5 Tips to Tidy up your Finances

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After a long and particularly hard winter, spring is finally here. Spring is a time of cleansing and renewal. For most people, we think of cleaning our home, but, it’s also a wonderful time take an annual look at your finances. Below are 5 tips to help you clean your financial “home”

  1. Review your credit report:

The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. To see a summary of this act, go to http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0096-fair-credit-reporting-act.pdf To receive your free credit report go to: www.annualcreditreport.com

Check to make sure that it is mistake free. According to this act, the credit bureaus and the information providers (banks, credit unions, credit card companies, etc) are required to correct inaccurate or incomplete information. If you find any errors, contact the credit bureaus in writing, and inform them of any data that is inaccurate. For more information, check out the following sites:

 FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans

MYCREDITUNION.GOV

http://www.mycreditunion.gov/protect/Pages/credit-reports.aspx

Most Americans do not take advantage of this free service. Set aside some time each spring to make sure everything is correct and there are no problems on your credit reports.

  1. Organize current documents and shred old ones:

Keep only the documents that are absolutely necessary. The IRS has up to 7 years to perform an audit, so, keep all tax returns and all supporting documents for that long and shred anything older than 7 years. State income tax audits are different from state to state. For example, Virginia recommends keeping state returns for at least 3 years. Check with your state to see what they suggest.

If you have a shoe box full of receipts to save, remember, the IRS will accept scanned receipts and   https://www.shoeboxed.com/ will help you organize them. This website will accept your receipts in any form. You can use their smart phone app, e-mail,   even send them in a prepaid envelope via regular mail. They scan them and organize them for you. Plans begin at $9.95/month.

How long should you keep other documents? Check out the table below from http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Money/Personal-Finance/Managing-Household-Records.shtml.

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Do you have a lot of documents to shred and no way to shred them? Think about investing in a shredder for your home. The best shredders are crosscut shredders, meaning they shred in both directions, making small squares instead of strips. For around $50, you can buy a decent 12 page, cross cut shredder. If you prefer to have someone else do your shredding, many counties offer free annual “Shred events.” Go to your county website for more information.

  1. Review your budget:

Use this time to review your budget. Have you completely let your budget slide over the past year? This is a great time to look it over and pick up the financial reigns once again. You don’t need to invest in expensive budgeting software. There are some free options. Try www.mint.com from the makers of Quicken. Mint pulls all your financial accounts into one place. Set a budget, track your goals and do more with your money, for free!”

Also, try FinanceWorks, which is a free service accessible through your Constellation FCU account online. For more information and a quick demo, go to the following link: http://www.constellationfcu.org/home/convenience/financeworks

  1. Use Automatic Bill Pay and online statements:

Once you have your budget organized, “go green” and sign up to receive your monthly statements and bills via email. This will cut down on the paper clutter. Save monthly e-bills and e-statements in an encrypted file on your computer.

Also, arrange to have your bills paid via automatic payments. Many utility companies offer bill payments linked to your primary checking account at no extra cost. Another option is to use an online bill payer service. Constellation FCU offers a free bill payer service. For more information, sign onto your CFCU account online and click on the BILL PAY tab.

  1. Secure your online passwords and paper documents:

We all know we’re not supposed to use the same password for everything, but, who can remember every password for every website? It’s just not possible. If you keep track of your passwords, put them in a password protected or encrypted document on your computer, or store them in a safe place in your home.

Paper documents, such as social security cards, birth certificates, passports, and marriage certificates need to be kept safe, not just from a potential identity thief, but fire and destruction as well. These documents can be scanned, and a copy saved on your computer, however, many companies require original documents. To keep originals safe, think about investing in a lockable fire and water proof file safe. This would also be a great place to keep any passwords not stored on your computer. I found several companies who offered versions ranging from $25 to $85, depending on size.

These tips may take a bit of time and effort, but, in time, this will become a ritual and your financial life will all the better.

SOURCES:

www.mycreditunion.gov/pages/tips/springcleaning.aspx

www.washingtonpost.com/business//five-tips-to-spring-clean-your-finances/2014/04/24/192aece-ca57-11e3-95f7-7ecdde72d2ea_story.html

http://www.lhj.com/relationships/family/finance/money-moves-to-make-now/

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/spring-clean-your-finances-1.aspx

 www.usa.gov

  www.irs.gov

Moving?…Take us with you!

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Our credit union branches may no longer be right in your back yard, but, that doesn’t mean it has to be an inconvenience. With the many modern day products and services currently offered, you practically have a credit union branch in the palm of your hand or at the very least in your home office.

I have been a member of Constellation FCU for almost 20 years and of that time, approximately 10 years were spent living at least 1000 miles away from the nearest Constellation FCU branch. At one point we lived “across the pond”, in Europe. During those 10+ years, we always kept Constellation FCU as our main financial institution. We stayed with Constellation because, in our travels, we never found another financial institution that went out of its way to put the members first, as Constellation does. We love the low fees and good rates offered at this credit union.

So many times, when I’m closing an account I hear the standard phrase… “I hate to leave, but there just aren’t any branches close to me anymore.” Well, speaking from a vast amount of experience, you don’t need to be close to a branch anymore! HOW? I’m glad you asked. Here are my tips for “banking from a distance.”

  1. Have your net paycheck direct deposited here, or at least most of it. This way, you won’t need to worry about depositing pay checks, moving money, or writing checks from an outside bank, to cover loans or checks here. Although, we have services to help you with that now, but, I’m getting ahead of myself. More on that later.
  2. Get a Visa Checkcard. I don’t think we could have done it without a Checkcard. It is a valuable tool! In fact, I’m not sure what we did before we had one! This is a must if you are going to be banking from a distance. The Checkcard not only enables you to make purchases, but also withdraws. Deposits are also possible, if you can find an ATM that is in the Credit Union network, and also accepts deposits. Plus, Constellation FCU is the only place I’ve found that pays a 1% rebate for using their card!
  3. Make sure you are signed up and know how to use online banking. This was another valuable tool for us. When we were overseas, we always knew the credit union was quite literally “at our fingertips.” We always knew our balances and which checks cleared on what day. If we needed to transfer money, at 2 o’clock in the morning, we could!
  4. Don’t forget about Touch Tone 24. In the event that you are unable to connect to online banking, perhaps the internet is down, or you get locked out, Touch Tone 24 is an option. With our modern day conveniences, we often forget about this as an alternative. You can check balances, transfer money or even activate your credit card or Check card.
  5. Take advantage of the Credit Union Shared Branch network. Check scanning and smart phone technology weren’t around yet, so, when we did need to deposit checks, we either mailed it, or found a Shared Branch in which to deposit our check. For members who are leery of using mobile banking or scanning software, Shared Branches are the next best thing to going to a Constellation FCU branch. A Shared Branch is a credit union who offers services to members of any credit union in its network. There, you can access your own credit union account, do deposits, withdraws, cashier’s checks, and more. There are 1000’s nationwide. You could be as far away as Alaska or Hawaii, and still access your account.
  6. Know where the “NO FEE” ATM’s are located near you. No matter where we lived, we always found at least one credit union that did not charge a fee or was in our network. Constellation FCU belongs to a network of 1000’s of ATM’s across the country, including Alaska and Hawaii. So, chances are there is a fee-free ATM in a city near you.

Well, those are the very basic ways of “banking from a distance.” Things are even easier now, with the advances in technology. Here’s what I mean:

  • Mobile Banking: It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with this service. It is so easy and convenient. (and safe!) With mobile banking you have the credit union in your hands. Transfer money, check balances or transactions and even deposit checks. Just go to the app store on your smart phone. Search for “Constellation Federal Credit Union” and download our app. You will log on using your online banking user name and password. Give it a try!
  • Text Message Banking: Another favorite of mine, this service can be a life saver. The system texts you when large transactions clear your account, or when your balance falls below a certain amount. You can also send a text to the system and have money transferred from one account to another (IE: savings to checking) or check balances. This is a great alternative for people who have cell phones, but not smart phones.
  • My Deposit: Through this service, you can deposit checks at home using your scanner. Simply log into your account, select “Check Deposit” from the “additional services” drop down box and follow the directions.
  • Transporter: You need to deposit money into your credit union account to cover a check you wrote. What do you do? In the past you could do 1 of 2 things: write a check from another bank or credit union, then go to a branch to deposit the money or do a wire transfer. We now offer a modern day alternative, a money moving service called Transporter. Through your online account, you can transfer money between your Constellation FCU account and any other account that is in your name. Simply select the “transporter” link under the “move money” drop down box to sign up. There is a $2.50 fee for transfers out of your Constellation account.
  • Bill Payer: Are you retired and traveling a lot? Or maybe you just want to make life as stress free as possible. With our bill payer service, you can pay your bills from anywhere. Simply select the bill payer tab through your online account for more details or to sign up.

To find out more information about any of these products and services, contact any of our Member Service Representatives at memberservices@constellationfcu.org for more details, or go to our web page at www.constellationfcu.org.

As for me, as happy as I am to be near a Constellation FCU branch once again, for the convenience it offers, I know that where ever I am in the world, the credit union will be right there with me.

 

 

 

“But my bank doesn’t charge me any fees.”

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This is the most common response I hear from people, when I talk to them about becoming a member of our credit union.  After recently closing an account of my own at a major bank, and finding out that they charge $10 for a Cashier’s Check, I decided it was time to compare bank fees with credit union fees. I researched the fees of 10 banks and 10 credit unions. Let me tell you, it was a real wakeup call.

While it is true that most banks offer accounts free of monthly maintenance fees, there is usually a requirement, such as direct deposit.  There are more fees to worry about, however, than just the maintenance fee. Here is a list of some of the fees I found, (that are ALL FREE at Constellation FCU):

  • Teller withdraw fee
  • Account history fee
  • Check deposit fee
  • Check cashing fee
  • Excessive withdraws fee
  • Debit card replacement fee
  • Bad address fee
  • Paper statements fee
  • Dormant account fee
  • Inactivity fee
  • Telephone transfer fee (with a person)
  • Telephone inquiry fee

Well I could go on, but, you get the idea.  Many of the financial institutions I looked at did have ways to avoid some of these fees as well, but, there is a catch: open a specific account, requiring a high minimum balance, sometimes as high as $10,000 or more.

In the interest of saving space, I cut the list in half. The chart below compares our fees with 5 banks and 5 credit unions. While, most credit unions I looked at did charge fees for these services, they were usually less, on average, than the banks.  If you don’t have $10,000 just lying around, check out the results of my research:

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After doing this research, I began to feel a bit spoiled as a Constellation FCU member.  I was surprised by the number of fees imposed by banks and even other credit unions. As a longtime member of Constellation FCU, I took for granted the many free services offered here. I got used to the fact that you could just call and talk to someone and say “Hey, I can’t seem to get into my account today, could you please transfer some money for me?” While you can still do this other places, they will charge you for the privilege.

Don’t let your family and friends throw their money down the drain. The next time you hear someone complain about the fees at their bank, why not recommend us? We are open to all federal government employees, in the DC Metro area, and their immediate families.  Also keep in mind that not only is our checking FREE, but we pay you a 1% rebate to use our Visa CheckCard.

Resolution Resources

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“May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.” ~ Joey Adams

I love this quote, and quite agree. Every year, as the New Year rolls in, we promise ourselves to start fresh, make changes, and become better people. The problem is, we rarely follow through on these new resolutions. Statistics, from the University of Scranton, show that just 8% of us will be successful and 75% of us will only maintain our resolution through the end of the first week. I have identified the most popular New Year’s resolutions and places that can help you accomplish them economically, in some cases for little or no money. I’m hoping this will help encourage you to stick with it, if only until the second week! Of course, as you may have guessed, the most popular resolution, by far, involves our health, whether it’s getting fit, exercising, losing weight, or eating healthy. The diet and weight loss industry alone is a $20 billion per year industry with nearly 108 million Americans on a diet at any one time. I think you would agree that the first step to getting healthy is eating healthy. Here are some sites that can help you save money on healthy food and have printable coupons:

  • Many organic and natural food companies have printable coupons either on their site or in newsletters sent to your email.Check out a few of them below:

I want to highlight one site that offers advice on nutrition, exercise and a healthy lifestyle, including free exercise videos. It’s called Livefitrevolution.org. Here’s a description from their site: “We’re a non-profit, ready to help you reach your goals. No quick-fixes. No magic pills. No empty promises. Nothing to buy. No catch. We’re here to help you learn the basics of how to live a healthy life. For free. Because we care.” You can register with them at http://www.livefitrevolution.org .

Another popular resolution is to learn something new. While investigating this, I found an article called “12 Dozen Places to Educate Yourself online for Free”:

http://www.marcandangel.com/2010/11/15/12-dozen-places-to-self-educate-yourself-online/

This article discusses a feature offered by many colleges and universities called open courseware. As the title indicates, there are 12 lists of 1 dozen places on each list in which you can educate yourself online for free. Also on the lists are sites with access to free books or language courses, just in case taking a college course isn’t your thing.

Open courseware is a feature in which you can follow courses, watch lectures, and read course material for free on line. You do not get college credit, but, you get the benefit of taking college courses from some of the best universities in the country, including Yale, Berkley, Harvard, MIT and Notre Dame to name just a few. What better way to keep your resolution to learn something new?

One final resolution, that was on just about every top 10 list involved money, either saving more money or getting out of debt. What better place to help you with this than your very own credit union? So, what can we help you with? Do you need to consolidate your debt? We can offer you an unsecured signature loan, or a low rate home equity loan to consolidate everything into one place. How about saving money? Do you have a long term savings goal, such as a wedding or college or maybe you just want to set some aside for a rainy day? Check out our add-on share certificates. We have some of the best rates around and you can open one with as little as $100. Contact one of our Member Service Representatives for more details.

So, whatever you resolve to do this year, I hope you are successful. Perhaps these tips will help you with your resolutions and save you a little money. When you think about quitting your resolution, remember this quote from Mark Twain.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

From everyone here at Constellation Federal Credit Union, we wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Gifts That Give Back

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AHH, the holiday season! However you celebrate the season, whether it’s Hanukah, Kwanza, or Christmas, it’s supposed to be a happy and cheerful time. If you are anything like me, it has become a very busy and stressful time, filled with baking, sending cards or letters, and my least favorite: shopping for gifts.

For me, Christmas and the holiday season have become too commercialized. The spirit of the season is often lost in a rush to find just the right gift. I love gifts that come from the heart and have a lot of thought put into them. Wouldn’t it be great to find a place that had just the right gift, from the heart AND keeps the spirit of the holiday season by helping someone in need? Well, I have scoured the internet and found great websites that can help you do just that!

WORLD VISION: http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/xxwv2ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?section=11621
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization which helps children, families and communities worldwide work their way out of poverty and injustice. They are in nearly 100 countries.
Through World Vision, you can buy gifts for the person who truly has everything. For example, with $100, you can purchase a goat and 2 chickens for someone in need. A card can be sent to you or your honoree describing the gift you gave in their name, which can also be personalized. Other examples include: 5 ducks for $35, or $350 in medicine for $35, and much more.
The following organizations offer similar programs:
Covenant House: This is an organization dedicated to helping homeless youth. Through this program you can buy a homeless youth food, clothing, or a warm bed. Thanks to a generous donor, from now until December 31, 2013, your donation and gift will be matched.

https://www.covenanthouse.org/sem/homeless-kids-catalog/?origin=DHQEI1400EVGWN&mpch=ads

Oxfam America: https://www.oxfamamericaunwrapped.com/?gclid=CIqHwMvulrsCFaTm7Aod2wwAwQ
Unicef: http://inspiredgifts.unicefusa.org/?gclid=CJanzJWOl7sCFcFj7AodWSEAqg
Samaritan’s Purse: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/gift-catalog/give/?utm_source=Ggl&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=m_YS4G-14XB_GGLCATChristmas&gclid=CI_1jL2Ql7sCFTEV7Aod_V4AKg
Plan USA (Helps children around the world) http://www.planusa.org/giftsofhope/search.php
THE GIFT OF GIVING: http://www.thegiftofgiving.com/
The Gift of Giving’s mission is to introduce a gift idea that truly makes a difference. This site puts a new twist on the traditional gift card. Here’s how it works:
“You purchase the gift card, you decide how you would like it delivered, and the recipient chooses a charity significant to them. You’ll feel good giving a meaningful gift, and the recipient feels good by making a difference.”
Global Giving has a similar program. http://www.globalgiving.org/gifts/

As wonderful as all of these programs are, you might be asking “Can’t I buy a something for someone, say a purse or headphones AND help someone in need?” I asked that same question and the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, the list of companies and organizations is quite long. Since space is limited, I will tell you about my favorites and a few of the lesser known companies.

GLOBAL GIRLFRIEND: http://www.globalgirlfriend.com/store/ggf/site
Their logo is “Women made. Fair Trade. Start small. Dream big. Change lives.” Each item you buy helps fund a seed money micro-grant through Camfed (Campaign for Female Education). This money will help a woman in Africa start a small business to support herself and her family. Items include but are not limited to: purses, jewelry, dresses, handmade paper and clothing.
Woman’s Bean Project, http://www.womensbeanproject.com/, has a similar program. They employ impoverished women and help them restore their lives.
Global Goods Partners, http://www.globalgoodspartners.org/template/index.cfm, is a beautiful site with beautiful, handmade products. Their mission is similar: help women in marginalized communities around the world
LSTN HEADPHONES: http://www.lstnheadphones.com/
This site makes headphone and ear buds out of reclaimed wood. (They are beautiful!) Proceeds from the sale of these headphones go to help the Starkey Hearing Foundation, who works to restore hearing to a person in need.
T-SHIRT QUILT IN A BOX:   http://www.projectrepat.com/collections/t-shirt-quilt-blanket/products/t-shirt-quilt-blanket-box-gift
This is one of my favorites. With this program, you mail your old t-shirts to them and they turn them into a quilt. They employ people who earn a fair living wage. One of the companies they use is a non-profit organization who trains people with disabilities. They can guarantee your quilt in time for Christmas if it is ordered by December 13, 2013. Their prices are very reasonable and more than ½ the price of other companies who do similar work.

Well, I could go on. There are many other places, companies and organizations that offer gifts or items for sale that in turn help someone in need. Check out some of the places I’ve mentioned here or simply google “gifts that give back to charity”.
I can’t end this blog without mentioning Constellation Federal Credit Union’s very own program of “gifts that give back.” This year, we are selling tea, lotion, candles and recipe calendars with 100% of the proceeds going to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network. Ask one of our Member Service Representatives for more details. Happy shopping and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Have you heard of KICKSTARTER?

I first heard of Kickstarter a few years ago, when a video for a girls engineering game was shared on Facebook.  I was reminded of it again recently when my cousin’s husband was raising funds to produce a comic book, and most recently when NPR did a story on the “Death Watch”.  

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Kickstarter is a website that helps creators to raise money to produce their product.  Backers can search for projects on the site a number of ways; including location, category, and featured. I haven’t backed any projects (yet!), but I’m really enjoying searching through the tons of creative ideas!

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What I like about Kickstarter is that it provides a way for someone with a great idea but not a lot of money to get their idea realized; and that backers get something for their pledge.  Different levels of pledges actually get something for their money.  For example, for the smallest pledge level on the comic book you would receive signed postcard from the author and artist, at the largest pledge level (with only three available) the backer would be drawn into the story.  Of course the gift varies for the different projects!

Take a look and see if you find anything to back!

Fifteen Freebies for Furloughed Employees

As the saying goes…“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Or is there? If you are a furloughed federal government employee, and have been singing the government shutdown blues, this is just the blog for you! Businesses all over the country are giving things away to all furloughed federal employees. For example, the Children’s Museum in Wilmington, North Carolina is offering free admission to all federal employees or Skydive Hawaii is offering free Sky Diving for anyone designated a USPA-licensed sport skydiver. The Washington, DC metro area is no different. Many of our local businesses have stepped up and are offering free things to all furloughed federal employees.  Below are 15 different free offers in the local area, varying from free coffee or sandwiches to free knitting classes or oil changes. Some expire at the end of October, so don’t wait and in most cases you will need to present your government ID and/or furlough letter.  I begin the list with not only free lunch, but lunch AND a movie!

1)      The Beltway Plaza Mall, located in Greenbelt, MD, is offering free lunch and a movie to any furloughed worker who shows their letter and ID. This offer expires on October 31, 2013. http://www.beltwayplazamall.com/?events=treasure-chest-promotion

2)      Vantage fitness, located on West Broad Street in Falls Church is offering free 1 week guest passes. http://www.vantage-fitness.com/

3)      Chef Jose Andres, owner of Jaleo Restaurant, tweeted on September 30 “a free sandwich on me, people furloughed, between 3-5 pm,  every day until it’s over”  He has locations in Chinatown, Crystal City and Bethesda.

4)      Free breakfast at IKEA with government/military ID, now through November first in Woodbridge, College Park and Baltimore http://www.ikea.com/us/en/store/woodbridge/offers

5)      Free entrée with purchase of another at all Denny’s Diners in DC/MD/VA, through October 31. http://beltwaybargainmom.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/10.10.13-Federal-Employees-Discount_FNL.pdf

6)      Unwind at Mockingbird Hill, in DC. They are  offering a free glass of sherry to federal employees who show their ID. https://twitter.com/drinkmoresherry/status/384777972659404800

7)      Pork Barrel BBQ in Alexandria is offering all government employees, except members of congress, 1 free pulled pork sandwich each day of the shutdown. (Government ID needed) https://twitter.com/PBBBQDelRay/statuses/384794330109865984

8)      Maybe you want to brush up on your management skills.  Pinnacle 3 Learning is offering free Project Management Professional Boot camp. http://pinnacle3learning.com/shutdowntraining/

9)      If you’ve always wanted to take up knitting, now’s your chance. Fibre Space in Alexandria is offering free knitting lessons to federal workers with ID from 1 to 5 p.m every week day during the shutdown. Check out their website for more details. http://www.fibrespace.com/2013/09/learn-to-knit-for-free-during-government-shutdown/

10)   Work off some of that stress at Potomac Pilates. They are offering 2 free classes to furloughed workers.  http://www.potomacpilates.net/

11)   Balance Gym is offering free access to anyone with a valid government ID between the hours of 1to 4 at all 3 DC locations. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151698011061903&set=a.287649241902.147713.44655326902&type=1&theater

12)  Koons of Silver Spring is offering free oil changes, free tire rotation and free multi-point inspections. Call 301-890-6100 to set up an appointment.

13)   After getting your free sandwich, you can get dessert at Cupcake Blvd. They are offering 1 free cupcake to furloughed employees from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. http://cupcakeblvd.com/

14)   Caffee Amouri in Falls Church is offering “free coffee, smiles and a comfortable place to hang”

15)   The National Geographic Museum has waived the price of admission for federal employees during the shutdown.

This is just a sampling of businesses helping our furloughed government workers. While many businesses may not be GIVING things away, many are giving very generous discounts and deals to any federal employee affected by the shutdown. Don’t forget, we are offering our Furlough Relief Loan, in case you’re short on funds. For more complete lists of freebies and discounts, check out the following sites:

http://www.washingtonian.com/blogs/bestbites/things-to-know/government-shutdown-dining-and-drinking-deals.php

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Businesses-Offer-Freebies-to-Furloughed-Federal-Workers-225942371.html

http://www.parade.com/172069/leahingram/5-furlough-freebies-for-government-workers/

http://liveblog.wtop.com/Event/Furlough_Freebies_Food_drinks_and_morehttp://liveblog.wtop.com/Event/Furlough_Freebies_Food_drinks_and_more

Nerd Alert

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Last week was pretty exciting for us Bank Nerds. The new 100 dollar bill had us squealing with excitement when they came in. We were sure that we wouldn’t get our hands on the blue beauties for a couple of weeks.  They are quite a sight to see with the hologram strip down the middle and the large 100 on the back.  They oddly remind us of Monopoly Money but so pretty at the same time.

I wanted to share with ya’ll the new security features so you won’t think someone is handing you a fake bill:

• A blue 3-D security ribbon with images of bells and 100s (move the bill side to side to see it)

• A color-changing bell in an inkwell

• A portrait watermark (you can see Jackson’s face on the right hand side if you hold it up to the light)

• Raised Printing

• Security Thread (you can only see this when you hold it up to the light)

• Gold 100 on the front

• Color-Shifting 100

Hope you enjoy petting looking at them as much as we do!

United Airlines’ Mobile Boarding App: Easy, Fast, & Environmentally Friendly!

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Thanks to United Airlines’ Mobile Boarding App, I enjoyed the easiest debacle-free, round-trip flight to Iowa and back! Like everyone else, I love my smartphone and cannot imagine life without it! In fact, I will take this moment to thank Siri for saving my life at least half a dozen times, whether it be providing me with an awesome recipe for Mother’s Day or getting me safely through North Philadelphia, she rarely ever lets me down!

That being said, I am also very skeptical about adopting certain emerging technology.  In hindsight, I have no idea why I was so late to the party in regards to mobile check-in; I let my irrational fear of possibly holding up a line trying to scan my phone, prevent me from experiencing the easiest flight check-in process ever. I am so grateful that I finally threw caution to the wind and gave it a try!

United Airlines’ Mobile Boarding App allowed me to check into my flight on my way to the airport, it also saved me the hassle of having to print out/keep track of my ticket (also an environmentally friendly option), and gave me real-time gate updates (mind blown). In fact, I was sitting at my gate when I received an e-alert informing me that my gate number had changed; had I not opted for mobile check-in, I easily would have missed my flight (total lifesaver)!

Other key features of the United Airlines’ Mobile App are below:

  • Flight booking — Book flights on United, including award travel, directly from the app on your mobile device
  • Check-in and mobile boarding pass — Store your mobile boarding pass for easy access at security and during boarding
  • Flight status — Check your upgrade status and view inflight amenities, departure gates and more
  • Flight reminders — Receive automatic updates on your mobile device for selected flights
  • Seat maps — Select seats and choose Economy Plus® seating
  • Frequent flyer account access — Check your MileagePlus account information
  • United ClubSM — Access location information and purchase one-time passes
  • FlightView® — See real-time maps of flight paths and weather conditions

Additional features include easy access to our Twitter feed and free Sudoku games. On some devices, the United app also features DIRECTV® listings and airport maps.

Thanks to this app, I will never use the traditional check-in process again! What do you think about mobile check-in? Do you love it or hate it? Let us know in the comments below!

Bill Pay

Readers Reward: Laptop Cooling Pad

When I first moved out on my own, my biggest concern was paying my bills.  The two things making me nervous were making sure I didn’t lose the bill between getting it and paying it, and knowing when the check I mailed would clear.

When I found out about Bill Pay it changed my whole system of paying bills!  Bill Pay makes it really easy for me to keep track of my bills and makes sure money is in my checking account when needed.

Now when I get a bill I automatically enter the payment amount and send date into Bill Pay. Being able to select what day the payment is sent really helps with my budgeting. The side bar shows me what day my checks are scheduled and also gives me a total amount of all the checks so I know exactly how much to money to set aside for bills.

Many of my payments are the same each month, which makes Bill Pay even simpler!  I just enter how often I want a check sent (monthly, every three months, etc.) and the amount. The upcoming scheduled payment shows up on the sidebar and I also get a reminder email.

bill_pay

(click to enlarge)

It may seem silly, but nowadays I’m happy to see my bills come in so I can schedule payments. Do you use Bill Pay?  What is your favorite feature?  Let us know in the comments below, we love hearing from you!

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