Center For Siouxland's VITA Program Needs Volunteers!

Sat, Dec 15th, 2018

Center For Siouxland's VITA Program is seeking volunteers for the upcoming tax season.  Center For Siouxland is a non-profit human service agency that has partnered with the United Way and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program to provide FREE basic income tax preparation and e-filing for low to moderate income individuals and their families in the tri-state area.  This program is not possible without the help of dedicated volunteers from the Siouxland community.  We are seeking Tax Preparers, Schedulers, Greeters and Quality Reviewers.  No prior experience is necessary.  Training is provided and is IRS Certified!

Information about the different volunteer positions and the training involved is available by calling VITA Coordinator, Lori Scott, at 712-252-1861 ext. 29 or e-mail her at lori.scott@centerforsiouxland.org.

Money Monday – How to Set a Realistic Christmas Budget.

Mon, Dec 3rd, 2018

The holidays are expensive.  Between decorating, gifts, outfits, food, outings and travel, the dollars add up quickly.  There are plenty of ways to make things merry and bright without waking up in a post-holiday haze full of spending regrets.  You don’t owe anyone an explanation for how you spend your cash this Christmas. That’s between you and your budget.  But you have to make a budget.

Budgeting conjures up all sorts of bad feelings. But this isn’t about depriving yourself or going all Scrooge on your loved ones. It’s a quick and painless way to keep you on track. Think of yourself as a financially savvy Santa.  Layer in a few of these savings tips and you have the recipe for a stress-free shopping season. It’ll help you free up the mental capacity for things that really matter, like spending time with family and friends.

Here’s how to get started:

Step 1: Work backwards

The first thing you need to do is be realistic. Consumers say they will spend an average of $1,007 during the holiday season this year, according to the annual survey from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. That’s up more than four percent from last year’s average.  Are you planning to spend that much? More? Less? Come up with a total amount and then ask yourself how you’re going to pay for it. Is it coming from a savings account or a sinking fund that you set up earlier this year? Are you working extra hours this month? Santa’s elves might work around the clock this holiday season, but do you really want to? Be reasonable and realistic here.

Step 2: Create categories

Celebrating the holiday season means something different to everyone. Maybe you don’t exchange gifts, but you host a lot of parties. Maybe your work throws a company shindig at a swanky restaurant. They foot the entire bill, but you want a new outfit. Consider all the different times you might find yourself reaching for your wallet and create categories. Some suggestions include:

  • Gifts. Put all the people that you intend to buy for on your list.

  • Holiday greetings. If you send Christmas cards, calculate the cost. It adds up quickly!

  • Postage/shipping. Are you sending greetings via snail mail or paying for shipping? Ballpark the amount.

  • Entertaining. Whether you are going to be the host, the guest, or both, you’ll want to think about how many different times you plan to eat, drink, and be merry this year. Meals, appetizers, desserts, drinks. It all adds up.

  • Holiday events. Maybe there’s a Holiday event one evening or you just want to leave room for an eggnog latte or two.

  • Clothing/grooming. Springing for a new holiday shirt, outfit, manicure or haircut? Factor that in too.

  • Travel. Headed out of town for the holidays? Add the cost of fuel, flights, and pet sitting if you have a dog or cat that will need watching while you’re away.

    Once you’ve created all the categories, you will want to add some detail to each. You also want to start prioritizing. This will help you determine how you should divvy up your money from Step 1.

    Step 3: Start spending and tracking

    This step is key. Think of it as a food journal for your wallet. The best budget is meaningless if you ignore it.  Fear not. There are plenty of apps that you can use to log your spending automatically. Popular apps include You Need a Budget and Mint, and there are dozens more in the App Store or Google Play. You could also use a Google spreadsheet or even a paper notebook to manually record your purchases. Whichever way you choose, you’ll know if you’re on track.

    Find creative ways to save

    You’ve created a budget and have started shopping. Whether you’re starting to realize you have too many commitments and not enough cash or you simply want some extra money to save or spend how you see fit, there are ways to save this holiday season. And it isn’t just about shopping sales.  Check your list twice. Maybe there are a few people on your list that you don’t need to buy for. You could bake something or spend time together. Presence over presents. But if you really want to keep going with gifts, make the switch to a Secret Santa or a White Elephant party.

    And your receipts. OK, checking your receipts isn’t part of the song, but it’s still an important step. You can either save them in an envelope, snap a photo on your phone, or scan them into an app. In addition to helping out someone who needs to swap a size, receipts can help your budget, too. Most stores offer price match and price adjustment policies. That means if you spot the item for less at the same store or somewhere else, you could get money back.

    Remix your wardrobe. Thanksgiving is a stone’s throw away from other winter holidays. Accessorize, mix and match, layer, or just rewear the whole outfit. If you looked good in it in November, why wouldn’t you wear it again in December?

    Regift. Really. There’s a right way and a wrong way to regift. If you hosted a party earlier in the year and someone gifted you a bottle of wine, you can absolutely pass it along. Or maybe you happened to buy a few bottles during a stock-up sale. No one will know that you didn’t run out and pay full price the night before. Just make sure that you never ever regift to the original giver. Instead, bring a box of chocolates from your boss to your neighbors or bring in your neighbor’s cookies to a work luncheon. Save cash and calories.

    Suggest alternatives. Traditions can be beautiful, but they can also exist simply out of habit. If you typically meet up with a friend for a few laps around the mall to socialize, suggest a park or a neighborhood stroll instead. There will be plenty of festive cheer along with opportunities to catch up. The bonus is that there is no temptation to buy just one more thing.

    Lastly, remember that no one is trying to take away your holiday cheer. Instead, creating a simple budget and tracking your spending are easy steps to a happier holiday.  Center For Siouxland Consumer Credit Financial Counselors can assist you with budgeting and any other financial questions you may have.  Call 712-252-1861 ext. 47.  We Can Help!

 

Money Monday - Watch out for card skimming at the gas pump

Mon, Nov 26th, 2018

The good news is, gas prices are down!  The bad news is card skimming at the gas pumps.  Skimmers are illegal card readers attached to payment terminals.  These card readers grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without your knowledge. Criminals sell the stolen data or use it to buy things online. You won’t know your information has been stolen until you get your statement or an overdraft notice.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid a skimmer when you gas up:

  • Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read "void."

  • Look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station? For example, the card reader on the left has a skimmer attached; the reader on the right doesn’t.  Try to wiggle the card reader before you put in your card. If it moves, report it to the attendant. Then use a different pump.

  • If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering a PIN. That way, the PIN is safe, and the money isn’t deducted immediately from your account.
  • If you’re really concerned about skimmers, pay inside rather than at the pump.
  • Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.

If your credit card has been compromised, report it to your bank or card issuer. Federal law limits your liability if your credit, ATM, or debit card is lost or stolen, but your liability may depend on how quickly you report the loss or theft.

For more financial and credit information follow Center For Siouxland on Facebook and our website.  WE CAN HELP, call 712-252-1861 ext. 47.

 

Bridges West Residents are Thankful!

Wed, Nov 21st, 2018

Center For Siouxland's Bridges West residents were asked what they are thankful for. Below are some of their responses:

  • my family, my daughter, for having Bridges West to help me and for having friends here
  • my family & friends, my health & a supportive community, Center for Siouxland for all that they help us with and my sobriety
  • God and all the blessings he put in my life
  • family, friends & loved ones
  • my many “THANK YOU” to all the “WONDERFUL PEOPLE” at Center For Siouxland and Bridges West for all the help you have given me.  Thank you all so VERY MUCH
  • my kids, our little home, my family & every days little blessings
  • Alison, Michelle & Bridges West for giving me a home when I had none.  I’m also thankful for my children, grandchildren & their health
  • That my life is getting back to normal
  • my kids, their health & happiness and a safe place to live

Money Monday - Black Friday Blues

Mon, Nov 19th, 2018

This time of year, millions of people ignore their financial common sense and take part in the phenomenon known as Black Friday.  The problem with this practice is a mailbox full of credit card statements in January. Here are some holiday shopping tips.

1. Determine a Spending Plan

Figure out the total amount you can afford to spend over the holidays.  Don't just take into account Christmas presents - also consider how much you'll spend on food, decorations, parties, holiday events, etc.  Be realistic and set reasonable expectations with your family.  You don't want to find yourself in the midst of Christmas next year still paying for the things you bought this season!  Once you've determined how much you'll spend on gifts, you can divide that amount by the number of people you're buying for.  Now you know how much you can afford to spend on each person.

2. Determine a Shopping Plan

Now that you know how much you can spend, you can start figuring out what you want to buy.  Use deal websites like bfads.net and retailmenot.com to find the best deals.  If you don't know have specific items in mind, some sites many sites will allow you to sort by price.  The weekend of Black Friday you'll be sure to find lots of steals in the $10 or less category! 

3.  Don't shop for yourself!

The National Retail Federal recently determined that the average consumer spends 18% of their holiday budget on themselves.  It can be difficult to curb spending impulses as you shop for everyone else, but if you can prevent yourself from buying for yourself, you'll likely save quite a bit of money!

4. Use gift cards

Do you have any gift cards lying around that you've never used?  Perhaps they're for stores you seldom frequent?  Use them to buy presents for others!  That store you never shop at could be a favorite of a certain friend or family member.

For help constructing a workable holiday budget, or to discover how to pay off existing debt contact Center For Siouxland at 712-252-1861 ext. 47.  WE CAN HELP!  Happy Holidays.

 

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