Posts on Jun 2018

5 Ways to Throw a 4th of July Blast on a Budget

fireworks

5 Ways to Throw a 4th of July Blast on a Budget

Like the rockets responsible for the legendary red glare, 4th of July business is booming!

According to a National Retail Federation report, Americans spent more than $7 billion on Independence Day celebrations last year. That figure is pretty steep—especially when you consider that Americans only spent $151 million (approximately $2.4 billion when adjusted for current inflation) on the Revolutionary War itself.

With our country’s birthday quickly approaching, you may be wondering whether it’s possible to show your star-spangled spirit without overspending on the festivities. We’re happy to report it’s entirely possible, especially if you follow these five tips:

  1. Use DIY or dollar store decorations. Thanks to your Pinterest page and local dollar store, it’s easier than ever to stretch your decoration dollars. Before you spend your hard-earned money on red, white, and blue decorations from big box stores or trendy boutiques, see if you can give the holiday a personal touch with some simple DIY projects. If you don’t have enough time to get crafty, swing by the dollar store and load up your patriotic cart for less.
  2. Host a BBQ potluck. There’s nothing like celebrating the 4th with family, friends, and food. But just because you’re the one hosting the party doesn’t mean you should foot the entire food bill. If you’re going to grill out, consider providing the main course (burgers, hot dogs, chicken, etc.) and asking your guests to bring their favorite fixings and sides. While everyone gets to show off their individual tastes, you get to hang on to more of your hard-earned cash.
  3. BYOB. If your gathering is going to include adult beverages, there are a few great reasons to adopt a BYOB policy. First, when everyone brings their own beverage, they’re sure to have something they enjoy. Second, unlike kid-friendly sodas and juice boxes, grown-up drinks can be pricey. Just like buying a round at the bar, providing beer or wine for all your cookout guests can put a serious dent in your budget.
  4. Do not BYOF. Not familiar with this abbreviation? BYOF stands for “Buy Your Own Fireworks.” And if you’ve ever experienced the sticker shock that happens in a fireworks store, you know exactly why purchasing your own explosives can be dangerous to your wallet (not to mention your health). Check your local news outlets and social media accounts for information on community fireworks shows instead.
  5. Plan for next year. One of the best things about 4th of July festivities is that the theme is always the same. That means you can score some incredible deals on Independence Day trinkets and decorations by shopping on July 5th and beyond. Since most stores don’t want to hold holiday inventory for an entire year, they often offer drastic discounts that will let you pick up next year’s decorations for pennies on the dollar.

However you choose to commemorate our nation’s birthday, a little creativity and advanced planning can help you celebrate in style—and within your budget.

How Can You Steer Clear of Financial Fraud?

Card lock

How Can You Steer Clear of Financial Fraud? 

With the rising popularity of online banking, mobile apps, and digital payment services like PayPal and Zelle, financial transactions are easier than ever. Bills can be paid online. Recurring payments can be automated. Funds can be transferred with just a click. The convenience of cashless commerce is welcome, but the reduction in physical exchanges can lull us to sleep when it comes to protecting ourselves against potential fraud. 

Financial fraud is nothing new. In fact, we probably hear the warnings so often that we hardly notice them anymore—and that can be a problem. In a Washington Post article detailing the vulnerability of credit card users, Kate Silver noted “Last year, analytics firm FICO found there was a 10 percent increase in the United States in payment cards that were compromised at ATMs and merchant card readers—following a 70 percent rise in 2016.” Statistics like these point to the fact that while security measures are improving, enterprising criminals are stepping up their games as well. 

Keep a close eye on your cards.

Much has been written about security advances within the financial industry, and rightfully so. EMV chip technology and digital wallet services like Apple Pay and Android Pay are dramatic improvements that go a long way towards foiling information theft. But with all of the focus on innovation, old-school credit and debit card activity still leaves many of us at risk. Card skimmers, hardly more than an urban myth in 2002, have evolved from clunky contraptions to barely perceptible devices that scan and record sensitive card data. If we’re not careful, mundane tasks like buying gas or getting money from an ATM can put our financial information at risk.

Safety can be simple.

The good news, according to Silver, is that commonsense precautions can significantly increase financial protection. Shielding the keypad when entering a PIN, making ATM withdrawals on weekdays (when the machines are inspected on a daily basis) instead of weekends (when they’re not), and only using gas pumps with security cameras and security tape are just a few practical steps we can take to protect our financial data. While all of these steps reduce the chances of theft happening in the first place, credit unions are making impressive strides towards safeguarding their members if their information is compromised. 

Credit unions are stepping up account security.

With convenient tools like online banking and mobile apps, credit unions make it easy for members to monitor their account activity—an essential step for early detection of fraudulent activity. Many institutions are also lessening the risks associated with physical card transactions by offering a two-pronged approach to security. Since most debit cards and check cards are issued in partnership with VISA or MasterCard, the first protective measure consists of security enhancements like chip technology and a Zero Liability policy for fraudulent transactions. 

Avoiding financial fraud doesn’t have to be difficult. Implementing personal precautions and teaming up with a trustworthy credit union, like Great Meadow, are simple, yet effective ways to ensure maximum protection. Even if it requires us to take additional steps and exercise a little more caution than we’re used to, preventing fraud is always easier than recovering from it.