Tag Archives: holiday shopping

Get Creative! Ways to Lower Holiday Spending

From our friends at BALANCE

Holiday spending is often a budget-buster.

The expenses can be numerous: presents, wrapping paper, cards, decorations, food, and travel, to name a few. Yet in these tough times, few people have thousands of dollars to spend. If you do not have the funds to buy everything you want, there is no need to despair. A little bit of creativity and energy can get you through the holidays without draining your wallet.

Gifts
Why spend $75 to buy a scarf if you can knit it yourself with $15 yarn? Making your own gifts is a great way to save, since supplies usually cost less than the finished product. Not only are homemade gifts cheaper, but many people appreciate them more than store-bought gifts because of the effort that goes into making them.

Are you not an experienced crafter? No problem. Writing a letter describing what the person means to you or framing a memorable photo are ways to give personalized gifts without having to break out a glue gun. Baking is another option that is easy for most people to do. Standard cookies or brownies can be dressed up with sprinkles and ribbons in holiday colors.

Offering your services is a great cost-saving gift, since it only costs time. Why not offer a free night of babysitting to your sister with three kids or a month of lawn-mowing to your parents? Think about what service you want to offer, and create a coupon that the recipient can redeem at a later date.

Gift-wrapping
Now that you have taken the time to choose economical gifts, you probably do not want to spend $50 wrapping them. Skip the fancy wrapping paper and bows, and look around the house to see what you can use. Do you have a newspaper? (The comic section is an especially suitable choice.) Computer paper? Shopping or supermarket bags? Cheap craft supplies, such as glitter and paint, can be used to decorate plain surfaces.

Cards
It is not uncommon for store cards to cost $4 apiece – or more. If you sent cards to 20 people, that would cost you $80, not including postage. Creating your own cards can help you save, but resist the temptation to buy the pricey supplies that pepper the scrapbook aisles of craft stores. If you create and send cards electronically, you avoid spending money completely. You can make your own or use one of the many free services available on the Internet. If sending electronic cards is not your thing, consider trimming your mailing list. You can probably skip sending cards to your third grade teacher and the second cousin who you never see.

Decorations
Like with gift-wrapping, you can avoid buying decorations by seeing what is lying around the house. Making a garland out of popcorn is a classic holiday decoration. Pine cones and acorns – available in abundance in many parts of the country – provide a perfect seasonal touch. If you are really craving store-bought decorations, consider waiting until after the holidays to buy. Most stores will be selling them at a deep discount, and you can use them next year.

Food
If you host holiday dinners or parties, you may find yourself spending a significant amount of money on food. Potluck dinners are an easy way to shift the burden of buying all of the food off of you. However, if you do not want to ask your guests to bring food, there are other options. Consider eliminating a full dinner and just providing appetizers and desserts or avoiding expensive items, like meat and wine. Look for where you can buy the cheapest food. Often bulk stores are cheaper than regular supermarkets, but not always.

Travel
Airfare is generally more expensive during the holidays, since that is when everyone flies. If you want to celebrate with far away family, why not have a “holiday” dinner during an off-peak time of the year, when airfare is cheaper? Whenever you fly, being flexible can usually help you save – you probably won’t have to spend as much if you fly at night or have a layover.

You do not need to spend a lot of money to have a good time. By being creative with your purchasing and not straining your finances, you can not only celebrate during the holidays, but afterward as well.

Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

Whether in-store or online, it’s the time of year where we all need to be diligent about protecting our finances.

Here are some safety tips from the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA):

In-Store Purchases:

  • EMV chip cards provide an extra layer of security when you buy on site (not online). Not all merchants have caught up with this technology trend. Ask the merchant if they have the chip system in place. If they don’t yet support it, use your card but continue to monitor your transactions daily. Take advantage of your credit union’s online account monitoring services. Report any suspicious activity to your credit union immediately.
  • Be sure your card is returned following each purchase and that it is indeed your card.
  • Wait for the card receipt. Never leave it at the checkout counter, and keep receipts with you; not in your shopping bags.
  • Check your statements and watch for multiple or incorrect charges. Compare receipts to your account statements, and then destroy your receipts.
  • Report unauthorized transactions to your credit union immediately.
  • Keep a list of your card account numbers and telephone numbers to call if your cards are lost or stolen. Keep that list in a secure place.
  • Make sure you have signed your credit and debit cards. Do not write your PIN on the card!
  • When entering your PIN, block the keypad from the view of the cashier or other customers.
  • Know that your PIN can be stolen in other ways. There is a heat signature left on non-metal keypads for several minutes after you use it. Infrared cameras installed on Smartphones can be used to measure this heat signature and obtain your PIN. Stop this fraud by resting your fingers on other keys while typing in your PIN.
  • Running your card as credit rather than debit is another way of protecting your PIN.

Online Shopping:

  • Use a secure Internet connection.
  • Do not use public wireless networks for online purchases.
  • Shop on sites with https:// in the URL, and be sure that an icon with a lock appears to the left. The “s” stands for “secure” and indicates communication with that site is encrypted.
  • Type the merchant’s address directly into your browser; avoid links.
  • Use complicated passwords with at least eight characters. Include numbers, special characters and upper and lower case numbers.
  • Keep the antivirus and security software updated on your computers and mobile devices.
  • We recommend that you don’t store your payment information. Many websites or apps let you store your credit and debit card information for convenience, but this might also be too convenient for thieves.
  • Do not respond to pop ups, and do not share card information via email or texts.
  • Set up payment and purchase alerts via text and email. If you notice suspicious activity, notify your credit union immediately. 

The Northwest Credit Union Association is the not-for-profit trade association representing over 160 of Oregon and Washington’s credit unions and their 5.2 million members. The NWCUA is the voice of the Northwest credit union movement, providing legislative, regulatory and public advocacy in addition to education, compliance, networking support and business solutions to credit unions. For information on how to join a credit union, please visit http://www.asmarterchoice.org.

12-12-12 Loan

Just in time for the holidays!

$1,200 at 12.00% APR* for 12-months

Just in time for the holidays, we’re offering our 12-12-12 Loan again this season. We hope it will help to ease the holiday financial stress and provide some cheer along the way.

  • Apply in just few minutes, in a few simple steps. (Hint: you want to select “Signature” under “Personal Loans” when applying).
  • A member of the Lending Services team will connect with you to get some documentation such as proof on income, but no credit pull is required.
  • Upon approval, you will get $1,200 to use for holiday expenses, last minute purchases, or perhaps a mini-vacation. The rate is 12.00% APR* with a 12-month term. So, by the time you pay it off in small monthly payment of around $105, the holidays will be here again! Piece of cake.

Questions:
loans@usacu.org | (503) 275-0300 or (800) 452-0915, option 2.

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. For established memberships (over 90 days old) there is no credit pull, although proof of income and other terms/conditions are required. For New members, a credit pull in addition to proof of income will be required. Only one 12-12-12 loan is allowed at a time, so in order to qualify for a new one, the old loan must be paid off. 12-12-12 Loans are available beginning November 18th through January 31st. Connect with Lending Services for details.

Simple Cards. Big Savings.

With a USAgencies Visa Card

There’s nothing worse than finding a hidden fee or extra small, confusing fine print on your credit card statement when the shopping season is over. That’s just a terrible way to begin the new year. Well, with a USAgencies Visa® Card in your pocket, you don’t ever have to worry about that.

We have a variety of simple, low or no fee cards, with very competitive interest rates. You won’t find higher rates for balance transfers or fees for cash advances. Nope – just a “what you see is what you get” kinda Visa card.

Shop with greater confidence this year – apply online for a USAgencies Visa Card today or connect with Lending Services: loans@usacu.org | (503) 275-0300 or (800) 452-0915, option 2.