4 Ways New Homeowners Can Save on Their Taxes

Mortgage

Becoming a homeowner is an exciting and trying time in your life. Once all the papers are signed, and the keys turned over, it all seems worth it. That is until a pipe bursts, lightning knocks out a tree, or your dog decides to burst through the screen door. Not all hope is lost however. In return for your endless work, and commitment to a never ending to-do list, the U.S. Government has provided four tax-based ways to reward you for your new home ownership. See how to take advantage of these four tax breaks, and make the most of your home purchase:

 

  • Early IRA Withdrawal: For many new homeowners, securing the initial down payment can be the first hurdle in their real estate journey. If you’re a first-time home buyer and have an IRA, or Roth IRA, the IRS will allow you to withdraw up to $10,000, penalty-free, to aide in the cost of your new dwelling!
  • Valuable Deductions: Between your mortgage interest, mortgage insurance, and real estate taxes, your home deductions could make a big dent in your taxable income. When preparing your taxes as a new homeowner, be sure to bring any mortgage documents, and escrow account information, to your tax professional to gain the full benefit of the deductions.
  • Renewable-Energy Tax Credit: Did you upgrade your home appliances to more efficient and environmentally-friendly options? Did you install a geothermal system in your home? If so, this helpful tax credit may be able to take a portion of that improvement cost out of your deductible income!
  • Tax-Free Profit on Sale: When you go to sell your home, the IRS allows you to avoid the capital gains tax on the profits you generate from the sale. This means that if your home’s value goes up $35,000 in the two or more years you live there, you are then able to retain the additional $35,000 your home is sold for without having to pay any taxes on those funds. One other major stipulation of this benefit is that in order to avoid the capital gains tax, you must purchase a new home as your primary residence within the next two years.

With these key homeowner tax breaks, the next thing to put on your to-do list is to make a plan for those tax refunds! If you have questions on how to best budget for your new home, don’t hesitate to stop in. We’d love to talk taxes, financing, or other improvement ideas you have for your home!

10 Tips for a Great Holiday Party

Seasonal Get Togethers

No matter which holiday you are prepping for, there are some essential party essentials you should always plan for! Throughout this holiday season, try these top 10 planning tips, courtesy of Raccoon Valley Bank:

 

  1. Pick the best date. Saturday’s are always the prime time for holiday parties. Be sure to book venues ahead of time to ensure you can capture the best date for your gathering.
  1. Choose a simple theme. Don’t oversimplify it, but make sure it’s something that will click well with your guests. Simple things such as color coordinating, can help continue your theme throughout the event.
  1. Send invites at least six weeks before. People want time to plan, but not too much time to forget. Let your guests know about this holiday party six weeks prior to ensure they have plenty of time to plan. If you ask them to RSVP this can help you gain an accurate head count for food and beverage purposes.
  1. Email a reminder the week of. Sometimes people forget, ensure that all your guests who are available can attend, with a simple email reminder one week out from the party.
  1. Keep food fun yet familiar. A little twist here and there keeps things interesting, however, going too far can turn guests off to food altogether. Work with your caterer to determine what the best
  1. Set-up a good flow of traffic. Create a space that allows hungry guests to move through the food on both sides, well out of the way of your more conversational area.
  1. Create a timeline. Every party has activities, whether it’s dancing, trivia, or a simple informational slideshow, planning ahead of time can save you a headache later. Create a schedule for the evening to share with your guests. This will help them plan their time accordingly as well!
  1. Play festive music. Create a simple playlist full of upbeat and festive songs, but also be sure to include some current music selections as well! This will keep the holiday tone, without being overwhelmingly so.
  1. Give away or donate leftovers. Leftovers are a given at any holiday event, be sure you send your guests home with some goodies to help avoid discarding surplus food. If doggie bags are not an option, stop by your local food bank that night, or the next day to see if it can be used.
  1. Have a clean-up crew. Cleaning up is the worst part of event coordinating. Make this task easier on yourself, and recruit a team of guests and friends to help clean after the event, or the next day. Offer to provide a meal and beverages as thanks, in addition to a free ticket or gift at the party.

 

If you follow these holiday hacks, your event could be the best gift of the season! Show us your favorite holiday get together by sharing a photo on our Facebook page. We can’t wait to see all the different themes!

Thanksgiving Costs Through History

Holiday

Filled with laughter, good food, and heart-warming conversation, Thanksgiving is a holiday centered on all things family. Dating all the way back to 1621, this festive celebration originally began to signify a successful and fruitful fall harvest. Today we enjoy this day of thanks to remember all the blessings and loved ones in our life.

 

Many things have changed since 1621, or even since 1916! We wanted to see what this holiday may have looked like over the past century, to visualize how traditions and costs have changed through the years.

 

There are several factors when determining the cost of a Thanksgiving celebration. Today the average feast runs approximately $49. This includes a 16-pound turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, carrots, celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee with milk. However, back in 1916 this meal cost approximately $6.81, but keep in mind, the turkey then cost $4.48, or $99.23 in today’s standards.

 

Take a look and see how the various costs of Thanksgiving have changed over the last 100 years. You’ll be surprised at the difference!

 

Cost of Today’s Feast                      Cost of Past Century’s Feast

1916 – $2.21                                        1916 – $6.81

1926 – $3.59                                        1926 – $11.06

1936 – $2.82                                        1936 – $8.68

1946 – $3.96                                        1946 – $12.18

1956 – $5.52                                        1956 – $16.99

1966 – $6.58                                        1966 – $20.24

1976 – $11.55                                      1976 – $35.55

1986 – $22.24                                      1986 – $68.47

1996 – $31.84                                      1996 – $98.03

2006 – $40.92                                      2006 – $125.95

2016 – $49.00                                      2016 – $150.84

 

At Raccoon Valley Bank, we love learning about holidays and their history. It’s easy to see now how $6.81 can really add up! If you put those dollars in today’s standards, food costs would be astronomical! Can you imagine paying over $100 for just your turkey? This year the average cost per pound is about 93 cents, so for a 16-pound turkey, you should expect to pay around $15. Now that’s something to be thankful for!

 

The 10 Most Affordable Winter Destinations

Savings

The snowbirds seem have the right idea! Just as winter becomes too chilly and snow-filled, they flee to warmer weather! It just so happens that this is the ideal time to visit a variety of areas, while their prices remain low during their slower season. See how you can capture the best deals on your getaway from the colder weather, along with other popular snow-covered destinations.

 

Panama City, Panama: This amazing city is a must-see for those with a case of wanderlust. Filled with old history, and new innovation, the town of Panama City continues to surprise your senses. Explore the Casco Viejo area, and make your way to the Manolo Caracol restaurant. With this deliciously simple meal in your belly, you’ll be able to take on any adventure you find in Panama.

 

Singer Island, Florida: For this tropical getaway you don’t even need a passport! Tucked along Florida’s southeast coast, this local paradise offers the best of the beach life along with luxurious city activities in the neighboring West Palm Beach. If you’re looking for adventure, scuba shop Pura Vida Divers can help you fulfill all your scuba dreams! With diving, snorkeling, and surfing services, this family-run business will make sure your time with them is the best memory of your trip.

 

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: Filled with luxurious all-inclusive resorts, this Caribbean getaway will help maximize any budget! There are hundreds of resorts to choose from, and most offer packages which include meals, beverages, and on-site hotel activities. Be sure to also catch a round or two of golf at their renowned clubs across the island!

 

Ambergris Caye, Belize: Feel the heat year round in this island paradise! With activities on both the island and inland, you’ll never have a dull moment at this destination. If you’re searching for some adventure, be sure to stop by Amigo’s to book your next cave tubing, zip lining, or ruin climbing tour! After your day you can enjoy an unwinding meal at the island’s best ceviche restaurant, Hurricane’s, but watch out for their signature hurricane cocktail!

 

Vancouver, Canada: Home to the famous Whistler Blackcomb mountain, this chilly destination is filled with plenty of activities and beautiful snow-covered trees! Extend your trip into the city of Vancouver itself to discover the Granville Island market and delicious local delicacies such as poutine and the JapaDog.

 

Big Sky, Montana: Avoid the chaos of Winter Park, and venture to the less populous, but immaculate slopes of Big Sky. With affordable packages to ski and stay, you and your family can enjoy your days on the slopes, and your evenings at the lodge. If you feel like venturing into town, you can warm up with some deliciously spicy food from the local favorite, Alberto’s.

 

New York City, New York: This iconic destination definitely makes its mark on your traveling memories, and during the winter, it becomes more affordable than ever! With inspiring sights such as the Rockefeller Center, and the Ground Zero Memorial, this city will inspire you throughout your vacation. Share a laugh with your family and get tickets to the Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Book of Mormon. This trip will surely be one to remember!

 

For every adventure you plan, there should always be a budget behind it! If you want to learn how to best save and budget for your next getaway drop us a line or stop by today!

True or False: Catch Me if You Can

Check Fraud

Starting in 1963, Frank Abagnale began his criminal career. Made famous from the film, Catch Me if You Can, this mastermind of forgery made a name for himself at a young age by impersonating pilots, lawyers, and doctors. Throughout these impersonations, Frank found new and inventive ways to defraud the United States and at least eight other countries. When he was  captured at age 21, he had defrauded multiple nations upwards of $1.3 million dollars. After serving five years of his twelve year federal sentencing, he agreed to work with the FBI to help investigate and proactively protect the United States from further check fraud.

 

As Frank’s history with the FBI began to grow, he started to share the distinctive patterns and signatures behind the best of check fraud criminals. See if you can determine which of these check fraud facts are true and which are just cinematic magic:

 

True or False? Big corporations such as Pan Am had a much higher risk of check fraud than small mom and pop shops.

 

FALSE:  Although Pan Am was depicted as the start of Frank’s larger check fraud scheme, large scale business models face less risk than most small businesses. Did you know one in four businesses have fell victim to fraud? While larger companies have internal security and protective insurances for such instances, most local businesses rely on their employees and their customers to ensure an honest and accurate transaction.

 

True or False? Paper check forgery still is prominent today.

 

TRUE: With small businesses as the largest targets, paper check fraud is still a relevant issue, even today. Often times, the culprit can be employees who write a business check to themselves. Other instances can be a vendor who is able to alter the ink on the check to reflect an amount that they would prefer. While there are many additional cyber fraud crimes possible today, the threat of a paper check fraud is still imminent.

 

True or False? This movie largely encourages check fraud and teaches criminals how to hone their craft.

 

FALSE: While this movie does display many techniques in producing fraudulent checks, the premier intention of the film is to educate both banks and businesses in what to look for concerning false checks. There are many simple markers and signs that a check may be a fake, and while the storyline depicts the various lifestyle choices of a criminal, it reveals in the end, that Frank Abagnale began to help the FBI identify these markers to prevent future check fraud.

 

What to look for in fraudulent checks straight from Frank Abagnale:

 

  • Keep any checks, deposit slips, or check re-orders under lock and key in a secure location. Many times those close to your business are the culprits in a check fraud crime.
  • Use Remote Deposit Capture from Raccoon Valley Bank. This service ensures that the check is treated just like a debit. If there are no funds in this account or it represents a false account, you will know as soon as the transaction completes.
  • When receiving a check in a transaction, scan the check to make sure it has a perforated edge, marking where it was torn from the checkbook.
  • Never cash a check you are unsure of. If something does not seem right, it is always safer to ask for further identity verification, or simply deny their request to cash the check.

If you’re curious how to keep your small business secure against check fraud, come by Raccoon Valley Bank today and speak with one of our local commercial lenders.

Which Subscription Service is Worth Your Money?

Budgeting

The concept of subscription packages aren’t going away anytime soon! Offering the convenience of shipping, and the added surprise of finding out what’s inside, these clever subscription services keep you wanting more. With so many to choose from, how do you know which box is a worthwhile spend for your family? At Raccoon Valley Bank, we’re excited to share our favorite options, and how they can help improve your budget:

 

Blue Apron: Out of all the make your own meal plans, this one by far stands apart! With plans as low as $8.74 per serving, these step-by-step culinary creations can not only help you eat better, but spend better as well! Reduce wasted money and food with their pre-portioned delivery system – and shipping is always free!

 

Bark Box: For all your furry friends, this box will have them waiting for the mailman every month! At $20 a month for a year long subscription, these fun-filled packages are stocked with nutritious treats and toys for your pup to enjoy. Check out their BarkShop page too, and see if your dog is a fit perfect for their Destroyer’s Club!

 

Dollar Shave Club: This popular grooming subscription is the perfect fit for men and women seeking a smooth shave. With options starting as low as $3 a month, this offer makes it simple to always have a fresh blade when you need one. If you do choose to upgrade, your product ships for free! Give it a try for a month, and adjust your shipments as needed, depending on how quickly you use the razors.

 

Birchbox: A traveling beauty bar for both men and women, this monthly subscription provides samples straight to your door for $10-20 each month. Complete with added membership pricing, and special offers, these little boxes pack a punch! If you discover products you simply cannot live without, simply go to their website, and select the full size version to purchase.

 

Raw Spice Bar: Eager cooks unite behind this affordable and delicious small batch spice subscription. Each month, they send professional and home cooks alike a mix of three regional spice blends. See how much you can grow your palette for only $8 a month!

 

Graze: Staying healthy can sometimes feel like a chore, especially while you’re working. Take the struggle out of hunting down those nutritious nibbles, and let graze do the shopping for you. For the low cost of $11.99 a month, you will receive 8 pre chosen snacks delivered straight to your home or office, and shipping is already included!

 

Gamefly: Video game addicts rejoice! Finally, there is a monthly subscription that allows you to play video games and rent movies at a low monthly cost! Starting at $15.95 you can rent one game each month with the option to return it at any time for a new game to rent. There are no late fees, and you can cancel at any time! Or for only $10 a month, you can live stream games straight to your home, 24/7!

 

Texture: No more magazine racks to clutter up your home, get the newest and latest news straight on your device with Texture’s digital monthly subscription. Offering the hottest magazines in every industry, this convenient service allows you to read the latest issue without the clutter of pages.

 

LootCrate: Allow your inner geek to celebrate for these gamer and movie centric crates! At a bargain of only $13.95 a month plus shipping and handling, these bountiful boxes offer one wearable item, a t-shirt, vinyl figure, comic book, household item, and utility item in every shipment! What are you waiting for? Sign up today.

 

Tasting Room: Nothing says relaxation like a satisfying glass of wine. Enjoy a bottle of your favorite flavors each month, through this interactive monthly tasting subscription. After the initial $9.95 tasting assessment of six personal-sized bottles, users are able to order wines to fit their personal tastes for approximately $15 a bottle.

 

Whichever box has begun to peak your interest, be sure to evaluate your family’s monthly budget to determine if it’s the perfect match for you.

Scary Sweets for Halloween

Halloween

At Raccoon Valley Bank, Halloween is one of our favorite holidays! We love resurrecting recipes each year for both neighborhood and community Halloween parties. Before you start planning your next Halloween bash, be sure to add these dangerous delicacies to your list of spooky specialties!

 

Witch’s Fingers: These pretzel rods add a delicious and haunting bite to any attendee’s plate! Simply cover each pretzel in melted bright green chocolate and attach an almond at the tip. Make them even more realistic by painting the almonds black with food coloring, and adding creases in the fingers.

 

Bug Cups: Surprise your guests with these crawling cups. Comprised of gummy treats, jello, and crushed Oreos, this easy desserts will entertain your party as they dig their way through the tasty treat.

 

Witch’s Brew: Filled with pickled beet and ogre’s toe, this gruesome drink will give you all the energy you need for a fun-filled evening of trick-or-treating. For the adults concocting this brew, you may find a mix of orange juice, sparkling grape juice, and sparkling apple juice will make for a the most fruitful potion.

 

Pumpkin Cake: A magical Halloween sweet, this delicious pastry is created to look just like a jack-o-lantern. Remember to customize your design with your family’s favorite pumpkin carving!

 

Halloween Cookie Cake: Covered in slime and bark, this famous treat is the perfect treat for exhausted halloween monsters. Give your little monsters a slice after trick-or-treating or before watching a family scary movie!

 

Caramel Apple Nacho Bar: Tailor your recipe to your own terrorizing tastes with this ooey gooey spread. You can choose the best ghoulish garnishes for you and your guests!

 

Jello Worms: Scare your friends with these creepy crawlers. Just combine your favorite jello, plain gelatin, and hot water to get these critters moving.

 

Jack-o-Lantern Pies: Be sure to scoop up these horrifying hand pies for your next event. With a simple crust, and a scrumptious filling, these decadent desserts are sure to be a hit at any fall festivity.

 

Butterbeer Hot Chocolate: For all the witches and wizards out there, this classic drink will make you want to say, “Repello Muggletum!” Get started and craft a cup for one, or for the entire place, this is a recipe you’ll want to try again and again!

How a $1,403 Cup of Coffee is a Bargain

Retirement

What do you dream of doing when you retire? Relaxing at home, traveling the world, or maybe a mix of both. Wherever your retirement takes you, you’ll want to be sure your savings can support your future lifestyle. Keep your dreams on track and follow this simple guide courtesy of Raccoon Valley Bank.

 

When you decide to retire, you start to receive the benefit of those hard-earned savings you’ve tucked away. Interest earned from these savings, along with any assistance you may receive, will soon become your primary source of income. This means that in order to have a successful retirement, you need to have a successful savings.

 

As of today, the estimated cost of future income is $16.75. This means that if you want to accrue $1 in earned income each year, you need to keep a savings of $16.75 in the bank. Now, let’s say for example, one of your retirement goals is to go down to the local diner each weekend and meet with friends for a cup of coffee. This cup of coffee costs $1.61, and for the sake of simplicity we won’t factor in inflation.

 

$1.61 x 52 weeks = $83.72 for your yearly coffee.

 

At $83.72 for the year, that would calculate to be $837.20 over the course of a decade, and $2511.60 over the next 30 years. However, once we calculate the current dollar of future income:

 

$83.72 x $16.76 = $1403.15 to cover your coffee for 30 years.

 

By this measure, you can pay for $2511.60 of weekend coffee, over the course of 30 years, by utilizing the $87.72 yearly interest on a total sum of $1403.15.

 

Concepts like this help showcase the incredible potential your retirement can hold! If you’re curious on how to maximize your savings, stop in today to speak with one of our knowledgeable personal bankers. We’ll help show you how to have your coffee and drink it too!

6 Ways to Save on Your Home Energy Bill

Save Money

The cool months are approaching, and so is the increase in your home’s energy usage. Before the days start to get chilly, put these key steps in motion to save some serious pocket change on your next utility bill.

 

  1. Swap out your 40 watt bulbs for a more efficient LED bulb. While the lights themselves may be more costly, they will save you money in the long run. Begin with one room in the house and every couple months splurge for another room’s new light bulbs. Slowly, your home’s lighting will become more energy efficient, dropping your electricity usage.
  2. While the temperature’s still relatively warm, turn off your air conditioning, and let the house breathe. Open up windows both upstairs and downstairs to cool the house, and bring in some fresh air. Even if it’s for only a few hours a day, this simple technique can decrease your energy usage a little at a time.
  3. Trade in those mesh curtains for an energy efficient alternative. Darkening shades can help to keep your house warm by trapping heat inside. As an added bonus, they also shield the sun, so sleeping in on the weekends has never been easier.
  4. If you have a family of four, doing laundry can add up quick! Decrease your energy usage by switching to a cold wash detergent and only using hot water when deep cleaning whites. For additional savings, hang items to dry outside while it’s still warm, eliminating the energy needed for the dryer.
  5. Fill your freezer. By keeping a full freezer, you make the appliance work less, once all the food is frozen. Each of the items inside of the freezer will help keep the space frozen, meaning less energy is needed to keep everything cold.
  6. Pile on the layers this season. Once the cold comes, instead of running to the thermostat, make your way to the closet. Adding sweatshirts, jackets, and cardigans to your wardrobe can help you stay toasty on those chilly nights, without spiking your energy bill. If the evening is particularly cold, enjoy the night in front of a warm kindling in the fireplace, and remember to add a couple blankets to your bed!

 

Whatever tactics you choose to save, Raccoon Valley Bank is here to help! Got questions on how to average your utilities over the course of the year? Our experienced personal bankers can help!

 

Budgeting for Your Big Day

Budgeting

After the question has been popped, answered, and celebrated, it’s time to get into planning mode! Coordinating everything from table seating, gift registries, food, and more; putting together an exciting wedding celebration is no easy task! Find out how to get the most out of your big day, with these helpful budgeting tips courtesy of Raccoon Valley Bank.

 

  1.   Have the Money Talk with Your Family

One of the great parts about a wedding is the fact that it symbolizes two people, and two families, joining together. Likeminded, your budget should be a joint effort as well. Sit down with your parents, spouse, and his/her parents to discuss what can be contributed by each family. Once you have decided on a reasonable budget you can begin to look into appropriate venues and vendor options.

 

Be sure to also ask relatives with talents to help with various wedding activities. Whether its photography, floral arrangements, or singing during the ceremony, you’d be surprised how many talented family members are more than happy to help!

 

  1.   Pick Three

The golden rule to budgeting the perfect wedding is to choose your top three priorities. Whether that’s the food, venue, photographer, or other wedding elements, choose which components you want to put the bulk of your budget in. This doesn’t mean you can’t spend money outside of your three choices, rather this budget allows you the freedom to save money in the areas that aren’t your main focus.

 

In most weddings the top three expenses are the venue, dining, and entertainment, followed closely by the photographer, floral arrangements, and wedding dress.

 

  1.   Staying Under Budget

Like any good budget, staying on top of your numbers can be a huge advantage! Be sure to keep all your receipts associated with the event to help track expenses and create a paper trail with your various vendors. Just like your personal finances, it’s a good idea to leave some cushion for unexpected costs and additions. Whatever your overall budget is for the event, be sure to leave 5 percent of it unused for various unplanned changes. This way if extra flowers or drinks are needed, the money is already set aside, headache free!

 

Many couples are opting to use apps like HoneyFund to take the expense of a honeymoon out of their budget. With apps like this relatives and guests are able to choose an item on your honeymoon wish list to give instead of a traditionally wrapped present.

 

Setting the date is simply the start of your wedding planning adventure! If you need help structuring your wedding budget, stop by Raccoon Valley Bank or give us a call at (515) 993-4581, we’d love to help make your big day a success!

 

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