Money-Smart Social Distancing Projects

(From the Financial Literacy Blog) – Earlier this week, Maine Governor Janet Mills announced new restrictions on non-essential businesses. The latest Executive Order requires non-essential businesses to close their public facing locations until April 8, meaning that even more people will be staying home for the time being. For many Mainers, social distancing and staying home will be a reality for the next few weeks or more. However, you can make the most of your time spent at home by taking on these personal finance projects:

File Your Taxes

If you haven’t already, now is a good time to file your taxes. Although you have until July 15 to file your taxes, you should file as soon as you can.

  • The earlier you file, the less likely you’ll become a victim of identity theft. According to the Government Accountability Office, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has paid more than $3.1 billion to individuals who have filed fraudulent returns using the information of others over the past few years. If an identity thief files a return with your Social Security Number before you, the IRS will decline your attempt at a return. You can file a report and a dispute, but the process can be stressful and time-consuming.
  • If you’re facing a tax bill instead of a refund, it can be equally important to file early. The earlier you file, the earlier you’ll know exactly how much you have to pay. Also, you won’t have to pay in full until the filing deadline. By having extra time to formulate a financial plan, it’s less likely that you’ll have to drain your emergency fund or create an entirely new budget.
  • Filing taxes isn’t exactly a fun or exciting task and can be extremely stressful. With everything going on in the world right now, putting off a potentially stress-inducing task is the last thing you want to do. By continuing to procrastinate, the task can begin to weigh on you. With all this extra time at home, get it out of the way now. Your mental and financial well-being go hand-in-hand.

Check Your Credit

Life can become very busy and it’s easy to fall into routines. If you haven’t been taking the time to review your credit report in the past, now is a great time to start. By going to, you can get a free report every 12 months from each major credit bureau—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Checking your score can show you where your credit stands, ensure your credit information is accurate, allow you to respond to changes quickly, and give you insight on how it can be improved. If you’d like to check your score for free again later this year to monitor your progress, consider staggering reports from the three main bureaus throughout the year. By checking a different bureau every four months, you can check on your score at no cost throughout the year.

Cancel Unnecessary Fees

As various businesses begin to temporarily close, make sure you’re not paying for something that you’re not utilizing. For example, gyms across the state have closed their doors to the public, as they’re not considered essential businesses. If you’re paying a monthly membership fee, you may not be getting your money’s worth next month. Instead, consider canceling your membership until the gym is able to open its doors to the public again. Additionally, how many 30-day free trials have you signed up for and forgotten to cancel? Take a look at some of your recent credit union statements and figure out exactly what you’re paying for every month. The costs of television packages, magazines, and other subscriptions add up and can become more costly than you anticipated. If you aren’t taking advantage of it, cancel it. If you still utilize the services, conduct some research to see if there are cheaper options or alternatives. If you still have cable, consider cutting the cord. By taking a few minutes to assess where your money is going, you can save yourself from spending more than you need to.

Utilize Free Offerings

To help stave off boredom and potential impulse-buying that can put a strain on your budget, a number of companies are giving away things during these unforeseen times. From education to entertainment, you can find a list of free offerings here.

We’re Here for You!

Maine credit unions are open and here for you! Governor Mills has determined that as financial institutions, credit unions are essential services and will remain open. Lobbies may be temporarily closed, but your credit union is still hard at work for you. With drive-through services, online and mobile banking, mobile check deposit, and online loan applications, you can continue to access your credit union accounts and services from the comfort of your own home.