to explore and ask questions!


^Alysha

Friday, February 5, 2016

Super Sunday Without The Football?


If you’re like most people you’ll be huddled around the largest screen in your home, known as the family TV, to watch the spectacle that is known as the Super Bowl! It’s a milestone year – the fiftieth and it looks like they are FINALLY doing away with the irritating Roman numerals for this one. 
Some of us are in it for the commercials and some of us are actually in it for the game, BUT there are actually some who would rather opt out of the gridiron game completely, yet have others at home that are sure to be glued to the set for most of the day on Sunday.
So what can you do? Here are the top ten things to do if you’ve decided to rebel against the masses this weekend.
  1. Head to the beach. Chances are you’ll have it pretty much to yourself this Sunday.
  2. Read a book.
  3. Seek revenge on the die hards – start texting them at pivotal points in the game demanding that they call you immediately.
  4. Tune into Netflix and catch up on all those shows you’ve been hearing about for the past few months…it will be extra special if you have to take over the biggest TV in the house to do it!
  5. Clean out your closet. What a perfect time to start “spring” cleaning and toss out all those items that are just cluttering up your closet…and if you REALLY want to have fun toss them directly in front of those watching the game and ask their opinion on whether it should stay or go.
  6. Raid the Super Bowl food…in front of the TV – guaranteed you’ll be asked to just take the whole bowl into another room and BOOM instant snack for your Netflix marathon.
  7. Put on the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet and yell out “Awwwww” every few minutes demanding that the football watchers should see how cute the puppies are…or the kittens during the Kitten Half Time Show.
  8. Start your taxes, remember as a  Tropical Financial member you can access Turbo Tax directly from inside Online Banking.
  9. Jump on Twitter and follow #BrandBowl, it’s actually very entertaining
  10. Give in and watch the game. If nothing else you’ll be able to share in all the commercial talk at the office on Monday morning!
^Amy

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

HAPPY TAX SEASON... TERM TO KNOW!


Happy tax season!  That’s right, its tax time and I don’t know about you but the idea of filing my taxes has me stressed out. When it comes filing taxes, there are so many aspects that are confusing to me. For instance, what are “capital gains”? And what does “defined contribution plan” mean? There are so many terms that leave me unsure and insecure when filing my taxes.

I figured since I had to learn them for myself, I thought I would take the time and share them with you too! Here it is, 11 basic tax terms you should know by Daily Worth


Adjusted gross income: Your total income minus any allowable deductions. This number is essential for calculating your tax liability. It determines your tax bracket, as well as how much you can contribute to tax-deferred retirement accounts.

Basis: The basis of an asset is its value, used for computing gain or loss when the asset is sold. For instance, if you bought stock in a company five years ago and sold it this year, you’ll need to know the basis, or the amount you paid for it to begin with, to determine your gain or loss on the sale for tax purposes.

Capital gains: The profit that results from disposing of a capital asset, such as stock, bond, or real estate. If you sold an asset resulting in profit, you’ll have to pay capital gains tax, which is 15 percent for most taxpayers and 20 percent for those in the top bracket.

Defined benefit plan: Also known as a traditional pension plan, this type of retirement plan promises a participant a specified monthly benefit at retirement. That benefit is usually based on factors such as the participant’s salary, age, and the number of years he or she worked for the sponsoring company.

Defined contribution plan: More common today than the defined benefit plan, this type of retirement plan includes contributions from the employee and/or the employer. The value of the account will change based on contributions and the value and performance of investments in the plan. Common types of defined contribution plans include 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, employee stock ownership plans, and profit-sharing plans.

Dependent: A dependent is a person other than yourself or your spouse for whom you can claim a tax exemption. To count someone as a dependent, he or she must be your qualifying child or qualifying relative.

Exempt from withholding: This phrase means you are free from the withholding of federal income tax from your paycheck. You must meet certain income, tax liability, and dependency criteria to be exempt from withholding. This does not make you exempt from other kinds of tax withholding, such as Social Security tax.
Exemption: This is the amount that a taxpayer can claim for himself or herself, spouse, and eligible dependents. The total of your exemption is subtracted from your adjusted gross income before tax is figured on your remaining taxable income.

Itemized deduction: This is a deduction that is allowed on Schedule A (Form 1040) for medical and dental expenses, taxes, home mortgage interest and investment interest, charitable contributions, casualty and theft losses, and miscellaneous deductions. They are subtracted from adjusted gross income in figuring taxable income. You can’t claim itemized deductions cannot be claimed if you choose the standard deduction.

Standard deduction: Taxpayers who choose not to itemize deductions on their tax return can take a standard deduction. For tax year 2015, the standard deduction is $6,300 for single taxpayers and married taxpayers filing separately. The standard deduction is $12,600 for married couples filing jointly and $9,250 for heads of household.

Tax credit: A tax credit directly reduces your tax liability. Credits are allowed for such purposes as child-care expenses, higher education costs, qualifying children, and earned income of low-income taxpayers.

-          Nancy Mann Jackson, Daily Worth

There you have it, 11 basic tax terms that I hope will help you this tax season. Print this sheet out and use it as a reminder when filling out your forms. Good luck!

-Alysha 



Monday, February 1, 2016

LOVING YOUR BUDGET

Many times when we hear the word budget, we think limitations and lack of freedom. There goes my lifestyle. But I’ve found it to be the opposite. I found that having a budget has given me freedom. It’s allowed me to splurge, save and not stress so much.

Where to start?

First things first, do you have a budget? If not… that’s where we need to start, we need to create one. If you are fortunate enough to have taken this step in creating a budget, then you’re one step ahead but not off the hook. We’re going to make some adjustments to your already made document so be sure to have it out and handy.

With this process it’s important to keep in mind that not all budgets are created equally as we all have different expenses, wants and needs. It’s also important to keep an open mind. Don’t stress yourself out when you realize you dine out often and don’t beat yourself up when you see how much your phone bill is.

Honesty Pays!

When working with your budget it’s important to be honest with yourself and write down all of your expenses, ladies that means your nail appointments and gentleman that means hobbies too. If you are honest, there are no surprises at the end of the month when it comes to your money. By being honest with yourself, you are creating a budget that works for you. If you leave out expenses, you’re cheating yourself.

First and foremost, gather all of your receipts from the month prior. Ladies that means trips to the nail salon and gentlemen that means any movie, video game or music you purchased. And, if you don’t have the receipts pull up your credit card and debit card statements. Oh and grab a highlighter you’re going to need it.

Next, categorize all of your purchases and expenses. Blow is an example of a budget sheet that could help you see the categories.


Source: Pinterest 

Write in all of your monthly expenses under actually amount. This will allow you to see firsthand how much you are spending on your bills, food, shopping and many other expenses. Use this as an eye opener. Now, take your income and subtract it from your expenses. Are you overspending? Under spending or just making ends meet? This is about where you can identify areas where you can cut back and make changes.

Reality
You’ve now created a budget! Way to go! Now here comes what I think is the hard part… sticking to it! I’ve found the best way for me to keep from going over my budget is it to keep away from the mall by shopping smart with discounts and deals that I find around town.  Believe me, having a budget doesn’t mean you have to give up everything you enjoy. It just means you have to find different ways. 


It’s okay to love your budget. I do!

^Alysha 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

IT'S A MONEY THING: CHECKING ACCOUNTS




Our world has become full of technology. Everywhere we turn, we hear, “There’s an App for that.” But not everything has become digital. Take for instance your checking accounts, while there might be some digital components, like mobile banking, and even check capture, there is one other component to our checking accounts that seems to get forgotten… Checks. That’s right checks still exist.
You might think check writing is a thing of the past, but, check writing is an art, and it’s important to know and understand how to write a check as well as how checks are processed.
For me, writing a check allows me to see the true value of something. It allows me to physically write out the numbers and that makes me stop to think about my spending habits. If you are always out shopping and making purchases, it’s so easy to swipe your debit card and within a few hours you forget how much you spent. But, with check writing you become more aware of your spending habits.
Just like check writing makes you aware of your habits, so does balancing your checkbook. Balancing your checkbook has become a thing of the past… but it needs to be a thing of the future. Balancing your checkbook is all about keeping track of your financial transactions, it’s about writing down what you spend and what you make. This gives you a more accurate idea of your account balance and it’s also a great way to help you avoid unnecessary fees, overdraft fees and it’s an easy way for you to view errors or fraudulent activity on your account.

Check out this month’s “It a Money Thing” as Jen learns the art of check writing and tips to stay on top of her finances.

^Alysha 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Understanding The Basics of Investing


Many of us have heard of people investing money into the world and then using that as a way to get rich. Some of us have probably even considered trying to make money that way ourselves.

Despite the risks, there are several compelling reasons to make investing a part of your overall financial plan. Through investing you can preserve your wealth by overcoming the effects of inflation, help save for long-term goals, and gain an additional source of income. These benefits are even more rewarding if you start at a young age. The stock market, however, is well known for having its set of myths that typically prevent people from making investments. Myths are typically created by individuals who never learned everything there is to know about the stock market and how to make the best investments. Let’s explore some of these.

Myth: By taking a chance on a risky investment and some stroke of luck, you can wake up the next day as a millionaire. You have to risk everything in order to get a worthwhile reward.
Reality: Serious investing requires a lot of time. There is an entire education behind active trading. To invest without any prior research would be similar to taking your chances in the lottery. Becoming educated on the stock market in combination with staying up to date on world factors that affect economy can make investing less about taking a gamble and more about making calculated decisions.

Myth: For every investing success story, there’s an accompanying horror story. Investing is so scary and so unpredictable that it’s simply not worth the risk.
Reality: Risk and losses are both very real outcomes of investing. HOWEVER, after making smart, thoroughly researched investment choices, your next best protection against risk and volatility is the amount of time you have for your investment to mature. The narrower your investment time frame, the more vulnerable you are to sudden and often unpredictable changes in the market. A long term investment has lower risk because there will be time for the stock to recover from market declines.

Myth: Playing it safe means measly returns.
Reality: Time is compound interest’s best friend. Together, they can really put your money to work. Even products with a relatively low expected yield can accumulate a lot of wealth over long periods of time. This is why even playing it safe can still be worth it in the long run.


So are you ready to begin your own success story as an investor? In this month’s “It’s a Money Thing” video, learn the basics of investing by following Jen on another adventure as she seeks advice from a world famous rich guy!

^Alec