In a couple of weeks it will be the busiest time to travel. Don’t have your plans yet? No problem! Whether you travel by plane or car, it’s not too late to save some money with your last minute travels. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time while spending the least.
Savvy Fliers Only
If you’re going to see family this month, minimize the damage to your wallet by adjusting your days to fly.
- Move Your Dates: According to travelchannel.com, you’re going to be flying with the most people on December 23. Make your flight earlier or wait a week and the airports and airplanes will be less crowded.
- Bid for Better Prices: If you haven’t already, start bidding to get a deal on your flights. Be willing to fly less popular hours and you may be able to find a competitive price.
- Reap the Rewards: For those who are have credit cards, now may be a wonderful time to cash in on your rewards.
Make It a Road Trip
If flights are outside your budget now, then it’s time to look at the classic style of a road trip. Depending on how far you drive, you may want to grab a rental car. Excessive wear and tear on your car can be pricey and there are ways you can find deals on rental cars. If you do use your own car, make sure it’s in good shape for the road. Calling roadside service can easily eat up any savings you may have.
- Plan ahead for drinks and snacks: Making constant stops on your road trip slow you down and drain your wallet. Do yourself a big favor and pack snacks and your go to drinks in the car.
- Explore your food options: When you do need to stop for a meal, make it special. Check online to see if there are any hole in the wall spots where you can stretch your legs and have a memorable meal.
- Score a deal on the hotel: If you have a long trip, go ahead and book a room now.
- Be open to carpooling: If you’re seeing your family, you may be able to slash prices by coming into town with a relative. It can be a wonderful way to bond and save money.
Traveling over the holidays can be notoriously busy, expensive and stressful, but it’s not all bad news. While you may have missed the boat on making early travel plans this holiday season, there are still a few ways you can save money and enjoy holiday cheer.
Source: Travelchannel.com, Consumerreports.org
Expecting an income tax refund this year? Use it wisely!
1. Pay down high interest lines of credit. With average annual interest rates for credit cards hovering around fifteen percent, paying off consumer debt before going on a shopping spree makes good sense.
2. Fund Your Retirement Account. Millions of working Americans have no money invested for their retirement. If you are one of them, seriously consider using your refund to make a contribution to an IRA.
3. Invest it. Many people get thousands back at the end of the year. If you invest one lump sum of $1,500 in the stock market, with a 10 percent return (the long-term market average), you could have $30,173.73 in 30 years!
4. Open an emergency account. How much money do you have set aside for emergencies? If the answer is “none,” open a savings account today. Three to six months’ worth of essential living expenses tucked away is a great goal.
5. Pay for repairs. Maintaining expensive possessions now will result in dollars saved tomorrow. Use the money to repair that leaky roof before it develops into a bigger problem; replace those dangerous bald tires with new, safe ones.
6. Start a personal endowment. Consider applying the money to your emotional, physical, intellectual, or career growth. Whether you use it for a gym membership or a cooking class, you’ll soon reap the reward of this investment.
7. Make an extra mortgage payment. Why? Doubling up on one mortgage payment now can save you months of mortgage payments later.
8. Donate to a charity. Giving back to the community is a wonderful way of supporting a cause that you are passionate about. Even better – in many cases at least a portion of your donation is tax-deductible.
9. Open a 529 College Savings Plan. A four-year college education can cost upwards of $100,000. Save for your child’s college career with a 529 plan. It works much like a Roth IRA, and withdrawals are completely tax-free when used for higher education purposes.
10. Plan a vacation. If you are in a healthy financial position, and can afford a bit of luxury, do something you’ve been dreaming of! Money is to be enjoyed as well as earned, saved, and invested. Go ahead. Book that cruise.
Certainly there are many savvy ways to spend a tax refund, but keep in mind that it’s usually best to come out even. If you’ve been getting money back each year, consider changing your withholding exemptions so less tax is withheld from each paycheck. While a refund may feel like a gift from Uncle Sam, it’s not – it’s money that you have overpaid on your income taxes.
Source: BALANCE Financial Fitness
The air is warm, the sky is clear, the sun is shining, and the clock is ticking. Don’t let summer pass you by! Maybe you’re busy with a summer job, internship or classes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get out and enjoy the weather. And while you’re out, here are some things i[x] has found for you to do that will enhance your summer experience.
Vacation in Atlanta
Just because you’re trying to save money doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. Tourism is the fifth largest industry in the state, according to georgia.org, and Atlanta is a city tailored to fit any and all budgets. The “city pass” allows you to visit five of Atlanta’s top seven attractions, all at a discounted price, including the Georgia Aquarium, CNN Studios and Zoo Atlanta! Also, you can stop by atlanta.net/visitors/specialOffers.html for gift cards for Buckhead dining and shopping destinations.
Bonnaroo is $300 per ticket. Lollapalooza is sold out, and the secondary market has some tickets going in the $1000+ range. And that’s not including gas, food, etc. Why not stay local instead of breaking the bank to attend a concert or festival out of state? Atlanta is bringing a ton of A-list entertainers including Daniel Tosh, Brad Paisley, and Ke$ha to town at venues like the Fabulous Fox Theater, Georgia Dome, and Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Check out atlantaconcerts.net for tickets. And check out atlanta.net/festivals/festivalsSummer.aspx for information regarding local jazz, art and food festivals, some of which are free to attend!
Outdoor Sports & Rec
If you’re looking for a way to maximize your dollar by getting into shape, competing with your friends, meeting new people and enjoying the summer sun all at the same time, then perhaps a local intramural sports league or outdoor activity organization is for you! Whether you’re looking for football or cornhole, intramural or pick-up, tournaments or charity events or anything in between, Atlanta has you covered. Check out zogsports.com/atl/home.aspx, atlantasportandsocialclub.com, or atlanta.sportsvite.com/leagues for more information, and get out there!
If you have some spare time and you’d like to make the world a better place (while simultaneously making your resume a better document), then lend a helping hand to any one of a number of organizations dedicated to improving the community. You’d be amazed at what a tremendous effect just a few hours of your time can have, and how much impact your small effort can have on both the people you’re helping and you yourself. A sense of accomplishment knowing you made a positive difference in someone’s day can be a very rewarding feeling. If this appeals to you, just check out volunteermatch.org, meetup.com/atlantavolunteers, greatnonprofits.org or just type “volunteer Atlanta” into a search engine to find a cause or organization that appeals to you. Check out the i[x] website (georgiasownnext.com) and Twitter feed (@georgiasownnext.com) to find out what philanthropic and charitable events the credit union is involved with, and to see if any of our volunteer opportunities spark your interest.
Whatever you choose to do with your summer, remember to be safe, be smart with your money and enjoy yourself!
Spring is a great time to get outside, and Georgia has a lot to offer if you’re looking to experience the great outdoors. Spending time in the woods is a great way to recharge, get some exercise and see the state – all at the same time. Plus, most state parks only cost $5.00 for a whole day so you can have fun on a budget. So, are you ready to go? Good. Here is a list we’ve put together to help you find your way to the best trails. Enjoy!
1. Dukes Creek Falls – Blairsville, Georgia
Located in the Chattahoochee National Forest, Dukes Creek Falls is a popular destination for hikers. You can walk a one mile trail (two miles round trip) down to the falls. People have been visiting the falls for a long time. As far back as 1540, Hernando DeSoto visited the area and miners have been panning for gold in the streams ever since.
2. Amicalola Falls – Dahlonega, Georgia
If you’re looking for a great day hike then a visit to Amicalola Falls is in order. You will want to park at the base and make the trek up a seemingly endless series of stairs until reaching the top. Once you arrive you’ll be able to take in quite a view of the falls. You can also see the start of the Appalachian Trail and say hello to hikers returning from their journey.
3. Tallulah Gorge State Park – Tallulah Falls, Georgia
Established in 1993 by Governor Zell Miller, Tallulah Gorge State Park offers an amazing view of the canyon which is two miles long and over 1,000 feet deep. There are many trails around the rim and you can also get a permit to hike all the way to the gorge floor. Make sure to stop by The Dillard House for breakfast or lunch.
4. Cloudland Canyon State Park – Fawn Rising, Georgia
Located in the Northwest corner of the state, Cloudland Canyon offers panoramic views and excellent hiking trials. It’s one of the largest and most scenic parks in Georgia. You can hike down to the bottom of the gorge on a series of trails and staircases. At the base you’ll find two waterfalls that run into pools.
March is known for many things – midterms, daylight savings time, and, of course, spring break vacation. Spring break trips, by their very nature, vanquish hard-earned surplus funds and eliminate any and all leftover holiday checks from generous distant relatives. But while you might try to concoct a MasterCard-esque rationalization that a week’s worth of zany adventures with your best palls is “priceless,” bear in mind these few simple tips to save yourself some unnecessary expenses.
Firt, if you’re the owner of the vehicle tasked with transporting you and your buds down to whatever destination, use AAA’s online fuel cost calculator to determine (almost exactly) the cost of gas for the trip before you leave. While everyone tossing you twenty bucks on their way out the door is a nice gesture, it rarely amounts to the true proportional amount owed for the drive.
Secong, pack thoroughly. Things like car snacks, sunscreen, coolers, etc. are all significantly cheaper at your local grocery store than at a convenience store in a touristy town. Third, while on the road start looking for exits with multiple gas stations while you still have at least a quarter of a tank. Gas stations isolated off freeways in rural areas can have significantly higher gas prices than another station just thirty minutes away. Don’t wait until that foreboding red glow is emitting from your dash to pull off the road and subject yourself to the overblown prices of a two-pump shack in the sticks.
Upon arriving, your first stop should be to the largest local grocery store. Preparing food and cleaning up while on vacation may seem like a downer, but eating in at least twice a day can make the difference between having surplus cash for weeks after spring break and being too broke to eat anything but salty noodle soup until April. Also, you’ll likely find making food and cleaning dishes to be surprisingly fun if you can get just a handful of your group on board.
Finally, beware of package deals regarding clubs, restaurants, or other tourist attractions. While these “coupons” might seem like great deals at first, consider the following; purchasing one of these passes financially obligates you to organize all of your plans around those places; places that may be hard to get to (so add some money for cab/shuttle); places who’s appeal may be significantly compromised in adverse weather (no patio, pool, or beach bar); and if this deal is available for you and your group, you can be almost certain it’s available for anyone and any group, meaning these places can be swarmed with other breakers making it nearly impossible to truly take advantage of whatever “deal” you were offered (free cover form 6-7, free appetizers, frees t-shirts while supplies last, etc.).
Whether or not you choose to follow any of the aforementioned advice, take this suggestion above all others: have a safe, memorable, and, most of all, fun spring break vacation!
Spring is arguably the best time of year to be in Atlanta. Sure, the pollen is awful but the temperatures are just right and you might be itching to get out. Well, i[x] wants to help you by offering up the perfect early summer road trip. For this trip we will be headed north, up GA 400 to the area surrounding Dahlonega. This trip will have you visiting lots of places that include everything from Kangaroos to Kayaks. So grab a big breakfast, bring your camera and hit the road!
We’ve put together a handy Google Map with a bunch of suggested stops so you can plan your trip. There are details on a few of the locations we recommend below the map. Be sure to take some photos and post them on our Facebook page so we can see how your Road Trip went!
Stop No. 1: Consolidated Gold Mine
Once you get into town, stop by the Consolidated Gold Mine. You’ll want to party like it was 1828 (the year gold was discovered in Dahlonega) at the mines and pan for gold. Get all the info online at www.consolidatedgoldmine.com.
Stop No. 2: Appalachian Outfitters
North Georgia has some of the best rafting and kayaking out there so why not take a break from the car and jump into the river? The folks at Appalachian Outfitters can set you up with a canoe, kayak or tubing trip down the Chestatee or Etowah Rivers. These trips can take up to three hours so plan ahead and enjoy the beauty of nature. Just listen closely for banjos… Get rates and dates at their site, www.canoegeorgia.com.
Stop 3: Funky Chicken Art Project
The Funky Chicken, an outdoor art gallery and sculpture garden, is the perfect place to unwind and take in some culture before heading back to the big city. The location has paintings, sculptures and even wood carving classes if you plan ahead. Check their site for all the details: www.funkychickenartproject.com
Stop No. 4: Kangaroo Conservation Center
Nothing says Georgia like a huge group of Kangaroos right? The Kangaroo Conservation Center is home to the largest Kangaroo Mob outside of Australia. Be sure to check their site for directions and a current tour schedule: www.kangaroocenter.com