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Welcome to MoneyWise Matters

MoneyWise Matters is a weekly blog published each Wednesday by the Office of the Indiana Secretary of State. Here we discuss money related topics including; debt reduction, budgeting, saving strategies, scam alerts, investment fraud prevention and investor insights. You don’t want to miss out on this helpful information, hit subscribe for email updates (above) so you’ll be notified when we publish a new post.

Please note that the statements made in the posts are solely the opinions of the writer and do not represent the opinion and/or position of the Indiana Securities Division. The Division assumes no responsibility for the content presented by the authors.  

Back to School Amid Covid-19

Back to School Amid Covid-19

 

By Kylee Hale

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The coronavirus continues to cause chaos as we head into fall. School reopening plans are being released nationwide, and many schools in Indiana are going virtual to start the school year. This unique approach to education is not only burdening parents with concern, but it's affecting retailers' ability to meet consumer demands. While school districts delay the start and others implement e-learning plans, the retailers have been stuck with shelves of lunch boxes and uniforms while trying to stock up on electronics. The typical escalation in sales is falling flat as trends change.

Fewer parents are buying new clothes, folders and backpacks but technology purchases have been on the rise. It’s likely that technology spending will offset the reduction of spending on traditional school supplies, but it’s a challenge for retailers to decide what to keep in stock as plans change. If students return to in person learning at the beginning of next year, they will eventually need new backpacks, lunchboxeOnline Shopping increasess, and more. Imagine shopping for Christmas decorations right next to highlighters, pencils, and binders. 

Last spring, when many adults began working from home, online companies like Wayfair and West Elm saw an increase in sales of home office furnishings including desks and office chairs. A similar trend in online sales is occurring as schools release virtual learning plans. Families are creating long term remote learning environments for their children with tables, desks, and comfy chairs. Back-to-college spending isn’t as expected either. Colleges and universities are unsystematic about return to campus plans. Some schools are allowing freshmen and sophomores to be in dorms while offering some in person learning and others are implementing only distance education. Stores like Bed Bath and Beyond won’t sell near as many Twin XL bed sheet sets if students aren’t staying in dorms. These fluid and constantly changing plans are challenging stores to determine inventory and purchasing discounts. As they try to get the right inventory, it is likely stores will end up with loads of gear they are unable to sell, and they’ll struggle to keep other items in stock. 

Stores that have developed an online presence and ship to home system will be at an advantage to smooth out the imbalances. It's likely spending will continue to occur online, even with stores reopening for in person sales, consumers' preferences trend towards curbside pickup and delivery. In addition to the unpredictable change of plans, states across the country are seeing a soaring unemployment rate. Families are being stricter about their budget and reducing spending. A cherry on top of all this, Amazon has postponed Amazon Prime Day. A sale event that usually occurs in July which many retailers jump on board with for the bonanza. 

This year’s back to school season is going to require a lot of improvising from the retail industry and from families as well. In addition, it’s equally difficult for teachers to prepare a full remote education in such little lead time. Some schools are still working on their plan to begin the school year and how education will be delivered. Many parents are in a pinch hoping for remote work or other ways to ensure their child is learning while home. New developments occur daily and implementations of how to keep this generation from falling behind are constant. We can’t blame teachers for all the shortcomings of the education system. By parents taking matters into their own hands to pick up the pieces or fill the gaps, families will make it through this back to school mess. Supplementing a student’s learning with additional resources can go a long way. As we know no single education from one school can cover everything there is to know in life. Together as teachers, parents, grandparents, students and neighbors we have to help each other get through to when students can learn in classrooms again with all their friends. 

With so much uncertainty, it’s hard to tell what will happen next. It’s best to have a plan. If students are currently expecting to learn in person, have a plan for in case remote learning is implemented. In addition, if students are remote learning, plan for enough face masks and safety supplies for when students finally return to the classroom. Being ready to sanitize and contain germs as much as possible will help ease concerns when students are attending school in person. Family conversations to discuss the changes and feelings towards new experiences during this time will help students and parents monitor the situation and implement change when needed. You can visit the Indiana Department of Education’s Remote Learning Resources to find free Wi-Fi access and instructional resources for parents. The most important back to school essential this year is a good mindset. Now more than ever students are learning from their parents and caregivers. As adults, it’s most important to keep a sense of positivity and patience as we all adjust and acclimate to the unique learning environments. By adjusting expectations of students, teachers and each other, we will make the start to the school year a success. Just remember that we are all navigating these current situations as best as we can. There is no right answer because this is a new experience for all of us. Someday we will look back at these times and be proud of how communities handled the remote learning and overcame these challenges making communities stronger and better equipped for whatever comes next. 


Blog Topics: 
Budgeting

Recent Posts

Recent Posts

Back to School Amid Covid-19

Back to School Amid Covid-19

 

By Kylee Hale

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The coronavirus continues to cause chaos as we head into fall. School reopening plans are being released nationwide, and many schools in Indiana are going virtual to start the school year. This unique approach to education is not only burdening parents with concern, but it's affecting retailers' ability to meet consumer demands. While school districts delay the start and others implement e-learning plans, the retailers have been stuck with shelves of lunch boxes and uniforms while trying to stock up on electronics. The typical escalation in sales is falling flat as trends change.

Fewer parents are buying new clothes, folders and backpacks but technology purchases have been on the rise. It’s likely that technology spending will offset the reduction of spending on traditional school supplies, but it’s a challenge for retailers to decide what to keep in stock as plans change. If students return to in person learning at the beginning of next year, they will eventually need new backpacks, lunchboxeOnline Shopping increasess, and more. Imagine shopping for Christmas decorations right next to highlighters, pencils, and binders. 

Last spring, when many adults began working from home, online companies like Wayfair and West Elm saw an increase in sales of home office furnishings including desks and office chairs. A similar trend in online sales is occurring as schools release virtual learning plans. Families are creating long term remote learning environments for their children with tables, desks, and comfy chairs. Back-to-college spending isn’t as expected either. Colleges and universities are unsystematic about return to campus plans. Some schools are allowing freshmen and sophomores to be in dorms while offering some in person learning and others are implementing only distance education. Stores like Bed Bath and Beyond won’t sell near as many Twin XL bed sheet sets if students aren’t staying in dorms. These fluid and constantly changing plans are challenging stores to determine inventory and purchasing discounts. As they try to get the right inventory, it is likely stores will end up with loads of gear they are unable to sell, and they’ll struggle to keep other items in stock. 

Stores that have developed an online presence and ship to home system will be at an advantage to smooth out the imbalances. It's likely spending will continue to occur online, even with stores reopening for in person sales, consumers' preferences trend towards curbside pickup and delivery. In addition to the unpredictable change of plans, states across the country are seeing a soaring unemployment rate. Families are being stricter about their budget and reducing spending. A cherry on top of all this, Amazon has postponed Amazon Prime Day. A sale event that usually occurs in July which many retailers jump on board with for the bonanza. 

This year’s back to school season is going to require a lot of improvising from the retail industry and from families as well. In addition, it’s equally difficult for teachers to prepare a full remote education in such little lead time. Some schools are still working on their plan to begin the school year and how education will be delivered. Many parents are in a pinch hoping for remote work or other ways to ensure their child is learning while home. New developments occur daily and implementations of how to keep this generation from falling behind are constant. We can’t blame teachers for all the shortcomings of the education system. By parents taking matters into their own hands to pick up the pieces or fill the gaps, families will make it through this back to school mess. Supplementing a student’s learning with additional resources can go a long way. As we know no single education from one school can cover everything there is to know in life. Together as teachers, parents, grandparents, students and neighbors we have to help each other get through to when students can learn in classrooms again with all their friends. 

With so much uncertainty, it’s hard to tell what will happen next. It’s best to have a plan. If students are currently expecting to learn in person, have a plan for in case remote learning is implemented. In addition, if students are remote learning, plan for enough face masks and safety supplies for when students finally return to the classroom. Being ready to sanitize and contain germs as much as possible will help ease concerns when students are attending school in person. Family conversations to discuss the changes and feelings towards new experiences during this time will help students and parents monitor the situation and implement change when needed. You can visit the Indiana Department of Education’s Remote Learning Resources to find free Wi-Fi access and instructional resources for parents. The most important back to school essential this year is a good mindset. Now more than ever students are learning from their parents and caregivers. As adults, it’s most important to keep a sense of positivity and patience as we all adjust and acclimate to the unique learning environments. By adjusting expectations of students, teachers and each other, we will make the start to the school year a success. Just remember that we are all navigating these current situations as best as we can. There is no right answer because this is a new experience for all of us. Someday we will look back at these times and be proud of how communities handled the remote learning and overcame these challenges making communities stronger and better equipped for whatever comes next. 


Blog Topics: 
Budgeting

Celebrities, Cryptocurrency, and Crime

Celebrities, Cryptocurrency, and Crime

 

By Kelly Griese

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

What do celebrities, cryptocurrency, and crime all have in common? Twitter. Earlier this month, July 15 to be exact, several famous Twitter users had their accounts hacked by scammers who sent out fake tweets asking followers to send money using Bitcoin – a type of cryptocurrency.


We’ve discussed cryptocurrency and related scams before in this blog, but for the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) version, cryptocurrencies are digital assets created by companies or individuals that take the form of a virtual coin or token. They are largely unregulated, uninsured, and untraceable. This makes cryptocurrency incredibly popular with criminals.

You can learn more about how cryptocurrency works by watching this video from the New York Times.


Cryptocurrency scams are a popular way for scammers to trick people into sending money. While the Twitter hack targeted high profile users, including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, there’s a good chance you will encounter such scams as well. They often appear as emails trying to blackmail someone, as online chain referral schemes, or as bogus investment and business opportunities.

In the case of the Twitter hack that targeted verified accounts of celebrities, scammers received 400 payments in Bitcoin, totaling $121,000. Considering the number of followers that the targeted Twitter members have, it’s a relatively small amount of money that was lost. Twitter addressed the hack quickly, shutting down all verified accounts for several hours. 

Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey called it a “tough day for all of us at Twitter,” and believes it was a social engineering attack that started by targeting Twitter staff with administrative access. High level admins at Twitter have the ability to take control of verified accounts and tweet on their behalf. Dorsey said, “We’re looking into what other malicious activity they may have conducted or information they may have accessed.” 


Cryptocurrency scams have been on the rise for years now, setting a record in 2019 with scammers making more than $4.3 billion worth of cryptocurrency. That’s triple what scammers earned in 2018, and 2020 appears to show continued growth. You can read more about 2019 cryptocurrency scams by reading the 2020 State of Crypto Crime report. One of its more interesting findings is that the vast majority of criminals’ earnings came from Ponzi schemes, which accounted for 92%. 

Here’s what all cryptocurrency scams have in common:

  • A scammer wants you to send money or make a payment using Bitcoin or other type of cryptocurrency.
  • Once you send the money, it’s gone, and there’s generally no way to get it back. 

If you see a tweet, text, email, or social media message telling you to pay with Bitcoin or other form of cryptocurrency… IT IS A SCAM! If you spot a cryptocurrency scam, report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission


Blog topics:
Fraud Prevention

Work From Home Scams and Opportunities

Work From Home Scams and Opportunities

 

By Kylee Hale

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

As coronavirus cases continue to rise again, you may be looking for options to make an income without leaving the safety of your home. There are plenty of legit work from home opportunities, but there are just as many sketchy job offerings that will cost you money rather than make you money. Below we discuss in detail fraudulent job offerings and provide tips on how to check out the real work from home job options.

Beware of job offerings that come to you as an unsolicited phone call or pop up ad on your web browser. It’s tempting and sounds doable to make money from the comfort of your home, but most job offerings that just fall into your lap are too good to be true. Fraudsters target and play on victim’s emotions. Scammers come up with convincing sales pitches knowing that many folks are worried about contracting the virus and it’s likely that everyone could use more money. From stuffing envelopes, medical billing, secret shopping, re-ship and telemarketing re-sale gigs almost all of these kinds of opportunities are set up to fail and never pay off. Check out the FTC’s Working From Home webpage to read more about each of these individually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources for finding a work from home opportunity:

Aside from the pandemic influencing many folks to want to work from home, there are many other reasons to seek a remote job opportunity. Maybe commuting to the office is not so desirable, planning work attire is a headache, buying lunch at the cafeteria is not appealing, or you just want to spend more time around your family or dog. Regardless of your motivation to consider looking for a remote job opportunity, here are some resources that might help you land an alternative career option. Please note, I cannot guarantee that every job posting is legit and not a scam.

We Work Remotely, Jobspresso and Working Nomads job forums. These sites are strictly for remote job postings. This means less wading through the job description details to determine if the opportunity is really a work from home oppportunity. The listings include options for employment in customer service, sales, marketing and downright quirky job options too. Be sure to note the location as some remote jobs do require the employee to live in a specific country, region or time zone. Most companies also have a job page on the company website, so you can cross reference the listing on a third party site with the listing on the company’s website to make sure it’s a real opportunity.

Remote Jobs

Another resource that I have always found useful is Glassdoor. This site has a wealth of information about companies and reviews from actual past and present employees. Background checks go both ways. You should research the company you are applying to work for as this is a good way to determine if you will be happy in the position. Glassdoor reveals information that you might not find otherwise. You can see what people think of the CEO, review reported salaries for specific positions and learn about the hiring process including interview questions. Real people give their feedback and these insights could help you decide if a company is a good fit for you before you endure the application process.

You can always look for remote and work from home jobs on the more common forums like LinkedIn, Monster, ZipRecruiter and Indeed. However on these sites it can be difficult to find an opportunity that is completely remote. Be sure to read the details of the job listing and it doesn’t hurt to ask the Human Resources Hiring Manager for confirmation.

The chance of encountering a work from home scam is scary, but there are ways to sniff out a scheme before you fall victim. Unsolicited calls offering you a way to make money or strangers promising you’ll make money after an initial investment should send up red flags. It’s important to do research on available opportunities and properly vet a company before you begin employment. With the above information job seekers can find and consider real opportunities without fear of falling into a fraudsters trap.  


Blog Topics:
Fraud Prevention

The Economics of Animal Crossing

The Economics of Animal Crossing

 

By Kelly Griese

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

All it took was a pandemic to turn a 19-year-old video game franchise into one of the most popular ways to waste time at home. I’m talking about Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH).

What is ACNH? You start the game by agreeing to move to a deserted island being developed by a somewhat shady raccoon named Tom Nook. Tom is big on upselling. He will always convince you to borrow more money in order to buy and build bigger and better things for your new island home. Through the course of the game, you gradually develop the island into your own paradise, all while making friends with talking animals. 


ACNH was released on March 20, 2020. The franchise began in 2001, but the latest game, exclusively available on the Nintendo Switch, has sold more than 13 million copies. It sold more in its first six weeks than any previous Animal Crossing game. Getting your hands on a copy of the game is easy, though don’t look for a drop in price anytime soon. It sells for close to $60. But getting the console you need to play the game may be challenging. As Forbes reported in April, gamers had better luck finding toilet paper than a Switch. What’s causing the shortage? Well, a few things, all related to supply and demand. The Switch is manufactured in China, and the pandemic forced factory shutdowns, meaning supply dropped. This happened at the same time as an increase in demand (though the Switch was certainly popular before the pandemic). But there’s an even bigger problem driving shortages: bots buying up stock before it can reach store shelves. Once the bots have done their job, the folks who use them can then resell the Switches on eBay or Amazon at a huge premium. Switch’s retail price is around $300, but a quick look at Amazon right now will show you consoles selling for $500.


But enough about the real world supply and demand issues, let’s talk about the in-game economics. I’ve been playing the game myself for about two weeks, and here are the financial concepts I’ve encountered so far: 

  • Loans, Financing, and Home Ownership
  • Fundraising
  • Donating
  • Supply and Demand
  • Producers and Consumers
  • Goods and Services
  • Return on Investment
  • Stock Market

There are two types of currency in the game. Bells and Miles. Think of Bells as cash. Think of Miles as rewards points. You can earn Bells by selling a number of consumable products that you can collect on your island, such as fish, insects, fruits, wood, and minerals. You earn Miles through experience. So what do you do with all this currency? Well, you buy stuff. Lots of stuff. Let me breakdown some of the above financial concepts with examples. 


Loans, Financing, and Home Ownership

When you first move to the island, you immediately owe Tom Nook 5,000 Miles for moving expenses and a tent to live in. These first 5,000 Miles are easy to earn, so you’re able to pay off your debt within your first day of playing. From that point on, each improvement of your living quarters, from a one-room house to a six-room mansion results in you taking out additional mortgages. In total, you will spend 5,696,000 Bells to reach mansion status. (For the record, my home currently has four rooms, and I still owe about 250,000 Bells on my most recent home expansion.) Loans and financing are real world things that adults understand, but these are new concepts for many of the children playing the game. What’s different about ACNH is that these are zero-interest loans and you can take as much time as you want in repaying your mortgage. No late fees! 


Donating

As I mentioned above, the primary method for earning Bells in the game is through gathering and selling consumable items you find around the island. Some of these items are incredibly common, others are rare. As you might imagine, goods that are harder to find fetch a higher price when you sell them. For example, a Coelacanth (a type of fish that’s critically endangered in reality) sells for 15,000 Bells. That’s some serious money that could be used toward paying off your debt or buying cool new stuff. But the game encourages you to donate one of every type of creature, fossil, and piece of art found on the island. These donations are then placed on display in an elaborate museum. ACNH players are quite proud of their museums. I know that I was particularly excited when I caught my first Great White Shark, and even though I could have sold it for a lot of Bells, I donated it to the museum so I could regularly visit and watch it swim. I’m still searching for the elusive Coelacanth. The concept of donating in the game is interesting. The reward players receive for donating is not monetary, but they do receive a great deal of satisfaction in working toward a complete museum collection.


Supply and Demand

While most sellable items in ACNH have a set price, there are times you can earn extra income. For example, Timmy and Tommy Nook, who buy anything you find on the island, have a “hot item” every day. This is an object that you can craft using raw materials you find on the island. My first “hot item” was a simple wooden nightstand. By harvesting wood from every tree on my island, I was able to make several dozen and sell them at a marked up price. There are other ways to maximize profits. Some of the animal characters in the game have particular appetites. For example, C.J. is a beaver who will occasionally visit your island and pay 1.5x more for fish than Timmy and Tommy will pay.


Stock Market

No discussion of Animal Crossing: New Horizons would be complete without talking about turnips. Yes, turnips. Each Sunday, an animal character named Daisy Mae will arrive on your island to sell turnips. The cost of the turnips varies from island to island. For example, mine cost 108 Bells earlier this week, while a friend of mine reported her cost as 103 Bells. Fortunately, we found another friend who had turnips for 92 Bells each. We immediately visited his island to buy as many turnips as we could carry. Why? Because throughout the rest of the week, we will have the opportunity to sell our turnips for a huge profit (or loss). You have just one week to sell turnips bought on Sunday, before they rot. On Monday, I checked the value of turnips on my own island, and I could sell them for 142 Bells each. Yes, it’s a profit, but last week I sold my turnips for 459 Bells each! As with the real world stock market, the goal is to buy low and sell high. I want the best return possible, so I start by asking my friends about the prices on their islands. If they have an exceptionally good price, I simply travel to their island to sell. But if they don’t have good prices either, that’s when I turn to the internet. ACNH players from around the world use social media, apps, and websites to communicate about turnip prices and negotiate island visits. One of the more popular apps is called ACNH Exchange. On it, players can post their current turnip prices and agree to host other players on their islands. But there’s a catch. The lines are long (I’ve seen lines up to 13 hours long), and hosts often demand high value items in exchange for allowing you to visit. This is when a player must consider the return on investment. Is the time spent in line and the fee for accessing the island worth it? I got lucky last week and was able to visit a friend’s island to sell my turnips. There was no wait, and the friend didn’t charge me any fee. This week, I have 2,000 turnips to sell, so now I’m aggressively looking for the best price with the lowest fee and shortest wait.


Economic Education

All of the above commentary might make you think Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a stressful game. Personally, I find it incredibly relaxing. It’s also been a fun new thing to do with my friends while we’re all social distancing. My ACNH character can visit their islands, and they can visit mine. It’s a safe way of hanging out together. 

What I wasn’t expecting when getting the game was the economic education built into it. The financial concepts explored in-game and the real world economics that have evolved with the game’s popularity make it all the more interesting for me, as someone who educates others about personal finance and investment fraud. If you’re looking for a fun way to introduce your children to some basic financial concepts, Animal Crossing: New Horizons might suit your needs. Just make sure you have conversations offline about differences between the game and reality. 

Meanwhile, I’m going to look for ways to integrate Animal Crossing into the activities and presentations we offer for kids. I encourage you to take a look at what we already have to offer by checking out a previous blog post


If you want a lot more in-depth information about the economics of Animal Crossing, here are some of the articles I read before writing this blog post: 


Blog Topics:
Budgeting, Credit, Investing 

A Second Stimulus Check

A Second Stimulus Check

 

By Kylee Hale

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Man holding dollar billsThe debate continues as lawmakers try to determine if a second round of stimulus checks will be sent out. But the upside is more than likely in the month of July, the decision on if Americans will receive a second stimulus check will be made. One thing is for sure, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell has said that the next relief package will be the last. Below are some updates on who would qualify for a second stimulus check and the possible timeline for the checks to be distributed. If you have not received your first stimulus check, you can track the status or report a missing stimulus check here. Also if you are still waiting on the first stimulus check, here is a list of some possible reasons of why you haven’t received it yet. 

Decision Making Timeline

There is no official date set for Congress to vote on the second stimulus package. Yet this timeframe gives insight as to when a decision will likely be provided. 

7/3-7/17 As of last Friday (July 3rd) the Senate has been on a planned recess and will return on July 20th. Supposedly during this break the members of the Senate will be gathering the information needed for the second stimulus package and return ready to work. 

7/20 – 8/7 The Senate will return and be hard at work in session. 

8/10-9/7 The Senate will go on August recess, from mid-August through the Labor Day holiday. 

Senator McConnell has already said that the Senate will not work through the August break. If the Senate decides to take up a second stimulus package in July, a new bill authorizing the second round of checks would need to pass both chambers on or before the recess beginning August 7th. After the August recess, the Senate will return on September 8th and continue through September 25th. If the stimulus package is not completed by Congress before the August break, then the discussion will resume in September.

Payment Distribution Timeframe

If the second round of stimulus checks are approved, the next question you may be asking is, when will the checks be sent out? If the bill passes the House and the Senate prior to the August recess, it’s possible the IRS could begin sending out checks in August. 

Thinking back to the first round of stimulus checks, on March 27th the President signed the CARES ACT into law and the first stimulus payments went out on April 15. This three week turnaround on the first stimulus payment shows that it’s possible for the second round of stimulus checks to be sent out before the end of August. If the bill is signed on or before August 7th, following the timeframe from the CARES ACT, the second round of checks could be sent out around August 26th. 

It is possible the processing for the second round of stimulus checks could be faster than first round since some of the hiccups should be already taken care of. The IRS already has the tools established for Americans for sign up for direct deposit and/or check the status of their stimulus payment. However, the guidelines of who qualifies for a second stimulus payment has changed a little and this could affect the speed of how fast or slow the checks are processed.

Who Might Qualify

Man with papers and laptopNo details have been confirmed yet. The HEROS ACT was passed in May by the House of Representatives and proposes more coverage for families and individuals like college students which were not covered in the first round of stimulus payments. However some officials say this second round of payments will be more narrowly awarded to those most in need. There is potential that individuals who reported a gross income less than $99,000 on their 2018/2019 taxes would qualify for the second stimulus payment. In addition, there is speculation that college students, dependents over 17, and disabled relatives would qualify as well. There has also been talk that no one will qualify. It’s possible the second stimulus package could be geared to give tax credits and incentives to businesses with some people awarded travel or dining credit but not a check.

How Much Money?

There is a lot of discussion still to be had before the amount of money that might be on a second stimulus check is clear. As mentioned above there is a chance, no check is sent, but travel and dining vouchers distributed instead. The Heroes Act proposes another $1,200 check for qualifying individuals. While some representatives propose a larger check amount and some suggest a tax credit. The amount remains very uncertain and regardless individuals still have to meet qualifying guidelines before being in the clear to receive a second stimulus payment.

 

With the variance in the information and insight being given regarding the second round of stimulus checks it's best not to take anything to heart.  While uncertainty remains as to how our communities will recover and the best ways to onboard a new stable normal, it’s important to focus on yourself and what makes you secure. Check out this recent post on reducing financial anxiety, and the original COVID-19 Financial Survival Guide for tips on managing and saving money during these difficult times.

Vacation... Had to Get Away!

Vacation... Had to Get Away!

 

By Kelly Griese

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

With the holiday weekend upon us, you’re probably looking to create some distance between yourself and the sofa. We get it. Summer has us all itching to get outside and explore, but there are challenges this year that we have not faced in the past. 

It can be especially hard on kids. Summer camps are canceled. Sports are canceled. Even running around with other kids in the neighborhood can be risky. But there are still plenty of ways to have fun as a family. In fact, if you’re a parent working remotely, this may be the perfect year for a long family road trip. 

In this blog post, I’m going to focus on outdoor fun that’s perfect for social distancing. In planning your own trip, remember that Google is your friend! Use search words like vacation, pandemic, and budget along with any terms that best describe your ideal vacation. 


National Parks

Our national parks are remarkable. Americans (and visitors from abroad) love exploring this nation’s natural beauty. In 2019 alone, more than 327 million people visited national parks. There are 419 parks to explore! You’ll want to check with the National Parks Service before embarking on your journey. While the majority of our nation’s most famous parks are open right now, some sections of those parks are closed. You can research parks and check for any closures/restrictions by visiting this website

We Recommend: 

  • Indiana Dunes – it’s great for beach lovers and bird watchers! Plus, if your kids like Pokémon Go, have them give geocaching a try. 
  • Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial – it’s great for history lovers and hikers! Parks like Lincoln Boyhood help bring the past to life, which is great for getting children excited about learning. 

State Parks

Visits to state parks can be equally fun and frugal. All Indiana Department of Natural Resources properties are open right now, including state parks, but there are a few services and facilities that are temporarily closed due to the pandemic. DNR regularly updates its website with information about such restrictions, and you can view the full list here

We Recommend: 

  • Clifty Falls – it’s great for waterfall lovers and fossil enthusiasts. We love this state gem so much here at the Indiana Secretary of State’s office, that we named one of our conference rooms after it! And if you’re looking for more waterfalls to chase, Indiana has plenty of options. Visit Indiana put together this inspiring list. 
  • Angel Mounds – it’s great for bicyclists and history buffs. Located in Evansville, this site is nationally recognized as one of the best-preserved prehistoric Native American sites in the United States. You may also be interested in Mounds State Park near Anderson, which features 10 unique earthworks built by the Adena-Hopewell people. The largest mound is believed to have been constructed around 160 B.C. 

Quick Tips: 

  • Many water fountains have been turned off due to the pandemic. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water! And if you’re traveling with pets, you’ll want a portable dish for their water. 
  • You may need special permits or licenses to enjoy some activities, such as hunting, fishing, and boating. Check with the department of natural resources in the state you’re visiting to see what’s required. 
  • Make campground reservations in advance! Nothing worse than showing up and not having a place to stay. 

RV Rentals

Maybe you don’t want to add mileage to your own vehicle, or perhaps you simply want some room to spread out for the long drive. RV rentals are all the rage right now. Just make sure you do your research. There’s a lot to consider before renting an RV. What kind of vacation are you planning? Where are you traveling? Are you comfortable driving such a large vehicle? Do you know where you can park it? Have you created a fuel budget? I am by no means an RV expert, but the folks at KOA are! They have 10 tips for renting an RV that you’ll want to read as part of your trip planning. 


Cabin Rentals

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of social media posts that feature my friends having fun with their families at rental cabins here in Indiana and some of our neighboring states. Cabins can be a great way to get away during a pandemic. There’s typically more space between you and any other folks on vacation, and it’s still a change of scenery from your primary quarantine residence. But before you jump on VRBO or Airbnb, you once again need to consider your vacation carefully. Frommer’s provides some essential words of wisdom

  • Know what you want. You need to identify your priorities, such as location and amenities. If the cabin absolutely must be waterside, then know you might spend more on that priority. 
  • Timing is everything. Research what’s going on in the surrounding community. Right now, this is one way you can likely save, because many events are canceled. You probably don’t need to worry about a large festival or sporting event inflating the cost of rental properties. 
  • Authenticate the property. It is vital you verify that the pictures and description you’ve found online match a real property that’s available for rent. There are far too many horror stories about scams involving vacation rentals for you to forgo this step.  

Fishing Trips

Fishing is a great way to spend time together as a family. Whether you practice catch-and-release, or you’re looking to reel in a campfire meal, this is an activity just about everyone can learn and enjoy. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrote a great beginner’s guide for aspiring anglers that I highly recommend. One of the key takeaways is getting a fishing license! Once you know the basics and have a license, you can plan your fishing adventure. Gear and location are two major components of any fishing trip. Do you need to buy gear, or is rental equipment available? Are there fees for using the location? Are you allowed to keep what you catch?

We Recommend: 

  • Indy Fishing Locations – The IndyStar put together a good list of local fishing holes for you to explore. 

Quick Tips: 

  • It’s important to be a good steward of the environment when fishing. Abandoned gear is harmful to wildlife, and overfishing ruins the fun for future generations. 
  • Bring a first aid kit with you. Fishing injuries are fairly common. Here are some tips for tending to injuries that might occur. 
  • Wear lifejackets or personal floatation devices (PFDs) when fishing from a boat. 

Roadside Attractions

Finally, let’s talk about a staple of family vacations: the roadside attraction. This term may make you think of weird wastes of money, but that’s not always the case. Kids love these quick stops, and many are accessible without paying a cent. Plus, they make for some fun family photos. Visit Indiana compiled an awesome list of roadside attractions you can find in the Hoosier state, and most of them are outside! 

Quick Tips: 

  • Bring hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes if you plan on getting up-close-and-personal with any of these landmarks. 
  • Check if there is an Instagram hashtag for the location. Such spots are hot with social media influencers. 

Blog Topics:
Budgeting, Fraud Prevention

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