Category Archives: Saving Money

What’s Your Spending Style?

Personal Finances

Everyone spends and saves differently. There are spending personalities on all ends of the spectrum that range from extreme spenders to tireless penny pinchers. Discover what type of spender you are with this helpful quiz courtesy of Alpine Bank.

What’s your typical lunch during the workweek?

A: A packed lunch, typically leftovers from the night before.

B: A variety of prepared lunches from home and a handful of takeout meals throughout the month.

C: I usually grab something from one of the local restaurants during my lunch break, occasionally I’ll bring something from home if it was really good.

D: I can’t get through the day without my latte in the morning, and a solid lunch out of the office in the afternoon.

How important is your credit score to you personally?

A: I live and breathe by this number, it influences almost all of my buying decisions.

B: I check my credit every month, it’s important to know where you stand.

C: I have a general idea where I’m at, but it’s not the first thing on my mind.

D: What’s a credit score?

If you want something that is $3,000 but you only have $1,500 available funds in your account what would you do?

A: Wait until I can save the additional $1,500 I need before purchasing it.

B: Compromise on a similar item that only costs the $1,500 I currently have.

C: Purchase the $3,000 item, paying $1,500 up front, and putting the rest on credit.

D: Purchase the $3,000 item and put it all on credit.

What does retirement savings mean to you?

A: Roth IRA, 401(k), stocks, bonds, and personal savings.

B: Using my work benefits along with personal savings.

C: I think I get something for retirement through my place of employment.

D: Something I don’t have to worry about until I’m older.

When you see an exciting impulse buy, how do you manage the situation?

A: I remind myself I’m here for these 5 items and nothing else.

B: I remember I already bought a small impulse buy yesterday, so this one could potentially harm my budget.

C: I made it through the work day today, I deserve this.

D: I already have 4 other things I wasn’t expecting to buy, what’s one more?

 

If most of your answers were [A] then you are a Penny Pincher: For you, finances are the key to your existence. All aspects of your financials are crafted into a strategic plan to make the most out of your various savings accounts. You’re the first to suggest a restaurant based on cost, and the last to splurge on a large purchase. Typically you’re also the person other family members typically ask for well-rounded financial advice.

If most of your answers were [B] then you are a Balanced Budgeter: In your world, the life of a budget doesn’t have to centered around a hunker down mentality. A budget is a fluid medium that is meant to be customizable to you and your needs. Occasionally an added expenses or unforeseen purchase is needed or warranted, but overall, you ensure you and your family stay on track with a well thought out financial plan.

If most of your answers were [C] then you are a Cautious Creditor: Although much of your financial expertise is based on credit card rewards, and other point benefits, you do care about your money management. While not all your choices are made to help boost your savings, there are certain measures you take on a continual basis to help push your financial goals forward.

If most of your answers were [D] then you are a Debt Developer: Often times you spend more than you intend. Between check-out line snacks, and lunch time splurges, your bank account just tries to keep up. Understanding your financials isn’t necessarily first on your list of priorities, but there are certainly some things you know you could improve. You appreciate the things you purchase and genuinely enjoy the experience of shopping.

No matter what type of spender you are, Alpine Bank is here to help you succeed. For everything from setting up savings accounts, to consulting on wealth management, we have everything you need to continue your financial success. Give us a call at (815) 398-6500 or stop by today to get started!

 

How to Create your Emergency Fund and Know When to Use It

Savings

Creating a structured savings plan is one thing that can set apart the financial dreamers from the financial doers! By setting strict guidelines and ensuring the correct follow-through with a backed up savings plan, you can be certain you’ll be properly prepared for the unexpected. One of the biggest obstacles individuals will face is often the unforeseen, fortunately there is a way to manage even that. Using a well-rounded emergency fund can ensure that you don’t dip into saved funds for unexpected costs such as auto repairs, or medical emergencies. Want to get started setting up your emergency fund today? Follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way to financial success!

  1. Open a dedicated savings account.
  2. Deposit Funds each month without withdrawing anything.
  3. Start by saving $1000.

- Next save 3 months’ worth of income and expenses.

- Finally maintain 6 months’ worth of income and expenses.

The reason you have this fund is simple, to prepare for the unexpected. Whether it’s an unanticipated job loss, a costly home repair, or other unplanned expenses, your emergency fund can help you stay afloat when the waters get rough.

The main objective of this account is to have it work for you and your needs. By specifically determining what you do define as an emergency (job loss, vet bills, auto repairs) and what doesn’t (last minute birthday gift, broken TV, new clothes) you can generate a structured list to know when you feel safe using those funds, and when perhaps its best to leave them untouched. The idea of the emergency fund is to have it when you need it, so don’t spend in on anything unnecessary.

By generating your own emergency fund you can continue to save for milestones and pay bills, without worrying about the “what ifs” that are bound to come along down the road. Get started with your emergency account today at Alpine Bank, we’ll help you get to your next savings goal!

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