Flipp: Groceries, Simplified

A typical Saturday afternoon …

You’re pawing through your weekly stack of ads, searching for a store that has both cereal and peanut butter on sale, while mentally scanning your pantry and fridge for missing staples. Unfortunately, your search is fruitless. At this rate, you’re better off heading out to any store to do your shopping before the day is through.

Saturday afternoon, take two …

You breeze through checkout as the cashier announces that you’ve saved $27 in specials and coupons. You’re thrilled with the extra cash in your pocket and you’re confident that you haven’t forgotten anything. You smile and pat your phone. The Flipp app has saved your sanity again.

If the first scenario sounds too familiar to you, get the free Flipp app and transform your shopping experiences. That’s right, say goodbye to that heap of flyers! No more tedious coupon-clipping! Flipp makes saving fun and stress-free.

The app streamlines the entire coupon-searching process by making it all digital. Flipp will give you access to all the information you’ll find in the weekly flyers of more than 800 chain stores, including Smith’s, Target, Walmart and hundreds more. Instead of searching through mountains of paper flyers, you can now search the app in mere seconds.

Here are some of the features you’ll find on the app:

1.) Item search

Need peanut butter and want to know which store has it on sale? Simply type in “peanut butter” and the app will do the work for you, pulling up a list of local stores that are selling peanut butter at a discounted price. This allows you to comparison-shop in seconds, all from the comfort of your couch.

2.) Adjustable percentage-off

Are you looking for extreme sales only? A helpful slider at the bottom of the app’s screen allows you to adjust the percentage-off setting to your liking. The app will then filter out the items that don’t match your percentage-off criteria.

3.) Ad categories

Looking for a specific category of ads? The app allows you to choose the categories you’d like to search; including groceries, office supplies, housewares and more.

4.) Shopping list

Never forget an item again! Flipp’s “Shopping List” feature allows you to plan your grocery list ahead of time and makes the actual trip to the store (or stores) simpler. You can build your list as you find items on sale by simply tapping them, and then reviewing them in the “clippings” setting. You can then review your clippings and choose which ones to add to your list.

Alternatively, you can create your list without looking at the circulars. Let Flipp do the job for you. It will search through the local flyers to find deals on the items you’ve included on your list. That’s money saved without the hassle!

While at the store, use the Flipp app to check off the items you’ve put in your cart with a simple tap, making shopping a breeze.

5.) Extreme couponing

Never miss a sale again! Flipp offers exclusive coupons and deals in the stores you love, helping you take saving money to the next level.

The app’s search feature allows you to compare items instantly and easily. You can also clip coupons directly to your rewards cards for instant savings at checkout.

While thousands of users are thrilled with the Flipp app, critics complain that the app is late in updating local grocery ads. Others claim that too many of the specials offered are not food-related as advertised, and that using the app will not help you stick to your budget.

Try it out, and see for yourself whether the Flipp app is the best thing since sliced bread or not. It may just change the way you shop!

Your Turn: Have you discovered an app that has completely changed the way you do a household chore like shopping? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://app.flipp.com/

https://www.amazon.com/Flipp-Flyers-and-Weekly-Ads/product-reviews/B00IJHYEH6/ref=cm_cr_getr_mb_paging_btm_3?pageNumber=3

https://newsroom.flipp.com/index.php/2017/06/15/flipp-is-fourth-fastest-growing-app-in-us/

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Do Your Kids Have Virtual Shopping Smarts?

Did you know that 73% of millennials questioned in a Bazaar Voice survey do all their shopping on their smartphones? It’s not surprising. The world of commerce is constantly becoming more digitized as retailers focus on improving their online presence to cater to cyberspace shoppers.

Online shopping has its downsides, though, mainly in the form of surprises when the item arrives, costly shipping expenses and impulse buys that are made too easily.

Fortunately, it has its upsides, too. Comparing prices between stores is a lot simpler when all it takes is clicking through a few sites instead of traipsing all over town. Couponing is now also just a matter of seconds, with no need for tedious clipping and saving.

Teach your kids to make the best of online shopping with this fun, educational activity. All you need is a computer!

Virtual Shopping Smarts Activity

Sit down with your child to brief them on the ups and downs of online shopping. Talk about comparing prices, checking for discount codes, and being wary of overspending or buying items of inferior quality. Teach them about reading reviews and looking for reputable companies. Mention comparison-shopping engines like Google, and others they may have never used, like Nextag, Price Grabber, Shopping.com, and Shopzilla.

When they have the information down pat, tell them they will now be tasked with buying an item online! The item should be something popular and one they’re interested in.

Give your child a debit or credit card, a fixed budget for the item, and the following instructions:

The goal is to purchase the lowest-priced, yet best-made product. This will earn a minimum of 100 points. They will earn points for each part of the process, using the following guidelines:

  1. The purchase must be of decent quality. They can earn 25 points for this category.
  2. Shipping costs should not constitute more than 10% of the object’s price. The lower the shipping costs, the more they earn for this category, with free shipping earning the full 15 points.
  3. They must search for discount codes and coupons before making the purchase. This can be done by checking coupon sites like Retailmenot and Couponcabin, or by signing up for a store’s emails and earning a promotional discount. 5 points will be rewarded for every discount search/website visited in search of a coupon code. Actually finding and using a discount can earn them 15 points.
  4. If your child is ordering from eBay or another site with multiple sellers, they should be careful to only make purchases from sellers with excellent ratings. Buying from a badly rated seller can cost them 5 points and using a high-rated seller can earn them 5 points.
  5. Price is of utmost importance. If their object is of decent quality and very well-priced, they can earn up to 40 points. 5 points will be given for every search for a cheaper product.
  6. Points will be taken off for any random ad-clicks, failure to do substantial price-checks and comparisons, and for ignoring discount offers.
  7. Sit back and watch, being careful not to offer any advice as your child makes a purchase.
  8. Tally up the score and explain the points you gave, congratulating your child on their online shopping skills.

Your child is now cyberspace-savvy!

Your Turn: How do you teach your kids to avoid the pitfalls and make the most out of online shopping? Share your wisdom with us in the comments!

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Debt Consolidation: Not a silver bullet, but still a good idea!

If you’re up to your eyeballs in debt, the one thing you may wish for more than anything else is a blank slate. If you had a chance to wipe your slate clean and start over, things would be different. Of course, barring a winning lottery ticket, nothing is going to make that much of a change overnight.

There is, however, another option you can take for getting your debt under control. You can use a personal loan to refinance your existing debt. That means you’ll have one monthly payment at one interest rate instead of the stress caused by a bunch of smaller bills coming due on different days of the month.

Of course, this isn’t a solution for everyone. Let’s take a look at the questions you might ask yourself before you take on a debt consolidation loan.

1.) Have I fixed the debt problem?

Think long and hard about why you’re in debt. For most people, it was a medical bill, the loss of a job or some other temporary hardship that got them behind with charges they couldn’t completely pay off right away. If that describes your situation, the fact that you have a job or have paid the medical bill means you’ve solved the problem that caused the debt in the first place.

If, on the other hand, you accumulated debt by overspending on credit cards, a debt consolidation loan may not be the answer just yet. There are other steps to take first, like making a budget you can stick to, learning how to save and gaining responsibility in your use of credit. Getting a debt consolidation loan without doing those things first is a temporary solution that might actually make matters worse in the long run. You’ll have room on credit cards again, which can make the impulse to go spend pretty strong. Give in, and you’ll be back in the same position as before, except now you will have even more debt.

2.) Can I commit to a repayment plan?

If you’re struggling to make minimum monthly payments on bills, a debt consolidation loan can only do so much. It’s possible that the lower interest rate will make repayment easier, but it’s also possible that bundling all of that debt together could result in a higher monthly payment over a shorter period of time. Before you speak to a loan officer, figure out how much you can afford to put toward getting out of debt. Your loan officer can work backward from there to figure out terms, interest rate and total amount borrowed.

If you’re relying on a fluctuating stream of income to repay debt, like a second job or financial windfalls, it may be difficult to commit to a strict repayment plan that’s as aggressive as you like. Instead, what you can afford on a monthly basis may be nothing more than the sum of your current minimum payments. You can still make extra principal payments on a personal loan, so your strategy of making intermittent payments will still help. You just can’t figure them into your monthly payment calculation.

3.) Is my interest rate the problem?

For some people, the biggest chunk of their debt is a student loan. These loans receive fairly generous terms, since a college degree should generally result in a higher-paying job. Debt consolidation for student loans, especially subsidized PLUS loans, may not make a great deal of sense. You’re better off negotiating the repayment structure with your lender if the monthly payments are unrealistic.

On the other hand, if you’re dealing with credit card debt, interest rate is definitely part of the problem. Credit card debt interest regularly runs in the 20% range, more than twice the average rate of personal loans. Refinancing this debt with a personal loan can save you plenty over making minimum credit card payments.

4.) Will a personal loan cover all my debts?

The average American household has nearly $15,000 in credit card debt. That’s a big chunk of change. Add on $28,000 in auto loans, and it’s easy to see why debt is such a problem for most households.

The caution with personal loans for debt consolidation is to make sure you can bundle all of that debt together. If you have more than $50,000 in credit card debt, it’s going to be difficult to put together a personal loan that can finance the entire amount. Instead, it’s worth prioritizing the highest interest cards and consolidating those instead of trying to divide your refinancing evenly between accounts. Get the biggest problems out of the way, so you can focus your efforts on picking up the pieces.

Debt consolidation doesn’t work for everyone, but it can do wonders for many people. The ability to eliminate high-interest debt and simplify monthly expenses into one payment for debt servicing can change a family’s whole financial picture. The only way to know if a personal loan to consolidate debt is right for you is to sit down with a loan officer to go over your situation. Gather your account statements and your paycheck stubs, and head to your local UCCU branch today!

Your Turn: What’s your secret weapon in the battle against debt? Any tips and tricks that helped you get a handle on what you owe? Let us know!

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Fidget Spinners: Harmless Fad or Mega Distraction?

Fidget spinners. You’ve seen them practically everywhere. The small plastic gadgets don’t do much, but they’ve completely overtaken the toy industry.

Fidget spinners were initially marketed as a sensory toy for children on the autism spectrum and those with ADHD or sensory processing disorder. Within days, though, the hand-held gadget experienced a wild surge in popularity and became a must-have for every child and teenager across the county – and plenty of adults, too.

The basic fidget spinner is built with three prongs centered around a circle. Flick a prong, and the triangle shape becomes a blur, almost like a ceiling fan. The toys are manufactured by several companies and are sold virtually everywhere – airports, gas stations, grocery stores and, of course, toy stores.

If you’re wondering what the great appeal behind the fidget spinner is, you’re not alone. Just like you, many parents are scratching their heads in bewilderment. After all, the toys don’t make much noise; they don’t beep or flash or do anything too exciting. And yet, the fidget spinner and its cousin, the fidget cube, now dominate 49 of the top 50 rankings on Amazon. They’ve all but invaded classrooms and hundreds of videos have already been posted on YouTube by self-proclaimed “fidget experts” demonstrating dozens of tricks that can be done with the small toy.

And it’s not just kids – the fad has spread to adults, as well. Fidget spinners are showing up in college classrooms, on train rides and at the workplace. In fact, Forbes magazine has already named the fidget spinner the official office toy of 2017.

While toy fads constantly come and go, there hasn’t been a fad of this magnitude since the hula hoop craze of 1958, when an estimated 25 million were sold in just a few months.

Parents and educators are on the fence about this fad, though. The price tag is conservative and it keeps the kids occupied, but some claim it’s a tremendous classroom distraction that should be banned.

While the novelty of the fidget spinner will fade with time, it’s anyone’s guess if they will become a classic like the Rubik’s Cube, or soon lay forgotten in a dusty corner of the playroom, never to be played with again.

Here’s what you’ll want to know about the latest fad:

1.) No scientific backing

Fidget spinners have been marketed as a stress-reliever and a self-care tool for ADHD and autism. Parents of diagnosed children have eagerly purchased these toys in the hopes that they will help their child concentrate in class and perhaps alleviate some of their symptoms.

It’s important to note, though, that there has not been any scientific evidence backing this claim. While some might find that they do provide temporary relief from symptoms, they should never be used in place of therapy or medication.

2.) Choose cheaply

One of the biggest selling factors of this fad is the modest price tag – most go for just a couple bucks. Like every popular fad, though, opportunists have been quick to cash in on the craze. The market boasts luxury spinners with flashing lights, or with more ball bearings to supposedly guarantee a longer spin time. These deluxe versions come with a price tag of a few hundred dollars or more.

Kids are thrilled with the cheaper versions, though, and they fulfill their purpose perfectly. Don’t get sucked into shelling out big bucks, because this fad may be over in a few weeks. By then, your child may never look at a spinner again.

3.) Classroom chaos

A lone spinner produces a low, almost indistinct whir. Multiply that by 25, though, and you’ve got quite a racket. Now imagine trying to teach over that din.

Fidget spinners might look like the perfect classroom toy; they’re small enough to fit under the desk, and make hardly any noise. But some teachers and principals have found them to be too distracting, and many schools have banned them completely. Aside from the collective hum of the gadgets spinning, the toys often go clattering to the floor or are used to demonstrate tricks, further adding to their distraction.

Other teachers don’t mind the noise, though, and claim they support concentration while providing a legitimate sensory aid for those who need it. Make sure your child’s teacher is OK with the fidget spinner being used in the classroom before your child brings it to school.

4.) Smartphone substitute

While no scientific studies have backed this claim, many posit that the fidget spinner’s popularity is linked to its vibrating motion, which mimics that of a smartphone. They theorize that the toy serves as a salve for the smartphone-addicted child, who loves the feel of a screen throbbing.

Whether this is true or not remains to be proven, but if it’s a choice between a phone and a fidget spinner, remember that the toy won’t mess with your child’s attention span or internal clock the way screen time does, making it the better choice.

Here to stay, or gone tomorrow? It’s anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, though, make smart, informed choices about the latest toy fad.

Your Turn: Do you think fidget spinners should be allowed in classrooms? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

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Q&A: Risking It When Investing

Each month we will post an answer to a question we’ve received recently in order to help others who might have the same question. If you have any questions you’d like to have answered, please message UCCU on Facebook.

Q: My wife is a risk taker and wants to invest in things that aren’t really in my comfort zone. I know it’s generally considered better to invest where returns are higher, but that also means a higher risk! Is there some sort of middle ground?

A: It’s great that you’re thinking this through. Many couples face the same question, and while the simplest solution might be to split your funds down the middle and invest as you each see fit, that’s not likely to bring peace or wealth into the relationship. In a marriage, for one thing, whether accounts are titled separately or jointly, they are considered marital assets (even 401Ks). And a healthy relationship depends on working jointly toward financial goals, not going it alone.

One of the most difficult issues for couples to resolve is how much risk they’re willing to take with their investments. According to Fidelity’s 2015 Couples Retirement Study, 47 percent of couples disagree about how much money they’ll need to maintain their lifestyle in their later years. Even more troubling, a Harris survey found that 33 percent of couples weren’t saving anything for their retirement years. And, of those who were, one in five said they were clueless about how much their partner was contributing to their accounts.

Some tips if you’re starting down the investment road together:

  • As in so many areas of a relationship, communication is key. Let your spouse or partner know you’re willing to research options together and come up with a plan. Erica Coogan, partner at Moss Adams Wealth Advisors in Seattle, recommends that each partner complete a risk assessment questionnaire and then compare answers. “It makes a subjective conversation a little more objective,” she says.
  • Remember that planning needs to cover both spouses, not just a breadwinner. Experts advise couples to be mindful of the “It’s my money because I worked for it” syndrome. Couples need to work together on a plan for investing (and spending) their money, no matter who earns it. Apart from any resentment, an uneven divide in the ownership of assets can make a mess of cash flow, estate planning and taxes.
  • Consider transparency. Wherever you stand on risk, consider selecting some investments that are, by nature, transparent. This includes individual stocks, bonds and exchange-traded funds. You can also reduce risk by diversifying your portfolio across asset classes. Ask a financial advisor at your credit union for help in untangling the strands of modern-day investing.
  • Think about your time horizon. Allowing an investment to compound leads to much better returns. So, if you’re the more risk-averse half of a couple, and you’ll need your money within 10 years, say with confidence to your partner: Slow down. Remember that it doesn’t make intuitive sense (but is nevertheless true) that your money doubles in seven years if you earn a compounded annual return of 10%. Don’t let a little fumbled math lead to a rash or risky decision.
  • Keep the goalposts in sight. Your mutual goals will determine how, and how much, the two of you should invest. For instance, when do you want to retire? Do you plan to pay for your kid’s college expenses? Purchase a home (or a second home)? Start a business?

Finances are one of the leading causes of separation. The more ownership and open communication a couple has over this potentially rocky topic, the less likely it is that they’ll panic when there’s a ripple in their plans or something happens in the markets.

Your Turn: Do you and your spouse or partner disagree about investments? Let us know how you’ve smoothed that potentially rocky road and headed for a secure sunset.

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