How to budget during inflation
Inflation is a term we hear quite a bit, but we may not fully understand what it means for us, or how it will affect our daily lives. But, as with any new idea you want to understand better, knowing is half the battle—and we have some info that can help you with the rest of the fight.
What is inflation?
Simply put, inflation just means paying more for the same goods and services. Your favorite brand of soda might go up a few cents, or going to the movies will likely take a few more bucks than you’re used to. If you’ve heard someone mention how cheap a carton of eggs used to be, you are familiar with inflation.
What causes inflation?
Inflation seems to be the result of a few different phenomena:
The “Demand-Pull effect” – the demand for a product or service is higher than the current economy was prepared to meet. Prices rise as more and more consumers seek out certain items (see: toilet paper in 2020), often resulting in prices above the market value.
The “Cost-Push effect” – this effect works in the opposite direction—it’s the cost of the production process or service that rises, which in turn is passed onto consumers. Keeping up with demand while low on supplies or with increased prices of supplies means the consumer pays more.
Built-in Inflation – when prices rise, those in the workforce need to increase their wages to keep up with the cost of living. It’s a cycle of inflation: prices rise, wages rise, and prices rise again.
Budgeting during inflation
One of the biggest ways to handle inflation is by updating your budget. While you know that your budget should be reviewed and updated as your life changes, you can’t forget to factor in external events like inflation. For example, if you currently depend on a medication that is going to cost more, you need to factor that into your budget. If your grocery bill will go up, you should also factor that into your budget. Here are some steps to make your budget go further:
Review your spending
Before you can make any adjustments, your first step should be to review your budget and look over your spending habits. Examine which parts of your budget have been the hardest to keep under control and if there are places you are overspending.
Find ways to save
Once you know how and where your money is being spent, it’s time to find ways to save. If grocery bills are hitting you the hardest, picking generic products, meal planning, and buying in bulk (when it makes sense) can help you reduce your costs. Save on transportation by combining your errands, carpooling when possible, or joining gas rewards programs.
Cut unnecessary expenses
When you reviewed your budget, you might’ve noticed services that you no longer use. Be sure to cancel any nonessential subscriptions or services. There may be other expenses you feel comfortable eliminating, either temporarily or forever, like cable television or a daily coffee habit.
How else can I reduce the impact of inflation?
Unfortunately, the effects of inflation are unavoidable and impact everyone—some more than others. Here are some other steps you can take if inflation affects you:
Take stock of your finances
If you’re worried about inflation and its effects, this is a great time to speak with a financial advisor who can help you determine the state of your finances and ways you can continue to budget and save. Getting an objective, professional opinion can go a long way in identifying potential danger areas and the places where you can grow your wallet.
Keep an eye on the job market
We’ve talked about how inflation means many earn higher wages, but it can also mean fewer jobs. If a company hopes to maintain its own budget while giving raises to some of its employees, there may be fewer jobs available. You don’t need to rush out and find a new job today— just keep your finger on the pulse of your own job while looking at options for others.
Know your home’s value
You may not be planning to move ever again, but it’s always a good idea to know the value of your home. This is a simple task—you can sign up for websites like Zillow that will give you an estimate of your home’s worth. Check out the value occasionally to keep in the back of your mind—you never know when that info could be useful, especially in the current housing market.
Check out your retirement plan
You or your partner are likely paying into a retirement plan already. While this is a great idea, you will want to take a look at the plan and see how inflation can affect your ability to save for the future.
If retirement is a long way off, you have a little more flexibility when it comes to making any changes. But, if you’re looking to get out of the workforce in the next few years, review your retirement account and make necessary changes to ensure your financial security. Consider discussing your options with a financial advisor so you can plan strategically.
- Inflation is when the prices of goods and services increase. Unfortunately, inflation affects everyone, though it may impact certain people harder.
- Review your budget to ensure you’re spending wisely. Cut unnecessary expenses and implement cost-saving tactics like meal planning to make your budget go further during inflation.
Inflation is a fact of life—but you don’t have to be afraid of it. Some of these changes may seem overwhelming, but you’ve already won half the battle with your new knowledge. Make a goal this week to sit down, review your budget, and determine your best next steps for keeping your financial security stable.
How to avoid fraud with P2P and A2A transfers
For many people, shopping and paying bills online is second nature. And now, thanks to mobile payment apps, you can easily pay your friend or tip your hairdresser with a tap of your phone. But with the rise of mobile payment apps has also come a rise in fraud and scams. Add in the craziness of the holidays, and it can be easy to get distracted and fall victim to scams.
Read on to learn more about P2P and A2A payments with mobile transfer apps and how you can best protect yourself from scams.
What are P2P & A2A transfers and how do they work?
Peer-to-peer (P2P) payments let you send money directly to another person. Commonly known through money transfer apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Zelle, P2P payments allow you to send and receive money through your mobile device. Typically, funds are transferred electronically from your checking account but some apps like Venmo accept a credit or debit card to transfer funds, sometimes for a fee. P2P payments are free to send through Georgia’s Own Bill Pay, online or with mobile banking, and the recipient can receive the funds faster by opting to pay a small fee.
Account-to-account (A2A) or external transfers can be used to electronically transfer funds to your accounts at other financial institutions or send money to friends and family if you know their account information (routing number, account number, etc.). A2A transfers can be set up online or through mobile banking and usually require you to validate access to the external account—sometimes that’s instant and other times that’s done through micro-deposit validation. Once the access has been granted, you can set up one-time or recurring transfers to those external accounts. Unlike P2P payments, A2A transfers can take a few business days to process, depending on the institution(s).
Both forms of payment are best used with people you know and trust. If you send or receive money via A2A, you need to share bank account information—which can potentially put you at risk for fraud. On the other hand, P2P payments are essentially like cash. Once the money is gone, it is gone. And while all systems encrypt personal data and financial information, they can still be susceptible to hackers or scammers.
Most common scams: what to look out for
Unfortunately, scammers are creative and constantly developing new ways to steal your money. Knowing some of the more common types of scams can help you keep you and your money safe.
With P2P payment apps on the rise, scammers have started “accidentally” paying people and then asking for a refund. Never send the money back, and instead contact the P2P service about the error. These payments are typically made with stolen funds or hacked accounts that will eventually be flagged as fraud. If you return money to the scammer, the P2P service may take funds out of your account or hold you responsible.
Another common A2A scam tactic is the impersonation of your financial institution. You may get a call alerting you to “suspicious activity” on your account. You may be asked to send money or verify information like your bank account username and password, credit card or debit card information, or Social Security numbers. Never share this information—scammers can use this to create an account in your name, steal your identity, and access your accounts.
Similarly, scammers may pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use the name of a real government agency, like the IRS or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Other scams involve pretending to be from a business you know, like a utility company or a charity asking for donations. Do not share any give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. Honest organizations do not request personal information via call, email, text, or A2A payments.
Lastly, there has been an increase in scammers posing as a legitimate business. They may request a P2P payment to reserve a product or service and then vanish after receiving payment. P2P payments should be treated like cash—never make any payments until you have received the product. If you must pay in advance, use your credit card for extra protection.
Best practices for avoiding fraud
The most important tip for avoiding fraud with P2P payments and apps is to only send money to people you know and trust. In the case of real-time P2P payments, these transactions are the equivalent of handing over cash—once the money has left your account, it is gone. If you have two-factor authorization set up to receive a one-time passcode, do not share it. Your financial institution should never ask you for this information.
When setting up A2A payments, rely on processors that are sponsored or associated with your bank, like Georgia’s Own Bill Pay. This will allow you to track your payments and ensure the security of your account. Additionally, you should only set up A2A transfers with people you fully trust.
Always keep an eye on your account transactions, and watch for notifications from your financial institution. If you see notifications about a transaction that you didn’t make, contact your institution immediately. The faster you respond, the better chance of stopping the fraud from occurring. You also should not ignore messages about information changes. If you see something has changed and you didn’t make that change, contact your institution immediately.
Can I get my money back?
If you find unauthorized payments or think you’ve paid a scammer, there are several steps you’ll want to take. If you’ve used a mobile payment app, you will want to contact the app directly. You also need to report it to the FTC and potentially file a police report. When you report a scam, you help the FTC and other law enforcement agencies stop scams.
Lastly, one of the most important things you should do is talk about it with your friends and family. Unfortunately, we are all susceptible to fraud, and talking about it may help others to see the signs before it is too late.
- Anyone and everyone can be susceptible to scams and fraud.
- Only pay people you know, and only set up A2A payments through your financial institution-sponsored payment options.
- Report any scams or fraud immediately to the correct organizations.
It is important to remember that fraud can happen to anyone, especially during this time of year as we may be distracted by friends and family. Keep your holidays happy and stay alert!
What is the safest way to pay: Writing a check vs. swiping a debit card
If you’ve signed up for a checking account in the last five years, chances are you were offered a checkbook and a debit card. For some people, writing checks is the best way for them to pay their bills—nearly $26 trillion in checks were written in 2018, according to the Federal Reserve’s most recent payments study. In some cases, a check is the only method of payment accepted. Yet many others rely almost entirely on their debit card for transactions.
In an age where hacking is increasingly common, we are always looking for ways to secure our information, especially as it relates to finances. So, when it comes to payment methods, what’s the safest way to pay?
Is paying with a debit card safe?
Overall, paying with a debit card is safe and there are measures in place to prevent fraud. When swiping your debit card to purchase things like groceries and gas, you are often required to enter your unique personal identification number or PIN. Additionally, financial institutions are constantly watching for signs of potentially fraudulent transactions. Some even offer mobile alerts as soon as they notice suspicious charges or unusual activity on your account. If your debit card is backed by Visa® or MasterCard, you’re also protected by a Zero Liability policy.
Of course, there are risks of using your debit card. Scammers can steal your information through public wireless internet access as well as through “skimming” devices attached to machines.
Even with potential risks, debit cards can be extremely useful. When picking up your weekly groceries, it is much easier and more efficient to swipe your debit card than to write a check. And, because of their direct connection to your checking account, you are effectively making your purchases in cash but with a record of your purchase on your monthly statement. Debit cards are also great for those who are looking to avoid debt.
How to keep debit card transactions safe
Debit cards are linked directly with your checking account and if stolen or hacked, a thief can gain access to all of the funds in your account. Whether you’re making payments online or in person, there are several ways to combat fraud.
You should always check your bank statements often and review transactions. If you notice anything amiss, report any unauthorized transactions immediately to your financial institution. You may also consider filing a police report, which can provide extra support against fraudulent charges.
Your PIN is your primary method of accessing your debit card, so be sure to keep this to yourself. Do not use this number for other things, like your phone passcode, and don’t write it down anywhere. If you need cash, be sure to use ATMs at financial institutions instead of public spaces, like convenience stores. These machines are less likely to be tampered with or have “skimming” devices attached.
When shopping online, check your browser for a security symbol, such as an unbroken key or a padlock, on each website to ensure encryption. Lastly, when accessing sensitive information like bank accounts and making online purchases, it is important to use a password-protected wireless signal. This reduces the risk of hackers stealing your password and account information.
Is paying with a check safe?
Generally speaking, paying with checks is still fairly safe thanks to security measures like watermarking and specialized gradient backgrounds. But, a check is still a piece of paper with all of your personal and financial information openly displayed. In cases like mail theft or a home invasion, there is nothing stopping someone from accessing your money—or worse.
Your risk is amplified if you don’t specify a recipient on the check—writing a check to “cash” is able to be cashed by essentially anyone. Moreover, older generations are more likely to still write paper checks. As they are often the targets of financial fraud, check writing can compound their risk.
That said, there are definitely times when a check is preferable. If you’re making an important payment, like a down payment on a house or school tuition, a paper check might be a good option, as they offer a paper trail for your record-keeping. Additionally, you can see copies of checks you’ve written on your monthly statement while some institutions allow you to track the journey of your check via your bank. You may also prefer a check when you want to send a gift, like for a wedding or graduation.
How to prevent check fraud
There are many ways to reduce your risk of fraud and safeguard your information. Always fill out the payee line and full, current date on every check you write using ink. Be sure to keep your checks in a safe place—not in your purse or wallet, which could be lost or stolen.
When ordering your checks, limit the amount of information pre-printed on your check. You should only include your name and address. Any additional information required by a merchant, such as driver’s license number or date of birth, can be written onto the check with ink. And of course, you should monitor your bank account activity regularly.
One last way to reduce the chance of check fraud is reducing your use of checks. Enrolling in your credit union or bank’s online payment service, like Georgia’s Own Bill Pay, can help you manage your expenses easily and without the clutter of paper bills.
Wildcard opponent: mobile payments & digital wallets
Nowadays, it’s almost as easy to pay using your phone instead of a check or a debit card. Many smartphones now offer digital wallets like Google Pay™ or Apple Pay® that can be used on phones and smartwatches. But can you trust your phone with your financial information? The answer is yes! There are multiple layers of security protecting digital wallet transactions, including the app, the retail outlet, the credit card company, and the bank or credit union that issued the card. Digital wallets use tokenization to encode information, making it unidentifiable.
Of course, you should always take precautions with your personal information, even on your phone. Using a separate lock code for your phone and digital wallet app is one way to keep your information safe. And just like entering your PIN code for your debit card, be sure to watch for prying eyes when unlocking your devices.
- Both checks and debit cards are safe to use thanks to different methods of fraud protection.
- Checks may be better for larger purchases that require a paper trail or for gifts.
- Debit cards are better for everyday purchases, like groceries and gas.
Unfortunately, no payment method is 100% fraud-proof.
There are always going to be times when one payment method is preferable to another, and sometimes paying with a check is inevitable. That doesn’t mean you’re automatically at risk of fraud. Stay ahead of hackers or fraudulent charges by being cautious about how and where you share your information and monitoring your transactions through your monthly statements or online banking platform.
What is a Money Market account and is it right for you?
As we head into the end of the year, many people are looking for ways to build up their savings. Whether it’s for holiday vacations or a down payment on a house or car, one way to achieve savings goals is through investments like a Money Market account.
Investing can be intimidating though, and with so many options, it may be hard to know what is best for you. Moreover, the complexities of the financial markets can make investing seem scary enough to leave you pilfering your piggy bank instead.
Don’t smash that piggy just yet, though. If you’ve been looking for new ways to save for short-term goals, you may want to consider a Money Market account. But what exactly are they and are they right for your goals? Let’s dive in.
What is a Money Market account?
A Money Market account (MMA) is a savings account that often includes check-writing and debit card privileges. This may be helpful in an emergency, as you may access funds more easily than with traditional savings accounts. Additionally, most MMAs pay a higher interest rate than regular savings accounts, earning you more money the longer it collects interest.
A minimum initial deposit is required to open an MMA and balances must be maintained over a certain threshold while they are active. A service charge is incurred if the balance falls below that minimum amount. You earn dividends by maintaining your daily balance, and dividends are compounded monthly. If needed, you can withdraw from this account up to six times in a month.
In terms of risk, MMAs are a secure way to save money, with deposits insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Company (FDIC) at banks and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) at credit unions. That means your money is protected even if the issuing institution collapses.
When should I open a Money Market account?
MMAs are best for people who are looking to earn more interest than they would with a savings account, particularly with short-term savings goals in mind. For example, if you’re looking to save money for a specific purchase, like a vacation or a down payment, an MMA may be a good option. MMAs are not intended for long-term financial planning.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a Money Market account?
Now that you understand what an MMA is and how it works, let’s cover the pros and cons of MMAs. One of the biggest advantages of MMAs are the higher interest rates, which allows your money to work harder. Additionally, you can access your funds more easily than with a traditional savings account when needed, either through check-writing privileges or a debit card. Lastly, MMAs are a safe place for you to store cash while working towards a short-term savings goal because they have federal insurance protection.
Some downsides of MMAs include limited transactions, fees, withdrawal restrictions, and minimum balance requirements. Some institutions require a high minimum balance to open an MMA and may impose fees if that balance is not maintained.
What are the alternatives to a Money Market account?
If a Money Market account doesn’t seem like your perfect match, there are other options. Alternatives to an MMA include a savings account or certificate of deposit (CD). Like an MMA, a savings account or CD allows you to save towards a goal. CDs, however, require only one deposit that stays in the account until its maturity date. Because you give up access to your funds, they generally offer a higher rate of return versus traditional savings accounts or MMAs.
Is a Money Market account the same as a money market fund?
It is important to note that a Money Market account is not the same thing as a money market fund. Money market funds are investments that could lose value if the market falls, while an MMA is independent of the market. Moreover, unlike MMAs, money market funds are not federally insured by the FDIC or NCUA.
If you’re considering an investment, speak with your financial advisor to determine which options will meet your individual needs—in the short and long term. You can schedule a meeting at no cost and no obligation with a financial advisor at Georgia’s Own to discuss your investment plans.
- MMAs are high-interest accounts that give account holders the benefits and features of both savings and checking accounts, including check-writing and debit card privileges.
- MMAs are best for achieving short-term financial goals as opposed to long-term financial planning.
- Alternatives to MMAs include certificates of deposit (CDs) or savings accounts.
8 ways to save money during the holidays
The holiday season is a time for giving—but it’s also a time for spending. Due to the effects of inflation, the cost of everything has skyrocketed. Higher rates across the board don’t help, either. Despite the obstacles being hurled our way, it’s possible to still make the holiday season merry and bright while saving some cash, too. Here are eight ways you can save money during the holidays.
1. Stick to a budget
Before you begin shopping, create a budget. If you’re one of the savvy shoppers who opened a Holiday Savings account or a short-term certificate of deposit (CD), now’s the time to put those funds to use—but don’t go overboard. Plan how much you’ll spend on gifts, entertaining, travel, and other small expenses, like holiday cards and stamps. You should also add room for extra spending in case you want to treat yourself—or if you unexpectedly receive a gift from a co-worker and need to return the favor.
2. Create a holiday shopping list
It may be the season of giving, but that doesn’t mean you need to give to everyone. Create a holiday shopping list after establishing your budget, and stick to it. Shopping for only those who need gifts is a huge way to save money during the holidays. List the people you need to shop for and how much you plan to spend on their gift. If you’re over budget, the easiest way to trim your budget is by trimming the number of people.
3. Cut spending elsewhere
If you need wiggle room in your budget, cut spending elsewhere, like dining out or streaming services. Let’s face it—you don’t regularly use every streaming platform you subscribe to. Save an extra $10-$20 a month by pausing a couple of streaming services through the holidays, and resume your subscription in January. Or, if you find yourself dining out more often than necessary, save by shopping at the grocery store and planning meals at home.
4. Spend responsibly
When used responsibly, shopping with a credit card can be beneficial during the holidays. If you find a credit card with a great introductory bonus, you may meet the requirements just by checking off your holiday shopping list (depending on your budget, of course). If you’ve already racked up rewards points, you can cash in those points for gifts, airline tickets, or hotels. If you don’t trust yourself to stick within your budget while using a credit card, you can opt for cash. Whatever your budget is, withdraw that from your checking account and use that cash to shop—once it’s gone, it’s gone.
5. Shop strategically
When you shop is just as important as where you shop. Also, think about what you need to purchase. If you’re looking to score deals on TVs and other electronics, pre-Black Friday and Black Friday deals are your best bet. Cyber Monday is great for shopping for clothes and travel deals, and it’s often a repeat of Black Friday offers. As Christmas approaches, many retailers also discount toys and games to avoid getting stuck with them after the holidays. Super Saturday is the Saturday before Christmas and is filled with last-minute deals for those who haven’t finished their holiday shopping yet. These deals can be huge ways to save money during the holidays.
6. Consider non-monetary gifts
Experiences and favors for family and friends can sometimes be more meaningful than material gifts. If your budget is lower this year, opt for non-monetary gifts. Volunteer to watch your sister’s kids so she can have a night out. Or, help an elderly relative with housework and running errands. Even handmade gifts, like scrapbooks or a framed photo of a special memory, can be more meaningful than something expensive.
7. Give the gift of your time
Volunteering can be the greatest gift of all. If you and your family or friends have everything you need, why not volunteer during the holidays instead of exchanging gifts? Help out a local soup kitchen, host a coat drive, volunteer at a nursing home, or help wherever else you’re needed. Just a few hours of volunteering your time can brighten the holidays for dozens of people. If you’re stuck on ideas, volunteermatch.org posts various volunteer opportunities, and you can filter by category to find something that piques your interest.
8. Celebrate after the holidays
Traveling during the holidays can add up quickly between flights, transportation, and hotels. It can also be stressful and overwhelming due to the sheer volume of people. If you’re visiting family or want to travel during the holidays, celebrate after to help save big on travel costs. You’ll even save on gifts if you wait for post-holiday sales to shop. If you can’t wait until after the holidays to celebrate, try to book in advance and avoid high fares.
5 money conversations to have in a relationship
Money is an important topic that couples tend to avoid discussing—and it’s also the number one issue most couples fight over. While you don’t need to lay out your five-year financial plan to every person you meet on the street, it’s a crucial step in a relationship. Having appropriate discussions about money, your budget, or your spending habits are a few ways you can ensure you and your spouse or partner are on the same page financially. Below are five money conversations you need to have at some point in your relationship:
1. How you’ll tackle debt
According to a study by Ramsey Solutions, nearly two-thirds of marriages start off in debt, and 86% of couples married for five years or less start marriage in the red. That’s already a rocky start considering nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce. Discussing debt with your significant other or spouse should be one of your first major money conversations. That includes talking about credit cards, student loan debt, or even taking out a mortgage.
Couples need to be on the same page when they take on debt. Some questions to start the conversation can include:
- Do you use a credit card for emergencies? Or, do you put all your purchases on your card to rack up points?
- Do you carry a balance on your credit card? Or, do you pay your statement in full each month?
- Do you have any student loan debt? If so, how much, and how do you plan to pay it off?
- Should depreciating assets (like cars) be financed, leased, or paid with cash?
2. Creating (and maintaining) a budget
Having a budget is one of the most basic finance necessities—but few people actually create (and stick with) one. Budgeting isn’t a fun task, but it’s necessary to understand your financial situation. Even if one of you makes more money, you should jointly decide how your funds are allocated.
The first thing you’ll need to figure out is what bills need to be paid each month (and how you’ll pay them) and whether you’ll open a checking account for expenses or keep individual accounts. Another thing you’ll want to address is what purchases need to be discussed in advance.
There’s also no right or wrong way to allocate your money. For example, if you both have a passion for traveling, you can make that one of your priorities for saving—and maybe allocate less spending money toward clothes. Or, if you both are foodies, you can have a generous dining-out budget and spend less elsewhere.
3. How you’ll work out wage differences
You and your partner probably won’t make the same amount of money, and that’s okay. But, it’s necessary to know where any gaps will be filled based on who makes what. Regardless, you both should feel like you have equal control over finances.
It’s also vital to discuss how finances were modeled to you while growing up and how that impacted you: who made the most money, and who controlled the finances? How did that make you feel? You should also consider each other’s feelings: how can you ensure that both of your financial contributions feel valued, regardless of earning power?
4. Your attitudes on saving versus spending
One person in a relationship is the saver, and the other is the spender. Another money conversation you need to have is examining your attitudes on saving versus spending to avoid any surprises down the road. If you feel like it’s impossible to start saving, you still need to set money aside—even if it’s a small amount.
Consider establishing an emergency fund to have the recommended three to six months’ worth of expenses in case one of you experiences job loss or an illness. You’ll also need to determine how much of your income you should set aside. If you don’t have an account to set aside your emergency savings, consider opening a joint savings account.
5. How you’ll meet financial goals
As individuals, you may have your own goals you want to achieve, both personally and financially. However, it’s just as necessary to have goals you’re working towards as a couple. You may want to save for a down payment on a house or a wedding. Or, you may want to start a family or launch your own business. Whatever your goal is, discuss it and determine what it will take to achieve it. If you’re not aligned with each other, it may hinder your ability to meet those goals.
Another life event to save for is retirement. One of you may have an employer-sponsored 401K, and the other may not have started saving for retirement at all. A financial advisor could help determine your needs and develop a course of action. At Georgia’s Own, you can meet with a financial advisor at no cost and no obligation to discuss your retirement plans.
Whether you’re newlyweds or have been married for some time, it’s never too early (or too late) to begin financial planning. The more you both communicate with each other, the better off you’ll be—and avoid any financial stress. If you can tackle this, then you can handle anything that life throws your way.