Author Archives: Bank Alpine Blogger

7 Steps to Successfully Complete a No Spend Challenge

Saving money

Make up for overspending this summer by completing a No Spend Challenge for 30 days! It’s easier than you think!

It’s easy to spend a ton of money during the summer. You want to vacation, attend county fairs and concerts and splurge on new summer clothes. Alpine Bank doesn’t want you to put yourself in a rut, but how can you break your bad spending habits and save? We’ve got answers for you. Complete a 30-Day No Spend Challenge! It sounds intimidating, but it can be done if you follow these guidelines. If it’s just too difficult, start slow. Complete a 7-Day No Spend Challenge, take a break, then try to abstain from spending for two weeks. You can work your way up to the 30-Day Challenge.

If you’re ready to take on 30 days of no spending, check out these tips to make sure you’re successful.

Don’t purchase anything you don’t need to live for 30 days straight. This limits you to food and medicine.

For food, only buy what you need to complete recipes you can make with mostly ingredients you already have. We all have cabinets full of canned food, pasta and other non-perishables that we don’t put to use. If you can, don’t buy any new food at all throughout the 30 days. Make it a goal to use up everything you already have. Get creative with your meals and use leftovers for lunches instead of making sandwiches, which forces you to run out of bread, cheese and meat quickly.

No new toiletries – make do with what you have and samples.

Try public transportation for 30 days. For close trips, use a bike or walk.

Cancel your cable and Internet for 30 days. Complete your online work AT WORK or start going to the library.

Need entertainment? Reorganize and de-clutter. You’ll find old treasures, like old movies and books, that you can enjoy. If you know you won’t enjoy them anymore, donate them.

Focus on projects you can do around the house to keep you busy. Scrapbook, write down recipes, keep a journal, paint or read. You can do these things without spending money and they’ll make you feel productive.

Don’t stockpile! Stockpiling with food and other supplies before you begin your 30 days defeats the purpose of the challenge. It’s meant to help you use up all the great food and products you already have and help you save.

Completing a 30-Day No Spend Challenge will show how much money you spend on things you don’t really need, and maybe don’t want. Living the “simple life” for 30 days might make you happier too, and give you more quality time with your family and friends.

4 Free Workouts for This Summer

Cheap workout ideas

If you want to save money and skip the gym membership this summer, check out these workout ideas that are free, like water aerobics.

Everyone is talking about their summer workout plan and getting that bikini body, and all you can think about is how expensive those fitness classes and boot camps are! Alpine Bank understands. We know you want to save this summer and still be active and fit. Instead of spending your summer trapped in the gym, why not enjoy the great outdoors and get a workout at the same time, for free?! Check out our list of totally free workouts!

Go Geocaching

Geocaching is just a cool word for treasure hunting with GPS coordinates available on geocaching websites. Look online for local parks with geocaching opportunities. Make it a workout by trying to reach the stash in a certain amount of time.

Get Climbing

Who needs the gym rock wall when you can climb a tree? Have a buddy on stand-by just to be safe, and only climb trees with sturdy limbs.

Use Water (and Sand!) Resistance

Get in the water, squat, and shuffle from side to side, staying low. Try going faster or digging your feet into the sand for more resistance.

Get closer to nature

Who needs gym equipment? Use rocks, park benches and logs for dips and step-ups. Use a low tree limb as a pull-up bar. If you want a bicep workout, throw a rope around a tree and over a low branch. Hold the ends of the rope and stand where there is only a little slack. Lean back and use your biceps to pull you upright. Try using one leg and bending the other for a harder challenge.

You can get in shape this summer and still save money! These workouts give you a chance to enjoy the summer weather while being active. It’s all about being creative with your workouts and thinking outside the gym!

4 Affordable Home Improvements for Summer

 

Cheap home improvements

Making your home look better doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Painting your front door is just one fun and quick way to spruce up your curb appeal.

Alpine Bank would like to offer you 4 affordable ideas for sprucing up your home this summer. With flowers in bloom and the sun shining bright, there is no better time to freshen up your house. Home is a place where family and friends gather and memories are made. Make this summer one to remember with several fun home projects to take on. Visit our site today to find services to help you with all your financial needs.

  1. Our first suggestion to creating a fresh look in your home is to paint the front door. While this may seem like a small change, it will make a big difference. A colored door can show your personality and set you aside from neighbors
  2. Our second suggestion is to add plants inside the home. A potted plant can be placed in the entrance to the home, kitchen, living room, or sun room, or anywhere it can receive proper sunlight. Plants have been shown to increase oxygen, improve mood, and increase focus. They are an easy find at any flower shop or farmer’s market.
  3. Our third suggestion is to replace old light fixtures with new. They can be installed easily and greatly change the feel of a room. A statement light shows that you care about the details of your home and value individuality. Go as extravagant or conservative as you feel to brighten up any room.
  4. Our fourth suggestion is to care for floors frequently and thoroughly. When floors are neglected, they collect dust and dirt that can cause scratching and long term expensive damage. By simply dusting and mopping a couple times a week, you will keep high traffic areas safe from scratches.

Alpine Bank encourages you to save money and make affordable home improvements this summer. We hope you keep us in mind when making financial decisions and don’t hesitate to drop in or give us a call today! Member FDIC.

3 Trends in Retirement Happening Today

Retirement trends

People are working longer than ever. Learn how trends like these can affect your retirement and what Alpine Bank can do to help!

Trends in today’s world are constantly changing. In pop culture, celebrities have a major influence of what is “in” and what is “out”. Movie star’s personal lives are studied for the smallest mistakes and political figures are distorted in messages received by the public. Our world is changing and it is important to stay in touch with areas that may affect you. Trends in retirement are changing and affect the lives of almost everyone. Whatever stage of life you are in, it is never too early to start thinking about your life after work. Alpine Bank is here to provide retirement expertise and Traditional and Roth IRA’s to fit your needs. We invite you to visit our website today and allow us to serve your financial requests.

Trend #1:

Semi-retirement is a common occurrence in the lives of many retirees. After they leave their full time jobs, they may take up part time work to make ends meet. It may be due to a lack of pension plans or forced retirement in the work place. By being aware of this, we hope you consider building a secure savings account today.

Trend #2:

A common belief is that those with higher incomes can and will retire earlier. However, those in high paying jobs often want to keep working and are able to. Individuals with lower income positions have had a different experience in the work force and may want to take advantage of retirement benefits as soon as possible.

Trend #3:

Social Security is now allowing people ages 62 to 70 to continue working while building up credit. They can keep working and receive the same lifelong benefits. Companies are also starting to allow their employees to retire when they want without the pull of a pension plan or forced retirement.

It is never too soon to start financially planning for your retirement. We encourage you to open a savings account with Alpine Bank and start saving today! Member FDIC.

Reduce Your Financial Stress with these 6 Tips

Financial stress relief from Alpine Bank

Learn how to bust financial stress and live a better life free from the worries of money!

Do you fear getting your monthly bank statement? Does it feel like there is a weight on your shoulders any time you think about money? Do you feel hopeless about your current financial situation? If so, you are suffering from financial stress, and you are not alone.

 

A 2013 study by Financial Finesse found that 83 percent of employees report some financial stress, with 16 percent saying it is high or overwhelming. Financial stress’s consequences aren’t limited to your bank account, either; it can translate into physical health symptoms, causing high blood pressure and other health issues.

 

Since May is National Blood Pressure Month, Alpine Bank thinks this is as good a time as any to help you keep your blood pressure in a healthy range by lowering your financial stress levels. Here are a few tips for those of you stressing about your money situation to hopefully get you back on solid ground.

 

  • Look for ways to reduce your debt- is there anything you can sell to help pay down your debt? You can also try refinancing your debt through your creditors, who may give you a better rate if they know you’re looking to refinance.
  • See where your money goes- scour your debit and credit card statements to see where you are racking up the most spending. You can also use free websites like Mint to help, and keep receipts for every purchase you make.
  • Cut costs- once you see where your money is going, see which expenses you can cut or eliminate altogether. Even small savings can add up to a lot over time.
  • Prioritize your spending- make sure the essentials – rent/mortgage, food, utilities, student loans – are covered before you pay down your unsecured debt, such as credit card debt, which can generally be negotiated.
  • Learn to haggle or ask for help- you can try negotiating with your creditors directly or ask a non-profit credit counseling agency for help.
  • Build an emergency fund- having $1,000 in your savings account can go a long way to giving you some peace of mind and reducing your anxiety.

 

Being stressed from your finances can seem like an inescapable trap. However, by creating a logical, step-by-step plan, you can free yourself from the crushing weight of debt and other stressors. Just be aware that it may take some time and lots of willpower to do. If you need help, Alpine Bankwill gladly help in any way we can. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Save Money and Go Green with these 7 Tips

Green living tips from Alpine Bank

Going green can be an easy and frugal change to your lifestyle.

There’s little doubt that spring is a very beautiful time of year here in our part of Illinois. The grass is green, flowers have bloomed, and soon the recently planted fields will start growing in. But nature isn’t the only thing that can get greener this time of year.

 

Your home and how you live are also two things that can “go green” while also helping you save some green. This is a win-win situation, because not only does Alpine Bank advocate smart financial decisions, but also living responsibly in regard to our environment. That’s why we have come up with a few ways you can help out Mother Nature and save a little money as well.

 

Seal up the cracks- this not only keeps cool air in as it warms up, but it also keeps cold air out in the winter. And there’s an added bonus: it can help you save up to 30 percent on your heating and cooling bill

 

Go for a low-flow showerhead- the name says “low-flow” but there doesn’t feel like much difference with most low-flow heads. Also, showerheads with the WaterSense label could save up to 2,900 gallons per year on average.

 

Revamp your thermostat- a programmable thermostat will help you maximize the efficiency of your heating and cooling, meaning less waste and more money in your pocket.

 

Nix the disposable household products- paper plates, paper towels, napkins, aluminum foil, and zipper bags can all be replaced with alternatives that you can use multiple times.

 

Repurpose- before tossing anything out, ask yourself if there is another purpose it could serve. A lot of the time the answer will be “yes.”

 

Buy used- there may be a stigma to buying second-hand goods, but you can’t argue with the savings you’ll find at Goodwill or other thrift stores.

 

Learn how to cook or start a garden- the less takeout or fast food you buy, the fewer wrappers, bags, and other packaging you go through that become trash.

 

Are there other ways you can think of to go green without breaking the bank? Let us know by leaving us a comment on our Facebook page.

 

We hope these ideas have given you some inspiration to look at your home and lifestyle and find areas where you can reduce waste. If you need help increasing your financial efficiency, come by your nearest Alpine Bank office today and we’ll see how we can help. We hope to see you soon!

4 Ways to Teach Kids The Importance of Money

April is Financial Literacy Month and Alpine Bank believes it’s the perfect time to teach your kids about money. Experts say kids need to be taught that reaching their goals and aspirations requires a healthy understanding of money basics, but unfortunately many parents fall short with these lessons.

Money habits for kids from Alpine Bank

Most kids learn money habits from their parents, so be sure you’re setting a good example

While many mom and dads give their children allowance, a recent study done by DoughMain, a financial education website, shows that only 4 percent of parents require their children to deposit money into a bank account. Regardless of whether you have a lot of money or not, starting your child’s financial habits at a young age will help them make wiser money decisions later in life.

Teaching kids financial habits at an early age can sometimes be difficult; therefore, Alpine Bank has come up with a few ways to help make this process easier.

Bring them to the bank: Open a Next Generation Savings Account with your kids. This limited withdrawal savings account helps your child start to save at a young age. Ask your banker for a savings register and when you get home, go over the importance of keeping track of money spent and their current balance. Encourage them to put their birthday, holiday and tooth fairy money into their account.

Clip the coupons: Get your kids involved with the family’s weekly grocery shopping. Have them write a shopping list and set a budget before going to the supermarket. Before you go, have your kids hunt for coupons in the paper and online for items on your list. Just be sure you’re using coupons that are for items you actually need.

Money-hungry piggy bank: Not many people like carrying change around with them, so why not give it to your kids? Empty your pockets out each night, and at the end of each week have your child count the money and put it into their piggy bank. Once a month, go to the bank and watch your child’s face light up when they see how much money they can collect just from change.

Be a role model: Remember that you have a large impact on your child’s life. Set a good example and focus on making good financial habits yourself. Statistics show that 32 percent of parents tell their children they can afford something when they really can’t. Tell the truth about your finances to prevent them from lying about their financial issues later in life.

April is Financial Literacy Month and an excellent time for you to start that money talk with your child. Alpine Bank encourages you to set a good example and help educate your kids on good financial habits this month. We hope to see you and your child soon!

3 Negative Financial Habits You May Be Teaching Your Children

Whether we want to realize it or not, the way we were raised has a tremendous impact on how we make decisions as an adult. April is Financial Literacy Month and Alpine Bank wants you to consider the negative financial habits that you may unintentionally be teaching your children.

Good financial habits for kids

Saving money is just one financial habit kids can learn from their parents

Did you know most children’s financial habits are formed by age seven? It’s widely known that children pick up on words, dress style and food habits at a young age, but it hasn’t been predominantly communicated that financial habits were on the list of precautions to take when around children.

Children under the age of eight years old may be able to count and recognize money, but it’s suggested that they do not have an understanding of the difference between “luxuries” and “necessities”, meaning they see items, not the amount of money spent to purchase them. It is crucial that financial education starts at a young age.

Here are three common parenting behaviors that can negatively influence children’s money habits.

  1. You Spoil Your Children: Your child may expect that they can and should still get whatever they want when they grow up. The problem is they may not have the income to support the ability to live large. Challenge yourself to put money in a savings account for your child instead of giving them games, clothes and toys.
  2. You Make Financial Decisions on a Whim: Go out for dinner? Sure. Go see a movie? You bet. Go shopping for new clothes? Why not? If you are always saying yes to questions that involve buying something, you are showing your kids that financial decisions should be made without much thought. Sure, it may be fine to go out for dinner tonight, but explain to them that this means they’ll have to sacrifice that movie night later in the week.
  3. You are Very Frugal: Whether you need to keep a tight budget or you are a penny pincher, this money saving tactic could potentially affect your child’s spending habits in the future. It has been shown in a few studies that excessive spending can be a side effect of living an extremely frugal childhood. Talk to your child and explain the reasoning for being careful with money so that they can learn the benefits of saving and not feel resentful.

Since children learn a lot from their parents, Alpine Bank wants you to celebrate Financial Literacy Month by improving your financial habits while educating your children on how to stay financially successful. Make a commitment to help your child grow into a financially independent person this April.

Are You Making These 8 Common Home Buying Mistakes?

home-mistakes

Life contains certain landmark events: birth, getting your driver’s license, graduating from high school, getting married and so on. One of the most important decisions you will make in life is purchasing a home, whether it is your first home or the home you plan to live in until you die. It can be a very exciting process, but entering that process unprepared or getting caught up in it can spell trouble.

In order to help those of you looking to purchase a home this year, Alpine Bank has put together these eight common home buying mistakes in order for you to be better prepared and to make buying your home a highlight in your life.

Mistake #1, Forgetting About the Extra Costs- here’s a rundown of the costs you can expect to pay: mortgage (principal with interest), property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utilities appraisal fee, credit report fee, escrow fee, closing costs and your real estate agent’s fee.

Mistake #2, Loving a House Too Much- getting caught up in all the features of a home can easily lead you over your budget. Stay practical with your needs.

Mistake #3, Buying More Home than You can Afford- a good rule of thumb here: if you are purchasing a home with another person, base the payment on only one of your incomes. That way, if something happens you will still be able to make payments on your home.

Mistake #4, Not Making a 20 Percent Down Payment- anything less than 20 percent likely means your lender will require costly private mortgage insurance.

Mistake #5, Not Having an Inspection Done- choose someone you trust and make sure it is done by the book. Nothing is worse than your foundation beginning to leak a year into living in your new home.

Mistake #6, Buying with Bad Credit- predatory lending is still alive, and is a sure way to end up in a home with a mortgage you can’t afford. Improve your credit score first before buying.

Mistake #7, Too Much Credit Activity- when you are in home buying mode, you should be doing two things only: paying bills and saving money. Anything else could mess with your credit.

Mistake #8, Not Being Committed to Staying Put- if you have a hard time with commitment, i.e., signing a one-year lease on your apartment makes you break out in hives, then homeownership is not for you. Make sure you are ready to live in the area for a while.

We hope recognizing these fatal mistakes helps you in your preparations for purchasing a new home, or at least gives you some guidance if the actual buying process is still a way down the road. Feel free to contact Alpine Bank’s mortgage lenders about these or other mortgage concerns.

6 Investing Lessons from March Madness

The NCAA championship basketball tournament is an annual highlight for sports fans, earning the nickname “March Madness” for the frenzy that teams and fans alike become caught up in during the four weeks of tournament play. Filling out a bracket is perhaps the only thing more popular than watching the tournament games. Like investing, bracket picks are a matter of balancing expertise, expectation, risk and reward.
1. It’s about getting the most right, not being perfect.
Your investing, like your bracket, is not going to be perfect. The mathematical odds of correctly picking the outcome of every game in the NCAA Tournament are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (for the record, that first number is 9 quintillion). Statistically, each person on earth would have to fill out more than a billion individual brackets before one would be perfect.
The odds of all your investments continually producing above-market returns are probably even lower. Successful investing is about making as many wise decisions as possible and getting more investments right than wrong.
2. Diversify.
No one turns in a bracket with results for just one or two teams and expects to earn enough points to win. People fill out the entire bracket to gather enough points and ensure that losses in one region can be compensated for with wins in another. Diversification is hugely important to investors as well. No matter how sure you are of an investment, it’s never a good idea to put all your money in one place.
3. Anything could happen, but it usually doesn’t.
Although there are always some upsets, favored teams usually do reasonably well. Investors shouldn’t think that diversifying among long-shot stocks is a recipe for success. You could successfully score on every upset game of the tournament if you only picked underdogs, but there is no way those few successful games could make up for all the losses where things went as everyone expected.
4. Last year’s tournament was last year.
Past performance guarantees nothing about the future. Investors (and basketball fans) should never assume that their best picks from last year will have a repeat performance. A team wins because of skill and management; a hot stock should only be kept if there are sound reasons for its past (and future) success.
5. Lucky systems are a myth.
Humans are hardwired to see patterns. It’s a survival instinct that helps us find the things that we need and avoid dangerous situations. Superstitions form when people notice a pattern and choose to only remember the times when it worked, reinforcing useless behavior. A foolish investment (or bracket) is one that relies on superstitious or “hunch” decision-making. Investments are ownership in a company, not a gamble. Successful companies are the key to successful stocks.
6. The drama goes up the more you watch.
Though watching the action of a live game is the most exciting part of the NCAA tournament, it’s one of the worst ideas in investing. Drama is good entertainment, but it almost never helps an investor. Watching every twitch of the market only leads to bad decision-making. A wise investor stays as detached as possible from daily stock fluctuations.
How they’re different: Investing is not a competition
It’s important to remember that good investing is not about being the best investor in the world; it’s about securing enough money for your future. Unlike March Madness, you shouldn’t worry about “beating” others’ investment strategies. A sound strategy might not be as impressive as someone else’s high-risk approach, but it can still be successful.

 

Link to PDF of Alpine Trust & Investment Group newsletter: AB Newsletter March 2014