Category Archives: Financial Management

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.

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!

Chris Johnson Joins Alpine Trust & Investment Group

JohnsonChris_05_2014Bill Roop, President of Alpine Bank, has announced that Chris Johnson has recently joined Alpine Trust & Investment Group as Vice President and Trust Officer. Mr. Johnson brings with him nearly 20 years of experience in the financial industry, with 16 of those years in trust and investments. His office is located in the Alpine Bank location at 600 South State Street in Belvidere.

Mr. Johnson grew up in the DeKalb area and attended Northern Illinois University, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Finance and Master of Business Administration (MBA).  He, his wife and four children are excited to be back in the area to serve the communities he calls home.

“On behalf of Alpine Trust and Investment Group, I am pleased to welcome Chris to our team of trust experts,” said Lee Mayer, Executive Vice President and Senior Trust Officer. “His expertise and commitment to his clients exemplifies our fundamental principle of people helping people.”

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.

How to Reward Yourself Without Breaking Your Budget: 10 Ideas

10-frugal-ideas

In last month’s post “10 Ways to (Smartly) Blow Your Tax Refund,” we listed “treat yourself” as a way to use your tax refund. In this post, Alpine Bank wants to elaborate more on how treating yourself can be a reward without costing money.

Think about the things you like doing most; how many of them cost money? Some of the biggest rewards in life don’t cost anything or have relatively little expense. Here are some frugal ideas to help you treat yourself.

  • Pour a nice glass of wine- red wine has been shown to help your heart, so pour yourself a glass and de-stress.
  • Soak in a hot bath or hot tub- a great way to relax after a long day.
  • Turn some pages- is there a book you’ve been wanting to read, but just haven’t gotten to? Find your nearest bookstore, grab a copy and turn into a bookworm.
  • Park it- as the weather (hopefully) warms up, find a park near your home or work and take in a nice afternoon or evening.
  • Pound the pavement- it costs you nothing to go for a walk or run, and it is an investment in your health!
  • Catch a flick- try an early movie time on a weekend before the crowds arrive and movie prices go up.
  • Have someone else cook- order in from your favorite Chinese place or that new place on the corner you’ve been wanting to try.
  • Call someone and chat- life can get busy, so call someone you haven’t talked to in a while and catch up.
  • Clear your DVR- if you have one, go through and watch everything you’ve recorded.
  • Indulge your guilty pleasure- from reality TV to playing your favorite music and singing along, do what makes you feel good! 

How do you reward yourself? There are many great things to do around our communities that cost little to no money, so be sure take a look at all the Rockford area has to offer.  Alpine Bank hopes you find something new and exciting, and we look forward to seeing you again!

10 Ways to (Smartly) Blow Your Tax Refund

tax-refund

Ah, the good old tax refund. It’s like an extra pay day, isn’t it? While it may feel like you’re getting “extra” money, you’re really just getting back what was kept out of your paychecks throughout last year. If you had that money in the first place, you probably would’ve been responsible with it, so it makes sense that you should do the same when you’re refund arrives in your back account or in your mailbox.

Last year, the average tax refund was $2,790, which is a good amount of money for most families. Alpine Bank has come up with 10 ways you can use your chunk of change from Uncle Sam a little wiser this year:

Pay off high interest debt- credit card debt is the main culprit here, with most credit cards having an interest rate of 11-16 percent. That’s debt that stacks up against you quickly.

Start a down payment fund- if you’re looking to purchase your first home or move your family, your tax refund can serve as the foundation for your down payment.

Invest in your retirement- any money saved now will grow and be there for you in retirement.

Contribute to your emergency fund- the 2008 recession taught us you can never have enough easily accessible cash saved up.

Seek financial advice- finance books are widely available, and most can be very beneficial. Just make sure you do a little research on the author first.

Make an extra mortgage payment- fun fact: making an extra payment on a $250,000 30-year mortgage with a 5 percent interest rate shortens the mortgage by five years and saves you about $41,000 in interest.

Do good- don’t need the extra money? Make a donation to your favorite charity or community organization instead.

Invest in yourself- your own education is the best investment you can make, especially if you want to increase your earning power.

Do something new- take a cooking class, go wine tasting or find another way to expand your life.

Treat yourself- make sure it’s something you need, and try to buy local to keep money in the local economy.

Your tax refund is your chance to do something productive. Big screen TVs and new tablets are nice, but do they help you achieve your goals? Just something to think about as you await your tax refund this year.