All posts by USAgencies

Save Money This Holiday Season with These DIY Gift Hacks

Love the holidays but hate the Santa sticker shock that follows? No need to spend your way into debt this Christmas. Keep costs down and make the holidays more meaningful by gifting your loved ones with personalized homemade presents. From pamper-me packages crafted with care, to home décor that costs just a few dollars, to home-baked goodies that say “I love you,” the sky’s the limit when you DIY! Here are 13 homemade gift ideas from across the cyber-verse to get you started.

Sugar cookie sack

Everyone loves pulling freshly baked cookies out of the oven, but who wants to bother with measuring and mixing all those ingredients? Make it easy for your loved one with this adorable sack of sugar-cookie mix. Decorate the sack to make it personal, and you’ll have a heartwarming gift costing less than $10.

Fleece blanket

Help your friends and family gear up for winter with a cozy fleece blanket. If you’re handy with a needle, you can design a deluxe version of this fuzzy piece of heaven; otherwise, keep it simple, sweet and oh, so cheap.

Pedicure kit

Has your friend been pining for a pedicure? Gift them with all they need to make their nails sparkle with a “for your mistletoes” nail kit. Fill a $7 Mason jar with polishes, filers, a buffer and everything else they need for a spa-at-home experience.

Wall clock

Dress up a flat circle of wood with some beautiful material, attach a clock kit and voila — homemade designer décor for just a few dollars! This clock makes the perfect gift for the friend who’s just moved into a new home or dorm room. Learn how to make your wall clock here.

Bubble bath gift set

Who doesn’t love a relaxing bubble bath? This gift makes it possible with a complete bubble bath kit, including chocolate, bath salts, a candle, soaps, a pouf and more. Learn how to create your own at Sugar and Charm.

Instagram picture frame

Round up your friend’s best Instagram snaps of the year with this creative desktop frame. This gift will make them smile all year long.

Infused vodkas

Flavor your own vodkas and give your friends a unique gift they’ll enjoy for days to come. Choose between classic flavors or experiment with brave new ideas, like spicy citrus and cucumber tarragon. Get the tutorial for infused booze here.

Money tree

Who says money doesn’t grow on trees? Give the gift of cash with an adorable holiday-themed presentation by rolling up stacks of bills into tree boughs. Learn how here.

Recipe box

This one is for the friend who dreams of starring on “Chopped.” Fill this personalized, decorated recipe box with their own best recipes and add a few new gems for their collection. They’ll think of you every time they cook up another storm. Check out Club Crafted to get the full tutorial.

Snowball bath bombs

Bath time is fun again with these peppermint-infused bath bombs! Package inside plastic ornaments for a real holiday treat.

Rainbow candles

We’re all spending more time at home these days, and what better way to light up a cold winter evening than with these gorgeous rainbow candles. All you need for these eye-catching creations is a bit of time and some old crayons.

Painted picture frames

Dress up dollar-store picture frames with colored chalk paint for the perfectly memorable gift. Learn how at Make Your Mark.

Reindeer gift card holder

This holiday-themed card holder is the perfect present for that friend who owns a collection of gift cards and needs a place to keep them safe. You can also use it to dress up a gift card and make it more personal. It’s made out of leftover toilet paper rolls and basic craft materials you likely already have at home.

Keep the stress out of the holidays this year with our DIY gift hacks. It’s all the shared love with none of the debt. Plus, creating these gifts will keep you busy as you ride out a quarantine or avoid crowded malls during these pandemic times. Who knew holiday gifts could be so much fun?


What’s your favorite DIY gift hack?

Resources:

Beware of Debt-Collection Scams

Don’t be the next victim of a debt-collection scam! Here’s all you need to know about these scams:

How the scams play out

In a debt-collection scam, a caller claiming to represent a debt-collection agency demands immediate payment for an alleged outstanding debt. The caller insists on specific means of payment and may threaten to tell the victim’s friends about the unpaid debt. The alleged debt may be completely fabricated, or the scammer has hacked the victim’s accounts to learn of its existence. In either scenario, the caller does not represent the creditor and will pocket any “collected” money.

These scams can also take the form of abusive debt collection, in which a caller collects money for a legitimate debt, but does so using abusive and illegal practices.

How to spot a debt-collection scam

You might be looking at a scam if an alleged debt collector does any of the following:

  • Withholds information about the debt and the creditor
  • Threatens the debtor with jail time
  • Insists on specific means of payment
  • Asks to be provided with personal financial information

Know your rights

When outstanding debts go unpaid, a lender can legally sell the debt to a collection agency. The agency can then attempt to collect the debt through letters and phone calls.

According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) , debt collectors cannot:

  • Contact borrowers at unreasonable hours.
  • Call borrowers at their workplace if the borrower said they cannot accept phone calls at work.
  • Harass borrowers about a debt, including using threats of violence and calling the debtor multiple times each day.
  • Engage in unfair collection practices.
  • Lie about the money owed.
  • Falsely represent themselves.
  • Threaten the debtor with jail time.
  • Falsify the name of the agency they represent.

 Protect yourself

If you’re unsure of whether you are being targeted by a debt-collection scam, ask the caller for a callback number and to confirm information about the debt. The collector should know the amount owed and be able to tell you the name of the company behind the debt.

If you still believe you are being scammed, contact the creditor and ask if the debt collection has been outsourced to another company.
If you’ve been targeted

If you’ve been targeted by an illegitimate debt collector, report the scam at ftc.gov/complaint. If a falsified debt appears on your credit report, you will need to dispute the charge as well.

If a collection agency is employing abusive tactics or if you’d like them to stop calling you, it’s best to send them a letter asking them to cease all contact. Once the agency has received the letter, they can only reach out to you to confirm there will be no further contact, or to inform you of a specific action they are taking.


Don’t forget to check the latest scam alerts. Contact the FTC for help if you’re targeted by a scammer.

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving During COVID-19

Will you need to cancel Thanksgiving due to COVID-19? Of course not! From hosting at home to taking the whole shindig virtual, we’ve got plenty of ideas for you!

It’s turkey season! But this year, due to the COVID-19 environment we’re experiencing, the holiday festivities will look a bit different than before. With some precautionary measures and careful planning, though, you can celebrate Thanksgiving in the era of the coronavirus without compromising on your health or safety. Here’s how:

Planning a Thanksgiving dinner

If you plan on hosting an in-person Thanksgiving dinner this year, it’s best to take steps to ensure your day is as safe as possible.

First, consider hosting your dinner outside. If the weather is still relatively mild and you have the space for it, moving a Thanksgiving dinner outdoors greatly reduces the risk of spreading coronavirus, according to the CDC. If an outdoor dinner isn’t possible, make sure your home is well-ventilated during your Thanksgiving dinner by opening some windows and doors.

Second, try to limit the number of attendees. The CDC currently does not impose a limit on the number of attendees at any indoor gathering, but cautions that larger gatherings, by default, pose a greater risk of spread. Keep in mind that you may have state or local laws that do limit the number of attendees, so be sure to review these regulations before creating an invite list. You can look up state and local laws here.

It’s also important to consider your guests’ hometowns when drawing up an invite list. The CDC recommends keeping this year’s Thanksgiving dinners to local guests only. The risk of infection increases when there are guests in attendance who are coming from areas currently experiencing an outbreak.

Finally, while traditional Thanksgiving dinners can last for hours, the CDC cautions that longer gatherings pose a greater risk than shorter dinners. You can cut down on the hours your guests linger around the table by adding a finish time to your invitations.

Attending and Hosting a Dinner

Whether attending a Thanksgiving dinner or welcoming dinner guests into your own home, follow the CDC’s general guidelines for reducing the risk of contagion.

Set up a sanitizing station for guests to use upon arrival or offer to bring one to your host’s home. Include an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for guests’ personal items that may land on the dinner table, such as phones and purses.

If possible, space the seating so there are several feet between each chair.

It can also be a good idea to serve individualized portions instead of passing around a large platter for the entire table to share.

Finally, don’t forget to follow basic hygiene practices at Thanksgiving dinner, such as covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow and scrubbing your hands with soap and water before eating or preparing food.

Going Virtual

According to the CDC, anyone who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not met the criteria for when it is safe to be near others currently has symptoms of COVID-19, is waiting for COVID-19 test results, may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days or is considered high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should not attend any in-person holiday celebrations.

Here’s how to keep the holiday festive with a virtual celebration:

  • Plan a shared dinner experience in advance. The next-best thing to sitting around a Thanksgiving dinner table together with your loved ones is sharing the same dinner experience on Thanksgiving Day. Sync your dinner plans with the plans of the people with whom you’d be sharing the dinner in non-COVID times. This can include a shared menu or even lighting the same scented candles.
  • Prep together. Video chat with your virtual guest list as you all prep your Thanksgiving dinners in your own homes.
  • Send care packages. If you usually host a dinner, you can drop off a basket of Thanksgiving treats at each of your virtual guests’ doorsteps.
  • Video chat your “shared” Thanksgiving dinners. Eat your Thanksgiving dinners at the same time as your virtual guests. To make it special, you can create a program for the evening with highlights, like opening and closing remarks, a shared song and a short slideshow of family pictures.

USAgencies Credit Union wishes you and your family a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

5 Online Resources for Autumn

Crisp breezes, breathtaking displays of fiery-colored foliage, pumpkin spice lattes — what’s not to love about autumn? To help make the season that much better, here are five online resources that can help you enjoy it to the max.

Fall Foliage Prediction Map (website)

If you’re planning a road trip this autumn or just wondering when the foliage around you will hit its peak, you need to check out this map. The foliage prediction map uses statistical models to predict when the foliage will be most striking in every county in the country. It’s all you need to enjoy the best of fall.

Corn Mazes America (website)

What better way to spend a cool fall afternoon than by getting lost inside an enormous corn maze? This incredible website has taken all the guesswork out of corn mazes with its massive database of corn mazes from all around the country. You can browse corn mazes by state or town, find one on a map and download directions for easy travel. Corn Maze America will help you find the maze you need for an epic autumn adventure.

KOA (iOS) (Android)

Get ready for the camping trip of a lifetime! With its wide selection of campsites, complete with search tools, directions to each location with built-in navigation and several filter options for each search, the KOA  (Kampgrounds of America) app will help you bring your fall camping trip to the next level. Many of the app’s features function offline as well, including campground information, search tools and driving directions, making the app the perfect accompaniment for a trip out into the deepest wilderness. The campgrounds await you!

BigOven (iOS) (Android)

The dwindling sunlight and falling temperatures of fall make it the perfect time of year to break out the mixing bowl and whip up some hearty homemade goodies. And if you need some tried-and-true recipes to make it happen, there’s an app for that! Download BigOven for access to more than a half-million recipes that will help you bring autumn into your kitchen. On the super-popular app, you’ll find the secret to making delectable pumpkin pie, butternut squash soup, mashed potatoes and gravy and so many other fall favorites. Don’t forget to check out the other fun features; like money-saving hacks for using up your leftovers, a grocery-shopping organizer and so much more.

LeafSnap (iOS) (Android)

Are you a genuine tree-hugger who always wants to learn more about the beautiful foliage around you? The info you need is just a download away! LeafSnap  is a free app that can identify 90% of all known species of plants and trees. Just snap a photo of a leaf and the app will identify the kind of tree it came from in seconds. Your nature walks will never be the same!

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