Wednesday, July 9, 2014

SURPRISE VACATION CAN GET EXPENSIVE

What an incredible 4th of July holiday I just had! My son, daughter-in-law and sweet baby granddaughter from Michigan surprised me with a week long visit to celebrate the 4th of July.  To say I was completely surprised would be nothing short of an understatement, but it was the greatest surprise a grandma could ever hope for! 

Part of the surprise was a trip up to Disney World so I could share the Disney magic with my granddaughter for her first time. We had the most amazing (and exhausting) day filled with memories that are priceless! Although I wouldn't trade those memories for anything, going to Disney isn't the cheapest vacation we could have taken. The hotel, which my son insisted on picking up, ended up being the least expensive part of the trip. There were the park tickets, the special breakfast with our friends from Winnie The Pooh, the snacks, the special $12 balloon and tons of souvenirs that Grammie HAD to get - they all added up real quick.



Fortunately Tropical Financial Credit Union is offering a special Vacation Loan to help alleviate the pressure of unexpected expenses.  I have to admit that although I am usually an intense planner, the spontaneity of a surprise vacation was certainly worth the unplanned costs!

Vacation Loan


If you've been thinking about doing something special, but hadn't put money aside for a getaway, think about applying for the TFCU Summer Vacation Loan and start making your own magical memories!

^Amy

Friday, June 20, 2014

Simple Money Savings Tips



We all have our own little secret ways to save money - clipping coupons, reward clubs, after holiday sales, even getting tacos only on Tuesdays.  In this episode of Money Minute here are five quick and easy tips that you can use to help save money every day or help pay off debt quicker.

  1.  If you're going to the mall leave the credit cards at home and only bring your debit card. That way you won't be tempted to spend more money than you planned. Works like a charm.
  2. Going to the grocery store? Make a list AND STICK TO IT!!  That is toughest part for me, especially if I'm hungry.  So if I'm tempted I use the #3 tip:
  3. 10 second rule - if I'm tempted to buy something I didn't plan on, I hold it for 10 seconds and try to justify WHY I need it, and if I can't find a good reason in 10 seconds, then I put it back. 
  4. Make a debt calendar. Lay out all your debts and look for the one with the highest interest rate and start making the biggest payments on that debt, once that is paid off then take those payments and apply to the next debt until that's paid off and take the combination of THOSE payments and apply to the next debt. It's an organized way to really make a dent in that pile of bills.
  5. My favorite - Tropical Financial ONLINE BILLPAY! It allows me to keep track of all my bills in one place AND I save money on envelopes and stamps!

These are just a few ideas that I use in my everyday life, but I would LOVE to get some other ideas to share. SO I'm inviting YOU to share your best savings tips with us and the BEST one is going to win a $50 Amazon gift card!

Entering is easy, just email us at: listening@tfcu-fl.org or post a comment on our Facebook page under the post: Simple Money Savings Tips.  We'll be sharing the tips that people enter as comments to this post as well. Hurry this contest ends on June 30, 2014 and we'll post the winner here on July 1st.

^Amy

For a complete set of rules click here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Four Vacation Planning Tips to Save You Money

 
Whether it involves a nap on a sun-drenched beach or flying through crisp mountain air on a zip line, everyone needs a summer vacation. Stepping out of your regular routine recharges your energy like nothing else, but the hassle and expense beforehand can make it seem like more trouble than it’s worth. These easy tips will help smooth the road to your destination and save you a bundle, too.

1. Book your dream vacation in advance

Even if you can’t afford a trip to Paris or Tokyo right now, that doesn’t mean you should write off the idea. While you’re online arranging a more modest vacation for this year, book your dream trip up to 15 months or more in advance for the best rates and to avoid possible future price increases.

You would be surprised how affordable a dream trip becomes as you put a little money aside each week for over a year. Create a separate savings account  like a club account, to keep track of your vacation fund’s growth, and earmark your credit card rewards for vacation expenses. 

2. Romance the rails

Train travel is often cheaper than flying, particularly for shorter trips. Another benefit is that you see the country in a much more personal way than you would from 30,000 feet in the air. Riding the rails may be slower, but it’s truly an adventure, especially for kids. You’ll also avoid baggage fees and the hassle of airport security, plus you can use your cell phone whenever you like and the dining car serves hot meals.

3. Avoid peak vacation times

Costs vary dramatically depending on the time of year you travel. If you rent a house at New Jersey’s shore for a week in July or August, it will cost thousands of dollars more than it would after Labor Day. Tropical vacations usually are more expensive during the winter months. You’ll save big by learning what’s off-season for your destination, and making your reservations for that time.

4. Eliminate the middleman

Before making reservations through a booking site, be sure to check rates directly at websites and maybe give airlines a call, too. Some airlines don’t list with booking sites, and hotels often run unadvertised sales that you’ll never know about if you don’t contact them directly.

Before you depart

As you complete your vacation checklist and attend to last-minute details, don’t forget to notify your credit union if you’re leaving the country, so they won’t suspect fraud when foreign charges appear on your accounts. Your credit union can also be an excellent ambassador for you abroad as it helps you with money exchanges, traveler’s checks, free foreign ATM locations and emergency advice.

If you're in need of additional funding for your big trip, consider a TFCU Summer Vacation Loan. You can select the loan amount and payment term that works best for you.  It also can help pay for that modest trip this year while you start saving for that big trip next year!


Roberta Pescow, NerdWallet

Thursday, May 8, 2014

5 Mobile Banking Tips for Newbies


Tropical Financial Credit Union mobile app
 
As a growing number of banking services are now available online, mobile banking is quickly becoming a go-to feature in the personal finance realm. According to a March 2014 online survey conducted by the Federal Reserve, 51% of smartphone owners have used mobile banking in the past 12 months, increasing from 48% in December 2012. As convenient as it is, though, mobile banking can be a difficult terrain if you’re new to it. Follow these tips to get the most out of your experience.

1.) Practice Banking Safely
Download your credit union’s official app from their website, iTunes or Google Play, and do all of your banking through it. Apps have an extra layer of security designed to keep your private information under wraps. As an extra word of caution, always remember to log out when you’re finished banking. Also, only use your network carrier’s cellular data or a secured Wi-Fi connection you trust. Just as with any other computing device, connecting to an unsecured Internet connection makes you vulnerable to attacks from cyber criminals.

2.) Check Your Balance Regularly
Mobile banking is designed to simplify your life. Enjoy the convenience of checking your account balances anytime, anywhere. This can help you avoid overdraft fees. Constantly monitoring your account is a smart move to ensure that all charges posted to your account are accurate.
Checking your balance regularly will also allow you to make convenient transfers between accounts when necessary. Add mobile bill pay and you’re able to handle just about all your banking needs from your phone.

3.) Set Up Account Alerts
Enjoy the ability to set custom banking alerts delivered right to your phone. You can set alerts to be warned when any of the following happens: Your balances drop below a certain level, account overdrafts occur, bills are approaching their due dates, account statements are available or when large transactions are made. These help keep your finances on track and avoid costly mistakes.

4.) Locate Nearby ATMs
Finding the closest ATM is often a challenge, as they never seem to be close by when you need them. Use your mobile banking app to find the ATM nearest to your current location, so you don’t have to waste time driving around to look for one.

5.) Deposit Checks from Anywhere
There’s no longer a need to head to the credit union or the nearest ATM when you have a check to deposit. Mobile banking offers a check deposit feature right from your smartphone. Simply take a picture of the front and back of the check, upload them and wait for the money to post to your account ─ it’s that easy.

Mobile Banking is Easy
If you’re new to mobile banking, it may take some time to get comfortable using all the new features literally at your fingertips. However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder how you ever went without it. The convenience of banking from your phone allows you to save a great deal of time and effort, so you spend less time managing your accounts and more time on things you enjoy.

^ Laura Woods, NerdWallet

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Microsoft Internet Explorer Vulnerable


Today we received a  Security Advisory from Microsoft that Internet Explorer versions 6 through 11 had a vulnerability that could allow an attacker to hijack a user's online session after the PC was infected with malware.  An attacker could spoof a website that was designed to exploit this vulnerability and then convince a user to view the website through things like phising attacks. These attacks could lure the user to click a link contained in an email or instant message and then the user's computer would be infected with the malware upon visiting the website or by opening an infected attachment.  According to the technology research firm NetMarketShare Internet Explorer versions 6 through 11 account for 55% of the browser market, so this could have a far-reaching impact.

Microsoft has provided "workarounds," that actually create a setting or configures the computer to help block an attack, but does not correct the underlying issue. The risk is especially great for those computers still using the Windows XP operating system as Microsoft stopped offering security patches for XP earlier this month.

If you're currently using Internet Explorer for secure transactions like online banking, the best course of action is to use an alternate browser like Safari, Chrome or Firefox.  

If you're not comfortable or don't have access to these other browsers take these cautionary actions:

  • Exercise caution when visiting unknown or untrusted sites.  Avoid clicking on suspicious links or opening email if you don't know who is the source of that email.
  • Enable firewalls and make sure all your software is up to date
  • Turn on the "enhanced protected mode" in Internet Explorere 10 & 11.  To turn it on:
    • Click on "tools" in the Internet Explorer task bar and then click "Internet Options"
    • Click on the tabl that says "Security<" and then check the box for "Enhanced Protected Mode"
    • Click "apply"
    • You will probably have to shut down Internet Explorer and restart for the change to take effect.
^Amy


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Money Matters BEYOND Tuition

Young & Free Florida Spokester Alysha Klein shares her tips and tricks
for saving money at college at our first Lunch & Learn event in Coral Springs

This is an exciting year for me as a parent. My daughter is a senior in high school, and as we approach her last month in school our weeks are filled with family visits, end of year banquets, prom, and of course GRADUATION!  In addition we have been very focused on preparing for her first year of college - a very exciting AND scary time.  I'm very proud to say that she has been accepted to FIU and will be studying marine biology, her lifelong passion.

Since she was a little girl I watched as her fascination grew for marine life - Shark Week was a BIG event in our household. I also knew that a degree in marine biology would be a must, so I have been putting money into a 529 account for her education.  I thought we were pretty prepared for paying the expenses for college, but then I found out that there are MANY more expenses associated with college beyond tuition.  There are lab fees, meal plans and books - all of which add up QUICK. 

One day I was talking with our Young & Free Florida Spokester, Alysha Klein, about how she tackled all those extras and she had a LONG list of ways to save money - from book loan programs to take out boxes in school cafeterias.  When she started listing how many ways we could save money just by knowing the ropes of the different schools, we decided we had to share this information.  What better way to share it then over a free lunch!

So now through the end of May we are holding Lunch & Learn sessions at our branches where Alysha will share her own experiences with saving money while at college.  If you have a child about to take that leap, you won't want to miss this event. In addition Alysha will tell you about the FIVE $1,000 scholarships Tropical Financial Credit Union will be giving out this year! 

Spaces are filling up quick for the events so register today for the next Lunch & Learn: Money Matters Beyond Tuition and learn ways to properly budget for all the expenses in that first year of college.

^Amy

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!


Today is a day when we should all reflect on what we can do to help our environment.  Believe it or not, changing small things in your daily routines can have a big impact on your personal "carbon footprint."  Today is a day to bring those little things to the forefront of our consciousness and make a concerted effort to make changes.

Let's look at a five easy areas you can take a look at today:
  1. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.  Simply by turning off the water in the morning and at bedtime can save 8 gallons of water! Saving water saves energy reducing carbon pollution (and saves money on your water bill).
  2. Use a power strip instead of the wall outlets.  Having devices plugged in, even when you're not using them accounts for more than $11Billion (yes Billion) in annual US energy costs! When you use a power strip for things like your computer and all the peripheral equipment allows them to completely disconnect from the power supply, which eliminates "standby power consumption" and help reduce carbon pollution, it also won't hurt that electric bill each month.
  3. Use cold water to wash your clothes.  90% of the power your washing machine uses comes from heating the hot water that you use to wash those whites.  There are plenty of detergents that have created cold water formulas that will keep your whites sparkling even when washed with cold water, why not give it a try and save energy while you're at it.
  4. Check out what kinds of bulbs you're using in your lamps.  Check out the five most used lamps/lights in your house and change them out with Energy Star qualified bulbs - not only could you save up to $75/year on your electric bill, but you'll also reduce carbon pollution!
  5. Speaking of lights - how about turning off the lights when leaving a room.  Seems to me that teenagers are notorious for walking out of a room and not turning off the light...try giving them the electric bill for one month and tell them they have to pay for it, watch how quickly those lights get turned off if it's THEIR money.  I tried it in my house and it worked like a charm, my daughter is VERY good about turning off the lights now!

If you're interested in learning more tips on how to reduce your own carbon footprint AND saving money, visit the EPA site and calculate your household carbon footprint, as well as learn more ways you can make a difference!

Happy Earth Day!

^Amy