How Can I Shop Safely On Black Friday?

Q: I love Black Friday but I worry about the risks. With the possibility of being trampled or of my credit card being compromised, there’s so much that can go wrong! How can I protect myself without missing out on the biggest shopping day of the year.

A: Black Friday does pose some serious risks to shoppers, but with the proper safety measures, you can happily join the bargain-hungry crowds on November 24.

Here’s how:

1.) Plan ahead

Planning ahead means you’ll spend less, be out of line faster and decrease your risks. Sites like BlackFriday.com can help you plan your day and find the best deals.

2.) Credit card only

Credit cards are the best way to shop when there are high risks to your safety. You can always dispute a charge; you can never reclaim stolen cash. Also, keep your card as close to you as possible. If using a debit card, cover the payment terminal with your other hand when inputting your PIN. 

3.) Shop with a friend

The mall may be crowded, but a determined criminal can find a way to corner you and empty your wallet or take your bags. Stick with your friends and never enter deserted areas alone.

4.) Keep your cool

Nothing you can purchase on Black Friday is worth your health or safety. Avoid all scuffles with fellow shoppers.

5.) Move your car

If you spend the day at the mall and routinely drop off your bags in your car, it’s best to move your car to a different spot. Thieves may be watching shoppers leave the mall with lots of bags and follow them to their cars. If they see you dropping off your goodies and then heading back to the mall, they’ll consider making off with your things. If you drive off, though, they’ll think you’re leaving and won’t follow you.

6.) Online safety

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are notorious for online scams of every kind. Here’s what to remember when shopping online:

  • Beware of phishing scams

Be alert for suspicious looking emails and links. Delete anything that doesn’t look right.

  • Make sure your connection is secure

Verify security by looking for the padlock icon on the address bar and by using sites with an “S” tacked on to the “http.”

  • Pay securely

Only use trusted payment systems like PayPal or Google Wallet. Shop from sites you trust and make sure they’re legitimate by checking the URL and looking out for sites that end in .org or .net. Never agree to wire money for a purchase.

  • Strengthen your system

Before shopping online, check that your device’s security systems are updated with the most recent protection and security patches. If you’re using Wi-Fi, make sure the network is secure and requires a password to join.

 Now that you’re armed with tips to tackle Black Friday, do you have any other tips for safe shopping this time of year? Share them with us in the comments!

America Recycles Day

Today is America Recycles Day! In an attempt to raise awareness and help you with your recycling efforts, we’ve put together a list of recycling drop off centers across Central Florida. We’ve made it easy for you to find a location that will help bring new life to your recyclable materials.

Citrus County

Citrus County Fairgrounds
US 41, about 1 mile south of the City of Inverness

Citrus County Central Landfill
230 W Gulf to Lake Hwy, Lecanto, FL (SR 44 between Lecanto and Inverness)

Lecanto Government Center
Off Educational Path, at the Lecanto School Complex, about 1 block from CR 491 in Lecanto

For additional information about Citrus County recycling centers visit: http://www.citrusbocc.com/pubworks/swm/recycling/recycling-dropoff-locations.htm

Lake County

Lake County Landfill
13130 County Landfill Road, Tavares

Lady Lake
1200 Jackson St., Lady Lake

Clermont
10435 Log House Road, Clermont

For additional information about Lake County recycling centers visit: https://www.lakecountyfl.gov/departments/public_works/solid_waste/solid_waste_operations/residential_dropoffs.aspx

Marion County

Baseline Landfill
5601 SE 66th St., Ocala

Blichton
13247 N. Highway 27, Ocala

Canal
457 SE 110th St., Ocala

For additional information about Marion County recycling centers visit:
http://www.marioncountyfl.org/departments-agencies/departments-o-z/solid-waste/recycling-centers-location-list

Orange County

Orange County Landfill
5901 Young Pine Road, Orlando

Porter Transfer Station
1326 Good Homes Road, Orlando, FL

McLeod Road Transfer Station
5000 L.B. McLeod Road, Orlando, FL

For additional information about Orange County recycling centers visit:
http://www.orangecountyfl.net/WaterGarbageRecycling/SaveLandfillSpace.aspx#.Wgxxdk2WyUl

Seminole County

Central Transfer Station
1950 State Road 419, Longwood, Florida

Seminole County Landfill
1930 E. Osceola Road
Geneva, FL

For additional information about Seminole County recycling centers visit:
https://www.seminolecountyfl.gov/departments-services/environmental-services/solid-waste-management/recycling/recycling-drop-off-facilities.stml 

Sumter County

Sumter County Solid Waste Dept. Citizen’s Drop‐off Area
819 CR 529 Lake Panasoffkee, FL

If you’d like more information on this location you can visit:
https://sumtercountyfl.gov/222/Solid-Waste

Volusia County

Daytona – Halifax Fire Station 12
1979 Taylor Road, Daytona Beach, FL

Port Orange– Tomoka Landfill
1990 Tomoka Farms Road, Port Orange, FL

Deland – Kepler Road Fire Station 42
1885 Kepler Road, Deland, FL

For additional information about Volusia County recycling centers visit: https://www.volusia.org/services/public-works/solid-waste-and-recycling/recycling/recycling-drop-off-sites.stml

 

Holiday Hacks for Traveling College Students

With the holiday season fast approaching, college students across the country are thinking about their trips home. Whether the traveling takes place during Thanksgiving or Christmas, or both – if that trip means hopping on a plane, you’re looking at some big expenses.

Can a cash-strapped college student pay for airline flights during the most expensive traveling seasons of the year without going broke?

They sure can! Here’s how:

  1. Start saving now

If you’ve got a part-time job, start skimming a bit off each paycheck for holiday travel costs. You can also skip one pricey indulgence each week from now until the holidays. This small sacrifice will help you save up that extra cash for when it’s time to travel. Every little bit adds up!

  1. Use student discounts

Some airlines understand that you’re a broke college student wanting to spend time with family over the holidays. That’s why some, like American Airlines, offer discounts for students of specific colleges. You can also look for other student discounts on sites like studentuniverse.com and STAtravel.com.

  1. Be flexible

Don’t get fixed on flying out of a specific airport, at a certain time or on your chosen day of the week. You can shave dollars off your ticket prices by being flexible. Put things into perspective: What’s an extra fifteen-minute drive when it can save you $75? And, of course, you can always catch up on sleep you lose during a red-eye flight when you get home.

  1. Pack light

Airlines are tightening expenses all around, and these cuts are trickling down to customers in a big way. One area that’s come under attack is luggage. Many airlines are charging for each checked-in piece, while others will ask you to pay just to bring a carry-on on board. Find out what your airline’s policy is before you start packing. If you’re going to need to pay for whatever you stow under the plane or bring aboard with you, pack as lightly as possible. Remember that you’re going home, not headed for the wilderness. Also, most airlines allow you to bring a backpack as your personal bag for the flight, free of charge. You can fit all of your essentials and travel necessities in there, but be careful of liquid restrictions!

  1. Don’t buy anything at the airport

Airport shops, like kiosks at malls, are outrageously overpriced. Window-shop if you’d like to pass the time, but bury your wallet deep in your backpack. It’s also smart to bring empty water bottles and fill them up at the airport so you’re not stuck paying $4.99 for a 16-oz bottle of spring water.

  1. Find a seasonal job at home

If you still find yourself panicking over the money you’ll shell out for holiday travel, see if you can find a part-time job in your hometown. Many retailers are looking for help during this busy season, and if your break puts you in town for a few weeks, you may be able to land a position. The money you earn can help offset your travel costs.

How do you save money on your holiday trips home? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

 

Dining In: 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 as we head into cooler weather. Even better, you can save money by making this fast food favorite at home.

Servings: 3-4

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into long, thin strips
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon 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-ounce) can whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 ⅓ cups hickory flavored BBQ sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¾ tablespoon teriyaki sauce

Directions

  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 F. Add chicken and fry for 3 ½-4 minutes.
  6. To prepare the dipping sauce: Using a food processor, immersion or  regular blender, blend cranberry sauce until smooth. Once smooth, pour cranberry sauce into a bowl and whisk in BBQ sauce, brown sugar and teriyaki sauce. Serve alongside chicken fingers.

Enjoy!

Tip: This sauce recipe makes a large amount; it freezes well, though.

7 Ways to Save on Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving means giving thanks for all the good in our lives. It also means stuffed turkey and gravy, pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes. It’s a time-honored tradition of spending time enjoying a delectable holiday meal while in the company of those we love. It can also mean spending an awful lot of money.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the average host cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 guests will spend approximately $50 on the dinner alone. Of course, if you’re expecting more than 10 guests or you tend to overspend when hosting, your costs can easily top that amount. Between the turkey, ingredients for that luscious holiday meal and décor to set the ambiance, hosting a Thanksgiving dinner is not cheap.

Looking for ways to cut back without compromising on the quality and festivity of your meal? Look no further! You know that here at Insight we love to keep your wallet plump. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of seven easy ways for you to save on your Thanksgiving costs this year.

1. Verify your guests’ attendance

Before you start writing up a spectacular menu or a detailed shopping list, check to make sure you have an accurate head count of the guests and family members who will be joining you for Thanksgiving dinner. You don’t want to end up with a fridge full of leftovers. Verify that all who are invited are indeed planning on showing, and only then begin planning your menu.

2. Find out what your guests like

While you’re doing your invites, ask for your guests’ individual tastes. You don’t want to forget that Great Aunt Martha is on a strict gluten-free food plan or that your cousin’s spouse is a vegetarian. Aside from specialized diets, ask about particular foods your guests like to eat and those they won’t touch. If something on your menu isn’t very popular with your guests, skip it – even if you think it’s an essential Thanksgiving food. This way, you won’t exhaust yourself over a pumpkin soup that nobody will touch or end your holiday meal with trays full of leftovers and lots of hungry guests.

3. Make it a potluck

Slash your spending and your stress in one step by answering an enthusiastic “yes!” to every guest who asks if they can bring something. Don’t just say anything’s fine, though, or you might have seven desserts. Instead, create a Google Sheet with your planned menu and let your guests add what they’d like to contribute to the meal. This way, they’ll know exactly what you need, you’ll know what they’re bringing and best of all, you won’t be doing all the cooking yourself.

 4. Serve on smaller plates

Most people will load up their plates to capacity, regardless of the plate’s size. Curb the wasting at your table by using smaller dinnerware. Let your guests load up all the way without leaving half-full plates. They can always refill if they still want to eat more later.

5. DIY décor

You can set a beautiful holiday tablescape without blowing your budget; all it takes is a little imagination. Shop the local dollar store for discounted décor that still packs a punch, like colored vases, silk flower arrangements, and other centerpieces. Look for easy, inexpensive DIY ideas online. Finally, get creative by using things from around the house or yard as your décor. For instance, you can create a whimsical candleholder by gluing cinnamon sticks around a candle or design an autumn-themed centerpiece with leaves and pine cones which can be found at your local craft store. You can take a look at our blog on frugal fall decorating for more inspiration.

6. Shop the sales

Grocery stores and shopping centers tend to run specials on turkeys and other Thanksgiving staples starting as early as Halloween. Plan your menu several weeks in advance so you can take advantage of these sales. Keep it flexible until you see the circulars and then base your dishes on the ingredients and produce that’s cheapest. Also, be sure to shop around for your turkey! Supermarkets tend to have the best deals on the birds, with some even running free turkey deals when you spend a specific amount on other groceries.

7. Cook from scratch

Most everything is less expensive – and tastes better – when it’s homemade. Think gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and apple pie. Start your cooking well enough in advance so you don’t find yourself relying on too many convenience foods and paying the price both in cash and taste. Your wallet and your guests will thank you!

When you gather around the table with family and friends this Thanksgiving, you can be thankful for all the good in your life without feeling guilty over how much you spent on the meal. All it takes is a little planning!

What are some of your best Thanksgiving dinner hacks? Share them with us in the comments!

10 Facts about Credit Unions

October 19 is International Credit Union day and being a member of a credit union is a win for your finances for many reasons. Here are 10 facts to help you learn a little more about credit unions and what makes them a great option for your money.

Fact #1: President Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act in 1934 to promote thriftiness and prevent unusually high interest rates during the Great Depression.

Fact #2: Credit unions are insured. Most credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), which provides essentially the same coverage on funds as does the FDIC. If the word “federal” is in the name, they are insured. If not, check with your credit union. It may be state-chartered or have private deposit insurance, or both. Insight Credit Union is federally insured by the NCUA .

Fact #3: Eligibility is fairly flexible at most credit unions. Most require residency in a certain community, city or state, or that you are employed by the credit union’s sponsor company. But requirements are pretty broad on most, making eligibility at a credit union a possibility for almost anyone.

Fact #4: Credit unions are not-for-profit institutions and are owned by the people they serve, not by a few shareholders.

Fact #5: Credit unions can offer better rates on savings accounts, lower interest rates on loans, and little or no fees on accounts because they are exempt from federal taxes. Credit unions still pay state taxes.

Fact #6: The credit union’s board of directors, which is elected by members, can set loan limits in an effort to help the credit union grow.

Fact #7: Credit union members have democratic control of the credit union and can attend and participate in regular and special membership meetings.

Fact #8: Non-members benefit from credit unions too. Competition for low rates keeps banks’ fees in check, thereby benefiting nonmembers.

Fact #9: With more than 5,000 credit unions across the globe and access to tens of thousands of ATMs, credit unions are increasingly convenient on a national scale.

Fact #10: Once you are a member of a credit union, you stay a member for as long as you maintain your deposit account (share), regardless of whether or not you continue to meet the original eligibility requirements.

Learn more about how you can become a member of Insight Credit union by visiting our website today.

 

Frugal Fall Decorating Ideas for the Home

With its rich and vibrant colors, autumn has to be one of the best seasons for decorating. The crisp air, cooler nights and gorgeous foliage all help to inspire cozy and colorful decor for the home. Here are 5 unique ideas to spruce up your home for the autumn season.

  1. Look outdoors for inspiration. The wide variety of fall produce and other natural elements add elegance and autumn style to the home. Look for mums, pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn (the dried, multi-colored kind, most stores carry these now), leaves, pinecones, and even acorns, can all be used to decorate your house. Try putting mini pumpkins and gourds into a crystal bowl for a gorgeous table or sideboard centerpiece.
  2. Dollar Store bargains. Dollar Store and Dollar Tree stores have tons of pretty autumn decorations for you to incorporate into your home. Most of these stores carry faux foliage, colorful wreaths and garlands, silk flowers and autumn-hued vases, and ceramic pumpkins. You can spend just $5 and have the makings for a stunning autumn centerpiece for your coffee table.
  3. Use fall colors and patterns. The most popular fall colors are burgundy, gold, deep green and chocolate brown, and they generally work well with most other colors you already have in your home. Pillows, throws and candles are all fairly inexpensive and work well to freshen up your house.
  4. DIY decor. If you are crafty, why not try making your own fall decorations? Here are just a few you could make: wreaths and garlands, pumpkin or apple votive holders, potpourri jars-Pinterest is a great resource for DIY projects. Local craft stores often have an abundance of items to fit all of your fall decorating needs.

Now that we’ve given you a head start on making your home fall-ready, we’d love to see pictures. Share your autumn décor with us on Facebook or Instagram.

 

Financial Planning for Single Parents

Single parenting brings unique budgeting challenges. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture it costs an estimated $241,080 for a middle-income couple to raise a child to age 18 – and many single parents shoulder that responsibility alone. Even with adequate child support, it’s smart to be proactive about financial matters as a single mom or dad. Here are a few things to think about to get you started.

First, estate planning should be your top priority. It’s essential to make arrangements for your children should something happen to you. Draw up a will, designating a guardian for your children, and a “power of attorney,” giving someone the legal right to make decisions on your behalf.

Second, consider setting up a trust – a legal structure that is overseen by a trustee, in which your assets can be held for your children. Also, ask your employer about disability benefits. Generally, you will receive a smaller income when you claim disability; however, ensuring even partial income is crucial for single parents who don’t have another source of income to cover a gap.

Next, taking out a life insurance policy is equally important. The policy you purchase will depend on your finances. A term policy is the most economical because it offers a straightforward death benefit.
Health insurance is also essential. Premiums may be high, but if you’re uninsured, a serious medical procedure can be financially crippling. Comparison-shop for policies to find one that fits your needs.

Lastly, don’t forget about tax breaks! If you’re a single parent, file as head of household. You’ll pay less and claim a higher standard deduction – you can claim exemptions for yourself and each qualifying child. You also might qualify for the earned income tax credit, the child and dependent care credit, and the child tax credit. Always be sure to speak to a tax professional for the proper procedures.

Whatever your income, it’s important to give yourself a safety net. Put aside a bit of money from each paycheck to set up an emergency fund for car repairs, broken refrigerators and any other unexpected expenses that might come up. Every little bit helps, and we hope we’ve given you information to get your financial planning moving in the right direction.