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.

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!

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.

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!

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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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!

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