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!