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!

Shark Week Rules Can Help You Make Smarter Financial Decisions

great-white

Shark Week is here! The Discovery Channel’s longtime celebrated week of television offers many tips for shark encounters. Much of the advice learned through shark week can be applied to your financial well-being? Say what?

Yes, it’s true. Simple Shark Week rules can be applied to your everyday life, specifically your finances. Many of the tips to prevent beach-goers from experiencing a shark encounter can be easily used to make smarter decisions in general. Consider the following:

  1. Shark Week Tip: Don’t go swimming after dark. This same piece of advice also works when dealing with your money. Financial Tip: Don’t make financial decisions after dark. If you are making a major decision regarding your finances late at night, you might not be in the most alert state of mind. Generally, you are more tired at night and worn out from the stresses of the day. Instead, it’s best to sleep on your thoughts and then make your decision when you are rested and rejuvenated the next morning.
  2. Shark Week Tip: Don’t go swimming alone. Swimming alone and dealing with your finances all by yourself are two choices that aren’t necessarily the best. Financial Tip: Seeking advice on your finances can be very beneficial. It’s good to explore many options when making a major financial decision. There are professionals that are more than happy to guide you on the path to make the best decisions with your money.
  3. Shark Week Tip: Steer clear of murky water. If the water looks grim, it’s probably a good bet it’s not safe. If you receive some type of money offer and it doesn’t quite look legit, it’s likely it would be something unwise to pursue as well. Financial Tip: If you get a “free money” offer in the mail that looks unclear, such as a “sweepstakes” win that you never entered, it’s probably a scam. This type of scam unfortunately affects many people. Avoid this “murky area” and contact your local financial institution if you are not sure what to do with this type of situation.
  4. Shark Week Tip: Stay calm. If you actually see a shark while swimming, the best thing to do is remain calm. Panicking could actually draw more attention to yourself, which could incite an attack. When dealing with your money, it’s best to always stay calm if you notice something wrong. Financial Tip: If you are ever in a situation where you notice suspicious activity on your accounts, the best thing to do is remain calm. Report your concerns and let your financial institution handle the situation. Also, if you are ever worried about your current money circumstances, such as making a payment on time, it’s a good idea to stay calm and contact your financial institution for advice on how to handle this issue.
  5. Shark Week Tip: Avoid swimming in deep water. Swimming in deep water increases the odds of a shark encounter. When dealing with your finances, it’s best to not get in too deep as well. Financial Tip: If you find yourself experiencing a financial problem, such as credit card debt, it is important to not get in over your head. For example, it could be bad and result in poor credit if you try to pay off one credit card with another. If you find yourself confused on how to handle a financial decision, don’t let the stress engulf you. Contact your financial institution for help before things get out of hand.

While it seems odd to compare Shark Week advice with financial tips, as you can see the lessons are often quite similar. The experts know how to handle shark encounters, just like the professionals at financial institutions, including Ohio Valley Bank, can help you make the best decisions regarding your financial well-being.

hammerhead

If you didn’t get enough on the shark-side of things from us, be sure to check out the Discovery Channel’s 27th Anniversary of Shark Week, running from Sunday, Aug. 10 through Saturday, Aug. 16. For a full Shark Week line-up, check out www.discovery.com. For information on financial services at Ohio Valley Bank, visit www.ovbc.com.

Financial Tips From Frozen

Kids watching Frozen.

Hopefully they learned as much as we did from watching this.

Financial literacy is a huge topic right now, and rightly so. Proper financial management is considered a weakness for many Americans. Our hope at OVB, is that we can give you some thought provoking, and sometimes entertaining tips that will help you better manage your finances.

What better way to learn about financial literacy, than through tips gleaned from the wildly popular Disney movie, Frozen?

Before we go on, I should warn you that for the one percent of you who haven’t seen Frozen yet, there will be spoilers. If you don’t want a major plot point being spoiled for you, don’t continue on.

We’ll start with the easy one that’s pretty much spelled out by the characters in the movie.

Supply and Demand

When Kristoff goes into Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post during the “Big Summer Blowout” looking for winter supplies, he discovers that “supply and demand have a big problem.” The supply of winter gear is low, which results in the price he has to pay being much higher than expected.

The most glaring example of this in the real world is with mobile phones. When that brand new iPhone comes out, demand is very high and so is the price. If you can stand not having the newest, shiniest technology, waiting a year will allow you to buy the same phone at a greatly reduced price.

Set up an emergency fund

What caused the supply and demand problem in the previous section? That would be Elsa and her ice powers. Kristoff sells ice for a living, “a rough business to be in right now” for sure. If he had an emergency fund, he’d be able to live comfortably during this time of unexpected hardship.

Most experts recommend saving three to six months’ worth of income for your emergency fund. This fund can be used when unexpected things happen, such as losing a job, incurring unexpected expenses or your queen losing control of her ice powers and thrusting the land into an eternal winter, which happens more often than one would think.

Insurance

Kristoff’s sled went plummeting down into a ravine, eventually bursting into flames, Kristoff just might have been thinking, “Man, I wish I bought insurance on that thing.” Thanks to the eventual generosity of the royal family, Kristoff was able to replace his sled with an even fancier model, but we can’t all rely on that kind of thing.

Insurance is just in case protection. In other words, you are at least somewhat protected, just in case something bad happens. Some types of insurance are required, but some aren’t. For some people, insurance is completely unnecessary…until it isn’t. You can’t count on things always working out in your favor. When something does eventually go wrong, it’s good to know that your home, car and family will be protected.

Too good to be true

Lastly, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. When Anna met Hans, fell in love at first sight and got engaged to someone she knew for ONE DAY, it seemed like a fairy tale come true. It was a fairy tale alright, but it wasn’t real. Hans eventually showed his true colors and turned on Anna.

Just like in the movie, there are a lot of disgusting people out there that will do whatever they can to take advantage of others. They will promise money, gifts and even their love in order to get what they want, which is usually money. My advice is to have a somewhat skeptical eye when communicating on the internet with someone you don’t know. If someone else initiates the conversation (through phone, email or social media) be very cautious about what information you give them.

Did any financial tips jump out at you when watching Frozen? If so, leave them in the comments below.

More Financial Lessons We Can Learn From Star Wars

The Star Wars logo.

®Lucasfilm/Disney

Last year for Star Wars Day we discussed a few things that the franchise can teach us about finance. Well since there are three new movies on the horizon, we thought we’d revisit the topic and see what other pearls of wisdom we can learn from “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”. So here are four more financial lessons we can learn from Star Wars…

  •  Keep An Eye on Your Finances/Credit Report. In Attack of the Cones we learn that Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas had ordered, and paid for, the production of a clone army on Kamino. This was done without the consent or knowledge of either the Jedi Council or the Galactic Senate, but it was done in their name! Imagine if Sifo-Dyas had defaulted or not paid in full? What would that have done to the Council’s credit score? Speaking of which, it’s important to check your credit report at least once a year. Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Transactions Act of 2003 (or FACTA), the federal government has made sure you can do this for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. The three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, can also provide you with credit reports but they do offer paid credit monitoring services as well so be mindful of what you’re signing up for. If the Jedi Council had checked theirs, maybe they would have seen the order of a clone army in their name and been able to stop the ensuing war before it ever happened.

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Spring Cleaning Your Finances

Housewife holding bucket with cleaning equipment

Here in the Ohio River valley spring is in the air. It’s time to start thinking about cookouts, walks in the park, gardening, and…spring cleaning. It’s always struck me as a little odd how spring cleaning became a thing. If we spend the whole winter cooped up in our homes why don’t we just clean them then? I mean you’re stuck indoors so  But I digress. Spring is a time of renewal, and with it comes a renewed determination to clean up our homes and lives. Spring cleaning doesn’t (and shouldn’t) just apply to your home. It also applies to any other part of your life that might be a bit messy, including your finances. So let’s take a look at a few reasons why getting our financial houses in order this spring can be a big boost…

  1. Being Organized Saves You Time & Trouble. Do you have a drawer stuffed with receipts? Is your desk swamped with paperwork? Set aside some time to specifically file and organize your financial documents; whether this means putting them in a filing cabinet, using binder clips, color-coded tab folders, or whatever you like is up to you. Whatever works best. You will soon find that having your finances organized neatly and orderly will make going over them far less daunting.
  2. Your Financial Awareness Will Increase. During the process of organizing and filing you will get a good idea of where you stand financially. This is a great time for review and reflection on the services you pay for, and a great time to trim some of the fat from your expenses.
  3. Going Paperless Saves. While you’re getting organized you can take it one step further by taking your financial life digital. Having your statements delivered to your email and paying bills online not only saves paper waste, but it saves you time, effort, and money spent on postage. The convenience this provides you will make you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
  4. Being Organized Can Help Keep You Safe. Organizing all of your financial documents helps you know where they are, what information they contain, and what you can get rid of. Your financial documents likely contain sensitive, personal information that identity thieves would love to get their hands on. Use this as an opportunity to shred some of the old documents you don’t need anymore before tossing them out.
  5. Less Chaos & Clutter Can Relieve Stress. Studies have shown that being organized can help one feel more relaxed and increase peace of mind. The ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui is rooted in having an organized and clutter-free home.

These are just a few reasons for getting motivated and adding your finances to your annual spring cleaning. It’s a great time to look at your budget, savings, debts, and everything else that concerns your money. Take the time to sit down and figure out which direction you want to be headed, and whether or not you are, in fact, headed that way.

Do you “spring clean” your finances? Have any tips to share? Leave them in comments below…

6 Smart Things To Do With Your Tax Refund

Pink piggy bank with a dollar bill in the slot

Tax Day. Two of the most dreaded words in the English language. So ominous that even Benjamin Franklin famously remarked in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy that “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Tax Day in the United States has long been derided and viewed as something awful, and for good reason. It’s tedious going through all of your receipts. It’s frustrating trying to navigate the labyrinthine tax code. The fear of an IRS audit looms large in today’s society. And let’s not even talk about the feeling you get when you have to write that check to Uncle Sam. *Ugh*

Despite all of the negative connotations Tax Day has earned, this is not necessarily the case for everyone. According to IRS statistics, it would seem that in 2012, around 70% of taxpayers received a refund. If you are the lucky recipient of such a windfall then the bigger question is: what to do with it? It’s no secret that retailers want that money, and will offers sales and deals to get you to part with it. While the urge to splurge on a big-ticket item like a new TV, smartphone, tablet, or some other toy or gadget is quite tough to resist, let’s look at a few things that you could do with your refund instead…

 

  1. Set Up An Emergency Fund. This is perhaps the most important, and easiest, thing you can do with your refund. A good rule of thumb for an emergency fund is to save approximately three months worth of living expenses. So tally up all of your bills for a three-month period and you’ll have a great starting point for your emergency fund. The critical thing to remember about an emergency fund is this: only use it for emergencies! Don’t use the money for something frivolous. Only use it for things like repairing your car after an accident, paying medical bills after an injury, or paying bills if you find yourself between jobs.
  2. Pay Down Debt. After you have an emergency fund established paying off debt is the best thing you can do. Carrying a lot of debt (student loans, car loans, credit card etc.) is a big drag financially and emotionally. So this tip is to simply use your refund to pay off some of that debt. Choose one of your higher-interest debts (since that interest is only adding to your debt) and put your refund towards the balance. You will save money in the long run by paying less in fees and interest, while reducing the amount of debt you owe.
  3. Make Home Improvements. Take a look around your home. Do you need any repairs? Perhaps a new roof? Maybe you could use some new appliances that are more energy-efficient? Whatever the case may be, putting money back into your home is a good investment. You can increase your property value while increasing your comfort level all at once.
  4. Set Up A College Fund. Invest in your children’s future by using your refund to establish a college fund for your kids.
  5. Donate To Charities. Giving to charities frequently is hard if you’re on a budget or carrying a lot of debt, so your refund can be a chance to change that. Choose a cause meaningful to you and your family and make a generous donation. Remember you can claim the donation on your taxes next year.
  6. Start Your Business. If you’ve always wanted to be your own boss then put your refund towards making that happen. If you already run your own business then reinvest your refund in your business to help it grow, increasing your income for years to come.

 

This list is just a primer, there are many sensible things you can do with your refund. Always remember to take a moment to look at your financial situation and determine your own best course of action.

 

Are you getting a refund this year? Let us know what you’d like to do with it in the comments below…

 

Why I Went From Credit to Debit

©Getty Images

©Getty Images

I have a startling confession to make. Up until recently, I was a heavy credit card user, and it wasn’t an OVB credit card.  Boo! Hiss! Snarl! That’s the sound of certain members of my OVB family coming to take me out. The fact is, I received a credit card from an unnamed national credit card company prior to my employment with Ohio Valley Bank and just never switched over.  I was receiving 1% cash back, I was able to pay for everything a month later (more on why that’s a negative below), and I had just gotten in the habit of using it.

Recently, however, I made the jump from a national credit card to a local debit card.  Why? Well I’ll tell you!

Budgeting

It’s easier for me to budget when the money comes out of my account right away. Sure for the first month of paying with a credit card it might be easier to pay a month later, but after a point it really isn’t any different from paying now.

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