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!

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.

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OVB BANKit! wraps another successful year

By Hope Roush, OVB Financial Literacy Leader

bankitsupplies

The 2015-2016 school year ended about as quickly as it started. Once again Ohio Valley Bank worked to promote financial literacy within our area high schools. This year’s OVB BANKit! program took place in six participating schools.

The program, which was launched in 2010, reached students at Gallia Academy High School, River Valley High School and South Gallia High School in Ohio as well as Point Pleasant High School, Wahama High School and the Mason County Career Center in West Virginia. Approximately 360 students completed the program this year. Read more of this post

Presidential Trivia Time

A collage of various people appearing on United States currency

American presidents have been appearing on United States currency for almost 200 years now. Over that time designs have changed, denominations were introduced and removed from circulation, and the entire American economy has switched how it is backed. From starting with the silver standard, then to the gold standard, to being backed by no precious metals during the Civil War, then to a bi-metal standard, and finally to the gold standard again with the Gold Standard Act of 1900.

Several types of banknotes have been issued by the U.S. government over the years, with multiple types of banknotes even being circulated at the same time. Federal Reserve Notes were issued in 1914 and have been the only type of banknotes issued since 1971, which is the last year that United States Notes were issued. The present denominations of U.S. currency in production are $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. U.S. coins are currently made in six denominations: cent, nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar, and dollar. In honor of Presidents Day, here is a little bit of trivia regarding the POTUS that appear on those notes and coins:

  • Most Common: Our first president, George Washington, appears on the $1 bill. The average lifespan of these bills is just 22 months, thus their production accounts for approximately 45% of all U.S. paper currency.
  • Most Misunderstood: Thomas Jefferson is depicted on the $2 bill. Due to the bill’s low demand a very low number are printed. Since it is so infrequently seen in circulation, this has led to confusion among many as to the bill’s legitimacy as legal tender. The Treasury Department receives so many inquiries about this bill that they have included it on the FAQ portion of their website.a screenshot of treasury.gov explaining that $2 bills are valid legal tender
  • Still Standing: Ulysses S. Grant adorns the $50 bill, and has since 1913. This is despite two separate attempts by Congress to replace his likeness with that of Ronald Reagan.
  • About Face: President Abraham Lincoln’s profile graces the U.S. one-cent coin, and has the distinction of being the only person depicted facing right rather than left. According to the Treasury, they have no explanation for this and suggest it was a decision made by the original artist.
  • Isn’t it Ironic?: The $20 bill depicts 13th president Andrew Jackson, a fact he might not be too fond of. Jackson actually cautioned America to abandon the paper money system in his farewell address. Whoops.
  • Marching Forward: Franklin Delano Roosevelt has graced the dime since January 1946, just 11 months after he passed away. But why the dime? FDR founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to help eradicate polio, the foundation had huge success with a campaign asking people to mail in just a dime to help support the cause. You may know the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis by another name though: The March of Dimes.
  • Hair Raiser: After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Congress moved quickly to honor him. Originally intending to replace Washington on the quarter his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, nixed the idea and less than a year after his death half-dollar coins bearing his likeness were issued. However the first proofs made were not met with the former First Lady’s approval as she felt the coins made JFK’s hair stand out too much. Changes to the dye made the president’s hair appear less prominent and the coins were released to the public. Those proofs became known as the “accented hair” half-dollars and are now quite valuable among coin collectors.
  • Double Duty: Several presidents appear on both paper currency as well as coins. President Abraham Lincoln has the distinction of appearing on both the $5 bill and the penny; and George Washington is on the $1 bill and the quarter; while Thomas Jefferson resides on the $2 bill as well as the nickel.

 

While we’ve focused on presidents appearing on currency and coins in production today, here are some bonus tidbits for you

  • Three historical figures share the distinction of having their likeness on United States money today: Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Sacagawea. Franklin appears on the $100 bill, and was of course one of America’s founding fathers, a noted inventor, author, scientist, and diplomat. Hamilton appears on the $10 bill, was another founding father, famous for writing The Federalist Papers, and was the first Secretary of Treasury. Sacagawea appears on the dollar coin, she was the Shoshone interpreter who was vital in guiding the famous Lewis and Clark expedition.
  • Despite having never been president, Benjamin Franklin has the distinction of appearing on the largest bill, as production of the $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 bills ended in 1959.
  • As mentioned above there have been two attempts to replace Ulysses S. Grant with Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill. In total however seven pieces of legislation have been introduced to put President Reagan on U.S. currency. Twice on the $50 bill, twice to replace Hamilton on the $10 bill, once to replace Jackson on the $20 bill, once to replace JFK on the half-dollar, and once to replace FDR on the dime.
  • President Woodrow Wilson made his appearance on the $100,000 bill. This note is the largest denomination of currency ever produced. It was used only for official transactions between Federal Reserve Banks and was not circulated among the general public.

Despite being a relatively young nation the currency of the United States has a long and interesting history, too varied to cover in this blog post. For example, did you know that Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court (and namesake of Marshall University) John Marshall was once featured on a $20 Treasury Note and a $500 Federal Note? It’s true! Also other presidents have been featured on U.S. money, including James Madison, Grover Cleveland, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Recently the Treasury announced they were redesigning the $10 bill and launched TheNew10.gov to accept feedback and keep the public updated on their progress. Since the process of selecting portraits and designs of U.S. currency falls under the sole purview of The Secretary of the Treasury this level of transparency is unprecedented and of great interest to numismatics. If you are interested in learning more about America’s money we recommend visiting the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website at https://www.treasury.gov and your local library.

Save Money with Summer Staycation

Family laying in tent on lawn

Camping in the backyard is fun, easy, & cheap!

The summer season is often associated with travel. Every year many families pack up and head to the beach, amusement park, or other vacation destination. While vacations are fun, they can also be quite expensive – especially for families.

There are ways to enjoy summer fun without breaking the bank. Staycations are a popular option for both fun and frugality. It might seem boring to not travel far for your vacation, but with a little creativity you could end up having a great time.

Here are some great low-cost ideas to help you save money as well as make the most of your staycation:

  1. Explore your local area or nearby towns/cities. While you may live in and/or work in a town, you might have missed some of its “nooks and crannies.” Even if you’ve lived in the same place your entire life, there could still be some places you’ve never been or didn’t even know existed. Consider it an adventure!
  2. Visit your local parks or outdoor walking trails. This can be a great way to relax and let the kids have some fun. In addition, parks and walking trails enable you to enjoy the sunshine as well as get in some great exercise. To make it a day of fun bring a picnic lunch along.
  3. Check out your town and surrounding areas for museums. Not only are museums educational, but many local ones offer an unique experience. Several museums also offer special events and classes.
  4. Keep an eye out for any local festivals that might be occurring in your area. Many of these summer festivals often offer free concerts, activities for kids, and fun for the entire family to enjoy.
  5. Have a special movie-night in. Allow each member of the family to select a movie of their choice. Pick movies from your home collection or see what Redbox, Amazon Prime and Netflix have to offer. Settle in with some microwave popcorn and have a relaxing, entertaining time in your family room-turned cinema!
  6. Go camping from the comfort of your own backyard. If you have the supplies, set up a tent and spend the whole night under the stars. If you don’t own the necessary sleeping supplies, you can still enjoy the fun parts of camping like sharing ghost stories around the fire pit or roasting s’mores.
  7. Start a new project. Maybe you’ve been wanting to better organize your home? A staycation could be the perfect time to finally do so. Other projects could include taking up a new sport or hobby.
  8. A staycation is the perfect opportunity to take an art class. Many places now offer one night paint lessons, where you not only learn but also end up with your very own artistic creation that you get to take home. This could be a great activity for the entire family to enjoy.
  9. Consider going unplugged for the week. In today’s fast-paced technology savvy society, we often don’t realize just how much time we spend looking at our smart phones or surfing the web. Turn off your devices, except for emergency uses, and just enjoy being together as a family. This could leave you feeling rejuvenated after your vacation and ready to return to work.
  10. Go Geocatching in your local area. Geocatching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geochache (container) hidden at that location. Your local Chamber of Commerce, library, or visitors’ bureau is a great place to get started.
  11. Not into Geocatching? Instead you could create your own scavenger hunt for your family to enjoy. Offer prizes to winners, such as “no chores for a week” or “choose dinner for one evening.”
  12. Have a “theme day” with your family. For example, you could do a tropical theme and decorate for the occasion as well as enjoy a seafood meal.
  13. Check out your local library. In addition to having a variety of books and movies to choose from, many libraries offer special events and activities during the summer months.
  14. Host a family game night. From board games to console selections, you could even turn the event into a tournament with prizes for winners.
  15. Plan to see a sporting event together. While MLB games are always an option, costs can add quickly for a family. Fortunately, there are many minor league affiliates to choose from that offer a much lower ticket price. Research to see which minor league teams are near your area.
  16. Visit an area theme park or zoo. You might have to travel a couple hours to do this, but it would be a wonderful day trip for everyone to enjoy.
  17. Hit up your local swimming pool or waterpark. What better way to enjoy the summer sun than with some water fun?
  18. Go see a local theatre production. This is a great way to spend the evening out as well as support your area arts programs.

These are just a few of many ideas to make the most of your staycation together. Remember a summer vacation doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun!

Classic “Dadisms” About Money

Fathers Day Tools

Dads tend to have a funny way of expressing themselves don’t they? I chalk it up to the fact that most dads have a repertoire of favorite sayings they always use. You know the ones, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” or “Rub some dirt on it, you’ll be fine” and the always classic “Don’t make me turn this car around!”. These oft-spoken phrase are known as dadisms and for Father’s Day I thought I’d share a few classic dadisms that pertain to money…

  •  Money doesn’t grow on trees you know. Score one for old dad because money, in fact, does not grow on trees. I can hear all the smart mouths out there saying: “But paper comes from trees and money is made of paper so there!” I know they’re saying it because it’s what I said to my dad whenever he told me this. Well it’s knowledge time kids: today’s American bills are actually made of about 75% cotton and 25% linen. So go easy on your dad, he’s just trying to impress on you the fact that money doesn’t come easy, and you don’t want to waste it.
  • Do I look like I’m made of money? A classic dadism. No dad, of course you don’t look like you’re made of money, because as your child I would also then be made of money, and therefore wouldn’t need to bug you for $20 so I can run to the comic book store. This is of course just another weird way that our fathers were trying to get us to think about money more critically, instead of just buying every shiny thing that caught our little eye.
  • Were you raised in a barn? or Are you trying to heat/cool the whole outside? Ah, this one may be my favorite. Anyone who didn’t close the door fast enough, or left it open because they “were just going to be a second then I was going right back outside dad! Geez!” probably heard this tried-but-true favorite of dads everywhere. What we fail to understand as children (well, one of the many things) is the concept of utilities. “You mean we don’t just get unlimited water and electricity for free? Yeah right dad, pull the other one.” But once we get a little older, have our own place, and are paying our own electric bill we quickly understand that our wise dads were just trying to get us not to waste money. (Special mention goes to moms for their variation of this phrase that applies to kids who stand with the refrigerator door open for extended periods of time trying to figure out what they wanted to eat.)
  • If it were easy then everyone would do it. Another very popular dadism but this is just the plain and simple truth. Thanks dad, for helping us all learn that hard work and perseverance is what will get us ahead in life.

Even if it might sound like gibberish or the insane ramblings of an over-worked, middle-aged man on the brink, more often than not dads actually do know what they’re talking about. They just have a weird way of getting the message across. So be thankful our dads passed these phrases along, many of us will be using them on our own kids one day.

13 Money Superstitions for Friday the 13th

friday 13th

Friday the 13th is the one day (or more than one depending on how the calendar falls) when everyone seems to get at least a little superstitious. The date is so famous (infamous?) that it even has two words to describe the fear of it, and boy are they doozies: friggatriskaidekaphobia and paraskevidekatriaphobia. Good luck saying that five times fast. Anyway, we all know the most-common superstitions associated with Friday the 13th: don’t let a black cat cross your path; don’t walk under a ladder; breaking a mirror will bring you seven years of bad luck; etc. Well, people tend to be very superstitious about their money also, so let’s take a look at 13 common money superstitions.

  1. See a penny pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck!
  2. If you always pick up burnt matches instead of leaving them to lay then money will come to you.
  3. Write with green ink (never red!) and money will flow from your hand.
  4. Fold a new dollar bill lengthwise and you’ll keep your money.
  5. Keep a penny wrapped in paper in your pocket and money will continue to find you.
  6. If you mend or sew on clothes while wearing them you will always be poor.
  7. Peel an onion and burn the skin then money you are sure to win!
  8. If your left palm itches and you rub it on wood then you’ll receive money by the end of the week.
  9. If you see a shooting star and say “money” three times before it’s gone then riches will soon be yours.
  10. If you find money on the first day of the year and keep it, then you will have money throughout the rest of the year.
  11. If your initials spell a word it means you will be rich.
  12. Placing money in the right-hand pocket of new clothes will ensure you have money. Placing it in the left means you’ll have no money as long as the clothes last.
  13. Giving an empty wallet as a present will bring bad luck to the recipient.

This list just barely scratches the surface of all of the money superstitions I’ve heard over the years. For example, I recently heard one that says sorting your money according to denomination is supposed to bring good luck, but I’ve always done that because of my OCD, not because of luck.

Know any other money superstitions? Share them in the comments below…