Healthy New Year’s Resolutions You Should Actually Stick To

Make 2016 a year unlike any other with these resolutions

It is a common practiceNewYearsRes_Featured for individuals to set resolutions for the New Year. Typically, health-related goals are chief among these aspirations. Typically, they involve going to the gym more, eating better or quitting some degree of bad habit. It can be quite easy to fall off the wagon with resolutions once the shimmer of the New Year has worn off, but 2016 can be the year where you finally stick to your pledges and improve your quality of life. To help, here are resolutions for 2016 that you should strive to achieve.

Cut down on cigarettes
If you are a smoker, then you probably know the difficulty in trying to quit for good. It is not an easy task to try and quit cold turkey, so perhaps the best approach is to slowly wean yourself from the need to smoke. One method is quantifying how much you smoke. If you are a pack-a-day smoker, then you are smoking around 20 cigarettes a day and spending anywhere between $6 and $10 on your habit. Making a conscious effort to cut that number will not only help you better see the financial advantages of quitting for good, but it could also help your body adjust to a point where quitting becomes a possibility.

Increase your exercise at home
If you work 40 hours a week (or more), then trying to carve out an hour or more every day to go to the gym can become a chore. However, you can save yourself a lot of climbing over mental hurdles by performing simple and effective bodyweight exercises in your own home. Spending between 15 – 30 minutes doing burpees, crunches, push-ups or resistance band routines will not only have you feeling fitter, but it will also help you create a rhythm should you decide to spring for a gym membership down the line.

Planning and portioning your meals
One of the reasons that fad diets tend not to work is because they are temporary solutions to a long-term problem. In order to lose weight, you should understand that you have to change your lifestyle as opposed to adopting a diet for a handful of weeks or even months. One of the best ways to change your lifestyle is to create good habits, and there are no better habits than preparing your own meals and portioning out your food correctly, according to Health.com. By preparing food at home, you can determine your caloric intake down to the gram, and you will manage to save yourself a ton of money in the process. Rather than spring for lunch out at the office, consider spending a few hours on the weekend preparing your meals for the week to come; this habit will better attune you to your dietary needs and it will teach you the dedication necessary to stick to dietary changes for the long-term.

Be mindful of your fluids
You can easily lose some excess weight by simply giving up carbonated colas, especially if you drink one or more cans of soda a day. If you demand something flavorful, there are countless flavored water products that should satiate your sweet tooth without the exorbitant sugar. Alternatively, green tea is a great means to get antioxidants into your system, and black coffee – both caffeinated and non-caffeinated – keeps you alert during the day without the added risk of tooth decay. The greatest alternative to soda, however, is water. WebMD recommends consuming roughly eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day (although much of this water comes from the food you eat). Being mindful of your water intake and keeping track of it promotes better hydration and more energy.

The saying goes that it takes three weeks to form a new habit or break an old one. If you want to look better, feel better and be better, try one or all of these easy resolutions in 2016.

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

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How Long Should Your Auto Loan Be?

How shorter loans will save you money in the long run

If you’re looking to buy a new car, AutoCosts_Featuredyou might be planning to use an auto loan to finance your new purchase. When obtaining a car loan, most buyers tend to focus solely on the purchase price, and not consider the overall conditions of the loan. But the car loan length can be just as important as the number value you’ll pay. And if that’s the case, you’ll need to consider a few things beforehand — like whether to obtain a short- or long-term loan.

While the average car loan length is 67 months, many experts agree that it may be more beneficial to go for a shorter auto loan. So is there a magic number that experts can agree on? All signs point to 36 months being a pretty perfect amount of time for an auto loan.

“If you really care about building financial security, you would never take out a car loan greater than 36 months,” says Suze Orman, host of The Suze Orman Show. “Do that and you’ll have more money to put toward the spending that really matters, such as building an emergency savings account that covers eight months of expenses, putting more money into your retirement savings accounts, and being able to qualify for a mortgage if owning a home is a priority.”

Basically, a shorter car loan, or one that is over the course of 36 months, will save you money in the long run. Think about it: While a long-term loan will offer you a lower monthly payment, you’re paying much more in interest. There are not many benefits to a long-term loan. It’s important to understand that the length of your loan directly affects your interest rate.

“A shorter-term loan pays off the car faster and helps you pay less in overall interest costs,” explains Allison Vail, a spokeswoman for LendingTree.com.

Longer loans are usually coupled with high interest rates, meaning that by the time the car is paid off, the vehicle’s life expectancy is usually at its end too. Note that the average car’s life is 9.4 years (7.6 years for trucks).

In addition, if you have a long-term car loan, but want to trade your car in early (as many do with a depreciating car value), you could have negative financial consequences.

“If you have a 72-month loan and get the itch to buy a new car around the average six-year mark, you wouldn’t have enjoyed any time without payments, which diminishes the point of car buying in the first place,” explains Ronald Montoya, consumer advice editor with Edmunds.com. “At that point, you’re better off leasing the car.”

“If you have to finance something for over 60 months, you shouldn’t be buying a car, or you should be getting into something cheaper,” adds John Ulzheimer, president of Consumer Education for Credit.com.

When deciding on getting a short- or long-term car loan, weigh the pros and cons to find out which would work best for you.

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

Online Banking Argument: Paper Statement or E-Statement?

Making a case for the better mode of financial communication

We live in an electronic world.OnlineStmts_Featured Nowadays, credit card companies and financial institutions are increasingly giving consumers the option to stop having paper statements mailed to them and begin having their regular statements available online, with notification via email (in the form of e-statements). Are there any advantages of one over the other? How about any glaring disadvantages for either? Read on for more details.

E-statements
The beauty of the Internet, and with that, e-statements, is ease of use. You can view an e-statement from any computer or Internet-capable device in the world. Quickness and ease are the reasons we use credit cards to begin with, notes Credit.com’s Jason Steele.

“The entire premise of a credit card is that it allows us to complete transactions without exchanging paper currency or checks,” Steele says on Yahoo! Finance.

Moreover, e-statements save on postage and paper, saving businesses money and saving the environment at the same time. Finally, online statements usually put many additional tools at your disposal to track finances, such as tracking spending in certain categories or graphing spending habits over a period of time.

Paper statements
With a credit card or banking statement that you can physically pull out of your mailbox, you have in your hand a tangible financial record. You also have on hand a concrete reminder of a bill that needs paid, should that be the instance.

You are also more likely to actually read the paper statement, which could help you uncover potential fraudulent charges, for example. Furthermore, an advantage for business people is that you can more easily circle or otherwise annotate various charges that need to be claimed as expenses through work.

Also keep in mind that most companies and financial institutions allow you to view your statement online regardless of whether a paper statement is mailed to you.

That said, you can take advantage of many of the perks of both e-statements and paper ones by opting in to both. Consider the above points and decide for yourself which method better suits your needs.

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

Tips From Popular Money-Saving Experts

Easy ways to save money each day

We all want to save money.MoneySavingTips_Featured While it’s a struggle for many, there are lots of simple ways to sock a few — or more — extra bucks away each month. Take a cue from some of these money-saving experts to find out a few easy ways you can cut back on expenses and start saving for whatever it is life throws your way.

Cook your own meals
If you find yourself going out to eat a lot, it might be a good time to evaluate your cooking skills.

“Cooking for yourself can be fast and easy, as well as surprisingly cheap,” explains Maura Judkis, writer, editor and Web producer in Washington, D.C. “Try online recipe finders for meals that use what you already have in your fridge. Make enough for a few days, and then use the leftovers in sandwiches for work the rest of the week. Eating at your desk could save you more than $100 a month.”

Be specific about your goals
When you’re particular about where you want to be financially, it will be easier to actually reach those goals. For instance, determine where you’d like to be financially when it comes to having money set aside for putting your kids through college, your vacation fund or the account for emergencies.

“Your needs will take precedence over your wants, with short-term needs being the top priority,” says Kiplinger contributing editor Cameron Huddleston. “Then you can set goals to meet those needs — and fulfill your wants.”

Use coupons — on everything
“You already know to look for coupons when shopping for groceries, clothes, toys and home goods, but what about all those other items in your budget? A quick Internet search could help you save big bucks on everything from medicine to dental care to car repairs and pet care,” says Andrea Woroch, a nationally recognized consumer and money-saving expert, writer and TV personality. “Consider this example: I was picking up a prescription at CVS when I decided to search Google for any possible deals. Voila! I found a voucher that will end up saving me $480 on a 12-month supply!”

Get rid of cable
Did you know that cable bills will soon be averaging $123 a month, or $1,476 a year, according to a study by NPD Group?

“With services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime, you can now watch your favorite TV shows and movies for a fraction of the cost of cable TV,” says Brittney Castro, CNBC contributor and founder and CEO of Financially Wise Women. By cutting out cable and switching to a more inexpensive service, you can have that money to put toward other financial goals.

Utilize your own skills before hiring a professional
You might be more handy than you think.

“When it comes to home repairs, don’t be afraid to try to fix things yourself. Even if you aren’t the handy type, small jobs like fixing running toilets and patching drywall will cost you over a hundred dollars to hire a professional,” says Jefferson, site founder of See Debt Run. “You owe it to yourself and your wallet to try to find a step-by-step guide online, and at least give it a good try to do the work yourself.”

Remember that a little bit goes a long way
Putting aside money in crafty ways will help you save a little bit each month — and even a little bit can add up quickly.

“When you’re able to eliminate a major expense, put half the savings into your new account,” notes Mary Rowland, writer for WomensDay.com. “When you finish paying for your car, for instance, save one half of the car payment each month. Or suppose you save $75 a week on child-care expenses when your kids start school. Put $37.50 per week into a savings account. That will build up really quickly!”

Regardless of how you do it, start saving more and see how quickly your savings account starts growing. Find out how we can help you save money today.

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What Is a Federal Pell Grant

A basic guide to Federal Pell Grants

Paying for a collegePellGrants_Featured education typically requires pooling money from a variety of sources like scholarships, loans, savings accounts, financial aid packages and work study programs, just to name a few. One excellent source of funding for those who qualify is a Federal Pell Grant. Here is some basic information to help you understand how these work.

Typically, Pell Grants are only awarded to undergraduate students who haven’t earned a professional degree or bachelor’s degree. There are certain cases, however, where it is possible to receive a Federal Pell Grant if you are a student enrolled in a post baccalaureate teacher certification program. There are several other restrictions on who can receive these grants. People who are incarcerated in a state or federal penal institution are not eligible, and neither are people subject to certain types of involuntary civil commitments after incarceration.

The most exciting part of a Federal Pell Grant is that it is not a loan and therefore does not have to be paid back. For the 2015-2016 award year, which ends June 30, 2016, the maximum award is $5,775. This maximum is subject to change yearly, and you can’t receive Federal Pell Grant funds for multiple schools at one time.

If you do receive a Pell Grant, you will not necessarily receive that maximum. The amount you get depends on your financial need, but it is not impacted by how much student aid you qualify for through other programs. It also depends on the cost of attendance at your school, whether you are a part-time or a full-time student and whether you will be attending school for a full academic year or less. Every school that participates in this federal program gets sufficient funding from the U.S. Department of Education each year to give the right amount to all of its eligible students.

It is also possible that you could qualify for a larger grant if you had a military parent who died during combat in Afghanistan or Iraq.

“If your parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11, you may be eligible for additional Federal Pell Grant funds if, at the time of your parent’s or guardian’s death, you were less than 24 years of age or enrolled in college or career school at least part time,” according to the website of Federal Student Aid office of the U.S. Department of Education.

Although this federal program is designed to help low-income students, it can be hard to predict your own eligibility. So even if you fear that your income is too high to qualify, it is important to look into the program.

“For the majority of Americans who don’t think they qualify for Federal Pell Grants, the federal grant known for helping low-income students, it’s easy for them to think that financial aid beyond student loans won’t happen for them,” states Reyna Gobel, contributor to Forbes. “Thus, they may skip filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) out of fear it’s just a fast track to student loans. But that’s just not the case.”

Therefore, it is important to fill out an application to ensure that you don’t miss out on any of the potential sources of income to pay for college. Even if you do not end up qualifying, your application helps provide data that makes the program run smoothly.

“Not only will filling out the FAFSA provide information to schools to help students get other need-based scholarships and grants, but middle class families may qualify for Pell Grants without realizing it,” states Gobel.

A change that went into effect on July 1, 2012, stipulated that it was only possible to obtain funding from a Pell Grant for a maximum of 12 semesters. That is equivalent to roughly six years of school. You don’t have to worry about reaching that limit without being aware, however, because you will receive a notice if you are getting close.

Federal Pell Grants are a great source of funding for students and their families, making the application process well worth it. You can learn more about completing the FAFSA application at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out.

If you have any questions concerning student loans or are looking for other ways to help finance college, be sure to stop by today.

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