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.”

More From NerdWallet

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.

 

Five Ways Not to Blow a Financial Windfall

Whether you’ve won the lottery, inherited a fortune or sold your business, landing a financial windfall can drastically improve your financial outlook. But the sudden wealth can also leave you stressed and unsure how to handle the cash.

First, hit the pause button, says Don Hance Jr., founder of LifeSighted, a financial planning company. Take time to create a spending plan to avoid making poor decisions.

“You want to give yourself time to take stock of everything and work through emotions before spending the money,” says Hance.

Here are five smart ways to allocate a financial windfall.

1. Cushion your nest egg
Maximize your 401(k) contributions if you still plan on working, or at least contribute enough to earn the full employer match, which is essentially free money for your retirement. As you put more money toward retirement, the windfall will fill that gap in your cash flow.

This move also carries tax benefits: contributions are taken out of your paycheck pre-tax, lowering your taxable income for the year. Investments grow tax-deferred until withdrawals at retirement.

Also, look into funding a Roth IRA if you’re eligible, says Mark McCarron, a financial planner and principal at Bond Wealth Management, LLC. Contributions to Roth retirement accounts are made after-tax, and your investments grow tax-free. Unlike a 401(k), there’s no income tax on withdrawals made in retirement.

“It is one of the only free lunches the IRS gives us,” McCarron says.

2. Pay off toxic debt
If you’ve been trying to pay off debt, this is an opportune moment. Pay off toxic debt with the highest interest rates first, such as credit cards, payday loans, title loans and installment loans.

For example, a credit card with a $10,000 balance at 20% interest would cost $11,680 in total interest if you made $200 monthly payments. It would take more than nine years to repay the debt.

Use your windfall to pay the balance in full, and you’ll save interest.

3. Build an emergency fund
An emergency fund is money set aside to cover unplanned expenses, such as car repairs or a job loss, so you don’t have to rely on credit cards or high-interest loans.

A good rule of thumb is to have three to six months of expenses saved, says McCarron.

The amount to save depends on factors such as job security and how much debt you owe. Keep the money in a high-yield savings account, where it earns some interest and is readily accessible.

4. Invest in yourself or a loved one
Investing isn’t limited to your retirement; you can also use some of the windfall toward self-development. Go back to school, hire a career coach, travel or learn a new skill.

Consider starting a 529 savings plan to support a child, relative or friend through college, says Levi Sanchez, financial planner and co-founder of Millennial Wealth, based in Seattle.

The plan provides tax-free investment growth and withdrawals for qualified education expenses, such as tuition, fees and books. Most states also offer a tax break for residents.

Under the current tax law, 529 withdrawals up to $10,000 per year can be used for tuition costs at elementary or secondary public, private and religious schools. Check with your state’s plan before making withdrawals for this purpose; not all states have adopted the changes.

5. Give back
Consider making charitable donations to an organization or social cause you support.

Your gift can positively impact the organization, but unless it’s a sizable donation, it may not help your taxes. That’s because you need to itemize your taxes to get a deduction, and itemizing only makes sense if your deductions add up to more than the standard deduction.

For 2018, the standard deduction is $24,000 for married individuals filing jointly or $12,000 for single individuals. Maintain records of your contributions if you donate.

Giving money to family and close friends doesn’t carry tax benefits. But if you’re feeling generous, you can give up to $15,000 per individual in 2018 without having to file a gift tax return, says Sanchez.
A financial planner or tax professional can provide further guidance on managing a windfall.

Steve Nicastro is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: steven.n@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @StevenNicastro.

The article 5 Ways Not to Blow a Financial Windfall originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Not Your Average Card

RCBC Billboard - Not Your Average - (Bridge Street Digital)

You may receive a lot of offers in the mail for average credit cards but we are sure you haven’t received an offer for a card or rewards program like ours. In fact, we like to say that we have debit and credit cards that simply aren’t your average cards.

That’s because our Rewards Checking debit card and Visa® Platinum credit card work in tandem to reward you for your regular banking and purchasing activities. Those uChoose Rewards® points can be used for a host of things including cash back, gift cards, travel and merchandise. If a customer has both cards, those cards can be linked to one uChoose account to help the points accumulate more quickly!

Here’s how it works:
With Rewards Checking, customers can earn one point for every $3 spent as well as 200 bonus points for 21 or more purchases per statement cycle.  We also offer points for using Online Bill Pay, Direct Deposit and for automatic loan payments. Customers are even rewarded with 500 bonus points on the anniversary of the account! With the Visa© Platinum Credit Card, customers can earn one point for every dollar spent!

See what we mean when we say it’s not your average rewards program? That’s because we’re not your average bank.

Now through August 31 we are offering an exceptional summer special so that you can earn even more points just for signing up for Rewards Checking and/or a Visa Platinum Card.* Sign up for a Rewards Checking Account or a Visa Platinum Card between June 15 and August 31, 2018 and receive 5,000 bonus points. Sign up for both the credit card and the checking account during that period and you’ll receive 15,000 points!

Are you ready? Stop by your local office or click here to get started! 

*Credit restrictions apply. Not all applicants will qualify for this promotional offer.

Three ways you can protect your cards from fraud

In our industry, we see data breaches involving major retailers almost every day. This is an enormous, far reaching industry that involves criminals stealing personal and card information which has far reaching consequences for retailers and banks as well as for customers who are frustrated and frightened by the threat to their information and money.

That is why VCNB spends a lot of money and resources to make sure that the bank and bank customers are protected. We have a top notch Fraud Department that monitors your activity, looking for things that are out of the ordinary so that we can stop fraud from occurring.

What happens if there is fraud?
If we confirm that your card has been used for fraudulent activity, we will turn it off immediately. The card will be closed so that it cannot be used for any purchase that you or someone else may attempt to authorize. We will then order a new card for you and will offer to issue a temporary card that you can pick up at your local branch. This temporary card is designed to get you through until your new permanent card arrives.

But what happens to the money that was stolen from you? You will need to contact the bank to file a dispute. It is through this dispute process that the bank will credit your money back to your account. If it is proven that the charge was fraudulent, you will not lose your money.

How can you protect yourself?
VCNB spends a lot of time and money to keep your accounts protected but we can only do so much. We rely on you, the customer, to monitor your own account activity. Here are three free ways you can do that:

  1. Turn off your card when you’re not using it. Yes, you read that right. You have the ability to turn your card off when you’re not using it and back on the minute you need it again. This can be done using VCNB Mobile or the Card Valet app for your debit card. You can control your VCNB Visa® card with Card Valet. We have customers who will turn their card on while standing in line at the store or when they pull up to the gas pump. When they finish the transaction, they turn off their card again before putting it back in their wallet. It’s a quick, easy and secure way to control how the card can be used.
  2. Monitor activity. This can be done in a few ways. Using Card Valet you can receive a text each time your card is used. You can also monitor activity in the VCNB Mobile app and on our website. Finally, you can sign up for free Account Alerts so you can receive a text or email every time your card is used. These are all free services to help you look after your money and accounts. If you see something suspicious or something you don’t recognize, contact the bank immediately.
  3. Place limitations on your card. Using VCNB Mobile or Card Valet, you can set limitations for each of your cards. You can set a monetary spending limitation as well as limitations on where a card can be used. You can determine a geographic area where the card can be used and say that it can only be used at certain kinds of retailers like grocery, gas stations or department stores. You can also place a monetary limit on each card so that it can be used for no more than $100 or whatever limit you choose. You can apply different limits to each of your cards and change them as you see fit.

We ask for your cooperation as we attempt to keep your money safe. If you see something that looks suspicious, we ask you to contact the bank immediately so that we can prevent a loss from occurring. This era in banking and currency has many conveniences but there are risks associated with using your cards, even with the retailers you trust the most. We thank you for your help keeping your money safe.

Don’t Let Friends Derail Your Finances

Over the past few years, Meghaan Lurtz has had to turn down two destination bachelorette parties for dear friends. She was in graduate school and didn’t have the money to go.

“It felt really crappy, because these are people that I know and I love and I care about, and I absolutely wanted to be there,” she says. “But finances are what they are. You have a budget, and budgets have restraints.”

Lurtz is the president-elect of the Financial Therapy Association. She’s counseled people who’ve been in similar situations and said yes to both the pricey activity and, in turn, credit card debt.

After all, it’s hard to turn down fun with friends. But that fun can add up, as buddies expect you to shell out for group vacations or smaller expenses, like dinners, drinks and concerts.

Here’s how to determine whether you’re spending too much with friends and, if so, fix your finances without hurting your relationships.

Reflect on your — not your friends’ — finances
First, recognize that everyone has a unique “money mindset” that shapes financial decisions, says wealth psychology expert Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, author of the recent book “Breaking Money Silence.” Income and savings certainly play a part, but so do our upbringings, personalities, cultures and values. “What’s important to you and how you spend your money might be different than your friends,” Kingsbury says.

» QUIZ: What’s your money personality?
So resist giving the side-eye when your friend goes for those $600 boots — that’s her decision and her money. Instead, “try to come up with your own philosophy around money,” Kingsbury says. Determine what’s important to you — traveling the world, paying off your credit card debt or buying a home, for example. Then prioritize accordingly.

Kingsbury suggests scrutinizing last month’s credit card and bank statements to make sure your spending aligns with your priorities. Aim to get a broad sense of where your money is going and whether you ought to adjust your spending habits.

For example, you may want to course-correct if you spent $500 at the bars but put $0 toward that home you’re saving for. Creating a budget, if you don’t already have one, will help.

Spend less money (not time) with friends, if needed
Say you realize you’re overspending on social activities with friends. This problem is pretty common, Lurtz says, and it’s often driven by FOMO — the fear of missing out. You may say “yes” to every pricey dinner or group trip, for example, even though your budget screams “no.”

Remember that the point of these outings is likely more about spending time with friends than it is about eating or vacationing, Lurtz says. “So, if you can be with the person in a less expensive way, do it,” she adds. Here are a couple of strategies:

Use cash. Participate in the activity, but leave the plastic at home and bring only the amount of cash you feel comfortable spending. Unlike swiping a credit card, handing over cash feels more substantial and forces you to use “mental accounting,” Lurtz says.
“Believe me, you’re less likely to buy a round of shots for all your friends when you only have a $50 bill in your pocket,” she says. And you still get to hang out. “You’re out there, you’re going, but you also have the pride in knowing that you prioritized your goals.”

Focus on the friendship. You can always pass on activities you don’t want to spend money on. Fight that FOMO by spending time with friends in a different way.
For example, skip the $100 dinner with your crew and grab a $5 latte with those friends the next morning. “You’re honoring the friendship” and showing interest in spending time together, Kingsbury says. “But you’re coming up with an alternative for the connection they’re trying to have with you — at your spending level.”

Discuss money with friends
When you pass on an activity, thank your friends for the invitation and give them plenty of notice. Be honest about your financial priorities and respectful of theirs, Kingsbury says. Rather than complain about their expensive tastes, explain that you’re trying to save for a home, for example.

An open talk about your financial goals — and your friend’s, if she’s up for it — does more than lessen the blow of a declined invitation. It can help you become better friends.

Discussing our money and values, Kingsbury says, “increases intimacy and helps us understand where the other person is coming from.”

More From NerdWallet

The article Don’t Let Friends Derail Your Finances originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Money Tools To Help High School Grads Succeed

Celebration Education Graduation Student Success Concept

Graduation season has arrived, ushering into the world a new group of young people who are headed into the workforce and into higher education. If you’re among the scores of high school graduates this season, there are some things you’ll need to succeed financially.

Checking Account
Everyone needs a checking account. It will keep your money safe and accessible.  Not only is money in the bank protected from flood, fire and robbery, it is also FDIC insured.* This means your money is safe until you are ready to use it. Yet it is still easily accessible for online bill paying, for purchases with debit card or check and for withdrawal from an ATM, bank, or cash back in a store.

Savings Account
One piece of advice we hear from older folks all the time is to start saving early. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, it’s important to stash away as much as you can every chance you get. A VCNB Passbook Savings account gives you a safe place to keep your savings separate from the spending money in your checking account.

Online and Mobile Banking
You are on the go a lot. That means you will want to have quick access to your money. You’ll want to know how much you have, be able to schedule bill payment online and transfer funds between your checking and savings account with ease. Having online banking and mobile banking, like VCNB Mobile, your accounts are at your fingertips 24 hours a day.

Debit Card
As mentioned above, you need to be able to buy things. A debit card is safer than carrying around a pocketful of cash. Most retailers today accept plastic making it the most popular way to pay in most stores and restaurants.

Popmoney
Here at VCNB we offer something called Popmoney® personal payment service that allows customers to send money to another individual with just their mobile phone number or email address. If you’re headed off to college, this is an easy way for parents or grandparents to send their favorite college student a little pizza money from time to time.

Here’s a little more food for thought – You may think these crazy bankers have unrealistic expectations. You are just starting out and don’t have much money to save or to spend so you’re wondering why all this is so important. We’ll tell you why: when you’re young and without resources is a great time to learn how to do more with less. We find that people who learn to manage a bank account when they have limited funds are more likely to manage their money well when they are more established with a full time job and higher income. When you have a small balance and just a few bills is a perfect time to learn how to create a budget, reconcile your account and manage your finances responsibly.

One last thing – While you’re just getting started in a career or higher education, it’s important to think toward the future and toward building good credit. Talk to your parents and to a trusted banker about applying for a small balance bank credit card which you can learn to manage responsibly or about co-signing for a small loan so you can get the hang of paying a monthly payment for something you need. Building a strong foundation for credit usage which you manage responsibly is something everyone should work toward.

You can open accounts online or stop by your neighborhood VCNB office to talk with one of our local experts and to get started.

*FDIC deposit insurance covers the depositor up to $250,000 per depositor and per account type at each bank.

 

Paying Allowance Can Pay Off, If You Do It Right

Kids  with piggy bank.jpegYour child wants to know why one friend gets $10 a week, another gets a whopping $50 — but he or she gets zero. Should you give in and pay your kid an allowance?

When it comes to helping your child learn the value of money, an allowance gets a thumbs-up from financial experts. “Kids have better money habits if they’re given a chance to make money choices,” says Roger Young, a senior financial planner with financial advisory firm T. Rowe Price. “One way to do that is to provide them with an allowance.”

  1. Rowe Price recently released its annual “Parents, Kids and Money” survey, in which  66% of parents reported giving their kids an allowance. But few moms and dads simply hand over cash without a requirement, such as doing chores or earning good grades. Most report that their children have to earn their allowance.

How much is enough?
According to the survey, more than half of parents who give an allowance give $10 or less per week. But there is a wide range — one out of every 10 parents gives more than $50.

If you decide to give an allowance and your child has friends who are getting more, be prepared for complaints and requests for more cash. If those arise, ask your child to focus on his or her own money goals, says Joe Santos, a financial advisor and Los Angeles-based regional executive for Merrill Edge, the Merrill Lynch online investing platform.

It might also be a good time, he says, to talk about the futility of trying to “keep up with the Joneses” — after all, the most important factor in deciding whether to offer an allowance is your own family budget, not someone else’s.

If you’re already giving your child an allowance but have room in your budget to meet a request for more, consider asking what would justify the raise, says Christopher Krell, a certified financial planner and principal at Virginia financial advisory firm Cassaday & Co. For example, the child could offer to take on more responsibilities in caring for a family pet.

How should an allowance be spent?
Krell suggests urging young children to earmark a third of their money for savings, a third for spending and a third for sharing or charity. “As kids grow into their teen years,” he says, “they can also learn how their savings accounts get a boost by calculating compound interest.”

“Share with your child that it’s not what they have,” Santos says, “it’s what they keep.”

But don’t expect children to always make smart spending decisions. They might blow through their allowance right away and later realize there’s something they really want to buy, but they’re out of cash, Santos says. It’s best if parents resist the urge to bail them out. “They can learn the consequences of spending all their money too quickly,” he says.

With an allowance, children can learn how to save and earn interest on their own money until they’re ready to make a desired purchase without incurring debt. That’s a good lesson at any age.

Five Reasons We Love Our App

A lot of our customers say they just use the mobile app to check their balances or to see if a charge has gone through. We think that’s super but VCNB Mobile has so much more to offer that we wanted to chat with you today about some other features we think will make you love the app as much as we do.

It offers protection and security
You can use the mobile app to turn your card off when you’re not using it and even to limit spending functions. With a tap of the screen you can turn off your card and then turn it on again when you’re ready to use it. Limit how much your card can be used for in a single transaction, the types of vendors where it can be used and even the geographic area where it can be used.  Say you plan to only use your card at grocery stores and gas stations within a thirty mile radius and you never want a single transaction to go through for more than $200. You can set those limits and then change them as your needs change! 

You can deposit checks
We get how busy you are. In fact, even bank employees don’t want to spend their lunch break making a bank deposit. Instead, you can deposit checks with your mobile app. See full instructions within the app to see how easy this is.

You can pay bills
Online Bill Pay is one of the best features of the app.  From your dentist and accountant to your utility bills, it’s easy to schedule one time payments as well as those that recur.  Some businesses can accept payment electronically while others must be mailed a check.  You choose when they receive their money and we take care of the rest. Even if we have to mail them a check, there’s no charge to you for using this service. However, if you sign up for Online Bill Pay and don’t use it at least once each calendar month, we will charge a fee of $3. Still get a paper bill? Digitize it with VCNB Mobile by taking a picture of the bill!

You can pay people too
Another feature you may not be using yet is Popmoney® personal payment service. Use Popmoney to send money to an individual. Repay your parents the money they loaned you or send a coworker funds to chip in on a gift for the boss using Popmoney.  Plus, if someone owes you money, you can send them a request for payment. All you need is the recipient’s mobile phone number or email address. No personal banking information is required and there is no fee for using Popmoney.

It’s convenient
Banks like to talk about convenience and ease of use when promoting their mobile apps but we are sincere when we say it is convenient and that it’s so simple to use anyone can use it. It is arranged with an easy to follow menu at the bottom of the screen and the numerous options are organized so it’s easy to find what you need.

What’s your favorite use for VCNB Mobile? Tell us below in the comments section. We would love to hear from you!