2017 Tax Breaks That Will Impact Your 2018 Return

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Fortunately your taxes aren’t due. Not yet. You have until April 18 to file your 2016 tax return if you haven’t done so. For most of us (4 out of 5 of us, according to the IRS), a refund is waiting. This is largely because the IRS offers a variety of tax deductions, exceptions and credits to lower your tax bill. Many of these are adjusted for inflation, so they often change from year to year.

Tax year 2017 has several annual inflationary adjustments to consider. Here’s a breakdown of some key changes to help you plan for your taxes. Keep in mind that these are for the 2017 tax year – they’re not rates you’ll use to prepare your 2016 returns.

The big change for everyone is in the individual income tax brackets, which have been adjusted for inflation. They’re typically adjusted so you can earn more without moving into a higher tax bracket. Inflation has been nominal, so there wasn’t a significant shift upwards in the tax schedule. Still, if you were on the cusp, it’s good to be aware of where you might be now. You can see 2017 tax bracket tables here.

More good news is that your standard deduction will go up a smidge in 2017. Individual filers and heads of households will receive a standard deduction of $6,350 and $9,350, respectively, up $50 from 2016. Couples filing jointly get a $100 year-over-year bump to $12,700 in 2017. This may not seem like much but anything that will reduce your tax liability without you having to do a thing is money in the bank.

There are several other important changes that may also affect your taxes, including that traditional and Roth IRA phaseouts will be adjusted higher and health saving accounts (HSA) contributions have increased for individuals. You can find more detailed information about those and other changes here. Please see your tax advisor to determine how this information may apply to you.

20 Valentine’s Day Gifts Under $20

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Ahhh, Valentine’s Day. The pressure-filled holiday of over-priced flowers and chocolates. Alas, never fear. We’ve scoured the internet to find 20 gifts under $20 for your honey.

Love Icon Gummy Candies – $9.

Kate Spade Thermos – $18

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Heart Shaped Twinkle Lights – $12

Men’s I heart you socks – $10

Keeper Trinket Tray – $6

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Snuggle is Real Shirt – $6

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What I Love About You Journal – $12

Heart Print Trunks – 8 fancy Euros

Tie pins – $13

Onward Vegan Key Ring – $18

ColourPop Lip Matte – $6

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Yoda One For Me Mug – $13

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Love You To the Moon Wood Décor – $16

I Pick You, Personalized Guitar Pick -$9

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Compliment Card Set – $13

Honest Love, Customizable V-Day Card – $0

Tub of Now & Laters – $14

Heart Throw Pillow – $15

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Love Struck Candle – $10

Trusty coupon book of favors – $0

Digital Nomads. What you need to know.

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Are you interested in becoming a digital nomad?

Digital nomads use modern technology to earn a living and conduct their lives in a nomadic lifestyle, whether from their homes or across the globe. Wireless internet, smartphones, VOIP and cloud-based applications are allowing more and more people to work remotely, untethered to a workplace.

While the lifestyle is growing in popularity, it is not without challenges. Here are some tips to help you decide if it’s for you and some skills to help you make a successful transition.

There are no off days

The good news is that you’re essentially the boss of your own company – You Inc. The bad news is that your company never really closes. The work hours will greatly depend upon what time zone you’re doing business with, so be prepared for early mornings and late nights. But that also means you can leave days open for other things, like visiting a new city.

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Learn to juggle

Most likely, you won’t be working with only one source of income, or client. So you will have to learn to juggle competing projects, each with its own rules, guidelines and topics. Some days you will love the variety and other days will tax you to no end.

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Procrastination is a constant temptation

It’s not like there aren’t already enough things that tempt you to waste time.

However, when you are your own boss, nobody will be there to tell you to get to work, so you need to have plenty of self-discipline. Find the work rhythm that works for you and stick to it.

Work on skills that you can leverage

You’ll need to work on the skills you can leverage to build the life you want; you can’t simply declare yourself a digital nomad and expect everything to fall into place. So sit down and figure out the skills you have. Then, sharpen those skills and find the people who are looking for what you have to offer.

Most importantly, network, network, network. There are many communities built around the digital nomad lifestyle with plenty of great advice for building a successful career away from a traditional daily workplace. Meet other digital nomads and take advantage of their experience.

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Seize 2017

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Money shouldn’t hold you back from real change in 2017

New Year’s resolutions are a time-honored tradition. As in, the ancient Babylonians were setting self-improvement goals 4,000 years ago. And just like us, they were soon breaking them. If you’ve made promises to yourself about some major lifestyle changes in 2017, chances are good you’ll start to see some slippage sooner rather than later.

This year, I will…

Lose weight.

Stop smoking.

Get in shape.

Save money.

Sound familiar?

Bumming a smoke – or just a Coke – from a co-worker. Those leftover Christmas cookies. Ordering a little more than your holiday gift card could cover. It happens.

The reason New Year’s resolutions usually fail is twofold: They’re overly ambitious, and they don’t come with tangible plans attached.

You can, of course, sign up for a weight loss program or gym membership – those places are swarming with motivated newbies this time of year. And that kind of support and commitment is one way to tip the odds in your favor. But you’ll do even better by stepping back and taking a breath before you make any promises to yourself.

Say you want to get in shape. Well, what does that even look like? If you’ve been lounging for years, you won’t be running marathons this June. Just not going to happen. You’re more likely to overextend, burn out and even hurt yourself if you go all-in with twice-daily workouts. Then, disappointed with yourself, you’re back on the couch.

So start small. Make a list of things you can realistically do. Then incorporate them into your life one at a time. Take the stairs at work for a month before you join that yoga class. Keep up the yoga for a month, then start meeting friends for walks.

The “transform by baby steps” principle isn’t new, but people who’ve made real change happen in their lives swear by it. If your goals are tied to money, the psychology becomes a little more complicated. It probably involves you telling yourself things like this:

“I don’t have enough money to do that.”

“More money would solve most of my problems.”

“Making less money would be irresponsible and selfish.”

“I have a secure career path and I’m sticking with it.”

When you take the time to really dream about that thing you’ve always wanted to do, you probably hear some of those self-defeating justifications. That’s because most people make terrible life coaches for themselves. Money is an easy thing to hang your insecurities on when the thing you’re really afraid of is taking a shot at your ultimate goal and failing.

Adam Savage of “MythBusters” fame is fond of saying, “Failure is always an option.” That’s because truly successful people have a string of failures in their pasts. Nothing worth doing is achieved without risk. Not opening your own bakery, writing that screenplay or traveling around the world. If you’re not chasing your dream, don’t blame it on money.

The Great Recession ripped the mask off money myths for millions. Here are some things the latest financial crash reminded us of:

You don’t need a lot of money to start a business.

Money in the bank doesn’t make you happier.

You can live on much less money than you do now.

No job is secure.

You’ll have more than one career before retirement – if retirement is even the ultimate goal.

Scary? Yes. But freeing, too. Yes, you might have family responsibilities – but those don’t have to include PlayStations and cable. Your true legacy could be one of ambition and excitement for those around you.

A new year doesn’t mean you should quit your job and buy a food truck if you can’t make a bologna sandwich. But 2017 can be the year you finally restore that muscle car in your dad’s shed, the year you actually enroll in a small business class, the year you get on a plane with nothing but a backpack and a map.

It’s easy to forget that money is just a tool to help us shape our lives according to our dreams. We’re not supposed to shape our dreams around accumulating more of it. Money isn’t the goal. A great life is.

Festive Decor For Less

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Create a festive holiday feel in your home for less

Hosting any kind of holiday gathering means putting up a few decorations to set the mood. If you’ve put off the job until the last minute, or you just have no desire to spend hundreds on an elaborate tree dripping with ornaments, here are some ideas to get you started without emptying your wallet.

Decorate the greenery you already own. Who says your ficus isn’t festive? A strand of LED lights won’t hurt it, and you might not want to take them down. The same goes for any sturdy houseplants – even cactus. Arrange them in a row against a wall for a nontraditional backdrop.

Put your leftover wrapping paper to use. Brightly wrapped books stand in for stacks of presents. You can also line serving trays or even fill empty photo frames with holiday paper. If you’re really crafty, you can create bows, place mats, streamers and even paper trees.

Shine lights through glass. The new strands of affordable, battery-powered LED lights are perfect for coiling inside mason jars, glass vases glass building block cubes or even glass serving bowls. Because the LED strands don’t get too hot, you can incorporate ribbons or other ornamentation.

Raid the yard for supplies. Pinecones and freshly cut sprigs of coniferous trees make an easy mantel drape, table runner decoration or even a tiny tree stand-in. Pinecones are perfect for dipping in metallic paint or dusting with glitter – a great art project for little ones if you have some around.

Make Christmas cards into something special. With nothing but a hole punch, some thumbtacks and a few yards of yarn, you can fashion a meaningful wall or fireplace display from all the pretty cards you’ve gotten. If you don’t have enough cards, fill out your presentation by alternating cards with construction paper snowflakes.

Set a memorable table with kraft paper. Unfurling a roll of this basic brown paper over your dining room table is just the beginning. Kraft paper can be decorated with everything from Sharpies and stamps to glitter and glued-on pages from old books or sheet music. You can even set out piles of crayons for the party. And when you’re all done, just roll up and throw away.

Leave no ornament behind. If you’ve got basic tree decorations that didn’t make the cut this year, dress them up with a little metallic spray paint or glitter. Pile them on a cake stand or inside a glass vase, and voila! Instant centerpiece.

Don’t forget the pillows. You can wrap old Christmas sweaters around pillows and make them look like presents without sewing a stitch, or just tie decorative bows around solid bright throw pillows.

Break out the fancy glassware. Even if you don’t drink from your martini or wineglasses, you can dust the rims with sugar and fill them with colorful holiday candies, then stash them around the house for party wanderers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last-minute gifts don’t have to be lame. Unless that’s the idea.

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Some people are just hard to buy for. So you wait and wait, until suddenly it’s crunch time. Here are some not-so-lame gift ideas if you find yourself stuck.

Buying for someone who lives to laugh? Raise the everyday humor ante with these titles.

  • You’ll Grow Out of It, by Jessi Klein. The memoir of a tomboy and a late bloomer, from one of Amy Schumer’s head writers.
  • American Housewife, by Helen Ellis. Twelve short stories of women under pressure range from the acerbic to the surreal.
  • I’m Just a Person, by Tig Notaro. The comedian’s personal tale of four months of tragedy has been known to cause laughter through tears.

Need something for that coworker who thinks they’re Wolfgang Puck?

  • Les Moulins Mahjoub Natural Preserved Lemons. Offer to be a taster for new recipes.
  • Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste. Made with Madagascar bourbon. For intense flavor and those telltale “real vanilla” specks.
  • An apron with a measuring cheat sheet on it. Because the metric system is for people with funny accents.

Know an old guy who needs nothing? Maybe you call him your boss. Or “Dad.”

  • A wilderness fire starter. He’s not outdoorsy, you say? Doesn’t matter. Males love fire.
  • A scratch-off map of the world. He’ll be able to tell young’uns all his travel stories with a visual aid for a change.
  • Night Vision Driving Glasses. He’ll feel like a Navy SEAL when he’s going out to get milk after dark.

Passive-aggressive gifts for that woman in your life who gives out backhanded compliments, as in: “That outfit really creates the illusion of a waistline.”

  • A cellulite massager. That is all.
  • An illuminated makeup mirror. Tell her, “I think better lighting will just make all the difference.” Practice saying it with a straight face.
  • A succulent garden containing cacti. Because it’s prickly.

For the children in your life, or just people who live their lives as such.

  • Hatchimals. New for 2016, these spotted “eggs” eventually reveal magical creatures inside.
  • Kinetic Sand. Hours of fun and less messy than it sounds, too.
  • A Buddha Board. It uses water as vanishing paint, like Snapchat for doodlers.

Oh, someone fancies themselves an artist, do they?

  • Twistables Slick Stix: Hard to find in stores, these Crayola twist-ups are a dream combo of crayons, pastels and markers.
  • Dylusions Ink Spray: You could spray them, but most people stencil, stamp and paint to create dynamic transparencies with these waterproof acrylics.
  • Washi Tape: It’s like beauty you can unroll. Washi is an obsession on Pinterest, where crafters use it to mark up calendars, wrap presents and take scrapbooking to the next level.

When you’re last-minute shopping, Amazon Prime and other free-shipping sites can be your best friends, but don’t count out locally owned brick-and-mortar stores for inspiration and unique finds. Just make sure you go in with a list and a plan.

You also might be tempted into grabbing a few things for yourself – just admit it now – but make sure that’s built into your holiday budget, too.

 

 

Smart Holiday Gift Giving

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Who doesn’t love to be a bighearted Santa at this time of year? Giving nice gifts to your friends and family feels even better than getting gifts (well, most of the time). But equating big hearts with big spending is where we often go wrong.

So how much should you spend on gifts? We can’t give you a specific dollar amount because every budget is unique. However, the average amount spent last year on gifts was $800, and with an average household income of $50,000 you could adjust your spending to your income. But that doesn’t mean that is the correct amount for you. The best plan to is to understand your budget and what you can afford. And, most importantly, stick to your budget.

Here are some ideas to help you rein in your holiday spending.

Make a list and check it twice

Remembering at the last minute that you forgot a gift for Aunt Sue or your boss is a surefire way to bust your budget. Make a list of everyone you want to buy a present for and then make sure you include that gift in your budget.

Buy in advance

You know you won’t find the best deals the week before Christmas, so keep your eyes open for deals year-round. The earlier you start, the more money you’ll save because you won’t be in a rush and you’ll be able to take advantage of sales. And don’t forget wrapping paper. Buy after the holiday and sock it away. Plus, if you’ve done most of your shopping early, you’ll be able to enjoy the season more.

Make ordinary things “presents”

Save up some of the things you would buy for family anyway and put them under the tree. This might include items that are replaced frequently like batteries and shoes, or winter clothing that you might not need at the start of the season. Opening the gift is half the fun no matter what’s inside.

Wrap “family gifts” to add to kids’ presents

The annual family membership to the science museum or zoo, movie or restaurant gift cards, or even homemade coupons for a “Father/Daughter Evening” are expenses you incur throughout the year but are more fun to unwrap as a present Christmas morning.

Cut out the adults

You’re probably not the only one you know who is stressed about finding the perfect gift and, of course, being able to afford it. Sometimes if you’ve been giving presents to each other for years, a little gift-giving hiatus is the perfect gift.

Raising Selfless Children

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Our children are growing up in an age filled with relentless messages to consume more, more, more, as well as immediate access to almost anything. Add to that the rapidly evolving technology available to them and the ever-present competition among peers, and the difficulty of raising selfless children in a materialistic world can seem impossible. But it’s not hopeless, of course, and there are plenty of things you can do to help them maintain a level of humility. Here are a few ways you can start:

Set limits, and when you say “No,” mean it.

One reason kids become selfish is they get too used to getting their way. It’s important to be clear about what you expect of them and then adhere to those limits. Giving in to tantrums, whining, complaining or attempts to make you feel guilty simply teaches them that they get their way if they complain enough.

Go through possessions with them and donate to charity.

You already know kids are constantly outgrowing clothes and toys. But don’t just deal with them on your own, make time to go through their belongings with them and donate some to charity. It is very useful to give them an understanding of the lives of the less fortunate and how some help can really make a difference.

Do chores with them.

Kids don’t innately understand that hard work pays off. Assign chores and then help them complete them. They may not understand that the house looks nice because you spent hours cleaning it, but if they do their part they can see concrete results and how it directly affects their world.

Nurture empathy.

Babies are by nature selfish, and so are young kids. It takes awhile for them to realize the world isn’t centered on them, so encourage them to consider how others feel. You nurture their empathy by helping them understand the mindset of someone else. “Imagine you just moved here and are walking into school for the first time. How would you feel?”

Reinforce selfless acts.

One of the quickest ways to increase selflessness is to “catch” them doing unselfish acts and praise them. Doing so will encourage them to repeat the behavior. Just remember to describe the behavior and point out the impact it had. “Did you see the smile on your brother’s face when you shared your toys? You made him so happy.”

 

 

Win a $250 Savings Account (Kids only)

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From the Pig, For the Kids

You could win a $250 Kirby Savings Account by simply being creative. Stop by any Missouri Credit Union branch starting October 21 and ask for a mini Hank. Take your mini Hank home and decorate him or just take a creative photo of him. Upload the photo to Instagram and one lucky kid (12 or younger) will win a $250 Kirby Savings Account.

Supplies are limited, so get your mini Hank while you can! Contest runs through November 4. Winner will be announced the following week. Entry limit one per child.

How to Enter:

  1. Decorate your mini Hank.
  2. Snap a photo.
  3. Follow @missouricreditunion on Instagram.
  4. Upload your Hank photo to Instagram.
  5. Tag MCU in the photo.
  6. Include #FromThePigForTheKids in the post.

Complete list of rules and regulations below.

Contest Rules

Sponsor:

The Contest is sponsored by Missouri Credit Union (MCU) with principal place of business at 111 East Broadway, Columbia, MO 65203.

Binding Agreement:

Each person entering this contest agrees by the act of participation to be bound by these rules and procedures of MCU’s Hank Contest.

How to Enter:

During the Contest Period:

  1. Stop by any MCU branch and pick up a mini Hank. *Supplies limited
  2. Decorate your mini Hank, snap a photo and upload it to Instagram.
  3. Follow Missouri Credit Union – @missouricreditunion.
  4. Tag Missouri Credit Union in your photo.
  5. Include #FromThePigForTheKids in your caption.

By uploading your Submission, you agree that your Submission conforms to the Photo Guidelines and Content Restrictions as defined below (collectively, the “Guidelines and Restrictions”) and that Sponsor, in its sole discretion, may remove your Submission and disqualify you from the Contest if it believes that your Submission fails to conform to the Guidelines and Restrictions.

Guidelines and Restrictions:

Photo Guidelines:

  • The Submission must be in JPG or PNG format.
  • The Submission cannot have been submitted previously in a promotion of any kind or exhibited or displayed publicly through any means.

Eligibility Restrictions:

You must be 12 years old or younger to enter this contest, live in Missouri, and “follow” MCU’s Instagram page. Parental consent is required. A consent form will need to be signed upon retrieval of the mini Hank. Parents may use their personal Instagram account to enter on behalf of their child. Limit one entry per child.

Employees, contractors and official officeholders of MCU; advertising and promotion agency representatives; agents (“Contest Entities”); and members of the Contest Entities’ immediate families (parents, siblings, children, spouses, and life partners of each) and members of the households (whether related or not) of such employees and officers are ineligible to participate in this Contest.

Entry Deadline:

Your Hank photo must be submitted between midnight (Central Time) Oct. 21, 2016 and midnight (Central Time) Nov. 4, 2016.

How the Winner is Selected:

The winner is selected at random. Entries limited to one per child.

Notification of the Winner:

Becoming the winner is subject to validation and verification of eligibility and compliance with all the terms and conditions set forth in these rules. If a potential winner is disqualified for any reason, there will be a redrawing for another winner. The potential winner will be notified by direct message on Instagram, at Sponsor’s discretion. If a potential winner does not respond to the notification attempt within three days of the first notification attempt, then such potential winner may be disqualified and an alternate potential winner will be selected.

Photography Requirements:

Your photos cannot contain any content, element, or material that violates or infringes another’s rights, including but not limited to privacy, publicity or intellectual property rights, or that constitutes copyright infringement.

If the photograph contains any material or elements that are not owned by the entrant and/or that are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any people appear in the photograph, the entrant is responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary.

In addition, the Submission must not:

  • Be derogatory, offensive, threatening, defamatory, disparaging, or libelous, or contain any content that is inappropriate, is indecent, or otherwise does not comply with the theme and spirit of the Contest.
  • Disparage Sponsor or any other person or party affiliated with the Contest.
  • Contain material that promotes bigotry, racism, hatred or harm against any group or individual or promotes discrimination based on race, gender, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age.
  • Contain material that is unlawful, in violation of or contrary to the laws or regulations in any state where Submission is created.

Elimination:

Any false information provided within the context of the Contest by an entrant concerning identity, age, mailing address, telephone number, email address, ownership of rights or noncompliance with these Rules or the like may result in the immediate elimination of the entrant from the Contest.

Release:

By receipt of any prize, winner agrees to release and hold harmless the Sponsor, Administrator, and Instagram, and their respective parent companies, subsidiaries, affiliates, suppliers, distributors, advertising/promotion agencies, and prize suppliers, and each of their respective parent companies and each such company’s officers, directors, employees and agents (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from and against any claim or cause of action, including but not limited to personal injury, death, or damage to or loss of property, arising out of participation in the Contest or receipt or use or misuse of any prize.

Prize:

The winner will receive a $250.00 Kirby Savings Account. Any additional taxes or expenses associated with the awarded prize are the responsibility of the winner. Any additional taxes or expenses associated with the awarded prize are the responsibility of the winner and their parent.

Advertising Disclaimer:

Acceptance of any prize shall constitute and signify winner’s agreement and consent that Sponsor and its designees may use the winner’s name, city, state, likeness, photo, Submission and/or prize information in connection with the Contest for promotional, advertising or other purposes, worldwide, in any and all media now known or hereafter devised, including the Internet, without limitation and without further payment, notification, permission or other consideration, except where prohibited by law.

Change in Rules:

These rules may be modified at any time at the sole discretion of MCU.

Payment Plans for Airline Tickets: Smart or Not?

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Read the fine print before buying airline tickets in installments

Airfares have been inching downward in recent months, thanks to lower fuel costs and more seats on new planes. The new lower prices are tempting many consumers to consider once-in-a-lifetime trips that would have previously been out of reach for them.

Those same would-be travelers are now facing temptation from a trend that lets people book their flights and pay for them in installments. Basically, you can now put your plane tickets on layaway.

The idea of layaway has been making a comeback lately. When you want to make sure you get an in-demand, big-ticket item, layaway allows you to claim it for a fraction of its final price, and then make small payments over time. When you’re done paying, you take your purchase home. It’s a concept popular with parents planning for holidays and couples shopping for engagement rings.

But does it make good financial sense?

CheapAir.com lets you take out a loan for your flight and pay it back over three, six or 12 months. The business model is aimed at people who don’t use credit cards, but it’s also for those who just can’t afford that flight to France all at once. A similar philosophy is in place at startup site Airfordable.com, where travelers pay a third of their ticket costs up front, then pay the rest off in monthly or biweekly installments.

Major carriers like American Airlines have had layaway-esque programs for years, but they usually require travelers to apply for an airline credit card to qualify.

These new offerings open air travel up to people who couldn’t – or wouldn’t – charge their fares in the past, usually because of bad credit. Buying tickets well in advance is usually a surefire way to get the best deals, too – even if you can’t pony up for the whole amount at the moment.

But when you look a little more closely, paying in installments has its drawbacks. A CheapAir loan is based on your credit history, with interest charged between 10 percent and 30 percent. Airfordable doesn’t charge interest, but it tacks on a flat 20 percent fee. In the end, the average traveler might not be much better off paying in installments than putting tickets on a credit card and paying them off that way.

An even better option is to squirrel away the funds for trips using a targeted savings account. You can even set up your direct deposit to direct a set amount from each paycheck, keeping your travel money separate and insulated from your everyday spending while you watch it grow.plane-airplane-airliner-passenger-sky-sky-cumulus-clouds-clouds-flight-flight-aircraft-wing-wing-morning-bright-sun-beautiful-background-blur-bokeh-wallpaper

That way, when you do purchase tickets online, you can pay your card off immediately and avoid taking that interest hit. You might have to put off your trip for a while if you want to get early-bird fares several months before takeoff. But it means you’ll have more spending money – or even more nights in a hotel – when you get there.

Paying for airfare a little bit at a time is a great idea when it’s earning interest for you. It’s not so great when you’re tied into a high-interest loan or paying more than you have to for your seat.