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.

What Do Our Lenders Wish Customers Knew About Home Loans?

Building or buying a home can be stressful. There are countless decisions to be made and processes to follow that customers typically don’t experience often. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced banker who can show you the way. We asked some of our experienced lenders what they want customers to know prior to financing a home.

Mortgage Loan Officer Brooke Adams works at our Ross County Banking Center in Chillicothe where she provides borrowers with a checklist of items she will need to start their loan application.

She pointed out that there are many moving parts and pieces of any mortgage or construction loan process at the bank as well as through other individuals including appraisers, surveyors and the title company. Working within their individual timelines can create some challenges. “Each person involved in the many steps of the process have the same goal  –  to help the person close on their loan. However, in this big mortgage boom, we all have to be patient with turn-around times.”

Chad Meadows, a Mortgage Loan Officer at our Friendly Banking Center in Lancaster spoke specifically about the effort involved in building a home. “It’s always a pleasure to help customers realize their dream of building a home which will probably be their largest investment within their lifetime,” he said.

He suggests that customers speak with a lender prior to meeting with a builder to insure they are setting realistic financial expectations. “Realizing this dream and making it a reality requires coanstant communications between the homeowner, builder and lender. The continuity of this team is paramount for a successful project. It is most helpful to speak with a lender prior to meeting with the builder to accomplish realistic financial goals from the start.”

He elaborated on why this is important. “Items such as property taxes, insurance and monthly mortgage payments are a necessity to set realistic expectations for their dream home. This also helps the builder to save time and resources to effectively initiate the project on the right path. Accomplishing these few objectives in the beginning along with the team communicating consistently will make for a smooth and effortless construction project.”

Salt Creek Banking Center Senior Retail Lender Doug DeLong said that there is never a perfect time to take the leap but that there are practical reasons that make this the right time. “I would tell customers that now’s the time to do it! Rates have literally never been lower. With the costs of construction materials pretty high right now, the customer can more than make up for it with the extremely low interest rates.”

Still not sure if you’re ready to take the first step toward buying or building your next home?  Our lenders will be happy to answer your questions. “It is pure joy at the end of the day to watch a borrower achieve the dream of owning a home or buy that next home to grow their family.” Adams said.

Contact our Customer Service team at 1.800.542.5004 or contact a lender close to you!  

Are You Still Paying For Christmas?

Note with words pay off debt concept.We have a question.

Are you still paying for Christmas?

If you’re like millions of Americans, the answer is yes – you are still paying for the joy and excitement of this last Christmas morning and maybe even a few before it.  Allowing credit card debt to add up is a common mistake and, sadly, reducing debt is always a lot harder than allowing it to accumulate.

If you want to pay off your credit card but aren’t sure where to start, we have some basic steps to get you on the right track.

  1. Face reality – How much do you really owe? Do you have one credit card? More than one? Add up those balances and keep that total in mind.
  2. Make a budget – No one enjoys the ‘B’ word but a budget or a spending plan is the most effective way to get your financial house in order. Not sure how to budget? We wrote this guide a few years ago.
  3. Study up to lower expenses – Study your budget and consider how you spend your money. Are you living within your means? Are you spending too much on impulse shopping or on weekend entertainment? Are there big ticket items like car insurance that you could save on with a little comparison shopping? Save money where you can and apply the savings to your debt. Click here to read about saving money even when you think there’s nowhere to cut. 
  4. Be timely – Each time your credit card payment is late, you face a late charge. Pay at least the minimum payment on time to avoid those charges.
  5. Pay extra – With online payments, it’s easy to make an extra credit card payment. So if you have a windfall –some unexpected overtime, a tax refund or some garage sale earnings – make an extra payment.
  6. Stop adding more debt – This should go without saying but you’ll never pay off that card if you keep adding to the balance. If you must use it, be sure not to charge more than you can pay off that month.
  7. Stay motivated – Staying focused on a budget and debt payoff is hard work. Look for inspiration anywhere you can find it. Hang a debt payoff thermometer on the fridge, read success stories on Pinterest or talk to like-minded friends who are also focused on financial goals. Another great motivation tool? Dream about how good it will feel to not have credit card debt hanging over your head.

 

Finding Money To Save (Even When You Think You Can’t)

expenses cut.jpgIt’s that time of year when we all resolve to put a lid on our spending and save more money. The internet is full of articles like “Five Ways To Save $1,000 This Year” and advice for folks to save $30 just by cutting back to eating out just three days a week.

But what if you don’t eat out every day and you’re sure there’s not hundreds of dollars in savings to be found in your budget? We don’t claim to have all the answers in this one little story but we do have some things for you to think about and maybe kickstart your way to savings this year.

Think About Your Spending
We all spend money on things we don’t need and sometimes on things we don’t really want. The first thing you need to do is study how you’re using your money. Do this however you like. An easy way is to save your receipts and keep a slip of paper to jot down every time you drop a few bucks in the work vending machine because you’re craving Diet Coke and Peanut M&Ms. Then study your habits and think about ways to cut costs or change behaviors. If you’re buying candy and drinks every day, it might be smart to bring a snack from home.  This is an easy behavior change that could save several dollars a week.

Once you know what you’re spending money on, ask yourself some questions. What are you buying that you don’t need or that you buy out of habit? Are you actually using what you buy? Is it truly a need or a want disguised as a need?

When our bankers visit third graders to talk about spending and saving money, they typically understand the difference between a need and a want. For example, you need shoes but you want Nikes. However, when we talk to teens, we find they think they need Nikes and that no other shoes will do. What do you truly need?

Food is a major money leak for many American households as so much of what we buy spoils before we use it. If you find yourself throwing away most of the celery every week, it might be time to ask yourself if you’re buying celery because you like it or because you always buy it (or because it just looks good in the cart).

Plan, Plan, Plan
Planning is half the battle when it comes to spending and saving. How many times have you gone to the store and couldn’t remember what you need to buy so you just buy a bunch of stuff that sounds good? Whether it’s school clothes, groceries or holiday shopping, make that list and stick to it.

Also, be sure to research your purchases ahead of time. Find out what’s right for you, what’s most economical and what’s most likely to last so you’re not buying a replacement next year.

Planning a purchase also may involve delaying a purchase. In this world that delivers up to the second news and overnight packages from across the country, delayed gratification is becoming a lost art. Do your research and think about how badly you really want or need what you wish to buy. How many hours must you work to pay for it? This question alone may impact your views.  Sleep on it and revisit the purchase later. You may find you were more excited about buying something new than you were about the thing itself.

Don’t Overlook The Big Stuff
You need homeowners insurance but when was the last time you read your policy or comparison shopped? You need a car but can you afford your car when you consider the cost of insurance, maintenance and monthly payments? You need a place to live but could you downsize or find a more affordable neighborhood?

These changes may seem drastic but if you’re serious about saving money, the effort could be worthwhile.

Once you’ve found ways to plug those money leaks, both big and small, be sure to actually have a plan in place to save that money and make sure your budget reflects any changes in spending. If you are saving $50 a month on your insurance, why not set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account?

Saving money isn’t always about the obvious advice to avoid the expensive cup of coffee. It also involves some thinking, research, planning and maybe even a little soul searching to figure out what’s best for you and your finances.

Do you have tips to share? How are your savings efforts working out in this new year? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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!

Resolving To Budget In 2016

In 2013, Forbes Magazine reported that just eight percent of people will achieve their New Year’s resolutions. Eight percent. That number seems depressingly low. So we want to take a look at common New Year’s resolutions and things that you can do to insure you are part of that eight percent. This week we will feature a different resolution every day with some helpful tips and hints for sticking to it.

Since we’re a bank and we think money is pretty important we’re going to start with the dreaded “B Word.” That’s right. Today we’re talking Budgets.

People are often intimidated by the idea of a budget. The truth is, you work extremely hard for every penny you make. A budget is an easy way to know where your money is going and that it’s working for you.

One of the first steps to taming your finances is knowing where your money goes. Making a budget helps you to know where your money is going and will, if used correctly, help keep you on track. Budgets can be made with a spreadsheet on your computer, a mobile app or just a pen and paper.

Sadly, making the budget is the easy part. What trips folks up is sticking to their budget. And that’s what we’re here to talk about today. Anyone can make a budget but it’s an altogether different thing to stick to it for more than a few days, much less a month or year.

Here are some thoughts to help you stay on track and loyal to your budget in 2016.

Look at it daily – This may sound like a nuisance but it is vital that you keep your budget at the top of your mind so that you’re not tempted to go off script, spending money you don’t have. Hang a copy on your fridge, keep it in your handbag, your dayplanner or on your smartphone. Then take a moment every day to look at it and remind yourself why it’s important to stick to it.

Keep visual reminders – Is there a reason that budgeting is important to you right now? Maybe you are trying to pay off a mountain of credit card debt. Make a chart of your debt so you can see the balance decline each month. Are you saving for retirement or for a big family vacation? Place an image representing that goal somewhere you will see it every day. Study that image and imagine how following your budget will help you reach your goal!

Identify and eliminate weaknesses – Are you an Amazon impulse shopper? Are you a sucker for a Kohls sale or for a bargain at the grocery store? Stop and think about the places and things that trigger unplanned spending. Stop going to the mall every time you’re bored if you are an impulse shopper. Delete your credit card info from Amazon to slow down when buying all those “Lightening Deals.” If you horde food, take a detailed list to the grocery and don’t buy things that aren’t on the list.

Give yourself an allowance – A lot of parents give their kids an allowance to teach them how to handle money responsibly. Why not do the same for yourself? Give yourself a reasonable amount of money each week that you can use as “play money.” This play money will give you a little freedom to have some fun without damaging your budget. If you want morning coffee and lottery tickets and you blow your weekly allowance in two days, you will know it’s time to reconsider your spending habits.

Think before you spend – Remember when we told you to look at your budget daily? We also suggest you look at your budget every time you’re thinking about spending money. Whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or an online shopping spree at home, look at your budget and consider the repercussions before you buy. It may feel good to buy that Blu-ray today but where will the money come from? Is it worth taking the money from your grocery budget or your retirement savings just to watch a movie? Thinking about your money and your budget and how they work for you are half the battle. Having the strength to actually do what your budget says is the other half.

Set rewards goals– Following a budget sounds like an easy thing to do but it is actually sort of tough. That’s why it’s important to treat yourself once in a while. Is there something you especially enjoy? A manicure or bubble bath? Maybe an evening in front of the tv or at a favorite restaurant would make you happy. Reward yourself each week or month that you follow your budget!

A few final words –

Remember, a budget is a living organism with potential to change regularly. The cost of gas increases sometimes and your heating bill fluctuates with the weather. It’s important to adjust and recover as needed. If you spend too much today, that’s no reason to become discouraged. Just make the necessary adjustments to cover the cost of groceries and move forward.

It sounds cliché but budgeting really is mind over matter. Mental presence, awareness of goals and willpower go a long way toward helping you be true to your budget. Be strong and you can be among that eight percent!