Monthly Archives: November 2015

Thieves Don’t Take a Holiday

hackerThe holiday season is underway and more than ever, consumers will shop by mail, phone and the Internet. This means greater opportunities for thieves who hope that shoppers will drop their guard in pursuit of bargains and hard-to-find items. Protect yourself from fraud for a happy holiday season:

  • Check out the seller. Be sure anyone selling though the Internet has a physical address, phone number and clearly posted policies relating to payment, refunds, delivery schedules, and the privacy of your information. Those selling by mail and phone should provide the same information. When in doubt, contact the Better Business Bureau for a reference.

  • Be wary of unsolicited phone calls. Thieves sometimes pose as well-known retailers, offering special deals available only by phone. Shop by phone only when you make the call, and to a merchant you know and trust.

  • Check out the product. Some sellers try to hide the fact the offered item is refurbished or a previously returned item. Be certain of the product description in the ads and examine items carefully when they arrive.

  • Don’t email financial information. Email isn’t that secure and legitimate sellers won’t request payment in this fashion. Enter personal and financial information only when there is a “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar and look for the URL to read “https” versus “http”.

  • Don’t open suspicious attachments. Some Internet identity thieves will send spam email offering unbelievable bargains on hot items such as digital cameras, computers, and mp3 players. The email includes an attachment that promises to explain how to obtain the promised item. By opening the attachment, however, you download a program that searches your computer for your personal information, and transmits that data to the thief.

  • Keep your virus protection software and personal firewall up-to-date. Many software packages have features that allow an automatic check for updated virus definitions or enhanced protection; use these options to guard against hackers and thieves. Don’t forget to use hard-to-guess passwords to further protect sensitive data.

  • Be careful using unfamiliar ATMs. Need cash on your shopping trip? ATM’s are popping up everywhere but some are found in high traffic areas where there are opportunities for thieves to observe your pin entry and use small cameras to film your transaction.

  • Know Your Rights. All retailers (including those using the Internet) must ship your order within the time limit they promised in their offer. If they didn’t state a time limit they must ship within 30 days of receiving payment. If the retailer cannot ship within the promised date, they must allow you to cancel the order and receive a timely refund.

  • Keep Records. Save all documentation related to your purchases, including emails detailing on-line purchases. Make note of all phone purchases, including the phone number you called, when you called, and who you spoke with. Always ask for a confirmation number for your order to quickly reference the purchase if the item fails to arrive or you are not satisfied.

Want more important consumer and personal finance guidance? Contact the financial professionals at BALANCE. As a benefit of being an account holder at [Your Financial Institution], counselors are ready, at no charge to you, to answer questions and help you develop a personal finance strategy. Visit or call toll-free: 888.456.2227.

Thanksgiving dinner

Ways to Save Money on Holiday Dinner


Hosting dinner for Thanksgiving? These helpful tips will keep money in your pocket so you can purchase that perfect gift.

Size does matter: Using smaller plates helps prevent wasting food. Guests can always go back for seconds if needed. Get an accurate head count. If you are expecting a large group, purchase in bulk from Sam’s Club or Costco.

When purchasing that delectable bird, try to buy it early. Having meal options can help relieve the stress and cut the cost of getting that large turkey. Vegetarian options, baked chicken, rice and beans can all be a new tradition and help save money. Make a note of the least eaten dishes and cut them out.

Buy seasonal: A great way to save money is by purchasing food that’s in season such as corn, eggplants, asparagus, peas and onions. Try the Farmer’s market or local supermarket. Look for items on sale, and create a menu.

Decorations: Use things around the house or items that are in season from the yard. Check websites such as Pinterest or YouTube for decorating ideas. Leaves, branches and twigs can be attractive if used correctly. Seasonal food and fruits can also be used and eaten later. Still looking to buy decorations? Go the local dollar store.

Potluck: There is less stress when you have a plan. A potluck gives variety to your meal. Friends and family can swap recipes. Delegate the menu so that everyone knows what to bring. Simple meals are easier to make and costs less.

Keep it real: Use real plates instead of purchasing paper plates and plastic cups, knives and forks. Yeah, it may be a hassle when it comes to cleaning up but get everyone to chip in. It is also better for the environment. Borrow from family or friends if needed.

Recipes for left overs: Sandwiches are great, try stews or soups, fried turkey bites, gumbo or pot pies. Look up fast and easy recipes online. This will help reduce waste and throwing money in the garbage.

If you are looking to try something new, why not volunteer at a food bank? The best way to show how grateful you are, is by giving back.

Holiday Travel on a Budget

It is always great to be with family and friends for the holidays, especially during Thanksgiving. Hopefully by now you have figured out your plans for Turkey Day. Remember, it is the busiest time for travel. Here are tips to take into consideration:

Flying? Book early!

Book your trip at least 2 weeks in advance. Check discount sites on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Saturday evenings. If possible, do not fly the Wednesday before, or the Sunday after Thanksgiving; the priciest and busiest times to fly.

Traveling with the family or in groups? Book as early as you can or consider flying on Thanksgiving Day. Check out smaller airlines or airports to help save money.

Pack smart! Do you really need all that?

Check the weather before you go. Pay attention to guidelines for carry-on luggage. Airlines have specific guidelines which may result in expensive fees. According to Independent Traveler, it is best to fit everything in your carry-on as it saves time and worry when transferring. Remember TSA guidelines in regards to liquids.

Driving instead? Check out your ride

Check out your car before you go on the road. If you can avoid it, don’t drive on Thanksgiving Day. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, it is the busiest day of the year for cars being on the road. Leave on the Wednesday or Tuesday before Turkey Day instead.

Driving late at night can be an option. There is less traffic and the kids will be asleep. Make sure you are well-rested and have a co-pilot. It is dangerous to drive tired.

Try an alternative

Try using alternative transportation such as a train or bus. Amtrak offers great discounts for the family. Avoid spending on food or snacks by carrying your own.

Place to stay

If you are unable to stay with family members or friends there are some great, affordable alternatives. Sites such as AirBnB can be a great resource. You can read reviews from other travelers who have stayed at the same location. This alternative is much more cost effective as opposed to staying at a hotel or motel.

However you decide to travel, be safe and treasure the moment.