Six Ways To Save On Groceries Today

It’s a necessary purchase and one of the most expensive line items in most household budgets. What is it?

Food.

Everyone has to eat and it can be costly but there are some ways to eat healthy and for less simply by making a few adjustments to eat with the seasons.

  • Eat what’s in season. It typically costs less, isn’t shipped as far and tastes better. For example, melons, berries, cucumbers, zucchini, sweet corn, green beans, tomatoes, cherries and a host of other fruits and vegetables are in season during the summer. In the fall, look for pears, apples, broccoli, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, peppers and eggplant. Each season offers different bounty and new opportunities to switch up your diet.
  • Go for fresh. Those prepackaged salads are quick and look good but can go from attractive to limp or slimy quickly. Fresh romaine, head lettuce and spinach make a great salad and will last longer. Pre-cut veggies and melons are convenient but cost far more per pound that cutting melon or celery for yourself.
  • Go for frozen. Frozen fruits and veggies are typically picked when ripe and then flash frozen. That means frozen produce is a good substitute for fresh. However, beware the frozen prepared meals which often are packed with sodium and sugar and cost more for their convenience.
  • Eat (and take care of) what you have. How many times have you loaded up your cart with tons of fresh produce only for it to rot in the fridge? Make sure you’re either eating what you buy or learn what can be frozen for later. For example, grapes are an amazing treat when frozen. Even odds and ends of leftover vegetables make a great base for soups or omelets. Fruits go well in smoothies or baked goods.
  • Go meatless. Meatless Monday has long been a popular concept and summer is a great time to try that out. With an abundance of fresh from the garden produce, there’s a world of recipes and meal combinations to entertain your taste buds.
  • Preserve it for later. Learn what kind of produce freezes well. Then you can snatch up deals while the selection is abundant and enjoy the season’s bounty when the price is higher again later.
  • Shop local. By shopping farmers markets or farm stands, you’re getting seasonal foods and supporting a business in your community.

How do you cut grocery costs and still eat healthy? Tell us in the comments. We would love to hear from you!

Four Ways VCNB Makes Money Easy

Give yourself a break this summer and learn how easy money management can be with VCNB.

The kids may be getting a break from school, but you still have to work and the bills need to be paid. Luckily, VCNB has some tools you can use to ease the burden of managing your money and even give you a break from worry.

Online Bill Pay

Simplify your financial life by paying your bills online – either by scheduling them on demand or by scheduling recurring payments. This way you’re sure not to miss a payment and can save your bill paying time for a little R&R!

Mobile App                                                                                                                     

VCNB Mobile enables you to check on your accounts and to bank from almost anywhere. From the beach, from the top of a Ferris wheel or from your couch on a much needed staycation, VCNB Mobile allows customers to transfer funds, pay bills, open accounts and more. The security of this app is top notch to allow for banking without worry.

Cash On The Go

VCNB belongs to the MoneyPass® network of ATMs. With 32,000 ATMS nationwide, VCNB customers can usually find an ATM not far from wherever they are in the country. Traveling for leisure or for work? Just tooling around town? Check out www.moneypass.com to find an ATM near you!

Earning Rewards

Summer can be an expensive time as you may be traveling, buying back to school clothes or entertaining more than normal. Earn points for your purchases every time you use your VCNB Rewards Checking account or your Visa® Platinum card. These UChoose® Rewards can be used to pay for travel, event tickets, gift cards, merchandise and more! Customers with VCNB Rewards Checking can even earn cash back for their regular spending when they register their debit card with UChoose!

Have questions about these and other bank products? Talk to your banker or find more details at https://www.VCNBfamily.com!

Teens Gain Money Management Skills With Student Checking

If you have a teenager in the house that means you have a child who is a few short years from being out on their own. What skills do you want them to have when they go off to school or to start a new career?

Chances are that good money management skills are on that list.

Whether they have a part time job or just an allowance, odds are your teens have some money to manage. Before they are expected to manage large sums, it’s best they learn to manage small amounts too!

That’s why VCNB offers a Student Checking account. This account is designed to help teens learn how to manage money, keep a debit card safe and learn some financial independence.

Here are some things to know.

This account is for teens ages 14 to 17 and requires that a parent or guardian be a joint owner of the account. There is no minimum balance requirement or fees for electronic statements. The account comes with a free standard debit card.

Like all VCNB accounts, Student Checking gives the account holder access to account alerts, online and mobile banking so that your teen can learn to successfully keep track of and spend their money. They can also access over 32,000 surcharge-free ATMS nationwide through the MoneyPass® network.

Learn more about our banking options for teens and to get started by opening a new Student Checking account online.  

Tips For Teaching Kids Of All Ages To Save Money

We recently celebrated Teach Children To Save Month which is an excellent opportunity for parents to start talking to their kids about saving money. As their parent, you want the best for your children and one way to help them get a good start in life is by teaching the value of money and how to save it for a rainy day or for a goal. Learning to properly manage money is as important as learning to read and write but it can be hard to know where to start.

No matter your child’s age, from toddler to teenager, there are some basic principles that apply to any age.

Give Them A Way To Save – Little kids love putting money in their piggy banks. Give them a bank or maybe a clear jar so they can see their savings grow with every nickel and dime they drop in. Older kids respond better to seeing their savings grow in their mobile banking app so help them set up a savings account.

Let Them Earn Money – Older teens may have jobs while younger kids might pick up a few bucks by walking a neighbor’s dog. Even little kids can earn a little by taking on some kind of responsibility at home. Maybe you give your kids an allowance. Regardless of the source, kids needs to have access to some money of their own so they can learn how to handle it responsibly and possibly even learn from a mistake or two while they’re young.

Explain Needs Versus Wants – This can be a tough topic even for adults sometimes but help your kids understand the difference between what they need and what they want. While they need a new coat for school, they don’t need an expensive name brand coat. They need to eat dinner but it can be cooked at home rather than ordering out. They won’t die of boredom if they don’t have the newest Lego set.

Set Goals – Your teenager will want a car someday. Younger kids may want a new toy or spending money for a special occasion. Talk to them about how forgoing a small purchase today will help them reach their goals.

Establish Some Rules – Establish some simple rules for spending and saving. Do they get to spend all their money all the time? How much should they save? This is a personal question for your family but one basic rule of thumb is to save a quarter or a third of any money they receive.

Talk To Them About Costs –There are many costs to spending money. If you occasionally have your child pay for something out of their own money, they will associate buying the thing with seeing their savings level dwindle some. Talk to them about how if they buy this $5 toy, it will take them longer to save for the $20 item they really want. Help them rationalize how badly they want the small thing versus the bigger savings goal.

Talk About Yourself – Don’t be afraid to tell your kids your personal savings story. Do you wish you had started saving money earlier? Help them learn from your mistakes! Are you a great saver? Share with them why it’s important to you and how you prioritize saving. Talk to them about the choices you’re making every day. Help them understand that clipping coupons and buying store brand green beans is how you can afford to take the family on vacation this summer.

Saving money is like a muscle that needs some exercise. The more you save, the stronger your desire will become to make good money choices. It’s much easier to create a savings habit at a young age than to change behaviors in adulthood.

Vinton County National Bank has a number of tools to help you teach your kids the value of managing their money. Learn more about our Youth Savings accounts and Youth Checking accounts to get started.

Three Ways Online Bill Pay Can Help You

VCNB Online Bill Pay can save you time, money and hassle!

VCNB Online Bill Pay was designed to save you time and make your life better. If you haven’t tried it, we have three good reasons why you should!

  1. Stay organized by scheduling all your bills to pay from one place! Set up email reminders when a bill is due so you never miss a payment. If you receive eBills through our Online Bill Pay, you can even receive notification when the bill arrives. Need to know if a bill has paid or how much you paid last month? Search your bill history by company name, status or date to get your answers.
  2. Feel good knowing it’s the cheapest and the safest way to pay. There’s no need to buy checks or stamps when you can send money electronically. This means there’s no worry that your money will get lost in the mail or land in the wrong hands.
  3. Automate your bills or take control of your scheduling – whatever way works best for you! Automatic payments are great for bills that stay the same each month like a car payment or insurance. You can also log in and schedule each payment individually.

Please remember that accounts registered for Bill Pay that do not make at least one payment during the calendar month will be assessed a $3 fee. Want to learn more? Click here for details or log into your account through Online Banking or VCNB Mobile to get started.

Three Steps To Managing A Credit Card

A credit card can be a useful tool when managed mindfully. Setting and following ground rules is a powerful first step to success.

Whether you have your first credit card or have gotten yourself into trouble with several, it’s never too soon or too late to learn good credit card management habits.  Here are some rules to live by.

Know Your Why

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to set some ground rules for yourself. First, you need to decide why you have a credit card.

Some cards offer incentives for using them. For example, the Visa® Platinum Card at VCNB offers UChoose® Rewards Points for every purchase. These points can be redeemed for incentives like gift cards, cash back and travel. Many of our customers use this card for much of their spending and then pay off the balance when it’s due.

Some credit card holders keep their cards for emergencies. If the fridge dies or you have a medical issue, a card to help you past this bump in the road offers peace of mind. Others use their card only for building credit or for specific kinds of purchases like hotels when they travel or just at the gas pump.

This is a personal decision for you to make and there’s no wrong answer.

Keep Your Debt In Check

We caution customers against allowing debt to accumulate. In fact, we encourage customers to never charge more than they can afford to pay off in a month and to actually pay off that balance monthly. Even a small balance left unattended can accumulate large interest charges and snowball into a massive sum over time. In fact, making the minimum payment on even a few hundred dollars could be costly: added interest could amount to hundreds of dollars over a period of years before the debt is paid off.

Make A Plan For To Pay Off Debt

If you have credit card debt, we recommend making a plan to pay it off as quickly as possible.

For most people, the first step toward paying off debit is making a realistic budget. Click here to read about the basics of building a good budget.  If your budget is tight and you think you don’t have extra money for paying off that debt, click here for some practical ways to cut expenses.

Finally, avoid accumulating more debt while trying to pay off the old. It may be a challenge but you’ll never see a zero balance if you keep charging what you can’t afford. For more on this topic, visit our partners at Nerd Wallet who have a repayment calculator and tips to help you.

31 Ways To Save Money

We’ve talked a lot lately about budgeting and the trials of sticking to a budget. One thing that people usually learn when they start budgeting is that they need to cut expenses. Experts often talk about the coffee effect. Buying a $4 cup of coffee every workday costs $20 a week, $80 a month and almost a thousand dollars a year. A small change like this can have a real effect.

What else can you do?

  1. Shop Car And Home Insurance – You may save hundreds of dollars simply by shopping around. Your current insurance provider may offer a discount for responsible driving or for combining a car and homeowner’s policy. Start with your insurance agent and ask what they can do to lower your rate. If necessary, shop with other agents and companies.
  2. Assess TV Costs – What are you spending on television? Do you have cable, satellite, streaming services or an antenna? What do you use the most? If you mainly watch one streaming service and find yourself watching less cable, it could be time to cut the cord.
  3. Pack Lunch – The cost of fast food is creeping up there and the long term effects on your health can be dire. Save your wallet and your waistline by packing lunch. Invest in a lunchbag or thermos to bring leftovers. Skip the leftovers and buy special lunch foods – it’s still cheaper than dining out every day.
  4. Consider Subscriptions and Memberships – Examine what you’re paying for and not using. Maybe it’s a fitness app, a magazine or club membership you don’t use. Auto payments make it easy to lose track.
  5. Pack Snacks – Avoid the vending machine at work by stocking your desk with snacks. If you crave a snack on road trips, plan ahead and bring things from home.
  6. Bring Your Own Drink – Vending and gas station drinks are expensive. If you love Diet Coke, buy a six pack of bottles at the grocery for $3.50 instead of one bottle for $2. If water or coffee are your thing, try a reusable bottle or mug.
  7. Use The Library – The local library is a spectacular resource for books, movies, music and more! If they don’t have what you want, they can often interlibrary loan it. They usually have free wifi too!
  8. Use Your Kitchen – The kitchen counter isn’t just for mail! Strive to cook your meals instead of picking up take-out. That slow cooker and air fryer are just waiting for you to create a masterpiece!
  9. Shop Sales – If you like chicken and beef but just one is on sale, grab the sale item while it’s cheap. This makes stocking your freezer and pantry affordable and helps you plan meals around what’s on sale.
  10. Shop Your Pantry – That can of beans languishing in the back of the cupboard would work great in a pot of vegetable soup. Use up the open cereal or chips before reaching for new. In other words, use what you have and that could be wasted.
  11. Meal Plan – Those last two tips are optimized when you meal plan. Check your grocery store circular to see what’s on sale and build meals around what you have and what’s on sale. Instead of just grabbing everything that looks good, go to the store with a plan for what you will cook and get ingredients you need to complete the meal.
  12. Shop Your House – Before you run out and buy something you think you need, have a look around your home. Do you have an older version of the item that still works or something else that can be repurposed? Using what you have can be an effective and creative solution!
  13. Know Your Weaknesses – If you know you’re always too tired to cook on Wednesday night, have a simple plan to combat the drive-thru temptation like frozen lasagna or breakfast for dinner.
  14. Pay Bills On Time And In Full – Avoid late fees by paying your bills on time and avoid interest fees by paying them in full. Carrying credit card debt will cost large interest fees, adding up to hundreds or thousands of dollars each year. Use VCNB Bill Pay to save on time and postage too.
  15. Refinance Your Home With VCNB – Rates are low, making it a great time to refinance and save on your mortgage!
  16. Study Healthcare Bills – When you receive healthcare services, ask for an itemized bill and read it. Do you recognize the services and the service dates? Was your insurance billed properly? Mistakes happen and can be costly.
  17. Reduce Energy Costs – Remember when your parents complained that every light in the house was on? Turn off lights and electronics when not in use. Gaming devices, televisions, computers, etc. draw energy even when not in use so invest in a power strip with a surge protector to easily turn off everything at once. Take shorter showers and turn down your hot water heater a few degrees too.
  18. Reinvent Leftovers – Whether you live for leftovers or loathe them, it’s easy to transform them into something new! Roasted chicken and veggies can become chicken pot pie and taco meat can go in chili. There are tons of options if you get creative!
  19. Try a No Spend Challenge – Set a period of time and commit to spending no money. Pay your bills, put gas in the tank and buy groceries you need but commit to no spending on extras. Try it for a day or week and work up to a month.
  20. Audit Your Expenses- Write down all spending for a week. This should include every dollar you put in a vending machine, meals out, online purchases and the big stuff too. Do you see patterns? Add up all those purchases and see which ones you can reduce.
  21. Cold? – Dress for the weather and put on socks or a sweater rather than turn up the thermostat.
  22. Avoid Disposable Products – Single use products like bottled water, paper towels and styrofoam cups are costly for your budget and the environment.
  23. Switch Your Ceiling Fan Direction – There’s a switch on your ceiling fan that makes it go either clockwise or counterclockwise, according to the Hunter Fan Company. In the summer, they say a counterclockwise motion creates a downdraft and a nice breeze. In the winter, switch to clockwise to circulate warm air around the room.
  24. Delay Gratification – When you get the urge to buy, write it down and wait. If you delay some purchases, you may find they aren’t that important. If they remain a priority, start researching what you want and shop sales.
  25. Break A Bad Habit – Most of us have bad habits but some are quite expensive. What’s yours?
  26. Maintain Your Car – Putting off vehicle maintenance will cost you in the long run. Keep up with oil and filter changes. A clean air filter will improve gas mileage by up to seven percent. Properly inflated tires help with this too.
  27. Meatless Monday – It’s no secret that meat is expensive. Trying a meatless meal is a great way to trim dollars from your budget. Start with easy swaps like pasta dishes, soups and casseroles.
  28. Drink Water – Water is good for you and most people don’t get enough. Tap water and jugs from the store are cheaper than sports or soft drinks. Carry a refillable water bottle to kill the temptation to buy costly drinks on the go.
  29. Understand Food Spoilage – Americans waste hundreds of dollars on food every year. Learn to rotate the stock in your pantry and to understand the difference between the terms Sell By, Best Buy, and Use Buy. Prioritize cooking what you need or using leftovers so they don’t go to waste.
  30. Say No To Retail Therapy – Many of us shop when we’re stressed or sad but the anxiety will only worsen when you get the credit card bill. Try some free ways to lift your mood like a walk, a movie or playtime with your kids.
  31. Question Everything – Questioning your bills and habits and applying your priorities will help you make cost saving choices.

What are your tips? Comment and tell us what you would add!

Sticking To A Budget

Earlier this month we talked about how to make a budget. While budgeting can be an intimidating topic, the process of writing a budget is actually quite simple. The hard part is actually sticking to your budget and that’s what we want to talk about today.

Read your budget – Even the best planned budget does no good if you don’t read and follow it. If you’re feeling a desire to spend money, pull out your budget and see how you planned to spend your money. Then decide if that extra purchase is worth it.

Sleep on it – If it’s not something you need, sleep on it before you buy. Do you really need a room sized television? Would you still need it if it weren’t on sale? Give it a few days or a week and see if you still think it’s important to buy now.

Know your weaknesses – What are the budget busters that you encounter the most? What are the weaknesses that you wrestle with the most? For many it’s take-out after work because no one wants to leave a stressful job to go home and cook.

Be prepared – If you know your weakness is eating out on workdays, take time to meal plan or even keep some convenience foods in the freezer to make getting dinner on the table easier. A frozen pizza and a bagged salad are cheaper than fast food and could even be quicker than swinging by a drive-thru. If your weakness is shopping, plan other forms of entertainment than browsing your favorite store. A movie marathon, playground time with the kids or practicing a favorite hobby might be better options than shopping.

Make allowances – Having a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have the things you enjoy. If you don’t want to surrender that fast food habit or have a weakness for new shoes or video games, write those expenses into your budget. Give yourself an allowance for those fun purchases. Reduce your grocery budget and write in a dining out allowance if you know this is a priority.

Make a list – Planning is your friend when it comes to sticking to your budget. Keep a running list of things that you will need to buy and then work them into your budget. Better yet, time those purchases with sales if you can. Don’t discount the importance of taking a shopping list to help keep you on track at the grocery store too.

Reframe your thinking – Before you buy, ask yourself how much you have to work to afford that item. People rarely connect their purchases with their time and labor. How many hours will you have to work to pay for that gaming system, a night out on the town or that plane ticket? You work hard for your money. Is it worth the time you’ll invest to afford it?

Make it a game – Try a No Spend Challenge. You can set your own rules but the most common no spend challenge is to pay bills and buy necessities but nothing else for a month. It’s a manageable way to curb spending for a period of time and see how much money is left after the bills are paid when you aren’t eating out, shopping and making impulse buys.

Avoid temptation – If you know you don’t have extra money to spend, stop tempting yourself. Avoid store browsing, stop perusing all those marketing emails and take away your own credit card. You can’t spend if you don’t have access to money!

Be realistic – You’re going to make mistakes. However, slipping up and spending too much this weekend doesn’t give you license to go crazy and to throw out the entire budget. Just forgive yourself and get back on track. While you’re at it, take a look at how you’re spending your money. Are you spending a lot on wants while struggling to pay for needs? Is there room to trim things that you don’t care about in favor of retirement savings and expenses that are important? Having a realistic view of your money and your habits will go a long way toward sticking to your budget and knowing where your money is going.

It’s true. Sticking to a budget can be hard. It’s also stressful not knowing where your money goes. A little planning and mindful decision making can go a long way toward helping you stay on track. When you do make a mistake, try making better decisions and do better next time. Like anything else, it gets easier with time!

Not sure how to get make a budget? Read about that by clicking here and to find 31 ways to save money by clicking here. Are you a budgeting pro? What are your tips? Comment and share your ideas!

Budgeting 101

The hardest part of any budget is getting started. Gather your income and bills and just dive in!

Whether you are a spender or a saver, one of the scariest words in the English language is the word BUDGET. Where do you start? Is it hard to make one? What’s it really meant to accomplish? More importantly, how do you stick to a budget?

First, take a deep breath and know that there is nothing scarier than not knowing what happens to all your money. Your budget is just a tool to help you determine where your money goes. It’s that simple.  

The best way to get started is to work on one month at a time.

Before you begin

Choose your tools – You need to decide if you want your budget to be digital, say in a budgeting app or an Excel spreadsheet, or if you’re going old school with paper and pen. There’s no right answer to this. Some people prefer the pretty graphs and automated math features found in an app. Others find it grounding to sit down with a piece of paper and a calculator.

Gather documentation – To make an effective budget, you must know how much you make and how much you spend. So take the time to gather up all your bills including utilities, rent or mortgage, car payments, insurances, daycare bills, tuition payments, and anything else you pay. Do you have things that you pay less than monthly? You’ll need to plan for annual property taxes or quarterly car insurance too.

Getting Started

Make a list – Make a list of every bill you will pay this month, estimate the cost and add it all up. Now add up your income and take a long, hard look at how much money is left after you pay your bills.

Non-bills –  What else do you buy each month? You will need groceries and gas for the car. Do you have a gym membership? What about clothes, movies, eating out and other fun purchases?  Don’t forget about birthdays, vacations and holiday gifts. Make a list of everything you spend money on. Are there big purchases that you need to save for every month? Do you even know how much you spend on these things? Look back through your credit card and bank statements to get an honest feel for how much you’re really spending on these extras

Pay yourself –Saving money is important so don’t forget to save for retirement and emergencies. Most Americans are woefully unprepared for even a $500 emergency but tucking away a little each pay will help you be ready.

Add it up – Take a moment to add up all these bills, discretionary spending and saving. How does it look? Is your spending outpacing your income? Are you incurring credit card debt for clothes, dining out and vacations? This can be a sobering moment in the budgeting process and will determine your next steps.

The reckoning – How do you feel about what you’ve learned so far? Did you realize you were spending so much on food? Do you see room for cutting expenses? Are you pleased with where you are? For most first time budgeters, there is something shocking about this complete snapshot of their spending habits. Once you reach this point in the process, it may be time to go back and start making some edits.

Working the puzzle – Most Americans are living at or above their means. If this is the case for you, building an effective budget will be like working a puzzle. You may need to look at cutting some costs to make that puzzle fit together more easily.

Looking ahead – If you have large quarterly or annual expenses to plan for, it’s smart to look ahead and consider the best ways to do that. Often, the easiest thing is to budget a little every month and then use automatic transfers from your checking to savings so that you’re not bearing the burden all at once.

Every month – You will need a budget for every month. Eventually, you may find that it’s easy to simply copy last month’s budget with some small changes while other months require more work. It’s often most effective to budget an entire quarter at once so that you get a broader view of your needs.

The Hard Part

The hardest part to any budget is sticking to it. It’s easy to get carried away on vacation or to forget all about it when the kids need shoes. That’s why it’s important to check in with your budget before making purchases and to make needed adjustments. Remember, your budget isn’t carved in stone. It’s a living, breathing document that is most effective when it’s kept updated and when it’s used.

Are you ready to get started with a budget that will put your money to work for you? There’s no better time to start than today!

We also offer tips for sticking to a budget and ideas for saving money when you need to trim some costs.