Category: Savings

Giving back in the New Year: Practicing Selflessness

Many individuals have goals and resolutions they are striving for in the new year. They are fostering hope for a better tomorrow and realize they need to add or dilute some of their habits in order to have the life they envision. Many, if not most of these resolutions fail for lack of motivation. In fact, only about 8 percent of individuals end up sticking with their resolutions and that could be attributed to the type of goals made.

 

A majority of resolutions are self-focused. Very few of them strive for the betterment of others, which could be one of the underlying reasons for failure. While it may not be for lack of trying, goals crafted that solely benefit the self, have less success than those that are other oriented. Although, practicing selflessness can indeed improve your own happiness and household economy in other ways.

 

Tax Deduction

When you decide on a charity, you want to be sure they are reputable. Check out Charity Navigator to find out if you should be giving to a certain organization. Giving to these organizations may enable you to deduct from your income tax if you itemize deductions. Be sure to do your research before giving if you would like to take advantage of this benefit.

 

Better Money Management

Deciding on wanting to give monetarily to a cause will encourage you to monitor budget. Don’t have a budget? Now you have another reason to make one! Do you need to make cuts elsewhere to excessive spending? Having another reason to review your monthly statements can only help your finances. Come see us at Raccoon Valley Bank to set up an automatic withdrawal to your savings account for your giving, we want to make it easy for you! When you are able to focus not only your money but attention to those in need, you are investing in yourself emotionally and financially.  Even if you are only able to give your time through volunteering, it may give rise to gratitude for what you have; decreasing your desire to purchase items you do not need with money you do not have.

 

What Goes Around Comes Around

Although your primary goal in helping others isn’t to help yourself, getting involved can create opportunities for you and even your children. People in need will remember those who helped them at their lowest, maybe someday you will be in need of a favor and they will happily assist you. It enables you to make connections with others, which can help you to better establish yourself professionally.  Is your child socially anxious? Kindness has been shown to reduce social anxiety and can help set your children on a stable track for the future including scholarships and job prospects.

In whatever capacity you have to give and whatever your goals may be for the new year, selflessness will branch off to help you, your community, finances and family. What better resolution is there?

 

What Mad Money is and Why You Need It

Paying off debt can be daunting, and budgeting for it even more stressful. In order to be a winner with your budget, you must add Mad Money to your life-and no we aren’t talking about the TV Show. Mad Money is, “A small sum of money carried or kept in reserve for minor expenses, emergencies, or impulse purchases.” There is no restraint to what you can purchase with Mad Money, but only that you spend the allotted amount. This should be a small percentage of your monthly income.  Here are three simple reasons why you need to have some undefined fun with your budget.

1). It Incentivizes Your Budget.

So you’ve created your tight budget that you plan on sticking with in the New Year. As you work on creating new purchase habits, you may find yourself quickly becoming deprived of spontaneity and a social life. Some of you may already have a large portion of debt paid off, and room in your budget to go out with friends or establish spa fund. However, you need this money too! This is not to be spent to fill in the gap of any other category, but only for you to splurge. It can help incentivize you by cutting back in other areas of your budget, in order to make room for even more madness!

Having the ability to be “mad” will give you the encouragement needed to stick to the rest of your budget. Want that morning pick me up from your favorite coffee shop? Go for it! You will feel satisfied that you were able to have some fun, but none of the buyer’s remorse.

 

2). It Fosters Creativity.

While the goal of fun money is to enable yourself the freedom to think less, you may find your craft wheels turning before you make a purchase with the fun money. You may be surprised how many items you can DIY that will bring so much value in the long run. Instead of that morning coffee splurge, you might discover a way to make a copycat recipe at home that guests will LOVE you for! This madness is already helping you save.

 

3). It Can Reduce Stress

The importance of budgeting cannot be ignored. If you want to decrease your financial stress, one of the best things that can be done is to craft a budget. However, we recognize the realities of what comes with always saying “no” to purchase desires. Adding Mad Money into your monthly budget will help to remind you that splurging days are not over. You can still “treat yo’self.” This will help to reframe your mindset from deprivation to occasional indulgence. You have the security of knowing you are building yourself a strong future, without the baggage.

Be sure to contact Raccoon Valley Bank to set up a checking or savings account for this allowance. Only YOU are in control of your madness. Have fun with it!

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.

6 Ways to Maximize Online Holiday Shopping

Let’s face it, Black Friday—and Cyber Monday—aren’t for everyone. You rise at the crack of dawn and either have to fight the crowds or hope you have faster WiFi than other shoppers.

Luckily, these aren’t your only options when it comes to getting deals around the holidays. Raccoon Valley Bank has compiled this list of online resources to help you stretch your gift-buying dollar:

1)            Use Coupon sites.

The most popular site is Groupon, but there are other online coupon sites that can save you money as well! Sites such as Couponcabin.com, coupons.com and RetailMeNot.com all have thousands of deals and coupons for online retailers.

2)            Buy discounted gift cards.

Places such as Sam’s Club have gift cards for restaurants that are up to 20% off, and can make great stocking stuffers. If you don’t have a membership, there are other places where you can buy retailers’ gift cards at a discount, such as Gift Card Granny and Card Cash.

3)            Free shipping offers.

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll already be able to take advantage of this. But if you’re not a Prime member or are shopping elsewhere online, FreeShipping.org has coupon codes for free shipping on some 4,000 stores.

4)            Cash back.

If your credit card offers cash back, the holidays are a great time to rack up points. We would caution that you have enough cash on-hand to pay off everything you charge to the card, as you don’t want to start the New Year with debt.

Credit cards aren’t the only way to earn cash back. Sites like Ebates.com and Extrabux.com offer cash-back for online purchases at certain stores.

5)            Buy used.

Sometimes, a new iPad isn’t in the budget. If that’s the case, you can buy gently-used electronic equipment at Glyde.com. You can even set up price alerts for certain items. Another gently-used online retailer is Swap.com. Items such as toys, games and DVDs still in the original box can be purchased for a fraction of the original cost.

6)            Deals on electronics.

Online retailers such as NewEgg.com and Fry’s Electronic are well-known among IT and tech professionals for their steeply discounted prices on everything from laptops to component computer parts. If you’re looking for a reputable place to buy inexpensive electronics, these websites are worth checking out.

Remember, the holiday season doesn’t have to break the bank! Next year, you can start planning ahead by starting a Christmas club account. This special savings account makes it easy for you to put aside the money you need to check off everyone on your list!

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.

The Best Advice from Today’s Entrepreneurs

entrepreneurs

Sometimes finding the perfect idea for a new business can be easier said than done. Often you start by asking yourself a series of questions. Where is there a need? What can be created more efficiently? How can I solve a recurring problem? These are all great prompts to help you when looking for a concept your new business. To help inspire your next venture, Raccoon Valley Bank would like to share some of our favorite quotes from several of today’s most influential entrepreneurs.

“Don’t quit, and don’t give up. The reward is just around the corner.” – Chip Gaines, HGTV’s Fixer Upper.

While Chip may add some much-loved humor to HGTV’s Fixer Upper, his ambition and work ethic are what help him and his wife Joanna, continue to succeed in both their real estate and retail ventures. This dynamic duo also proves that one business does NOT limit you to other opportunities. If you have a true passion for entrepreneurship, you can plant the seeds for multiple ventures so long as you tend to them as they grow.

“Sweat equity is the most valuable equity there is. Know your business and your industry better than anyone else in the world. Love what you do or don’t do it.” -Mark Cuban, ABC’s Shark Tank.

Mark Cuban started growing his businesses at an early age, showcasing that even a small idea can grow into something big. In 1990 Cuban sold his first computer consulting business for $6 million dollars to CompuServe. Not even a decade later, Cuban and business partner, Todd Wagner sold their new online audio company for nearly $6 billion dollars.  Cuban is one of the best examples of growing your earnings and turning a penny into a fortune.

“If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.” -Melinda Gates, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Melinda Gates began her career as a programmer for Microsoft. Soon after she and Bill began to build the company, they decided to push their wealth into various organizations to help others around the world. While there are various tax write-offs that make this a helpful tool for any business, this gesture also allows the company to share its love and showcase its own values through these acts of generosity. The Gates family is a great illustration of not only how to generate success but also using that platform to help improve the lives of countless others.

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.” -Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Richard Branson is known for his cavalier lifestyle, passion for quality, and continuing desire to grow his expanding empire. While Branson may have begun his entrepreneurship in print, he soon expanded to international corporations and other industry diversification. His journey to wealth held its fair share of trial and tribulations, however, today his company, Virgin Group, oversees more than 200 companies, proving that early business lessons can eventually pay the best dividends.

“When I sat down to write about mistakes that have lead to my success, I had a much tougher time coming up with them than I would expect. Heck, I’m sure I’ve made hundreds of mistakes! Thing is, I often don’t look at them that way.” -Stephanie Izard, James Beard Award Winning Chef

Chef and entrepreneur Stephanie Izard knows that sometimes the best ingredient to a successful business is a good attitude. No matter how far her restaurants and industry successes take her, Izard is always seeking out new tricks and techniques to continue improving her business. Her efforts paid off in 2013 when she was awarded the James Beard title of Best Chef: Great Lakes, for her innovative work at Girl and the Goat. This culinary creator showcases the key indicator of a great entrepreneur, grit.

Whether you’re looking to start a restaurant or a software company, there are some key components you’ll need to get started. Our dedicated business bankers are here to help guide you through the entrepreneurship process and help you discover the best financing solutions for your upcoming venture. If you’re ready to get the ball rolling, stop by Raccoon Valley Bank’s nearest branch today!

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.

How to Create Better Habits

better habits

If you’re like us, starting a new diet, or working to exercise more often is more difficult than we initially planned. The same is true with many financial goals you may have. Saving for retirement, eliminating credit card debt, increasing your credit score; these are all things that take time and dedication to complete, but sometimes it’s hard to stay on track.

Luckily, Business Insider recently released an article that showcases just how it takes for your brain to form a habit. Surprisingly, it’s less than you’d think! It takes approximately 66 days for a consistent behavior to be added to your brain’s list of automatic actions. Thankfully, those 66 days do allow for some error. We’re all human, so there’s no need to be perfect during your trial practice. However, by committing to your new habit for 66 days or more, you can ensure that this new beneficial behavior sticks with you well into the future.

This new habit can be as simple as remembering to take the trash out, or as complex as maintaining a specified number of calories in a day. At Raccoon Valley Bank we want to inspire you with some important financial habits to help you progress down the path of financial success. Take a look at these three examples, and don’t hesitate to ask our dedicated team members for help if you’re ready to begin your next 66-day practice round!

  1. Use the Envelope System: To help train your brain to only spend what you budget for, withdraw your total flex spending budget for the month. Then, divvy it up amongst your budget categories like food, entertainment, transportation, etc. After it’s been segmented, stick to your dollars, and only spend what you have in the envelope. No credit or debit cards to spend extra. If you can successfully make this a habit, you could see a large amount of extra savings which can then be used for vacations, retirement, or other savings ventures.
  2. Pay All the Bills Before They’re Due: Many habits appear easier than they truly are. In order to process this behavior into a habit, there are several steps you’ll need to repeat each month. To get started, make a calendar at the beginning of every month to mark the dates bills are due and for how much. Then, as the bills arrive, structure your payments to pay one at a time, leaving extra cushion in your account, should an unexpected expense arise. Using this recurring schedule, you can help yourself to get each expense paid before the designated due date. As an added bonus, an ongoing history of on-time payments may benefit your credit score too!
  3. Save for Retirement: This one is often a habit that takes longer than 66 days because there is no immediate reward for the effort you put forward. Later in life, your future self will thank you, for putting the time and savings away early on. The first step in this process to research your options. If your company offers a 401(k) and a match, that may be the first place you want to start. By automating payments from your paycheck, you can use pre or post-tax dollars to bolster your savings without the temptation of spending. Then, when you save extra money with your envelope system, remember to add those surplus funds into your retirement savings account to give it an added boost.

We love the three goals listed above, but that doesn’t mean  you can’t create your own unique financial habits! If you’d like to get started on a new financial behavior, stop into your nearest branch today and speak with one our personal bankers. Our team at Raccoon Valley Bank would love to help kick off your next 66 day habit!

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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