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!

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!