Category: General

How to Plan Spring Break on a Budget

Travel

Spring break is a magical time of the year when school is out, the beaches are calling, and wanderlust seems to finally hit at full force. Before you jet-set to your next destinations, make sure you’ve saved enough to enjoy this vacation, without the addition of debt. To help cut the costs, but not the fun, Titonka Savings Bank offers these proven money saving tips:

  1. Split Costs – Make the most of your money, and divide the cost of a room between you and your fellow friends. Paying $150 a night may be a high price tag, but by splitting the cost, you can stay twice as long!
  2. Drive Instead of Fly – If your traveling troop decides to book a trip abroad, then this tip may not apply, but for eager spring breakers traveling south, driving instead of flying could save you hundreds!
  3. Try Alternate Accommodations – Who says a hotel is the only appropriate place to stay. With innovative new offerings on VRBO and AirBnb, you can find deals that not only save you money but offer a unique setting as well.
  4. Get Groceries – One of the most expensive parts of a vacation is the food. Cut down on this cost by hitting up the local grocery store when you arrive. You can grab breakfast items, and other easy foods to prepare to avoid exorbitant dining fees.
  5. Maximize Free Activities – Things, like going to the beach or relaxing by the pool, can be both enjoyable and cost effective. Since there are typically no entry fees, you can enjoy this fun-filled relaxation again and again.
  6. Bring Your Own- Everything is more expensive on the beach. Food, drink, shade, you name it! Instead of purchasing everything ala carte, pack a reliable beach kit, with everything you need for the day. Don’t forget sunscreen!
  7. Utilize Your Rewards – What’s the point of having travel rewards if you never use them? By putting those points to work, you can cover the cost of your flight and/or room, and reserve your money for food and fun.

The Cost of Kids: How to Plan for Your Growing Family

Savings

At Titonka Savings Bank we understand that adding to your family may not only be an emotional decision but a financial one as well. With the growing costs of childcare alone, it’s important to have a well-rounded plan for covering the expenses of your expanding household. In order to plan most effectively, we recommend structuring your budgeting into these three stages:

 

Beginning or Before Pregnancy: Examine your current health insurance to determine an estimate of cost for both prenatal care and delivery expenses. While many insurers offer prenatal care at no or little additional cost, the price for delivery can be complex. Study your monthly premium, annual deductible, and out-of-pocket limits for the calendar year to help establish these costs before the baby is delivered.

 

After Birth: Once the baby is born, there will be traditional costs such as health care, food, diapers, clothing, and more. However, many new parents also spend more on take-out meals to help lessen their time cooking. These expenses, along with a decrease in income for parents on maternity leave, can cause many parents to slide into debt. To help alleviate the burden of these growing figures, we recommend creating a monthly budget to designate every dollar to a purpose. By allocating a specific dollar amount to each area of your spending, you can ensure that all of your costs are covered while also planning for the future.

 

During the First Year: As your child continues to grow, the costs for new clothes and equipment will continue to grow with them. Many expectant parents can spend upwards of $16,000 during the first year of their child’s life, and variables such as location, number of children, and other factors can contribute to the overall costs as well. When possible we recommend saving for each step in your child’s growth. From birth to three month’s they’ll need many one-time purchases, but during the later stages, you may have had adequate time to save for each time period’s necessities.

 

Continue to grow your finances as you grow your family using Titonka Savings Bank’s trusted deposit services. We’ll help you organize your funds, and make the most of your savings.

 

7 Financial Goals to Make 2017 a Success

Financial Goals

Titonka Savings Bank challenges you to make 2017 the year of financial prosperity. Complete with an emergency fund, sound credit, and a monthly budget, you can conquer any fiscal goal so long as you keep moving towards it. To optimize your money management potential, we recommend these seven goals:

 

  1. Check Your Credit Score. There are many websites available which allow you to view your current credit score across the three reporting bureaus. However, the only federally authorized FREE site is annualcreditreport.com. This site gives users one free report from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian every year. By keeping regular track of your score, you can ensure that no fraudulent inquiries have been made, and no outstanding debts are currently being held against you. After all, a higher credit score could mean potential savings elsewhere.
  2. Make a Monthly Budget. This tool is invaluable when building your personal financial success. By creating a plan for each dollar you earn you are no longer reacting to your spending, but proactively telling your money where it should go. Adding this transparency to your spending can often showcase areas where you may be spending more than desired. After adjusting your monthly allocations you can then reassign some of those dollars to help build your personal savings and other areas of improvement.
  3. Automate Your Savings. “Out of sight, out of mind,” or so the saying goes. Adding processes to your budget, such as automated savings, can help you to accumulate money before you miss it. Before you start planning your spending for the month, determine how much you want to save. So long as your fixed monthly expenses are covered, you can then create an automatic monthly transfer from your checking to your savings. By doing this the same day you are paid, the funds will be gone before you even know to miss them. You can then budget the rest of your spending to cover flexible categories like groceries, entertainment, and more.
  4. Start an Emergency Fund. In order to safeguard your savings, you’ll need to create an emergency fund. This particular account offers protection against unexpected expenses or dilemmas that could otherwise infringe upon your diligent accrual of funds. It is often recommended to begin by saving $1,000, and then gradually work up to three or six months worth of income. By adding this cushion to your personal finances, you ensure that you are financially stable enough to weather storms both big and small.
  5. Submit Your Taxes Early. Tax fraud is an increasingly relevant issue, posing many problems for both the IRS and tax paying citizens. To help avoid potential criminals from using your information to their benefit, we suggest completing your tax return as soon as possible. Additionally, if you have a potential tax refund, the earlier you file your return, the sooner you are able to receive it.
  6. Maximize Your 401(k). To make the most of your diligent savings, we recommend revisiting your HR materials, to find out the specifics of your company’s 401(k) plan. If they will match up to ten percent, and you’re only contributing six, you could be missing out on free funds! Additionally, if you want to retire by a certain age, you may need to adjust your contributions to maximize the years you still have during your employment.
  7. Pay Down Your Credit Cards. Interest rates on credit cards are infamous for being consistently high. If you have multiple credit cards which carry a balance, we recommend paying down the account that has the least amount on it. By continuing to pay the minimum installment on each card, you can then assign any additional funds to the card with the lowest value, to help pay it off sooner. Once the first card is no longer carrying a balance, you can then utilize the monthly installment and the additional funds to put toward the next card, and continue through the accounts.

Tax Beneficial Accounts You Need to Use

Personal Finance

One of the most proactive ways you can protect your personal finances is to take advantage of tax beneficial accounts such an HSA, 401(k) and IRA. Though these accounts are typically tied to retirement savings, this is not always the case. At Titonka Savings Bank we want to help you make the most of your money, by offering these three account options:

Health Savings Account (HSA): Currently tied to your insurance provider, this account allows you to save pre-tax income into an interest bearing account. The funds within this account can be rolled over yearly, and are meant to help supplement the cost of various medical and childcare needs. However, there are limits on how much you can save for this account, the 2017 limit for an individual is $3,400 a year, and $6,750 for a family. You can typically access these funds using a debit card or written check to cover qualifying expenses outside of your insurance offerings. Another great perk of this account is that it can be invested. To further grow your funds you can work with a financial adviser to invest in mutual funds, stock, and bonds to help your money mature.

Work Sponsored Retirement Account (401k): Many companies now offer this account as a corporate benefit. By automatically withdrawing pre-tax dollars from your monthly income, you are able to save for retirement before you even receive your paycheck. The funds you contribute, along with those matched by the company, can then be invested into a variety of options, pushing your money to continue multiplying. Since these funds are meant to act as retirement savings, any early withdrawals have a 10 percent penalty in addition to the income taxes due. However, once you reach age 59 ½, you can start taking regular distributions from this employer-sponsored plan.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA): This is a great example of a non-work sponsored retirement account. Generally offered in two versions, the Roth IRA, and the Traditional IRA, both offer various tax incentives so you get the best bang for your buck. Each account has a contribution limit of $5,500 a year, or $6,500 for those age 50 or better.

In a Traditional IRA, you contribute pre-tax dollars into an interest-bearing account, which can then be invested into an array of opportunities to expand growth. If you want to remove funds from this account prior to age 59 ½ however, you will incur 10 percent early-withdrawal penalty along with paying State and Federal taxes. At age 70 ½, the account requires you to begin taking minimum distributions. This retirement savings option is open to anyone, with no immediate requirements.

With a Roth IRA there is no age requirement for distributions, and after five years, you can withdraw as much as you like up to the total amount of contributions. The only amount you cannot withdraw is the added interest earned after contribution. The main tax benefit with a Roth IRA, opposed to the Traditional IRA, is that contributions are post-tax dollars, but distributions bear no tax. This means if you are in a higher tax bracket upon retirement, you do not have to pay additional taxes to withdraw those funds, potentially keeping more of your savings. This account option does have an income limit, which disqualifies single filers whose adjusted gross income is more than $132,000 or $194,000 for joint filers.

Start maximizing your money and look into your account options today! Stop by Titonka Savings Bank and our team can answer any questions you have. With our experienced lenders, we can help you choose the best accounts to get the most value out of your long-term savings.

10 Tips for a Great Holiday Party

Holiday

No matter which holiday you are prepping for, there are some essential party essentials you should always plan for! Throughout this holiday season, try these top 10 planning tips, courtesy of Titonka Savings Bank:

  1. Pick the best date. Saturdays are always the prime time for holiday parties. Be sure to book venues ahead of time to ensure you can capture the best date for your gathering.
  1. Choose a simple theme. Don’t oversimplify it, but make sure it’s something that will click well with your guests. Simple things such as color coordinating, can help continue your theme throughout the event.
  1. Send invites at least six weeks before. People want time to plan, but not too much time to forget. Let your guests know about this holiday party six weeks prior to ensure they have plenty of time to plan. If you ask them to RSVP this can help you gain an accurate head count for food and beverage purposes.
  1. Email a reminder the week of.Sometimes people forget, ensure that all your guests who are available can attend, with a simple email reminder one week out from the party.
  1. Keep food fun yet familiar.A little twist here and there keeps things interesting, however, going too far can turn guests off to food altogether. Work with your caterer to determine what the best mix of dishes are for your holiday event!
  1. Set-up a good flow of traffic. Create a space that allows hungry guests to move through the food on both sides, well out of the way of your more conversational area.
  1. Create a timeline. Every party has activities, whether it’s dancing, trivia, or a simple informational slideshow, planning ahead of time can save you a headache later. Create a schedule for the evening to share with your guests. This will help them plan their time accordingly as well!
  1. Play festive music. Create a simple playlist full of upbeat and festive songs, but also be sure to include some current music selections as well! This will keep the holiday tone, without being overwhelmingly so.
  1. Give away or donate leftovers. Leftovers are a given at any holiday event, be sure you send your guests home with some goodies to help avoid discarding surplus food. If doggie bags are not an option, stop by your local food bank that night, or the next day to see if it can be used.
  1. Have a clean-up crew. Cleaning up is the worst part of event coordinating. Make this task easier on yourself, and recruit a team of guests and friends to help clean after the event, or the next day. Offer to provide a meal and beverages as thanks, in addition to a free ticket or gift at the party.

 

Thanksgiving Costs Through History

Holiday

Filled with laughter, good food, and heart-warming conversation, Thanksgiving is a holiday centered on all things family. Dating all the way back to 1621, this festive celebration originally began to signify a successful and fruitful fall harvest. Today we enjoy this day of thanks to remember all the blessings and loved ones in our life.

Many things have changed since 1621, or even since 1916! We wanted to see what this holiday may have looked like over the past century, to visualize how traditions and costs have changed through the years.

There are several factors when determining the cost of a Thanksgiving celebration. Today the average feast runs approximately $49. This includes a 16-pound turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, carrots, celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee with milk. However, back in 1916 this meal cost approximately $6.81, but keep in mind, the turkey then cost $4.48, or $99.23 in today’s standards.

Take a look and see how the various costs of Thanksgiving have changed over the last 100 years. You’ll be surprised at the difference!

                   Cost of Today’s Feast                      Cost of Past Century’s Feast

            1916 – $2.21                                        1916 – $6.81

            1926 – $3.59                                        1926 – $11.06

            1936 – $2.82                                        1936 – $8.68

            1946 – $3.96                                        1946 – $12.18

            1956 – $5.52                                        1956 – $16.99

            1966 – $6.58                                        1966 – $20.24

            1976 – $11.55                                      1976 – $35.55

            1986 – $22.24                                      1986 – $68.47

            1996 – $31.84                                      1996 – $98.03

            2006 – $40.92                                      2006 – $125.95

            2016 – $49.00                                      2016 – $150.84

At Titonka Savings Bank, we love learning about holidays and their history. It’s easy to see now how $6.81 can really add up! If you put those dollars in today’s standards, food costs would be astronomical! Can you imagine paying over $100 for just your turkey? This year the average cost per pound is about 93 cents, so for a 16-pound turkey, you should expect to pay around $15. Now that’s something to be thankful for!

 

10 Ways to Save Money in College

Save Money in College

10 Ways to Save Money In College

With delicacies such as ramen, easy mac, and PB&J, college doesn’t always seem as glamorous as it is in the movies. Learn how to build up your bank account this year with these helpful savings tips courtesy of Titonka Savings Bank! We’ll show you how to make the most of your dining dollars, classroom supplies, and other on campus opportunities!

  1. Books. Instead of purchasing those $300+ textbooks, utilize your university’s library and study using the same materials without any of the cost!
  2. Coffee. Get the best bang for your buck when you go for your next caffeine fix. Many coffee shops offer free wifi for studying in addition to free refills on basics coffee and teas. Simply purchase the size of your choosing, and stick around for a proper study session complete with all the coffee you need!
  3. Meal Plans. Dining dollars aren’t just for dinner. Utilize those additional funds to purchase other necessities such as toiletries to ensure you never leave any allocated dollars unused.
  4. Student Activities. Keep tabs on school events. With many university sponsored events offering free food or drinks, students tend to jump at the opportunity, so it’s best to arrive early!
  5. Scholarships. You never know until you try, or in this case submit, but in many cases writing a simple essay and answering some questions is all you need to do to be considered for a $500+ scholarship.
  6. Student Discounts. They’re everywhere; whether you’re on campus, or out and about, always be sure to carry your student ID to save a little extra money at various retailers.
  7. Loan Interest. Start paying off your student loans ASAP. Compounding interest especially can rack up additional expenses quickly, so be sure to begin paying down your debt as soon as you can.
  8. Cars. Ride your bike around campus instead of paying for costly gas, auto maintenance, and parking passes. During the winter months, you can skip waiting in the cold for the parking lot shuttle, and warm up as you cycle home!
  9. Recycle. Those pop cans and soda bottles can be valuable. It may not seem like a lot of money at first, but over time you’ll find yourself saving more and more.
  10. Work. Get a part-time job during the school year that offers great benefits like free gym membership, discounted meals, or free drinks!

Whether you’re a first year, or a PhD student, there are countless ways to save some green throughout your college years. Let us help you tuck away some of those valuable dollars with a structured savings account at Titonka Savings Bank!

The Most Common Phishing Scams and How to Avoid Them

Phishing Scams

The Most Common Phishing Scams and How to Avoid Them

Phishing is a common term for the unfortunate schemes hackers and online criminals use to lure users into giving their personal information. Typically disguised as familiar online activity, these scam artists have cleverly found several distinctive ways to attempt to trick YOU into handing over your private details. Be on the lookout for these common phishing scams next time you’re roaming the web!

  1.   Foreign Lottery Scam
    With this tactic you generally receive an email informing you that you have just won the lottery of some far-away land! To obtain these exorbitant funds you simply have to send a small fee to cover the transfer cost. A simple online search will show that this thrilling lottery is no more than phony website with a long distance phone number. Typically if the sending address doesn’t look familiar, or if you have not applied to any foreign lotteries, it will be a dead giveaway that this email is just an attempt to get your information and your money.
  1.   Survey Scam
    Do you like supporting the humane society or other animal organizations? This scam takes advantage of your online history and sends you a survey to submit your opinion on issues that matter to you. Instead of using your responses on animal treatment, this system discovers your email address, and other relative personal information, to hack your account and send out further spam emails.
  1.   Online Banking Scam
    Most phishing schemes disguise themselves as something familiar, often as PayPal or even your personal bank. This particular scam typically indicates that some type of immediate action is needed, and your financial account is at risk. Before sending any type of reply communication, check the source of the email, and call your personal contact at the organization to see if the email is legitimate. If you question the validity of any portion of the email, delete it and call the company this con artist is attempting to masquerade as ASAP.
  1.   Clickbait
    Social media has a hacking arena all its own. With links scattered across newsfeeds, it’s often hard to determine what is genuine and what is clickbait. Clickbait is a link generated using common controversial issues to get you to click on it. Once clicked, the link may switch to a Facebook login, where you login again. Unfortunately this false login page is a common maneuver by cyber criminals to get your social media login. Having this information, online criminals can now access your account and spam the people you are connected with.

If you think you’ve been a victim of an online phishing scam and your personal banking information has been compromised, call Titonka Savings Bank. We’ll help you watch for signs of identity theft within your personal bank accounts.

What’s Your Spending Style?

Spending Style

What’s Your Spending Style

Everyone spends and saves differently. There are spending personalities on all ends of the spectrum that range from extreme spenders to tireless penny pinchers. Discover what type of spender you are with this helpful quiz courtesy of Titonka Savings Bank.

 

What’s your typical lunch during the workweek?

A: A packed lunch, typically leftovers from the night before.

B: A variety of prepared lunches from home and a handful of take out meals throughout the month.

C: I usually grab something from one of the local restaurants during my lunch break, occasionally I’ll bring something from home if it was really good.

D: I can’t get through the day without my latte in the morning, and a solid lunch out of the office in the afternoon.

 

How important is your credit score to you personally?

A: I live and breathe by this number, it influences almost all of my buying decisions.

B: I check my credit every month, it’s important to know where you stand.

C: I have a general idea where I’m at, but it’s not the first thing on my mind.

D: What’s a credit score?

 

If you want a something that is $3,000 but you only have $1,500 available funds in your account what would you do?

A: Wait until I can save the additional $1,500 I need before purchasing it.

B: Compromise on a similar item that only costs the $1,500 I currently have.

C: Purchase the $3,000 item, paying $1,500 up front, and putting the rest on credit.

D: Purchase the $3,000 item and put it all on credit.

 

What does retirement savings mean to you?

A: Roth IRA, 401(k), stocks, bonds, and personal savings.

B: Using my work benefits along with personal savings.

C: I think I get something for retirement through my place of employment.

D: Something I don’t have to worry about until I’m older.

 

When you see an exciting impulse buy, how do you manage the situation?

A: I remind myself I’m here for these 5 items and nothing else.

B: I remember I already bought a small impulse buy yesterday, so this one could potentially harm my budget.

C: I made it through the work day today, I deserve this.

D: I already have 4 other things I wasn’t expecting to buy, what’s one more?

 

If most of your answers were [A] then you are a Penny Pincher: For you, finances are the key to your existence. All aspects of your financials are crafted into a strategic plan to make the most out of your various savings accounts. You’re the first to suggest a restaurant based on cost, and the last to splurge on a large purchase. Typically you’re also the person other family members typically ask for well-rounded financial advice.

 

If most of your answers were [B] then you are a Balanced Budgeter: In your world, the life of a budget doesn’t have to centered around a hunker down mentality. A budget is a fluid medium that is meant to be customizable to you and your needs. Occasionally an added expenses or unforeseen purchase is needed or warranted, but overall, you ensure you and your family stay on track with a well thought out financial plan.

 

If most of your answers were [C] then you are a Cautious Creditor: Although much of your financial expertise is based on credit card rewards, and other point benefits, you do care about your money management. While not all your choices are made to help boost your savings, there are certain measures you take on a continual basis to help push your financial goals forward.

 

If most of your answers were [D] then you are a Debt Developer: Often times you spend more than you intend. Between check-out line snacks, and lunch time splurges, your bank account just tries to keep up. Understanding your financials isn’t necessarily first on your list of priorities, but there are certainly some things you know you could improve. You appreciate the things you purchase and genuinely enjoy the experience of shopping.

 

No matter what type of spender you are, Titonka Savings Bank is here to help you succeed. For everything from setting up savings accounts, to consulting on wealth management, we have everything you need to continue your financial success. Give us a call at (515) 928-2142 or stop by today to get started!

Money Lessons at Every Age

Money Lesson

Money Lessons At Every Age

No matter what your age, there are always exciting new aspects to understand in the realm of money management. This year help your children get a head start on their financial education with these key lessons courtesy of Titonka Savings Bank.

2-5 Years Old: The Three Jars Activity
In your child’s youngest years it is important to give them a basic financial understanding. You can help your little ones comprehend savings, spending, and donating through three simple jars. Each week give your child 50 cents or a dollar, all in quarters. It is then their decision whether they want to save it for a bigger toy or purchase, spend it on something smaller, or donate it to help others in need. This activity works to help create a general thought process of the three common ways to spend or accumulate funds.

5-13 Years Old: Budgeting Basics
For everything from buying groceries to new clothes for school, you can help your child learn how to budget by setting a spending limit for your various shopping trips. By allowing your little ones to participate in the purchase process, you can help educate them in the importance of staying on or under budget. Let them help you find bargain deals or clip coupons to reduce cost. When the expenditures come in under the budget, reward their efforts with a small treat.

14-18 Years Old: How to Build Your Financial Reputation
Correctly making payments is a pinnacle point in proper money management. Whether it’s purchasing your first car, home, or other personal purchase, learning how to correctly pay off your loan, can be the difference between good and bad credit. Get started on this important lesson with a quick tutorial on how you pay any monthly bills or debts. Show your child your system to give them an introduction into how the process will take place. Once they choose to purchase a car or other item through a personal loan, you can walk them through the payment process online, and help them make a calendar of when installments are due.
Whether your little one is two or twenty-two, there is always something new to learn. Stop by Titonka Savings Bank and see how you and your family can improve your money management skills today!