Lower Summer Cooling Costs

Is this hot, humid weather starting to impact your budget? At VCNB we are always looking for ways to save a little money and to use our resources more efficiently. So today we are talking about ways to lower our summer cooling bill.

If you’re like a lot of our customers, you cool your home using either a central air conditioner or window units. Or maybe you simply use fans to keep the air moving and the windows open. Either way, there are methods you can use to keep air conditioners running efficiently, to prevent heat build-up and to prevent energy waste.

Here are some tips to get you started today:

Close the blinds  Anything that prevents the sun from beating in and creating a greenhouse effect will make it easier for your AC unit to maintain cooler temps. If possible consider planting leafy trees or bushes that will provide shade for your home.

 Look for leaks  It sounds silly but you can lose a lot of cool air through small openings around doors and windows. Another major source of loss is around window air conditioning units. A few minutes sealing small drafts can help with energy bills year round. If you have a little extra money, consider adding insulation to your attic as well!

Clean the filters  Keep your air conditioner in great working condition by cleaning the filters once every month and replacing them when necessary.

Program the thermostat  While you may like your house at a comfortable 75 degrees when you’re home, there’s no need to keep the house so cool when you aren’t there. Invest in a programmable thermostat and set it to increase five to ten degrees while you are away from home and to return to a comfortable temperature an hour before you return.

Turn off the oven  Turning on the oven heats up the house, forcing your air conditioner to work harder. Cook on the grill, in the microwave or on the stop top!

 Set your air conditioning fan to auto   This turns the fan motor off when the unit is not cooling. Using Auto rather than On can save you $15 to $25 a month during the summer.

Use ceiling fans  Set ceiling fans to blow downward during the summer to circulate air rather than lowering your thermostat.

Thinking ahead  When it’s time to replace your air conditioning unit, talk to a qualified air conditioning specialist who can determine the right size cooling system for your home. A unit that is too large for your house will operate as inefficiently as one that is too small. Also choose a higher SEER unit. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and basically rates the efficiency of a cooling unit. The higher the SEER number, the more cooling you will get for your dollar.

What are your techniques for keeping your home cool and your cold, hard cash in your wallet? Comment below!

Local Business Spotlight: Blystone Farm

We understand that being a small business owner is tough. That’s why we plan to spotlight a different business each month to help you learn about unique businesses in your own back yard. 

WP_20150707_10_30_51_ProIt’s summertime in Ohio and the season for sunshine, swimming pools and family gatherings is upon us. That means perfect weather for grilling out! And if you’re looking for a place to pick up fresh, local meat to throw on the grill and fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables to pair it with, look no further than Blystone Farm in Canal Winchester.

Blystone Farm is a historic, four generation family farm that has taken eating local to a whole new level. Herds of commercial sheep have been raised on the farm through the years. Then, eleven years ago, Joe Blystone had a brainstorm. Seeing opportunity in Franklin County and surrounding areas, Blystone led the charge in opening an on-farm meat processing facility.

“The idea to bring back the old time butcher shop really started with the growing ethnic community in Franklin County,” Joe said. With lambs and goats being raised at the farm already and the development of the butcher shop, Blystone Farm found their niche in their ability to “provide a high quality fresh meat product to the immigrant and refugee community, with respect to their religious need.”

Opportunities for expansion accompanied the operation’s success. The family farm took on pigs and cows and began laying plans for expanding the shop. Joe’s wife Jane was welcomed into the family business in 2010, bringing expertise as a baker and experience as a business owner.

The building was expanded and the Blystone Farm Retail Market was developed into what it is today – a one stop shop for fresh, local meats, fresh baked bread and pastries, local seasonal fruits and vegetables, craft beer and more, including locally made condiments such as Blystone Farm branded sauces and seasonings.

Nearly all of the meat available at the shop is processed on-site from all Ohio raised livestock. The only exception is grass-fed, naturally-raised buffalo meat used in their bison burgers, sent straight from The Wild Idea Buffalo Company in South Dakota.

It doesn’t stop at the butcher shop and bakery though. Customers with special occasions can place custom orders including half and whole animals for events like a hog roast. In fact, custom orders are gladly accepted and prepared for customers with specific needs.   And, as an added bonus, the outdoor table seating and in-house deli at the shop offer visitors a chance to sit, relax and have a sandwich at lunch while overlooking the beauty of rural farmland.

Word has begun to spread about quality products and service in the expanded shop and rave reviews are rampant on social media. “We’re starting to see folks stop in from further out than Lancaster, Fairfield County, and Franklin County” which is what the primary customer base was in the past, Joe explained.

So the next time you have a hankering for a bison burger or a fresh baked pie, you’re planning a hog roast, or you feel like impressing your guests with local brewed craft beer and a porterhouse steak, stop by Blystone Farm in Canal Winchester. At Blystone Farm, it’s always the season for quality food and drink!

Want to know more? Visit their website or follow Blystone Farm on Facebook!

Cell Phone Courtesy For Everyone

We are busy, busy, busy and always on the go. That means we do more with our phones than ever before. But are you always courteous with your phone.

As of January 2014, the Pew Research Center reports that ninety percent of American adults have cell phones. That means that most of us are walking around with devices in our pockets that give us the gift of communication anywhere we go. Given that so many of us have embraced the technology, we couldn’t overlook the opportunity to talk about polite phone usage during Cell Phone Courtesy Month.

Rather than talk about what not to do, we prefer to focus on the positives. Here are some do’s.

Do Be Present In The Moment
Out with friends? Having dinner with your family? Enjoy the time you have with loved ones and engage in conversation with them! Chances are, whoever is trying to call or message you can wait awhile.

Cell phone courtesyDo Silence Your Phone
Respect the people around you by using your phone’s silent or vibrate mode and let calls go to voicemail during public events like movies and plays or during work meetings. You don’t want to miss out on what’s happening around you or distract others with your conversation.

Do Respect Service Workers
It’s a busy world for you and for the people around you so be respectful of time. Don’t make service workers wait or feel ignored while you carry on a conversation. Store clerks and wait staff will be the first people to tell you they don’t enjoy listening to your conversation while they wait to wait on you.

Do Maintain Your Privacy
Be aware of your surroundings and avoid discussing confidential information or private information in public. You never know who may be in hearing range. Besides, do you really want a lot of strangers to know the details of your recent root canal? Along those lines, keep your emotions in check and avoid having an argument where others can hear.

Do Use Your Indoor Voice
People tend to speak more loudly than normal on their cell phone and sometimes don’t realize how distracting the added volume is to others.

Do Be Discreet
If you need to take a call and you are with a group, excuse yourself and find a quiet place to have the conversation. When possible, stay in place and send the person a text to let them know when you will return the call.

Do Focus on the Road
Be responsible when you’re behind the wheel. Don’t text or place calls when driving. Need to make a call? Pull over for a few minutes. It’s better to be a little late for your destination than to cause an accident with your distracted driving.

Do Watch The Volume
If you’re watching a video or listening to music on your device, try earphones to avoid distracting others.

Respect Rules
While you may love your phone, there are some places that do not welcome your mobile devices. Respect posted signs at places like hospitals, dentist offices or government facilities where usage is restricted.

We know you love your phone! We love our phones too! However, as usage becomes more prevalent, we all need to focus on being good users. What are your thoughts on this topic? We would love to hear from you! Post a comment today!

Payday Loans Can Be Costly

This article provided by Beavercreek Marketing, a division of Beavercreek Inc. Find more articles by Beavercreek in the Learning Center at our website.

Millions of Americans turn to payday loans each year only to find that they can be a very costly way to get quick cash.

No matter what they’re called – payday loans, cash advance loans, or deferred deposit loans –people end up facing fees that translate to interest rates ranging from 200% to more than 500%.

And many people end up paying more in fees than the initial amount of the loan itself.

Here’s how it works …

People who go to payday lending businesses in storefronts or online often need money quickly so they can pay bills ranging from car repairs to rent.

If the person qualifies, the lender makes them a short-term loan – usually for a period of two weeks. You know, enough to get by until their next payday.

To get the loan, borrowers will be charged a fee somewhere between $10 and $20 for each $100 borrowed.

But there’s a big catch – you’re not allowed to make small payments on the loan until it’s paid off – you either pay the full amount or nothing. And that’s where people can get trapped.

Studies have shown many people can’t afford to repay the full amount at the end of only two weeks, so they have to keep extending the loan for more time and continue to pay more fees.

A report by the Pew Charitable Trusts found nearly 12 million Americans take out payday loans each year, and that the average payday loan isn’t paid off for five months.

Here’s what that means …

If someone borrows $300 and has to pay $15 in fees for each $100 borrowed, they’ll owe $345 at the end of 14 days. If they can’t afford to pay the full loan amount, there is the option to extend the loan for another $45 fee every two weeks the loan payment is extended.

And that’s when the expenses can soar. If a borrower pays $45 every two weeks for five months, they will pay $450 in fees alone. That’s an interest rate of 391% and is more than the amount of the loan itself. And they still have to repay the initial $300. So in five months, that $300 loan ends up costing the borrower at total of $750.

There are alternatives to costly payday loans …

– Your best bet is to always expect the unexpected. Cut back on living expenses wherever possible and put money into a savings account. It might be hard on a limited income, but even having $500 in emergency savings can be a huge help. Preparing and following a household budget can help you see where you can reduce costs in order to save money, and can alert you in advance to possible cash-flow problems.

– Check with your financial institution to see if they offer short-term small loans. If so, the interest rate they charge will be far below a payday lender, and you’ll be able to make installment payments rather than being forced to repay the full amount all at once.

– Try contacting your creditors to ask if they will give you more time to pay your bill. You might be forced to pay a late-payment charge, but it will be far below payday loan costs.

– If you have a credit card and haven’t reached your limit, you might consider using it and then making payments over time.

– If you seem to be trapped in debt and need help working out repayment plans or creating a budget, try contacting a non-profit consumer credit counseling service to see if they offer no-cost or low-cost assistance that would work for you.

The Sixties And Beyond: Settling Into Retirement

Welcome to the final day of our series on Saving for Retirement at Any Age. Today our friends at NerdWallet have provided a great post on the decade of your Sixties. Read about the other decades – Twenties, Thirties, Forties and Fifties by clicking on each one.

 There’s one truism about retirement that has stood the test of time: It’s never too late, or too early, to start saving. Whether fresh out of school or winding down in a career, there are things you can do to successfully prepare your nest egg, as well as places where it’s easy to stumble. Financial institutions such as Vinton County National Bank can help you set up a retirement account and personalized plan. But it’s up to you to do the heavy lifting throughout the decades.

Retirement won't be a walk on the beach if you haven't prepared financially. The decade of your sixties is an important time for last minute readiness.

Retirement won’t be a walk on the beach if you haven’t prepared financially. The decade of your sixties is an important time for last minute readiness.

By Cait Klein, NerdWallet

As your working career draws to a close, it’s time to consider when to start drawing on retirement, Social Security or pension benefits. You’ve been working for the majority of your life, and you may have put off those big vacations or life dreams until you retired. But be wary. The biggest mistake people in this age group make is blowing through funds too quickly or all at once. Just because you have a million-dollar retirement fund doesn’t mean you can afford a yacht. Don’t spend the first two or three years of retirement in luxury only to spend the remaining decade or two in poverty. Be realistic about what the years ahead are going to look like and consider revamping the image if it’s not feasible. One way to curb this financial blunder is to retire later or to continue working at least part-time.

Working longer can help keep your mind active and add funds to cushion a nest egg. It also leads to additional government benefits. Whether you retire early or later, the total amount of Social Security benefits that you receive remain the same if you live as long as the expected average. However, delaying when you start receiving Social Security until after your full retirement age could  increase your monthly benefit.

Don’t let short-term thinking get in the way of your future retirement. No matter how old you are, take the initiative now so you can be financially set to embrace the final quarter of life. Growing older is a luxury not afforded to everyone. Make sure that as your hair grays and your smile lines deepen, you’re able to make the most of this new phase of life by being financially prepared.

NerdWallet
When it comes to credit cards, insurance, loans or expenses like hospital costs, consumers make almost all their decisions in the dark. NerdWallet is changing that by building accessible online tools and providing research and experts that can’t be found anywhere else, all to help consumers take back control of their choices in a marketing-driven, trillion-dollar industry. Find out more at www.nerdwallet.com.

The Fifties: Playing Catch-Up

We are nearing the end of Retirement Week by talking about what you should be doing to prepare for retirement when you are in the Fifties age group. Thanks to NerdWallet for providing us such great advice for you today! Check out other decades from earlier this week – Twenties, Thirties and Forties.

There’s one truism about retirement that has stood the test of time: It’s never too late, or too early, to start saving. Whether fresh out of school or winding down in a career, there are things you can do to successfully prepare your nest egg, as well as places where it’s easy to stumble. Financial institutions such as Vinton County National Bank can help you set up a retirement account and personalized plan. But it’s up to you to do the heavy lifting throughout the decades.

Is retirement in your future?

By Cait Klein, NerdWallet

As you straddle the equator of youth and older age, if you haven’t been funding a retirement account, it’s time to play some serious catch-up. Individuals over the age of 50 can make catch up contributions to a Roth IRA before the end of the year of up to $1,000 in 2015. With a 401(k) and other retirement accounts, you can make additional contributions up to $6,000.

The biggest mistake people make as they round the corner toward retirement is getting fixated on a certain image of what life ought to look like. If you envisioned traveling the world or parking on a beach, you may be sorely disappointed if your savings fall short. Remember the adage, you can’t take it with you. Consider downgrading your lifestyle now — moving to a smaller house, selling off additional cars or assets and limiting vacations. Start adopting the lifestyle of a fixed income, if that’s where you’re heading.

NerdWallet
When it comes to credit cards, insurance, loans or expenses like hospital costs, consumers make almost all their decisions in the dark. NerdWallet is changing that by building accessible online tools and providing research and experts that can’t be found anywhere else, all to help consumers take back control of their choices in a marketing-driven, trillion-dollar industry. Find out more at www.nerdwallet.com.

The Forties: Staying Focused

Retirement Week continues! Every day we are posting retirement advice from NerdWallet. Read about preparing in your Twenties and Thirties. Today’s focus is on the Forties.

There’s one truism about retirement that has stood the test of time: It’s never too late, or too early, to start saving. Whether fresh out of school or winding down in a career, there are things you can do to successfully prepare your nest egg, as well as places where it’s easy to stumble. Financial institutions such as Vinton County National Bank can help you set up a retirement account  and personalized plan. But it’s up to you to do the heavy lifting throughout the decades.

 

By Cait Klein, NerdWallet

Despite having another twenty years until retirement, it’s time to get more serious. If you’ve been heavy on the investments and stock portfolio, you may want to start pulling back a bit and shifting to more conservative strategies, such as government bonds. One rule of thumb is to subtract your age from 110 and to have the result be the percentage of your savings that’s invested in the stock market. For example, 45-year-olds may want 65 percent of their savings in stocks as opposed to the 80 percent or more that 30-year-olds might want. Consider refinancing your home if there are better rates available. It’s also time to start paying down credit card and other high-interest debts and allocating that money back into your future.

Don’t let your current life get in the way of a future one — particularly in your forties. People often take a detour from saving to fund higher education for their children. But doing so could put both generations in financial danger. If you aren’t prepared for retirement, you could be a major burden to your own children, preventing them from establishing savings. It’s important to have three to six months’ living expenses saved in an emergency account to prevent the need to draw on retirement funds in the event of a medical crisis, roof leak or for higher education.

NerdWallet
When it comes to credit cards, insurance, loans or expenses like hospital costs, consumers make almost all their decisions in the dark. NerdWallet is changing that by building accessible online tools and providing research and experts that can’t be found anywhere else, all to help consumers take back control of their choices in a marketing-driven, trillion-dollar industry. Find out more at www.nerdwallet.com.

 

 

The Thirties: Time To Get Serious

We have retirement on the brain this week. Every day this week we will post retirement advice from NerdWallet on the various stages of life. Today, we are focusing on the thirties. These folks have been working a while and are more stable in their careers but do they know how to prepare for retirement? Read about your twenties here (w/Link) 

There’s one truism about retirement that has stood the test of time: It’s never too late, or too early, to start saving. Whether fresh out of school or winding down in a career, there are things you can do to successfully prepare your nest egg, as well as places where it’s easy to stumble. Financial institutions such as Vinton County National Bank can help you set up a retirement account and personalized plan. But it’s up to you to do the heavy lifting throughout the decades.

If you are in your thirties, now is the time to get serious about your retirement savings.

By Cait Klein, NerdWallet

If you hit your thirtieth birthday and you haven’t started thinking about retirement, you’re not in the danger zone yet, but you are starting from behind. Consider meeting with a financial planner to see where you’re spending more than you need to and discuss how to redirect some of that money toward retirement. Create a budget and consider trying to divert 20 percent of your income into savings. If the company you work for provides a 401(k) account and matches a percentage of employee contributions, make sure to participate with an eye toward contributing at least enough to get the full match.

Before making big purchases, look into a crystal ball and envision the future. Don’t saddle yourself with a level of debt that could distract from your retirement down the line. If you’re about to buy your first home, and you made good strides in building your retirement fund in your twenties, you might be tempted to draw on that money for a down payment. Although the Internal Revenue Service allows first-time homebuyers to draw on a portion of their retirement savings to pay for a home, doing so results in a double hit. Not only are you reducing your plan by the amount you withdraw, you’re also causing the dividends that that money would have accrued to evaporate. As a result, though you might have a beautiful house, you might also find that you have to delay your retirement because you have to work longer to make up for the withdrawal and those unrealized dividends — or, you might find that your later years end up being less golden than you’d anticipated.

NerdWallet

“When it comes to credit cards, insurance, loans or expenses like hospital costs, consumers make almost all their decisions in the dark. NerdWallet is changing that by building accessible online tools and providing research and experts that can’t be found anywhere else, all to help consumers take back control of their choices in a marketing-driven, trillion-dollar industry. Find out more at www.nerdwallet.com.”

 

Saving for Retirement at Every Age: Your Twenties

Retirement piggy

This week we are talking retirement. Every day we will post retirement advice from NerdWallet on the various stages of life. Today, we are starting off with the younger set. If you are in your twenties or have a child in this age group, listen up! Retirement may seem far away but this is the ideal time to start preparing.

There’s one truism about retirement that has stood the test of time: It’s never too late, or too early, to start saving. Whether fresh out of school or winding down in a career, there are things you can do to successfully prepare your nest egg, as well as places where it’s easy to stumble. Financial institutions such as Vinton County National Bank can help you set up a retirement account and personalized plan. But it’s up to you to do the heavy lifting throughout the decades.

By Cait Klein, NerdWallet

Albert Einstein once declared, “The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” But you can capitalize on the magic only if you start early and stay consistent. The earlier you begin, the more time there is to maximize returns, giving the account time to grow into a significant sum. Here’s an example. Assuming a four percent return, if you were to fund $5,000 a year in a Roth individual retirement account starting at the age of 20, by 65 you’d have a nest egg of approximately $660,000 from an investment of $230,000. But if you put it off until age 30, it would require annual savings of $8,400 to get the same end amount. And you can usually withdraw the earnings tax-free when retirement rolls around.

Habits are hard to break for better or for worse, so make sure the financial ones you develop early on are good. After having a great decade of fun and splurging, it can be hard to change your behavior and start saving. Get used to putting away a steady stream of funds in your youthful years, so that doing so for the rest of your life won’t be so hard.

NerdWallet
“When it comes to credit cards, insurance, loans or expenses like hospital costs, consumers make almost all their decisions in the dark. NerdWallet is changing that by building accessible online tools and providing research and experts that can’t be found anywhere else, all to help consumers take back control of their choices in a marketing-driven, trillion-dollar industry. Find out more at www.nerdwallet.com.”