Charitable Giving Checklist - Winter 2014
There is no better time to give back than during the holidays, but before you donate to a charity, you can use the following checklist to make sure your donations will benefit the people and organizations that you want to help.
- Choose a charity: Find more information on an organization by researching their website and reviewing their financial documents, including annual reports and audits. Become familiar with the organization's mission, services, and what percentage of each donation is actually used towards the actual cause.
- Check third-party sources: Evaluate the financial health and accountability of an organization through online charity reports and reviews, such as the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator.
- Maximize your donations: Simple considerations, such as paying by check or cash instead of credit card to avoid processing fees or donating goods instead of money, can help make sure your chosen charity receives the full benefit of your contribution.
- Look for matching contributions: Ask your employer, a local business, or large donor if they will offer matching contributions.
- Consider tax deduction eligibility: Confirm the charity you are donating to registers with the IRS as a "qualified organization" to ensure your contribution will qualify for a tax deduction.
- Keep a record: Keep payment records including receipts or other charity acknowledgements, check copies, and bank statements for tax and audit purposes.
Social Media Safety - Winter 2014
Social media allows us to connect to friends, family and others around the world through photos, videos and personal messages. But as social media continues to gain popularity, the privacy and safety risks associated with using these services continue to grow. The following tips can help you protect yourself:
- Be selective: Only accept friend invites from people that you know to avoid sharing personal information with the wrong people.
- Don't share identifying information: Consider everything that you post on your social network to be public knowledge. Avoid posting anything publicly that could give others ways to break into your online accounts or find out where you live or work, such as contact information, your hometown or birthday.
- Avoid clicking suspicious links: Hackers, spammers and identity thieves often use links or app installs to gain personal information from you. Be aware of suspicious-looking URLs and never open a link from someone you don't know.
- Always "log out": Log out of your account after each session to ensure other users of a computer cannot gain access to your account.
- Set guidelines with your children: Do not let children under the age of 13 use social networking sites. Once you do allow them to use social media, be sure to evaluate the site your child plans to use and set strict safety guidelines such as never meeting anyone in person that they've only talked to online, never using full names or sharing additional personal information and not permitting any cyberbullying activity.
Tips for Becoming a Good Money Role Model - Fall 2014
Teaching your children the ins and outs of responsibly managing their finances is an important part of parenthood. Developing good habits at an early age can help lead to a successful financial future.
- Explain the difference between needs and wants: The foundation of a successful financial situation is a clear understanding of needs versus wants. It can be challenging for adults and children alike to honestly distinguish between the two, so it’s important to teach your children early, and about how to budget for each accordingly.
- Budget and save together: Include your whole family when tracking expenses and planning your budget. Set a mutual savings goal, such as a family vacation or a new family TV, and work towards the goal together, identifying expenses that can be cut and brainstorming new ways to make money.
- Teach the value of earning money: It’s important to teach your children the relationship between working hard and earning money. Set clear boundaries on earning money for household duties and get your children used to being paid on a fixed schedule.
- Open a savings account for each child: Encourage your children to set aside a portion of their allowance or part-time job income to reach their financial goals, whether it’s to buy a new toy or a future college education. Open a First National savings account for your child and have him or her make monthly contributions to the account. Review the account balance with your child each month and as he or she hits savings milestones, reward your child with an additional amount to teach the concept of earning interest.
By encouraging small, smart financial habits from a young age, you can help your children to become financially savvy and develop good money habits for the future.
Turn Your Hobby Into a Business - Fall 2014
Are you passionate about your hobby and want it to be more? While you may not be able to leave your steady, full-time job, there may be ways to monetize your hobby or skillset and subsidize your income. From selling your goods to teaching your skills to others, the following tips may help you turn your hobby into a business.
- Sell your goods: If your hobby involves creating a product, such as art, jewelry or clothing, you may be able to sell your goods, both online and in-person. Online marketplaces such as Etsy.com or local markets or craft fairs are great places to see if there is a demand for your product, make some sales and earn some extra money.
- Teach your skill to others: Create your own classes or look for opportunities at local community colleges and organizations to teach and share your passion with others. From cooking classes to guitar lessons, sharing your knowledge can help monetize your hobby.
- Start a blog: Writing and posting about your hobby, such as photography or baking, is a good way to engage with fellow enthusiasts while potentially earning money from online advertisers at the same time. There are a variety of online ad networks you can link to your blog that display targeted ads next to your online content, making you money with each click, such as Google Adsense.
- Offer your services: If you enjoy a skill or talent such as landscape design or home decorating, set a price, market yourself and offer your services. Create a website and post your qualifications and experience on local classified sites to start spreading the word.
Tips for Becoming a Volunteer - Summer 2014
Summer is just around the corner and so is the season of community events. Supporting the community and getting involved is a great way to spend your summer vacation. Not only does volunteering help improve the lives of others, strengthen communities and solve problems, but it can also help enrich your own life and help you connect with others. The following tips can help you down the path of an enjoyable and beneficial volunteer experience.
- Research organizations and causes that you have a passion for or have a personal interest. Use your community resources to find non-profits in need or use online resources such as Volunteer.gov to find volunteer opportunities you may not otherwise have considered.
- Consider your skillset and what you enjoy. If you enjoy teaching, you may enjoy becoming a mentor in an after-school club. If you have a knack for home improvement, there may be opportunities to help build or repair houses for the elderly or those in need.
- After narrowing down your list of options, request an informational interview to find out more about the organization and the benefits they offer to both recipients and volunteers. Be sure to ask about their expectations and required commitment to find the best fit.
- Commit to an event or activity that fits best with your schedule. If you have the time for a standing weekly commitment, go for it! If not, it’s okay to just commit for what you reasonably have time for.
- Recruit your family and friends to volunteer with you. Not only can it be a chance to help others, but you can also spend valuable time reconnecting with those who mean the most to you.
- Share your experiences with others and encourage life-long volunteering. Volunteering can lead to future habits of continuing to give back to your community.
First National is dedicated to doing what’s right for our customers and the communities in which we serve. We’re proud to support the community that supports us. Check out our calendar of events to find out what’s going on in your area and where you can find First National.
Host a Summer BBQ on a Budget - Summer 2014
Summertime is the perfect time to bring good friends, good conversation and good food together for a summer BBQ. The following simple tips will help you create a perfect, budget-friendly menu for a relaxing and fun summer evening.
#1 - Stock up on Staples: Watch for sales on family favorites and popular BBQ staples. Stock up on items you can store in your pantry or freeze, such as canned pork and beans or veggies, potato chips, hamburger buns and soda. Buying now can help you save later.
#2 - Invest in Reusable Napkins & Plates: An environmentally-friendly and cost-saving alternative is to replace paper plates and napkins with reusable dinnerware. Shop at your local thrift store to find an eclectic set of plates or check out the dollar store or clearance aisles for plastic outdoor dining sets. Not only will it add some color and style to your patio table, but will save you the expense for your gathering.
#3 - Buy Local: Buying local produce and meat is not only good for the environment and your community, but it’s also good for your wallet. Check out your local farmers market or stop at a produce stand along the street to buy fruits and veggies that are fresh and in-season. When produce is in-season locally, prices are less expensive and as a bonus, you’ll get a better taste.
#4 - Consider Quality, Not Just Price and Convenience: When shopping for your dinner, consider the quality of the food and don’t just buy the least expensive or most convenient options. Convenience can cost you. Instead of buying a pre-cut vegetable or fruit tray, take the time to buy fresh, whole fruit and cut it yourself. And the discount package of hot dogs may contain eight, skinny pork hot dogs, but a package of six, larger, all-beef hot dogs may go further and satisfy (and fill up) your guests more.
#5 - Host a Signature Drink: Instead of hosting a wide variety of soda, tea, beer or other beverages, concoct your own signature drink, such as a pitcher of freshly-squeezed lemonade or fruity sangria. Not only will this save you money, it will save you time and add a creative element to your BBQ.
Travel Insurance: Do You Need It? - Early Spring 2014
Travel insurance covers a wide variety of unexpected expenses that may occur when traveling, including trip cancellations or delays, lost or stolen luggage, major weather events, and medical expenses. But do you need it? Consider the following factors when determining if you need coverage for your next vacation.
Decide which kind of coverage you need. Baggage insurance provides coverage for damaged, stolen, lost or delayed bags. Trip cancellation and interruption insurance covers any costs incurred if your travel provider stops operations or goes out of business before your trip or if you have a personal emergency or become sick and are unable to travel. Flight insurance can cover flight accidents, airline strikes, and cancellations. Additional health insurance is also beneficial if you are traveling outside of the U.S. and your existing health insurance does not cover basic emergency care in foreign countries.
Compare policies and prices. When booking your travel, be sure to ask about insurance available through your travel providers. If you are interested in additional 3rd party travel insurance, be sure to compare policies and prices to determine what works the best for you, your travel plans, and your budget. Popular insurance providers include SquareMouth, InsureMyTrip, and Travel Guard.
Consider the price point of your travel plans versus the cost of the travel insurance. If you book a cheap flight to Las Vegas for a long weekend, you may not need travel insurance. But if you are purchasing a Hawaiian cruise, it is worth the risk in the event the cruise line goes out of business, your flight is cancelled and you miss the cruise departure, or you have a personal emergency.
Wedding Planning on a Budget - Early Spring 2014
The holiday season is behind us, but if you became engaged during the holidays, the excitement is just beginning. Starting the wedding planning can be a daunting task, especially if you are on a tight budget. The following steps will help you plan the wedding of your dreams, while not breaking the bank.
#1 - Set a budget: Determine how you are going to pay for your wedding and if you will have help from family.
#2 - Create your guest list: Decide who you want to be there on your special day. Surrounding yourselves with your closest family and friends is important; decide who you want to be there with you on your special day.
#3 - Choose a date: Keep in mind dates that may be more expensive such as holiday weekends, special events that cause demand in event and hotel space, or popular and highly-coveted spring and summer dates. Consider a Friday evening or Sunday afternoon to avoid the peak prices of a Saturday wedding.
#4 - Make a list of priorities: Lay out the costs for the items that are most important to you, including the invitations, venue, food and drink, photographer, flowers, music and the wedding dress. Fit these into your budget first, then add in extras with the money you have left.
#5 - Save on postage: Skip the save-the-dates and send out a fun electronic save-the-date instead. You can save on postage and put the savings towards other priorities.
#6 - Get inspired: Wedding magazines and websites are full of DIY (Do It Yourself) and budget wedding ideas, from decorations to desserts. Gather your friends for a fun evening of crafting centerpieces for the reception or ask a close family member if she’d consider making the dessert for your wedding.
#7 - Be upfront with your budget: When discussing your options with vendors, be upfront on how much you have, and want, to spend. This will not only save you time and energy, but will eliminate any surprises when you receive your bill.
#8 - Be realistic: Your budget isn’t the only thing you should manage; also consider the value of your time. While it may be less expensive to make your own bouquets, is it worth the time it will take for your big day?
Celebrate New Year’s Eve on a Budget - Winter 2013
You can ring in 2014 in style without blowing your budget. Instead of going out to a fancy dinner or expensive nightclub, host an intimate gathering with your closest friends and family to save money while still having a memorable New Year’s Eve. The following tips will help you plan and execute a great New Year’s Eve party on a budget.
- Send out an Evite: Select your guest list and send out an Evite or Facebook event invite instead of a traditional mailed invite to save money on invitations and stamps. It’s also a simple way to manage your RSVP list and plan your party accordingly.
- Serve appetizers and cocktails: Instead of serving a formal sit-down dinner, host a fun appetizer buffet featuring your favorite snack foods. And instead of having a full-bar available for guests, pick one or two signature cocktails to serve.
- Create ambiance without party décor: You don’t need to spend on balloons and streamers to set the mood. Instead, dim your lights, arrange candles around your home and string inexpensive white holiday lights to create ambient lighting.
- Setup a DIY photo booth: Create a memorable experience for your guests by setting up your own photo booth. Hang a fun sheet or fabric as the backdrop and pick up some inexpensive props. Use a Polaroid camera or an online photo booth app to capture the moment.
- Compile a festive playlist: Select classic, upbeat favorites to set the tone of the evening. Use free online music players such as Pandora or Spotify, and eliminate the need to buy songs or hire a DJ.
- Toast with sparkling wine instead of champagne: Instead of splurging on a pricey bottle of bubbly champagne, opt for a less expensive bottle of sparkling wine and grab a bottle of sparking grape juice for the kids.
Advice for Buying a Used Car - Winter 2013
There are many benefits to buying a used car, from cheaper insurance to less depreciation than new cars to extended warranties. If you are in the market for a used car, the following tips can help you choose the right car for you and your family and get the best deal.
- Narrow your search: Determine what car payment amount your monthly budget will allow. Also consider what type of vehicle will fit your needs – a sedan, SUV, mini-van or truck. Make a target list of at least three makes and models you are interested in.
- Secure a low-interest loan: Getting into the vehicle that’s right for you is easiest with the financing terms that work for you. First National offers low fixed rates that fit your budget and give you a chance to drive the vehicle you’ve got your heart set on. Visit firstnational.com/lending to learn more.
- Focus on reliability: Search for a car that is reliable and performs well to reduce future costs. Consult consumer reports or online reviews to learn more about the experience others have had with the type of car you are interested in. Inquire about factory and extended warranties that can be a safety net in the instance of future unexpected repair expenses.
- Shop in the right place: Used cars are purchased through private parties, the used car lot of new-car dealerships or a used-car dealership. Start by asking your friends and families where they have found good deals and reliable vehicles. There are also multiple online classifieds for finding used cars such as Cars.com, Edmunds.com and AutoTrader.com that can help you narrow your search.
- Be attentive during your test drive: When driving a potential vehicle on your test drive, check for visibility, engine noise, braking and acceleration. Drive the car at a variety of speeds to test the handling. Listen for rattles and squeaks and ensure the interior and cargo space fits your unique needs. Before purchasing a vehicle, have it inspected by a trusted mechanic to look for issues that may not be visible or obvious during your test drive.
Top Apps to Improve Your Lifestyle - Fall 2013
From fitness to finance, apps can help you improve your lifestyle, help you set goals and help to keep you accountable along the way.
- Lose It!: For those who are aiming to eat healthier, get more exercise, and lose weight, Lose It! is a free app that can help you achieve your goals. Input your current weight and your goal weight, and Lose It! will give you guidelines for how many calories to eat per day and how long it should take you to reach your goals. It also contains an online support community to help you remain accountable. The app is available on Android and iOS.
- RunKeeper: Runkeeper turns your smartphone into a personal trainer and allows you to track jogs, runs, bike rides and more by using the GPS in your phone. It offers customizable training plans, goal tracking and voice coaching. It integrates with several other health and weight-loss apps, including Fitbit, Fitocracy and Lose It! as well as social networks including Facebook and Twitter. The app is available on Android and iOS.
- Mint: Mint is a personal finance app that allows you to monitor your bank, credit card, investment and loan accounts in one place. If you are looking to monitor your budgets and your spending habits, Mint will help you keep track of finances in a safe and secure way. You can set and track individual goals and track progress through easy-to-read graphs and charts. The app is available on Android and iOS.
- First National Banking: First National Bank’s Mobile Banking app recently launched and allows you access your accounts and experience a secure mobile banking experience. You are able to view all your First National Bank accounts in one easy glance – checking, savings, CD, credit card, home equity and mortgage loan accounts. You can also deposit checks without making a trip to the bank with our Mobile Check Deposit and pay your bills to vendors you have set up in your online banking account. Visit FirstNational.com for more information.
- Cozi: Cozi is a free app that allows you to manage your family’s busy calendar. It enables to you to keep track of school schedules, meals, chores and more, all in one place. The app also automatically syncs with Microsoft Outlook, so each member of your family can import and sync their calendars, so it’s always up to date. The Cozi calendar can be accessed through the app or on the website, so your family can always be in the loop. The app is available on Android and iOS.
- Bump: Bump allows two users to quickly share photos, contacts, apps and links by tapping their mobile devices together. It works cross-platform between iOS and Android users and is a quick, easy way to share information with others. The app is available on Android and iOs.
Interview Tips to Land Your Dream Job - Fall 2013
One of the most important steps of advancing your career and finding a job you love is landing and successfully navigating an interview. The following tips will help you make a great first impression and prove you are the best for the job.
- Plan Ahead: Prepare for commonly asked job interview questions in advance of your interview and research the company and position you are interviewing for. Align your responses with your past experiences and the requirements of the job. Practice answering the questions with a friend to refine your answers and talking points.
- Dress for Success: Appropriate interview attire will help you make a great first impression. Dress for the interview, not for the dress code of the organization. A professional and coordinated outfit will help you portray the image of the type of worker you will be.
- Be Aware of Body Language: During your interview, ensure that you sit up straight, maintain eye contact with the interviewer, and appear alert and interested in the conversation. Remaining energized and attentive throughout your interview will further showcase your interest in the job.
- Be Positive: Make positive statements about yourself and the opportunities you’ve had in the past. Avoid negative remarks regarding previous employers.
- Cite Concrete Examples: Stand out from other candidates by providing specific examples to any statements you make during the interview. For example, if the job requires teamwork, give a situational example where you succeeded in a team environment to make your skills more compelling.
- Avoid Certain Topics: During your first interview, you should avoid topics such as compensation, benefits or overtime. Your efforts should be focused on learning more about the position and the company, and sharing why you are the most qualified. The discussion surrounding compensation will happen later if the interviewer determines you are qualified for the job.
- Ask Questions: The questions you ask during an interview can further demonstrate your knowledge and interest in the company. Use the opportunity to ask questions to your advantage by asking about topics such as future career paths and training and development programs. Show your willingness to commit to a company and better yourself as an employee.
- Follow Up: Follow up with your interviewer within 24 hours with a thank you by either email or a hand-written thank you card. Use this opportunity to reiterate your interest and qualifications.
Refresh Your Summer Wardrobe on a Budget – Summer 2013
As the weather warms up and you are ready to swap out your winter and spring clothes for a brighter and cooler summer wardrobe, you can resist the urge to completely buy all new clothes by shopping in your own closet first. The following tips will help you organize and evaluate your current wardrobe and give new life to the pieces you already own to help you save.
- Take Inventory: By taking inventory of your closet, you may come across pieces you forgot about or discover opportunities for different outfit pairings. Donate clothes you no longer wear to declutter your closet and make your daily outfit choices easier.
- Accessorize: Pair your staples, such as a simple white tee and khaki shorts, with statement accessories. Colorful scarves, bold jewelry or trendy sandals are inexpensive ways to add some personality to a basic outfit.
- Mix Patterns & Colors: Give your wardrobe a fresh, summer look by mixing bright colors and fun patterns. Unexpected pairings will make a bold statement and jazz up your look.
- Frequent Consignment & Secondhand Stores: If you need to add to your wardrobe, seek out name brand and trendy apparel at your local consignment and secondhand stores instead of shopping at expensive department stores.
- Plan Ahead: Take advantage of any end-of-summer sales to get a head start on updating your wardrobe for next summer.
- Stick to your Budget: Set a budget and stick to it. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you need it. Constantly evaluate your wardrobe and make smart purchases by investing in staples that are comfortable and fit well.
Free Ways to Become Fit and Healthy – Summer 2013
Instead of spending your hard earned money on an expensive gym membership, take advantage of free ways to get fit and healthy within your own home. From using your stairs to tone your legs to free online workout videos to get your cardio in, remain both committed to your health and your budget.
- Find resources online by downloading free workout videos or podcasts or discovering healthy recipes and meal plans.
- If possible, cycle or walk to work. Not only is it beneficial for your health, it can help you save money on transportation or gas.
- Use stairs to your advantage. At work, opt to take the stairs instead of the elevator. At home, you can use your stairs to get in your cardio workout while toning your legs.
- Download a free app such as My Fitness Pal or Fitocracy to help you track your fitness, nutrition and weight loss goals.
- Watch your portion sizes. When cooking healthy meals at home, make sure you are maintaining a well-balanced diet and eating the appropriate portions.
- Partner with a friend or family member for a daily walk or job. Exercising with others can make workouts more fun and help motivate you to stick to the plan on a regular basis.
- Train for an organized run. Running is great for your health, plus having a goal and a deadline will help keep you motivated.
Regardless of your financial situation, these steps will help you start on the road to a healthy lifestyle with little financial risk.
5 Spring Home Do It Yourself Projects – Spring 2013
Shake off your winter blues and get your home ready for spring. From spring-cleaning to adding pops of color, the following five DIY home projects will help you brighten your home and embrace the season of spring.
- Make your own household cleaners. To kick off your spring cleaning and save, create your own non-toxic household cleaner with ingredients you already have on hand. For mirrors or windows, combine one part white vinegar, one part rubbing alcohol, and one part distilled water. Add a few drops of lemon or orange essential oil for a fresh scent. For an all-purpose cleaner, add 1 teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon of dish soap and 2 tablespoons of vinegar together in a spray bottle. Fill the remainder of the bottle with warm water and shake.
- Update an old vase. Update a plain vase by coating the outside with a few coats of spray paint to add texture or color. You can also use a paint pen to add a fun detailed pattern. Pick a fresh bouquet to add a splash of spring and color to your home.
- Create an herb garden. Save your glass jars or cans and create your own indoor herb garden. It will keep your cooking fresh while sprucing up the look and smell of your kitchen. Buy a small bag of potting soil and either seeds or young plants to get started. A few easy options for seeds include dill, basil and oregano. Keep the jars in a sunny area and the soil damp for best results.
- Add new art: Adding new art to your walls is an easy way to spruce up a room. Frame leftover fabric scraps or paint a canvas in bright colors. Order prints of your favorite family photos and create a mini gallery wall.
- Create no-sew curtains: Transform a bedding sheet or your favorite spring fabric into no-sew curtains. Simply cut the fabric to the desired length and width and use no-sew hemming tape to secure your hem. Purchase curtain rings to hang your new curtains on your curtain rod to give your room a renewed look and feel.
Dating on a Dime: 10 Affordable Date Ideas – Spring 2013
Date nights don’t have to break the bank to be enjoyable. A great date can be affordable while still being creative, unique and fun. The following 10 budget-friendly date ideas will help couples of all ages enjoy a special afternoon or evening together.
- Instead of dinner and a movie on a Saturday night, try brunch and a matinee on a Sunday afternoon to save on dining and ticket costs.
- Recreate a recipe from your favorite restaurant. Plan an appetizer, drink and dessert to go along with the main dish and spend the evening in the comfort of your own home enjoying time together preparing and enjoying the dinner, while saving big at the same time.
- Share a bottle of your favorite wine while planning your dream vacation. Then, put together a savings plan to help you get there. Visit firstnational.com to find one that's right for you.
- Plan a "staycation" in a neighborhood in your own city you'd love to explore. Save on travel costs but still enjoy a getaway, new restaurants and new experiences.
- Take a stroll at the Farmer's Market and put together a healthy picnic lunch to enjoy at the park.
- Register for a 5k-run or marathon together. Not only will this help you set aside training time each week to focus on yourselves, you can help motivate each other and see your mutual goal through to the end together.
- Start a club with friends or other couples. Pick a hobby you all enjoy - a book club, card club, or cooking club. Take turns hosting and bringing food and drink.
- Walk through a model home or open house in a neighborhood you'd like to live in someday. Envision your future as homeowners and have fun with the house hunting process.
- Whether it's the arcade and ice cream, or dinner and a game of mini-golf, relive your first date together.
- Spend a day helping those who are less fortunate by volunteering together at a local charity. It’s a completely free way to spend quality time together while supporting your community.
Savings Tips for Pet Owners – Winter 2012
Pets are loyal, lovable companions. However, expenses related to your pet can add up, from the initial adoption fees to the ongoing costs of food, vet bills, grooming and more. The average pet cost is about $875 per year, according to the ASPCA's Pet Care Costs chart. Luckily, there are ways to help cut this figure down. The following tips will help you save without sacrificing the health and safety of your pet.
Buy pet food in bulk, when possible, and avoid purchasing special-diet or gourmet food unless recommended by your veterinarian. Also, be sure not to over-feed your pet. Consult with your vet for the right amount to keep your pet healthy and happy and always use a measuring cup to serve the correct portion. Consider baking your own treats or biscuits, which can be less expensive and healthier for your pet.
Reduce future vet costs and expensive medical treatments by focusing on the preventative care of your pet. Take your pet on daily walks, clean his teeth on a regular basis, use flea and tick medication and keep your pet up to date on all vaccinations.
Train your pet to be well behaved and obedient without paying for a fancy obedience school. Visit your local humane society for discounted classes or use online resources or how-to books for at-home training.
While it's convenient to take your pet to the groomer, you can save money and easily groom your pet yourself to lengthen the amount of time between groomer visits, or even eliminate them completely. While grooming your pet yourself may have some upfront costs, it will save you more in the long-run. Invest in your own set of nail and fur clippers. Brush your pet daily and give him weekly baths to shampoo his fur to reduce matting and pet dander.
Important Financial Documents: Keep, Scan or Shred? – Winter 2012
If you are attempting to simplify your life and declutter your home office, it can be difficult deciding which important documents you can safely get rid of. While some financial documents should be saved for future reference, other documents can easily be scanned or shredded after a given period of time. The following guidelines will help you determine what you should keep on file and what is safe to discard.
- Tax returns should be kept for at least seven years, according to IRS.gov, for many reasons including if the IRS has a question about an item on one of your returns, to keep track of major expenses and to help you prepare future tax returns.
- IRA contributions should be kept indefinitely in case you ever need to prove to the IRS that you have already paid taxes on the IRA funds.
- Life insurance policies, wills and social security cards should also all be kept indefinitely, and it is recommended they are kept in a secure place such as a safe deposit box.
- Real estate records should be kept for the entire time you own your home, as well as seven years after selling for tax purposes. You should also keep records and receipts for any home improvements that add value to your property.
- Bank statements, including checking, savings and retirement account statements, should be kept for at least one year, but these can easily be archived by scanning or by signing up to receive paperless statements from your bank.
- Bills or receipts for large purchases should be kept for proof of insurance in case of loss or damage, but scan copies when the original document does not have added importance. Documents to scan may include medical bills, brokerage statements, home improvements, and big ticket purchase receipts.
- Real estate records should be kept for the entire time you own your home, as well as seven years after selling for tax purposes. You should also keep records and receipts for any home improvements that add value to your property.
- Paycheck stubs should be kept for one year. When receiving your W-2 at the end of the year, your paycheck stubs are validated by your total earnings on the W-2. It is then safe to shred the pay stubs.
- Warranty information can be shredded after expiring.
- Credit card bills can be shredded after you review the bill for any errors. Always opt for electronic statements, when possible.
While deciding what to keep can be difficult, future decisions can be made easier if you opt in to receive electronic or paperless statements whenever possible. First National Bank offers paperless statements to give you secure, convenient access to your records online. Enroll today at www.firstnational.com
Tailgating on a Budget – Fall 2012
Football season is back, which means your weekends will be full of tailgates with your friends and family. The following tips will help you save money on your tailgating parties while still having a great time cheering on your favorite team.
- Borrow tents, grills, coolers and chairs from friends and family instead of buying new. If you must buy new, shop around at local sports and camping goods stores, as well as chain discount retailers.
- Keep your menu simple and prepare and cook the meal yourself, instead of buying pre-made items or catering in. Determine the menu based on how many guests you will have. For larger crowds, buy items in bulk and purchase less-expensive cuts of meat. And you can always fall back on the always popular hot dogs, brats and hamburgers.
- Buy inexpensive disposable plates, glasses and utensils at the dollar store. Or consider purchasing a reusable set that you can continue to use year after year. While it may be more expensive upfront, you will get more use out of it and avoid future costs for disposables.
- Carpool to the game to limit parking costs and gas costs.
The best way to stick to your budget is have the entire group pitch in and pool together your resources. Don't be shy about asking your guests to contribute to make the party a success.
How to Save on your Cell Phone Bill – Fall 2012
Cell phone bills are on the rise with the gaining popularity of feature phones, smart phones, texting and data plans. It's important to take time each month to investigate your cell phone bill for potential savings. The following simple recommendations can help you save money and eliminate charges for unnecessary features.
Choose the Right Plan
Cell phone carriers offer a wide variety of plans, from voice only to unlimited data plans. Prioritize what uses you will have for your cell phone and determine which features you will actually need. Consider a family plan to help you save if you have multiple phones within your family. Remove all extra features you are being charged for, such as ring tones, games or application fees.
Examine Your Bill
Check your bill each month to ensure you are only being charged for the plan and features for which you signed up. Analyze your plan usage. If you are receiving overage charges, you may need to switch to what seems like a more expensive plan, but will most likely save you money once you have eliminated pricey overages. If you notice you are not using your full allotment of minutes, data usage or text messages, look into switching into a less expensive plan.
Ask for Loyalty Credits
If you have been with a carrier for a significant amount of time and are considering switching to a different provider, let your current carrier know and they may offer you a one-time loyalty credit or an on-going discount to encourage you to remain a customer.
Purchase a Prepaid Cell Phone
Instead of going with a major carrier, purchase a prepaid cell phone. Prepaid phone plans allow you the flexibility to purchase the amount of minutes you will actually use, without being tied to a long-term contract. First National's online calculator What's it worth to reduce my spending? can help you determine how much you will save over time by reducing your monthly cell phone bill, leading to significant long-term savings.