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!

Last Minute Savings For The Holidays

Christmas is about two months away.  Are you a last minute shopper who charges holiday expenses or have you been saving and planning for this all year? Our hat’s off to all you planners out there but if you’re not so prepared we have some thoughts to help you prep for the most expensive time of year:

Make a list and set a budget – List each person you’re buying for, the items you wish to give them and assign a cost estimate for each one. Also list all those extra holiday expenses like cards, postage, family photos, party expenses, dinners out and other special events that occur throughout the season. Having a total in mind will give you a savings goal. Is the goal too high? Consider ways to cut corners but remember to stick to the list when you shop.

Cut discretionary spending – With Christmas just a few paychecks away, now is the time to reduce spending on the things you don’t really need. Your child needs new shoes but does she need an expensive pair? Do you eat out a lot? We don’t want to tell you how to spend your money but encourage you to think before you spend. Is this item today worth cutting corners later?

Reduce household expenses – On a related note, think about your major household expenses. Can you cut back your cable package or reduce your electric bill? When was the last time you cost-compared car insurance? Can you prepare less expensive meals? You may find there is more than one way to save a few bucks around the house.

Find inspiration to jumpstart your savings with this VCNB story that features 35 ways to save!

Look for discounts – Thanks to a competitive retail environment and the internet, there are tons of ways to save money these days. In addition to traditional coupon clipping, you will find promo codes for discounts and free shipping. There are also websites that sell discounted gift cards and tons of websites that will help you cost compare your purchases. Always look for ways to save on what you’re buying.

Get rewarded – If you’re shopping with your VCNB Platinum Visa® credit card or your Rewards Checking debit card, you have the potential to earn points for purchases. Those points can be redeemed later for gift cards, travel and other items. Points earned with your Rewards Checking debit card can be redeemed for cash back too.

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If you think there’s no way you can save enough to pay for all these seasonal expenses, remember that VCNB offers both a Classic and Platinum Visa® credit card for qualified applicants. With the VCNB Platinum Visa, cardholders can earn UChoose® Rewards Points for purchases made with the card. Click here to learn more about our credit cards  and contact your local office to apply.

Want to better prepare for next year? Consider a VCNB Christmas Club account!

Folks who now have a Christmas Club with VCNB will receive their checks this week. We’ve been helping them squirrel away small amounts of money every two weeks since last October so they would have a handsome savings in time for this year’s holiday shopping. Their club will automatically renew for their convenience so they will be getting a jump start on 2017 holiday savings.

If you’re interested in opening your own Christmas Club account, it’s important to note that Christmas Club members determine how much they wish to contribute to their Christmas Club. Want to save a thousand dollars? We’ll divide that amount into twenty-six payments that will be automatically transferred from your checking or savings account to your Christmas Club. In mid-October 2017, your funds will be direct deposited into the checking or savings account of your choice or sent to you as a paper check.

Stop by or call your local branch to get your Christmas Club started today!

What’s your approach to funding big expenses like Christmas? Tell us in the comments section below!

 

Think Outside The (Gift) Box

Some of the best gifts don't fit in a bag or a box. Consider giving loved ones experiences, home repairs or other things they will appreciate but that you can't find at the mall!

Some of the best gifts don’t fit in a bag or a box. Consider giving loved ones experiences, home repairs or other things they will appreciate but that don’t come from the mall!

We’ve been talking a lot about Christmas lately. Holiday shopping with your VCNB Rewards Checking and Platinum Visa® card and how to save with a Christmas Club  have been at the top of our minds. But the truth is, a lot of us here at VCNB have been discussing gift giving as well. More to the point, we are all worried and asking the same question. What on Earth are we going to buy our loved ones?

It’s a wonderful problem to have but it seems like everyone we know already owns too much stuff. So many parents complain because their kids have too many toys and nowhere to put more. Adults often don’t need or want very much either.

While we want to give our loved ones a special holiday, we often waste money on the wrong things.

Make no mistake: we don’t advocate skipping Christmas or gift giving. However, if you’re in the position that we just described, buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff, this may be a good time to reconsider your habits and think outside the (gift) box.

In the interest of keeping gifts useful and cutting down on clutter, consider giving experiences rather than things. A zoo or YMCA membership, sports or concert tickets, movie passes, a manicure or a spa day will make the recipient think fondly of you while they’re having fun.

Experience gifts are especially great for families. Rather than buy individual gifts for every person, consider sending the entire family out for an experience together. Other great family gifts might include board games, movies or a gift card for their favorite restaurant.

For young adults who are on their own for the first time, there’s an endless list of things they need or want for their apartment or new house. Consider buying them cookware, bedding, furniture or decorative items to help make their new living space feel more like home.

That elderly person who already has everything is often difficult to shop for. Instead of buying them a thing, give the gift of your time. Take them some home baked cookies with a gift card or voucher for you to take them out to lunch or have them over for a home cooked meal.

There is also a place for practical gifts that save the recipient time or money. Hire someone to deep clean their home, clear their gutters or replace their leaky kitchen faucet. Everyone appreciates a little help around the house!

Gift baskets can also be a practical gift that is presented in such a nice way that it doesn’t seem so practical. A gift basket of their favorite foods would be thoughtful and practical. Note cards, stationery and stamps would be helpful to a shut-in while a colander filled with ingredients for a nice pasta dinner may be welcomed by a busy family.

If all else fails, consider a gift in their name to their favorite charity. There are tons of good causes that would value your donation, no matter how big or small.

One other thing: we recently saw something on social media that sounded really interesting. For those who want to really trim down Christmas for their kids, buy your child something they need, something to wear, something to play with and something to read. It’s a way to still have fun and open some gifts without spending a lot or accumulating too much.

Tell us in the comments below: What are your favorite go to gifts for the most challenging people on your gift list?

 

Prepare For The Holidays With A Christmas Club

Santa Holding Stack of GiftsThere are two types of people in this world: those who prepare for holidays well in advance and those who don’t. If you’re like millions of Americans, you probably wait until November or December to panic over what presents to buy for Christmas and how to pay for it all.

On the other hand, if you had a VCNB Christmas Club, you could be saving a little money each month and receive a nice sum in October, just in time for holiday sales. However, if holiday saving isn’t your thing you can use a Christmas Club to save for other things. There’s no rule that says you can’t save your funds for a vacation, a new car, home repairs or just for the sake of saving for the future.

A lot of folks lack the self-discipline to save regularly on their own. The beautiful thing about Christmas Club is that we automatically transfer the funds from your checking or savings account into a Christmas Club account. You can access those funds in an emergency but the $20 fee for doing so should be enough of a deterrent you won’t be tempted to withdraw funds for a silly reason.

Best of all, you decide how much you want to save each year and we do the rest. We will divide your savings goal by twenty-six and transfer that amount into your Christmas Club every two weeks throughout the year. Then in October, your funds will be direct deposited into the checking or savings account you designate.

There is no set amount for Christmas Club. We have customers who save as little as $250 a year and others who save thousands.

Ready to get started? Stop by your local branch or click here to open an account today!

Avoid Christmas Debt This Year

Christmas and BillsLet’s talk Christmas. We know it’s only August but it’s time.

Christmas is now less than five months away. That means in just a few months we will be celebrating this joyous season. What comes to mind? Family traditions, delicious food, stockings filled with candy and buying gifts? The song tells us it is the most wonderful time of the year but that isn’t the case for everyone.

Unfortunately, Christmas also is the most expensive, most stressful and most debt filled time of the year for millions of Americans. As Santa’s Wish List grows every year, so does the amount of debt Americans owe every January. If you typically are still paying for Christmas when Groundhog Day rolls around, now is the time to think about how to avoid debt and the interest that comes with it, beginning this year.

There are several ways you can tackle this problem. The first is to shop year round. If you need generic gifts for co-workers or if you already know what you are giving someone, watching sales and clearance racks is a great way to pick up nice gifts while saving a few dollars. If you buy just one or two gifts a month, when December rolls around you’ll be ahead of the game. Start with after-Christmas sales, to save a bundle for next year.

Another way to go is to begin saving a little bit each month. Start by adding up all your anticipated holiday expenses: gifts, cards, stamps, wrapping paper, bows, food, travel costs and anything else that is an added expense during the holiday season. There are five months until Christmas. Is it possible to save a fifth of the total each month?

If the answer is yes, that’s terrific! Start squirreling away the money today!

If the answer is no, think about how much you can save. Are there expenses you can trim to get you to your goal? Maybe you have something to sell. Maybe you can cut back on the holidays some and lower your savings expectations.

Even if you can save just a small amount of your goal before the holidays, it will give you a leg up when shopping season arrives.

Speaking of savings for the holidays, in October we will begin enrolling folks for the 2016 Christmas Club. You decide how much you would like to save each month and we will automatically take your payments from your checking or savings account. In October 2016, you’ll receive a check from us for the full amount of your Christmas Club savings. There is a $20 fee for an account that is closed early. See an account representative for details.

Imagine starting the year without Christmas debt. It can be done if you get organized and begin in advance!

Simplify Money Management With VCNB

This week is National Simplify Your Life Week. That sounds nice but sometimes simplification is the hardest thing you can do. Between work and family, it often feels like a struggle to just keep everyone fed and on time for school.

Since much of your life hinges on money – paying bills on time, buying groceries, saving money and the piece of mind that comes with knowing these things are done – we want to give you a quick overview of how you can simplify your money.

If you’re a VCNB customer, you have access to several of things that will make your life easier thanks to Online Banking and VCNB Mobile. Accessing accounts electronically really is a lifesaver for a lot of our customers. Need to save money? You can automate it and forget it. Have trouble paying bills on time? You can automate those too! Do you sometimes overdraw your checking account? Get a balance alert via text or email when you go below a certain balance!

Here are some features that will simplify your life:

Save Money
Experts say you should save ten to fifteen percent of your income toward retirement. They also recommend having an emergency fund to help with life’s little surprises. But are you actually saving? Schedule on-demand transfers from your checking to your savings. Better yet, set up automatic transfers to ensure it is done regularly. Automatic transfers can be scheduled for any amount on any day of the month. Just set it up once and watch your balance grow!

Think you won’t be able to leave your savings alone? A lot of our customers use Christmas Club accounts as a means to save. Regular transfers are made from your checking or savings account into a Christmas Club account. Since there is a $20 fee to access those funds before the Christmas Club cycle finishes, most customers successfully reach their savings goal.

Track Money
Do you sometimes overdraw your account? Wonder if your direct deposit hit your account? Forget to make a loan payment? Set up account alerts for these things and more. There are nineteen different account alerts that can be sent via text or email. If you need a gentle reminder that your car payment is due or if you want to know that a check cleared, we will let you know!

Do you have a lot of plastic in your wallet? Between credit cards and store rewards cards, most Americans are carrying a lot of plastic. You can personalize your VCNB debit card to make it easy to find. Upload your own picture or use one of ours for a $5 annual fee! Locating your debit card has never been simpler!

Pay Bills and Spend
It’s a fact of life. Busy people often pay bills late. Whether it’s a lack of time or stamps, or simple forgetfulness, it’s easy to incur a late fee. Streamline your bills with Online Bill Pay. You can put your payments on autopilot and schedule them to pay the same day every month or you can manually schedule payments as needed. Either way, the service is free as long as you use it at least once a month. Otherwise, there is a $3 monthly fee.

If you use Online Bill Pay, you also have access to Popmoney ® personal payment service. Popmoney allows you to send money to anyone with just their email or mobile phone number. Best of all, other people can send you money too! So the next time you split the cost of a gift for your boss you can just send your share via Popmoney. If you buy concert tickets for the gang, they all can send your share to you! The cost is .50 per transaction for the person who sends the funds.

Save Time
Online and on your mobile device, you can save yourself time by checking balances, paying bills and keeping things straight. But did you know you can also save yourself a trip to the bank? Use our mobile app to deposit a check for just .50! You can do this by logging into your mobile account and taking a picture of the front and back of the check. CLICK HERE for complete instructions and details. (W/LINK TO WEBSITE)

Still write checks? You can reorder those online as well!

Keep Us Close
Keep us close – on your computer, on your mobile device, in branch or over the phone. You can also chat with our Customer Service Department during business hours. Just visit our website and click the Green Chat Now button to start a conversation!

Phew! That’s a long list! How do you use VCNB to simplify your life? Tell us in the comments section!

What is a Christmas Club?

Have you heard about our Christmas Club? It’s an easy and simple way to save money for the holidays and we are signing up customers now.

Santa Claus with Armload of PresentsAt VCNB, this is a free savings account where we automatically transfer funds from your checking or savings into a separate savings account. You decide how much you want to save and we transfer the funds every two weeks.

You will receive a check for the amount you saved in October 2015!

This is a convenient way to save money gradually and to generate a nice nest egg. For people who find themselves with a mountain of credit card debt every January, a Christmas Club is an especially helpful tool for staying ahead of the spending game.

This year, customers who open a new Christmas Club or renew an existing club will receive a set of three silicone spatulas with a holiday theme. This free gift is our way of saying thanks for doing business with us!

Christmas Clubs can be opened for as little as $250 or for as much as you want to save. Open an account from the comfort of your easy chair by visiting our website or stop by your local office to get started.

VCNB is Member FDIC.

 

 

Setting a Realistic Budget

Do you have a household budget? If you’re like most Americans, chances are you don’t. A Gallup poll  last year revealed that just one in three Americans prepare a household budget.

However, a budget plan is one of the most important things you can give yourself. It helps you to know where your money is going, helps with savings or other financial goals and it simply keeps you on track so that you don’t spend money you don’t have.

Unfortunately, people who do have budgets often don’t stick to the plan but instead simply have a wish list of how they want their finances to work while they continue spending unrealistically.

So how do you create a realistic budget that you can live with?

The first step is to track your spending. You already know how much you spend on utilities, mortgage and insurance but what about smaller expenses? For a month write down every penny you spend. Five dollars for lunch and thirty for gas add up pretty quick so it is necessary to be realistic about all of your daily expenses. At the end of the month, add up how much you spent.

Now sit down and make a list of all your expenses. It can be a handwritten list or some kind of worksheet on the computer.

Simply fill in the amounts and add up your month’s expenses. Are they more or less than your income? If they are less than your income that’s great! That means you have extra money to save, to dedicate toward debt payoff or to spend.

If your expenses are greater than your income, it is time to look at cutting expenses. Think about extras that you don’t really need like premium cable or a land line that no one in the house uses. Also look at major expenses like car insurance. Can you get a cheaper rate? How much money are you spending in restaurants or on recreational shopping? Are you wasting a lot of food at home? Maybe you are overbuying for your family?

Here are a few other things to keep in mind.

One of the most powerful ways to free up money in your budget is to pay off debt. Credit card bills, student loans and other types of debt may seem impossible to move past but making debt pay off a priority in your budget will help you stay on track and see how it is possible to dig yourself out of debt.

Give yourself a little wiggle room in your monthly budget. For those categories that fluctuate, like your water or electric bills, build a little extra into each month so you are not caught off guard. Also try to anticipate irregular expenses. You know your child’s school takes portraits every November so budget for that expense in November. Instead of trying to pay for all Christmas expenses at one time, tuck away a little into savings each month. A VCNB Christmas Club is a great way to do that!

And of course, build a safety net by saving something every month. Most experts recommend saving at least ten percent of your earnings. If this isn’t possible, just save whatever you can – even if it’s just five dollars a week.

Having and sticking to a budget will help you know where your money goes and will help you live within your means. These acts will eventually help you create a nest egg and pay off debt. Want more information on budgeting? Visit Consumer.gov.