There’s No Place Like Home: Plan Ahead with Age-in-Place Upgrades

Most older Americans want to stay in their homes permanently and live independently, according to AARP. Now that boomers are getting older, there’s a term for this: “Aging in place.” The trouble is, aging in place comes with a fair number of challenges, considering that most homes aren’t designed for accessibility. However, there are ways to age in place happily and comfortably, as allU.S. Credit Union explains below.

Make Modifications to Your Current Home

Aging-in-place modifications need not look institutional or awkward. These upgrades are simply about making your home adaptable for people of all ages and abilities. The focus is on planning ahead and preventing accidents before they happen. When you consider the rising costs of assisted living, money spent on modifications is money well spent!

  • Select durable, non-slip matte-finish hardwood floors. Smooth floors such as hardwood eliminate trip hazards and make it easier to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers. Remove all hazards such as area rugs and electric cords.
  • Install a wheelchair-accessible ramp outside if necessary, along with handrails and grab bars in areas where falls are likely. (More than 30% of seniors suffer from a fall every year. Falls are also the leading cause of death and injury in aging adults.)
  • Pay special attention to the bathroom, and replace the towel bar with a weight-bearing handrail or grab bar. Also, use non-skid shower mats in the bathtub or shower. For those who must sit, have portable shower seats as well as movable shower heads. Consider remodeling your shower so that it’s curbless too. Upgrade your standard 17” high toilet to one that is chair height (19” tall), and you’ll find that everyone prefers it, mobility issues or not!
  • Remove thresholds from doorways to make passing through them easier and to prevent tripping. If it’s not possible to remove them, you can purchase ramps that make it easier to get over them.
  • Widen doorways for wheelchairs. Wheelchairs typically need at least 32,” but ideally 36” of space makes maneuvering easier. Also, make sure that countertops and cabinets can be accessed comfortably from a wheelchair.
  • Replace all door knobs with lever-style door handles. These handles are kinder on arthritic hands with less dexterity and will ensure that you won’t be inadvertently trapped inside your room. Using levered faucets in the kitchen sink are best for older hands too.

Some of this work may require professional contractors. Ask friends and family for referrals, and get written estimates. Keep in mind too that some home accessibility modifications can be deducted from your federal taxes. Widening doorways and halls, adding railings and grab bars, etc. can be considered medical expenses, so be sure to talk with your tax professional.

Downsize to a Smaller Home

Your current house made sense for you when you bought it, but it may no longer make sense for you today or tomorrow. Down the road, you may prefer walking or using a wheelchair to get to your nearest store or doctor’s office rather than driving. You may need a single-story home or access to an elevator, or you may no longer want to spend time maintaining two acres of land.

Familiarize yourself with real estate listings in your area now to get an idea of what it might cost to buy a new home. It’s also key to find a real estate professional who is savvy to the needs of senior buyers. A great agent will also walk you through different scenarios if you prefer to buy and sell at the same time or if you want to buy something new and then sell your home.

Being proactive by modifying your home now is not only a wise investment in your future, but it’s a wise real estate investment too. Age-in-place modified homes are one of the hottest trends on the market. Best of all, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ve got a beautiful home that will work for you now and into the future.

By becoming a member of allU.S. Credit Union, you can reap the benefits of higher savings rates and lower fees and loan rates. Fill out an online application today!

SHOULD I CUT THE CORD?

The Crown, Game of Thrones, Queen of the South, Ozarks.  Everyone loves a good television show and they are made available to us through mainstream TV via cable and satellite.  Whether it’s Comcast, DirectTV, AT&T, Xfinity or DISH, your cable service has proved to be very expensive – $100/month for 200 channels that most people don’t even watch.  What’s the alternative?  Streaming services that have picked up about 4 million subscribers because it’s cheaper.  If you’re on the fence about cutting the cord, we will discuss why you should, and provide you the options to move forward. 

How do I start my streaming journey? 

If you have an adequate internet connection, you are ready to cut the cable.  So, what now?  The first thing you need to do is obtain some type of streaming device.  This can be a Roku Stick, Apple TV, Google Chromecast or an Amazon Fire Stick.  If you have a smart TV some of these apps (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube) may already be built into the TV and you can use it instead of a separate streaming device. 

If you are concerned about cutting yourself off from the cable world and your favorite channels, you might consider a subscription cable replacement service like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation, Vue, Hulu, YouTube TV and many more. 

Word of Caution:  if you sign up for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and Hulu, your bill will start to add up quickly.  Will it be cheaper than a cable bill?  Absolutely.  But make sure you actually use the streaming services you sign up for.

Easy to Use

Cable users usually have a lot of buttons to push with a large menu to select from.  For you cord cutters out there, it’s a lot easier to navigate the shows and watch what you want.  

Portability

You get to watch your streaming content anywhere by default, using your mobile devices (laptop, tablet, smartphones, etc.).  It’s perfect for anyone who is on the road.

Instant Access

Once you switch from cable to streaming, you are in total control of everything you are watching.  You can pause and stop and go back to watch it later.  This is perfect for the binge watcher.  We have a side benefit for you.  You may be able to cut the amount of time you are watching TV.  No more channel surfing and you’ll be more inclined to watch a specific program.

Deciding to cut the cord is definitely hard to do, but all these alternatives can help you be more confident in your decision.  If you are currently paying for a service and there might be a better option out there that meets your needs and especially your budget, then it’s definitely worth a look.  You can watch great shows and save money at the same time by CUTTING THE CORD!.

Three Ways To Maintain Your Summer Financial Goals

Summer is an amazing time of year but it’s also a time when we are inclined to spend a lot more money on traveling, family BBQs, and home improvement projects.  These types of expenditures can derail your monthly budgeting. If you think you have fallen off the track, how will you react to the fall?  It may be time to regroup and re-evaluate and make the necessary changes to get back on track.

It’s time to get back to basics by preparing a new budget by focusing on three important areas – saving, bills and spending.  But, before you can do that you must first decide the following:

  • How much income do you have every month (employment, benefits, child support, alimony, etc).  Then deduct all your expenses.  This will give you your income number to work within your monthly budget.

SAVINGS

It’s important to remember that saving is a requirement, not an option.  Always pay yourself first.  Many times we get caught up in paying bills, having fun and then we think about saving much later.  And, by that time, there’s probably no money left to save.  You must become more proactive and creative about saving.

The place to start is saving money before you pay anything.  Every time you receive money from anyone or anywhere, save some of it. Even it it’s only $10.  Save it!  Small amounts can add up to large amounts over a period of time.  So begin small but stay consistent.  Start today by creating an action plan for your savings goals.

BILLS

Bills are another important aspect of attaining your financial goals because we must pay them in order to live our daily lives.  By paying your basic expenses you are supporting your basic needs for housing, transportation, food and clothing.  Once you have paid your living expenses, start paying all your other bills in order of their importance – car loan, insurance, internet, hair, nails, streaming TV, etc.  

At the end of the month you find out you have more expenses than income; it’s time to figure out if you have an income problem or a money management problem.  Once you get a picture of your problem, take action.

SPENDING

Make sure you make time for fun activities and self-care.  We all work too hard not to enjoy life.  So start living it with purpose and excitement.  Set aside money within your budget to do something you enjoy every month.  Just like we have to work to earn money to live, it’s important to take the time to enjoy life so we can fortify ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually. Remember to set aside funds for little unplanned enjoyments we forget to count, like eating out, Starbucks, outside events, etc.  Once your spending allotment has been used, be sure to stay disciplined and hold off your spending until next month.

LET’S TAKE ACTION

Now it’s time to get to work.  Get started on your end of summer budget.  It’s OK to adjust your budget as your life changes.  If you start the month with a plan, it’s so much easier to make changes when those unexpected events occur.

As your trusted financial advisor, allU.S. is committed to ensure our members are getting the most from their membership.  Let us help you save!

Tips for a Frugal Fourth of July

We like the Fourth of July because unlike some of the more gift-oriented holidays, the 4th can be celebrated with family and friends without spending a lot of cash. If your family is on a budget there are plenty of ways to celebrate cheaply.  Here are just a few suggestions.

1)  Host a potluck and ask each invited guest to bring his or her favorite dish to share. This way everyone gets to enjoy a wide variety of treats.   This is suddenly a patriotic spread at a lower cost to every guest.

If a potluck isn’t an option then talk to your butcher and ask about any unadvertised specials.  Certain cuts or packaged meat might be less expensive but just as tasty.

When produce is in season, it’s both fresher and less expensive than some other choices.  

How about creating a signature beverage.  Instead of providing many drink options, create one signature.  By making this beverage in large batches, you’ll save money on ingredients and reduce waste.

2)  One of the best things about the Fourth of July is it most likely will be an outside event. And, the best thing about playing outside is that a lot of outdoor games don’t require any expenditures.

3)  There are so many Fourth of July decorations that you can make for FREE.  This is a great way to get your kids involved in the holiday planning.  If you need some inspiration, the allU.S. Pinterest page has plenty of inexpensive 4thof July ideas.

4)  The Fourth of July wouldn’t be complete without fireworks.  You can start with small home fireworks for the kids, like sparklers and poppers, which are safer options.  When the sun sets, you can head to a local fireworks show and kick back while colorful flashes light up the sky.  If you’re going to set off your own fireworks, be sure to abide by your local firework laws.

5)  Be sure to shop after the holiday and stock up on decorations for next year’s party. Most themed decorations will cost a lot less after the holiday has come and gone.

6)  Another great way to celebrate the 4this to go camping.  What better way to celebrate the birthday of America than a visit to a national park?  Most of these parks require you to book ahead so check their online booking systems before you hit the road.  If you can’t find a spot away from home then set up a camping experience in your own backyard.  

Remember, a successful Fourth of July does not need to be measured by how much money you spend. You can have an awe-inspiring experience without breaking the bank.  You just have to look for deals, think creatively and spend frugally.  Have a booming Fourth of July on a budget!

Tax Identity Theft: Protecting Your Credit and Finances

Tax season is here, and though you technically have until April 15 to file your returns, you might want to submit yours sooner than that — at least if you want to avoid potential identity theft (and a whole lot of hassle).

Tax-related identity theft is a growing problem in America, and the more security breaches, information hacks and digital business we do as a society, the more consumers who fall victim to it. In fact, in 2016 alone, thieves stole more than $21 billion in tax refunds as a result of this simple, yet clever, form of identity theft.

Have you fallen victim to Tax ID Theft and need help dealing with the financial ramifications? Or just want to know ways to prevent it from happening to you? This guide can help.

What is Tax-Related Identity Theft?

Tax identity theft occurs when someone files a tax return using your Social Security Number. In some cases, thieves do this in order to claim a fraudulent tax refund. In others, they may have used your SSN to obtain employment. When this occurs, their employer will report all income to the IRS using that SSN. When you don’t report that same income on your own return, the IRS will flag it as suspicious and require you to pay taxes on that additional income. It may even lead to a tax audit.

Victims of tax-related identity theft face serious financial ramifications. Not only are they unable to file their own returns (or claim their tax refund), but it also may indicate other financial vulnerabilities are at work. Unauthorized loans, credit cards and other accounts may have been opened using the victim’s identity. Victims are typically encouraged to freeze their credit when tax-related identity theft occurs. They may also need to work with creditors and credit reporting agencies to clear their name of any fraudulent activity.

How Does Tax Identity Theft Happen?

Generally, tax-related identity theft — and all identity theft, for that matter — occurs after a person’s sensitive information has become public or fallen into the wrong hands. This often happens due to security breaches or digital data hacks, like the recent ones involving mortgage dataQuora users and Marriott/Starwood Hotels customers.

Tax-related identity theft often occurs in February and early March, as thieves must file the fraudulent returns before the real taxpayers file their legitimate ones. Fortunately, the IRS is taking steps to reduce identity theft from many angles. The agency has hired more employees dedicated to stopping fraud, implemented additional safeguards and also changed many of the standards used to file and authorize returns. Despite these efforts, tax-related identity fraud does still occur — and it’s important everyday Americans are ready should it happen.

How to Know You’ve Been Victimized

If you’ve fallen victim to tax-related identity theft, there are several ways you might learn of it. First, your legitimate tax return may be rejected. When you go to e-file your tax return, the IRS will reject it if a return has already been filed for your Social Security Number. If you filed a paper return, you would get a rejection notice in the mail, alerting you that your return has already been filed.

In the event the thief used your SSN to obtain a job, you likely won’t learn of the issue until your returns have been filed and processed. Once the IRS sees that your reported income does not match the income reported by employers to your Social Security Number, they will send you a later saying you failed to report income or that you owe additional taxes.

It’s important to note that all communications from the IRS will come via mail. The agency will not call, text or email you regarding your returns or any suspicious activity. Do not provide sensitive information to anyone pretending to be an IRS agent via these methods and report the issue to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

What to Do Next 

If you discover that you are the victim of tax identity theft, you’ll need to report it to both the IRS and the Federal Trade Commission.

Specifically, you’ll need to:

  •  Fill out Letter 5071C, if you’ve received it. The IRS may send you Letter 5071Cif it flags your return as suspicious or suspects fraud has been committed. This form requires you to verify your identity and breaks down the steps for doing so. Follow these directions exactly and take any additional steps recommended once your identity has been confirmed.
  •  Use Form 14039to alert the IRS of the issue.Fill out the form, along with a copy of your Social Security card and driver’s license, to Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 9039, Andover, MA, 01810-0939. Make sure to send the letter by certified mail to ensure it arrives safely and untampered with. If you received a notice in the mail, include this with your letter as well.
  • Apply for an Identity Protection PIN.These are six-digit numbers that the IRS will use to confirm your identity on all future returns and filings.
  • Notify the Federal Trade Commission. File an identity theft report at IdentityTheft.govin order to alert the FTC. This website can also help you create a plan of action for responding to identity theft.
  • Contact your state tax agency.There may be additional steps your state requires when identity theft occurs.

If you tried to e-file and got rejected, you should go ahead and file your paper return and pay any taxes you owe via mail. If at any point you need help in the process, call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800.908.4490 for assistance. An agent can walk you through the appropriate steps to both report and respond to the theft.

The Road Ahead – Rebuilding Your Credit and Finances

Though the IRS says it typically takes 120 days or less to address cases of identity theft, according to USA Today, it often takes as many as 278 days to resolve a claim and get your legitimate refund.

This doesn’t even include the time and resources needed to address other consequences of identity theft — such as unauthorized loans, credit cards, purchases and more. Depending on how deep the theft goes and how available your personal information was, the financial ramifications can often last months or even years.

The important thing to do is to remain vigilant. This means:

  • Pulling your credit report and monitoring for suspicious financial activity. Look at your credit report and make sure there are no unauthorized accounts or loans to your name. Contact the creditors and close these if necessary. You should also check with your banks and lenders to ensure there is no suspicious activity. If there is, dispute the charges and follow the steps to have those waived from your accounts.
  • Placing a fraud alert on your credit profile. Contact one of the three major credit reporting bureaus (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax) and ask that a fraud alert be placed on your record. This can prevent thieves from opening up new credit cards or loans in your name. You can also request a total credit freeze if you want to be extra safe.
  •  Considering credit monitoring. Though these services come at a fee, they can help you keep tabs on your credit profile — as well as any changes that occur on it.
  • Working with the Social Security Administration. Report the identity theft and take any additional steps recommended. In severe cases, you may need to apply for a new Social Security Number.
  • Continuing to work with the IRS and FTC as necessary. Respond quickly to any FTC or IRS request. Any delays could delay the resolution of your case and the delivery of your refund.

In some cases, you may want to involve a lawyer — especially if your investments, retirement accounts, mortgage or other major financial products have been affected. They can help you traverse the legal issues that crop up with creditors, lenders and financial institutions along the way.

Your Options for Financial Recovery 

Many victims of tax-related identity theft experience cash flow issues or must deal with additional debt as a result of the experience. They also may be unable to take out traditional loans or credit accounts due to the impact the theft has had on their credit score and profile.

When this occurs, victims have these options:

  • A Tax Advance Loan – Tax Advance Loans (TALs) give you an advance on your projected refund. While sometimes helpful, these aren’t the best idea if your refund is small. They can also impact your credit score and often require a significant chunk of your refund to secure.
  • A personal loan – Personal loanscan offer access to more cash, as well as more lenient (and longer) repayment terms. These can be especially helpful for victims hit hard by their identity theft.
  • Credit-builder loans – These loans are beneficial if your credit score was severely impacted by the theft. Typically offered through community banks and credit unions, they help you improve your score by reporting your consistent payments to credit bureaus.
  • Secured credit cards – If the identity theft required you to close your credit accounts, a secured credit card can be a good option. These require you to deposit money up front, as collateral. They then function like traditional credit cards, while also helping you establish good credit standing (as long as you pay on time, every time).
  • Help from loved ones– In many cases, family members, friends and other loved ones are willing to provide financial help. They might offer no-interest loans or even gifts to help you get through your rough patch.

There’s always the option to wait it out, too. If the damage was minimal or you weren’t relying on your refund for financial stability, you may be able to await the IRS’ resolution of your case.

Reducing Your Risk

If you aren’t already the victim of tax-related identity theft, you should take action to ensure you never become one. This means protecting your personal information, shredding sensitive documents and using strong passwords on all online accounts.

You can also:

  •  Lock your mailbox.
  • Use a secure computer on a secure network when e-filing.
  • Check your credit report annually for suspicious activity.
  •  Install a firewall and antivirus software on your computer.
  • Learn how to recognize phishing emails and fraudulent requests for information.
  • Keep sensitive documents (like your Social Security card) in a safety deposit box.
  • Only provide your Social Security Number when absolutely necessary.

You should also file your returns as early as possible. A fraudster cannot file a return using your Social Security Number if one has already been filed. Make it a point to file your taxes as soon as you have the information necessary to do so.

The Simple Dollar

Aly J. Yale

How to get the Best Deals Online

Learn how to make the most of your online shopping and nab the best digital deals with these tips:

Subscribe to email lists.  Most people avoid email lists like the plague.  However, email subscribers get some of the best deals that retailers offer, so if you can tolerate a few more messages in your inbox, it’s a good way to stay apprised about sales and promotions.

Combine Membership Benefits.  Many member-based programs are expanding their partnerships with other retailers to offer enhanced benefits.  Keeping tabs on the latest offers can ensure you’re maximizing your membership.  For example, Woot.com, which features deals on items ranging from top tech gadgets to kitchen gizmos to sporting goods, now offers free shipping for Amazon Prime members.

Seek out Discount Codes.  Whether you subscribe to a site that aggregates codes, rely on a browser extension or even do a manual search, wait to confirm an order until first checking to see if there are any discount codes available.

Check in on Daily Deals.  Many online retailers specialize in daily deals.  But, be- aware that many of these deals are available for a limited time and in limited quantities.  It’s to your advantage to understand how often your favorite sites post new deals and the flash sales they offer.  Stay connected by subscribing to the site’s newsletter or following the site’s social media channels.

Use your Shopping Cart.  Retailers have become very sophisticated at monitoring shoppers’ habits and behaviors.   It may be a little invasive, but it can pay off to your advantage.  Place items in your shopping cart then close out of your browser.  It’s possible you’ll receive an email within the next day or two with an incentive to complete your purchase.

Take Advantage of Free Shipping.  Look for sites that provide free shipping and consider combining purchases to take advantage of free shipping offers. 

Once you have a few tricks in place, scoring savings online can be more lucrative and easier than coupon clipping.  Combine that with the convenience of shopping from home and you’ve got one smart deal.

PREPARING FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Fall has arrived and that means the holidays are right around the corner.  So, there’s no time to procrastinate.  Take the time to plan early in order to save the most money this holiday season.

Create a Budget

Determine how much you want to spend during the holidays and make sure you stick to it. Once you know approximately how many gifts you’ll be buying and what events you’ll be attending, you’ll be able to make a budget.  Whether it’s through an online budgeting tool, spreadsheet, or plain old pen and paper, set a limit and do everything you can not to exceed it. Think about what you will actually spend including things like wrapping paper, decor, travel, and special foods.

Make a List

Write down every person you need to buy for including some ideas for your purchases.  Don’t forget to include all the holiday events you will be attending.

Remember, you don’t have to give the most expensive gift to get the biggest smiles.  A well thought out gift can have a huge impression on someone.

DIYing Your Gifts

Giving home made gifts may be at the top of your list as well. Don’t wait until Dec. Start now.

Start Price Shopping

When you wait till the last minute to buy your holiday gifts, you are often making purchases no matter what the cost.  Throw that habit away and start comparing prices for the items you will be buying now. If you are shopping online, don’t forget to include shipping costs.

Also, mark your calendar, and start receiving notifications by joining email lists of retail shops that you frequent to stay informed of upcoming sales.  We already know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are loaded with great sales but don’t forget about Green Monday (2ndMonday in December) and Free Shipping Days (Dec. 16) to maximize your holiday spending.

Order Holiday Cards Online

If you send out holiday cards, don’t purchase them in a store. You will find much better deals online. Or better yet, use a photo card service like Shutterfly.

Stockpile your holiday ingredients

There are certain ingredients that everyone uses during the holidays (pumpkin, spices, nuts, pie crusts, stuffing ingredients, etc.)  Beat the rush and high prices at the grocery stores and get them before you need them.

Save a little each day

Putting aside as little as $25/week can help you when buying your holiday gifts.  At the end of just eight weeks, your weekly savings will grow to a few hundred dollars.

Plan for next year now

With the allU.S. Christmas Club (https://alluscu.com/savings.cfm) you can set aside money during the year!  This special savings account lets you put money safely away and only access it in November.  By the time the holidays arrive; you will be ready for the extra spending.

Don’t let the holidays wreak havoc this year.  Time is flying by, and implementing these tips now will save you time and financial stress.  And, if you need help determining how much you can spend and still stay on track financially, our member representatives can help you sort through your finances.  

Charging your phone in public? Watch that port!

Smartphones have become an ever-present part of our lives. Even if the fully charged phone is just there in case of emergencies, having a charged cellphone can provide a sense of security. That’s why, when the battery starts to tick downward, a sense of panic rises ensues.

Many public places have begun to provide USB ports and electrical outlets to charge customer smartphones. Unfortunately, this delightful public service has become a playground for thieves. Online scammers can hook tiny computers into those ports. When you plug in your phone, they can install programs on your phone that can report personal information the thieves use to commit identity theft. Additionally, thieves can use the connection to your phone to browse your phone’s contents, stealing browser history data — including sensitive passwords. It’s called “Juice Jacking,” and it can take as little as three minutes for them to have total control of your phone.

These scammers aren’t in every public place. They choose locations where they can do the most damage — airports, coffee shops, shopping malls and other places where people hang out. Use these tips to stay safe and avoid Juice Jackers.

Carry (or borrow) a power plug

The easiest way to prevent the scam is to only plug your phone into electrical outlets. There’s no computer on the other side of that outlet that can download your information. The only problem with this option is you have to carry around your own external power supply with a converter.  We know, it’s a hassle to carry one more thing, but it’s worth it to avoid compromising your personal information.

Purchase a battery pack

You can also carry your power solutions with you. Advancements in battery technology have made them smaller and more efficient than ever. You can find a battery pack the size of a pen that will refill your smartphone on a full charge. If it’s not convenient to carry around, try keeping one in the glove compartment of your car for emergencies. That way, you can charge your phone while on the road.

Conserve your power

The easiest way to avoid using a public charging station is to not need one in the first place. There are several things you can do to save your phone’s charge if it looks like you’re running low. Keep your apps updated. Running outdated software could be chewing up the life of your battery.

Also, don’t enable auto-updates. This can deplete your data in a hurry while burning through your battery. Update apps manually when you’re connected to WiFi, or just disable automatic updates if your battery is low.

Now It’s Your Turn: What’s your best battery saving technique? Do you have an app you swear by or a setting we’ve missed? Share your knowledge in the blog comments.  We’d love to hear from you.

CAN YOU SPOT ME SOME CASH?

Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” What’s left unsaid is that many times, it’s the friendship you can’t afford! In fact, some friends can be a serious drain on your savings.

If you recognize these kinds of people in your life, it can be difficult to know what to do. Giving up a friend is never easy, but neither are the reckless financial habits some of them can encourage. Here are a few examples of financially dangerous friends and how to handle them.

Party every night

It’s great to blow off steam with friends or co-workers at a happy hour every once in awhile. The chance to cut loose and catch up after a hard week of work is a real treat. The key word here, though, is “occasional.” Some friends may struggle with that word.

When your friends want to turn every night into an “epic” one and they want you to come along to dinner, drinks, movies, concerts, and other expensive outings, the costs add up quickly. Even a $20 bar bill every night can drain more than $5,000 out of your savings in a year! Without being rude, what can you do?

First, try suggesting lower-cost alternatives. Instead of drinking at a bar, you and your friends could go running at a park or play tennis at the gym. These are less costly than sitting around with drinks — and they’re healthier options too! If drinks are the order of the day, look for “BYOB” events that will let you have fun without breaking the bank. You can also volunteer to be the designated driver, keeping your friends safe and saving money along the way.

Second, set firm limits. When you do decide to go out with the “party animal” in your group of friends, develop an exit strategy in advance. It’s not rude to have one drink and call it a night. Your friends might hassle you about it, but true friends will respect your boundaries.

The sales friend

It can be painful to watch a friend get sucked into a pyramid scheme or multi-level marketing arrangement. They invite you over for a fun get-together, and the next thing you know, some stranger is selling you expensive Tupperware or overpriced nutritional supplements. You know there’s no official pressure to buy, but this is your friend’s new business and you want to be supportive.

Worse yet, some people get suckered into selling low-quality financial products like high-commission life insurance or annuities. They expect you to trust their financial wisdom because you’re friends. If you do, you could end up hurting your current finances and putting your retirement at risk.

The best thing you can do in these instances is just say “no.” Of course, “no” doesn’t have to be direct. You can be too busy to go to a product party, or too broke to buy anything once you’re there. When it comes to financial services, be proactive so you can say you’ve got those needs managed.

Friends who borrow money

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than a friend in financial need, and there’s nothing that can jeopardize a friendship faster than lending them money. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way out of this situation. Just say “no” to friends who ask for a loan.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll ever get paid back, and even if you do, you won’t earn any interest on the money. The debt will linger over the relationship and create an uncomfortable tension between you and your friend. You might also have a sudden need for the money, and not be able to get access it in a hurry, forcing you to become the needy friend to someone else!

That doesn’t mean you have to leave them high and dry. You can help them in ways that don’t involve a handout. They may not realize there’s an alternative to high-interest credit card debt besides begging from friends and family. Pointing them in the direction of resources that can help them can get them out of a bind without harming your friendship.

Your Turn: What types of bad financial friends do you have in your life? How do you deal with them? What advice do you have to give from the experience?  Let us know in the comments, or drop us a line on our Facebook page!

SOURCES:

10 Reasons Why You Should NOT Lend Money to Friends & Family, Moneycrashers, Money Talks News, 

Freshen Up Your Home Without Breaking The Bank

If the warmer air and budding trees of spring make you want to freshen your house, you’re not alone.  Many of us still do annual spring-cleaning but also want to redecorate.  We have a sudden urge to clear all the clutter from our homes, clean everything from top to bottom and update with new, modernized finds. Here are some tips on how to freshen up your space without spending much.

Do a 3-Second Scan

Itching to redecorate but unsure how to start? Grab a pen and paper and walk into a room with your eyes closed.

Then, open your eyes and scan the room for three seconds, noting three things that visually bother you. Those will be your redecorating starting points.

A New Rug 

A new rug is a quick and easy way to completely change the look of your home without totally redecorating a room. If it’s in a sitting, dining or living area, place an oversized rug under furniture to anchor each piece to the space. In a bathroom, switch out old, worn rugs with a few clean and simple picks.   The best places to pick out new rugs are Ikea, Overstock and Rugs USA.

Declutter

One of the best ways to make your home feel like spring is to purge it of belongings you no longer use, need or want.

New Hardware

Modernized hardware is a fantastic way to add a pop of “new” to your home décor. Whether you’re adding the hardware to cabinets, furniture, light switch places or even doorknobs, you would be shocked at the difference new hardware makes.

Rearrange or Repaint Furniture

Sometimes just moving the sofa and chairs gives your room a fresh look for spring. Take a look at each room and see what changes moving the furniture will make.

If you’re feeling crafty, repaint some of your furniture to brighten it for spring. Consider a makeover outdoor furniture as well.

Update Photo and Art Frames

A simple inventory and replacement of outdated frames can really spruce up your home. Purchase something really simple, or you can even paint dollar store frames in a color you love to make a statement.

Paint your Trim

Most homes now have crisp, white trim, and it can be really hard to keep them looking clean.  A fresh coat of paint can work wonders, and that’s especially true on trim, baseboards and crown moldings.  Refreshing these surfaces won’t cost you nearly as much as painting a whole room.

Update Your Window Treatments

Raise curtain rods to the ceiling, then add floor-length drapes to visually enlarge a room.  You can also line French doors with simple curtains that can change seasonally.

Add a Floral Tablecloth

A floral tablecloth can keep your blooms eternal without breaking the bank.

Update Your Kitchen

–                Show off your dishes, glasses and serving pieces with open shelves.

–                Create a family message center by painting kitchen pantry doors with chalkboard paint.

–                Tile a backsplash for a low-cost customization.

–                Add a splash of red in a white or neutral kitchen. 

Add a New Bed Skirt or Pillow Shams

Brighten up your bedroom with a colorful bed skirt or pillow shams. With the right color or pattern, you can make the room feel refreshed without investing time or money into redecorating.

Hang a Flower Wreath or Display

Greet visitors at your front door with a wreath created with spring flowers.

Add A Plant To An Empty Corner

The pop of color from green plants or bright flowers will make you feel as if spring has sprung in every room in the house.

Add Curb Appeal

Replace an entry light with coach lighting for historic appeal.  Build a stone or brick pave entrance walkway or paint the front door in a can’t miss it shade of red.  And while you’re at it, replace the front-door handle with a sleek updated set.

Add Deck Lighting

It’s spring and now’s your chance to enjoy the great outdoors. Add some new lighting to your deck to prepare it for al fresco dining and more.  If hardwired lighting and an electrician aren’t in your budget, try some accent lighting with flameless candles.

No matter the size of your home, a little creativity is all you need to freshen its look for spring. You can still update your home without breaking the bank. Resist the temptation to max out a card with a complete redesign, and opt for these simple steps to update the look of your home.  Remember, your house is building equity….equity you can use now.  Just a nibble can remodel your kitchen, replace old furniture and appliances, or land you on a tropical beach. Enjoy a slice of your home’s sweet value with a low interest home equity loan from allU.S. Credit Union.  Email us for more details at [email protected]