Posts Tagged ‘ Personal Finance ’

Bank on the GO with Citizens Go! Mobile App!

Did you know you can bank anytime, anywhere, with the Citizens Bank Minnesota Go! Mobile App?  It’s a FREE download to your smart phone – download and use it today!

How to download the Citizens Mobile App

  • Apple Devicesgo to the Apple Store and search ‘Citizens Bank Minnesota’ to download the App

apple app

  • Android Devices go to the Google Play Store and search ‘Citizens Bank Minnesota’ to download the App

Google app

  • Login to Citizens Mobile App with Online Banking Credentials
    • You can enable the “Remember Me” feature
    • Touch ID or Face Recognition is also available on Select Devices

 Here are a few of the awesome features that are available on our Go!Mobile App!

  • View Accounts
  • View Statements
  • Mobile Deposit
  • Pay bills/person to person payments
  • Forgot Password Reset (see images below)

forgot password images

Questions? Contact Citizens Connection at 800-549-0194 and we’d be happy to help you!

 

How to Cure Your Post-Holiday Financial Hangover

Ask anyone you know, and everyone seems to have a cure for a hangover. Some of the more traditional fixes include aspirin or ibuprofen, lots of water, coffee and lots of food. Then there are more unusual remedies, like drinking pickle juice. But how do you cure a financial hangover? You overspent before the holidays, and now the balance on your credit card bills looks terrifying in the sobering light of January.

At least with a typical hangover, if your attempts to alleviate the pain don’t work or you simply don’t fight it, the misery will end sooner rather than later. Doing nothing when you have a financial hangover can make your situation worse (i.e., your debt will grow), and even if you try to immediately cure it, the effects can last for months (i.e., the debt may be gone, but money may still be tight). So if you spent a little too much leading up to the holidays – or went way overboard – here are some options to help you undo the damage.

Return some items. This may not be much of a solution since you can’t very well go to your friends and family and ask for your gifts back, and you certainly don’t want to suggest to your children that Santa might want to repossess a few presents. Still, it’s a strategy worth a few seconds of consideration. If you got carried away and made some expensive purchases for yourself in December, keep in mind that most stores have at least a 30-day return policy.

Utilize your credit cards. Yes, your credit cards may have gotten you into this mess, but they may be able to help get you out of it. Randy Hopper, vice president of credit cards at Navy Federal Credit Union in Vienna, Va., suggests a balance transfer. That is, if you have a credit card with one of those low- or zero-interest deals, many of which are up to 18 months, and you can transfer the balance of your other credit card, you’ll have a place to put your debt, with low to no interest, while you try and pay it off. But Hopper warns: “Be mindful that once the initial balance transfer period is over, the interest rate will jump to a higher rate.”

Avoid shopping. Try to steer clear of the post-holiday January sales. “I would encourage people not to accumulate additional debt,” says Clare Levison, a Blacksburg, Va.-based certified public accountant and a member of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Even though winter stuff might be on clearance, which seems crazy with the temperatures we’ve been having, try to resist going after the bargains.”

Do your taxes now. If you have a big, fat refund coming, Levison points out that it could be the cure to your post-holiday hangover. “And anything you have that’s left over, I, of course, have to suggest that you should put into savings,” Levison says.

Bring in some extra money, creatively. It may not solve all of your problems, but you could try to raise some extra income quickly, suggests Andrew Johnson, spokesperson for GreenPath Debt Solutions, a nationwide nonprofit headquartered in Detroit that helps consumers with credit card debt, housing debt and bankruptcy. “Look for unused items around the home than contain scrap materials that can be sold quickly, like iron or brass. My mother sold a roll of copper screen on her own that she found in her basement, and made some quick cash,” Johnson says. He also points out that you could try selling or pawning unwanted items.

Use this moment as the catalyst to start budgeting. If things are really bad and you want to fix your finances so this never happens again, “you’ve got to make changes,” says John McFarland, a personal finance professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. “The good news is that these same changes might lead a to a financially healthier holiday season next year if you make them permanent instead of temporary.”

While you examine your budget and decide where to make changes, McFarland suggests doing what you would do if you had binged on food or alcohol. “Unless you’re an addict, you lay off for awhile. Let’s do the same with money. Put away the credit cards, pay everything with cash except for your regular bills and begin to understand your baseline financial position,” he says.

Incorporate your debt into your other resolutions. This is a time of year when you may be resolving to lose weight or exercise. “So that makes it a great time to cut your budget in eating out and entertainment,” Levison says. “If you eat at home more often, it’ll save you dollars and calories and you can use that money to go toward your holiday bills instead.”

You could even try to convince yourself of this: All of this holiday debt you’re wallowing in could be the best thing that ever happened to you if you use the experience to make positive changes in your life, like eating less fast food or becoming better at budgeting.

As financial hangover cures go, “that is a more positive spin on things,” Levison says.

And at least you don’t have to drink pickle juice.

Article courtesy of: Geoff Williams via money.usnews.com

9 Best Ways to Save Money During the Holiday Season

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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

5 Smart Uses for Your Tax Refund

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Nearly eight out of 10 U.S. tax filers will receive a federal tax refund this year.  As millions of Americans await reimbursement from Uncle Sam, the American Bankers Association has highlighted five tips for making the most of their tax refund.

“Smart use of your tax refund can start you on the path to long-term financial security,” said Frank Keating, ABA president and CEO.  “Instead of going on a spending spree, take a moment to evaluate your financial situation and decide on where those dollars will make the most difference.”

ABA recommends the following tips for consumers looking to put their tax refund to good use:

  • Pay off debt. Pay down existing balances either by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first.
  • Save for retirement. Open or increase contributions to a tax-deferred savings plan like a 401(k) or an IRA.  Where can you get one?  Your bank can help set up an IRA, while a 401(k) is employer-sponsored.
  • Put it toward a down payment.  The biggest challenge that most first-time home buyers face is coming up with enough money for a down payment. If you intend to buy a new home in the near future, putting your tax refund toward the down payment is a smart move.
  • Invest in your current home.  Use your refund to invest in home improvements that will pay you back in the long run by increasing the value of your home.  This can include small, cost-effective upgrades like energy-efficient appliances that will pay off in both the short and long term. If you have more substantial renovations in mind, your bank can help with a home equity line of credit.

Article courtesy of the American Bankers Association

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5 Personal Finance Tips for Recent College Grads

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It’s not an easy job market for recent graduates and that fact can put them at a disadvantage financially. Therefore, establishing some sort of income is an important first step for grads. Assuming that initial post-college job is landed, here are five tips to help you establish a strong financial footing as a 20-something.

1. Make More Than You Spend – This might sound obvious; however there is a nuance or two post-college. First of all, don’t upgrade your lifestyle. Even though you’re no longer a student, continue to live like one. That way you’ll have more money to save. Also, save as much as possible. Saving is particularly powerful in one’s twenties because each dollar put away now has a longer time to accumulate interest and gains. Of course, there is no guarantee your money will grow, however, early savings is always a wise decision. Consistent saving habits can add up over time. Even if amounts aren’t large, consistency counts for a lot, particularly when you start early.

2. Establish an Emergency Fund – This is money set aside for an unanticipated expense, like a job loss or accident. In all likelihood an emergency is not a matter of if but when. And when it happens, you’ll be prepared, and you won’t be using your credit card to cover an unexpected expense. An emergency fund can prevent you from entering a cycle of credit card debt. Three to six months of expenses set aside is the general rule of thumb, but some of my clients feel more comfortable with a years worth of expenses set aside in savings.

3. Pay Off Student Debt Before Loans Start Accruing Interest – Most student loans have a grace period between graduation and when interest starts to accrue. That doesn’t mean you have to wait to make payments. Start paying off your student loans immediately. Don’t give that interest a chance to start and you’ll owe less on your debt.  More importantly, create a plan to pay off your student debt. Make a spreadsheet that includes facts about your loans like the balance, interest rate, monthly payment, payment date etc. If you have more than one loan, this can help you prioritize which one to pay off first and in what amounts.

4. Understand Your Employee Benefits – If you have recently started a new job, it’s important to know the benefits provided by your employer. If you don’t take advantage of those benefits, it’s like leaving money on the table. Nobody would turn down their full salary, so why would you fail to redeem this type of compensation? Typical employee benefits include, health insurance, a 401(k) and basic life insurance. Perhaps you are eligible to receive more complicated compensation like an employee stock options plan (ESOP). Either way, be sure you understand and maximize your employee benefits.

5. Open a Roth IRA – This is a type of retirement account. It is generally suited to people who are just starting their careers. For more information about Roth IRAs and why they might be a good fit for you, take a look at this recent post on Retirement Basics. The IRS website also has detailed information on Roth IRAs which can be found here.

This is not a complete list. It’s simply a place to get you started. Speaking with a fee-only Certified Financial Planner can give you more direction and detail. Establishing a strong position with your personal finances can be a fun challenge, and I hope these tips help. Starting now will give you more time to SaveUp!

This post was written by SaveUp’s personal finance contributing writer, Catherine Hawley, CFP®.  Article taken from Huff Post College, 7/8/13

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/saveup/5-personal-finance-tips-f_b_3535771.html

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Could you use $4,000 for College?

Citizens Bank Minnesota has paid out $104,500 in awards since 2000 with their Scholarship Program. 

Citizens awards two or more scholarships each year to local graduating seniors who will be attending post-secondary education. Scholarship Management Services, a division of Scholarship America of St. Peter, performs the selection process and administration. This program was instituted at Citizens as a way to show our commitment to the community and our belief in today’s youth. Citizens plans to continue this tradition for years to come!

Applicants for the scholarship program must be high school seniors, who plan to enroll in a full-time undergraduate course of study at an accredited four year college or university in the fall following graduation. This program’s requirements include that the student be a customer of Citizens Bank Minnesota with an open and active checking account. The applicant must also attend the required educational banking classes before applications are distributed.

Students applying for the scholarship are required to attend the ‘Real Life 101’ seminar. This seminar focuses on teaching valuable lessons in banking. The classes include Personal Finance, Loans and Credit, Investments, Insurance and Online Banking tools. The classes include lecture as well as real life examples, such as how to work a budget, what is needed to apply for a loan, and various investment options to name a few.

Scholarship awards are $1,000.00 each. Awards may be renewed for an additional three years, on the basis of satisfactory academic performance and maintaining full-time enrollment. Applicants not selected for the scholarship awards will be entered into a drawing to win some fun prizes. Not all applicants will be selected to receive an award.

Interested students must complete the application they receive after meeting the bank’s requirements. Applicants are responsible for gathering and submitting all necessary information. Applications are evaluated on the information provided; therefore, the applicant must answer questions to the fullest extent possible. All information received is considered confidential and is reviewed only by Scholarship America. Applications must be completed and postmarked by the deadline set by Scholarship America.

Scholarship recipients are selected on the basis of academic record, potential to succeed, leadership, participation in school and community activities, honors received and work experience. Students are also asked to complete a statement of educational and career goals, and submit an outside appraisal from a teacher or counselor. Financial need is not considered. Selection of recipients is made by Scholarship America. In no instance does any bank or school official play a part in the selection. All applicants agree to accept the decision of Scholarship America as final.

If you are interested in this program contact Scholarship Coordinator Missy Marti (mmarti@citizensmn.com). Our first Real Life 101 seminar for 2010 will be held Tuesday, December 28th in New Ulm. 

Missy Marti, Assistant Marketing Director/eWorld Coordinator

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