Tailgating on a Budget

Football season has arrived and with that comes the all-important tailgate. The cost of food and drinks can add up quickly, so here are a few tips to party without paying too much.

Search for sales
Now that summer’s technically over you may be able to find great deals on products like grills and camping furniture. Stores are trying to get rid of summer merchandise to make room for fall items. Don’t forget about virtual deals too. You can often find incredible savings by shopping online.

 Planning is everything
The first step to a successful and affordable tailgate is planning. Get a head count of all your guests and then decide on your menu. Check your local grocery store’s weekly ad and find budget friendly recipes online. Create a list of ingredients and items you’ll need so you can stay on task while wandering the aisles. Select the store brand instead of the expensive one; it can help save dollars in the long run. Also, it may be helpful to plan your snacks around sales.

Buy in bulk
If you’re feeding a large crowd, stop by a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club. You’ll find many of your essentials at a lower cost when you buy in bulk.

BYOB
If you’re providing all the food, why not ask your guests to bring their own drinks or everyone can bring a snack? Send out an email or set up a Facebook group asking everyone to bring their favorite summer beer, cocktail or nonalcoholic beverage. Create a list so everyone knows who is bringing what.

Serve it up for less
Stop by your local dollar store to find cutlery, plates, cups and everything else you’ll need to serve up your delicious dishes. You can also find inexpensive decorations, such as balloons and streamers to create a festive atmosphere.

Now that you have a few tips for tailgating on a budget we’d love to hear from you. Do you have secrets to a great tailgate party? Share them in the comments.

Is Unlimited Cell Phone Data Worth It?

Cell phones have become a staple in our lives – we don’t leave home without them. We watch videos, scroll through social media and read articles all on our devices. With so much activity, do you ever think about how much data you’re using? Has the thought of an unlimited data plan ever crossed your mind? If so, here’s some information to help you decide if switching to an unlimited plan is right for you.

Q: I’m shopping for a phone plan for my family. Is an unlimited data plan a good option?

A: Unlimited data sounds like a great deal, because who wants overage charges? There’s also something about the word “unlimited” that makes the plan seem more attractive.

Cell phone companies are taking advantage of that word’s power. T-Mobile was first with an unlimited data plan. AT&T and Verizon soon followed. Whichever carrier you use, you’ll likely have the option of signing up for unlimited data. Unfortunately, unlimited data plans aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Before locking yourself into an expensive year-long contract, ask yourself these questions:

1) How much data do I actually use?

The average smartphone user needs between two and three gigabytes of data each month. There’s no need to estimate; simply look through your old bills and calculate an average data use per month. That will take into account your habits and the habits of your family.

If you’re an average user, a 3-4 gigabyte plan is sufficient. These plans are usually 30% cheaper than unlimited plans. You only see savings with unlimited plans if you use more than 10 gigabytes per month.

For a family plan, take everyone’s data usage into account. The average family of four consumes 12 gigabytes each month. That might make the unlimited plan worthwhile.

2) Can I change my data usage?

If you regularly exceed your monthly data allotment, consider changing your habits before changing your plan.

If you’re a regular Spotify user, download your playlist to your phone using wifi and listen data-free. Lower your video streaming quality, especially if you use an app for music. Set your phone to only download system and app updates when connected to wifi.

3) Can I rely on smartphone data exclusively?

Some people can’t kick the data habit. You might use your smartphone extensively for business, or live in an area that doesn’t get high speed internet. In that case, there are other cord-cutting strategies to help reduce your total monthly expenses.

If you don’t use the internet much at home but need data on the go, consider cutting your household internet and relying exclusively on mobile data. Wireless hotspot devices that broadcast a wifi signal and use your mobile data subscription are approximately $50. Check with your internet provider for specific pricing.

Remember: No company is really unlimited. Expect to see slow-downs in service after you’ve used 20 gigabytes in a month. If there’s lots of internet use in your household, you’ll go through that cap quickly.

Whether an unlimited data plan is right for you depends on how much data you use, and whether that data use can be curtailed. If you need an unlimited data plan, make sure you get the most out of your service. Monthly fees add up quickly, so think before you upgrade!

 

Solar Eclipse Viewing Events in Central Florida

There’s lots of buzz surrounding the upcoming solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. If you’re as excited about it as we are and are looking for locations to view this solar sensation, we’ve compiled a list of a few places around town holding events.

Orlando

Dr. Phillips Center – August 21, 12-4:30 pm
The green space in front of the downtown performing-arts theater, Seneff Arts Plaza, will be host to an Orlando Science Center pop-up location offering free viewing glasses while supplies last and education information as the eclipse takes place.

Orlando Science Center August 21, 1-4 pm
Included with general admission, the Orlando Science Center will host a special viewing event complete with eclipse glasses, solar telescope filters, special solar eclipse demos and presentations, crafts, and art activities. You’ll also be able to make a phone filter for getting photos of the eclipse.

Orange County Library System – August 21, 1 pm-4 pm
The 10 participating library branches include Alafaya, Chickasaw, Eatonville, Herndon, South Trail, Southwest, Washington Park, West Oaks, Windermere and Winter Garden. Free glasses will be provided while supplies last.

Seminole State CollegeAugust 21, noon-4:30pm
The Buehler Planetarium will host a free viewing event on the front sidewalk of the Automotive Technology building on campus. Short presentations will be given on the eclipse, including a presentation on the science behind eclipses. Free glasses will be provided for viewing the eclipse. Maximum eclipse viewing will occur around 2:51pm. In the days leading up to the event, visit the planetarium for a special new show, “Eclipse” which will be showing six times from August 11-19, 2017. More details can be found on their Facebook event page.

Leesburg

Leesburg Public Library – August 21, 1:30 pm
You can enjoy the solar eclipse at the Leesburg Public Library. This event is free and starts at 1:00. Free eclipse glasses will be available on the day of the event. Visit their website to stay tuned for more details of the event.

Groveland

Marion Baysinger Memorial County Library – August 21, 1:30 pm
Eclipse viewing will take place at the Marion Baysinger Memorial County Library starting at 1:30 pm. Leave your ID/library card at their circulation desk to use NASA-approved glasses for viewing in 20 minute increments. You’ll also be able to enjoy live indoor streaming.

Lake Wales

Bok Tower Gardens – August 21, 1pm
The Gardens provide one of the highest locations in Central Florida for viewing. Visit their website for pricing information

Ocala

Marion County Public Library, Headquarters – August 21, 1 pm
The Marion County Public Library is holding The Great American Eclipse Party at 1 pm on Monday August 21. This event is for ages 13 and up, with viewing glasses provided. You’ll enjoy the film “Little Shop of Horrors” along with eclipse themed snacks.

Longwood

Wekiva Island – August 21, 2:30 pm
Wekiva Island will be providing free viewing glasses and Kona Brewing drafts will be on special for $3. Plan to be there right when the event starts so you don’t miss out on the maximum eclipse viewing time around 2:51 pm.

New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna Beach Library – August 21, 1 pm
Watch the total eclipse live streamed by NASA while making crafts, or head outside to view the eclipse with free glasses from the library (while supplies last). The partial eclipse will begin in NSB at 1:14 pm and maximum eclipse viewing will take place around 2:51pm. This event is free and open to the public and no registration is required.

Titusville

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex – August 21, 11 am
Parkgoers at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be able to experiencethe partial eclipse from the Rocket Garden and watch the total eclipse on LED screens.

Visitors to the park on August 21 will receive solar glasses at the front entrance with general admission. Starting at 11 a.m. NASA’s eclipse live stream coverage will be broadcast from the Rocket Garden.

Kid-friendly activities, such as creating sun spotters, will also be set up in the garden.

Make sure to purchase special eclipse glasses if you can still find them, just in case these events run out. You will need them at all times in order to safely view the eclipse. The eclipse is occurring on a Monday, so if you’ll be at work you can still join the fun. NASA will be live streaming the full eclipse at https://www.nasa.gov/eclipselive.

 

Packing For College: What Should Stay and What Should Go?

college blogAre you heading off to dorm life soon or know someone who is? Well, it’s good to make a plan before the packing begins. Don’t waste precious space on stuff that isn’t needed. We’ve put together a helpful post on what to bring – and what to leave at home.

Do not bring: A television.

Chances are, your school will provide internet TV access, so you can stream your favorite shows. On the same note, don’t pack more than a few books to read or DVDs to watch in your spare time. Your schedule will be fuller than you can imagine and space is tight.

Do bring: Noise-canceling headphones.

As considerate as your roommates may be, they’ll sometimes feel like chatting when you most need to concentrate. Noise-canceling headphones will help you create that quiet space you need.

Do not bring: A ton of food and stockpiles of toiletries.

Unless you’re heading into the wilderness, you can fill up on what you need as the year goes on. It also makes sense to wait until you adjust to dorm life and can realistically determine what you will need.

Do bring: Several weeks’ worth of easy-to-prep food and basic toiletries.

We’re looking at you, ramen noodles. During those first few crazy weeks, you won’t want to bother with complicated food prep or shopping trips to town. Same goes with toiletries – bring enough to last a few weeks.

Do not bring: A mini-fridge.

Your dorm may have one in the common room.

 Do bring: Energy superheroes.

Think portable power banks, power bars and a nifty gadget called BedPower.

Dorm rooms, especially in older colleges, can be skimpy on outlets. Make sure your technology always has enough juice by outfitting an outlet with a power bar.

Similarly, you never know where you might be when your laptop is suddenly low on battery. A portable power bank can really come in handy.

For a power bar that also saves space the BedPower attaches right to your bed! This can be helpful for freeing up desk space and for providing you with that nighttime charge so your phone is powered up to wake you in time for class.

Do not bring: A lot of wall decorations and furniture.

Contrary to what college commercials will have you think, you cannot decorate your room to your heart’s desire. You’ve got your roommates to consider, as well as what are usually tight quarters. Your dorm room probably won’t be able to fit a futon, chair, end table, ottoman and bean bag. You also won’t have the wall space for 500 photos of your besties.

Do bring: A few photos and things from home, as well as space-saving furniture and necessities.

When homesickness strikes, it’s helpful to have something from home to help ease the ache. Photos are also great – as long as you don’t overdo it.

With regard to furniture, shop smart. An ottoman that doubles as a storage container will help you maximize the space you have. Bed risers that double the available under-bed storage are a smart choice. Huggable hangers will let you fit more clothing into your dorm closet.

Do not bring: Textbooks.

Before you buy any textbooks, find out about your library privileges. Chances are, you can borrow the books you need instead of purchasing them. Renting textbooks has also become a popular option.

Do bring: School supplies!

It may sound obvious, but it’s often overlooked with everything else you need to pack. Some super helpful supplies that you may forget to bring include: adhesive page markers, highlighters, citation style manuals and student planners.

Remember: If you have to ask yourself whether you really need to pack something, then you should probably leave it at home.

 

What do you think is the number one essential when packing for college? Share with us in the comments!

 

The Recovering Spender – Lauren Greutman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Recovering Spender, Lauren Greutman draws on her own life experience to teach invaluable lessons about living within your means.

To outsiders, Lauren and her husband, Mark, appeared as though they were living a charmed life. As she says, “On the surface, we had it all. Custom home, luxury cars, beautiful babies, and all the bells and whistles…” But disaster lurked beneath the surface.

Though the Greutmans seemed like they had more than enough for all their necessities and many luxuries, they were living way beyond their means simply to keep up with the neighbors. Too soon, they found themselves with a mortgage that had not been paid in months, their car seized and sky-high debt that reached $40,000.

Their dream had become an awful nightmare.

Through a long journey of recreating their relationship with money and spending, the Greutmans arrived at where they are today: back in the black and fully committed to spending less while living within their budget.

In The Recovering Spender, Greutman details the steps she and her family took to pull it off. She shares her hard-earned tips and practical advice to help others who find themselves ending each month with a deficit that keeps growing.

Lauren also shares many of her personal struggles in ways relatable to readers to help them learn from her mistakes. It’s easier for an over-stressed mom who never feels like she can stretch the dollar far enough to take tips from another mom who’s been there, than it is to heed advice from a financial expert who’s never experienced anxiety about being able to pay for groceries.

The book also takes readers through the process of going from being in the red to living completely debt-free, offering a step-by-step guide with actions readers can take immediately as they work their way through the book.

Some of the actionable chapters in the book include:

  1. Take an Inventory of Your Spending.
  2. Declutter Your Finances.
  3. Do an Expense Audit.
  4. Curb Your Spending and Define Your Values.

Most importantly, The Recovered Spender is a guide for getting off the path of debt, and living happily within your means.

Can you relate to Lauren’s experience? Have you successfully changed your spending habits? We want to hear from you. Share your story in the comments!

 

Tax Free Back to School Shopping

TaxFree blog

With the start of the new school year days away, shopping for clothes and supplies is probably at the top of your to do list. This weekend’s tax holiday is the perfect time to get that task done. You can enjoy tax free shopping on clothing, school supplies, personal computers and much more! The tax exempt sales run from August 4 through August 6.

Sales tax will not be collected on purchases of:

  • Clothing, footwear, and certain accessories priced $60 or less per item
  • School supplies selling for $15 or less per item
  • Personal computers and certain computer-related accessories priced $750 or less per item.

This is a great time to take inventory of your home or office space as well as your closets. Do you need new work shirts or a new laptop? Now is the time to buy

You can certainly use this weekend to grab savings for the entire family or you can purchase items and donate to someone that is less fortunate. There are a number of organizations that will be taking donated school supplies during the upcoming weeks. Check out your local news outlets for school supply drives in your area.

We know shopping for school related items can get expensive; however, you can save quite a bit of money by purchasing them during the tax free weekend. Click here for more information and for frequently asked questions about Florida’s sales tax holiday.

Happy Shopping!

10 Ways to Make Extra Money From Home

Whether you’re saving for a vacation or just want to have a little more cash in your rainy day fund, we want to offer ideas to help you reach your goals. We’ve put together a list of easy ways to make extra money at home so a lack of funds doesn’t keep you from achieving your objectives. Keep reading for more.

Tutoring

The school year will be starting before we know it and with that comes students needing assistance with a variety of topics. From math and reading to helping with instruments, your expertise is valuable. Utilize your skills to help a student learn.

Photography

Another option for creative types is photography! Submitting your pictures to stock photo sites is a fun and artistic way to make some extra cash. If you want up to brush up on your photography skills to make this an option, visit your local public library to see if they may offer free classes.

Baking

If family and friends always rave about your cookies and cakes, why not take what you’re naturally good at and turn it into a business? You’ll be immersed in something you love and can make money doing it. Make sure to look up your county’s rules on food based home businesses before you get started.

Online surveys

If getting paid to share your opinion interests you then online surveys may be something to try. Many companies look to shoppers for feedback on the products and services they offer. Providing your thoughts can help improve a service, and you’ll get compensated for doing it.

Freelance writing/editorial work

If you’re the creative type and are good with words, freelance writing and editorial work may be right up your alley. There are many opportunities to be found from ghost writing blogs and articles to editing manuscripts. You can even take a look at your favorite magazine’s editorial calendar and consider submitting articles to be published.

Childcare

This option is great if you’re a stay at home parent. While you may have your hands full with your own children, watching after a few more for a fee can help bring in some much needed extra cash. If you have the space and energy, this is a lively option that will ensure you stay busy throughout the day.

Online jury

Did you know there’s such a thing as online jurors? As part of an online jury you provide opinions and feedback on potential cases that attorneys are working on. If you’re interested in the legal system this may help provide a little insight into the jury process.

Crafting

Are you a master crafter? If you are skilled at making clothes or jewelry, knitting, embroidery, crocheting, monogramming or any other craft, selling your creations can prove to be a worthwhile endeavor. The website Etsy is a great starting point for a side business like this.

Customer service

Many companies hire home based service representatives to provide assistance to their customers. This is a common way to make extra money from home. Before you sign up for a gig like this be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau for additional information on the credibility of the company.

Garage Sale

What better way to make money and get rid of stuff you been meaning to clean out than a garage sale? The saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” You may have some hidden gems in your home that neighbors and visitors will be willing to dish out cash for.

Now that you have some ideas on how to add a little extra cash to your wallet, you can put the extra money you make aside in one of our savings accounts. You can establish any number of *share savings accounts at Insight Credit Union and watch your money grow for whatever purpose you choose such as a vacation, new car, or holiday shopping.

Have you had success with any of the options above? Share your story in the comments below.

*Federally Insured by NCUA

Staycations Are Key to Summer Fun on a Budget

Summer is here, and for most, that means vacation time! Many people travel out of town, or even out of the country, but if you’re on a budget, indulging in a “staycation” may be just the thing for you. In case you’re wondering, a staycation is when you stay in your own city or state and take day trips to local attractions. Here in Florida, there are so many activities to choose from the possibilities are endless. And you can do it all without breaking the bank. We’ve put together a few ideas for you to get your staycation started.

Stop by the beach. Florida is known for its beaches. What would summer be without a trip to one of our sandy shorelines?  If you don’t know where to start, make a game out of it. Make a list of all the beaches in the state you want to visit and assign them a number. Put all of the numbers in a hat, shake it up and pull one out. Whichever beach was assigned that number is your next staycation spot. “Sea” you later!

Visit one of Florida’s many state or national parks. They are filled with tremendous beauty, adventures and new discoveries. Best of all— they’re affordable! Entrance fees to most Florida state and national parks are less than $10. There are about 11 national parks, 160 state parks, and a number of preservation and recreation areas for you to choose from. So you might want to do a little advance planning. Besides the awesome sights, national and state parks are an awesome place to picnic or even camp overnight. So pack up your tents, gather ingredients for s’mores and head out to enjoy nature. Click here to find a park near you!

Get discounted tickets to amusement parks. Most Orlando area theme parks have Florida resident discounts as well as promotions where you pay for one day and get in free the rest of the year! Take advantage of the Florida resident discount to enhance your staycation, and continue the fun for the rest of the year. Click here for a list of Florida resident discounts from Visit Orlando. An added bonus – as an Insight Credit Union member you get discounted tickets to Legoland. Cool, right?!

Catch up on some reading. Find a cute little park, coffee shop or bookstore and let yourself get lost in a good book. This can help with relaxation and transport your mind to another place. You can even take a book to that beach you decided to go to.

Attend a local sporting event. Whether it’s baseball, soccer, golf, bull riding or wrestling, Central Florida has plenty of sporting event options to take advantage of. Get the family out for a fun-filled evening to one of the many Florida Collegiate Summer League baseball games. If you are more of a soccer fan, be sure to check out an Orlando City soccer game! For other exciting sporting events this summer, check out the list that Visit Orlando has compiled for more details.

Visit local museums. History and art museums can be found all over Florida. They may even be a museum celebrating the history of your own city. This is a great activity for both adults and children. You can have fun and learn something all at the same time. Botanical gardens, zoos, and farms that let you pick your own fruit are also great ideas for some summertime fun, not to mention they’re a hit with the little ones.

We hope these ideas can help you maximize your staycation without maxing out your budget! Do you have a favorite staycation spot? We would love to hear more about it! Share with us in the comments below.

 

*This is an updated version of a post originally published on July 28, 2014.