Monthly Archives: July 2023
Back-to-school shopping: six tips to save big
It’s hard to believe, but it’s almost time to sharpen pencils, fill those backpacks, and send your student back to school! One of the most stressful parts of the back-to-school season is making sure your children get everything they need without breaking the bank…especially when each new school year often means a fresh set of supplies, clothes, or a new tech gadget—or maybe all three.
Amid soaring inflation, prices on all kinds of goods are up, and school supplies are no exception. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend record amounts for both back-to-school and back-to-college shopping this year. But inflation is not the only problem facing families this year—supply-chain shortages coupled with high consumer demand have been affecting online delivery speed and product availability in stores as well.
Despite these challenges, here are six easy ways to save money on back-to-school shopping this year:
1. Make a back-to-school budget
Before you start shopping, create a list of needs and put them in order from most important to least. You may not be able to cover everything right away—but creating this list will help you see what you need to tackle first. Once you have your list, create a budget for your back-to-school needs. Budgets are personal so you can set aside what amount you think is best for school supplies, create a category for clothes, and whatever else your student may need. As you set up your budget, you may want to take note of any monthly school-related expenses, like after-school care or club fees, so you can ensure they’re incorporated into your existing budget.
2. Shop online first
Some of the best deals on school items can be found online. Shopping online can also help you cut down those frivolous purchases that may result from wandering around the store. Another perk of online shopping are browser extensions that help you compare deals and potentially get additional savings. Extensions such as Honey and Rakuten track down the best deals. In addition to price comparisons, browser extensions often also automatically apply coupons at checkout or help you earn cash back while shopping online. Lastly, don’t forget to download mobile apps for your favorite stores. You can often find special offers, see store pickup options, and check out clearance items—all from the palm of your hand.
3. Use coupons while shopping in-store
If you can’t find what you need online and are heading to the malls, don’t forget to check for coupons to use in store. You can save money by finding coupons online or by checking those old-fashioned paper sales ads. It seems like a lot of work clipping or clicking and then keeping up with it all—but $0.50 here and $1.00 there really adds up. Some checking accounts, like Perks+ Checking, offer discounts and deals from both local and national retailers, which can help you save big, too!
4. Buy used when possible
Not everything can (or should!) be bought used, but the same goes for brand-new items. Sports gear is a great option to buy used, as well as electronics like refurbished computers or calculators. If your student is starting band, you may also be able to find used instruments. Consignment shops, garage sales, thrift stores, and Facebook Marketplace are all great options to find used items.
5. Shop with the right credit card
Whether you plan to shop online or in person, shop with a credit card that offers points or cash back. You’ll be able to earn rewards that may help defray the costs of heading back to school. Many cash-back credit cards offer an initial bonus for meeting a minimum spending requirement, but you may also earn rewards for each dollar you spend. Some credit cards earn you more rewards at places where you happen to purchase many of your school supplies, such as grocery stores or on Amazon. If you don’t already have one that offers these benefits, research and consider signing up before your next big shopping event.
6. Buy in bulk
For supplies that students need every year, like pens, pencils, or paper, considering buying them in bulk next time you stop by Sam’s Club or Costco. Purchasing these items in bulk as opposed to buying per unit is almost always cheaper, especially for large families. If you don’t have a lot of storage, consider splitting bulk packages with friends or neighbors so you can all take advantage of the savings.
Back-to-school spending is expected to reach an all-time high this year, with families of children in elementary through high school planning to spend an average of $890, while college students and their families are expected to spend an average of about $1,400 per person. Despite these high costs, following the above tips can help you save some cash while still setting your student up for success!
What to do after a cyberattack
Having a cyberattack response plan is critical to protecting your customers’ sensitive information. Incidents can still happen even when we take all the necessary precautions. Being prepared to respond thoughtfully and comprehensively will reduce risks to your business and send a positive signal to your customers and employees.
The good news is, preparing to respond to a cyber incident is like preparing for natural disasters. Building your response plan can tap your other operational knowledge and experience.
What is a cyberattack?
What to do after a cyberattack
Below are four steps your company should take after a cyberattack:
1. Disconnect devices from the network
Determine what devices are affected and disconnect them from the network. You can either unplug an Ethernet cable or turn off Wi-Fi. This can stop the progress of cyberattacks. You should also change all passwords immediately.
2. Assess the cyberattack
Connect with IT leadership (whether internal or a third-party vendor), law enforcement, and your legal representation. You need to examine the cyberattack and find the cause, as well as identify those affected. All parties can work together to evaluate the incident and prevent the attack from happening again. It can be tempting to delete everything after a cyberattack or data breach. But, you should preserve any evidence to aid the investigation.
3. Ensure employees abide by security protocols
Notify employees and ensure they continue to abide by your written security procedures. Have processes for operating by paper to keep your business functioning if electronic records become unavailable. Employees should understand how to access key information if systems are down.
4. Notify affected customers
Familiarize yourself with your state’s data breach notification laws. Per Georgia state law, businesses must notify customers about security breaches that compromise their data. Notifications can be written or electronic and must be communicated as soon as possible after the breach (but wait to communicate until after you’ve secured your operations).
It’s important to be transparent regardless of state laws. Communication is key to building relationships and maintaining trust with your customers. Provide as much information as possible about the nature and extent of the breach, and use multiple channels to ensure all affected parties are notified.
How to recover from a cyberattack
The goal of recovery is to return to the full restoration of normal systems and operations. Like the response step, recovery requires planning.
Recovery is not just about fixing the causes and preventing the recurrence of a single incident. It’s about building out your cybersecurity posture across the whole organization and planning for future events.
1. Document lessons learned
Once your business has returned to full operations, evaluate what caused the breach and how it could’ve been prevented. Make any improvements to policies and procedures, and communicate those changes.
2. Establish continuing education opportunities
After the incident, you may need to adjust data access levels to certain employees based on their job roles to avoid future attacks. It’s also crucial to implement regular training about how to prepare for and prevent cybersecurity incidents. For example, you may consider administering phishing tests to employees so they know what to look out for, and you can identify any areas for improvement.
3. Repair your reputation
Acknowledge the data breach and inform customers what steps you’re taking to ensure this won’t happen again. This might require you to engage with a public relations firm. Work together to decide who will handle communicating with external stakeholders and what the message will be.
Cyberattacks are an unfortunate reality of doing business in today’s world. Responding to a cyberattack is a process—there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and the specific steps you take will vary depending on the nature of the attack. While no organization is immune, following the steps outlined above can reduce the risk of a successful attack and minimize the damage if one occurs.
National Institute for Standards and Technology: Guide for Cybersecurity Incident Recovery
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA): Resources for Businesses
How to manage your digital footprint and own your privacy
Your digital footprint is the trail of data you leave behind as you interact with the internet. This includes everything from your search history and your social media posts to the websites you visit. Your digital footprint seems harmless, but criminals can use it to steal your identity and access your finances.
Below are some tips for managing your digital footprint:
Start by asking, “Why?”
For all data requests from digital services, first ask “Why?” Why are they asking for this data? Think about the relevancy of the request in relation to the service to rendered. For example, does that email newsletter provider really need to know what state you live in?
Consider the tradeoff that you’re making in exchange for losing a little of your privacy. Giving access to your location so that your GPS works on a business trip might be worth it to you. But, you might want to think twice about giving location data to a store loyalty program on your phone.
Be careful while browsing the internet
Use the private browsing settings of your internet browsers. Usually, you can right-click on the computer program’s icon and select “New private/incognito window.” This keeps browsers from assigning specific search and internet usage histories to you. Limit what you do on public WiFi, and avoid logging in to key accounts like email and financial services. Consider using a VPN if you need a secure connection.
When it comes to social media, assume everything could be public—even if you’re vigilant about your privacy settings. Be cautious about posting too many personal details, like travel plans or possible answers to security questions.
Searching your name on major search engines will give you a snapshot of your online presence. It can be eye-opening to see what personal information is publicly available.
You can also enter your email address into an online tool like Have I Been PWNED. This site will tell you if your email address is involved in any major data breaches. If it has, be sure you’re no longer using the passwords associated with those accounts at the time of the breaches.
Use a password manager to take inventory
Password managers allow you to view your online accounts in one place—making you realize how large your footprint actually is. Having fewer online accounts means there’s less to protect.
Regularly review your accounts and delete any that are unnecessary. If a vendor doesn’t let you delete your account, change your details to something random. It’s best to not trust them with your business in the future.
You should also use strong, complex passwords. You don’t need to constantly change your passwords, but remember to change them if your information is part of a data breach.
Manage new accounts
Countless online vendors force users to create accounts before using their service—even for one-time purchases or subscriptions. These accounts feel trivial, but they’re useful to spam marketers, mailing lists, and cybercriminals.
Besides to deleting old accounts you no longer use, try to resist the urge to create new ones. Many vendors now provide a “checkout as a guest” option, which is the way to go if you think that your interaction with that site will be a one-time occurrence.
Control account privacy and settings
Get to know your account privacy settings. The National Cybersecurity Alliance has a tool that compiles privacy setting information for most major digital providers. These settings will allow you make your social posts as private as possible or limit what data these services collect about you.
You can also see what information these services have collected on you. In the case of Google, anything you’ve ever done while logged in with a Google or Gmail account is logged.
If this level of data collection bugs you, these services do allow you to put the torch to all of it if you choose. Be careful, though, as these actions are usually permanent and have consequences. For example, deleting your entire email history and account could make it more difficult to communicate with family and friends. Deleting search histories could make it more cumbersome to do future internet searches.
The same goes for big social media networks. Most major sites will give you the option to download your information before deleting so you can keep any details you need on your computer.
Be aware of phishing scams
Phishing scams are emails or text messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, like your bank or credit card company. These emails or text messages will often ask you to provide personal information. Don’t click on any links in these emails or text messages, and don’t give any personal information.
Completely erasing your digital footprints isn’t necessary to move safely through our uber-connected world. But a little knowledge and awareness about the impact your journey through the digital landscape can have on you will go a long way. With these tips, you’ll be on the path toward limiting your digital footprint and ensuring your financial information remains secure.