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Five tips for last-minute back-to-school shopping
After what seemed like the longest break ever, school has finally started for most students and teachers across the country. Whether it’s in-person or virtual learning, this school year presents its own set of challenges. While this year is not normal by any means, things like back-to-school shopping continue to loom over our heads.
Shopping for school supplies can seem daunting. Between the varieties of notebooks, pens, pencils, folders, and more, the choices are overwhelming—and expensive. Let’s face it—no one wants to spend $40 on notebooks that will more than likely be thrown away in nine months. But, there are more ways to save on supplies besides your typical coupons. Try these tips to make your last-minute back-to-school shopping a breeze.
Find what you already own
Before venturing out to partake in the craziness of back-to-school shopping, look around your home for what you already own. If you already have hundreds of pens, pencils, markers, or crayons, there’s no need to purchase more when you have plenty at your disposal. Plus, you’ll avoid the dreaded begging for the unnecessary 64-pack of crayons—because who needs 64 crayons? No one, that’s who.
Wait until you receive a definite list
Avoid shopping until you have a definitive list of the school supplies you need. Waiting until you know what supplies your kids need will not only save you the hassle of purchasing anything unnecessary but also prevents you from overspending. Kids don’t always need every single item on their list. After school starts, have your child ask their teacher if there are any items they won’t need. By knowing exactly what you need to purchase, you can then take the time to research which stores have the best deals, plus determine a budget.
Purchase supplies after school starts
Try to shop for the majority of your supplies after school starts. It’s okay to purchase any essentials before the school year begins but do the bulk of your shopping the week after school starts. Most stores typically put their remaining supplies on sale, allowing you to make the most out of your money. However, most of the supplies will likely be picked over. If you find an item that is well priced, then go ahead and purchase it because it may not last until it’s time to be put on clearance. If you’re not picky, then wait until stores are desperate to get rid of their remaining school supplies stock.
Dozens of major retailers price match competitors. Retailers want to prove that they have the lowest prices around, so if you’re out shopping and realize you can purchase something elsewhere for cheaper, ask for a price match. Typically, all you need to do is show the competitor’s ad or use your phone to show where you found a better price. However, most stores won’t price match on items that are on clearance or BOGO. But, retailers differ on their price match policies, so check to see what they will or will not allow.
Stock up if you can
If you can, purchase some supplies in bulk. You’ll save yourself from making multiple trips, and you can use supplies the following school year, which ultimately saves you money. Items like pencils, pens, folders, and composition notebooks are great to buy in bulk. However, remember to research where to find the best deals and compare prices per unit to ensure you’re getting the most out of your money.
Back-to-school shopping doesn’t always need to be a hassle. We hope that these tips will help make your last-minute school supply shopping a piece of cake and help you find everything you need to make this school year the best one yet!
Five ways to celebrate National Financial Awareness Day
August 14th is National Financial Awareness day—a day dedicated to preparing for your financial future and building financial stability. It’s crucial to take the time to review your finances—sound monetary decisions can make a significant impact in the long run. Today, try to complete one of the items below so you can take control of your finances.
Check your savings
Take a look at your savings account—in the event of an emergency, do you have enough funds to get you through? If not, use today to set goals to ensure you’re saving for the future. Calculate your monthly expenses and develop a plan of action to ensure you have the recommended three to six months’ worth of savings.
Reevaluate your budget
Have you found yourself not sticking to your budget lately? Take the time to reevaluate your spending and make changes where you see fit. Periodically reviewing your budget is a crucial step that is overlooked. Make it a habit to frequently assess your budget and see what should be adjusted.
Brush up on your financial literacy
Financial literacy is key to being confident in the monetary decisions you make, and it can be easy to forget the basics. Take the time today to brush up on your financial literacy. There are dozens of free tools to help, like ACHIEVE, a free financial literacy program from Georgia’s Own. ACHIEVE offers various topics and videos on essentials like owning a home, financial caregiving, planning for retirement, and more.
Take steps to improve your credit
Your credit score is a critical representation of your financial past, present, and future. You need good credit for just about anything, like owning a home, applying for an auto loan, or applying for a credit card—your credit score can even determine the price of your auto insurance. Look at your credit score and see where you can improve. If you don’t know your score, visit the federally authorized site annualcreditreport.com to receive a free copy of your credit report.
Get a head start on taxes
It’s never too early to get a head start on taxes. Begin gathering necessary documents, like receipts, expense records, and donations, then put them in an organized folder, so you have them prepared for when you’re ready to file. Preparing paperwork beforehand will save you time—and sanity—when tax season begins. If you want to take it a step further, you can even organize your tax records from the past few years, so you have those prepared if the IRS ever needs to conduct an audit.
We hope these tips help you take control over your financial future. And, as always, Georgia’s Own is available to help—click here to find more resources to help you make smart monetary decisions.
Student Loan Forgiveness: Separating Fact from Fiction
There is a lot of information out there on student loans – but determining which material is the real deal takes a little bit of work. Luckily, there is plenty of accurate information available, and there are even steps you can take to determine what is legit. And once you are armed with that knowledge, you can move forward on the path of settling your student loans.
Consider the source
You don’t need us to tell you that celebrity magazines, while excellent for comparing who wore which clothing best, are not a good source of information for things like student loan forgiveness. The same goes for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any app that allows you to turn yourself into a cartoon animal in a selfie.
Instead, look for reputable news sites and sites focused on helping people understand financial situations – consider resources like Forbes and Clark Howard, which can help you determine what kinds of resources are the best options.
Look it up
Now that you know which websites and resources are the best for gathering information, it’s time to get to work. Get on your favorite search engine and start reading. Don’t just take the word of the first article you read – look for different sources and the consistencies they each report. You can also consult with your student loan officer to see what they can tell you. But we know you have a lot going on, so we did some research for you:
Watch for scams
Even resources that pass your initial test for legitimacy may still need a second glance to ensure they are a reputable business. It’s not uncommon for scammers to create websites or other marketing materials that look like an agency that can help you, but the truth is that they may wind up costing you a lot of money.
If a company asks for sensitive information, promises that your student loans will be immediately forgiven, or wants payments made upfront before they provide you with services, run, do not walk, to the nearest state attorney general’s office and report the company for the scam.
Find the right people
There is a bright spot in the student loan forgiveness world, and that is those resources that can guide you to actual, real aid when it comes to your loans, whether that means reducing your loan amount or working with you to repay your loan on a schedule that works with your income.
Head to the Federal Student Aid website to submit a request for an income-driven payment plan for your student loans. And while you’re on the website, check out the sections on how federal aid works and the aid estimation calculator to get a better sense of how the process works.
What about possible political changes?
You have probably heard that one of Bernie Sanders’ campaign platforms centers around total student loan forgiveness. His plan is to cancel all current student loans, regardless of how large or old the debt is. Everyone would be eligible, and he has not mentioned any type of limit to the loan amount.
While Bernie may out of contention for 2020, the idea continues to gain momentum in certain political circles. There are still questions remaining in regards to how exactly the $1.6 trillion of student debt could be canceled, such as the timeline and whether it’s feasible for universities to give up those funds.
It’s important to note that cancelling student loans would not mean they would be canceled forever – what people are talking about is current student loan cancellation, which means only those loans that have been currently taken out by students, parents, etc.
If a student needed a loan to continue their education, or decided to go back to school at a future date, they would still be responsible for procuring and paying the funds. There is also no repayment for those who have already paid off their loans.
Yes – just like your budget, you have to have a plan for your student loans. They will not go away because you ignore them. In fact, you are more like to end up in collections and will then have to deal with potential legal repercussions.
None of these steps will help you with your loans if you are not an active participant in making it happen. Start by opening up all that mail your student loan company sends you – they can probably answer a lot of your questions right off the bat.
Student loans aren’t anyone favorite topic to think about, but there are ways you can take control. Look for reputable resources that can guide you through paying off your student loan dent on a schedule that makes financial sense for you.
The Paycheck Protection Program: What is it and what does it do for small businesses?
Congress recently approved an additional $310 billion in funding for the Paycheck Protection Program as part of the CARES Act, the stimulus bill created in light of the economic downturn due to COVID-19. We’ve broken down the basics of the Paycheck Protection Program for small business owners, so you can understand how to navigate the program and receive funds as quickly as possible.
What is the Paycheck Protection Program?
The Paycheck Protection Program, otherwise known as the PPP, is the driving factor in the small business portion of the coronavirus stimulus package. The PPP is a forgivable loan that allows small businesses to continue paying their employees, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities, over eight weeks. It’s intended to help businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses can receive up to $10 million, or 2.5 times their monthly payroll.
Who is eligible for PPP?
Small businesses—companies with fewer than 500 employees—can apply for PPP loans. Businesses must demonstrate that they have been negatively affected by the coronavirus. Qualified businesses include any business categorized under “accommodation or food service,” such as restaurants or hotels, with 500 or fewer employees, tribal businesses, independently owned franchises, self-employed workers, independent contractors, sole proprietors, or gig workers.
Where can you apply?
PPP loans are managed by certified Small Business Administration (SBA) lenders. You can apply for a PPP loan through approved SBA lenders or any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit unions, and Farm Credit System institutions. Talk with your preferred lender to see if they’re participating. The SBA also has a lender search tool on their website. If you have already applied, check with your lender to verify your application status. The deadline to apply is June 30th, 2020, when the program ends, but you should apply as soon as possible. You should only apply through approved SBA lenders—many scammers are using this time of desperation as an opportunity to take advantage of people. Legitimate lenders will not ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card numbers upfront.
As the SBA accepts loan applications, Georgia’s Own will process member requests in the same manner in the order they are received: please submit your contact information to [email protected] In your email, please include the business name, type of industry and if you are business or retail type, number of employees, and contact information, such as an email address and/or telephone number.
How does PPP loan forgiveness work?
If you use the loan for anything other than payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities throughout the loan, your loan will not be forgiven. Also, it’s only forgivable if you keep all your workers. So, if you previously laid off employees, you’ll need to rehire them. You can submit a request for loan forgiveness through your lender. The number of full-time employees and pay rates, as well as payments on the eligible mortgage, lease, and utilities will need to be verified. However, the loan carries a 1% interest rate that must be paid back within two years—payments can be deferred for six months.
For more information on loan resources for small businesses, visit sba.gov. And, to see how Georgia’s Own is helping members, small businesses, and the community during this time of need, visit our website.
How deferred payments can help you through a financial crisis
Right now, many people have been unwillingly thrust into difficult financial situations. It leaves some wondering how they’ll continue making payments on their cars, credit cards, or other loans they may have. As a way to relieve some financial burden, you could apply to temporarily defer your payments. We’ve broken down the ins and outs of suspending a payment to help you weigh your options.
What is a deferred payment?
Deferred payments, sometimes called payment holidays, allow you to temporarily delay or suspend payments on a loan—generally a consumer loan. If you’re experiencing financial hardship, deferring a payment could be beneficial, as it temporarily halts the burden of making repayments. It could impact you in the long run—you may end up with higher monthly payments, and your loan’s term will increase. But, it’s better than accumulating multiple missed payments and late fees.
How does a deferred payment work?
To start, you’ll need to fill out an application with your lender. Once your application is approved, you can suspend your qualifying payment, without worrying about late fees. You must continue making payments until you have verification of your application’s approval. When your deferred payment period ends, you’ll resume your regular payments.
Does a deferred payment affect your credit?
The short answer—no, a deferred payment generally does not affect your credit score. When your application is approved, your lender reports to the credit bureau that your payments are deferred. But, if you stop making payments or miss a payment due date before you’re approved, those missed payments could damage your credit. If you missed payments before you applied for a payment holiday, those won’t be removed from your credit history, either.
Are you still charged interest on deferred payments?
You may be responsible for interest that accrues while your payment is postponed. You could potentially receive a break if your interest rate only applies to your principal balance—which means you won’t be charged interest on the interest that accrues. However, once you restart payments, the interest that accrued during your payment holiday could be added to your principal balance, and your interest rate would then be applied to the new, larger principal balance—meaning even more interest could accumulate once you resume your regular payments. This all depends on your loan type and lender, so it’s best to confirm with them.
What alternatives are there?
If you ultimately decide you don’t want to defer your payments, there are other options available if you need financial support. Depending on the loan type, you could consider refinancing. Your new loan could potentially have a longer term or lower interest rates, leading to lower monthly payments. You may also consider a debt consolidation loan. Check with your lender to discuss potential alternatives.
If you require financial assistance because of COVID-19, click here to see how Georgia’s Own is helping members during this time of need.
Buying vs. renting: What’s the best move?
Many people make the decision daily on whether they want to buy or rent a home—however, it’s a choice that is not to be taken lightly. Like everything, there are various advantages and disadvantages to buying or renting a home. We’re here to break down those pros and cons to help make your decision process a little simpler.
Buying a home
Acquiring a home has numerous advantages that aren’t provided when it comes to renting. First, the financial benefits: when you purchase a home, you build equity. If the value of your home increases, then you have the opportunity to cash in on that value if you eventually sell. Also, there are potential tax benefits—if you choose to itemize deductions, you can itemize your mortgage interest when you file your tax return and thus cut your tax bill. Not only that, if you have a fixed-rate mortgage, you won’t need to worry about the rising cost of rent.
In addition to the financial perks, there are other substantial benefits. When you purchase a home, it’s truly yours. You don’t have a landlord to answer to, which means you don’t need to worry about seeking permission for home upgrades—you’re free to make all the renovations you desire. You also eliminate the possibility of your landlord selling the home and having to quickly scour for a new place.
Lastly, there are some intangible benefits. When you buy a home, you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment—you’ve finally achieved your lifelong goal of buying a home. While there is a sense of pride in being able to pay your rent and bills, finally reaching your goal of purchasing a home is an entirely different feeling. There is also a sense of belonging and stability. You now have a place you can truly call home for years to come.
Despite some of the amazing pros of purchasing a home, there are a few downsides to ponder. The most glaring drawback: it’s expensive. Let’s face it—buying a home costs a ton of money. Between closing costs, home inspections, and possible repairs, it can become egregious. It’s also a considerable amount of money upfront—a typical down payment is around 20% of the home’s cost. For example, if you are attempting to secure a home that costs $200,000, that would require a $40,000 down payment.
Another downside—when you own a home, repairs are solely your responsibility. From a new roof to broken air conditioning, there is an exorbitant number of things to be taken care of. Some things like fire, wind, or hail are covered by homeowner’s insurance. On a case by case basis, water damage is sometimes covered. However, the cost of home repairs can add up quickly and rapidly deplete your bank account.
Lastly, there is always potential to lose money if your home value declines. The environment, amenities, seasons, and maintenance are determinants of your home’s value. Bad schools, poor roads, or neighbors who neglect their property’s appearance are all factors that could drastically decrease the value of your home.
There are copious benefits when it comes to renting, like extreme flexibility. If you needed to quit your job, pack up, and move across the country, it’s more manageable to get out of a lease agreement than sell your home. Even if you wanted to move across the city, you have the freedom to do so, practically hassle-free.
Renting can also be significantly more affordable. It requires fewer upfront costs, aside from a security deposit, which is a fraction of what you’d spend on a down payment for a home. You also forego property taxes, which saves a notable chunk of money. You’re also not responsible for maintenance or repairs. All of those combined make your monthly payments more predictable—you’re not scrambling at the last minute for unforeseen costs.
While there are advantages when it comes to renting, like anything, there are also downfalls. One downside: your landlord can raise the rent, which could potentially cost you more in the long-run, compared to a fixed-rate mortgage. Factoring in the spiraling cost of rent is a tremendous thing to consider—according to CNBC, rents are rising at the fastest pace in two years. There are also no tax benefits, and there is no ability to establish equity. Various restrictions also apply when it comes to upgrades—most landlords won’t permit you to paint walls, install new appliances, or remodel. There is limited freedom on what you can change.
Deciding to purchase or rent a home is an enormous decision, and it’s not cut and dry either. There are various factors to think about when you’re questioning if you should continue renting or choose to make the big leap and acquire your own home. It’s critical to think about how long you want to stay in your home, how much money you have for unforeseen expenses, as well as if you’re carrying any debt. At the end of the day, it’s about you, your needs, and what works best for your lifestyle.