Saving Money On Groceries

Money is tight in most households right now. With the kids home for three meals a day, many families have seen their grocery bills unexpectedly skyrocket. You want to feed your kids nutritious foods but you also don’t want to go broke doing it or spend all day in the kitchen. So what do you do?

Here for You BadgeWe don’t have all the answers for your unique circumstances but we have some ideas to help you brainstorm what will work in your house!

Meal plan and make a shopping list – Think of your meal plan as your road map through shopping and meal prep. Jot down what you want that week’s meals to look like. It’s best to base this off of what you already have and what’s on sale. From there you can start a shopping list to insure you buy everything you need.

Shop once – The more exposure you have to a store, the more money you are likely to spend. For example, you run in to pick up milk only to walk out with two bags full of extras. Do all your weekly shopping at once and avoid those extra trips.

Eat in season – Seasonal foods are cheaper and they’re typically more flavorful. Summer is a wonderful time for fresh, affordable foods like sweet corn, cucumbers, berries, tomatoes and melons.

Support your local farmers – Help a neighbor while feeding your family. You might be surprised at how much fresher, cheaper and more flavorful your meals are when food comes straight from the local field to the market. Farmers markets can also be a good source for eggs and other goods.

Buy frozen – If you can’t find or afford fresh meat and produce, hit the frozen section! The produce you find here is still good for you, often picked at peak and flash frozen. Frozen foods will keep for a long time if you don’t need them now.

Be flexible – Brand or store loyalty can be costly when you’re on a budget. If your kid only eats Heinz Ketchup with their chicken nuggets, we get it. But they might not notice the store brand french fries. If you only buy boneless skinless chicken, you might find that another cut of meat is just as good.

DIY – If you’re trying to save money on food, there’s no better way than to cook your own meals. That means reducing the take-out and most prepared foods from the grocery. That pretty little container of sliced berries is way more costly than slicing your own. Most frozen meals are convenient but they’re packed with sodium and often don’t stretch very far for the money. Frozen pancakes are convenient but it’s easy to whip up a batch of cheap homemade pancakes for the freezer. Don’t have time to cook every day? Take a few hours one day to prep some casseroles or meal kits for the freezer. Check out Pinterest or ask friends for favorite recipes.

Slash the snacks – Snack foods like chips, pop and little packaged cakes are so expensive. Try cutting back or offer alternatives. Keep a pitcher of Kool-Aid in the fridge and cut up a block of mozzarella in lieu of string cheese. Even if you don’t want to make something from scratch, a cake mix and can of icing are way cheaper per serving than a box of Ho Hos.

Take short cuts – Lots of folks swear by their Instant Pot or slow cooker. The Instant Pot allows for quick cooking. The slow cooker requires planning but is a good tool for making cheaper ingredients delicious.

Audit your grocery bill – Do you see trends in your spending? What’s the thing that costs the most or that feels like the biggest waste? There may be nothing you can do to reduce this expense but knowledge is half the battle and will help you understand how your family’s choices impact the budget.

What do you do to save money on groceries? Tell us in the comments below! We’re always looking for good ideas!

Meet Your Banker: Nicole Scott

Our lobbies are available by appointment only but our bankers are still here to help you! Here we continue our “Meet Your Banker” series by talking with Nicole Scott. Nicole is the Branch Manager of our Friendly Bremen Banking Center in Bremen.

Nicole Scott

Nicole Scott is the Branch Manager of our Friendly Bremen Banking Center in Bremen.

When Nicole talks about life as a community banker during COVID-19 the conversation quickly turns to others. “I miss seeing our regular customers and I worry about many who are struggling. In fact, I really miss a lot of the face-to-face contact that we’ve always taken for granted,” she said. “Most of all, I miss being able to shake hands with my customers.”

Nicole’s path to Branch Manager was somewhat unusual. She has a degree in Human Services and Corrections from Hocking College but she took a job with another bank’s operations department about fifteen years ago. The work suited her and she moved to a similar role at VCNB four years later. She calls her time in that department “rewarding and training like no other.”

In 2016, Nicole was involved in an accident that put her on a year-long path of recovery, nearly causing the loss of her arm. “I did some soul searching. That kind of experience makes you wonder what will happen if you don’t get better. It makes you question if you’ve done everything you should be doing” she said. “I define failure as making the choice not to do more when you know you can do more. So when I felt like I hit a plateau in my position in operations, I knew it was time to challenge myself and set new goals.”

She believed her purpose was to help customers. So she took the leap into the VCNB Personal Banker Program and worker her way up to Branch Manager in Bremen. Today she enjoys leading her branch employees and helping them grow. She also has strong feelings about community involvement. “I just love helping where I can.”

Nicole is Vice President for the Bremen Area Chamber of Commerce and will soon graduate from the Fairfield Leadership Program. She also seeks opportunities to show kindness to others both in her personal life and through charitable giving at the bank. For example, when she heard about an effort by the Mithoff to provide Fairfield County families with Easter baskets and holiday dinners, she jumped right in to help. “They provided dinners for about six hundred families and baskets for several hundred kids. What the bank was able to contribute, what I was able to contribute, was very small in the context of so many in our community who stepped up to help,” she said. “I was in awe of what they were able to accomplish with everyone pitching in.”

Nicole has three children and is the author of two published novels. She also enjoys long range rifle shooting and is proud to say she can hit a target at a thousand yards. An avid traveler, she seeks out unique and memorable experiences.

She looks forward to the day lobby doors are again open to customers. “We try to check on many of our customers now. We want them to know we are thinking about them but it will be a joyous day when we can open our doors and see them again!”

Teach Your Children To Save

Full coins in a jar. Saving money. Growing concept.Save money for children and future.

Every spring, our bankers go into local schools to talk with youngsters about saving money. It’s part of a national effort called Teach Children To Save, led by the American Bankers Association. While we can’t go into classrooms this year, we are working to reach out to students in other ways.

With young kids, we talk about why someone might need a bank, why money is safe when kept in a bank, and the importance of saving money. Here’s some food for thought for you to help your kids develop money saving skills and understand the difference between needs and wants.

  • Make saving visual. Piggy banks are wonderful but a clear jar will allow your child to see their savings grow. If your child has a passbook savings account, help them keep their passbook current or even have them draw a chart so they can see their money grow.
  • Help your child see that things cost money. Don’t just tell your child that a toy costs $10. Help them make the connection between that cost and their money by helping them count out their money and show them how their savings decreases.
  • Talk about the difference between needs and wants. We need food, shelter, and clothes. That means we need shoes to wear but we don’t need Nikes. We want Nikes but could wear something cheaper. We need to buy food for dinner but junk food like Oreos are a want.
  • Make them buy some of their own wants so that they can see how hard it is to save money. Use this process to show them opportunity cost. “If you buy this toy, you won’t have enough money to buy a video game later.”
  • Give them savings goals. When they’re small, those goals might be to save for a special toy or game. As they age, those goals can be built on and will mature to save for a car or college.

Saving money is a habit best formed in youth – even if all they have to save is spare change or chore money. The will to save money is like a muscle that gets stronger with use. Developing good childhood habits will serve them well for a lifetime.

 

Take Control Of Your Bills With Online Bill Pay

If you’re trying to bank and manage your money from home, one key tool provided by VCNB is Online Bill Pay. There are many advantages to using this service now and during regular times too.

Here for You BadgeWith Online Bill Pay, customers can maintain control over their payment activity without the expense of sending paper checks or the uncertainty over when the check will arrive. In fact, you can specify the exact date you want the bill paid and are able to set up payments to businesses of any size. Whether it’s the dentist down the street, the local electric company, or a Fortune 500 business, we’ve got you covered with Online Bill Pay.

 

Here are a few things you need to know:

  • Recurring payments can be set up on autopay. You choose the day you want the bill paid and we take care of the rest.
  • You can also pay bills on demand.
  • Easily sign up for e-bills from businesses that offer this service. This allows you to keep all your bills and payment activity stored in one place.
  • Your bill history is searchable so it’s easy to find past activity.
  • Setting up reminders helps you know when a payment is due.
  • You can even send money to a friend using just their email address. Do they owe you money? Send them a reminder! You can even split a bill with a roommate or someone else!

Access Online Bill Pay through your Online Banking at VCNBfamily.com and on VCNB Mobile, our mobile app. There is a quick three step process to get started and this service is free to customers as long as you use it once every month. Inactivity will result in a $3 monthly fee. Visit our Learning Center to view a tutorial on this service as well as videos about many other VCNB products. Click here to read more about banking outside the branch!

 

Here For You: Beware Of Scams

These are confusing and challenging times for many Americans. Sadly, there are criminals out there who understand that trying times are the ideal conditions for scamming others. The IRS has provided us with some tips about current scams that we wanted to share with you.

  • Here for You BadgeRobocalls making fraudulent offers to sell respirator masks and other sought after supplies with intent of delivering.
  • Fake COVID-19 related apps and websites that install malware or ransomware.
  • Phishing emails asking for money or presenting malware.
  • Social media scams fraudulently seeking donations or claiming to provide stimulus funds.
  • Sales of fake testing kits, cures, immunity pills, and protective equipment from fraudulent sources and that requires the recipient to enter his or her bank account number.
  • Fraudulent offers for free COVID-19 testing in order to obtain Medicare beneficiary information that is used to submit false medical claims for unrelated unnecessary, or fictitious testing or services.
  • Prescription drug schemes involving the submission of medical claims for unnecessary antiretroviral treatments or other drugs that are marketing as purported cures for COVID-19.
  • Antiviral treatments or other drugs that are marketed as purported cures for COVID-19.
  • Scams involving the IRS Stimulus payments including calls from individuals attempting to obtain personal information. The IRS will not call, email, or text to verify payment details.

As your community bank, we want to remind you that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remember that your bank, local government, and IRS will not contact you to request your personal information, social security number or account information. We encourage you to be cautious, to ask questions and to safeguard your personal information.

If you feel that you have been victim to a scam, please notify the United States Attorney General.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Your Banker: Jessica Calder

Our lobbies are available by appointment only but our bankers are still here to help you! Today we continue our “Meet Your Banker” series by talking with Jessica Calder. Jessica is the Branch Manager of our Pickaway County Banking Center in Circleville.

Jessica Calder

Jessica Calder is the Branch Manager of the Pickaway County Banking Center in Circleville.

Jessica has worked in banking for over fourteen years. She has tried another line of work and knows that it’s just not for her. “I took a break from banking for a while. During part of that time I worked in another kind of office and hated it,” she explained. “I love what I do now because it gives me a chance to work with people, to get to know them. Our customers come to know us and to trust us when they have a problem or a question and I love being that person they turn to. Customers become friends and many become our family.”

She started her banking career as a teller for one of the corporate banks in Circleville. She went on to be a teller supervisor for two other big banks before finding her way to VCNB where she has been Branch Manager for Circleville’s Pickaway County Banking Center for about two and a half years.

“This place actually cares about the customers, about employees and their families and it shows. It’s possible to have work-life balance here and I’m grateful for that opportunity,” she explained. “Plus they give us the time and the money to give back to our communities!”

Jessica knows a thing or two about giving back to the community. The Circleville High School graduate is the Treasurer for the Pickaway County Chamber of Commerce and she coaches biddy league volleyball every August through October. She has volunteered as the fifth and sixth grade volleyball coach for four seasons. She had fourteen girls last season and, while she says her fall schedule is hectic and tiring, she feels like she’s doing some good. “It’s the greatest thing in the world to coach and to give back,” she exclaimed. “And when they run up to you off season and ask if you’re coming back next year, you know you did something right!”

She and her husband have been together for twelve years and have four children – their son is serving in Afghanistan, one daughter is in college and their other two daughters are in high school.

Jessica commented on how different work life is in her branch now that the lobby is closed. “We miss our customers and the face to face contact with them. Some of our customers we are used to seeing every day or at least a few times a week and I think we really took that for granted,” she said.

The staff has been reaching out to customers as time allows. “We just want them to know we’re here to help in any way we can and we want to make sure they’re staying healthy and well,” she said. “We look forward to seeing everyone back in the bank and life go back to normal.”

 

Meet Your Banker: Matthew Giroux

Our lobbies are available by appointment only but our bankers are still here to help you! Today we continue our “Meet Your Banker” series by talking with Matthew Giroux. Matthew is the Branch Manager at our Ross County Banking Center on Western Avenue in Chillicothe.

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Matthew Giroux is the Branch Manager of our Ross County Banking Center on Western Avenue.

Ask Matthew to talk about his role as a community banker and he first mentions his experience working for a big bank. “This is so much more rewarding than corporate banking which is very black and white. In corporate banking, there’s no opportunity to get to know your customers or to help someone who you’ve had to tell they can’t have what they want but that there may be another solution,” he said. “It’s like night and day when you go to work for a bank that actually wants to work with customers.”

While he’s relatively new to VCNB, Matthew has close to sixteen years of experience in banking and a degree in Finance from Ohio State University. The Chicago native’s father attended OSU  and so Matthew said he always knew that’s where he wanted to study.

With sixteen years in banking around central Ohio he said that he especially likes working with business customers and small business start-ups. “New businesses are exciting. They’re usually starting a business with a purpose and they’re doing it because they’re passionate about something .  . . they’re doing it because they want to, not because they have to.”

However, he pointed out that many small business customers don’t know where to go for an EIN or to register their name. “They don’t know where to start but it’s something we deal with every day so it’s easy for us. It’s a lot of fun to guide customers to where they need to be,” he said.

Matthew and his wife Beth will celebrate their ninth wedding anniversary in May. They have a four-year old son.

In his free time, he is an avid OSU fan and is proud to be a 23 season ticket holder. He is also the Treasurer of the Ohio State Alumni Club of Ross County, belongs to the Chillicothe Rotary, and helps with concessions for the Zane Trace Athletic Boosters. He also represents the bank at the quarterly Ross Chillicothe Chamber of Commerce New Member Breakfast that the bank sponsors.

Until the pandemic caused disruption to daily life, Matthew was volunteering with the United Way, doing taxes for people through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program which provides free tax preparation services to low to moderate income tax payers in the community. “I was having a lot of fun doing taxes for people a few nights a week and some Saturdays,” he said. He laughed when teased for calling tax time fun. “It IS a lot of fun. You get to meet a lot of people and help others. Plus, I got to expand my own knowledge so I think the program is great,” he said.

“The pandemic has complicated the way we do some things but we are still here helping customers. I’m just a phone call away and we can accomplish everything a customer needs even though the lobbies are closed.”

 

Resource Roundup: Free Fun For Kids

Schools have been closed for a while and many of you parents have made a great effort toward entertaining and educating your kids. We have some good news. Big name attractions and a few you probably haven’t heard of are making some resources available for free!

Read on for some resources we think your kids will enjoy and you may even like them too!Here for You Badge

The Kennedy Space Center is offering free science lessons about rocketry for kids and teens via Facebook Live! The videos are archived on their page or you can watch along live every day. Parents even have online access to activity sheets and experiments. There are sessions for young kids as well as high school aged students.

Does your older child dream of someday being a Disney Imagineer? Disney is now offering something called Imagineering in a Box, a free course that features 32 videos showcasing real Imagineers from around the world. They share their skills and passions and give some insight into the magic of Disney.

Closer to home, the folks at COSI are delivering family friendly videos and hands on science through videos on their website. You can follow them on Facebook or sign up for an email that provides a weekly digest of upcoming activities.

Even the Peanuts gang is getting in on the action, offering activities and fun for grades K- 8.Learn about space, celebrate spring, reinforce a positive mindset and focus on goal setting with Snoopy and the gang!

Are your kids readers? The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress invites kids and people of all ages to discover the books available on their website. Among other things you’ll find an interactive version of Aesop’s Fables as well as classic literature for all ages.

Why does soap make bubbles? Can a turtle live outside its shell? Does your child have a lot of questions? Mystery Doug has the answers! Sign up to receive a free weekly email that answers these questions and more!

Scholastic Learn At Home offers some free lessons to keep kids reading, thinking and learning. Find free resources for all ages as well as some tips for parents who are homeschooling for the first time!

When all else fails, who doesn’t like to color? Find hundreds of free nature themed coloring printables here!

There are tons of videos and websites out there now, all devoted to keeping youngsters engaged and learning while having fun. These are just a few. Do you have a favorite? Tell us about it in the comments!

We Are Here For You

These are challenging times for Americans. Whether you’re an essential employee, working from home, or not working at all, everyone has dilemmas ahead. Some of you are homeschooling your kids for the first time and need ways to keep them busy. Some of you are quarantined alone and need ways to keep up morale. Many of you are essential, working overtime, and fearful of what will happen if you get sick.

Here for You BadgeSome of you are struggling financially and in other ways.

We want you to know that we will be here for you no matter what the future holds. The wonderful thing about being a community bank is that we are able to quickly change with the times and adapt to the needs of our customers.

VCNB President Mark Erslan praised bank employees for how well they have adjusted in changing times. “I’m amazed at how quickly our employees have been able to adapt to this fluid situation. We’ve had a mix of employees working from home and in our limited access lobbies doing what we can for our customers. Whether we’re discussing options for payment relief or how to bank remotely or helping a customer refinance a mortgage without physically coming in the bank, our employees are working hard to adapt and do what they must to get the job done,” Erslan said. “We’ve been handling routine requests in new ways and our volume has been significant.   Our customers have been very understanding and patient with us as well.”

Our lobbies are available by appointment only and transactions are handled through the drive-thru, except in Jackson where they are practicing social distancing in the absence of a drive-thru. Some of our branches have made some small changes to their business hours as well. We are encouraging customers to take advantage of all the tools that allow them to bank and communicate with us from home. That’s for your safety and ours as we do our part to flatten the curve in our state.

With that in mind, we have been working to educate customers on the various ways they can safely do their bank business. For example, we recently wrote about the ins and outs of banking outside the branch  and about how the ATM can be used for more than accessing cash and account balances.

We have been interviewing our branch managers for a blog series called “Meet Your Banker.” It’s been fun telling their unique stories. It’s also been heartwarming to hear very similar messages from them all about how they love getting to know their customers and helping people.

As community bankers, we love people and we are committed to being here for you – not just when times are easy – but all the time.

That’s why we’re offering relief options for both personal and business customers. If you are experiencing financial difficulty related to COVID-19, please don’t hesitate to ask for help. Simply call our Customer Service Team at 1.800.542.5004. They will be happy to connect you with the right person who can explain your options and help you best.

We look forward to the day things go back to normal and we are able to greet you in our lobbies. Meanwhile, we encourage you to stay safe wherever you are and know that VCNB is still here for you.

As always, thank you for your patience and for allowing us to be your community bank through this challenging time. Follow us on Facebook and subscribe to this blog to keep up to date with all the ways we are here for you and proud to be your community bank.