Save Money with Creative Christmas Gifts

Giving presents for Christmas

Exchanging gifts is a wonderful part of Christmas…and it doesn’t have to break your budget!

 

‘Tis the season to be merry! And ‘tis the season to spend probably more than you should. Gift giving at Christmas can put quite a strain on your wallet, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

 

You can still give wonderful presents this holiday without breaking the bank. If you already missed those Black Friday sales, never fear we are here to help you make this Christmas both fun and financially savvy.

 

Christmas shopping to find great presents for your loved ones is sometimes stressful as well as pricey. The perfect present doesn’t have to be expensive. Homemade gifts can be unique and won’t cost you nearly as much. There is usually more sentimental value to a homemade present as well. Making gifts that come from the heart is a great way to show someone you care this holiday season. If you aren’t a creative person, have no fear! Check out some of our homemade gift ideas:

 

  1. A photo collage. One of the best things about the holiday season is reflecting back on past memories. This year, create a photo collage for your loved ones that showcases the good times you’ve had together. You can print photos and make a handmade collage, or you could use a digital computer program or app on your smartphone to create your own collage. Then simply print a copy, put it in a festival holiday card, and you are good to go! For family and friends you won’t be seeing in person, e-mailing your photo collage can also be a great way to wish them a Merry Christmas.
  2. Make a memory jar. This idea is perhaps the most sentimental and one of the easiest to make on our list. All you need is a Mason jar, paper, and decorative ribbon. Once you decide who this gift is for, think of your favorite memories about them. Then cut paper into strips and write down a memory on each piece. Once you are finished, fold each slip and place them in the jar. You could do a memory slip for every day of the upcoming month or even the whole year. Once your jar is full take the ribbon and add a cute bow for a festive touch.
  3. Cookies. Seriously, who doesn’t love a good Christmas cookie? Sometimes the best presents are the ones we can eat! Baking cookies is an inexpensive and tasty way to spread holiday cheer. Complete the gift presentation by placing the cookies in a holiday themed tin.
  4. Make a cookie/brownie mix festive jar. If you don’t have time to actually make the cookies yourself, you can give your friends and family all they need to get baking on their own. There are many recipes online, so choose one you like and measure out the needed dry ingredients. Place the ingredients in a Mason jar. Then, tie a cute ribbon on the jar with the attached recipe for the sweet treat.
  5. Create your own tree ornament. This one can take you back to grade school days, but making homemade Christmas ornaments is a great way to send a little holiday spirit with your gifts. There are many DIY ornament tutorials on the internet to choose from. We suggest checking out your local craft store to get started.
  6. Build a gingerbread house. Depending on your baking skills, you could either create your gingerbread house from scratch or purchase an inexpensive, pre-made kit. This particular present is great for families as it allows you to spend quality time together.
  7. Make a music mix. Who says mixed tapes are a thing of the past? Maybe the cassette tape part is, but you can give it a digital upgrade. Creating a playlist mix for your friends to download or even going a little old school by burning them a CD is a fun, yet inexpensive present. Choose songs that remind you of that person. This shows you truly care.
  8. Create a “coupon book.” This present is particularly good for your partner or spouse. Make “coupons” for various household chores; for example doing the laundry, vacuuming, and/or cooking dinner. You can create each coupon by hand or design them using your computer. Punch holes at the top of each coupon and then tie your coupons together with festive ribbon. This is a fun and easy gift, but just make sure you are ready in the future when your coupons are cashed in!
  9. Design a calendar. This gift is one that is great for anyone, especially your relatives. You can create your very own calendar on your computer. Choose pictures of your family or pictures you think the gift receiver would like for each month. Simply print your calendar pages and then use a three-hole punch to place holes in the top of each page. Tie your pages together with ribbon or yarn. And just like that you have the perfect gift that will last the whole year.
  10. Make a scarf and/or hat. As winter approaches, scarves and hats are must have items that you can never have too many of. If you know how to sew or crochet, these are perfect and easy presents to make. If you don’t know how to sew or crochet, never fear as there are several DIY tutorials on the internet to choose from.

 

If homemade gifts still aren’t your thing, keep your eyes peeled for any last minute holiday deals. Typically stores will have sales right before Christmas, so if you can handle the last minute rush this might be the best option for you.

Happy Holidays!

Saving Money In College

Jar with label and money on the table.

College is an exciting time. For many college freshmen it’s the first step to “freedom.” However, with that freedom often comes a new responsibility; managing money on your own for the first time. Doing so without the watchful eye of mom and dad can be quite stressful as well. There are ways to avoid becoming the “broke college student” stereotype. Being mindful of your finances and creating a budget is step number one.

A college student’s budget doesn’t have to be overly complicated. A simple budget outlining how much money you receive and what your expected expenses are each month is a good way to start. Adding an allowance for extra activities, such as special events, games and concerts, is another aspect to include in your budget. By setting an allowance, you are less likely to overspend. This also means you will still have money available for necessary purchases, such as textbooks and meal plan costs.

Opening a checking account is another great tool for college students to better manage their money. Not only does a checking account provide a safe and secure place to keep money, it also can make sticking with a budget easier. At Ohio Valley Bank, customers’ ages 16-25 are eligible to open a Right Start Checking account. This account is perfect for students on a tight budget as there is no monthly service fee. Right Start Checking customers are also allowed five free non-OVB ATM transactions per month. In addition, Right Start Checking enables access to eDelivery statements as well as free online and mobile banking. Mobile banking is especially beneficial to college students who are attending school away from home. Through this feature, students are able to deposit a check using their smartphone from the comfort of their dorm room! By taking advantage of mobile banking students can keep their relationship with their hometown bank.

There are other steps college students can take to cut costs. We recommend the following tips to make the most of your college experience without breaking the bank:

1. Look for student discounts. Many businesses and restaurants offer student discounts, however this is not always advertised. Make sure to keep your college I.D. with you at all times and ask if there are student discounts available. This can help you save tremendously.

2. Avoid spending too much on textbooks. Of course textbooks are a necessary item for most classes, however the cost for such items can vary greatly. Most new versions of textbooks in campus bookstores will carry a high price tag. However, many bookstores offer cheaper, used versions of the same textbooks for purchase at a much lower cost. In addition, retailers such as Amazon.com, usually offer textbooks at a significantly reduced price. At the end of the semester, most bookstores will allow you to sell back your textbooks as well.

3. Limit off campus dining. If you are already paying for a college meal plan, make sure you are actually using it. While it may be tempting to frequent restaurants with friends or order pizza with roommates, it can also be a contributing factor to quickly running out of spending money.

4. Avoid extra ATM charges. Be careful when using ATMs that are not affiliated with your financial institution. Additional service fees often result if you do not have an account with the ATMs institution. If your bank does not have an ATM near campus, take advantage of cash back opportunities when using your debit cards at businesses that offer this service, such as grocery stores. Also, ask your bank if they belong to a surcharge free network such as Money Pass.

5. Use credit wisely. College might be a time when you get your first credit card. However, it’s important to remember that a credit card doesn’t equate to “free money.” A credit card can be a great way to build your credit if you use it responsibly. Make sure to not spend more than you have with a credit card. Only use the card when you know you have enough money to pay the balance. Before choosing a credit card be sure to research the card’s annual percentage rate as well as any annual fees and penalty fees that might be associated with it.

6. Consider working a part-time job. If you have time to balance a part-time job while you are in school it can be a good way to earn extra money. Many colleges offer work study programs on campus to qualifying students.
7. SAVE. Even though college budgets are usually pretty tight, try to always keep money aside in savings. Saving money while in college can help you pay off your debt faster when you graduate. It’s never too early to think about your future, especially when it comes to your finances.

College is a time of learning, growth, and excitement. Hopefully these tips will help you on your successful college journey. Best wishes for what is sure to be a wonderful school year!

Ohio’s “Tax Free” Weekend Kicks-Off Aug. 5

Back to School.

It’s Back To School Time!

Temperatures might still feel hot, but summer is already coming to a close as students prepare to head back to school in the coming weeks.

Going back to school means it’s time for most students to stock up on school supplies. As new clothing for school as well as other items, such as binders and notebooks, can be quite pricey it is a good idea to take advantage of Ohio’s upcoming tax free weekend. The tax free weekend begins Friday, Aug. 5 at midnight and will continue through Sunday, Aug. 7 at 11:59 p.m.

The tax free holiday will give customers and students the chance to purchase many school-necessary items at a lower price. Items that will be exempt from sales and use tax include clothing priced at $75 per item or less; school supplies priced at $20 per item or less; and school instructional material priced at $20 per item or less. Ohio is one of only 20 states participating in this year’s tax free holiday.

Clothing is perhaps one of the most expensive items needed for school, and tax free weekend is the perfect time to buy. Since the rule states under $75 PER individual item, you may purchase any number of clothing pieces within that price. Most clothing that meets the under $75 price tag is included in the tax free holiday. Examples of items not eligible include sports equipment, such as ballet shoes, spiked athletic shoes; and mouth guards. Accessories, such as hair bows, purses, wallets, and sunglasses, also are not eligible. Items purchased for use in a trade or business are also excluded.

According to www.freetaxweekend.com the following types of clothing are under the tax free umbrella:

  1. Shirts
  2. Blouses
  3. Sweaters
  4. Pants
  5. Shorts
  6. Skirts
  7. Dresses
  8. Uniforms (athletic and nonathletic)
  9. Shoes
  10. Underwear/socks/hosiery/pantyhose/
  11. Coats and jackets
  12. Gloves/mittens/hats/caps/ear muffs
  13. Belts
  14. Neckties and scarves
  15. Aprons (household and shop)
  16. Lab Coats
  17. Bathing suits and caps
  18. Baby receiving blankets
  19. Diapers (including children and adult)
  20. Formal Wear and wedding apparel

With a large variety of basic school supplies eligible for the tax free holiday, plan to save money on these items as well. School supplies accepted include: binders; book bags; calculators; cellophane tape; blackboard chalk; compasses; composition books; crayons; erasers; folders (expandable, pocket, plastic, and manila); glue; paste; paste sticks; highlighters; index cards; index card boxes; legal pads; lunch boxes; markers; notebooks; paper; loose leaf ruled notebook paper; copy paper; graph paper; tracing paper; manila paper; colored paper; poster board; construction paper; pencil boxes and other school supply boxes; pencil sharpeners; pencils; pens; protractors; rulers; scissors; and writing tablets. Items excluded from this list are taxable. In addition, any item purchased for use in a trade or business will not be tax free.

School instructional materials eligible for the tax free holiday include only the following: reference books; reference maps; globes; textbooks; and workbooks.

If you have a coupon offered by the retailer to reduce the price of an eligible item to $20, the item will qualify for tax exemption. For more information on what types of coupons/discounts accepted as well as more details regarding tax free weekend, visit www.freetaxweekend.com/ohio-tax-free-weekend/.

As always we encourage you to shop local and think Community First as you purchase your back to school necessities!

Valentine’s Day the Affordable Way

heart shaped pizza

Pink hearts, romantic greeting cards, chocolates, and red roses now adorn practically every store aisle. Yes, the season of love is upon us as Valentine’s Day is fast approaching.

Often the holiday all about love quickly turns into commercialism, which makes for an expensive Valentine’s Day. But don’t fret love birds! There are plenty of ways to celebrate Cupid’s big day without breaking the bank.

Just like an arrow to the heart, we are sending you some tips to make this an affordable and special Valentine’s Day with your loved one:

  1. Cook a special dinner at home. Skip the restaurant wait and expense and opt for an evening in. Cooking a nice dinner for your loved one whether it be their favorite dish or a Valentine’s Day themed meal is a great way to make your evening both special and affordable. Not to mention eating at home is a more intimate atmosphere compared to sharing a crowded, loud restaurant with other couples.
  2. Order a heart-shaped pizza. Ok so cooking isn’t really your thing. Never fear, pizza is here! Many pizza chains and local eateries offer a heart-shaped pizza deal for Valentine’s Day. This means you can avoid the mess of cooking and still stay in. Oh and best of all you get pizza. Sometimes you just need to give in to the heart-shaped everything and what better way to do so than with a pizza?
  3. See a matinée. If a romantic comedy or really just any blockbuster flick is on your Valentine’s Day date to-do list consider hitting up a matinée instead of an evening show. Not only will you likely avoid more crowds at a matinée, but you will also save money.
  4. Have your own movie night. If the matinée idea doesn’t thrill you, extend your Valentine’s Day in with a movie night of your own. You and your date could select a few movies each, make some microwave popcorn, and enjoy a cinema-like experience minus the crowds and ticket price.
  5. Take a walk. Even if it’s cold outside this Valentine’s Day throw on some coats and take a walk or hike somewhere. A stroll at your local park or a hike on a nearby trail is not only free, but makes for a lovely, intimate date. If it’s a first date taking a walk together is a great way to get to know your partner. If you have been in a relationship with your Valentine for quite some time, going on a walk can also be a great opportunity to simply catch up and just enjoy being with each other. Walking also helps your physical heart, which is an added bonus.
  6. Organize a group game night. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to just be romantic. Hosting a group game night with your friends can be a fun and inexpensive way to celebrate. Have everyone bring their favorite board or card game for variety.
  7. Make your own present. Homemade gifts are a great way to show that you care. Not only do they mean more than store-bought items, but they are also easier on your wallet. You don’t need to be crafty to make a gift for your Valentine. You could go old school and create a music playlist for your special someone. If you are feeling ambitious a hand-made card is always a lovely, personal touch. Another idea for a present is to make a decorative jar filled with messages about your loved one. For example, you could write something you like about your partner on pieces of paper and instruct them to pull a piece of paper from the jar every day for the rest of the month. This way you could spread the love well past Valentine’s Day. If none of these suit you Pinterest is filled with many great ideas for sentimental, homemade presents.
  8. Have a progressive dinner with friends. A way to make your Valentine’s Day both fun and affordable is to put together a progressive dinner with a group of friends. The way a progressive dinner works is one couple will host the appetizer, while the other hosts the main course, and the next hosts the dessert. You travel to each person’s home for the event, which makes for a fun evening out that still adheres to your budget.
  9. Enjoy each other’s hobbies. Plan to partake in a hobby your partner enjoys and then in exchange they can do something you like. For example, if your Valentine likes playing video games offer to play as well. If they enjoy painting, paint with them. Then, in exchange, they can join you for an activity or hobby you like. Making time for each other’s interests is a great way to connect with someone and shows you truly care.
  10. Take advantage of your OVB Visa Rewards. You can save money and have the perfect Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart by using your Scorecard rewards points. For example, the points could be used on an overnight romantic getaway. Booking your stay is simple as you can do it directly from the EZCard site.

With the above tips hopefully you can make this a wonderful Valentine’s Day without going over your budget. After all like The Beatles said, “money can’t buy me love.” Happy Valentine’s Day!

Make Successful New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year Hat Times Square New YorkJust like that another year is coming to a close. As we prepare to bid 2015 farewell, many people are busy coming up with their 2016 New Year’s resolutions.

Ah New Year’s resolutions—those lofty goals we set to start the New Year right but often see ourselves failing to maintain as early as February. This year, however, just maybe we can all stick to our resolutions with some better planning.

By adhering to the following tips you might be able to make and KEEP your New Year’s resolutions for 2016: Read more of this post

Making the Most of Your Fair Winnings

by Hope Roush, OVB Financial Literacy Leader

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Just like that another fair season has come and gone in a flash. While kids are now moving their focus from fair projects to books and school, it’s never too early to begin thinking about next year’s fair. Read more of this post

Shopping for Professional Attire on a Budget

jackets and shirts

Shopping on a budget can be a challenge. The challenge can be even greater when you are looking to update your professional work attire on a budget.

Many jobs require a professional or business casual dress appearance, and maintaining a work appropriate look isn’t always the easiest on your wallet. However, there are ways that you can look stylish and work appropriate while not breaking the bank. When setting your professional attire budget, you should first read over your workplace’s dress code. Knowing what is and isn’t work appropriate is the first step. Once you have a good understanding of what clothing types are permitted, you can get started.

Taking care of the basics before buying any extra is a good place to begin when shopping for your professional attire. Purchasing the basic clothing items you need first will allow you to better budget for extra pieces, such as ties and/or accessories. Examples of basic professional attire pieces include:

  1. Work appropriate dress slacks in neutral colors, such as black or grey.
  2. Work appropriate dress skirts and dresses in neutral colors, such as black or grey.
  3. Appropriately styled blouses/button-downs/dress shirts in neutral and basic colors, including white, tan, grey, navy and black.
  4. A nice pair of denim jeans for casual work days.

When shopping for your “basic work attire” staples, a good way to save money is to shop in the “off season.” Typically during the autumn and winter months, prices for items such as dress slacks will be more expensive. However, during the spring and summer time these items often go on the sale rack because they are considered “out of season” by many retailers. By stocking up while the items are on sale, you not only save but are able to purchase more items while doing so as well. Shopping during the “off season” for other wardrobe essentials can help you save tremendously.

Once your basics are taken care of, look for clothing pieces that you can mix and match to create different looks without spending any extra money to do so. For women, a good example would be to pair a colorful cardigan with a blouse and dress pants one day and then to wear the cardigan with a skirt or over a dress another day. Men can easily change up their everyday work look by simply wearing a different tie with the same shirt and slacks. In addition, statement pieces, such as jewelry, scarves, ties and pocket squares can be purchased at discount prices for less, but drastically offer your work attire more variety without spending too much money.

Another rule of thumb is to purchase pieces that can be dressed up for work as well as dressed down for more casual functions. This not only cuts costs from your work attire spending, but helps you save money on your general clothing purchases as well. An example would be a nice blouse or polo shirt that could work with both dress slacks as well as a pair of denim jeans. When shopping for work shoes try to keep this idea in mind as well. Make sure that the shoes you choose could easily be dressed up or down depending on circumstance.

Keeping an eye out for sales at local retailers as well as shopping at factory outlet-type stores can further help you save money when building your work appropriate wardrobe. It doesn’t hurt to compare brand prices store to store as well. Many retailers will often match the price of an item to another store that is currently selling the piece for less.

Finally, keeping track of your current work attire can help you save money. If it’s time to purchase new items, consider putting your gently used clothing in a yard sale to help earn extra money to pay for new pieces. This could be done as easily as posting the clothing items you wish to sell on a social networking site, such as Facebook. Knowing what you already have will also help you determine the pieces you need. Remember to always focus on what you need first rather than what you want. It’s also important to keep track of what you purchase, which will help you stick to your budget as well.

Good luck and happy shopping!