4 Ways to Save During the Post Holiday Season

This year’s holidays may soon be, or already are, a memory, but the Santa shock is just beginning. Avoid it completely by thinking about paying for next year’s holidays now.

  1. Buy wrapping paper and decorations now! You’ll find bargain prices for all wrapping supplies and holiday ornaments and they won’t go bad over the year. Save a bundle by stocking up now.
  2. Shop for next year’s presents in January. These will also be steeply discounted and you can save oodles of money by buying things that never go out of style
  3. Save all the gift cards you get throughout the year for the holiday season.
  4. Keep your eyes open for gifts all year long. Whenever you spot a great find or an amazing bargain, grab it. You’ll save by buying what’s on sale and spreading out your gift shopping, instead of doing it all in a month or two.

How do you plan ahead all year for a holiday season that leaves no financial stress in its wake? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

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Give Your Kids The Gift Of Giving

The holiday season brings a flurry of frenzied consumerism, unabashed greed and endless shopping. As a parent, though, you want your kids to associate this time of year with giving and not just with taking. How can you give your kids a joyous holiday season and teach them about kindness at the same time?

The best way to do this is by actively encouraging your children to think of others. Try these activities to help bring the spirit of giving into your home this year:

1.) One in = one out

Is your toy chest overflowing? Do your kids have more games than they need? Institute a rule this holiday season: When you’ve gotten a new toy, choose one to give away. Set up a large box in the corner of your playroom and have your children place one toy in the giveaway box for every new one they receive. They can choose older toys they’ve lost interest in or those they’ve outgrown. When the box is full, take a family trip to the local toy drive or to a needy family in the neighborhood. Watch your kids’ faces light up as they make others happy with their thoughtful donations.

2.) Season’s greetings

Designate one evening this season for writing holiday cards. No, not to your family and friends – these cards are for children who’ve been stricken with illness. Set up a table with lots of cardstock and all your kids’ favorite crafts supplies. Speak to your family about sick children who might be sad this Christmas and could use a simple homemade greeting card to cheer them up. Have fun creating your masterpieces and inscribing them with positive, encouraging messages. Then, get your gang into the car and drive over to the local hospital to deliver them personally!

3.) Grocery giveaway

Many grocery stores hold food drives during the holiday season. Help support a local cause and teach your children about giving to others at the same time. Take your child along with you on your next trip to the grocery and have them choose one food item to purchase for the food drive. If you usually let your child pick a treat at the grocery, ask them if they’d like to forego it this time and instead buy something for the needy. Make sure your child is the one to actually place the chosen food item into the collection bin so they can personally experience the joy of giving.

4.) Senior moments

Does your child love performing? If you’ve got a young star at home, this is the perfect way to teach them to use their talents to make others happy. Have your child invite several friends over one afternoon and ask them to prepare a small dance or a short comedy routine. Let them dig through your costume collection to outfit themselves for their grand debut and practice their gig  until it’s perfect. Then, delivery them to the local nursing home for spreading the cheer among the residents. They’ll relish the stardom and the residents will adore the little performance. That’s a win-win all around!

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Best Gifts From College Students On A Budget

The holidays are a stressful time of year if you’re in college. You’ve got to pack your whole life into a suitcase for a month while passing the hardest tests you’ve taken in your life. It’s tough to remember gift shopping.

There are lots of ways you can take part in family gift giving. Try these low-cost gift ideas to make your parents, friends and family smile! Let’s spread some goodwill!

1.) Do the legwork or research on a joint gift

If you have older siblings or other potential allies, you may be able to work out a joint gift for your parents. They could provide the funding while you do the research and legwork. For example, your mom has wanted new cookware. Do the research on the best brand and shop around to get it at the best price. You do the wrapping, and sign both your names to the card. This isn’t just for mom and dad – consider working with your parents to get gifts for younger siblings. You make a contribution of time and effort to the gift giving process and have a chance to show you care. As a college student, you’re learning all kinds of research skills; put them to the test and find the right gift at the right price!

2.) Find nifty, locally produced stuff in your college town

College towns are full of cottage industries. Somewhere in town, a tiny shop has soaps, jams, posters, and other local goods. These are the best kinds of gifts because they’re easy to transport, are consumable, and there’s nothing to dust. You can fill your bag with soaps, candles, and other little gifts to give to friends back home and extended family. It helps them connect to where you are and might give them a reason to come visit!

3.) DIY dorm room projects

Finding projects you can tackle in a space that’s the size of a cubicle can be a challenge. Cruising DIY hubs like Buzzfeed and Pinterest can produce hundreds of neat ideas. You can make hand-decorated mugs, framed pictures or braided necklaces. There are tons of projects that don’t demand much in either space or supplies. All it costs you is a little bit of money, a free Saturday and a whole lot of love. You can make sentimental, hand-crafted presents for everyone in your life.

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Surviving the Holidays Stress Free

With crowded stores and an ever-growing list of people to shop for, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and to overspend on your holiday shopping. No worries, though; UCCU’s got you covered! Read on for pre-and post-holiday tips and have yourself a jolly December without breaking the bank.

Pre-Holidays Tips

1. Revise your gift list

Chances are, lots of the people you exchange gifts with would be relieved to be taken off your list. Talk to coworkers and acquaintances about just exchanging cards this year, or make a deal to only exchange homemade or inexpensive gifts.

This way, you can focus on buying special gifts for those closest to you instead of generic gifts for everyone you’ve ever met.

2. Organize a Yankee Swap or Secret Santa

Still got a mile-long list? Try one of these creative solutions! A Yankee Swap or a Secret Santa activity saves money and stress while adding a bit of intrigue to any party. Everyone involved only needs to bring a single gift – and it’s always fun.

Set a reasonable price cap on gifts so no one walks out with a candy cane while the person next to them hauls off a flat-screen TV.

3. Bake holiday treats

Reduce the financial weight of the season by whipping up your own holiday treats instead of buying gifts.

It’s hard to find the perfect gift, but no one turns down a tin of homemade holiday cookies!

4. Make a budget and stick to it

We all plan to stick to a budget this holiday season – make this the year it really happens.

Set an absolute limit to how much you will spend on the holidays.  This will encourage you to plan your spending rather than grabbing impulse items as you shop.

5. Make use of holiday deals….but don’t get distracted

When prices drop, we sometimes go wild, snatching up random items because we don’t want to miss out on those “crazy, low holiday prices.”

Make use of these deals by buying items on your list at a discounted price – but don’t buy things you don’t need.

6. Rethink giving

Instead of running to the mall again, think of other ways you can give that will make the world a better place and truly brighten someone’s holiday.

It’s the perfect time of year to volunteer at local soup kitchens, homeless shelters and charity organizations.

2 Post-Holiday Tips

1. Use those gift cards

Gift cards are a typical holiday gift, but they’re often forgotten and unused.

Put your gift cards in your wallet and spend them creatively.  If you’re not a fan of on-the-go coffee, use your Starbucks gift card to pick up ground coffee beans to use at home.  Rent a movie with your iTunes card.  Whatever it might be, just use those gift cards!

2. Regift

You’ll probably wind up with a bunch of gifts you don’t want.  Hold onto them; many gifts can be  re-gifted next year or used as birthday gifts throughout the year.

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Make Your Kid A Money Genius (Even If You’re Not)

“My child, the entrepreneur.”

Do you fantasize about raising your kids to be financially successful adults? At the very least, all parents want their children to become independent grown-ups who know how to spend responsibly, live within a budget and save for the future.

How do we get there, though? How can we inspire a healthy attitude toward money in our somewhat impulsive and irresponsible children?

Beth Kobliner has the answers. In her book, Make Your Kid a Money Genius, the personal finance expert takes parents on a journey of financial education, showing them how to turn inexperienced kids into miniature money geniuses.

The book takes off with a list of fourteen rules for talking to kids about money. Many of these ideas are common sense, but as parents, we slip up too often and don’t give these rules enough attention. They include suggestions like “Use anecdotes,” and “Never fib about how much money you have on you.”

When discussing money with children, it’s important to strike the balance between honesty and TMI. To that end, the book also details a list of seven things you don’t need to tell your kids – such as exactly how much money you earn and which parent brings home the bigger paycheck.

The core of the book is structured around money management concepts and is not based on age. It tackles topics like saving, debt, spending, insurance and more. Each chapter breaks down the subject into language kids can understand. It also includes a discussion on how to approach the topic among three different age groups, from preschool to adolescence.

In the chapter on debt, for example, each age group will be taught another aspect about this loaded topic.

If you’re talking to kids of pre-school age, you’ll focus on awareness – simply teaching them that the things you buy will cost money. You’re not going to talk about interest rates and credit cards at this point, but you want your little ones to understand the concept of a money supply being finite and the need to make choices, plus the trade-offs of choices.

For the elementary school-aged kids learning about debt, you can begin introducing ideas like time costing money and credit and debit card security.

The oldest group of kids can handle deeper concepts like interest rates, credit scores and amortization.

Along with age-appropriate ideas, each chapter includes tips and advice for the adults – like don’t give an 8-year-old your credit card!

While Make Your Kid a Money Genius will provide you with the tools to get the conversation started at every age and stage, it won’t dictate exactly how to approach these loaded topics. If you’re looking for a book that will do all the work for you, you may not find this guide to be sufficient.

However, thousands of parents have found this NY Times bestseller to be a fun, practical, and helpful tool. If you’ve ever found yourself dreading that inevitable “money talk” with your child, you owe it to yourself – and your kid! – to pick up a copy of Make Your Kid a Money Genius today.





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Investing – Step #3: Educate Yourself

Now that you’re free from debt and are steadily building up your savings, you’re probably eager to get your money into the market as quickly as possible.
However, before going anywhere, you need to understand the lay of the land. First, there’s the language. There are hundreds of investment terms tossed around on Wall Street, and you’ll want to know what they mean.
Second, investing is a whole lot more than just “buy low and sell high.” Understanding the basic concepts that govern the market is key to being a successful investor. So, before you cut your teeth on your first stocks, take the time to learn all you can about investing.
You can start with some easy books. We suggest:
  • The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
  • The Essays of Warren Buffett
  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel
  • The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing
You may also want to browse through these online guides and resources:
  • Investopedia.com
  • TheMotleyFool.com
  • the BlackRock Blog
  • the Money Tree Investing Podcast
And finally, here are 25 important investing terms along with their basic definitions to help get you started:
  1. Ask: The lowest price an owner is willing to accept for an asset.
  2. Asset: Something that has the potential to earn money for the owner.
  3. Asset allocation: An investment strategy that balances risks versus rewards by adjusting the percentage of each asset in your portfolio by asset class. This limits some of your risk by allocating your portfolio according to your particular risk tolerance, goals, and investment time frame.
  4. Balance sheet: A statement showing what a company owns, the liabilities the company has, and the company’s outstanding shareholder equity.
  5. Bear market: A market that is falling.
  6. Bid: The highest price a buyer is willing to pay for an investment.
  7. Blue chips: Companies that have an established history of good earnings, good balance sheets and regularly increasing dividends.
  8. Bond: An investment that represents what an entity owes you. Essentially, you lend money to a government or a company and you are promised that the principal will be returned along with a predetermined interest value.
  9. Book value: The number reached if you would take all the liabilities a company has and subtract them from the assets and common stock equity of the company.
  10. Broker: The entity that buys and sells investments on your behalf, usually for a fee.
  11. Bull market: A market that is likely to gain.
  12. Capital gain (or loss): The difference between what you bought an investment for and the amount for which you sell it.
  13. Portfolio diversity: A portfolio characteristic that ensures you have more than one type of asset and/or are buying investments in different sectors, industries or geographic locations.
  14. Dividend: A distribution of a portion of a company’s earnings to its shareholders. Dividends can be paid only once, or they can be paid more regularly, such as monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.
  15. Dow Jones Industrial Average: An average of a list of 30 blue chip stocks.
  16. ETF: A bundle of stocks managed by a professional investor.
  17. Exchange: A place where investments, including stocks, bonds, commodities, and other assets are bought and sold.
  18. Index: A tool used to statistically measure the progress of a group of stocks that share characteristics.
  19. Margin: Borrowed money used to make an investment.
  20. Market capitalization: The number you would get if you multiplied a company’s current share price by the number of shares outstanding.
  21. NASDAQ: A stock exchange that focuses on trading the stocks of technology companies.
  22. New York Stock Exchange: One of the most famous stock exchanges, the NYSE trades stocks in companies all over the United States and in some international companies.
  23. P/E ratio: This measure reflects how much you pay for each dollar that company earns. The higher a P/E ratio is, the higher the earning expectations.
  24. Stock: A piece of a company. Companies divide their ownership stakes into shares, and the amount of shares you purchase indicates your level of ownership in the company.
  25. Yield: The ratio between the stock price paid and the dividend paid, measured as a percentage.
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Don’t Let Christmas Season Be Open Season On Your Personal Information!

Every year has a new hit toy that must get under the tree. These toys fly off the shelves, spawning an incredibly inflated secondhand market.

Unfortunately, scammers are capitalizing on parents’ desire to make Christmas memorable for their children. Recently, scammers set up fake Facebook pages, Instagram sites and Twitter profiles offering “giveaways” to people who followed them and downloaded a “fan app.” There was nothing given away. Worse yet, the fan app was a piece of malware that stole personal information and transmitted it to scammers.

This is the most recent in a round of scams featuring the popular toy. These tips will help keep you safe as you browse the web for holiday gifts.

1.) Never download anything you don’t need

When people are tricked into installing something on their computer, they can unknowingly send personal information to a scammer.

Before you click any downloadable link, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Do I know the company that produced this software?
  2. Do I trust the person who sent the link?
  3. Do I need this software for my daily life?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” close the browser immediately. If you  doubt the safety of a piece of software, don’t download it.

These rules apply for every device you use. Often scammers will intentionally targeted mobile users. Your phone has as much personal information on it as your PC does; safeguard both!

2.) Double-check when shopping online

Many scammers have taken a more conventional route: They promise goods, take the payment, then don’t deliver the goods. While this scam is common year round, the holiday-shopping insanity makes more people more vulnerable.

More insidiously, scammers have been posting “black market” toys. Factory defects are sold at many times the retail prices, even on reputable websites like Amazon. To avoid this scam, check reviews for the account. If someone’s selling a new toy or product but they’ve never sold anything before, it’s likely they’re running a scam.

If you must shop secondhand, try to deal locally. Never send payment through unsecured means, like a cashier’s check or wire transfer. Meet your buyer in a public place, and always inspect the goods before paying.

3.) Read the reviews before the hype

Reviews are written for a reason: to help you avoid faulty products and planned obsolescence.

Stick to products and toys that not only have high reviews, but several reviews.  A product that has five stars but only one review should be a red flag.

Ask your children what they really want for Christmas; it may surprise you. Find something they’ll really treasure. They, and your pocketbook, will thank you!

Don’t forget that building great holiday memories doesn’t cost a dime. You just need to spend time together! Happy Holidays!





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