Charitable Giving Checklist - Winter 2014
There is no better time to give back than during the holidays, but before you donate to a charity, you can use the following checklist to make sure your donations will benefit the people and organizations that you want to help.
- Choose a charity: Find more information on an organization by researching their website and reviewing their financial documents, including annual reports and audits. Become familiar with the organization's mission, services, and what percentage of each donation is actually used towards the actual cause.
- Check third-party sources: Evaluate the financial health and accountability of an organization through online charity reports and reviews, such as the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator.
- Maximize your donations: Simple considerations, such as paying by check or cash instead of credit card to avoid processing fees or donating goods instead of money, can help make sure your chosen charity receives the full benefit of your contribution.
- Look for matching contributions: Ask your employer, a local business, or large donor if they will offer matching contributions.
- Consider tax deduction eligibility: Confirm the charity you are donating to registers with the IRS as a "qualified organization" to ensure your contribution will qualify for a tax deduction.
- Keep a record: Keep payment records including receipts or other charity acknowledgements, check copies, and bank statements for tax and audit purposes.
Social Media Safety - Winter 2014
Social media allows us to connect to friends, family and others around the world through photos, videos and personal messages. But as social media continues to gain popularity, the privacy and safety risks associated with using these services continue to grow. The following tips can help you protect yourself:
- Be selective: Only accept friend invites from people that you know to avoid sharing personal information with the wrong people.
- Don't share identifying information: Consider everything that you post on your social network to be public knowledge. Avoid posting anything publicly that could give others ways to break into your online accounts or find out where you live or work, such as contact information, your hometown or birthday.
- Avoid clicking suspicious links: Hackers, spammers and identity thieves often use links or app installs to gain personal information from you. Be aware of suspicious-looking URLs and never open a link from someone you don't know.
- Always "log out": Log out of your account after each session to ensure other users of a computer cannot gain access to your account.
- Set guidelines with your children: Do not let children under the age of 13 use social networking sites. Once you do allow them to use social media, be sure to evaluate the site your child plans to use and set strict safety guidelines such as never meeting anyone in person that they've only talked to online, never using full names or sharing additional personal information and not permitting any cyberbullying activity.
Tips for Becoming a Good Money Role Model - Fall 2014
Teaching your children the ins and outs of responsibly managing their finances is an important part of parenthood. Developing good habits at an early age can help lead to a successful financial future.
- Explain the difference between needs and wants: The foundation of a successful financial situation is a clear understanding of needs versus wants. It can be challenging for adults and children alike to honestly distinguish between the two, so it’s important to teach your children early, and about how to budget for each accordingly.
- Budget and save together: Include your whole family when tracking expenses and planning your budget. Set a mutual savings goal, such as a family vacation or a new family TV, and work towards the goal together, identifying expenses that can be cut and brainstorming new ways to make money.
- Teach the value of earning money: It’s important to teach your children the relationship between working hard and earning money. Set clear boundaries on earning money for household duties and get your children used to being paid on a fixed schedule.
- Open a savings account for each child: Encourage your children to set aside a portion of their allowance or part-time job income to reach their financial goals, whether it’s to buy a new toy or a future college education. Open a First National Bank Southwest savings account for your child and have him or her make monthly contributions to the account. Review the account balance with your child each month and as he or she hits savings milestones, reward your child with an additional amount to teach the concept of earning interest.
By encouraging small, smart financial habits from a young age, you can help your children to become financially savvy and develop good money habits for the future.
Turn Your Hobby Into a Business - Fall 2014
Are you passionate about your hobby and want it to be more? While you may not be able to leave your steady, full-time job, there may be ways to monetize your hobby or skillset and subsidize your income. From selling your goods to teaching your skills to others, the following tips may help you turn your hobby into a business.
- Sell your goods: If your hobby involves creating a product, such as art, jewelry or clothing, you may be able to sell your goods, both online and in-person. Online marketplaces such as Etsy.com or local markets or craft fairs are great places to see if there is a demand for your product, make some sales and earn some extra money.
- Teach your skill to others: Create your own classes or look for opportunities at local community colleges and organizations to teach and share your passion with others. From cooking classes to guitar lessons, sharing your knowledge can help monetize your hobby.
- Start a blog: Writing and posting about your hobby, such as photography or baking, is a good way to engage with fellow enthusiasts while potentially earning money from online advertisers at the same time. There are a variety of online ad networks you can link to your blog that display targeted ads next to your online content, making you money with each click, such as Google Adsense.
- Offer your services: If you enjoy a skill or talent such as landscape design or home decorating, set a price, market yourself and offer your services. Create a website and post your qualifications and experience on local classified sites to start spreading the word.
Tips for Becoming a Volunteer - Summer 2014
Summer is just around the corner and so is the season of community events. Supporting the community and getting involved is a great way to spend your summer vacation. Not only does volunteering help improve the lives of others, strengthen communities and solve problems, but it can also help enrich your own life and help you connect with others. The following tips can help you down the path of an enjoyable and beneficial volunteer experience.
- Research organizations and causes that you have a passion for or have a personal interest. Use your community resources to find non-profits in need or use online resources such as Volunteer.gov to find volunteer opportunities you may not otherwise have considered.
- Consider your skillset and what you enjoy. If you enjoy teaching, you may enjoy becoming a mentor in an after-school club. If you have a knack for home improvement, there may be opportunities to help build or repair houses for the elderly or those in need.
- After narrowing down your list of options, request an informational interview to find out more about the organization and the benefits they offer to both recipients and volunteers. Be sure to ask about their expectations and required commitment to find the best fit.
- Commit to an event or activity that fits best with your schedule. If you have the time for a standing weekly commitment, go for it! If not, it’s okay to just commit for what you reasonably have time for.
- Recruit your family and friends to volunteer with you. Not only can it be a chance to help others, but you can also spend valuable time reconnecting with those who mean the most to you.
- Share your experiences with others and encourage life-long volunteering. Volunteering can lead to future habits of continuing to give back to your community.
First National Bank Southwest is dedicated to doing what’s right for our customers and the communities in which we serve. We’re proud to support the community that supports us.
Host a Summer BBQ on a Budget - Summer 2014
Summertime is the perfect time to bring good friends, good conversation and good food together for a summer BBQ. The following simple tips will help you create a perfect, budget-friendly menu for a relaxing and fun summer evening.
#1 - Stock up on Staples: Watch for sales on family favorites and popular BBQ staples. Stock up on items you can store in your pantry or freeze, such as canned pork and beans or veggies, potato chips, hamburger buns and soda. Buying now can help you save later.
#2 - Invest in Reusable Napkins & Plates: An environmentally-friendly and cost-saving alternative is to replace paper plates and napkins with reusable dinnerware. Shop at your local thrift store to find an eclectic set of plates or check out the dollar store or clearance aisles for plastic outdoor dining sets. Not only will it add some color and style to your patio table, but will save you the expense for your gathering.
#3 - Buy Local: Buying local produce and meat is not only good for the environment and your community, but it’s also good for your wallet. Check out your local farmers market or stop at a produce stand along the street to buy fruits and veggies that are fresh and in-season. When produce is in-season locally, prices are less expensive and as a bonus, you’ll get a better taste.
#4 - Consider Quality, Not Just Price and Convenience: When shopping for your dinner, consider the quality of the food and don’t just buy the least expensive or most convenient options. Convenience can cost you. Instead of buying a pre-cut vegetable or fruit tray, take the time to buy fresh, whole fruit and cut it yourself. And the discount package of hot dogs may contain eight, skinny pork hot dogs, but a package of six, larger, all-beef hot dogs may go further and satisfy (and fill up) your guests more.
#5 - Host a Signature Drink: Instead of hosting a wide variety of soda, tea, beer or other beverages, concoct your own signature drink, such as a pitcher of freshly-squeezed lemonade or fruity sangria. Not only will this save you money, it will save you time and add a creative element to your BBQ.
Travel Insurance: Do You Need It? - Early Spring 2014
Travel insurance covers a wide variety of unexpected expenses that may occur when traveling, including trip cancellations or delays, lost or stolen luggage, major weather events, and medical expenses. But do you need it? Consider the following factors when determining if you need coverage for your next vacation.
Decide which kind of coverage you need. Baggage insurance provides coverage for damaged, stolen, lost or delayed bags. Trip cancellation and interruption insurance covers any costs incurred if your travel provider stops operations or goes out of business before your trip or if you have a personal emergency or become sick and are unable to travel. Flight insurance can cover flight accidents, airline strikes, and cancellations. Additional health insurance is also beneficial if you are traveling outside of the U.S. and your existing health insurance does not cover basic emergency care in foreign countries.
Compare policies and prices. When booking your travel, be sure to ask about insurance available through your travel providers. If you are interested in additional 3rd party travel insurance, be sure to compare policies and prices to determine what works the best for you, your travel plans, and your budget. Popular insurance providers include SquareMouth, InsureMyTrip, and Travel Guard.
Consider the price point of your travel plans versus the cost of the travel insurance. If you book a cheap flight to Las Vegas for a long weekend, you may not need travel insurance. But if you are purchasing a Hawaiian cruise, it is worth the risk in the event the cruise line goes out of business, your flight is cancelled and you miss the cruise departure, or you have a personal emergency.
Wedding Planning on a Budget - Early Spring 2014
The holiday season is behind us, but if you became engaged during the holidays, the excitement is just beginning. Starting the wedding planning can be a daunting task, especially if you are on a tight budget. The following steps will help you plan the wedding of your dreams, while not breaking the bank.
#1 - Set a budget: Determine how you are going to pay for your wedding and if you will have help from family.
#2 - Create your guest list: Decide who you want to be there on your special day. Surrounding yourselves with your closest family and friends is important; decide who you want to be there with you on your special day.
#3 - Choose a date: Keep in mind dates that may be more expensive such as holiday weekends, special events that cause demand in event and hotel space, or popular and highly-coveted spring and summer dates. Consider a Friday evening or Sunday afternoon to avoid the peak prices of a Saturday wedding.
#4 - Make a list of priorities: Lay out the costs for the items that are most important to you, including the invitations, venue, food and drink, photographer, flowers, music and the wedding dress. Fit these into your budget first, then add in extras with the money you have left.
#5 - Save on postage: Skip the save-the-dates and send out a fun electronic save-the-date instead. You can save on postage and put the savings towards other priorities.
#6 - Get inspired: Wedding magazines and websites are full of DIY (Do It Yourself) and budget wedding ideas, from decorations to desserts. Gather your friends for a fun evening of crafting centerpieces for the reception or ask a close family member if she’d consider making the dessert for your wedding.
#7 - Be upfront with your budget: When discussing your options with vendors, be upfront on how much you have, and want, to spend. This will not only save you time and energy, but will eliminate any surprises when you receive your bill.
#8 - Be realistic: Your budget isn’t the only thing you should manage; also consider the value of your time. While it may be less expensive to make your own bouquets, is it worth the time it will take for your big day?
Celebrate New Year’s Eve on a Budget - Winter 2013
You can ring in 2014 in style without blowing your budget. Instead of going out to a fancy dinner or expensive nightclub, host an intimate gathering with your closest friends and family to save money while still having a memorable New Year’s Eve. The following tips will help you plan and execute a great New Year’s Eve party on a budget.
- Send out an Evite: Select your guest list and send out an Evite or Facebook event invite instead of a traditional mailed invite to save money on invitations and stamps. It’s also a simple way to manage your RSVP list and plan your party accordingly.
- Serve appetizers and cocktails: Instead of serving a formal sit-down dinner, host a fun appetizer buffet featuring your favorite snack foods. And instead of having a full-bar available for guests, pick one or two signature cocktails to serve.
- Create ambiance without party décor: You don’t need to spend on balloons and streamers to set the mood. Instead, dim your lights, arrange candles around your home and string inexpensive white holiday lights to create ambient lighting.
- Setup a DIY photo booth: Create a memorable experience for your guests by setting up your own photo booth. Hang a fun sheet or fabric as the backdrop and pick up some inexpensive props. Use a Polaroid camera or an online photo booth app to capture the moment.
- Compile a festive playlist: Select classic, upbeat favorites to set the tone of the evening. Use free online music players such as Pandora or Spotify, and eliminate the need to buy songs or hire a DJ.
- Toast with sparkling wine instead of champagne: Instead of splurging on a pricey bottle of bubbly champagne, opt for a less expensive bottle of sparkling wine and grab a bottle of sparking grape juice for the kids.
Advice for Buying a Used Car - Winter 2013
There are many benefits to buying a used car, from cheaper insurance to less depreciation than new cars to extended warranties. If you are in the market for a used car, the following tips can help you choose the right car for you and your family and get the best deal.
- Narrow your search: Determine what car payment amount your monthly budget will allow. Also consider what type of vehicle will fit your needs – a sedan, SUV, mini-van or truck. Make a target list of at least three makes and models you are interested in.
- Secure a low-interest loan: Getting into the vehicle that’s right for you is easiest with the financing terms that work for you. First National Southwest offers low fixed rates that fit your budget and give you a chance to drive the vehicle you’ve got your heart set on. Visit fnsouthwest.com/lending to learn more.
- Focus on reliability: Search for a car that is reliable and performs well to reduce future costs. Consult consumer reports or online reviews to learn more about the experience others have had with the type of car you are interested in. Inquire about factory and extended warranties that can be a safety net in the instance of future unexpected repair expenses.
- Shop in the right place: Used cars are purchased through private parties, the used car lot of new-car dealerships or a used-car dealership. Start by asking your friends and families where they have found good deals and reliable vehicles. There are also multiple online classifieds for finding used cars such as Cars.com, Edmunds.com and AutoTrader.com that can help you narrow your search.
- Be attentive during your test drive: When driving a potential vehicle on your test drive, check for visibility, engine noise, braking and acceleration. Drive the car at a variety of speeds to test the handling. Listen for rattles and squeaks and ensure the interior and cargo space fits your unique needs. Before purchasing a vehicle, have it inspected by a trusted mechanic to look for issues that may not be visible or obvious during your test drive.
Top Apps to Improve Your Lifestyle - Fall 2013
From fitness to finance, apps can help you improve your lifestyle, help you set goals and help to keep you accountable along the way.
- Lose It!: For those who are aiming to eat healthier, get more exercise, and lose weight, Lose It! is a free app that can help you achieve your goals. Input your current weight and your goal weight, and Lose It! will give you guidelines for how many calories to eat per day and how long it should take you to reach your goals. It also contains an online support community to help you remain accountable. The app is available on Android and iOS.
- RunKeeper: Runkeeper turns your smartphone into a personal trainer and allows you to track jogs, runs, bike rides and more by using the GPS in your phone. It offers customizable training plans, goal tracking and voice coaching. It integrates with several other health and weight-loss apps, including Fitbit, Fitocracy and Lose It! as well as social networks including Facebook and Twitter. The app is available on Android and iOS.
- Mint: Mint is a personal finance app that allows you to monitor your bank, credit card, investment and loan accounts in one place. If you are looking to monitor your budgets and your spending habits, Mint will help you keep track of finances in a safe and secure way. You can set and track individual goals and track progress through easy-to-read graphs and charts. The app is available on Android and iOS.
- First National Banking: First National Bank’s Mobile Banking app recently launched and allows you access your accounts and experience a secure mobile banking experience. You are able to view all your First National Bank accounts in one easy glance – checking, savings, CD, credit card, home equity and mortgage loan accounts. You can also deposit checks without making a trip to the bank with our Mobile Check Deposit and pay your bills to vendors you have set up in your online banking account. Visit 1stnationalbank.com for more information.
- Cozi: Cozi is a free app that allows you to manage your family’s busy calendar. It enables to you to keep track of school schedules, meals, chores and more, all in one place. The app also automatically syncs with Microsoft Outlook, so each member of your family can import and sync their calendars, so it’s always up to date. The Cozi calendar can be accessed through the app or on the website, so your family can always be in the loop. The app is available on Android and iOS.
- Bump: Bump allows two users to quickly share photos, contacts, apps and links by tapping their mobile devices together. It works cross-platform between iOS and Android users and is a quick, easy way to share information with others. The app is available on Android and iOs.
Interview Tips to Land Your Dream Job - Fall 2013
One of the most important steps of advancing your career and finding a job you love is landing and successfully navigating an interview. The following tips will help you make a great first impression and prove you are the best for the job.
- Plan Ahead: Prepare for commonly asked job interview questions in advance of your interview and research the company and position you are interviewing for. Align your responses with your past experiences and the requirements of the job. Practice answering the questions with a friend to refine your answers and talking points.
- Dress for Success: Appropriate interview attire will help you make a great first impression. Dress for the interview, not for the dress code of the organization. A professional and coordinated outfit will help you portray the image of the type of worker you will be.
- Be Aware of Body Language: During your interview, ensure that you sit up straight, maintain eye contact with the interviewer, and appear alert and interested in the conversation. Remaining energized and attentive throughout your interview will further showcase your interest in the job.
- Be Positive: Make positive statements about yourself and the opportunities you’ve had in the past. Avoid negative remarks regarding previous employers.
- Cite Concrete Examples: Stand out from other candidates by providing specific examples to any statements you make during the interview. For example, if the job requires teamwork, give a situational example where you succeeded in a team environment to make your skills more compelling.
- Avoid Certain Topics: During your first interview, you should avoid topics such as compensation, benefits or overtime. Your efforts should be focused on learning more about the position and the company, and sharing why you are the most qualified. The discussion surrounding compensation will happen later if the interviewer determines you are qualified for the job.
- Ask Questions: The questions you ask during an interview can further demonstrate your knowledge and interest in the company. Use the opportunity to ask questions to your advantage by asking about topics such as future career paths and training and development programs. Show your willingness to commit to a company and better yourself as an employee.
- Follow Up: Follow up with your interviewer within 24 hours with a thank you by either email or a hand-written thank you card. Use this opportunity to reiterate your interest and qualifications.