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Citizens Bank Minnesota employees donate $3,052.00 worth of gifts to families in need.

 

Citizens Bank Minnesota's New Ulm main office provided gifts for a local family in need.

Citizens Bank Minnesota's Lafayette staff provided Christmas food boxes for local families in need.

Lafayette staff prepare Christmas food boxes for local families in need.

Citizens Bank Minnesota employees were excited to help families in need this Holiday Season. Our main office in New Ulm as well as two branch locations in La Salle and Lakeville each adopted an area family. Money was donated by employees, raised through a bake sale and free-will donation luncheons, and with a bank match it made it possible to donate $3,052.00 in gifts for these families. We were able to fulfill all the needs the families had, plus more!

Citizens Bank Minnesota, Lafayette Branch, also participated in our Adopt-a-Family project.  Together with the New Ulm Jaycees and guidance from Nick Peterson, an Ag Lender in Lafayette who is involved with the Jaycee’s Christmas Food Basket Project, the Lafayette staff was able to help families in need of food for the Christmas Holiday by collecting money from employees and from fundraising.  With a matching donation from the bank, they were able to assemble 10 Christmas Food Baskets consisting of two boxes full of food, including a large ham.  The Jaycees work with the New Ulm Food shelf and families may sign up if they would like a Christmas Food Basket. The Lafayette staff distributed the baskets and enjoyed seeing the faces of grateful recipients, both young and old.

We were happy to help these families who would have had an otherwise difficult time purchasing the needed items themselves. It was also a great way to remember what the Holidays are truly all about!

Giving Just Got Easier!

Citizens Bank Minnesota is giving away $500 from our Holiday Relief Fund!

Simply use our online payment features from November 14th – December 31st and you could WIN 1 of 5 – $100 Visa Gift Cards!* Keep reading to learn more!

Are you an Online Banking user but don’t use the Bill Pay feature?  Did you know that Bill Pay is:

  • FREE
  • Easy
  • Convenient
  • Unlimited

Save time, money and frustration by paying all your bills from one secure website!

Learn more about Bill Pay!

Do you know about our other great payment features? Giving just got easier!

  • Gift Pay – Have a ‘hard to buy for’ person on your holiday gift list? Send them a Gift Check with our easy to use Gift Pay feature!
  • Donation Pay – It’s easy to send a charitable donation check personalized by you directly from your account!
  • Person-to-Person Payment – This convenient feature allows you to send a person-to-person payment via email to anyone you choose, such as a landlord, babysitter, relative or more.

Learn more about these great payment features!

Try any of these features for FREE!**

*Enter for your chance to win 1 of 5 $100 VISA Gift Cards at any Citizens Bank Minnesota location. You will automatically be entered into the drawing every time a bill payment, gift payment, donation payment, or person-to-person payment is processed using Citizens online bill payment service. The payment must be scheduled to occur between November 14 and December 30, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. CST. Drawing to be held on January 3, 2017; winners need not be present to win. No deposit required. Do not need to open an account or be a customer to win. Any payments made using online bill payment, Gift Pay, Donation Pay or Person-to-Person Payments that are made payable to yourself will be disqualified from promotion. May only win one VISA Gift Card per online banking account. Member FDIC.
**Citizens Bank Minnesota’s online bill payment services of Gift Pay, Donation Pay and Person-to-Person Payments will be free for all initiated payments for both new and existing users between November 14 and January 3, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. CST. After 2:00 p.m. CST on January 3, 2017, these product’s fees will revert back to the original amounts which are Gift Pay ($2.99), Donation Pay ($1.99) and Person-to-Person Payments ($1.00).

9 Best Ways to Save Money During the Holiday Season

holiday-saving1

Before you hit the mall or organize a big party, it can help to have a comprehensive plan in place so you know exactly where your money is going this holiday season – that way, you can ring in the new year with celebration rather than panic. Here are several ways to keep your spending under control this December.

1. Make a Budget

There are a couple different ways to set a holiday budget. You might want to establish a general spending cap, or try allocating a specific amount to each person on your gift list. Be aware, though, that while making a holiday budget is great, it can go sour in one of two ways:

  • Setting a Budget That’s Too Tight. While setting a tight budget always starts with good intentions, an unrealistic one can do more harm than good. Without a little wiggle room for last-minute purchases or enough cash allocated for your mom’s gift, you can end up very frustrated. In fact, you might get so frustrated that you just toss your budget out the window. To prevent this from happening, look over your numbers. Do you really need to spend $50 on wine, or can you cut back in order to allocate more money to gifts instead? Don’t just pick numbers out of thin air – really think things over to ensure that you make the right decisions.
  • Forgetting the Little Things. Gift giving is a huge expense during the holidays, but don’t forget the other costs you incur throughout the season. Parties, travel expenses, charitable donations, and holiday-themed activities can all add up to destroy a budget. If possible, add some money into your budget for unexpected costs so you’re not left scratching your head.

The way you create your budget is up to you, but one thing’s for sure: you need one. Create yours before the season hits full steam, and revisit it often to make sure you’re spending within your means.

2. Track Your Spending

Your budget does no good if you don’t effectively track your spending. Personally, I keep a separate Christmas fund in a dedicated bank account. This makes it easier for me to separate holiday spending from regular, day-to-day expenses. I also have my bank’s app on my phone, which allows me to check my balance and track my spending anytime, anywhere – even in line for the cashier.

Spreadsheets are also an excellent and accurate way to track your holiday expenditures. By establishing a budget and entering your real expenses, you can easily keep yourself on track. Just be sure to remain diligent. I find that if I can track my expenses in real-time, I’m much more effective than if the receipts are lying around for days before I input them into my system.

3. Cut Back on Extras

Getting lattes piled sky-high with whipped cream, splurging on a pair of shoes for yourself, paying for a photo with Santa – we’re all guilty of indulging a little more than we should simply because it’s the holiday season. However, you can’t get stuck in a trap where constant spending on “extras” eats into your budget.

Cutting back on those extras can have a big impact on your bottom line. For example, if you purchase a $4.50 pumpkin spice latte three times per week throughout December, that’s $162 you’ve spent on pricey drinks. That money could have paid for a few Christmas gifts, enough gas to get to Grandma’s house, or a generous donation to a charity of your choice. Before you splurge on a little treat or “extra” for yourself, be sure it’s really worth the price.

4. Use the “Secret Santa” Method

I have four brothers and one sister-in-law on my side of the family, and three brothers-in-law and three sisters-in-law on my husband’s side. Add in the 11 nieces and nephews, and buying for the family becomes a huge expense – not to mention a major drain on my schedule. Instead of buying for each member of the family or even pulling names out of a hat, we’ve decided to funnel our resources into a Secret Santa experience instead.

Our local church decorates a tree with ornaments, each decoration with the age, gender, and specific Christmas wish of a child in need. Instead of buying presents for my own family members, we choose to purchase gifts for the anonymous beneficiaries. The best part is that each individual family chooses as many ornaments as they can afford – some can buy for an entire family, while others can pick one or two ornaments to fit their budget. In the past, my kids and I have had fun picking out toys, clothes, and books for children of a similar age.

Not only does a Secret Santa experience help relieve some of the stress and financial burden of exchanging gifts with every member of my family, it gives us a chance to talk about the importance of service and giving during the holidays. I love that my kids get a break from the “gimmes” and get to focus on someone less fortunate.

Some other ideas for charity during the holidays include the following:

•Toy drives
•Volunteer work
•Baking treats for neighbors
•Assembling care packages for shelters, hospitals, or the armed forces
•Coat drives
•Donating to charity

Funneling what you would have spent on family gifts to those in need is a great way to give back, have a charitable experience with your loved ones, and relieve holiday stress.

5. Choose Cheaper Traditions

Traditions are what make the holidays so special, but they can be a financial burden. If your traditions include holiday travel, paying for a special attraction, or surprising your kids with extravagant gifts, you might find yourself going significantly over budget in the name of family.

While traditions are important and admirable, they don’t have to be expensive to be memorable. In fact, you might find that your kids prefer the cheap stuff to the grander gestures. So many activities and traditions are inexpensive, or even free – you just have to know where to look. By making cheaper events and traditions part of your celebration, you can save money without skimping on the festivities and memories.

Here are some of my favorite cheap activities:

•Touring neighborhood Christmas lights
•Watching a movie with hot chocolate at home
•Sledding
•Seeing Santa at the mall
•Making Christmas crafts
•Baking together
•Reading favorite Christmas stories
•Seeing a high school production, such as a play or choir performance
•Caroling
•Checking daily deals, such as those on Groupon or LivingSocial, for discounts on local attractions

Teach your kids that traditions aren’t about what you spend, but the time you spend together.

6. Embrace Potluck

We host Christmas Eve for our extended family every year at our home. I love prepping, cooking, and having everyone together for Christmas – but you know what I don’t love? How expensive all the food, decor, and activities always are. Buying food for 30 people is seriously pricey, and if not for potluck assignments, I’d be spending most of my Christmas budget on food and drink.

Now, I’ve learned my lesson – if you’re hosting an event, embrace the idea of potluck assignments. Let everyone know you’re going to make the main dish, but that you’d appreciate help on sides, appetizers, desserts, and drinks. I simply send out an email a few weeks in advance letting everyone know what their assignments are to ensure we don’t end up with five vegetable trays and no dessert.

I also assign Christmas games and activities to some of my teen nieces and nephews. They love being involved, and I don’t have to stress about keeping guests entertained.

7. Take Care Around Sales

Holiday sales can be an epic opportunity to save money – but be careful. Not all deals are created equal, and some may not even be truly discounted, as some stores keep prices the same but simply mark items with a “sale” sign.

Always comparison shop before you purchase an item during a sale. I use the ShopSavvy app – it allows me to scan the bar code of any item and see prices at nearby stores and Internet retailers to make sure I’m getting the best deal. Or, if you tend to fall victim to the festive atmosphere of a store and make unwise purchases, try shopping solely online. You can snag great deals and use coupon codes to get a lot more for your money.

Of course, you never save money by spending, no matter how significant the discount. Sales are great, but they don’t mean much if the money isn’t in your budget. If necessary, bring a printout of your budget so you can check your spending in real-time and avoid being swayed by a screaming deal.

8. Know When to Stop

When your list is finished and you’ve checked it twice, it’s time to stop shopping. Know when you’re finished, and avoid stopping by the mall “just to see what they have” – this can lead to making poorly planned purchases and blowing your budget.

I typically get the itch to shop a few days before Christmas, so I specifically save shopping for stocking stuffers until the last minute. That way, I’m still operating within my budget and purchasing something I actually need while fulfilling the urge to be part of the holiday hustle and bustle. By planning purchases and stopping when you’re done, you can be spared that holiday hangover come January.

9. Get a Head Start

The period right after the holidays is the perfect time to check over your budget and make plans for the new year. How did you do? Did you stay within budget? Were there places you could have cut back?

This is also the time to start planning a credit card payoff strategy if you used plastic to finance your festivities. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have put anything on your credit card that you couldn’t pay off in a month, but if you went overboard, commit to a payment plan that eliminates your balances within the next three or four months.

If you’re really savvy and have the storage, the days following Christmas are also ideal for getting a jump-start on purchasing decor and wrapping goods for next year. Of course, that’s only if you’ve budgeted accordingly.

Article courtesy of: Jacqueline Curtis via MoneyCrashers.com

Citizens Employees do 37 Random Acts of Kindness at Bavarian Blast

Bavarian Blat RAK's

Some Citizens employees had a ‘blast’ at Bavarian Blast in New Ulm on Thursday, July 14, 2016! They attended the “Fabulous Armadillos” concert at the festival and surprised quite a few concert attendees by doing 37 Random Acts of Kindness!

Acts included buying beverages, corn dogs and bags of kettle corn! Our employees had some great experiences – when a few people in line at the kettle corn booth heard what one employee was doing, they chipped in a few of their food tokens too, and the business owner donated a bag also! One younger teen hugged his bag of kettle corn after receiving it and his mom said that we had just made his night.

Random Acts of Kindness can be done by anyone, anytime and anywhere. You never know the impact you’ll make on someone, so take the time to do one today! The simplest gesture can mean the most!

5 Ways to Spot a Lottery Scam

lottery scam

According to the FBI, in 2014 consumers lost more than $8 million to solicitation scams promising instant wealth and grand prize earnings. These scams, commonly referred to as the “advance fee,” “lottery” or “sweepstake” scam, involve fraudsters issuing counterfeit checks and fake award letters to consumers who have allegedly won a lottery or sweepstake raffle. The consumer, who most likely never entered the alleged drawing, is issued a check worth more than the amount owed and instructed to pay taxes and fees before receiving their lump sum payment. Unfortunately, the check — in addition to the raffle — is bogus.

Consumers fall victim to lottery and sweepstake scams at alarming rates. It’s extremely important for them to recognize the red flags associated with this type of fraud before they deposit any check they weren’t expecting or send money to an unknown recipient by check or electronic wire.

Before you participate in any lottery or sweepstake, Citizens Bank Minnesota encourages you to keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t be fooled by the appearance of the check. Scam artists are using sophisticated technology to create counterfeit checks that mirror the appearance of legitimate checks. Some are counterfeit money orders, some are phony cashier’s checks and others look like they are from legitimate business accounts. The companies whose names appear may be real, but someone has dummied up the checks without their knowledge.
  • Never ‘pay to play.’ There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back or send you more than the exact amount —that’s a red flag that it’s a scam. If a stranger wants to pay you for something, insist on a cashier’s check for the exact amount, preferably from a local bank or one with a local branch.
  • Verify the requestor before you wire or issue a check. It is important to know who you are sending money to before you send it. Just because someone contacted you doesn’t mean they are a trusted source.
  • Ensure a check has “cleared” to be most safe. Under federal law, banks must make deposited funds available quickly, but just because you can withdraw the money doesn’t mean the check is good, even if it’s a cashier’s check or money order. Be sure to ask if the check has cleared, not merely if the funds are available before you decide to spend the money.
  • Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. Bank staff are experts in spotting fraudulent checks. If you think someone is trying to pull a fake check scam, don’t deposit it—report it. Contact your local bank or the National Consumers League’s Fraud Center, fraud.org.

For more information about fake check scams and how you can avoid them, go to fakechecks.org.

Article courtesy of the American Bankers Association

2016 Spring Planting Reminders

spring plantingIt is official….Spring is really here and soon most farmers will be working hard to get their crops in.  As a reminder, early planting may help to maximize yield potential for corn and soybeans; however, planting too early can be detrimental to the crop.  Soil temperature and weather conditions should dictate when optimal planting should take place.

While checking temperatures and weather conditions, make sure to keep the following dates in mind:

Corn = Early Plant Date is April 11, 2016, Final Plant Date May 31, 2016                                 Soybeans = Early Plant Date is April 21, 2016, Final Plant Date, June 10, 2016

The above dates pertain to Southern Minnesota.  Always double-check with your MPCI agent to confirm.

Another important date to keep in mind is Acreage Reporting date of July 15, 2016.  Many times we get busy after planting and this date slips our minds; however, if after you finish planting you go right to the FSA office and certify your acres, drop off a copy of your 578’s and maps to your MPCI agent, you will be finished and on to the next project.

Happy Planting and we wish you a Safe Spring!

By:  Brian J. Shropshire,
Vice President

Fire Prevention and Safety Tips

FireSafetyTips

The Do’s and Don’ts of Protecting your Home and Personal Belongings

  The devastation that a fire causes can be tremendous; but there are things that all of us can do as homeowner’s and renters that can help prevent dealing with one of these life changing events.  Fires cost millions of dollars every year.  We all can help in reducing the cost of these fire losses by implementing some fire prevention measures and regular fire maintenance.

Do’s:

  • Make sure that smoke alarms are in place and are properly working. Test them out on a monthly basis and replace them every 10 years.  It is recommended that you have 2 types of smoke alarms; hard wired and battery.  Also make sure you have at least one smoke alarm on each level of the house.
  • While cooking, make sure you stay in the kitchen. Cooking is the #1 cause of home fires.
  • Make sure that you keep at least one UL-listed 10 pound approved fire extinguisher in the house and garage. Make sure you are familiar with how to use a fire extinguisher and examine them to make sure they are still fully charged.
  • Having fire stops and fire doors in homes can prevent a fire from spreading quickly in a home; and can give the fire department the advantage of getting control of the fire before it does further damage. When fire stops and fire doors are used in conjunction with one another it can isolate the fire to where it originated.  A fire wall between an attached garage to a house can protect the rest of the house and contents when a fire starts in a garage.
  • Create a fire escape route with your family and practice it so that everyone knows the drill. Practice it from different rooms in the house so that everyone understands the safest and best route out.  Remember to stay low and before opening a door know to use your sense of touch to check if it is hot or not.

Don’ts:

  • Avoid using space heaters as they can be a source for a fire. If you need to use a space heater, do not leave them unattended.  Make sure the space around them is clear and does not have anything close to it, which could heat up and catch on fire.  Keep a minimum of 3 feet away from anything combustible.  Do not plug a space heater into an extension cord or power strip.
  • Do not overload outlets and/or extension cords. Do not use electrical cords that are not in good shape.  These can cause electrical fires and could go undetected until out of control within the walls of your home.  Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpet.
  • Do not let the lint filter in your dryer go uncleaned.  Also, clean dryer vents and the hosing on a regular basis.  You do not want blockage in the vent that could cause it to overheat and start a fire.
  • If you have a wood burning fire place in your home do not leave it unattended. Do not remove the ashes when hot from the fire place. Once removed make sure they are a fair distance away from your home and any other building/property.  Do not keep combustible items near a fireplace and/or wood burning stove. Make sure the fire place and/or wood stove is maintained and cleaned on a regular basis and is installed by a professional contractor.
  • Do not leave candles unattended and burning when not in the room. Do not burn candles near anything that may be combustible.  Do not leave a child in a room with a burning candle unattended.

The fire departments in the U.S. deal with and respond to almost 2 million fires each year.  The U.S. Fire Administration reports that fires kill more than 4,000 Americans each year and injures approximately 20,000 more.  Remember your family, home and belongings are the most valuable things that you have and you want to make sure they are protected at all times.  By following these rules, you can help prevent the devastation that a fire can cause.

Submitted By: Nick Hage – Citizens Agency Manager

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