Friday, June 23, 2017

7 Ways To Lower Your Grocery Bill

What is one of your biggest expenses each month?


If you answered, “groceries,” you’re not alone. Cooking at home can be a great way to save money (compared to dining out), but groceries can still eat up hundreds of dollars every month. Obviously, how much you spend per month will depend on how many mouths you have to feed. However, no matter how big you family is, there are certain strategies you can use to reduce your grocery budget. Here are a few tried-and-true suggestions from your friends at First Bank of the Lake.



 1. Plan Your Meals.

Never go to the grocery store without a plan. Decide which meals you want to make that week, and shop for the items you need to make those specific dishes. You’ll be able to maintain better focus in the grocery store this way by shopping solely for the specific items you need for the week. By sticking to a meal plan, you’ll also be less likely to have uneaten food go bad in your fridge.


 2. Build A List.

This is the most basic of all grocery shopping tips, but its importance cannot be underestimated. While you are still at home, go through your cabinets and your refrigerator to determine what items you need and write them down. When you are in the store, only buy the items that are on your list. Avoiding spur-of-the-moment purchases may greatly reduce your monthly spending.

 3. Determine Your Budget Ahead Of Time.

Before going to the store, take the time to determine how much you can afford to spend on groceries that week. Whether you choose to tally your total as you go or ask the cashier to stop scanning items once you hit your limit, it’s important that you find a strategy for sticking to your budget constraints.


 4. Shop With A Calculator.

Some stores offer a “scan it” function that allows you to scan your items and tally your total as you shop. This way, you can avoid being caught by surprise at the register. If your store doesn’t offer this function, bring a calculator and add up your own total as you add items to the cart. If you see that you’re already pushing your budget limit, you may be less likely to toss that extra box of cookies into your cart.


 5. Don’t Shop Hungry.

It may sound cliché, but it’s true – you are far more likely to place extra items in your cart when you shop on an empty stomach. Do your wallet a favor and eat a meal (or, at the very least, a snack) before you go to the grocery store.

 6. Be Strategic.

Plan your grocery shopping around the weekly ads your grocery store puts out. While it’s important not to buy something you don’t need just because it’s on sale, it’s wise to take advantage of sales on items you use regularly. Freeze the extra items you buy so that you can use them later (once the sale has ended).

 7. Shop Your Pantry.

Don’t rush to the grocery store just because you ran out of a certain item. Try to put off going to the grocery store as long as possible by “shopping your pantry.” If you get creative, you’ll probably be able to come up with ways to use some of the items you still have.

Happy Shopping!

We hope that with these tips from our local bank in Osage Beach, you’ll be better able to keep your grocery spending in check. By spending less money on groceries, you will have more room in your budget to work towards your financial goals such as getting out of debt or saving for retirement at the Lake of the Ozarks.

What are your other favorite strategies for reducing your grocery budget? Share your tips in the comments!

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First Bank of the Lake - Striving For Excellence
Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.


Located at the entrance to the Osage Beach Premium Outlets!

4558 Osage Beach Parkway

Suite 100
Osage Beach, MO 65065

(573) 348-2265

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

5 Ways To Teach Your Kids About Money

It's never too soon to start teaching your children about money. In fact, the sooner you can begin working to help your children understand important financial basics, the better - research shows that most children determine their attitudes about money by the fifth grade. First Bank of the Lake is here to help pass important financial basics along to your children with these five tips.


1. Talk About Money And How Spending Works. 

Having honest, thoughtful, and regular conversations about money is the most powerful way you can teach your little ones about finances. The first thing your children need to learn is the simple concept of what money is and how it is used. From there, you can begin discussing the different types of money - nickels, dimes, dollar bills, checks, credit cards, etc. Take the time to explain that Mom/Dad go to work so that they can earn money to buy things they need. You can teach them basic spending concepts by giving them a few dollars and letting them how to decide how to spend the money at the grocery store or the toy store.

2. Give An Allowance & Encourage Goal Setting.

Giving your child an allowance is a great way to teach them the value of the chores they help out with around the house, as well as a powerful way to begin inspiring smart spending habits. If your children ask for certain toys, you can respond by reminding them that they can use their allowance to make the purchase. This can be a great way to encourage them to set their sites on a financial goal and make steps to work toward it.

3. Decide How To Store Money.

Some families choose to work with piggy banks when their children are young. Others choose clear glass jars, because it is easier for children to see their money growing (or shrinking) in these jars. Some parents encourage early budgeting (and generosity) habits by having their children keep three jars and divide their money between them: one for spending, one for saving, and one for gifts/charitable donations.

4. Take Your Child To The Bank.

When your child is old enough, celebrate their graduation from piggy banks/glass jars to an actual savings account at your local Lake of the Ozarks bank. Bringing your child with you to the bank is a great time to talk to them about how banks work and the different ways to earn interest and invest money. Your child will feel very grown up and important when he/she meets the banker and hands over the money to make the first deposit.

5. Practice Budgeting.

Budgeting is a valuable skill that will benefit your child for years to come, so it's important to give them time to practice. For young kids, this can initially be as simple as giving them a certain amount of money to spend on souvenirs while you are on vacation. For teenagers, it can be more involved. Work with your teens to create a realistic budget that will account for the different expenses they will likely encounter once they are on their own - groceries, car payment, rent, etc. Emphasize the importance of not spending more than they earn so as to help them avoid racking up credit card debt.

What Are Your Other Strategies For Teaching Kids Financial Lessons?

We'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Feel free to share your insights in the comments below.

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First Bank of the Lake - Striving For Excellence
Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.


Located at the entrance to the Osage Beach Premium Outlets!

4558 Osage Beach Parkway

Suite 100
Osage Beach, MO 65065

(573) 348-2265

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Preventing Elder Financial Abuse

We owe our elders a debt of gratitude. They raised us, provided for us, and paved the way for our future success. Yet despite all that they have done for us, they are routinely taken advantage of by scam artists and other criminals. Financial abuse is one of the biggest challenges our senior population faces. Because they may be confused, embarrassed, or afraid to report crimes against them, seniors are often low-risk targets for financial scammers.


Keep reading to learn more about financial elder abuse and how you can help protect your aging family members from falling victim to common financial schemes, courtesy of our Lake of the Ozarks bank.

Why Seniors?

There are several reasons why seniors are attractive targets for scam artists. For example...
  • Seniors are more likely to have a great number of financial resources at their disposal, such as retirement accounts and owning their own home.
  • Generally, the generation raised in the 1930s-1950s was taught to be trusting and polite. Scammers exploit these traits.
  • Seniors may be afraid to report incidents because they don't want their families to think they are no longer able to care for themselves.

Examples Of Common Scams

Scam artists use a variety of different schemes to prey upon the elderly. Here are a few examples:
  • Email, Sweepstakes, & Telemarketing Scams - Seniors may receive a phone call or email telling them they have won a lottery or a sweepstakes that requires upfront charges. Alternatively, they may be asked to send money to a stranger (scammer) as part of a financial windfall that will be split with them. They may also receive a call from a fake government agency that is trying to get access to seniors' government benefits or social security numbers for identity theft purposes.
  • The Grandparent Scam - A scammer pretends to be a police officer or medical professional, saying that their grandchild is in need of urgent financial assistance due to medical or legal trouble. Alternatively, the scammer may pretend to be the grandchild in question.
  • Repair Fraud - A scammer may pretend to be a repairman offering services that require an upfront payment. Often, the services are unneeded (and never provided).
  • Funeral & Cemetery Scams - A scammer contacts the surviving spouse of a recently deceased individual, claiming that the deceased had an outstanding debt that needs to be repaid.

How To Handle Scam Attempts

Since email and telemarketing scams are the most common types of elder financial abuse, we are going to look specifically at some steps that can be taken to prevent these scam artists from successfully taking advantage of their victims. The National Crime Prevention Council outlines the following five ways to get rid of unwanted telemarketers:
  1. Never give out personal information (bank account, social security number, etc) over the phone, unless you initiated the phone call and know that you've reached the right agency.
    1. Alternative Response: "I'm sorry, but I don't give out personal information over the phone. I will contact the company directly."
  2. Don't believe callers who say that your winnings require advance money to cover "handling charges" or taxes. 
    1. Alternative Response: "If it's free, as you claim, I shouldn't have to pay for it."
  3. Don't feel pressured into acting quickly to take advantage of "limited-time" offers.
    1. Alternative Response: "I'll think about it and call you back soon. What's your number?"
  4. Don't trust anyone who tells you not to discuss their offer with other people.
    1. Alternative Response: "I am going to discuss your proposition with my close family/friends. I'll get back to you."
  5. Don't rely on verbal details alone. If you have something in writing, you may be able to pursue some sort of legal recourse if you are taken advantage of.
    1. Alternative Response: "I can't make a decision until I see something in writing."

Remember, if someone is calling with a legitimate request, there shouldn't be any issue with you calling them back. (Scam artists, on the other hand, will often pressure you to take action immediately.) You can also remind the seniors in your life that they can (and should) ask unwanted telemarketers to remove them from their call lists. Telemarketing agencies are legally required to oblige to this request - if they don't, they are breaking the law.

What You Can Do

If you are closely related to or friends with a senior, talk to them and tell them that they are always welcome to approach you with questions about bizarre phone calls or emails they may have received. Stress that there are scam artists out there who may try to take advantage of them, and that they should always be skeptical of calls/emails requesting money or sensitive information. Offer to provide a "sanity check" on any strange or unusual requests they may receive.

What are your other tips and strategies for preventing elder financial abuse? Share your insights with us in the comments below!

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First Bank of the Lake - Striving For Excellence
Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.


Located at the entrance to the Osage Beach Premium Outlets!

4558 Osage Beach Parkway

Suite 100
Osage Beach, MO 65065


(573) 348-2265

Friday, June 2, 2017

7 Tax Breaks For The Middle Class

Taxes are financial burden that every adult in America must bear. People on various ends of the spectrum (both high- and low-income families) are often quick to comment or complain about the tax breaks that may (or may not) be available to them, but what about the people in the middle of the road? 

While they typically do not receive as much media attention, middle-class families have access to multiple deductions and tax breaks that can help lighten the load during tax season. If you are a part of this "middle of the road" population, this blog post is for you. Keep reading to learn about the different deduction possibilities that may be most advantageous and accessible to your family, courtesy of our local bank at the Lake of the Ozarks.


1. Mortgage Interest
Buying a house is not only an integral part of the American dream - it can also be a helpful way to reduce your total tax bill. In most cases, homeowners can deduct all of the mortgage interest they pay for their primary residences as well as for their second homes. You may also be able to deduct the interest on a home equity loan.

2. Retirement Savings
Traditional IRAs, SEP accounts, and 401(k) plans offer valuable tax break opportunities. The funds that you contribute to a traditional IRA or SEP is tax-deductible. The money that you contribute to a 401(k) is not included in your tax income, thus lowering the total amount of earnings that you must pay taxes on.

3. Savers' Tax Credit
Saving for retirement offers another advantage - if you contribute up to $2,000 to your retirement plan in a given year (or $4,000 if you married filing jointly), you may be eligible for a credit that is a certain percentage of your total contributions (depending on your income). Almost all types of qualified retirement savings plans qualify for the savers' tax credit.

4. Charity
Donating to charity is another great way to lower your tax bill at the end of the year. Providing that you do not exceed the limits, the money that you donate to qualifying non-profit organizations - those with official 501(c3) status - may be taken out of your taxable income.

5. Children
Claiming children as dependents on your tax return may lower your total tax bill by as much as $1,000 per child. In order to qualify, children must be under the age of 17, American citizens, and officially under your guardianship. They must also have earned no more than 50% of their own financial support throughout the year. Your household income must meet certain requirements as well.

6. Childcare
Childcare is a huge financial burden for many families, but it does offer a unique benefit - you may be able to deduct your childcare expenses for children that lived with you for at least six months out of the year.

7. College Education
Parents paying for their children's college tuition may be able to receive the American Opportunity credit up to a dollar amount of $10,000. Eligible students may also be able to receive an education credit (the Lifetime Learning credit) up to $2,000. Finally, you may be able to deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest if you meet income requirements.

It's Not Too To Start Preparing!
Though tax season is not until April, it's never too soon to begin preparing for the next tax season. By taking time to familiarize yourself with these different tax breaks now, you can evaluate which ones make sense for you financially. Talk to a certified public accountant to learn more about these (and other) tax breaks and how they may be applicable to your situation. As you move forward with your year, you can make plans to take advantage of the tax break opportunities that will be a good fit for your family. 

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First Bank of the Lake - Striving For Excellence
Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.


Located at the entrance to the Osage Beach Premium Outlets!

4558 Osage Beach Parkway

Suite 100
Osage Beach, MO 65065

(573) 348-2265

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How To Pay For Your Child's College Education

In today's competitive workforce, a college education is more important than ever. A four-year degree, especially when followed by higher education, offers the potential for increased salary, more advancement opportunities, and better all-around job satisfaction. Unfortunately, tuition costs are raising substantially every year. For many parents, the prospect of paying for their children to attend a university is daunting (to say the least). If you are trying to figure out how to afford your children's college educations, First Bank of the Lake is here to help with these quick suggestions. Here's a hint - student loans aren't your only option!


Savings

As with all big expenses, the best way to prepare for it is to plan ahead and save in advance. A 529 college savings plan is a special type of savings account that is specifically designed to cover the costs of tuition, books, room, board, and other college-related expenses. In some states, parents with a 529 plan qualify for an income tax deduction or credit on the contributions they make to the account.

Scholarships

Scholarships are gifts awarded based on merit or need. Unlike loans, a scholarship is a gift of "free money" that will not need to be repaid. There are countless different types of scholarships available. Academic scholarships, athletic scholarships, and cultural scholarships are commonly offered by college institutions. Third-party organizations and countless online sources also commonly offer scholarships. A high school counselor or the financial aid office in a university are good places to begin the hunt for scholarships.

Grants

Federal grants (also commonly called "financial aid") is another potential way to offset the costs of funding your child's education. These grants are needs-based and, as such, do not require repayment. Students must fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in order to be considered. Federal student loans may also be available for qualifying students.

Work-Study Programs

Most universities offer a host of on-campus job opportunities for students that are part of a work-study program. Many of these programs are needs-based (qualification will be determined after the student submits the FAFSA), but most colleges offer a few additional positions that may be filled by any student, regardless of household income. These programs are generally an ideal way for students to offset the cost of tuition and to earn a little extra spending money. Students can generally get positions in the department of their chosen degree, which helps strengthen their resumes.

Student Loans

Funding college without going into debt is obviously the most attractive option, but in some cases, it may not be feasible. While you can combine the other strategies we have discussed so far to cover many of your expenses, student loans are always available if you need to fill in the gaps. Many families use student loans to cover approximately 20% of the total cost of their children's education. Federal student loans often offer cheaper interest rates than private loans, so it is best to start your search there. 

Reducing Costs

Finally, one of the best ways to afford a big expense is to lower the price tag. Some universities are more expensive than others, so if money is a concern, it may be in your best interests to look at schools that fit more easily into your budget. You can also reduce costs by encouraging your children to earn some credits as part of a dual enrollment program or at a two-year community college, as these options are often significantly more affordable than traditional four-year institutions. Your children can then transfer to their chosen institution to complete their degrees.

Good Luck!

On behalf of everyone at our Lake of the Ozarks bank, we wish you the best of luck on this worthy endeavor. A college education will serve your children for years to come, so it is wise to begin preparing well in advance. If you would like to learn about our savings accounts at the Lake of the Ozarks or other investment options (such as CDs), visit our website at www.FirstBankLake.com.

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First Bank of the Lake - Striving For Excellence
Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.


Located at the entrance to the Osage Beach Premium Outlets!

4558 Osage Beach Parkway

Suite 100
Osage Beach, MO 65065


(573) 348-2265

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

5 Damaging Money Management Myths

We live in a world where information travels rapidly. Social media has made it remarkably easy for people to share content with their friends, families, and coworkers, and distant circles - if a headline catches your eye, you may find yourself clicking "share" or "retweet" without a second thought. 

Unfortunately, many people often neglect to investigate the validity of the information before they share it. As a result, misinformation spreads across social media (and the rest of the internet) like wildfire. Some articles, though inaccurate, are relatively harmless. Others may carry damaging misinformation that can negatively impact its readers.


Financial misinformation is a prime example. A person's financial health and literacy greatly influences his ability to lead a successful, financially solvent life. If he is constantly fed misinformation about the best way to handle his money, he may struggle to get on top of his financial situation.

Our local bank at the Lake of the Ozarks is here to help protect people like you from the rampant money myths that plague our culture. Keep reading to learn the truth behind some of the common personal finance myths you may have heard.

Myth #1:
You Can Save For Retirement "Later"
If you're in your twenties or thirties, retirement is probably the furthest thing from your mind. You have other financial priorities, such as buying your first home, getting married, paying off student loans, buying a car, or supporting your young family. Since retirement is decades away, it may seem only natural to wait a few years before you actively begin saving for it. The longer you wait, however, the more you limit your overall investing potential. In order to maximize the true benefits of compound interest, it's best to start saving for retirement as soon as you earn your first paycheck.

Myth #2:
You Should Invest In Gold Or Other Precious Metals
Gold has traditionally been one of the most popular options for people looking for safe ways to invest their wealth. While owning some gold may not be a bad option, it is better to diversify your investments. CDs, high-paying savings accounts, bonds, and/or stocks work together to create a diversified portfolio that will better guard you against risks. If you put all your eggs into one basket, your savings may be totally wiped out if that one basket "tips over."

Myth #3:
Credit Cards Should Be Avoided At All Costs
Thanks to the steady increase of credit card debt in our nation over recent years, credit cards have earned a bad reputation. Many people believe that the only smart way to handle credit cards is to chop them in half. If used wisely, however, credit cards can be a great financial tool. Keeping your balance low and paying it in full every month can contribute to a strong credit rating. It may also allow you to reap the rewards various credit card companies offer, such as airline miles or cash back.

Myth #4: 
Buying A Home Is Smarter Than Renting
This myth is almost as common as its counterpart: "renting a home is smarter than buying." People tend to have firm beliefs from each perspective. The truth is, however, that renting vs buying should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If you anticipate moving to different cities frequently (every 1-3 years), renting is likely the better option for you. If you plan to stay in the same area for a minimum of three years, on the other hand, buying a house will likely make more sense financially. After about three years, the increased upfront costs of buying a house will likely outweigh the steep monthly costs of renting, making homeownership the more affordable option in most cases.

Myth #5:
Only Wealthy People Need To Worry About Financial Planning
It's true that if you are wealthy, financial planning will likely be more of a priority for you. However, it is just as important (and possibly more important) for people with limited funds to take active financial planning steps as well. When you have limited income, every penny counts. By budgeting your money wisely, you can still accomplish your financial goals (both long-term and immediate) even with a smaller paycheck.

Help Spread The Word
We would love your assistance in our efforts to debunk these common myths about money management. Please share this article with those you think could benefit from the information.

Consider Us Your Local Financial Resource!
First Bank of the Lake is proud to be your local banking resource at the Lake of the Ozarks. We offer a variety of financial services designed to help you enhance your financial situation, including CDs, IRAs, and high-paying savings accounts. For more information, visit our website: www.FirstBankLake.com

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First Bank of the Lake - Striving For Excellence
Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.


Located at the entrance to the Osage Beach Premium Outlets!

4558 Osage Beach Parkway

Suite 100
Osage Beach, MO 65065

(573) 348-2265

Thursday, May 11, 2017

5 Reasons Why You NEED A Household Budget

It's time to set the record straight - budgeting isn't just for people with lots of money, barely any money, or too much time on their hands. Budgeting is an essential skill that every adult should possess. It doesn't matter if you plan your expenses ahead of time so that you only spend certain amounts in certain categories, if you tally up your expenses at the end of the month to see how much you spent, or if you choose to handle it a different way entirely. What matters is that you do it.


Why You Need A Household Budget

If you think budgeting can't benefit you, think again. The truth is that no matter how much your weekly, monthly, or yearly income is, tracking your finances can help you become (even) more financially successful. Here are a few reasons why it is important to maintain a household budget, courtesy of First Bank of the Lake.

1. Know Where You Stand.
First and foremost, budgeting offers a valuable glimpse into your current financial situation. Without carefully tracking your expenses, you'll have no way of really knowing whether you are in the black, in the red, or breaking even on any given month. You can't plan for the future until you know where you are in the present.

2. Prioritize Your Spending.
What do you consider to be your most important expense categories - groceries, gas, mortgage/rent, or something else? Are you putting more money towards these important categories than the less important ones, like restaurants or shopping? Tracking your spending is the only way to identify how much you are actually spending in each category. By maintaining a consistent budget, you can prioritize your spending accordingly.

3. Plan For The Future.
Once you identify your current situation, you can make a legitimate plan for the future. Depending on what your present circumstances are, you may make plans to pay off debts, save up for a down payment on your first home, plan for retirement, or any number of other financial goals.

4. Track Your Progress.
Budgeting is not a "one and done" process. Once you determine where you currently stand and what plans you want to work towards, you can use your budget to track your progress towards achieving your goals. If you quit budgeting, you'll have no way of knowing whether you are getting closer towards (or further away from) your goals.

5. Be Confident In Your Finances.
The best part about maintaining a consistent budget is that it gives you the peace of mind that can only be achieved by knowing exactly what your financial situation is. By tracking your expenses, you'll know exactly whether or not you are able to afford a bigger purchase you may wish to make, such as a new car or a new flat-screen TV. If you don't have the money to make the purchase right now, you'll be able to make a plan to save up for it. 

First Bank Of The Lake Is Here To Help!

Trust us - it's never too soon (or too late) to build a household budget. Even if you've never attempted it before, you can become a budgeting pro simply by applying yourself. If you're trying to figure out where to begin, see our earlier blog post with sample budgeting strategies you can steal.

Happy budgeting!

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First Bank of the Lake - Striving For Excellence
Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.


Located at the entrance to the Osage Beach Premium Outlets!

4558 Osage Beach Parkway

Suite 100
Osage Beach, MO 65065


(573) 348-2265