Don’t Miss These 5 Opportunities for Automatic Savings

By Janet Alvarez, Wise Bread

Most of us understand that saving regularly is one of the simplest ways to reach our financial goals, but we don’t all take advantage of easy ways to automate our savings. As part of America Saves Week, we’ve devised a list of five automatic savings opportunities that are often overlooked. These go a step beyond mere automatic transfers from checking to savings. They’re easy, straight-forward ways to save money automatically that most of us don’t take advantage of yet, and they increase your chances of reaching your goals even faster.

1.  Direct Deposit Your Tax Refund Into Savings
According to the IRS, the average American’s tax refund now stands at over $3,100. Don’t let that windfall slip through your fingers. Deposit all or part of it into your savings account, instead, and watch your money grow. Plus, the IRS allows direct deposits into one or more accounts, such as a checking and savings account, which means you can choose to spend a portion and save the rest. (I’d recommend saving all you can.) Conveniently, you can also direct deposit all or part of your refund into your Individual Retirement Account (IRA), or use it to purchase up to $5,000 in U.S. Series I Savings Bonds. You can split your refund using tax preparation software, or Form 8888, if you use paper filing.

2. Don’t Forget Bonuses or Commissions
Do you get quarterly or yearly bonuses? Are commissions a part of your earnings? Then don’t forget to direct deposit all or part of these funds into your savings. Consult with your employer about direct depositing the funds into your savings account, or set up automatic transfers from your checking to savings accounts when you expect the funds.

Another alternative? Increase the contributions on your employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k), during those times you receive extra earnings. It’ll help you max out your contributions faster and earn any applicable company match to boost your savings even further. Consult with your HR representative or your company’s online retirement plan portal to manage your contributions.

3. Save Your Spare Change
Some banks and credit unions offer programs which automatically round up to the next dollar on any purchases you make, and transfer the spare change from your checking to savings account. These programs are free, and provide a fool-proof way to jumpstart your savings and always pay yourself first. You probably won’t miss the spare change in your checking account, but your savings will sure be glad for the extra boost. Even small amounts saved over time add up.

4. Credit Card Rewards Can Boost Savings, Too
Many popular credit cards rewards programs offer several rewards options, ranging from airline miles or hotel points to cash back. Sadly, many credit card rewards perks often go unused, making them less than rewarding. But if you choose to receive rewards in the form of cash back, instead, many cards will deposit the rewards sum directly into an account of your choice. If you’re limited to receiving the funds into checking, you can always transfer the funds to savings. Either way, you’re boosting your savings painlessly. Don’t forget to pay off the balance on your card at the end of every month to avoid costly interest fees, otherwise you’ll spend more on interest than you’ll receive in rewards.

5. Set Your Savings Rate Higher
So, you think you’re a savings pro now that you’ve got regular transfers or direct deposits into your savings account? Well, you can go a step further still by periodically increasing your savings rate, whether to your employer-sponsored retirement plan or your savings account. Many 401(k) plans allow users to opt-in to periodic increases in their savings rates, such as a 1 percent increase in their contributions per year. If you prefer to contribute to a savings account or other savings vehicle, consider increasing your contributions regularly, such as every time you get a raise.

Having the foresight to automate your savings can help you beat temptation and stay ahead financially. And the techniques described above are easy ways to take your savings to the next level.

Janet Alvarez is the Executive Editor for Wise Bread and a contributor to TheStreet.com and U.S. News & World Report.

Back to School Time

Back to school vector sketch lettering and hand drawn watercolor alarm clock.

It’s back to school time!

 

Now that students have soaked up the summer sun, it’s time to dust off the books and head back to school.

A new school year brings with it change as well as many new challenges. Often these challenges can cause many parents financial stress. From the increasing costs of school supplies, clothing, athletics, and meals, many families find their budgets becoming a little tighter during the academic year. However, there are ways to save money with proper planning.

When it comes to school lunches the amount parents spend can vary greatly. Fortunately in our local area, many schools offer a free lunch program. However, if your child’s school does not have such program in place or if you have a picky eater you can still find ways to cut costs. Budgeting is key when making school lunches. Advance planning is also helpful. By knowing about how much lunch costs will be you can create menus early. Take advantage of coupons and deals when grocery shopping. In addition, stock your pantry with lunch items that have a long shelf life so you will be set for weeks to come. Involve your child in the planning of meals as well. Not only do they learn a financial lesson on budgeting and costs, but it also assures that the food you pack won’t go to waste.

School supplies are another costly back to school expense. If you missed out on your state’s tax free holiday or if your state did not have such event, there are still ways you can save money. With many retailers having rolled out their school supplies mid-summer, now is the time to check for sales. Once your child begins classes be sure to look through their school provided items. If you purchased items that the school also provided, either return your items or put them aside for next school year. In addition, many schools gladly accept donations of school supplies.

If you still haven’t finished your back to school clothes shopping, check area retailers for seasonal sales. Generally as late fall/winter clothing are already front and center on the racks in most stores, many retailers often have their summer/early fall clothing prices slashed. Taking advantage of off-season sales can make a huge difference on your wallet. Keep this in mind as you shop throughout the school year as well. Also, take advantage of your local consignment shops. Many consignment shops offer fashionable clothing for kids at a significantly lower price. Purchasing clothing at consignment shop prices also can be the perfect opportunity for parents who find themselves buying more kids clothing than usual due to their child’s ongoing growth spurts. In addition, many consignment shops will offer credit in exchange for gently used clothes.

Locally, Cabell County students returned to school last week. Other area schools are scheduled to start on the following dates:

 

  • Jackson City Schools – Wednesday, August 17
  • Wellston Local Schools – Wednesday, August 17
  • Gallia County Schools – Wednesday, August 17
  • Mason County Schools – Thursday, August 18
  • Oak Hill Union Local Schools – Monday, August 22
  • Gallipolis City Schools – Tuesday, August 23
  • Meigs Local Schools – Wednesday, August 24
  • Western Local Schools – Wednesday, August 24
  • Southern Local Schools – Wednesday, August 24
  • Waverly City Schools – Thursday, August 25
  • Eastern Local Schools (Pike) – Thursday, August 25
  • Eastern Local Schools (Meigs) –Thursday, August 25

 

Ohio Valley Bank offers best wishes for another great school year. For information on OVB’s financial literacy programs, visit www.ovbc.com or e-mail OVB Financial Literacy Leader Hope Roush at hdroush@ovbc.com.

Save Money During Your Summer Vacation

beach_sun

School is out, the sun is beaming and temperatures are rising. This can only mean one thing: summer has arrived! Along with warmer weather, summer is typically vacation season for many families.

 

Summer vacations are a great way to relax and take in new experiences. However, the stress of money spent on trips can often damper the getaway fun. Typically food costs along with the expense of experiences during vacations means shelling out more cash than your budget generally allows.

 

With proper planning the stress of vacation money troubles can be eliminated. If you plan to fly, check for airlines that offer special deals, such as a free bag check. If this isn’t an option consider only bringing a carry-on for your trip. Take advantage of the free beverage and snacks available on the plane instead of spending money on overpriced food at the airport and during your flight. Avoiding extra airline fees can make a world of difference when it comes to vacation costs.

Read more of this post

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

Ohio to Offer Tax-Free Back to School Shopping

Back to school lettering with books, pencils and apple over chalkboard background

It may still feel like summer outside, but area students are preparing to head back to school in a few weeks. With the upcoming school year comes the need for new supplies. To help save on costs, Ohio will be hosting the state’s first-ever tax holiday on back-to-school purchases Aug. 7-9. 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

Financial Tips for High School Graduates Headed to College

by Hope Roush, OVB Financial Literacy Leader

studentwalkingThe hard work finally pays off and just like that high school is over. For many recent high school graduates the next step leads to college, which can be both exciting and scary.

A good way to get the college journey off on the right foot is to be financially prepared. One of the first steps a new college student can take is to open a checking account. Many banks offer student accounts. For example, at Ohio Valley Bank customers’ ages 16-25 can take advantage of Right Start Checking. With this account there is no monthly service fee, which is very helpful to college students. Through Right Start Checking, customers also have access to eDelivery statements as well as free online and mobile banking. A checking account helps with budgeting and managing money as well.

In fact, creating a Read more of this post