Category: Personal Finance

Understanding the Psychology Behind Spending

The words “budget” and “exercise” can often be put in the same category—both are necessary for a healthy lifestyle but are far from fun.

If you have trouble sticking to a budget, you’re not alone. There are some very powerful reasons why human beings feel compelled to spend money—and there are some things you can do to psychologically trick yourself into spending less.

The Need for Control.

A study in Journal of Consumer Psychology found that compulsive shopping was linked to a need for control. Those momentary feelings of happiness associated with a new purchase weren’t linked to the item itself but to the sense of control a person felt about their life in that moment.  

The Need to Compete.

It’s true—we really do feel the need to keep up with the Joneses. Advertisers know this, so they often play on our desire to be like the people in their ads and on our fear that we’re falling behind our peers. This includes tapping into our need to look our best, be recognized and accepted by others, taking control of our health or being loved.  

What you can do about it.

Luckily, you don’t have to let your brain trick you into spending more than you should. A few ways you can fool yourself into spending less include:

·         Only carrying cash. Decide ahead of time how much you will need and stick to that.

·         Don’t shop when you’re in a bad mood.

·         Scan your social circle. Are your friends pressuring you to spend beyond your means?

·         Identify where you spend the most money and take steps to resist temptation. For example, do you spend too much eating out? Make sure your pantry is stocked so you won’t be tempted to spend too much at restaurants.

·         Question yourself as you go to make a purchase. Are you really happy about that new TV, or are you trying to escape a problem at work or home?

While we’re hardwired to want to spend—especially in our consumerist society—a little bit of planning and restraint can go a long way to keeping us on financial track. Raccoon Valley can also help you stay on track with a variety of banking products. Give us a call or stop on in today!

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!

 

Fall and Winter Home Prep to Save You Money

As the seasons change, so do your bills. However, finding new ways to save can be tricky when you’re already super savvy. By creating a good savings foundation during the fall and winter, you will be able to start 2018 off in a healthy financial state. That’s why Raccoon Valley Bank has compiled a list of tips and tricks to prepare your home for the seasons to come in order to save some cash!

Install energy-efficient windows

A low-emissivity glass also known as Low-E glass helps block the rays of the sun up to 90 percent, and keeps the heat inside when it’s cold. Energy Star estimates those who replace a single-pane window with an energy-efficient model will save $126-$465 annually. Now multiply that times the number of windows you replace and you’re looking at quite the savings.

Lower water heating temperature

If you lower your water heating temperature, you will save 4-22 percent yearly on your bill. Instead of allowing the water to get scalding hot, you can set it to only become warm which will increase your savings every time you shower, wash your hands, or do dishes.

Adjust the temperature

By turning back your thermostat by 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day, you can save up to 10 percent each year on heating and cooling bills. Each time you raise your heat by one degree, your heating bill raises three percent, so it’s important to avoid that mistake.

Weather stripping

Thirty to 40 percent of your heating costs are lost to air leaks, according to Energy Star. That’s why it’s important to find where drafts are coming from to cover the leaks with weather stripping materials, which start off at around $5.

Replace light fixtures

If you replace your home’s five most frequently-used light fixture bulbs with energy efficient ones, you can save $75 a year. Imagine if you did that with more bulbs!

Fix leaking faucets

If you fix a leaky faucet, you will save $35 and 1,661 gallons of water if it drips one drip per second. Little things like a leaky faucet end up having a big impact on your bills over time, so be sure to check your nozzles.

We hope these home hacks will help you save this fall, winter, and hopefully the seasons to come! Contact Raccoon Valley Bank if you have questions about what else you can do in order to grow your savings.

Four Ways to Raising Your Financial Game

Whether you’re a football fanatic who’s happy that your favorite team is finally back on the field or you can’t tell the difference between a quarterback and a punter, football can actually teach you a lot about managing your finances. Don’t believe us? Check out the Raccoon Valley Bank game plan that can help you get a financial win.

It’s Important to Win on Offense, Defense and Special Teams

Good teams need to play well in all three aspects to win games. In your finances, your offense is your income. If you think of dollars as yards, the more money you generate, the more secure you can be. If income is your offense, then spending is your defense. Coaches don’t want their defense to be on the field too long, so keeping the spending to a minimum is the best way to keep your finances in check. Your special teams are items like investing. You only need them a few times per game, but you need them to perform well when they’re on the field.

Defense Wins Games

If spending is your defense, controlling spending is the best way to ensure your defense is successful so you can get a financial win. Taking a defensive approach to your finances that controls spending and saves a little each and every month may not seem like the most exciting thing, but it will get you a win. Slow and steady saving can help you be successful for a long time.

Understand the Game Clock

The game clock can dictate how a team plays. At some times, you can be aggressive, while other times may call for a more conservative approach. Taking an aggressive approach, such as making a smart investment, can help you improve your financial situation quickly. However, a more conservative and steady saving approach can help you accrue wealth, too, it may just take a little longer.

Surround Yourself with Good Coaches

A good coach trusts others to develop players and game plans. There are a lot of financial experts that have a wealth of knowledge that you can take advantage of by providing a unique perspective, including right here at Raccoon Valley Bank. Trust these financial experts to use their experience to help you get a win.

Just as a good game plan can help your favorite team on the gridiron, it can help you with your finances. If you have any questions, contact Raccoon Valley Bank and we’d be happy to help you develop the right game plan.

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.

Protecting Yourself While Shopping Online this Holiday Season

As the holidays roll up, buying items online increases exponentially. Unfortunately, cyber attacks and identity theft also increases with that number. That’s why the professionals at Raccoon Valley Bank have come up with some helpful tips and tricks to stay safe when shopping online this holiday season!

Don’t Use Unknown Wireless Networks

If you are in a coffee shop or airport and a network pops up for you to connect to, your chance of being hacked skyrockets. When the network you are on is not protected, hackers have a chance to get into your phone and locate passwords, account information, and more. Even though you want to check your email or see if there is a good deal somewhere, try to resist in order to protect yourself.

Use Different Passwords

Yes, it is hard to use a different password for each site when you are connected to 50 or 100 sites. However, if a hacker gets ahold of one password, they can instantly use that password with your email to log into all other sites that have the same one.

Don’t Store Credit Card Info On Sites

When online sites have you enter your credit or debit card information, many of them give you an option to save your card information. They say it’s secure and most of the time it is, but hackers are still able to get into their account and find your information. Even though it’s a little more work to type your information in each time, it’s more work to deal with getting your money back after someone has stolen your information and used it.

Avoid Clicking Links

When shopping online, there are millions of links connected to products or telling you they will bring you to the product you are looking for. These are easy ways for hackers to bring you to a site they created to give you malware. If you are on a trusted site, you can click the links there because they will only bring you to other places within their own site.

Shop Secure Sites

As mentioned above, it is okay to trust links within a secure site. However, if you are online searching for a certain gift to give someone and find a list that links to different sites, do not trust those sites. Search online about which sites are to be trusted before you go to them and give them your credit card information.

These tips will aid you in being a security savvy shopper when the holidays begin to hit. If you have any questions or concerns about your account, be sure to contact Raccoon Valley Bank. Our team of professionals is here to help if a problem of stolen information does arise!

Why Your Child’s Allowance Should be Tied to Their Chores

child allowance

There are literally thousands of how-to’s and self-help books for parents, but truly the only real way to learn how to raise a child is to do it! Luckily our growing team of parents at Raccoon Valley Bank have some true hands-on experience when it comes to upbringing and explaining money management to little ones.

One of the most common fiscal questions parents have concerning their child’s financial education  is, “How do I teach them about money using an allowance.” The simple answer is, however you want. There are a number of ways you can utilize a recurring allowance to help your children understand both the importance of good money management and a sound work ethic. Below are two of our favorite strategies:

Example #1: Earn Your Extras

In this scenario, allowances are guaranteed to an extent. Every two weeks give your child a pre-determined amount of cash, say $5.00. That money then has to be split evenly between their educational savings and their retirement savings (yes – retirement savings!) While this money is technically theirs for future use, they have no tangible money to immediately spend. Where the fun part comes in, is the commission. Assign a small dollar value to various tasks around the house. Ensure things like making their bed, or doing their homework are givens, and they are required to do them no matter what. However, extra work such as mowing the lawn, cleaning the bathroom, or cooking dinner, earn a predetermined amount of commission. Paid every two weeks, this commission is then there’s to spend between three areas, save, spend, and donate, but they MUST allocate at least $0.50 in each area. This lesson teaches three primary lessons; the first is housework is a part of everyday life and it doesn’t come with a paycheck. The second lesson is that working hard pays off, and the third is that creating a plan or budget for your money allows you to use it as a tool instead of using debt as a burden.

Example #2: Ambition Is Important

There is a viral story trending about a young boy who’s allowance was determined by how many self-help books he read and wrote a report on. This simple lesson offers many variations and proves an important point on the dedication to values at a young age. For this example, there is no guaranteed allowance on a weekly or monthly basis. In this scenario, all funds are accumulated via commission. How that commission is earned is determined by you. This can be the number of extra assignments completed or the amount of successfully replicated YouTube tutorials. It could even be the quantity of miles your child is dedicated to running each week. Through this valuable learning experience, you can showcase to them that a solid work ethic is pinnacle to success, and can at times even out earn an education.

However you decide to help your children understand the complexities of personal finance, Raccoon Valley Bank is here to support you. Stop in today, and ask about our designated children’s savings accounts. We’d love to help your family get started on their journey to financial success.

Money Magic Tricks

money magic

Magic is one type of entertainment that will never go out of style. Whether it’s David Blaine and his shocking stunts, or newly famous films such as Now You See Me, this classic art has proved to truly stand the test of time. While Raccoon Valley Bank may not be the best at slight of hand, we do have a few savings tricks up our sleeves! See if you can understand the steps to these financial stunts and make your fiscal success appear out of thin air.

Make your money disappear (into your savings!)

Before you’re tempted to spend those hard earned dollars, we’ll show you how to make them vanish, and then reappear! By logging into your online banking, you can set-up recurring monthly transfers for a set amount from your checking to your savings. This way, your funds will get tucked away before you even knew they were there! The extra money saved can contribute to your retirement, education, or even an exciting getaway.

Cut your debt in two.

Tired of paying pesky credit card debt, a mortgage, or student loans? This helpful hack can show you how to saw that number in half, and potentially make it disappear. Financial talk show host Dave Ramsey has a proven method called Snowballing Your Debt. By continuing your monthly minimum payments, and using extra funds to “attack” one debt at a time, you can then rollover extra money from the fully paid loans into paying off the next biggest debt and then the next. Before you know it you’ll be debt free, and looking for another financial trick to master!

See double dollars on your retirement plan.

If you’re like most Americans and need to play a little catch-up on your personal retirement savings, this trick is sure to impress! To really maximize your saved dollars, we recommend diversifying your retirement accounts, by allowing one to be maintained by your employer (401k) and creating a separate account for you to contribute to on your own (IRA.) By automatically withdrawing money from your paycheck through your 401k, you can potentially invest MORE while having it managed through your employer. In addition to this, creating a dedicated IRA to store personal savings dollars in allows you to explicitly manage the growth of your continued contributions. Know what’s better than one retirement savings account? Two!

Pull extra money out of a hat.

Just like magicians, a good budget can help you find things you never knew were there – like money! Whether you’re using traditional methods like the envelope system, or more digital options like the YNAB, the end goal is still the same. To help you save even faster, you can couple your budget with additional savings tips and tricks on common recurring expenditures such as groceries, and you’ll see the savings in no time!

The DO’s and DON’TS of Using Credit Cards

creditcard

Using a credit card is a great stepping stone to help boost your personal credit history. By proactively managing your ongoing finances, you can showcase to potential lenders that you know how to fulfill your repayment promises. What many people don’t know, is that simply having a credit card does not automatically indicate an increase in your credit score. To help you succeed with your credit, Raccoon Valley Bank has put together our most commonly asked do’s and don’ts of using credit cards.

DO: Pay your balance in FULL every month or every two weeks.

DON’T: Keep a balance even if the interest rate is low

While keeping a balance less than 30 percent won’t drastically harm your credit score, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. We recommend never spending more than you can pay off each and every month. By keeping yourself to this standard you can make certain to never become a victim of expensive credit card debt.

DO: Choose a card that will compliment your lifestyle.

DON’T: Pick your credit card based of mail or TV offers.

There are countless websites and app centered around helping you find the ideal credit card. Instead of signing up for a credit card through the mail, start perusing sites like NerdWallet to discover which card fits not only your spending but your rewards preferences too! Before you start applying, remember to only apply for a credit card if you need one If you plan on using more than one, wait six months or more before applying for a new line of credit. This will help to keep your credit score on track and assist in preventing any unwanted dips.

DO: Use reward points to save money.

DON’T: Spend more just to get additional points.

While some credit card options certainly do offer some great sign-on rewards, remember that added debt and expenses are never worth the hike in points. The money you manage is yours, and it’s real! While the points are truly a great perk, never let them outweigh the tangible money you currently have in your individual accounts. If you allow this to happen you may find yourself with a mountain of debt, the equivalent of half the vacation you can no longer afford to take.

DO: Have more than one card when you can pay them all off on time.

DON’T: Cancel a credit card without researching its history.

There are certain cards that boast the best rewards when utilized for specific industries, and others that can add extra perks for those all-encompassing purchases. To make the most of these various benefits, we recommend using multiple credit cards for your household’s purchases, only once you’ve maintained a zero balance on one for more than six months. If you feel confident in managing multiple credit cards, you’ll find great advantages of using the rewards behind the various programs and their associated bonus structures.  However, if you close a card, always check and see if that card holds your longest history of a credit line. Should that be the case, you may not want to cancel it, as it could create a slight dip in your credit score.

Did you know Raccoon Valley Bank offers credit cards too? If you’re looking to boost your credit, or want to begin building your history with a local institution, our dedicated staff would love to help you get started. Simply stop by your nearest location, and we’ll help find the perfect fit for you and your spending.

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