Category: Holidays

New Season. New You. New Financial Goals.

It’s a new season and a new month, making it the perfect time to set new financial goals! While money management may not be your strongest asset, we believe with a little goal setting, discipline and a little help from Raccoon Valley Bank, you can end up surprising yourself how much of a financial all-star you really are! Start with these quick tips and watch your money grow.
Create a budget and stick to it – Budgets don’t have to be hard. Write down your outgoing expenses and any incoming money. If you’re spending more than taking in, it’s time to eliminate some costs. If you need help with monitoring your spending, we can help you get on track.
The importance and purpose of a budget is to help you spend less than you earn so you can save money. So by not sticking with the budget, what’s the point of having one? Create it, use it, and stick to it.

Eliminate Wasteful Spending- For the next round of bills you receive look at them closely. Do you need every service you’re paying for? Are you being charged unknown fees? Go through your bills with a fine tooth comb and raise any flags so you’re not nickel and dimed.

We live in a time of instant gratification, but that often leads to financial consequences. Before every purchase, ask yourself “Do I really need this?” If you find the answer is no, leave it behind and move forward.

Build Your Savings – Every time you’re paid, the first deposit should be into your savings account. Essentially, you’re paying your future self for emergencies and retirement.
If you haven’t done so already, now is the perfect time to set up your 401k or 403(b). Generally, companies match their employees to a certain percentage and that’s free money you should be taking advantage of today.

Leave money you’re saving alone. There are penalties for withdrawing money early from certain accounts. Why pay a penalty for money you worked hard to put in there? Let it sit tight and watch it grow!

We hope these tips help you work towards your financial goals this month or season. We are available to help you with your financial management if you need it. Just call or stop by to get your goals underway.

 

3 Tips on How to Make the Holidays Less Stressful

While songs on the radio promise that this is a holly, jolly time of year, for most Americans, the holidays are anything but. A Healthline survey found that an average of 63 percent of adults in the U.S. experience an increase in stress level during the holiday season.

In a way, it seems almost unavoidable. Our routines are interrupted as we travel or host guests. Our healthy eating and exercise habits are thrown out the window. Our finances find themselves in a freefall as we spend just a little too much to buy that perfect gift.

Today, Raccoon Valley Bank would like to help bring the holidays back to the merry time they should be with these tips on how to combat holiday stress:

1)      Stick to your spending plan.

It’s true when they say it’s the thought that counts when it comes to gift-giving. Obsessing over the perfect one not only causes more stress, it can also cause you to overspend. If you start overthinking, stop, put the item down and walk away (or minimize your browser and walk away). Think about the big picture—that ultimately, spending quality time with family is better than anything you can buy them.

2)      Use Moderation.

You may not get to your exercise routine every day, due to schedule restraints. As long as you get up and move every day, give yourself a pass. Before you know it, the New Year will be here and there will be plenty of social pressure to exercise. In the meanwhile, practice watching portion sizes and passing on the extra cocktail. By all means, sample the sweets at the table—just cut yourself bite-sized pieces instead of an entire slice.

3)      Focus on what you have to be grateful for.

It can be easy when you have guests getting underfoot or are inconvenienced at the airport to resent having to spend time with friends and family. In these moments, remind yourself of the things you have to be grateful for—especially the fact that you have loved ones to spend time with. Not everyone is so lucky.

If you have any tips or tricks to cut the stress out of your holidays, feel free to share in the comment section. While Raccoon Valley Bank can’t cook your turkey or shop for gifts, we can help you reduce your stress when it comes to finances. Set up an appointment with one of our bankers today!

 

Organizing Your Finances for the Holiday Rush

The holidays are a time where we surround ourselves with family, friends and the people we love most. Whether you’re staying close to home or traveling across the country, the holiday season means you’ll be eating good food and spending plenty of time shopping.

And while all that food may mean your clothes fit a little tighter, the shopping can have a similar impact on your wallet. It’s important to make sure your finances are organized before the real holiday rush is upon us. Not only will you be better prepared, but you’ll be less stressed so you can enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.

Make your holiday season more enjoyable by using these tips from Raccoon Valley Bank.

Technology is your Friend

It’s easier than ever to use technology to organize your finances. Take advantage of online and mobile banking to get a real-time look at your account balances. Utilize the mobile deposit feature of your mobile banking app to deposit personal checks to your account so the funds are available sooner. There are also several financial management tools available online that will help you with setting a budget and establishing saving goals.

Set Alerts

You already know that your bills are due at different times throughout the month, but it’s important to remember that the holidays may cause changes in those due dates. Verify any upcoming due dates and make note of any changes from your regular monthly payment schedule. Utilize the bill pay features of your online banking account to make sure payments are scheduled well in advance, and set up alerts to make sure you’re reminded of your payment and to verify that the payment went through.

Hold On To Your Statements

This is important to remember throughout the year, but keeping all your statements organized is important. Something as simple as keeping separate manila folders for your savings and checking account statements, IRA statements, 401(k) records and other financial documents can go a long way and won’t cost you much.

Get Rid of High Interest Debt

It can seem easier to use your credit card when holiday shopping. To make sure you can use your credit during the holidays, make sure you’ve paid down anything you owe.

Organizing your finances before the holidays hit will make your holiday season more enjoyable so you can focus on the things that matter most. Contact Raccoon Valley Bank to make sure your finances are set up for a happy holiday season.

Can You Really Save on Travel: True or False?

Save on Travel

Checking numerous sites for the best deal can be labor-intensive, and potentially counterproductive. With many American travelers turning to vacation book sites and apps, Raccoon Valley bank is curious if they really save you money. After thorough research, we’ve discovered these four truths to successfully budgeting your next getaway:

 

TRUE: Travel sites offer money-saving opportunities.

FALSE: The lowest value is found on the hotel’s or airline’s website.

 

Many travel booking sites offer discounted airfare and accommodation, boasting the same services, only at a fraction of the cost. However, many times these sites merely display the cost an airline or hotel already has on their own site at no additional reduction. Select providers have begun to reduce participation in these travel search engines, and strive to instead offer their continued customers the best value straight from their own corporation.

 

TRUE: Credit cards are the most secure and affordable payment option while abroad.

FALSE: Airport currency exchange is worth the convenience.  

 

While there are many different options to exchange currency before your next trip, the safest method of payment during your getaway will still be your credit card. With many options now offering no currency exchange fees, you’re sure to avoid unwanted conversions costs while still protecting your finances. According to both Visa and Mastercard, credit card users are held liable for zero percent of any fraudulent charges. This means that should your credit card information become compromised during your stay, you won’t lose any funds because of it.

 

TRUE: Traveling outside of the peak seasons offers great savings.

FALSE: The skiing in Colorado is great in June.

 

While it is true that avoiding the crowds can save you and your family some extra dollars, it may not be worth it if it means decreasing the activities of your trip completely. Instead of limiting your travel timeline, we recommend looking for alternative accommodations such as VRBO, along with creative dining options, to maximize your destination’s budget. These additional savings can help to bring your overall cost down, while still making your dream vacation a reality.

 

TRUE: You can save a lot of money by using airline miles.

FALSE: Airline credit cards are worth the annual fee for a yearly vacation.

 

Unless you plan to fly every month, an airline credit card is hardly worth the cost. While these cards offer tempting miles for flights, increasing numbers of travel options are blacked out throughout the year. The annual credit card fee for United, American, and Delta, costs approximately $95.00 after your first year of use. While boarding in group one can be a well-enjoyed perk, it doesn’t boast much ROI for fliers who are simply looking to reach their annual destination.

 

As you begin to plan your next vacation, Raccoon Valley Bank looks forward to helping you save the funds to make it happen. Stop in today and learn how to open a designated savings account today!

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Buy

Holiday Giving

The holiday season is filled with glad tidings, seasonal dishes, family get togethers, AND seemingly endless expenses. Don’t let the price of the holidays bog you down. Keep the holiday spirit alive by spending your money wisely throughout the winter season. Instead of purchasing unwanted gifts that may end up back at the store, Raccoon Valley Bank recommends asking yourself the following 3 questions before you buy:

 

  1. Why are you buying the present?

If it is for a family member or close friend, you may be purchasing it for your annual gift exchange. If it’s for a co-worker or continuous service provider, it may not necessarily be warranted. Often times if you give someone a gift who may not have been expecting one, the awkward condition of reciprocity may arise. Instead of gifting store bought goods, consider a card or homemade treat to say thank you.

 

  1. Is this gift appropriate?

While Aunt Lynda loves gourmet chocolates, a child’s chocolate baking set may not be the most compatible gift. Before you check out, take a minute to think how your loved one may use this gift. Try to remember any discussions you had about things they may need or want during the holiday season. Even if the gift comes at a great price, it may be wasted if the person whom you purchase it for, has no use for it.

 

  1. Does this fit into my budget?

Keeping an accurate monthly budget is helpful in many aspects of your personal finances. The same applies when planning your holiday spending. After allocating a specific dollar amount to each person on your list, stick within these guidelines to remain in budget. If you happen to find the perfect shade of lipstick for your sister-in-law, but it’s $20 more than you want to spend, it may be time to consider other gift options.

 

Whether you’re searching for the perfect holiday gift, or just a simple thank you, these 3 questions can help you find the best present for your person! Remember to get started with a holiday budget, and if you have questions on how to begin planning for your holiday expenses, stop in and see us today!

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!

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 to Tip on Vacation

Vacation

Traveling the world is both adventurous and insightful. From climbing mountain peaks, to swimming among tropical fish, wherever your next vacation takes you, make sure you’re financially prepared. At Raccoon Valley Bank, were excited to help you get ready for your upcoming destination! Try these tipping tricks next time you’re out and about on your future getaway.

 

Bartenders: $1 per drink or, or 15-20 percent of the total bill.

 

Bellman/Porter: $1-2 per piece of luggage.

 

Casino Card Dealers:Tip a chip in the amount you are betting, staggered on your amount of win’s. If you are playing $5 chips and win a few then giving the dealer a $5 chip as well.

 

Concierge: $5 per request.

 

Hairdresser/Manicurist: An additional 10-20 percent for a good service.

 

Housekeeping: $2-3 per night up to $5 generally in more high end hotels.

 

Instructors: An additional $10-20 per quality lesson for various sport or leisure activities.

 

In suite dining: Service charge goes to the hotel not the waiter. If no gratuity added put on an additional 15-20 percent tip.

 

Scuba Diving: For an afternoon (or 2 tank dive) it is common to tip $20 per person, per day of the trip. These tips generally go to the deck hands and dive guides for equipment hauling and tank turnover.

 

Spa: Tip 10-20 percent if gratuity has not already been included.

 

Tour Guides: 15-20 percent or more depending on knowledge and quality of the outing.

 

Valet Parking: $2-5 when picking up car.

 

For all your vacation excursions and more, these helpful tips will aid you in all of your travel spending. To better manage your finances back home, be sure to give Sunset Bank & Savings a call! We’ll work with you to help boost your savings to make your next vacation a relaxing success.

Answers to 4 Questions on Holiday Giving and Taxes

holiday giving and taxes

This is the season of giving, and there is no better time to help your favorite nonprofits successfully leap into the New Year. Tax deductions on your charitable contribution, can pave the way to a happier January for you as well! Check out these charitable giving FAQs from Raccoon Valley Bank to help you make the most of your generosity.

Where does my gift need to go to make it tax deductible?

Score a deduction by itemizing and filing a 1040 form when you donate to a qualified organization. Nonprofit organizations like religious groups, public government causes, nonprofit schools and hospitals, public parks and recreation areas, and war veterans’ groups fall under the qualified category, whereas for-profit entities, individuals, or political candidates for public office, don’t make the cut.

What’s with itemizing?

There are two types of deductions, standard and itemized. Standard is a fixed amount that reduces the income you’re taxed based on your filing status and age. Itemized lets you list your deductions on a schedule, which includes filings like property taxes and charitable donations. If you claim standard instead of itemized on gifts, you may not receive the deduction you deserve.

How much can I deduct from charitable donations?

If your cash benefits a public organization, deduct up to 50 percent from that year’s Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). That means that a $25,000 donation from your $40,000 AGI will only let you claim $20,000 on your charitable gift in the year that you give it. You can, however, roll over that extra $5,000 up to five years after donating. For contributions to private donations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations, use the same rules but swap 50 percent with 30.

I donated “stuff”, not cash. Does that count?

Yep! Household goods (clothing, furniture, certain appliances, etc.) and other personal property can be claimed based on fair market value. However, it must be in good or better shape that when it was first purchased for the IRS to count it as a deduction. Regardless of the item, keep track of receipts from your donated items, which is especially required for donations of more than $250.

Still have questions about how your giving and your taxes interact? Our financial advisors would love to lend a hand. Give us a call today – and have a happy holidays!

 

Raccoon Valley Bank, Equal Housing Lender, Member FDIC

 

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