Category Archives: Saving Money

7 Ways to Decrease Your Gardening Costs this Season

spring

Gardening season is upon us! Whether you’ve been gardening for decades or are flexing your green thumbs for the first time, save some green as you grow it this spring with these helpful tips from Alpine Bank:

  1. Study the sun. You can burn hundreds of dollars by accidentally placing plants in areas that receive too much or too little sunlight. Take time before planting to make notes on the sun’s path across your yard, scoping out key sunny and shady spots along the way.
  2. Invest in mulch. A layer of fresh mulch aids inprotecting against soil erosion while cutting the costs of weed killer.
  3. Reuse newspapers. Before you lay down protective mulch, spread layers of old newspapers directly onto the soil to block weeds and lock in moisture. Eventually the newspaper decomposes while saving on water costs in the long-run.
  4. Try natural bug protection. Instead of buying pricey pesticides and bug zappers, place fabric softener sheets next to outdoor light fixtures to deter flying insects.
  5. Make your own weed killer. Eco-friendly and inexpensive, you can create your own weed killer by mixing 1 gallon of white vinegar with 1 ounce of liquid dish soap. Put this mixture in a spray bottle and directly apply to weeds for the maximum effect.
  6. Start composting. Create nature’s best fertilizer in your own backyard by forming a small compost pile of kitchen and yard waste. Not only do you reduce your footprint by saving space in a landfill, but your homemade compost saves you money and increases the yield of your plants.
  7. Plant the pricier edibles. To save money, time, and precious garden real estate, invest in planting herbs and vegetables that would normally cost you a bundle at the grocery store. Grow pricier crops such as raspberries, shallots, and basil yourself and buy cheaper produce like lettuce, carrots, and parsley at your local farmers markets.

At Alpine Bank, it’s always growing season when it comes to building your wealth. If you’re looking to prosper you financial gains stop by and give us a call at 815-398-6500 today!

The Top 10 Things to Add Value to Your Home

mortgages

Just like purchasing your home, selling it is a journey all its own. Whether you’re aiming to sell your home in one year or five, you can make a number of small changes that offer a big return on your home’s value. Try these key improvements and see the effect on your next home assessment.

  1. An eye-catching entrance. As the gateway into your home, your front door will set the tone for what’s within. Update your door bell, paint the front door, and hang a spring wreath to tie it all together.
  2. Energy-efficient updates: Updating appliances, windows, and fixtures, to their more green counterparts can set your home apart with the attractive promise of future savings.
  3. Low-maintenance landscaping: While flowers are eye-catching, shrubs and drought-resistant greenery make great visual impact with the promise of less hassle.
  4. A thorough clean. A deep clean of carpets, curtains, and corners will make your home sparkle and create a positive first impression. Hiring a professional cleaning service may also help to remove hard-to-clean grime and overlooked areas.
  5. De-cluttered rooms. A tidy house doesn’t always feel open. Heavy curtains, overstuffed couches, and rooms devoid of sunlight can make buyers cautious of square footage. Rid the room of nothing but bare essentials and simplistic furniture to maximize the area of the space.
  6. Extra mirrors. To double the feel of any room, strategically place mirrors to create an illusion of extra space.
  7. Small updates to big places. Kitchens and bathrooms are focal points in the selling process. Without the time and cost of a major remodel, small updates like new lighting, fresh paint, or modern accessories can add value to your home on a budget.
  8. Revamped flooring: Thin or threadbare carpets can raise alarms for buyers as they visualize the daunting need to replace the tired flooring. As your budget allows, replace your home’s carpet beginning high-traffic areas and working outwards.
  9. Modern lighting.Updating light fixtures to a timeless and simple feel, help to elevate a home’s design and gives the potential buyer a blank canvas to imagine life in their new home.
  10. A professional opinion. In under an hour, a trained interior designer can provide suggestions for small tweaks, such as furniture arrangement or paint color adjustments, which can increase your home’s value with limited investment.

While improvements are not a guarantee of improved value, they can make all the difference when drawing in interested buyers. If some of your home-improvement projects require a bigger investment than your budget expected, our lending officers at Alpine Bank can work to help you secure the HELOC you need.

How-To Give Your Children a Financial Education with Their Allowance

Financial LiteracyAllowance, when treated as an educational opportunity, gives your child hands-on experience in budgeting, saving, spending, investing, earning, negotiating, and tracking their money. With these tactics, you and your child can make the most of their allowance while growing their financial literacy.

  • Shy away from weekly allowance. A bi-weekly or monthly allowance better reflects a real-world payment schedule than a weekly handout. Additionally, staggered money instead of a steady cash flow opens opportunities to practice budgeting for both spending and savings goals.
  • Open a savings account. It’s never too early to start saving. Open a savings account with your child and explain the power of compound interest. Establish that they pull 10% of their total monthly allowance to funnel into savings, enabling them to budget the remaining 90% while teaching the discipline and value of saving.
  • Show them the options for their funds. Teach your children the potential their money has by creating four labeled jars for spending, saving, giving, investing. Each time your kids are given money via chores or other revenue sources, have them choose which jar to put the funds in. The spending jar can be used on small purchases like candy bars or little toys, and the saving jar can be put towards larger items that take more time to save.
  • Don’t offer advances. Although children will often try to negotiate getting their allowance early in order to buy the toy that they can’t quite afford yet, don’t give in. In the long run, your kid will benefit more from understanding the necessities of budgeting. That being said, the occasional unsolicited “bonus” for good behavior, or going the extra mile, doesn’t hurt either. After all, there’s very little more motivating than hearing your boss tell you you’re doing a great job – keep it up.

With each dollar your children learn to save, they are propelling their education forward. If you’d like to get your little one’s financial education off to the right start, stop by Alpine Bank today and enroll them in their very own checking account.

The Ultimate Guide to Garage and Yard Sales

Garage Sale Season

 

With a pocket full of dollar bills and a list of dream finds in hand, serious garage sale goers are perking up for the upcoming season. Become a pro deal-spotter by harnessing some of their top tricks of the trade!

  • Check for warranties: Even if they’re dinged or damaged, goods by brands like Craftsman and Chaco may offer lifetime warranties if you send them in for repair. Avoid: Electronic-based gadgets – everything from blenders to tablets – as they’re likely past warranty and cost more to repair than buy new. If they don’t work, don’t buy them.
  • Snatch up fun novelty items: Infrequently used finds like wedding accessories, costume sets, and kitchen appliances can be pricey when purchased brand new. You can buy these gently-used finds for a fraction of the original cost! Avoid: Holiday-themed wares that you’ll use once, store for the year, and toss out at your own yard sale.
  • Think a few seasons ahead: A summer yard sale will be loaded with wintertime treasures. Scope out pricier outerwear like parkas and boots, while keeping your eye out for cross-country skis, durable metal shovels, and other seasonal goods marked at a steep discount. Avoid: Cold weather apparel worn close to the skin, such as hats and long underwear. Also, be wary of major items like snow blowers and snowmobiles, which may require costly repairs that outweigh the price of a newer model.
  • Shop for the kids: When they’re set to outgrow clothes every few months, garage sales are a treasure trove of inexpensive apparel for infants through teens. Be on the lookout for limited-use clothing like costumes and formalwear to save big during special occasions. Avoid: Cribs and car seats which are frequently recalled, soft toys that can’t be easily washed or sterilized, and truly vintage toys which may pose the risk of lead-based paint.
  • See Beyond the Paint: Furniture can be a phenomenal find if you’re willing to put forthsome extra effort. A new finish or a fresh coat of paint can make all the difference on wood and metal furniture. Avoid: Mattresses and upholstered items which may have unknown stains or trapped in odors.

 

Win Big with Basketball Budgeting

Basketball Budgeting

Basketball season is in full swing and there are many comparisons to the sport that can apply to building your own personal budget. From knowing when to pass an expense, to hitting a three with an unexpected bonus, budgeting is a lot like basketball. Learn how to win at structuring your finances with this helpful game plan.

Brush up on your coaching.

Every team is built around the choices of its coach, just as your budget is. The coach selects the players based off merit, potential, and cohesiveness to create a well-rounded team structure. This coach represents you, you decide what direction your budget will take you, and if one piece isn’t working the way you desire it is your responsibility to make the change.

Recruit your team.

Every team has three key player types, centers, forwards, and guards. The center is going to be your all-around player, in the middle of all the action, just like your income. In your budget, this income is going to be after both taxes and your designated savings, this is your center player. Now those savings, giving you a financial buffer, are acting as your guard. Whether it’s a retirement savings, emergency fund, or personal investments, your guard player covers it all. Something additionally has to be driving your budget to financial success, and that is where your forward comes in. Spending is the determining factor to the successfulness of your budget. Just as in basketball, if no one takes the ball up the court there is no potential to score. By managing your spending, you create momentum through your forward player to move your money in a positive direction.

Keep your elbows in.

Every game comes with rules to keep the players safe, staying within these guidelines helps to protect you from receiving any unwanted fouls in the realms of finances.

Foul 1: Spending more than you earn.      Penalty: Paying Interest and losing savings capabilities.

Foul 2: Not having a savings plan.              Penalty: No structure for emergencies or retirement.

Foul 3: Carrying bad credit.                          Penalty: Added obstacles in gaining financial freedom.

Just as in basketball, practicing the fundamentals will push you to better your skills. If you work to create a successful budget based on what you can afford, your consistent monthly expenses, moderated spending, and a sound investment plan, you will be a winning coach in no time.

If you have in questions in how to begin a savings or checking account to help get the ball going, give Alpine Bank a call at (815) 398-6500 today!

How to Keep a New Year’s Resolution the S.M.A.R.T. Way

new years resolutions

Think fast! What was the last New Year’s Resolution you saw through from start to finish?

Don’t strain yourself racking your brain. 1 in 3 resolution makers ditch their promise by the end of January, so if you’ve struggled maintaining your resolution, you’re not alone. Alpine Bank challenges you to pick a financial goal from the top of your list, and see it through to the end with these S.M.A.R.T. techniques to stay the course.

Specific: Throwing out a flighty “I want to save more money” will end as quickly as it was decided without direction. Be clear with yourself.  Striving to save $5,000 to kick start your emergency savings fund gives you a target to aim for that goes beyond a hopeful thought.

Measurable: Buckling down to accomplish a long-term goal feels awesome. Part of that rush comes from gauging your progress, leading to the big moment when you accomplish your objective. Identifying concrete ways to assess your goal, and structuring simple milestones for success, keep you on track towards your financial target. Know your bank accounts, check them regularly, and strategize the numbers you’re seeing to elevate progress.

Attainable: There are many goals you can put in front of yourself to strive towards a more rewarding financial future. Making sure these goals are attainable ensures you’re working towards a truly possible reality. If you plan on becoming a millionaire in three weeks, you may be in for a letdown.

Realistic: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. If you want to pay off the rest of your mortgage two years ahead of schedule, could you do it? Technically, probably, yes. However, how realistic is that goal when you factor in everything else on your plate? Don’t burn yourself out with a goal that extends your boundaries and comfort too far.

Time-Bound: When life stressors appear, personal goals are the first thing to go. If you’ve given yourself concrete deadlines, skipping out on your financial target becomes much, much harder. Whether that’s a daily timeline, or a date a few months down the road, a time-bound goal helps keep you on track and moving forward.

When the going gets tough, the tough remember their S.M.A.R.T. techniques. Reach out to Alpine Bank if there’s a financial goal we can help you take by the horns in 2016.

 

Teaching Holiday Spending to Kids

blog-children

“Holiday season” can mean totally different things for you and your child. While visions of Sugar Plums dance in their head, those visions are replaced with dollar signs in yours as you mentally tally the cost of the most magical time of year.

Find common ground by using this season to show your kids about tracking, saving, and giving money with these pointers from Alpine Bank and Trust:

  • Create a budget: Squeeze the most magic out of the holidays by creating a battle plan. Let the kids listen as you and your partner settle on a budget for the month, breaking it down into categories like food, gifts, parties, and decorations. Once they understand how their parents create a budget, turn them loose to make one of their own, allotting a dollar amount on gifts for each person on their list.
  • Get crafty with gifts: If you haven’t been accumulating gifts as they’re on sale throughout the year, your wallet can take a serious hit when prices spike during the holidays. Try your hand at homemade gifts, ranging from thoughtful cards to favorite family recipes, most of which can be created with supplies lying around the home or purchased for cheap. Your kids benefit when they unleash their creativity and see the thoughtful effort of a gift crafted by hand.
  • Shop smarter: Don’t leave your kids in the dark with the money you plan to spend. When you head to the store, be upfront about how much you plan to spend on what purchases and why. With that knowledge in mind, they can help you spot sales as you cruise the aisles. Turn your shopping adventure into a game by challenging them to find the best deal or most creative alternative, and pay with cash to give them practice counting money and deducting coupons.
  • Give, give, give: It’s better to give than to receive, and the holidays are the perfect opportunity to show your kids this principle in action. Explain that other families may not be in the same financial boat as you, and build on this lesson in empathy by choosing an organization like Toys for Tots or Operation Christmas Child to purchase gifts for a child in need. Have your child help pick out and deliver the purchase to experience the joy of giving firsthand.

Make the holidays not only the most wonderful time of year for you and your children, but the most frugal. Alpine Bank and Trust is always here to help your family make the most of your financials to start you strong in the New Year!

Alpine Bank, Equal Housing Lender, Member FDIC

Unexpected Costs of Having a Baby

There is a lot to prepare before your bundle of joy arrives, including your finances!

There is a lot to prepare before your bundle of joy arrives, including your finances!

July and August are the two most popular months of the year for having a baby. While a baby brings great joy and love to their family, having a baby can also add stress to your finances. These days, many parents are spending roughly $12,000 on their baby in its first year alone. From doctor’s expenses to furniture and supplies, having a baby is certainly not easy on your bank account.

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