Shop Smarter, Not Harder

Before you have even had time to finish your Thanksgiving leftovers, the Christmas shopping season is here! Even if you have a long Nice List this year, there is no need to stress. We have some tips on getting through this holiday shopping season without running your wallet and your sanity dry.

Make a list: Write down everyone that you will be buying a gift for – even if it is something small! Jot down some gift ideas for each person along with the maximum amount you can spend on their gift. If you tip your mail carrier, baby sitter, or doorman at Christmas, don’t forget to include them on this list. This will help you determine your holiday budget.

Spread out your shopping: Even if you won’t listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, you can still start your holiday shopping before December! Keep your eyes open all year for the perfect thing for your loved ones. That way when December arrives, you will already have a head start on your shopping and can avoid some of the hassle. Make sure you put all the early purchases in a designated space so you don’t forget about what you bought earlier in the year.

Do your research: If you aren’t sure what specific brand or type of item to buy, check online for reputable reviews. Sites like Amazon.com offer user reviews and ratings that make it easy to see feedback. Comparison sites like Pricegrabber.com can help you find the best online price as well.

Take advantage of no-cost holiday shipping: Many retailers will offer last-minute shoppers the gift of free shipping that is guaranteed to arrive on or before Christmas Eve. If you prefer to shop early, many websites offer free shipping when you spend a certain amount or more.

Don’t let holiday shopping get the best of you or your budget. With a little extra effort and planning, you could save yourself some money and stress. For additional budget tips, talk with a member of our staff at Alpine Bank. We are always willing to help with any of your personal finance concerns.

Alpine Bank Announces New In-Store Branch Officer

WandellShondra_11_2014Alpine Bank is pleased to announce Shondra Wandell has been promoted to In-Store Branch Officer, at the Schnucks East State branch located at 6410 East State St., Rockford.  Ms. Wandell has been in the banking industry for over 9 years, with nearly six of those years with the Alpine Bank family.  She is a lifelong resident of the Rockford area and received her Associates of Arts degree through Rock Valley College.

Ms. Wandell stated, “I’m lucky to be a part of a company that cares about their employees and is very involved in the community…We give our time and attention to show [our account holders] we really are a bank you can actually like.”

She remains committed to the area she has always called home, by continuously volunteering at Alpine Bank sponsored events.  She is also secretary for JuBell-ee Festival, a non-profit which holds a concert once a year to raise money for local charities.

 

Beat Rising Food Prices

As we forge head first into winter, experts are saying that some common food items are going to cost more. The prices of oranges, bacon, chocolate, cheese, deli meats, chicken, butter and pasta are predicted to increase due to environmental issues like disease and drought. Follow these steps to beat the rising prices of food.

1.    Stock up during sales – Check your supermarket’s website or weekly ad to find out which nonperishable items are on sale. If you have room to store the items, buy them whether you are out of them or not to avoid a price hike in the future.

2.    Buy the store brand – Most brand name items are pricier than the generic store brand. It is time to reconsider your brand loyalty for the sake of saving some cash.

3.    Coupons – Clipping coupons no longer requires a few hours with scissors in hand. Most stores make it easy to find coupons online or through the store’s app. Many stores offer exclusive discounts via their app!

4.    Shop local – If you are doing your grocery shopping at a store that is pricier than others, you will feel an even bigger blow when food prices spike. Consider switching to a lower-priced store for your everyday needs and working in trips to other retailers that have better prices for specific items.

5.    Find alternatives – Many items get more expensive because they are out of season. Substitute vitamin C-rich fresh fruits with vegetables like kale, broccoli and Brussel sprouts that are in season. You can also beat the cost of rising meat by avoiding the pricier cuts like steaks, pork tenderloins and skinless chicken breasts.

You don’t need to break your budget at the grocery store this winter. With some thoughtful planning and adjustments, you may actually lower your bill! At Alpine Bank, we encourage you to lay out your finances at the beginning of the season and plan ahead to ensure you are fully prepared. Alpine Bank can be reached at (815) 398-6500 or stop in at one of our locations! We hope to serve all of your financial needs

Alpine Bank Honored as Top 100 Workplaces

TWP_TOP100_Chicago_Portrait_2014_AWOn Thursday, November 13, Alpine Bank was recognized by the Chicago Tribune as one of the Top 100 Workplaces in the Chicagoland area.

We’ve always believed that our employees are one of our greatest assets and it shows.  Our employees enjoy working here and we appreciate their passion for helping people, businesses and our communities.

President and CEO, Bill Roop, stated, “We are truly honored to be chosen as one of the top 100 places to work.  Our employees are the ones who truly deserve this.  We believe that Happy and Productive employees are the foundation for our success.”

“One area we focus on every day is ‘Happy Employees, Happy Customers’,” says Lesly Couper, Marketing & Communications Senior Vice President.  “Our employees take it to heart and treat every customer and coworker with respect.”

For details on the rankings, please visit: http://www.chicagotribune.com/chi-chicago-tribune-2014-top-workplaces-20141114-story.html

Guard Yourself Against Identity Theft When You Travel

Are you trading in a week of Illinois winter for a beach trip this winter? Or maybe traveling out of state to visit family for the holidays? Whatever your travel plans are, it is important to understand the risk of identity theft.  Practice these bits of advice to guard yourself against becoming a victim of identity theft.

1.       Tell your credit card company that you will be traveling

Fraud departments are becoming increasingly attentive to unusual activity on your card. This is a great way to detect any problems but it can also end up leaving you with a frozen account when you are out of town. Notify your bank before leaving home to avoid any hassle. This is especially important if you are planning to leave the country and won’t have phone service to verify your charges!

2.       Secure your mail

Ask a trusted friend or family member to pick up your mail each day while you are gone. Your mail may contain important information such as credit card numbers and personal data that could lead to identity theft. Don’t post the dates of your travel plans on Facebook either. That is pretty much inviting strangers into your empty house.

3.       Clean out your wallet

If you are traveling to a popular tourist destination, you need to safeguard against pickpockets. Go through your wallet and take out unneeded credit cards and personal information. A common travel tip is to make copies of all important documents such as your passport, driver’s license and health insurance and leave them with a trusted friend or family member. In the event that your wallet is stolen, you will be able to access the information.

Identity theft is a very real crime that we are all at risk for. It is important to be vigilant and monitor your financial and credit statements closely for suspicious activity. Please contact Alpine Bank if you are worried about your financial security and we would be happy to help you secure your accounts and keep your money safe. If you are planning to travel, consider one of our Holiday and Vacation savings accounts. These not only help you save up but also keep your money safe!

5 Simple Steps to Organize Your Finances TODAY

 

Keeping your personal finances organized can save you money and stress

Keeping your personal finances organized can save you money and stress.

Are you a purger or a hoarder? Either way, important financial documents are probably being ignored. This can result in late fees, overdraft charges and other costs that could be prevented if an organization system was set in place. Use Get Organized Week as an opportunity to start fresh and try some of these tips from Alpine Bank to organize your personal finances.

  • Choose a system that works for you. There are many free web-based solutions that allow you to record your bills and payments online. Other people choose to use the classic paper and pencil method. Whichever method you choose, commit to it.
  • Get the tools you need. This may mean getting folders to organize each payment into categories such as taxes, credit cards, investments etc. It is important to establish a uniform way to store all of your paper bills and documents to prevent them from being misplaced or ignored.
  • Pay your bills as soon as they come. Getting the payment out of the way helps to prevent papers from piling up on the counter where they can easily be lost or thrown away. Many late fees are charged because the bill was simply forgotten about.
  • When possible, pay bills online or through email. Digital payment systems help cut down the clutter as well as the chances of losing a paper document. An automated payment system can be handy for fixed monthly costs too!
  • Keep everything in one place. Some people choose to organize bills into folders or a single notebook while others scan and save bills into a designated computer file. Even something simple like keeping receipts in a shoebox or designated desk drawer can help keep track of your files. There are many different methods so you can choose which is best for you.

Organizing your finances may seem like a daunting task but once you get in the swing of a certain method, you will notice that it is an easy way to cut back on the clutter and stress that fills your life.

Preventing a Financial Fall

Don't let low temperatures raise your bills this fall

Don’t let low temperatures raise your bills this fall

As the leaves begin to change and the countdown to Halloween begins, there is no doubt that fall is here. The change in the seasons also brings different expenses you’ll have to account for when budgeting during the fall months.

Alpine Bank wants to make sure you’re financially prepared for the coming months, so let’s take a look at some expenses you and your family could be facing in the next couple of months.

Heating- Farmer’s Almanac and other forecasts are predicting that we will be pulling out our snow shovels a little earlier than usual this year. This means you will also be relying on your furnace more. A thorough maintenance examination by a technician is a good place to start, and changing out the filter each month will help air flow efficiently so you spend less on heating.

Electricity- As the days grow dark earlier, you’ll be flipping on light switches and lamps earlier in the evening. Be smart about what lights you have on and off, and create a plan for keeping unused appliances unplugged to help with energy savings.

Warmer clothing- When you’re out shopping for pants, sweatshirts and jackets, try retailers that routinely mark down prices and have sales. Many companies now have apps and websites that make it easy to compare and find the best price.

Food- If we face the predicted severe fall and winter, you could see rising food prices at the grocery store. This calls for a shopping list filled with items that can easily be made into casseroles or crock pot recipes that can feed your family for more than one meal. Again, you may need to comparison shop at different stores for the best deals.

Through smart budgeting and careful planning of how your heating and electricity are used, you can make it through the fall with relatively little change in your expenses. If you need help with your finances or have additional questions, ­­­­­­­Alpine Bank would be glad to help!

5 Tips for Home Buying Success

Before buying a home, ensure you are prepared financially and in every area of life.

Before buying a home, ensure you are prepared financially and in every area of life.

Beginnings are a fun, exciting, and challenging time of life. Whether it’s your first day of school, a career, or buying your first home, change can be exciting and difficult. One way to make transition periods easier is by preparing as much as possible.  Staying organized with what is important to you and keeping your finances in check are both important to ensure you will have a smooth transition.

Fall can be a good time to purchase a new home if you’ve been thinking about moving. With that in mind, Alpine Bank would like to offer you five suggestions for buying a home now or if you need to begin your preparation:

  • Start saving as soon as possible to ensure you can obtain the home of your choice. You will need to make a down payment and show lenders that you have enough money to afford living expenses. Lenders like to see you are not living paycheck to paycheck and have enough to support yourself or a family.
  • Improve your credit score. Your length of credit history, new credit, and types of credit all play a role in your score. A credit score of 720 or higher is ideal and appealing to many lenders.
  • Get preapproved for your loan before making any sudden movements. Getting preapproved will show you how much you can afford and how much you can get a loan for. Apply for a loan online with Alpine Bank and sign up for a free consultation with a mortgage lender.
  • Prioritize your needs. Make sure you have the location you want, the number of bedrooms you need, and enough counter space to make meals. Whatever is most important to you, find that and don’t settle for less.
  •  Don’t rush it. Home buying isn’t for everyone. If you do not foresee yourself moving in the near future or not having enough money to make your home what you want it, save for a couple more years and make the move when the timing is right.

Buying a home is a very exciting time of life. Keep stress at bay by preparing your finances far in advance so you know what you can afford and how to get the best loan possible. Alpine Bank has experts available to assist you with finding a home mortgage. Stop in or contact us today!

Seal the Deal: 7 Ways to Sell Your Home

Use these ideas to attract potential buyers and make your home appear as best possible.

Stress less about selling your home with tips found here.

After making the initial decision to sell a home, there are several considerations to make and steps to take.  Every situation is unique and should be approached as so. Whether the decision is made for financial reasons or for a new job, moving can be simplified with the right organization skills and professionals.

Making your home appealing to potential buyers is an important aspect in making the sale. Alpine Bank is here to offer you suggestions to do just that.

Tips for Home Sellers:

  • Find out what your home is worth and then shave 15 to 20 percent off that value. You will attract many buyers who will bid higher than what you priced the home at originally and the risk will be worth it.
  • Hire a broker that knows the area, is well educated of the housing market, and is tech savvy. A well informed broker will keep a watchful eye out on the market and ensure you are getting the best deal possible.
  • Show off the best features of your home and make it appealing to any buyer. Next to location, light is a priority for most home buyers.  Open the drapes, dust off blinds, and replace light bulbs. Do everything you can to make your home appear light, open, and cheery.
  • Storage space is important for many. Clean out your closet and neatly organize the remaining items. Show potential buyers how much room there is for their belongings and help them feel at home.
  • Simple upgrades like a new coat of paint, new door handles, new drapes, and polished floors, will help your home to look fresh without having to spend a lot.
  • Depersonalize your home to allow potential buyers to visualize themselves in it. Put away family photos, personal collections, and keepsakes.
  • Always have your home “show ready.” It needs to be in the right condition for a showing at any time. You need to be available and prepared to have a showing at any time. After all, the first impression matters most.

Alpine Bank wishes you the best of luck when selling your home. We understand this can be a stressful time of packing boxes and preparing for a big move, which is why we encourage you to do the small things right to sell your home as quick as possible. As you go on to find a home, contact Alpine Bank for a mortgage to fit your financial needs.