How Online Banking Can Help You Budget Better

Benefits of online banking that can aid in your budgeting process

Online bankingfebruaryfeatured_onlineacctaccess can make a personal budget much easier to manage. Enrolling will offer you numerous benefits to constantly ensure that your finances are on track, such as the following:

It will list all your accounts in one place. With online banking, you don’t have to worry about how much money per paycheck you need to avoid spending in order to save enough for that summer vacation. Make that expenditure or savings goal its own account and either manually or automatically transfer that amount. That way, you will be able to see your total amount of assets, but you won’t be tempted to, or accidentally, spend the money you needed for the plane ticket while shopping at the department store.

You may be able to organize your expenditures by category. Some software that your financial institution may utilize, like FinanceWorks, as well as third-party apps or web browser extensions such as Mint allow you to create expense categories-or better yet, do it automatically for you. This is beneficial for future budgeting purposes or to make adjustments, because you can see how much was paid in a specific area (e.g., electricity, groceries, phone service).

“This saves time and confusion from sorting through months of paper statements and allows you to compare spent amounts with budgeted amounts – so your budget resembles your real life as closely as possible,” says professional money manager and Investopedia contributor Ryan Barnes.

Scheduling and alerts allow you to avoid late payments or overdraft fees. These little charges can take a toll on your finances if you don’t stay ahead of them. Automatic bill paying and scheduling recurring payments will send a set amount of money to a certain payee on the exact date you request, so you can avoid late fees. You can also schedule alerts to tell you if your account balance is getting low, which is helpful to avoid both overdraft and returned check fees, as you can immediately transfer money from another account and conveniently get the information you need to adjust your budget.

You can see your finances in real time. Paying bills and other financial operations are almost immediate (or at least more so than writing a paper check, sending it through the mail and having to wait for it to clear). The widespread adoption of mobile banking (online banking, but not tied to a personal computer) has also facilitated these benefits.

“Consumers have a greater handle on their money since they only need a mobile connection to access their accounts. No Internet service is required,” says Bankrate.com Editor Janet Stauble. “There are fewer surprises, as customers can check their balances and transactions anytime.”

Being able to analyze your finances in real time is especially helpful in the small business realm, says Chris Joseph of Small Business Chronicle, as you can see all your accounts and expenditures right in front of your eyes, while knowing exactly what is liquid and what assets are tied up.

Whether you use it for personal or for business reasons, online banking offers many advantages that can be vital to keeping a successful budget. Check out MyBranch Online Banking by visiting our site!

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

Advertisements

Vehicle Details: Top Vehicles That Are Affordable and Cool

A cool ride doesn’t need to break the bank

There are so many choices if you’re looking for a new vehicle that it can be difficult to know where to start. But if your priorities are on coolness and affordability, here are some great options.

Kia Soul – The Soul is frequently awarded for its value and coolness, and the new 2017 model starts at an MSRP of $15,990 while delivering the same charm that has won over many buyers. The Soul continues to find ways to improve, with the newest model adding a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 201 hp and 195 lb/ft of torque through a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and estimated fuel ratings up to 26 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. The Soul is easily spotted in a crowd thanks to its unique design, and some of its impressive features include the UVO infotainment system with eight-inch touchscreen display, navigation, and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity. You can also add a Harman Kardon audio system, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and plenty of advanced safety features like the Blind Spot Detection System, Lane Departure Warning System, Forward Collision Warning System and Rear-Cross Traffic Alert.

Consumer Guide summarizes it nicely: “The competitively priced Soul is a very compelling mix of personality and practicality.”

Honda Fit – Named to Kelley2017_fit_yellow Blue Book’s KBB.com’s “10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000,” and currently ranked as the No. 1 subcompact and hatchback by U.S. News & World Report, the Fit has plenty to love. All Fit models have a 130 hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that gets up to 37 mpg highway, but the versatility of the Fit is arguably its biggest strength. A maximum cargo capacity of 52.7 cubic feet is more expected from a small SUV, and clever features like the second row Magic Seat allow buyers to haul larger items. There are also plenty of standard features including Bluetooth wireless connectivity, a multi-angle rearview camera and a five-inch color LCD touchscreen.

Edmunds adds, “If there’s one thing this Honda is known for, after all, it’s the incredible amount of stuff you can fit inside its pint-sized hatchback body. Today’s Fit also has more rear legroom than ever, and it’s got a respectable roster of standard and optional technology too.”

Chevrolet Sonic – Also named tofebruaryfeatured_coolcars Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com’s “10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000,” the 2017 Sonic is an affordable compact that offers excellent value (a starting MSRP of $15,145), two engines (a 1.8-liter four-cylinder and a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder) and plenty of technology, including a new Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system bundled with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility as well as OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot. Safety is provided by 10 standard airbags and you can also add Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning and the new Rear Park Assist.

Autotrader says, “If you’re in the market for an affordable pint-sized champ that won’t make you feel second class for driving it, the Chevrolet Sonic may have your number.”

Other vehicles to consider include the Toyota Yaris iA, Honda Civic, MAZDA3 sedan and hatchback, Nissan Versa Note, Hyundai Elantra and Kia Rio.

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

Benefits of Applying for Local Scholarships and Grants

With the rising costs of higher education, apply for as many scholarships as possible

A couple hundred dollarsfebruaryfeatured_localschol2 from a local scholarship may sound like a drop in the bucket when it comes to paying for college tuition and expenses, but the reality is that every dollar counts and several local scholarships can add up to a significant amount of free money for your education.

The reality of large-sum grants
There aren’t many people who can afford to foot the complete bill for their higher education. Yet most only apply to large-sum scholarships and grants to help pay for college, and while those $10,000 and $50,000 nationally awarded grants could make a significant difference in affordability, the truth is they’re difficult to get.

According to an October 2015 article in U.S. News by contributor Jessica Zdunek, largely-funded government agencies and well-known national brands like Ford, Nordstrom’s and Coca-Cola award significant educational scholarships each year, but applying to these means going up against hundreds, if not thousands, of other applicants across the country, which significantly reduces your chances of winning such a grant.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply for large scholarships, because there’s still the chance you could win, but you should better your odds of financial aid by applying for local grants as well.

The advantages of local scholarships
A first, albeit obvious, advantage of a local scholarship is just that: it’s local to where you live.

According to Zdunek, local scholarships can have application limitations that can actually increase your odds of being awarded. These grants can be limited to people who live in a specific town or region, to a certain GPA minimum, and even to specific extracurricular activities. As long as you meet the criteria listed, you are more likely to win a local award than a national one.

“Scholarship providers like to see people from their community succeed and so they often offer local scholarships available only to residents of a particular geographic region,” says an article on Scholarships.com, a financial aid and scholarship resource site.

Local scholarships are also less likely to be known, so there will be less competition for them than for a national grant.

According to a January 2011 article in U.S. News by Scholarship America, community organizations that offer scholarships typically inform the local high school, either by contacting the guidance counselor or by posting the scholarship in the school’s career center. Instead of competing against the thousands of people searching the internet, applicants compete only against the other students in their school.

Local scholarships can also be awarded on a relationship basis, such as businesses with financial assistance opportunities available to employees and their families. Some businesses will even award scholarships to students if they plan to work for the company after graduation, as this is seen as an investment for the company.

They are also generally easier to follow up on and there’s often a designated person in the business who can answer questions about the scholarship or application requirements directly.

Every dollar counts
“Local scholarships sometimes aren’t as eye catching because they’re just a few hundred dollars. “This can discourage people from applying, but the truth is these small amounts add up,” says Zdunek.

Even if the dollar amount is less than that of a national scholarship, any amount is helpful in offsetting the expense of higher education. For instance, those dollars could go toward books or equipment, or help cover smaller living expenses.

Find out more about our three $2,500 scholarships by visiting our site!

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

Questions You Should Ask the Dealer When Car Shopping

Five answers to know before you sign on the dotted line

No matter whetherfebruaryfeatured_dealerquesitons you are shopping for a new or used vehicle, there are certain questions you will always want to know the answers to. The answers the dealer provides will tell you whether you are getting the most car for your money.

What are the additional fees?
Legitimate costs include sales tax, registry costs and a documentation fee. However, the amount dealers charge for filling out the contract (the doc fee) is not universal. According to the trusted automotive resource Edmunds.com, some states regulate these fees and cap them below $100, so before you seal any deals, check the paperwork and negotiate down an outrageous doc fee. Another questionable fee you may encounter, in an effort for the dealer to build a potential profit back into the deal, is a “vehicle preparation fee.” This means, for example, they are charging you for making sure there is oil in the vehicle and for performing other menial tasks that one would expect to be done inevitably before a car is rolled off the lot.

Are there any aftermarket parts on the vehicle?
Inclusion of “add-ons”-from things as simple as tinted windows to things as complicated as car alarms-is another way dealers attempt to boost profits by raising prices.

“Mud flaps, rust-proofing and paint sealants make the dealer a lot of money, but you can get them for less-often much less-elsewhere,” writes David Muhlbaum, online editor of Kiplinger.com

Before saying yes to a vehicle purchase, you will want to double-check with the dealer and in the contract, and negotiate accordingly.

What special promotions are you running right now?
Manufacturers are always running sales events, and sometimes dealerships even tack on their own discounts and deals. Investigate up front what promos are going on so you can take a closer look at the vehicles with the best incentives.

“If you’re diligent-and a little bit lucky-you can use one of these events to knock a few thousand dollars off of your total cost or secure 0 percent APR financing for the first year or so of your loan,” says Business Insider personal finance writer Ben DeMeter in an article on Investopedia.

What is the lowest price you can give me?
Instead of telling the auto dealer the highest price you can afford to pay each month, take the reins by figuring out the lowest possible price you would pay on the vehicle in question. While it is smart to go into negotiations with financing options already lined up, the dealer may be able to offer you lower financing, so don’t show your cards too soon.

Can I see an accident history report and title history?
Most dealers these days automatically provide a CARFAX report for all vehicles, as well as an AutoCheck report to be thorough. These documents also report title history, which will disclose any previous problems with the vehicle such as odometer issues, a rebuilt engine or whether it was ever reported stolen. If you choose to proceed without checking one or both of these reports, or something like them, you are putting yourself at risk for a large devaluation of the vehicle.

Once you ask these questions and are satisfied with the responses provided, you can feel comfortable signing on the dotted line as an informed consumer.

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