ATM Freedom Has Arrived For VCNB Customers

MP_2CF(lg) [Converted]VCNB is committed to providing customers with a great banking experience. One comment that we often hear is about the need for more ATM access in the areas around our eight county area. That’s why we have joined MoneyPass®, a network that will provide VCNB customers access to a multitude of ATMS with no surcharge.

With 32,000 MoneyPass ATMs nationwide, you’re sure to find a surcharge-free ATM near you. Whether you’re on vacation, away at college or just hanging out in your own community, there is likely a MoneyPass ATM nearby.

Ready to get started? You can search for an ATM near you on their website or with their app. Just search MoneyPass in the app store of your mobile device or click here to visit their website. 

Banking Has Changed, But Criminals Haven’t — Here’s How To Protect Your Money

This year marks a decade since the global financial crisis. Although the biggest financial institutions still dominate the landscape, banking has undergone some changes. The proliferation of smartphones means mobile banking now plays a significant role in how we manage our money. A 2016 Fed survey found that over half of smartphone users with bank accounts used their devices to access their money.

What hasn’t changed since 2008? Con artists.

» 10 years after the Great Recession: Tips and advice to prepare for bad times and to prosper — any time

Ten years ago, identity theft was the No. 1 complaint logged by the Federal Trade Commission. Today, the number of complaints is 20% higher than in 2008. The research-based advisory firm Javelin Strategy & Research identified a record high of nearly 17 million victims of identity fraud last year. And many of today’s fraud and identity theft breaches involve mobile devices. The rise of mobile banking in the past decade means it’s easier and more convenient to keep up with your bank accounts, but it could also make it easier to be scammed.

Financial institutions invest in technology and cybersecurity expertise to fight back, but your bank or credit union needs your help. Here are ways hackers try to access your bank information and how you can avoid swiping your money into a criminal’s trap.

How hackers work

Phishing. This happens when hackers use websites, emails or other means of contact to trick customers into submitting personal information. The practice isn’t new, but it has gotten more sophisticated.

“Ten years ago, phishing was rudimentary. Fake sites were not authentic looking. There were a lot of typos,” says Adam Levin, founder of Cyberscout, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based cybersecurity company. “Now, the criminals have gotten much more sophisticated and the sites look real.”

According to the not-for-profit Anti-Phishing Working Group, phishing attacks increased by a whopping 5,700% over the 12 years ended in 2016, and the latest data suggest attacks continue to increase.

Keylogger software. These programs may install on phones via apps that aren’t secure, such as one that’s not from your device’s approved app store. The software records keystrokes, such as when you enter a bank username or password on a website, then sends a record of what was typed to the hacker.

How to protect your accounts

Ask your bank or credit union about security. The safest banks for consumers use the latest cybersecurity protocols to protect your accounts from breaches and large-scale identity theft. “You’ll want to make sure your bank is up to par,” Levin says. If not, it may be time to switch to another institution. Make sure your bank provides the following — and use these services:

  • Two-factor authentication.When you attempt to log on to your bank’s secure online webpage, the bank or credit union will contact you through some other means — by sending a text, for example — to ask you to confirm the login request. Not every bank has two-factor authentication. But if you choose one that does, your accounts have an extra layer of protection, says Neal Stern, CPA and member of the American Institute of CPAs’ National Financial Literacy Commission.
  • Transaction alerts.Sign up for these alerts, which are generally text or email messages your bank sends to your mobile device when large purchases are made on your account or if your balance drops below a certain amount. (For a deeper look at transaction alerts, here are five mobile banking alerts that help fight fraud.)
  • Fraud monitoring.Many banks monitor transactions to detect unusual spending patterns. The bank might send you a confirmation text if it detects an odd purchase attempt, such as an online purchase worth thousands of dollars from a vendor you’ve never used before. You would have to reply before approval of the transaction.

Keep mobile device software up to date. Your device provider likely sends periodic updates. Some of them may help stop the latest hacker attempts, so it’s important to install updates.

Have a rock solid sign-on. When it comes to logging on to your bank’s website, use “long and strong passwords” that are hard to guess, Levin says. That way, even if you lose your phone, the next person who picks it up won’t be able to figure out how to log in to your bank accounts. In addition, lock your mobile device screen and use a different password to unlock it. (Read more about how to create passwords that are hard on others but easy on you.)

Be careful with other contacts. Fraudsters may try to trick a customer by calling and saying an account has been compromised, then asking for sensitive information, such as a password or Social Security number, to confirm their identity.

“Why would you need to authenticate yourself to someone who contacts you?” Levin says. If you’re unsure about whether a call is legit, hang up and try to reach the bank or credit union at a number you’re familiar with.

Today, customers can deposit checks, transfer money between accounts and pay bills from the convenience of their smartphones. But with convenience comes risk. Take steps to eliminate the risk of identity theft by partnering with your financial institution to protect your hard-earned money.

Margarette Burnette is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: mburnette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @Margarette. The article Banking Has Changed, but Criminals Haven’t — Here’s How to Protect Your Money originally appeared on NerdWallet.

 

What Is An HSA?

Healthcare image.jpegAs you’re navigating the world of health insurance you likely have encountered the term HSA. Do you know what HSA means?

HSA stands for Health Savings Account and this is an easy way for folks who have high deductible insurance to save for medical expenses and to reduce their taxable income.   If you are enrolled in a high-deductible insurance plan as defined by the government, you can qualify for an HSA. This year, to be eligible for an HSA, you must have an annual deductible of at least $1,350 for an individual and $2,700 for a family. This is set by the federal government and is subject to change in future years.

Each year you will decide how much to contribute to your HSA account although your annual contribution cannot exceed government mandated maximums. For 2018, the contribution limit for an individual is $3,450 and the contribution limit for a family is $6,900. Adults over 55 can add up to $1,000 more.

These contributions are tax deductible and the distributions are tax free when used for qualified medical expenses.

At VCNB, you will receive a debit card and a monthly statement with check images. Your first order of checks will be free and you will have unlimited checking writing. There is an initial $25 set up fee for the account. This fee will be waived for customers who present this coupon.

There is also a $3 monthly fee which will be waived for customers who select eStatements.

Want to learn more or open an HSA online? Click here and look under the Savings Accounts tab.

You can also seek more information or open an HSA in any of our seventeen locations.

 

 

Nine Expenses to Pack in Your Moving Budget

Moving comes with a long, expensive to-do list.

The average cost to for a local move from a two-bedroom apartment or three-bedroom house ranges from $400 to $1,000, according to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide. While you’re choosing a place to live and deciding what to pack, having a plan for expenses can ensure your budget doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

“It’s very easy to overlook minor details because when you’re moving, you’re looking at getting your stuff from point A to point B,” says Jessica Nichols, a director at Avail Move Management, a relocation and transportation service in Evansville, Indiana.

Preparing for moving costs can help alleviate emotional and financial strain. Consider these less-obvious expenses.

  1. Peak surcharges

Many moving and truck rental companies raise rates during busy times like summer and weekends. If you have the flexibility, relocate in an off-peak period to save money.

  1. Packing materials and equipment

Buying items like boxes, bubble wrap and packing tape can add up. For example, U-Haul sells large moving boxes for $1.63 to $1.99 each, depending on how many you buy. Be realistic about the number you need to avoid costly miscalculations. Or, seek free materials from friends or online.

Additionally, consider the items you’ll need to safely transport your belongings, including furniture covers, hand trucks and bungee cords. If your movers don’t provide them, or you aren’t hiring professionals, renting or borrowing is more affordable than buying.

  1. Excess cargo

The more stuff you schlep, the more you’ll pay. Movers usually factor the number and weight of items into the bill. Expect additional fees for valuable or large items like pianos that require extra time, space or labor.

Hauling everything yourself? A bigger load can require a larger vehicle or more gas-guzzling trips. To save money, donate or sell what you can before you move.

  1. Cleaning

You’ll likely need to tidy up your current place, especially if there’s a security deposit at stake.

Housecleaning services typically charge $200 to $300 for a one-time cleaning, according to HomeAdvisor. You’ll save money by doing some or all of the work yourself.

  1. Utilities

Watch for deposits, taxes, and connection and installation fees when setting up utilities at your new address. These could range from $10 to $200 or more. Ask power, internet and other service providers about charges in advance.

  1. Food

Food expenses can pop up, too. Think snacks for the road, restocking the refrigerator and pantry, and feeding friends who’ve helped. Shopping wholesale clubs could be a smart strategy to feed a crowd.

  1. Lost or damaged items

Some belongings might not survive the journey. Depending on what you’re transporting and how far, it may be worth purchasing protection to repair or replace property.

“Nobody wants to think about their items getting broken. Ideally that would never happen, but in the real world that’s something you need to plan for,” says Nichols.

Most movers provide basic valuation coverage, which limits their liability to 60 cents per pound, per item. For a 40-pound TV valued at $500, that’s $24. Top-tier options and separate insurance plans offer higher or full values, but it will cost extra. If you have homeowners or renters insurance, you likely have some coverage. Check your policy.

  1. Tips

Movers appreciate tips after a long day of heavy lifting. Give tips based on your satisfaction level, but a good rule of thumb is 5% of the total bill.

  1. Storage

If you can’t immediately move your possessions into your new home, you might have to rent a self-storage unit. Costs vary by size and location. Public Storage units in Austin, Texas, for example, range from about $30 to $300 per month. The less time and space you need, the less expensive the unit.

Make your budget move-in ready

Mentally walk through your moving process from start to finish. Outline the potential items and services you’ll need at least a month ahead. Then, research prices and get multiple estimates for the best deals and service, Nichols says.

Leave wiggle room for unexpected costs and take your time purchasing new home furnishings, says Daria Victorov, a certified financial planner at Abacus Wealth Partners in San Mateo, California. Remember, you don’t have to buy everything at once.

“When you move into an empty house it feels like you need everything right away,” Victorov says. “Before you move, figure out what those essential items are, the things that you use every day and that’ll help you figure out your budget, too.”

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. Lauren Schwahn is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: lschwahn@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lauren_schwahn. The article 9 Expenses to Pack in Your Moving Budget originally appeared on NerdWallet.

 

Small Business Spotlight: Wellston Flowerland

Small businesses are important to communities and running a small business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!   blog window.jpgWhen Michelle Canter’s job as an X-Ray Technician was eliminated by corporate downsizing last year, she knew it was time for a change. That’s when her husband suggested that she return to her roots as a florist and open her own flower shop. Business has flourished since opening Wellston Flowerland on February 3 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Many area residents will remember the old Flowerland, which occupied the First Street building beginning in the mid twentieth century. It changed hands a few times over the years and the name eventually changed before the business was shuttered for some time, leaving the city without a local florist. However, when Michelle and Alvin Canter looked at the building, the sun shone on the faded outline of the Flowerland name on the store windows, and she knew that would be the name of her shop.

blog ladderWith some paint, elbow grease and hard work, the space has been transformed into a beautiful shop with a large workspace for Michelle’s floral work. The store sells floral designs and planters that are ready to buy but Michelle specializes in orders for custom work as well. Balloon and candy bouquets are also popular as well as custom quilt angels and other remembrance items like throws and pictures.

Gift items include Willow Tree Angels, Ohio State University jewelry, quilts, wall décor, seasonal décor, greeting cards and food mixes for cheeseballs, dips, soups, pancakes and cider.  Fall décor will be out soon and mums from Lucy’s Gardens Greenhouse in Jackson will arrive the week of the Coal Festival. Plans are underway for Christmas décor and poinsettias as well.

“I try to keep a lot of variety in the store,” Michelle said. “I like things that are unique, that are a little different that make people feel like they are getting something special. I try not to make the same arrangement twice.”

In addition to unique and quality flowers and gifts, Michelle said she tries to keep the prices affordable.  “I work to keep prices affordable and will work with people to make sure that no casket goes without something and that they stay within budget for what they need,” she explained.

She said that some customers are uncertain of what they want. In that case, she asks a lot of questions about the purpose, the recipient’s favorite color or flower, budget, etc. “We ask a lot of questions and can generally steer them in the right direction,” she said.

This is very much a family affair as her husband and daughter are involved in the shop operation. Michelle’s mother and mother-in-law help with deliveries as well.

“This has very much been a building year but I’m excited to see what next year will bring,” she said.

When asked why she chose this profession, Michelle smiled and said “I like it because when people are grieving, I can do something to help. When they need a gift or something to brighten someone’s day, I can help. Besides, everyone likes to get flowers!”

Wellston Flowerland is located at 111 East First Street in downtown Wellston. Stop by to browse the store and check out their seasonal window displays. They are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to noon. Call Michelle at 740.577.6978. Follow them on Facebook or visit them online to place an order or browse their selection of floral arrangements.

 

West Fair Branch Remains Open Through Renovations

Our branch on West Fair Avenue in Lancaster is undergoing an expansion and renovation project and we couldn’t be more excited.

This project is a direct result of strategic planning that was done by bank leaders and is part of an effort to focus on transforming VCNB branches to meet the needs of customers. EVP of Marketing Audra Johnson explained the purpose behind this work. “Our goal is to update many of our branches in the next few years, not only in look, but in technology and in convenience as well. We want our customers to feel comfortable in our branches, but also to feel like they leave knowing they received excellent service and the resources they need for a better financial future,” Johnson explained.

The West Fair Avenue expansion and renovation will include the rerouting of drive-thru lanes and changes in the customer parking area. A new addition to the building will be constructed to include a new employee lounge and employee restrooms. While the expanded area will not be open to customers, per se, teams of employees that are essential to the success of the bank will be moving their offices to this new space.

“Customers will not be conducting their transactions or meeting with their personal banker behind the doors of the expansion, but rest assured that the space will be put to good use. We are starting to outgrow many of our branches and also our operations centers. This is a great problem to have because it means we’re growing, we’re employing more people and we’re ensuring we will be there for our customers in the long run,” Johnson said.

In addition to the expanded square footage, the building will receive some cosmetic upgrades as well as changes to the way customers and employees interact. A new roof and face lift to interior design and décor are in the works. More importantly, there will be a new style of employee office meant to create more privacy as well as new teller pod stations instead of the traditional teller line. Finally, the lobby will be outfitted with new technology that will allow customers to interact with the bank’s online and mobile platforms inside the branch.

“To say that I am excited about the upgrades we are making is an understatement. We have a mission to be the best for our customers, shareholders and employees. This is just another step toward upholding that mission,” Johnson concluded.

Customers should rest assured that this office will remain open during construction. “It’s business as usual at our West Fair Avenue office. Our staff there is ready to assist you with all of your banking needs.”

 

Last Minute Summer Road Trip

By Brandi Betts
VCNB Marketing Specialist

August is here so you probably think it’s too late to get in a summer road trip. However, in my experience, it’s never too late for a little road trip enjoyment. There are tons of fun options within an easy driving distance of southern and central Ohio. It’s just a matter of finding what you’re looking for and figuring out what’s best for you.

A lot of times, we think that vacation only counts if we go far away or if it’s something exotic or expensive. The truth is, you can have fun almost anywhere if you go looking for it. In fact, you can find adventure and relaxation in your own community just as easily as in someone else’s. With that said, I’m the first one in the car if there’s opportunity to leave home and explore someplace else.

Here are some places that literally offer something for everyone and that aren’t too far from home.

If you just have a day or two:

Consider Cincinnati! There tons of museums and historic sites, state and metro parks, shopping, amazing hotels and restaurants here. Plus they have one of the best zoos and aquariums anywhere! The greater Cincinnati area is a neat mix of metropolitan and small-town mom and pop type communities. Now, with a soccer team (that’s about to go Major League and that’s doing really well for themselves) along with the Reds and Bengals, this is truly a destination for sports lovers too.  Hop a ride on a streetcar and take in a concert at Riverbend, Cincinnati Music Hall or one of the other great venues.

Personally, one of my favorite places to visit here is the American Sign Museum. It’s about 20,000 square feet packed with antique and vintage signage that may remind you of your youth as well as a lot you’ve never seen. Other favorite stops for me include the 85,000square foot Ohio Valley Antique Mall at Fairfield and one of the two Jungle Jim’s locations I always pick up a few bottles of craft sodas and have fun touring all the international foods here!

If history is your thing, the National Park Service operates the William Howard Taft National Historic Site. This is free to tour and lends some great insight into the life and career of our 27th President. It’s not too far from the downtown attractions and about a ten minute drive from the zoo. I recently read about something I had never heard about – it’s an old fashioned root beer stand that looks and sounds like a time capsule in all the pictures. The Root Beer Stand is on my agenda very, very soon.

Cincinnati is one of those places where you could spend as long as you want and keep finding more to do.

 

If you have a long weekend:

If you have longer, Wytheville, Virginia may be a good fit for you. For as long as I can remember, Wytheville (pronounced WITH-vill) was just an interstate stop on the way to the beach. There’s a collection of hotels and gas stations and a Cracker Barrel convenient for the weary traveler but it wasn’t until recently I learned what’s hiding just beyond the highway.

Downtown Wytheville is a beautiful place with tree lined streets, cute storefronts, lots of history, easy access to the mountains, great architecture and interesting places to stay in downtown. The area boasts state and national parks with recreational experiences for almost anyone. Big Walker Mountain National Forest Scenic Byway winds through sixteen miles of forest land, ideal for both cars and motorcycles. Fishing, camping, hiking, mountain biking are popular here too.

When I went this spring, I visited the birthplace of first lady Edith Boling Wilson and found amazing pizza at a little hole in the wall that is a local hangout. There are several hotel options but if you’re looking for something special, the Edith Boling Wilson Hotel is awfully nice. It’s located in downtown and is known for service and luxury. Speaking of downtown, be sure to check out the big pencil outside Wytheville Office Supply. While it’s not something to plan a trip around, it certainly adds a little character to your journey! They are also known for a number of fun events throughout the year including a hot air balloon rally and some big car shows.

Personally, I love the character of Wytheville. It’s a laidback, southern town where the people are friendly, the food is tasty and where you feel like they truly want you to come back.

If you are craving the water

If you’re craving water and sun but don’t have the time or money for a long beach trip, Lake Erie could be a good compromise.

I love lighthouses and the 75-foot tall Marblehead Lighthouse is the best Ohio offers. For a small fee you can tour it and learn about this 1822 lighthouse that is still keeping ships safe. If you have kids, or if you’re a kid at heart, there is a Merry-Go-Round Museum. I will admit that I have never gotten to visit so I’m hoping some of our readers will go and send pictures. It sounds like fun and looks like a real feast for the eyes.

Maumee Bay State Park, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and Kelleys Island provide countless opportunities to get outdoors and take in your surroundings.  Put-In-Bay village is about a twenty minute boat ride from Port Clinton and it has been a destination for over 150 years. Guided tram tours, backroads for biking, a winery and Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial are among the attractions here. And of course, there’s the water activities on Lake Erie and Cedar Point Amusement Park for the roller coasting riding thrill seekers in the crowd.

Other Options

Not sure about these places? Looking for something a little different? I say look around you. The Buckeye State is packed with activities, interesting sights and ways to while away these last days of summer. People travel to Ohio from all over the country to visit our Amish Country, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, amusement parks… the list goes on and on. While they’re here, they’re also finding the smaller attractions that make our state special like our Quilt Barn trails which started down in Adams County and the little mom and pop roadside places that make us who were are.

Pack up the kids or grab a friend and hit the trail before this summer slips away. Need more inspiration? Our friends with Ohio tourism have some ideas.

 

All photos by Brandi Betts

 

Small Business Spotlight: Cook’s Creek Golf Club

Small businesses are important to communities and running a small business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!  

BEST 15 PIC - USE IN ADCook’s Creek Golf Club in South Bloomfield on U.S. 23 in northern Pickaway County is unlike any golf course you’ve ever seen. In addition to simply being a beautiful place, it is known as one of the best public golf courses in Central Ohio. In fact, it was rated the 2017 Top Pick for Central Ohio Public Golf Courses by The Columbus Dispatch. However, what makes the place truly special is the unique story of how it came to be and the family ownership that helps make guests come in as strangers but leave feeling like family.

Cathy Cook’s eyes beam when she tells the story of how the family business came to be some 25 years ago. “This is truly a family business. My son is the Director of Food and Beverage, my daughter as a third year college student is involved with all aspects including operation of the Cookside Café, my dad is the Captain Cook of this ship and I’m the golf pro,  sort of the glue that holds everything together.”

The Cook family name is synonymous with golf – her brother John Cook is a former PGA Tour player with 21 PGA Tour victories, now currently a TV analyst, and Dad Jim Cook has a powerful name in the business of golf as well. Cathy is also known for her work as a pioneer in programs that teach kids to play golf.

Building the 250 acre golf course on farmland bordering the Scioto River and Little Walnut Creek was the logical next step for the golfing family. The property was previously a farm that sometimes struggled when Scioto River flood waters spilled out of the banks into the fields and forests. However, it was ideal property for a golf course.

The year was 1992 and the Cooks pooled their knowledge and experience to begin transforming the property using designs from local architects who were assisted by John Cook. The first nine holes opened in 1993 while the other nine debuted in 1995.

The golf course is bordered by 140 acres of wetlands and forests that the Cooks chose to leave for the wildlife – eagles, blue heron, deer, fox, rabbits, coyotes and other creatures call this place home.

The family actually has a special connection to this land. Here, Cathy’s grandfather, Burt Cook, worked as a young man, watering the livestock for meals and .25 cents a day. A giant sycamore tree and the old fashioned hand pump that her grandfather used all those years ago still stand on the fifteenth hole, near the 1800 farmhouse where Cathy’s parents reside.

While the property is close to U.S. Route 23, the course feels quiet and relaxing. Calming is a word often used to describe the property which is anchored by beautiful lakes and incredible old trees. Each hole is its own sanctuary, not seeing any of the other golfers on the course

“We want people to come here and have fun. We want them to relax. We want to make their day better and make them want to come back. We want them to feel like they’re family,” she said. “Only we won’t put them to work like we would real family,” she laughed.

The Cooks are working to create an environment that is relaxed and friendly for not just the experienced golfer but for the novice as well. That’s why they have active programs for women and for juniors. They also are in the process of developing the menu at Cooks Bar & Grill, hoping to create a dining experience that will appeal to locals who just want to eat.

They invite folks to stop by any time of the year for a full meal or just for appetizers and drinks on the deck.

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They also offer a banquet room that seats approximately 150 people for weddings, reunions, parties and other events. They offer full services including linens and food but event organizers are welcome to bring in their own caterers and decorators as well.

Earlier this month, Cooks Creek even hosted Governor John Kasich who visited an event hosted by House of Representatives District 92 Representative Gary Scherer. She said that Scherer frequently hosts community meetings here and that several organizations and golf leagues use the facilities. They also have a strong following of members and others who simply like to play the course. “It is humbling when someone chooses to spend their time with us,” Cathy said. “It is a high compliment when they choose to come here for an hour or for the day. It validates all the hard work we’ve been putting into this place and the efforts we’ve made to make it the place where people want to be. We don’t take this lightly.”

On a tour of the property, Cathy good naturedly joked with guests, calling them by name and making small talk. She seems to know the entire property like the back of her hand and takes pride in the work they are doing to improve it. The Cook family had actually sold the golf club three times before buying it back in August 2016. She indicated that parts of the property had deteriorated after the Cooks sold the golf club. They are working hard to bring it back to where the family believes it should be. “We have made a lot of progress and we know this because each time people come, they see the progress and they mention it. For a while it felt like two steps forward and five gigantic steps back. But we’re starting to make some real progress and we’re always looking for ways to improve,” she said.

Golf provides great life lessons, according to the seasoned pro. “Golf teaches you to face your fears. If you are intimidated by the water, you have to learn it’s just water. If you focus on where you want to go and let go, you’re fine. A lot of what golf teaches is how to manage yourself and about what you’re focusing on,” she said.

Cook’s Creek Golf Club is located at 16405 US Highway 23, South Bloomfield.  Learn more about Cook’s Creek at their website or follow them on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

Prepare Now For Happier Holidays

There are about 22 weeks until Christmas.

You’re probably wondering why your bank wants to talk about Christmas during the hottest days of summer but there is one really good reason: we want to see our customers have a nice holiday season without accumulating a mountain of debt.

Calculating the Cost of the HolidaysLots of folks wait until November to start thinking about what they’ll buy and how they will fund it. Others just buy without thinking and worry about it when the credit card bill comes in January. We would rather see you start planning and saving now and we’ll tell you why. Without the stress of money worries weighing you down, the holidays will be much more enjoyable. It’s that simple.

Luckily, there are still almost six months left to prepare.

How Much Will You Spend?
First, you need to know how much money you will want to spend. Make a list of each person you buy gifts for as well as other expenses related to the holidays. Do you host a big Christmas Eve bash or do you travel to see the in-laws? Do you make charitable donations during the holidays or send Christmas cards? List all those things too.

Then assign an estimated dollar amount to each person or category and add it all up. That’s the amount you need to aim for saving. If it sounds like too much, you might need to adjust your spending expectations.

Create a Savings Plan
Take your budgeted amount and divide it by the number of pay checks you will receive before Christmas. That’s the amount you need to save each pay. For example, if you plan to spend $500 on Christmas this year and are paid weekly, that means you would need to save about $23 per pay to be ready in time for the holiday.

Think you don’t have extra money to save every paycheck? Keep reading.

There are sneaky ways you can save money. If you budget $100 for your electric bill and it’s just $95, then save the extra $5 instead of spending it. If you have a vice like drive-thru lunches, pack your meals occasionally and save the extra. Save your change and bring it to a VCNB location with a coin machine for easy counting. Be intentional with how you use any extra amount of money, no matter how small it may be, and save it.

Automate That Savings
Whether you join the VCNB Christmas Club or just schedule automatic transfers, automate your savings plan. Schedule an automatic transfer of that $23 every single payday. It will be just like any other bill and you won’t have to lift a finger to make it happen. And while we’re talking about savings accounts, you may choose to open a savings account just for your Christmas spending. You’ll have easy access to your cash when you need it and can just transfer it back to your checking account when ready to spend.

Think Ahead
Stores and online retailers are filled with clearance racks and good sales every day of the week. Keep your eyes peeled and you may be able to pick up a few gifts long before the Black Friday frenzy begins.

Also, if you do travel during the holidays, nail down your travel days and start looking for deals on flights and hotels.

If you have a big family, it may be time to have a conversation with your siblings about gift giving. Do you want to buy gifts for everyone or just for the kids or maybe gifts for couples rather than individuals? We aren’t telling you to be stingy but you may find that some people in your life are relieved to have less shopping to worry over.

Reward Yourself
VCNB offers a Rewards Checking account that literally rewards you for spending your own money. Saving these points throughout the year to redeem before the holidays is another great way to save! Customers who use Rewards Checking receive one point for every $3 spent and 200 bonus points when they have 21 or more transactions per statement cycle. These points can be redeemed for cash back, gift cards, travel and more!

There is a coordinating Visa® Platinum Card that allows you to earn one point for every dollar spent. These points can be redeemed for exciting merchandise, gift cards and travel. Customers who use both Rewards Checking and the Visa Platinum Card can link their points in one account to make redemption a breeze.

Ready to get started? Open online or learn more about Rewards Checking or open that new Passbook Savings to get started with your holiday savings today!

Seven Ways to Save at Disneyland — No Magic Required

Prepping your wallet for a trip to see Mickey Mouse is no walk in the park. There will be tickets, souvenirs and food to buy.

So to make your visit to California’s Disneyland more of a fairy tale and less of a financial nightmare, try these seven ways to save money. While the tips below focus on the Anaheim park, visitors to other Disney properties will find some ideas for cutting costs, too.

  1. Rely on reviews

Before you step foot in the park, brush up on Disneyland’s best offerings by going online. You’ll find many bloggers who write reviews about the newest attractions, says Casey Starnes, owner of the Disneyland Daily blog.

The blogs will help you decide what, and what not, to spend money on. For example, with a little research you can decide which dining packages are worth the splurge. It may also help you decide which rides are worth waiting in line for, maximizing the money you spent on your ticket.

  1. Get a discounted ticket

You don’t always have to pay full price for a ticket. Disneyland offers specially priced tickets to active and retired U.S. military personnel, for example. Other visitors can search for discounts through organizations like AAA.

Be careful to avoid illegitimate sellers, though. Scammers on Craigslist and other websites have been known to deliver fake tickets. Before buying, check out a seller through online reviews or look for accreditation such as from the Better Business Bureau.

  1. Don’t be a Sleeping Beauty

If you want to get the most bang for your buck, wake up early. You can hit up rides before the crowds set in.

“I always tell people that Disneyland vacations are not for sleeping in,” says Jessica Sanders, founder of The Happiest Blog on Earth and author of “Disneyland on Any Budget: Money Saving Tips From The Happiest Blog on Earth.”

Sanders recommends lining up at the gate an hour before opening so you can take your first ride within minutes of entry. “I typically get in 10 or more attractions during the first two hours of my day, even during the summer.”

  1. Skip a meal

To save money — and feel less stuffed as you’re walking around — eat two big meals instead of three, Starnes says. Try a mid-morning brunch, snacks during the afternoon and a big dinner in the evening.

“Disneyland is known for snacks, and they’re much more affordable than meals,” she says.

  1. Use Disney gift cards

Another clever way to stay on budget? Gift cards. If you know you can afford to spend $25 on souvenirs or $50 on food, buy a Disney gift card for that amount. Cards can be purchased online, at the resort or at a Disney store and redeemed at many places in the park.

“We have a gift card with that set amount on there, and then when it’s gone, we’re done spending on that particular thing,” Sanders says. “So you don’t have to keep track in your head or go way over budget because most people aren’t keeping track of every receipt and everything they’re spending while they’re on vacation.”

  1. Pick the right souvenirs

When you buy something, choose wisely. For souvenirs, Starnes recommends selecting items that will stand the test of time. So consider a coffee mug over a toy. Or pick a commemorative photo book instead of a shirt that your child will outgrow.

  1. Perfect your strategy

These tips won’t expire when the clock strikes midnight — and they don’t only apply to summer visits. Reuse and refine them each time you visit Disneyland.

“It’s almost like competitive vacationing,” Starnes says. “Every time you come, you want to do more and more. You want to do better than your previous visit and you learn more every time you visit.”

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Courtney Jespersen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @CourtneyNerd.

The article 7 Ways to Save at Disneyland — No Magic Required originally appeared on NerdWallet.