How Setting Savings Goals Can Help You Save Money

Focus your attention to get the job done

Just like with life in general, Budgetingsetting goals for savings can make you much more focused on the task at hand and therefore more successful in reaching those objectives. But how and where do you get started on your savings goals?

A step-by-step process can help you discern what you want most out of your money. Follow these five steps to stay focused so you can watch your savings grow and achieve your dreams:

1. Make a budget – Taking into consideration what you earn each month versus your expenses, create a monthly budget. This will help you figure out how much you can afford to save. The reality is that goals mean nothing if they aren’t legitimately feasible.

2. Define your goals and name them – That may sound silly, but placing a specific tag on an account will help you stay focused and reach your goals faster, say the financial planners at The Money Advice Service. Seeing the deposit amount rise in your “Mustang Fund” will help you stay motivated, whereas keeping a watchful eye on Account No. 280599 may seem depressing.

At the same time, come up with a target number. How much money will you need for a down payment on that brand new Ford, and just as important, by when would you like to be riding around in your new whip? Research by National Savings and Investments of the United Kingdom has found that people who set savings goals save up to £550 a year (which is more than $865 in the United States) more than people who don’t, and they also save that amount at a faster rate.

3. Clarify your priorities – You likely have more than one item for which you are saving up. In conjunction with defining your goals, you will need to decide how much of that money you budgeted for will go toward which goal. When you set goals, you need to make choices, and that means prioritizing which ones are most important.

4. Consider the best products, places and strategies for saving – Your timetable will likely help you with these decisions, along with how much risk you want to take with this money. For example, The Money Advice Service recommends:

  • For a short-term goal (up to five years), you want a savings product like a savings account, high-yield savings account, money market account or CD.
  • For a medium-term goal (5-10 years), use a savings product, or consider investments, depending on your goals and risk appetite.
  • For a longer-term goal (10+ years), you should consider investments like stocks, bonds or federally insured IRAs. These tend to provide protection from inflation over the long term.

5. Utilize automatic transfer – Financial institutions suggest that customers use online banking to schedule automatic internal transfers to savings, as they make banking much easier. There are many options for setting up internal transfers using online banking. You can choose how often you want to transfer the money and to which accounts. In fact, setting up multiple accounts for your various goals will help you stay focused as well. If your money isn’t in checking, you’re also less likely to spend it.

By adhering to the above steps, you will find hitting your savings goals to be much easier and less stressful.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

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5 Highly Anticipated Books to Be Released This Summer

Get ready for beach reading with this list of summer’s hottest releases

Summer is the perfect timeBooks_Featured to catch up on your reading. Whether you’re enjoying a trip to the beach or having a staycation at home, sitting down with a good read helps relax the mind and give it a break from the stress of our everyday lives. Here are some of the most anticipated new releases that you can look forward to finding in your local bookstore or library this season:

“Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee
Harper Lee’s highly-anticipated sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird” was recently discovered by her lawyer. Set 20 years after the original novel, Scout is now grown up and on her way home to Alabama to visit her father Atticus. “Go Set a Watchman” was actually written before “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but Lee’s editor loved the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood so much that he suggested she write a book about that instead. More specific details about the plot have been kept tightly under wraps, but all of its secrets come out this summer.

“A Marriage of Opposites”by Alice Hoffman
New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman is back with a new novel ready to be released in August. “A Marriage of Opposites”is set on the island paradise of St. Thomas and focuses on the forbidden love affair of Rachel and Frederick Manzano de Pissarro, parents of the Impressionist master Camille Pissarro. Fans of Hoffman’s “The Museum of Extraordinary Things” and “The Dovekeepers” have understandably high hopes for this adaptation of a true story.

“A Cure for Suicide”by Jesse Ball
Available in July, “A Cure for Suicide”by Jesse Ball is an original work that focuses on the human existence and how our society looks from the outside. A man and a woman move into a village, with the woman teaching the man everything about life, from what a fork is to how you introduce yourself to other people. When the man leaves the house and attends a party outside of his tiny world, it forces him to question what he has been taught. It certainly sounds like the kind of fascinating topic that could spark a lively discussion in book club.

“Purity”by Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen took the world by storm with his 2011 hit, Freedom. Now he’s back with “Purity,” which will be published on Sept. 1. It follows the adventure of a forthright young woman named Purity “Pip” Tyler, starting in Oakland, California, and moving on to places like East Berlin, Denver, and Bolivia. Politics and intrigue are woven in the story, as Pip works with organizations looking to expose world governments’ fraud and searches to find out the truth about her parentage. Reading about the intriguing fictional politics in this book should be a nice break from the real politics on the news.

“Armada” by Ernest Cline
Science fiction fans, rejoice! Ernest Cline, the author of “Ready Player One,” is back with another adventure. High school student Zack Lightman is a gamer just trudging along to graduation. Everything is going pretty normally, until he spots a flying saucer outside of his classroom that looks exactly like the ones from his games. It’s up to Zack and the other gamers of the world to step in and save our planet. “Armada”promises to be escapism at its finest, and it’s ready to take you away from it all.

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Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Recycle Plastic Bottles with DIY Projects

Simple DIY projects to recycle those old plastic bottles

According to the EPA,Plastics_Featured about 2,480,000 tons of plastic bottles and jars were disposed of in 2008. What if those millions of tons of plastic could be put to a new use? Below are seven simple do-it-yourself projects to recycle those used plastic bottles.

Scoops
This especially works for plastic milk jugs. Simply cut off a large, diagonal section of an empty milk jug and you have a light-duty scoop with a nice handle included. This also works especially well using old (rinsed out) bleach bottles, laundry detergent bottles, and any other bottle with a built-in, sturdy handle.

Watering can
This project is probably the easiest one to do – poke holes through the cap of a large bottle or jug. Fill with water and tilt for an easy recycled catering can. Other plant-watering options for recycling old bottles include drilling holes in the sides of a milk jug and burying it next to young plants as a drip watering system, or attaching a bottle with holes poked in one side to the end of a hose as a homemade sprinkler head.

Plastic bag sealer
This project is for use with bottles with stronger caps (especially old Gatorade or Powerade bottles), so this would not go well for milk jugs. To make the sealer, just cut off the bottle below the mouth (don’t forget to save the cap). To use it, feed the plastic bag up through the mouth from beneath, reverse the edge to fold down all around the sealer, and then put the sealer’s cap back on.

Phone charger holder
This easy project is best for use with thin, deep bottles like shampoo bottles. Use a pair of scissors to cut straight across the front of the bottle and cut a high loop into the back of the bottle. Cut a hole through the back loop large enough to fit over the outlet adaptor for your phone charger. To use, slip the loop over the adaptor while it is plugged in, then plug in your phone and set it in the pocket. Make sure you decorate your phone holster to match your taste.

Planters
The Internet is full of plant-growing ideas for recycling old bottles. Some cut milk jugs horizontally across, place them in vertical rows, and add rubber hoses to create an easily-watered garden. Others cut the bottles lengthwise to create a recycled planter tray. Or, you could create a hanging garden by slicing sections from the sides of large bottles and using string to hang them from a beam.

Bird feeder
This one can go a number of different ways – if you have a milk jug, just cut large holes in the sides, fill with birdseed, and hang your new birdfeeder from the cap. For smaller bottles, cut small holes straight through the bottle and thread wooden spoons through to make easy places for the birds to perch. Cut the hold on the side with the bowl of the spoon a little larger to let birdseed fall out more easily. Fill the bottle with birdseed and suspend it by its cap.

The next time you finish off your bottle of soda, get creative with the can and try any of these innovative ideas.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

How Car Insurance Varies by Location

Where premiums are highest and lowest, and why

If you’ve lived in differentCarInsurance_Featured states or regions of the country throughout your life, you may have noticed something about your cost of living — the price you pay for your auto insurance varies drastically by location. These differences are not arbitrary, however; several factors go into determining insurance rates:

Legal environment – “Next time you’re in your car driving down the road, take a look at the billboards. Do you see a lot of ads for what are known as ‘ambulance chasers?’” queries Gigi Douban of Marketplace.org.

Robert Hoyt, a risk management and insurance professor at the University of Georgia, explains that rates are higher in areas where residents tend to sue each other often, thus creating an ideal environment for lawyers who specialize in cases seeking damages for personal injury. Insurance companies track litigation rates, how often juries award for damages and other factors when setting insurance rates in any given area.

State laws – Varying insurance regulations also contribute to the difference. Hoyt says that in his experience, states in which drivers have the highest auto insurance costs are the no-fault states, meaning the insurance company covers your injuries in those states.

Population density – People in urban areas tend to pay more for car insurance. “The more cars, the more accidents that happen,” explains Laura Adams, senior analyst with InsuranceQuotes.

Other sociopolitical factors – The level of competition among insurance providers is another factor that is taken into consideration; think of it as supply and demand.

Also, Forbes reports that rates are costlier in states that have a higher-than-average percentage of uninsured and underinsured motorists (largely because of economic reasons) who cause crashes for which they aren’t covered and can’t pay. One other way prices can vary by state is if you are in an area prone to storms and thus storm damage. Rates increase if there was severe weather the previous year that produced more claims than normal the year before that.

Put into practice
A 2015 report from InsuranceQuotes shows that drivers from North Carolina, Wisconsin and Maine pay the least for auto insurance. North Carolina’s rates run 41 percent less than the national average, while Michigan’s rates are more than double that average.

According to Insure.com, Falmouth, Maine, has been known to boast the lowest premiums in the country, a fact largely accredited to relatively low traffic density, active competition among carriers, low crime rates and the absence of recent natural disasters.

“Many of these problems are outside the control of drivers,” says Amy Danise, editorial director of Insure.com. “But even if you live in an expensive state, you can hold down your insurance costs by keeping your driving record as clean as possible and selecting a car that is cheap to insure.”

Whether it’s automotive or anything else, stop by today to see if we have any insurance products that can be of assistance to you.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Should You Buy Your Leased Vehicle?

Here are five times when you should say yes
Leasing a vehicle iscarBuying3_Featured very different from purchasing it. A lease is, in essence, a rental agreement between you and the leasing company. As with a rented apartment, you are responsible for its condition when the term is up. At that point, you must decide if you want to return the car to its owner or negotiate a deal to buy it outright.

If you stray from the limits defined in your lease agreement (returning the car in poor shape, going over mileage, etc.), you will be hit with extra charges and penalties, similar to not getting your security deposit back on a rented house. Otherwise, you can just hand over the keys and go on your way. Or like with a rent-to-own home, you can opt to buy it, should you want to go that route.

Here are five times when buying your leased car would make sense:

1. You went over on miles.
According to trusted online vehicle resource Autotrader.com, you can avoid those steep excess mileage penalties by purchasing your leased vehicle.

“The leasing company estimated what the car would be worth at the end of the lease, stating it as the residual value,” Autotrader.com states. “Estimating residual value includes setting a limit on the number of miles the car can be driven.” Usually that number is 12,000 per year, with a per-mile penalty for every extra mile driven, but again, that penalty is usually dodged if you decide to buy the car.

2. The car is in poor shape.
Similarly, if you haven’t been taking the best care of your leased car, you will be penalized. The little dings and scratches you brushed off as no big deal are a huge deal to your leasing company, and they will penalize you as such. You can avoid those additional charges if you buy the car.

3. You’ve kept your baby in pristine condition.
There is also the other side of the coin. While the leased vehicle has been in your possession you’ve done everything by the book — not a scratch on the exterior, not a stain on the interior — and you’ve had no maintenance issues; why wouldn’t you want to keep it?

“There is not another used car on the market that you can have more confidence in than the one you’ve been driving for the past 24 to 48 months,” Autotrader.com surmises. “If you still love this car as much at the end of the lease as you did on the day you picked it out, keeping it may be the smart move.”

4. The cost would be less than the market value.
The point of estimating a residual value is not just to help set mileage limits, but it’s also even more so to set the lease payment.

“In simple terms, the new-car sale price minus the residual value divided by the number of months in the lease equals the monthly payment,” Autotrader.com explains.

The website says that if the leasing company set the residual value too high, your monthly lease payments were lower than they should’ve been, but if the residual value was too low, you can often buy the car for less than what it’s worth when the lease is up. This is because these companies either resell their returned cars to a dealer or sell them at auction. Usually they can negotiate a price with you that is a more favorable outcome for all parties.

5. You can avoid car shopping all over again.
Two to three years ago, you spent a lot of time and energy picking out your leased vehicle. Avoid weeks of hassle by buying out your lease. It will still take a bit of research and bargaining, but it’s better than starting from scratch.

As you can see, there is a lot to think about in the month or two before your lease ends. Typically, your leasing company will contact you during that time to discern where you are in your decision-making process. With any luck, you’ll now have a better idea of how to respond when that time comes, and be sure to speak with us to get the best possible financing rates.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.