When a family member asks for money, most of us want to help. The reasons why can be complex: not only is helping family something that most people just do, but most of us don’t want to be the sort of person who doesn’t help family, either.

But the simple fact is that offering a handout isn’t always the best solution. There are plenty of people out there who have gotten burned by family members asking for money — there are situations that turns into a painful conflict, and there are situations that doesn’t actually lead to a family member working to get to a stable financial standing and plenty of other frustrating situations.

It’s worth considering alternatives before simply pulling out your wallet. Here are five opportunities to help family members:
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blown budget holidays

Now that the Christmas and holiday splendor has settled down, I’m sure you’re looking at your bank statements and credit card bills with wide eyes. It’s all too easy to go overboard during the holidays. While a holiday budget would have been ideal, now that the season is over, it’s a bit too late for that.

So, what can you do to get yourself back on track financially after the holidays? How can you recover from overspending quickly?

Here are the top 3 ideas, that I will be implementing myself this month. I hope you’ll join me!

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frugal family entertainment

Quality time is a key component of any happy family. And though some of the most precious moments I’ve shared with my family have been outside the home, the costs associated with these activities used to wreak havoc on my wallet.

Over the years, however, I’ve found ways to create memories without breaking the bank:

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stay happy in winter

Winter can be a long season for many of us—especially as the snow and ice takes its toll on our outlook. Most of us don’t have the time or money to jet off down south to soak up some sunshine and restore our happy moods, so instead we’ll have to get creative and work with what we have.

Some of these ideas might seem like they are geared towards kids, but they will work for anyone. The hardest part of beating the blues is breaking out of the “feel lazy and unmotivated/do nothing/feel even lazier and less motivated” cycle. Sometimes doing something unexpected and completely out of character is the best way to break state and get into a better groove.

Here are 20 ways to keep the energy and positivity going during the winter months:
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All of us are creatures of convenience, and that extends to our finances. It’s not enough to access online banking, budgeting tools, and retailer websites from home — we want them on our mobile devices, too. But, just as browsing the web from home can expose our finances to ever-evolving cyber threats, using mobile apps can, too. Those personal device may seem more secure than a public computer, hackers can still find ways to get into the phone and steal sensitive financial information.

As someone who didn’t run out and get a smartphone as soon as they became popular, I admit I have a lot to learn about mobile technology and how best to protect my personal information while I’m using it. Are you smart about smartphone financial security? If not, following these tips is a good place to start.

smartphone security

1. Use Those Optional Security Measures Like Touch ID

Are you someone who’s been stubborn about setting up a passcode or Touch ID to open your phone? It’s a little less convenient (and we’re all about convenience!), but the extra step is also the first line of defense for your personal information. Sure, hardcore hackers may be able to bypass it to get into your phone, but the casual thief might be deterred by the process of having to get past the security code — especially if it’s based on biometrics.

2. Add Extra Security Measures to Financial Apps

Besides your smartphone’s overall security, it’s important to protect access to financial information on your phone housed in banking account apps, account-linked financial management apps, and digital wallets. This is especially true as technology improves — some banks are experimenting with apps that can initiate app-initiated, card-less ATM withdrawals.

David’s Note: I wouldn’t worry too much about the app initiated ATM withdrawals too much as long as you protect your phone and apps by adding in the proper authentication methods Jessica are describing. What the app does is replace having the physical card, meaning that you still need to enter your passcode at the ATM. At Wells Fargo, you use the app to give you a number sequence that identifies you to the ATM (much like inserting your bank card). Then, once you type in that number, you will be prompt to enter your passcode as normal.

Setting up additional features like passcodes (or Touch ID, if your phone has this feature) for each financial app provides another line of defense if your phone is lost or hacked. As with all personal accounts, choose unique passwords, update them regularly, and keep them in a secure location (a.k.a. not your phone!).

Some smartphones also allow you to at least partially block Internet access and ad tracking mechanisms on a per-app basis to protect your information from outside threats, or “sandbox” (separate) different accounts, such as your work and personal information.

3. Know Your Smartphone’s Vulnerabilities

Whenever there’s a major data breach, tech companies inform the public of who could have been affected where, when, and how. There’s similar information available on which smartphone operating systems, browsers, and other tools have been (or could be) vulnerable to various types of cyber threats and attacks at CVE Details. You don’t have to be super tech-savvy to search for your phone’s systems and look at the risk scale and numbers of vulnerabilities.

If this looks too intimidating, other places to check include consumer-focused technology blogs and news sites.

4. If You’re in the Market for a New Smartphone, Consider Security Features

The older your phone is, the less security features it’s likely to have and the more vulnerable it is to hackers. If you’re already due for a new smartphone, make security a priority. Some features will be standard, but smartphone security differs widely based on model and operating system (OS). Check for expert reviews and breakdowns of security features, and choose the level of security that best fits the way you use your smartphone.

A simple (and free) thing you can do in between upgrades is to promptly install any system updates. Some of them are just for new features or speed, but others could be correcting security vulnerabilities.

While I’m certainly not as smart about smartphone security as I need to be, I’m learning. The more you use your personal devices for financial management, the more you should be, too. How do you keep your phones secure? Do you have any more tips for me?

new year's resolutions

Now that the New Year is near, you might find yourself slipping on some of your resolutions. Maybe you’ve already given up.

Just because New Year’s resolutions aren’t your cup of tea, there’s no reason to avoid setting financial goals. No matter the time of year, these are good to determine and achieve.

Here’s why setting financial goals can be a good idea:

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