Online Holiday Shopping Tips

If the weather outside is frightful (or if you’re just looking to save some time), online shopping is the way to go for your holiday purchases. The advOnline shopping safetyantages to the online marketplace are many: no lines, no crowds and no multi-store trips to find that one specific toy. As you zoom from Amazon to Etsy and back again, here are some tips to make your holiday shopping as productive and safe as possible:

  • Protect your data

The holiday shopping season always comes with a host of horror stories about identity theft, so when you log on, make sure you take the proper steps to keep your information safe. Shop only through sites you trust and always check that the site is secure. Secure sites typically have URLs that being with “https” instead of “http” on any page where you’re entering card information. Additionally, you should always see a lock icon somewhere in your browser window when you’re on a secure page.

  • Choose credit

When it comes to checkout time, it’s better to use a credit card rather than a debit card for online purchases. Credit cards tend to have a higher level of fraud protection than debit cards, and you are not liable for debt incurred after a credit card is reported lost or stolen. On the other hand, if your debit card information is compromised, your entire bank account balance could be at risk.

  • Keep track of those receipts

Have a designated place (either a physical folder or folder in your email inbox) to keep track of your receipts, payment confirmations and tracking numbers for your purchases. Always be sure to read the fine print with respect to returns; different vendors’ policies will differ where returns and exchanges are concerned.

  • Buy items together to save on shipping

The one obvious downside to online shopping is the cost of shipping. Depending on the site and the shipping option you choose, a reasonably priced item could easily become one that causes you to hesitate at the checkout page. Sites like Amazon offer you the option to bundle items together and ship them in the fewest boxes possible to save you money, and may also offer free shipping when you spend a certain dollar amount. Plan out your shopping in advance to maximize your transactions on each site—it will help you take advantage of these benefits and keep your shipping costs low.

  • Check the dates

Speaking of shipping, pay close attention to the estimated shipping times on your purchases and make sure to leave enough time for things to arrive. Most sites will provide you with a tracking number for your package once it’s shipped.

Remember: Identity theft increases around the holidays, so take extra care when shopping online. Here are some additional safe shopping tips from Webroot.com.

Don’t Let the Grinch Steal Your Identity—Seven Tips for Safe Holiday Shopping

While you may be dreaming of a white Christmas, an iIdentityTheftdentity thief may be dreaming of stealing your identity. With higher traffic both in stores and online on retail websites around the holidays, identity theft is known to increase during this time of year. As you prepare to start your holiday shopping, here are a few tips to keep your identity safe:

-When you shop, carry only the cards you plan to use. Keeping some of your cards separate could help minimize the damage if your wallet is stolen.

-Know where your cards are at all times. Shopping in stores around the holidays can be stressful, and it can be easy to lose track of your card when you’re rushing. Make sure your card makes it safely back into your wallet after each transaction, and keep your wallet close.

-Check for evidence of tampering before you use an ATM to obtain cash. Glue and overlays on the card reader are common indicators of tampering. Trust your instincts; if you suspect a machine has been tampered with, consider withdrawing cash somewhere else. Also, remember to protect your PIN from anyone who may try to read it over your shoulder when you’re using an ATM machine or POS terminal.

-Monitor your account activity through online banking and check your monthly statements closely. Your shopping patterns are likely to change around the holidays, which means it’s important to check your statements even more closely than usual to ensure that there are no fraudulent charges. Hold on to your receipts to help you verify your transactions, and contact your financial institution or card provider immediately if you see a charge that you did not make.

-Make sure you’re securely shopping online. If you’re shopping online, make sure your computer has the most up-to-date antivirus software, and that you’re only giving out credit card information on authenticated sites. You can tell whether a site is secure by looking for the prefix “https” before the web address, or a green bar around your search bar when you go to checkout.

-Keep yourself up to date on any large-scale data breaches that occur. Large retail data breaches are becoming more and more commonplace, and it’s impossible to know when the next one will be, or which store will be affected. If a data breach occurs at a store you frequent, be proactive: call or check the store’s website for specific information, and if the situation warrants it, cancel your card and request a new one from your financial institution. Some retailers may offer free credit monitoring services for a limited time after a large-scale breach, but it’s also a good idea to consider making those kinds of services a permanent part of your defense against identity theft.

-Hold off on that social media post. While cyber-crime is a growing threat, you should also protect yourself from the threat of burglary. Refrain from sharing your holiday travel plans with your entire social network; letting the world know you’ll be on vacation for a week could give a prospective burglar a golden opportunity to break into your home.

For more tips on staying safe during your holiday shopping, check out this article from the Washington Post.

 

Summer Savings Tip: Turn off the lights!

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average household dedicates about 5% of its energy budget to lighting.Summer Savings Tip: Turn the lights off

It’s an easy budget to start trimming, and here are tips to get you started:

Make the switch
Switching to energy-efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to cut your energy bills, and you have lots of choices, including halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Energy-efficient bulbs may cost more than ones you’re used to, but you’ll save over their lifetime.

Visit Energy Star to find the right light bulbs for your fixtures.

Off vs On
Think twice about that old electricity myth that says it uses more electricity to turn a light back on than it does to keep it on. Today’s basic wisdom suggests that, depending on the type of light, you’re apt to save by turning it off, no matter how short the duration before you’ll be turning it on again.

Time out
Use timers and motion sensors to automatically control the amount of electricity you use. Dimmers also provide savings.

Natural light
Take advantage of daylight by keeping your curtains, blinds or shades open, or using curtains that allow daylight in. When you’re decorating, remember that lighter colors reflect daylight and enhance available natural light in a room.

Crunch the numbers
Curious how much you might save — in terms of dollars or energy — by turning off the lights when you leave the house? It could add up. Check out this breakdown at The Simple Dollar.

Find more tips!
Looking to save even more? Visit websites for your local utilities, including the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO), for more energy saving tips on everything from appliances to heating and cooling.

Is your family good about turning off the lights?

Young Adult Blog Series: The Importance of Budgeting

So you’re all grown up and earning a steady paycheck—hooray!   Now it’s time to consider how you’re spending it.

If you’re trying to lead a better, smarter financial lifestyle, it’s important to understand how you’re using the money that you have. Having a budget for yourself is a simple way to help better manage your income. Tracking your income and expenses each month can shed light on bad spending habits and make you more accountable for where your money goes each month.

You can start a budget using old fashioned pen and paper, or if you’re more technologically inclined, Excel or Microsoft Money can be a good way to go. For smart phone users, there are many apps available like BUDGT or Mint that can help you keep track of your income and expenses from your smart phone.

As you start creating your budget, think about how much control you have over your expenses. Things like rent, taxes and insurance are probably pretty well set. Other expenses, like food, entertainment and gifts are more controllable. Just by thinking about these items, you may be able to find ways to spend less and save more. If nothing else, you can make judgments about which expenses are most important to you.

Generally speaking, a personal budget will enable you to understand where your money comes from and where it goes. With that understanding, you will be in a better position to make informed financial decisions, to monitor your spending and to potentially identify ways to spend less on some items so you have more to spend on more important things or to save.

Creating and maintaining a budget takes commitment, and sticking to your budget takes self-discipline. But remember that there are many different apps and programs available to help with budgeting so that wherever you go, you can take your good financial sense with you!

Ready to get started? Check out this article from Investopedia for more tips on getting started!

How to set (and stick to) a budget

How much do you spend? How much do you earn? If one equals the other, you’re in trouble. And, if you spend more than you earn, you’re in really big trouble.

The solution? Set a budget, and stick to it!

The goal? Live within your means, avoid falling off a cliff and into debt, and start saving https://www.cbtc.com/personal/savingsTypes.aspx?id=14 – for emergencies, special occasions, and for your future.

Easier said than done? No. All it takes is a little time, a little patience, and a little commitment. And, taking that first step.

Getting started
Check these 8 easy tips for creating a personal budget http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2013/10/18/8-steps-to-creating-a-personal-budget. Pay particular attention to Step #8: “Don’t set yourself up for failure. Making sacrifices is part of managing expenses, but if you set restrictions too high and too soon, you will be less likely to follow your budget over the long term.”

The first step to successful budgeting is knowing, and tracking, where your money goes. You can do it with pencil and paper, or consider one of the personal finance software programs http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneywisewomen/2012/01/03/budgeting-software-options/ such as Quicken or Mint.

Setting priorities
The second step is to set priorities. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/lesson2/index4.htm Try to cut back your spending to about 90% of your income.

Stretching that dollar
If you think it’s impossible to save anything, or to save more than you’re saving now, you might be surprised that it is possible and, maybe, painless. Here are 10 tips for saving on a tight budget. http://americasaves.org/for-savers/make-a-plan-how-to-save-money/saving-on-a-tight-budget

And, if you simply can’t image how to spend less than you’re spending now, start thinking about new ways to reduce your monthly bills. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/lesson2/index5.htm

Sticking to it
Don’t get discouraged. If Plan A doesn’t work, come up with a Plan B to focus on your finances http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/budget/stick-to-a-budget .
Budgeting will be easier once you find the path that works the best for you.

Load & Go with Reloadable Cards!

Have you heard the news? There’s a nChoosing a credit cardew way to pay! We’re rolling out a new option for you to add to your financial arsenal: the Community Bank of the Chesapeake Reloadable Card.

An alternative to a credit or debit card, reloadable cards have risen in popularity in recent years—1 in 6 people in “Generation Y” use them. And for the nearly 70 million Americans that don’t use checking accounts, a reloadable card is a secure, easy way to manage funds including weekly paychecks, which can be directly deposited into the reloadable card account.

Already have a checking account? That’s okay—the card is for you, too! Reloadable cards can be used as a supplement to a Checkcard and can be a big help when it comes to budgeting. Use the card to set aside money for your holiday shopping, for miscellaneous expenses during the month or for a special event like a wedding or big trip.

The reloadable card works as a “checkless checking account”. You can direct deposit paychecks, shop and pay bills online, get cash at ATMs and use the card virtually anywhere. It’s an alternative to carrying cash and you’ll never have to worry about overdraft fees. It’s also a safer option than cash or a Checkcard; reloadable cards are PIN protected and are not linked directly to your checking account, so in the event that the card is lost or stolen, your other finances will stay safe.

In addition to peace of mind, the card offers text message alerts that allow you to manage your money on the go, and online access so you can instantly load funds whenever you need them.

Want to learn more? Stop into any of our convenient branch locations for more information or to purchase your reloadable card today!

It’s Tax Day!

young coupleTax day is upon us! If you’ve filed your taxes already, congratulations!

If you haven’t, don’t panic—there is still time today to file your tax returns. Forbes Magazine shared these 11 tips for the 11th hour filers out there. Check with your tax professional if you have any last-minute questions, and double check all forms carefully before you submit them. Remember that all tax forms must be mailed or e-filed by midnight tonight, April 15, 2014. Continue reading

Charitable Giving Tips

Charitable GivingWhat’s your favorite cause? In 2012, CNN reported that Americans gave an estimated $316.2 billion to charity. Along with enabling your favorite organizations to continue their good works, charitable giving can also be a smart tax strategy. Donations to qualified organizations can usually be claimed as deductions on your taxes, and you’ll get the added emotional satisfaction that comes from knowing you’ve done a good deed. Continue reading

IRA contributions, there’s still time!

Tax filing IRA ContributionsSpring has finally sprung. Well, at least by the calendar. And that means, an important deadline is fast approaching – Tuesday, April 15, 2014. That’s tax day, or for those looking to save for their retirement, the deadline for making your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) contribution for the 2013 tax year. Whether you have an existing traditional IRA or Roth IRA or haven’t yet opened one, you won’t want to miss this important opportunity to save for the future. Of course, you can contribute to your 2013 IRA even sooner if you file your taxes before April 15. Continue reading