Home Renovations On A Budget

Is your home in desperate need of a face lift? As you probably know, renovations don’t come cheap. In fact, the average kitchen remodel tops $60,000 and bathroom overhauls can cost $18,000! With some careful planning, though, you can shave thousands of dollars off these price tags. Keep reading to find out how.

1.) Don’t do a complete remodel. Instead of knocking down walls, give the outdated area a fresh coat of paint, new light fixtures and some minor décor upgrades. Potential money saved: $30,000.

2.) Shop around for a contractor. Find someone professional, reliable and willing to give you a decent price. Check out at least three different contractors before making your decision. Ask for references and meet with each contractor in person to get a feel for their professional conduct and character. Also, be sure to sign a detailed contract. Potential money saved: several thousand dollars.

3.) Consider long–term benefits. It often makes sense to pay more now if it’ll save you big down the line. For example, if you’re installing clapboard siding, you’ll save in the long run by paying more for pre-primed and pre-painted boards. Using the prefinished claps means you’ll need half as many paint jobs in the future. Money saved: $1,250 (for a 10×40 area).

4.) Pick decent but midgrade materials. When long-term functionality is not a criterion, choose the midgrade option. One area where you’ll see this at play is in carpeting. Olefin and polyester carpeting will run you $1 to $2 per square foot .while wool costs upward of $9 to $11 per square foot. Money saved: $400 (for a 40-square-feet area).

5.) Bring in natural light without windows. Looking to bring a splash of sunshine into your kitchen? Instead of adding a window, consider installing a “light tube.” It slips between the rafters on your roof and works to funnel sunshine down into the living space below. Adding a double-pane window can run you $1,500; a light tube costs $500.Money saved: $1,000.

6.) Lend a hand. Save big by doing some of the demolition work yourself, painting some walls, or even sanding walls to prep them for painting. You can also lend a hand with the cleanup instead of hiring a crew. Money saved: $200 or more.

7.) Increase efficiency, not size; Cramped kitchen? Don’t assume you need to push out walls to make it work. Instead, reorganize your kitchen for optimal efficiency and save tens of thousands of dollars. Upgrade your cabinets with lazy susans, pullout drawers, dividers and more. Consider hiring a professional organizer to show you how to maximize your space – you’ll still save big overall.

Money saved: up to $60,000. Before making any decisions, be sure to call, click or stop by Insight Credit Union today to learn about our fantastic rates on Home Equity Lines of Credit!

Have you recently remodeled? How did you save money? Share your best hacks with us in the comments!

Medical Identity Theft

Medicare is replacing its old cards with new ones which contain an 11-digit code instead of a Social Security number. Unfortunately, even though the cards have not yet been fully issued, scammers are taking advantage of this change.

A caller pretending to be a Medicare representative will ask for payment in exchange for the new ID. Alternatively, the caller might claim to need the victim’s medical information to send out their new card. In reality, the cards are free and will be mailed automatically.

In another variation, a caller will wrongly insist that the victim must purchase Medicare’s prescription drug coverage or risk losing all coverage.

In another ruse not limited to Medicare members, the caller asks for the victim’s checking account number and Social Security number to deposit a supposed refund from their insurer.

Once the scammer has the victim’s medical information, though, they can:

  • Pose as the victim to see a doctor
  • Obtain prescriptions
  • File a false health claim

Don’t be the next victim!

Here’s what you need to know about medical identity theft.

The cost 

The average medical identity theft costs $13,500 to fix, but can affect other areas of life and home, such as:

1.) Loss of health coverage

Scammers might max out your benefit limits, leaving you with no coverage.

2.) Ruined credit history

Scammers can destroy your credit history by racking up hospital bills in your name and then disappearing.

3.) False medical records

When the scammer receives treatment in your name, it’s documented on your medical records. This can be extremely dangerous when you seek medical attention in the future.

4.) Higher premiums

The scammer’s medical activity may cause your premiums to rise.

Preventing medical scams 

Take proactive steps to ensure you’re not the next victim.

  • Know that Medicare will never call you. They always contact members via mail.
  • Be wary of suspicious-looking bills from third-party providers. If you receive any, alert your insurer immediately.
  • Study your Explanation of Benefits (EOB). If you spot treatments you don’t remember receiving, notify your provider.
  • Check your medical records regularly for suspicious doctor visits, prescriptions or maladies.
  • Review your credit history often. If you see unfamiliar charges, immediately ask for a fraud alert and place a freeze on your credit.

Fixing your medical history 

If you spot an error on your medical records, it’s crucial that you correct it so it doesn’t affect your medical treatment in the future. Send a copy of the documents detailing the discrepancy to every medical professional and facility involved in your care.

Fighting back 

If you’ve been victimized by medical identity theft, be sure to report it!

Alert the FTC using their website at ftc.gov, or at 1-877-438-4338.

If you are a member of Medicare, call 800-MEDICARE or visit Medicare.gov. Alternately, report the scam to your own insurance provider.

Now that we’ve given you red flags to look for, you’re armed with information to keep your medical identity safe. Be sure to check out the Security Center of our website. It offers a variety of valuable materials regarding information security. Check back often as content is updated regularly.

6 Ways To Know You’re Ready To Start A Business

Have you been bitten by the business bug? Would being your own boss be a dream come true?  It all sounds very exciting, but check this list first to be sure you’re truly ready to leave your 9 to 5 to become an entrepreneur.

  1. You feel a burning passion for the product or service you want to market, and you’re not just looking to open a business because you hate your current job.
  2. You’re certain there is a true demand for your product. You’ve researched it carefully, surveyed your family and friends, and got a good feel for the market before you plunge into it.
  3. Your personal finances are in a good place and can handle the risk. Speak with an Insight Credit Union representative to help crunch the numbers and be sure you can swing it financially. We offer a variety of services for business owners.
  4. You have the physical strength and the head space to give your new business your all.
  5. You have a sound financial plan for your business.
  6. You have the full support of your spouse and family.

If this list sounds like you, then congratulations!  You’re on your way to starting your business.

Are you already a small-business owner? What advice do you have for those who are just starting out? Share your wisdom in the comments!

11 Ways To Scale Back On Food Costs

Next to your mortgage or rent, you probably spend the most money on food. We have some helpful tips to get- and keep that food bill under control.

  1.  Never shop before making a detailed menu for the week.
  2.  Use coupons whenever possible.
  3.  Cook with seasonal produce.
  4.  Use the generic brands for cleansers, shampoos and detergents instead of brand-name products.
  5.  Never buy something just because it’s on sale unless you use that item regularly. You aren’t saving if you got a great deal on something that will just sit in your pantry.
  6.  Whenever possible, make your own instead of buying convenience foods.
  7.  Never shop for groceries without a list.
  8.  Buy in bulk instead of making smaller, more frequent trips to the store.
  9.  Consider having your groceries delivered instead of going to the store to avoid impulse purchases.
  10.  Never shop before taking full inventory of your fridge, freezer and pantry.
  11.  When possible, buy larger containers of food instead of individualized portions. This includes snack bags, yogurts, ice cream, cheeses and drinks.

We want to hear from you. How do you save on food? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

5 Ways To Save Time Without Spending A Dime

People often pair convenience with cost. In other words, if you want to save time, you’ll have to spend money. Here are five ways to prove that isn’t so.

  1. When meal planning, mainstream your salad prep. You don’t have to buy pre-washed and pre-cut vegetables to save time. Simply have a marathon cutting session at the beginning of the week, rinsing, slicing and dicing all the vegetables you’ll want to include in your salads throughout the week. Store in airtight containers in the fridge and enjoy the convenience all week long!
  2. Get your workouts while cleaning. Yes, you can multitask and skip the expensive exercise class! Do your lunges while vacuuming, squat when checking the oven or picking up toys, lift all grocery bags yourself, and – if you need to get from one side of the house to another – jog to get there. And, of course, walk to all nearby errands instead of driving the car.
  3. Don’t buy the frozen pancakes or mix. Instead, once a month, mix up a huge batch of pancake batter and freeze separately in single-breakfast-sized containers. You can do this for nearly everything you make often and save yourself a ton of time.
  4. Skip those annoying runs to the grocery for one missing ingredient by keeping a small marker-board on the fridge and writing down each ingredient you need as soon as you’ve used it up.
  5. Make all your bill-pays automatic. You’ll never make a late payment or be stuck with a late fee again, and you won’t have the hassle of remembering when each one of your bills is due. For the convenience and peace of mind of knowing your regular bills will be paid automatically – even if you forget or go out of town – take advantage of Insight’s Online Bill Pay feature.

How do you save time while spending less money? Share your cost saving techniques 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!