How Not To Bust Your Holiday Budget

How Not To Bust Your Holiday Budget

According a T. Rowe Price survey, more than 50% of parents will aim to get everything on their kids’ wish lists this year. Many of these parents will be paying for these gifts for months, or even years, afterward.

There’s a better way, and it’s simple: create a budget, and make informed decisions about your spending before you hit the shops.

Short-term effects

Tipping your budget just a bit every once in a while isn’t a disaster. But the spending hangover many parents face after holiday shopping is too large to be easily forgotten.

Over half the parents surveyed will pay for their holiday gifts with credit cards. Just 61% of them plan to pay off their spending within three months, and 16% say they will pay it off over the course of six months or more. That’s half a year spent catching up on holiday spending!

Think carefully this shopping season before you drop another item into your cart. Is this gift really worth trimming your budget for the next three – or six – months?

Long-lasting effects

11% of parents use money from their retirement accounts, 14% have taken funds out of their emergency savings and 11% have taken out a payday loan.

While their kids may be delighted with their loot, parents can be paying for it for longer than they think.

Taking $500 out of a 401(k) at age 35 translates into giving up $6,000 that was earmarked for retirement. Parents are forking out additional taxes and penalties to gain access to the money, and are also losing the opportunity for that money to grow.

Life Lessons

There’s nothing quite as exciting as unwrapping a present. Kids wait all year for the holidays and as their parents, you want to make them happy. This is why 60% of the parents surveyed claimed they try to check off every single item on their child’s wish list.

Aside from the financial drain, purchasing every gift your kids have their hearts set on teaches them a host of lessons they’re better off without. Do you really want your kids thinking they can always have everything they want? Do you want them to feel that everything they own must always be the best and most expensive?

This holiday season, teach your kids that true happiness can’t be bought.

Be proactive

Try saving up for the holiday season throughout the year. While it may be too late for this year, it’s never too early to start thinking about next season. Sign up for our holiday club accounts, and put money aside each month!

Be an informed shopper this holiday season and your decisions will pay off in more ways than one.

Your Turn:  How will you fund your holiday spending? Do you plan to buy your kids everything on their lists? Why or why not?




Chicken Fingers With Cranberry-BBQ Dipping Sauce

Chicken Fingers With Cranberry-BBQ Dipping Sauce
There’s no need to cook twice to please the adults and kids in the family. These chicken fingers are kid favorites, but are also sophisticated enough for adults to savor. The cranberry-BBQ sauce adds kick to the crunch, and the flavor will bring back a taste of summer.
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into long, thin strips
  • 4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ tablespoon coarse black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 egg
  • 1 drop hot sauce
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon parsley flakes
  • pinch kosher salt
  • pinch coarse black pepper
Cranberry BBQ Sauce
  • ¼ (14-oz) can whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 ⅓ cup hickory flavored BBQ sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¾ tablespoons teriyaki sauce
  1. In a shallow dish, combine flour, salt, black pepper and paprika.
  2. In a second shallow dish, whisk together eggs and hot sauce.
  3. In a third shallow dish, mix panko crumbs, parsley, salt and black pepper.
  4. Dip each piece of chicken first in the flour mixture, then egg mixture and lastly in the panko mixture.
  5. Heat oil in a deep fryer or saucepan to 350°. Add chicken and fry for 3½-4 minutes.
  6. To prepare the dipping sauce: Using a food processor or immersion blender, blend cranberry sauce until smooth. Whisk in BBQ sauce, brown sugar and teriyaki sauce. Serve alongside chicken fingers.
Tip: This sauce recipe makes a large amount; it freezes well, though.
Yields: 3-4 servings

Credit Cards Or Debit Cards – What’s The Smartest Swipe?

Credit Cards Or Debit Cards – What’s The Smartest Swipe?

Most people own at least one debit card and at least one credit card.  Although it may not seem like it, there are many differences between the two.

Each time you use a credit card, you’re borrowing money. You’ll need to pay that money back to the credit union along with interest.

A debit card, on the other hand, simply transfers your own money from your checking account to the vendor you’re paying. The funds are taken directly from your account similar to the way that checks do – only quicker. Some processing terminals will require a PIN and some will require a signature.

Both credit and debit cards are convenient, quick and easy. They’re also safer than cash, because cash cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

Which one should you use? The answer depends largely upon your lifestyle.

1.) Budgeting

Credit cards allow you to buy now and pay later. This can quickly turn into a budgeting nightmare. If you think you’ll be tempted to overspend, regular credit card use may not be ideal for you.

However, it’s nearly impossible to incur thousands of dollars of debt through debit card usage. Most credit unions will cover purchases that put your account into the red, but only up to a few hundred dollars. If this happens, you’re accountable for your purchases and charged an overdraft fee.

2.) Safety

If you report suspicious charges within 60 days, credit card companies are obligated to investigate and restore the funds if the charges are fraudulent. They also offer consumer protection on purchases. You can always cancel a charge if you are the victim of an online scam. This makes credit cards the ideal choice for large or fragile purchases that will be delivered to your home for additional insurance on the purchase.

Liability for debit cards is $50 if you notify the credit union within two days of seeing the fraudulent charges. After two days, your liability increases to $500. If you report the activity 60 days or more after it happened, you may be liable for all of it. Although many credit unions have implemented voluntary plans to limit customer liability to $50, there is no federal law requiring them to do so.

3.) Rewards

One major draw for credit cards is the points awarded for purchases. That’s a strong advantage over debit cards. The ability to earn airline miles and the lure of a possibly free flight are attractive to many consumers. Of course, you may be paying for those miles with a high interest rate and/or an annual fee.

Don’t get hooked on the points. Research each card carefully to make sure you’re really getting your money’s worth.

4.) Credit History

Credit cards help establish or restore good credit. Occasionally using a credit card and paying your bill on time can really improve your credit rating. This, in turn, improves the likelihood of earning favorable terms for home loans, auto loans, personal loans and more.

5.) Annual Fees and Interest

Credit card’s annual fees and interest add up. If you’ve overspent one month and are unable to cover the entire amount due, you may need to pay only the minimum payment. More of your payment goes toward interest than toward lowering your bill. This makes the next payment higher.

If you don’t think you will be able to pay your bills in a timely manner, keep credit card usage to a minimum.

As a CGR Credit Union member, you already have access to fantastic rates and optimal security. To find out which debit or credit card is best for you, call, click, or stop by today!

YOUR TURN: In what situations do you prefer to use a debit card or a credit card? Why do you choose one over the other? Share your thoughts with us!


Don’t Let Your Right To Vote Be Someone Else’s Chance To Profit! Avoiding Election Day Scams

Don’t Let Your Right To Vote Be Someone Else’s Chance To Profit! Avoiding Election Day Scams

Democracy is a privilege. And Election Day is when our voices are heard.


Unfortunately, many people use voting season to make a dishonest dollar. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are warning of an increase in fraudsters using the election as a pretense to get your money or personal information. Be on the lookout for these schemes!


1.) Last-minute campaign contributions


In this scam, someone asks you for another small donation before the election.


These funds never make it near your candidate’s campaign. At best, the crook keeps your money. At worst, they have your credit or debit card information, leaving you a huge bill down the road!


In most states, voter registration information is public. A quick search of your name or address reveals your party affiliation. From there it’s easy to guess your candidate preference. The scammer uses the candidate’s credibility to gain your trust. Don’t let them succeed!


To avoid this scam, give proactively. To donate money, seek out the candidate’s website and donate there.


2.) Voter re-registration


Going to vote means dealing with endless rules. Did you register to vote? Did you miss last election and aren’t sure about your registration status? This uncertainty forms the basis of this scam.


A scammer contacts you claiming your name has been accidentally removed from the voter rolls. They’ll promise to correct that mistake with some information, like your address and Social Security number.


You’ll soon discover that your identity has been stolen. The caller didn’t complete a voter registration form – it wasn’t necessary. They just collected your information and abused it.


Beat this scam using the same public records scammers use. A quick search on your state’s Secretary of State website will reveal whether you’re registered to vote.


3.) Opinion polling


Everyone wants a preview of election results, leading to thousands of pre-election polls. To incentivize participation, survey companies offer rewards for participation. That’s the “in” for this scam.


A fraudster will call and walk you through a general survey. Then, they’ll tell you you’ve earned a thank-you prize. You only need to pay a small “processing fee” using a major credit card or give them your account information so they can directly deposit the “prize.”


There is no prize, and there’s probably no poll. Scammers are using the pretext of a poll to gain access to your personal information.


Never give any personal information in a call you didn’t initiate and never trust anyone who asks you to pay a fee before they give you a prize.


Whoever you vote for, it’s your right to make your voice heard. Don’t let criminals prevent you from doing your civic duty!


Keep your information secure!


YOUR TURN:  Have you received calls, visits or emails from election days scams like these? Share them here and tell us what tipped you off so we can all help keep each other more secure.



Get These Things Out Of Your Purse Or Wallet Now!

Get These Things Out Of Your Purse Or Wallet Now!
Your wallet can easily become cluttered with loyalty cards, coupons, cash, checks, store credit cards, and a host of identification cards. Not only is a over-stuffed wallet a hassle to carry, it may make identity theft easier.
Give your purse or wallet a good once over. Look for things you don’t regularly need, and take them out!
Some things should never be in your purse or wallet. If you see these items as you’re trimming down your daily carry, take them out immediately.
1.) Your Social Security card
It’s easy enough to stuff the card into your wallet when you need it for identification and then forget about it.
That could be a big mistake. Thieves can use your original Social Security card to apply for all kinds of unsecured debt in your name. Canceling your Social Security number and getting a new one is a complicated, time-consuming process, and you may be liable for fraud as you do so.
Keep yourself safe, and get the card out of your wallet! Put it in a secure location in your home, like a safety lock box.
2.) Receipts
This is by far the easiest way to accumulate paper in your wallet. You never know which might be needed later and you stick them all into your wallet. Before you know it, you’ve got a novel-sized stack of transactions.
This could be serious trouble if your purse or wallet is ever stolen or lost. Thieves can use the last four digits of your credit card number on a receipt to build a profile of your purchases, and can fish for more information with a merchant who has the card on file, like a cable company or an online retailer.
Think about going paperless. Turn your phone into a digital filebox. Information can be encrypted to keep it out of the hands of malicious people, but still accessible to you if you need to check a purchase.
3.) Tons of credit cards
Every store offers its own card and incentives. Those cards can really add up. Tack on an extra couple of cards for gas purchases, everyday expenses, and work-related stuff, and you could easily end up with a wallet or purse full of plastic.
If your wallet or purse is stolen, each one of those cards has to be canceled individually. Forgetting even one can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Thin your collection down to the one or two you use regularly. Look for those that can be widely used, provide the lowest fees and best acceptance rates. Put the rest of them into a safe place at home, using them only when you need them.
Once you’re down to your top cards, make a list of their numbers and the steps you’d need to take to cancel them if necessary.
YOUR TURN: It’s time to think about what’s tucked into your purse or wallet. What items make your “essential carry” list and what can you safely leave behind?

Breached Security, Breached Trust: Yahoo’s Leak And What It Means For You

Breached Security, Breached Trust: Yahoo’s Leak And What It Means For You

More than 500 million Yahoo accounts have been compromised in the latest breach. The security breach was limited to username and password information for Yahoo’s various sites, including webmail, news and fantasy sports services. No financial information is believed to be included in the stolen data, but there’s reason to be concerned!

The stolen data

This breach was discovered after FBI officials detected hackers attempting to sell the personal information of Yahoo users. There are many reasons thieves are interested in this information.

First, stealing an email account can be a first step to identity theft. By taking command of an email address, a thief can access password retrieval services at websites linked to that email. A hacker could gain access to a Yahoo account, then use password retrieval to gain access to online shopping, banking and even employment or government accounts.

Second, thieves use what’s called “credential stuffing.” Many people recycle username and password combinations across several services. Thieves take advantage of this by trying stolen usernames and passwords at other common sites. This strategy works, on average, for about 0.5% of stolen information.

Sorting through a breach of this size takes a lot of time and energy. Assume that all Yahoo login information was stolen. If you do use or have used a Yahoo site for any services, assume it’s compromised. Fortunately, two of Yahoo’s most popular platforms, Tumblr and Flickr, were unaffected by the breach.

Steps you should take

  1. Change passwords!

For high-security accounts, like your primary email address, credit cards, brokerages and online banking, change passwords every 6 months. If you have a Yahoo account, and you use your Yahoo password at other sites, change them all.

If you use a Yahoo account to access your finances, consider changing the email address connected to those accounts, as well. The service provider may have been negligent in protecting information in this instance, and there is no telling what other security vulnerabilities still exist in their systems. While it may be a hassle to change accounts, it may be worth it for peace of mind.

  1. Change security questions!

Questions used in the password reset process may have been compromised, too. If you use the same information to secure multiple accounts, that data could also be at risk. Wherever possible, switch to a two-step authentication method. Use your cellphone number as a backup password option. If you try to reset your password, the service will call or text you with a code to use as a verification method. It puts another step between potential thieves and your information.

  1. Check your credit!

This information has been leaking since 2014, so it’s possible you could already be a victim of identity theft. Getting a credit report will let you know if any new accounts have been opened using your personal information. Similarly, this might be a good time to consider a credit monitoring service. Such services keep an eye on your credit periodically, and can help protect against identity theft.

YOUR TURN: Have you been burned by Yahoo or in another security breach? What did you do to keep yourself safe? Let us know in the comments!


Don’t Sleep On Your Savings: Avoiding Dormant Accounts

Don’t Sleep On Your Savings: Avoiding Dormant Accounts

The best things to do with a savings account is to forget about it and let it earn dividends.

However, don’t forget about it so long that it becomes dormant. A dormant savings account is one with a low balance that has had no deposits in a while. While exact criteria varies in each state, generally accounts with less than $50 that have been inactive for more than 2 years are considered dormant.


All dormant accounts cost financial institutions money; they’re required to keep records of the account and send statements. Often, those statements are returned due to incorrect addresses and then require additional effort from the institution. These minimal costs add up when involving hundreds of accounts.


To reduce and avoid costs, financial institutions are permitted to close these accounts and transfer the funds to the state treasury department through a process known as escheatment. State treasury departments hold those funds in an unclaimed property fund.

This money isn’t lost, but is difficult to access. To reclaim it, you must complete numerous forms and wait several weeks while your request is processed. It’s much harder than visiting your credit union!


Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid dormancy.


1.) Keep track of your accounts.

You should know always where all your money is. Apps like Mint let you monitor all your accounts in one place by combining them in one screen. This way, you’ll never risk dormancy by forgetting about an account.

If you prefer a physical approach, keep your account statements in a file folder and create your own ledger so that you have one place where you can see all your accounts.


2.) Automate your savings.

An account can’t go dormant if it’s getting transactions regularly, even if it’s only $5 a month. But who can remember to do that every month, or would want that burden?

To achieve this easily, set up automatic transfers between your primary account and your savings, even for a minimal amount. This form of automatic savings keeps your account active.


3.) Clean up and roll over old accounts.

If you create different accounts for different savings goals, you might accumulate a dozen accounts over time, some of which you’ll forget to close when they’ve served their purpose. Each of those accounts is at risk for dormancy!

One way to avoid this is to make a general-purpose savings account and consolidate your funds there once every few months. Use that money for any purpose – anything is better than letting it risk being lost.

Similarly, If you’ve changed jobs, ask a financial planner about rolling over your old retirement account. Whatever you choose to do with your old retirement plan is better than nothing.


Act before it’s too late; clean up your dormant accounts today!


Your Turn: In what ways do you use your savings accounts to better manage your finances? Have you ever had to go through a claims process on an abandoned account? What was the experience like?