High Point Winter Newsletter
Q: Holiday shopping season is here, but I can’t pay for it all! What’s the best way to fund my holiday shopping?
A: When it comes to covering the cost of your holiday shopping, you have several choices. Let’s take a look at some options and explore the pros and cons of each so you can make an informed decision.
For many shoppers, the most obvious way to pay for a purchase you can’t cover now is with a credit card.
- Significant purchase protection.
- Convenient payment method.
- Interest charges for unpaid bills can be very high.
- You may be paying off these bills for months or years.
- Extended debt can hurt your credit score.
- You may be more tempted to (or unknowingly) overspend.
Dipping into savings to pay for your holiday purchases can free you from sky-high interest charges but comes with drawbacks.
- You’ll enjoy a debt-free holiday season.
- No incurred interest charges.
- Depleting the savings that’s meant for emergencies can leave you up a creek later.
- You’re losing the money your savings may have earned had it been invested or saved longer.
An unsecured loan, also known as a personal loan or holiday loan, is a loan that’s taken out with no collateral.
- You’ll secure quick funding.
- Low interest rates compared to credit cards.
- You can stretch the repayment over a longer term for smaller monthly payments.
- You’ll need to pay the full monthly payment when it’s due.
- You may be hit with a fee if you pay off the loan early.
- Missed and late payments can hurt your credit score.
Check out our Holiday Loan Special!
Holiday club account
When you open a holiday club account , you’ll make regular contributions toward your set goal throughout the year, and then have funds you’ll need for covering your holiday purchases when the season arrives.
- Holiday costs get more manageable when spread across the year.
- Favorable dividend rates.
- Prevents overspending and accumulating new debt.
- Funds in the account cannot be accessed until the goal (or preset date) is reached. Tying up savings can be irresponsible for those who do not have an emergency fund.
Use this guide to make an informed choice about paying for your holiday shopping.
Knock, knock! It’s your energy company, here with the bad news that your bill is overdue, so we’re shutting off your electricity unless you pay up right now.
Sounds like a nightmare, right? Well, it’s going to get worse: this is a scam. Pay the visitor at your door, and you’ve just paid a scammer.
It’s happening a lot more lately. So, here’s what you need to know about these scams and how to keep the lights on without falling victim.
How the scam plays out
In a utility scam, a target receives a phone call, email, text message or even an in-person visit from an alleged representative of their gas, water or electric company. This “rep” will claim to be collecting a past due account that’s pending shutoff unless payment is made immediately. They’ll often ask for the payment to be made via wire or through a prepaid gift card. Unfortunately, any money paid will go directly to the scammer, and not to the utility entity they claim to represent.
What to do if you’re targeted
Do not engage with the caller or visitor. If the alleged rep sent you an email or text message, mark it as spam, block the address and do not respond. You can also call the company the scammer claimed to represent to confirm that your account is not pending shut off.
Watch out for these red flags which can help you avoid a utility scam:
- A demand for immediate payment with no prior warning. Authentic company reps will always give you ample warning, in writing, before enacting a shutoff.
- Pressured to act quickly. Scammers want you to act now and think later.
- The “representative” cannot provide details about your account or a means to verify their identity.
- They request a specific form of payment. Prepaid card requests are almost always a huge red flag in any scenario.
To avoid utility and similar scams, follow these precautionary measures:
- Never wire money or send a prepaid gift card to an unverified contact.
- Keep the security on your devices at its strongest and updated settings.
- Update your spam list often.
- Never share your personally identifiable information with an unverified contact.
Utility scams pose a real threat to your financial security. Follow these tips to stay safe!
Hosting a Thanksgiving dinner is an enjoyable, rewarding experience, but it can also be a bit much for many of us. The expenses can be sky-high, the to-do list seems endless and the dinner itself can be a harried and breathless affair that puts a damper on any holiday cheer.
Here’s the good news: It doesn’t have to be this way. Consider these 10 hosting hacks to help you enjoy a calm and stress-free Thanksgiving that doesn’t break the budget.
- Start planning early
Instead of waiting for the overwhelm to hit a week before Thanksgiving, start planning now. Look through your favorite recipe blogs, food magazines and cookbooks to compile a list of dishes you want to serve. Reach out to friends and family who are joining you for Thanksgiving dinner and inquire about what, if any, dishes they plan to bring. At this time, you can also ask about any dietary restrictions any of your guests may have.
Next, make a detailed menu and start listing the ingredients you’ll need to purchase. You can also jot down any other purchases you’ll need to make, such as decor items and serving dishes. Aside from making your prep easier, planning your menu and purchases early will help you make more responsible money choices as you shop.
- Create a detailed schedule
Next, start scheduling the tasks you’ve just listed into your weekly and daily schedules. For example, a few weeks before Turkey Day, you can shop for drinks and any dry and frozen ingredients. You can do all the baking two weeks before the big day, prep your marinades, sauces and salad dressings a week before, the appetizer and sides a few days prior to Thanksgiving, and finally, the entrees on Thanksgiving Day. You may want to write everything down on a calendar so you can get a clear snapshot of what you need to do each day with just one glance.
Of course, if you prefer to marathon-cook for seven hours straight on the day before Thanksgiving, that can work, too. Just make sure you’ve taken care of all the other to-dos, such as shopping and planning the decor, well in advance.
- Consider a buffet
If you hate missing all the best parts of the conversation at the Thanksgiving table because you’re busy in the kitchen, you may want to consider a buffet-style meal. While it’s definitely a departure from the traditional sit-down dinner, a serve-yourself meal can be a great way to make things easier for you. You can also get away with offering fewer dishes when it’s all served at one time instead of a formal meal with staggered courses.
If no one’s offered to help you cook, don’t be afraid to assign small jobs to your guests so they can be part of the prep. It doesn’t have to be anything too time-consuming on their part, but for you, just knowing that Cousin Jen is bringing the mashed potatoes and your mom will bring her famous pecan pie for dessert means two menu items off your head.
- Set up a kids’ corner
If you’re hosting families with children, create a kid-friendly area with games, coloring books and activities to keep the little ones engaged. This way, parents can enjoy the meal without worrying about bored and restless kids. You can also offer kid-friendly menu options like fries and chicken nuggets to keep guests of all ages happy and well-fed.
- Use disposable dishes
Are you ready for a super-quick clean up when the party’s over? With today’s robust dinnerware options, you can have your convenience without compromising on your conscience. There are so many eco-friendly disposable options, from compostable cutlery to bamboo plates and so much more.
- Set up a self-serve drink station
Create a self-serve drink station with a variety of beverages to cater to different preferences. Include water, non-alcoholic options and a signature Thanksgiving cocktail to keep things festive. This encourages guests to help themselves, freeing you up to focus on other aspects of hosting.
- Keep the centerpiece simple
With so much going on at the table, there’s no need to overthink the centerpiece. A simple wooden board filled with seasonal gourds will add that festive touch to the table without breaking the budget. Add some pillar candles from a dollar store to complete the look.
- Cook two small turkeys
If you’re hosting a crowd, consider cooking two small birds instead of one large one. You’ll save on defrosting time, freezer space and the stress of choosing the perfect recipe. You may even save money on your entree by splitting it into two with this hack.
- If it’s stressing you out, let it go
The best part about being the host is that no one has to know what you’d planned to serve. So if you’re finding that one dish is stressing you out and will cost more than it’s worth at your table, just let it go. Leave it out, and no one will know the difference.
Despite what personal experience may tell you, Thanksgiving does not have to be stressful or expensive. Use these hacks for a stress-free Thanksgiving holiday.
In today’s digital world there’s an app for practically everything; the weather, mobile banking, socializing, games, entertainment… the list goes on. There are millions of downloadable apps for your phone and electronic devices. With all these convenient apps, there’s more ways for fraudsters to take advantage of innocent mobile app users. Unfortunately, mobile app fraud can come in numerous forms and is not always easy to identify. Here’s some things to look out for:
- Fake apps: These apps are made to look like the real apps that the user is intending to download. Also called Malware apps, these apps make it hard to know whether you are downloading a real one or not. Here’s how to spot a fake mobile app:
- Reviews/Downloads. If the app has few downloads and short/vague reviews, chances are it’s a scam. A reputable app will have lots of downloads and descriptive reviews.
- Research. Look into the app developer. See what other apps their company has created and if they’re reputable.
- Details. Make sure the images look professional, no misspellings, different fonts, or anything else that may seem off. A true app developer will also have a description and instructions/features of the app.
- Signs you may have downloaded a fake app; strange messages, battery drainage, random pop-ups, and spikes in data usage
- Vishing (Voice Phishing): Voice Phishing is when a scammer calls or leaves voice messages pretending to be from a reputable company or agency. They will attempt to illicit an action such as downloading a malicious application or request personal information such as a credit card number to defraud that person or company. Vishing makes the user believe they are talking to someone or a company they trust. Often Vishing will be done in conjunction with caller ID Spoofing. If you are being asked to download an application or for credit card information from an inbound call, it is best to verify the caller. Validate the phone number by performing a call back to that number. It’s also best to call the number on the back of your bank card if you’ve received a voicemail from a number you don’t know. Be cautious of anyone that wants sensitive information.
- Remote Access Scams: This last scam tends to use both fake apps and vishing/phishing to mislead the victims. Remote access scams are when scammers impersonate trusted workers such as tech support, banks, government agencies, etc. This is typically done by vishing or phishing; they call the victim or send them a text and/or email of an urgent issue that needs to be resolved right away. Fraudsters will then trick victims into giving them control of their device by downloading an app, remote desktop software, or built-in tools. Once these fraudsters have remote access, they can access sensitive information such as passwords and financial information. With all that information they can commit identify theft, hold your information hostage, and/or sell your information on the dark web. Here’s how to protect yourself:
- Only download apps from trusted sources, never click a link from an unknown sender
- Before downloading an app check its reviews and ratings
- Research all apps before downloading
- Regularly update your operating system and app versions
- Be cautious when answering unknown numbers, hang up right away if they’re asking about sensitive information
- Never give remote access to someone you don’t know