We say it every year, “This year, I’m going to plan out my budget and stick to it,” but somehow, that goal always falls to the wayside by mid-January. At Points West Community Bank, our priority is to help our customers plan for a successful financial future and actually follow through with this. Whether you’re fresh out of college or a few years away from retirement, knowing how to mange your money is an invaluable skill.
As a community bank, our goal is simple: help our customers succeed and thrive financially by providing practical advice and setting realistic goals. While long term financial planning always sounds like a great idea, we understand that budgeting for an entire year can be overwhelming. To help, we’ve put together some simple tips from the Independent Community Banks of America (ICBA) to get you ready to set your financial goals for 2016:
- Set up & follow a budget: This does not mean you need to cut out all the not-100%-necessary things you spend your money on, it simple means you need to plan for them. Use an Excel spreadsheet or budget calculator to track expenses against income. This will enable you to prioritize your needs and wants, while keeping in mind nonnegotiable items like monthly bills.
- Pay your bills on time: It sounds like common sense but paying your bills on time is vital to avoiding late fees (obviously) and maintaining your credit score. If you made any large purchases over the holiday season, be sure to include this in your 2016 budget and do your best to pay off the balance as quickly as possible.
- Keep an eye on your accounts: Online banking has changed everything. You now have the ability to instantly look at the amount of money in your accounts or how many purchases you made in the last week. Watching your accounts will help you avoid overdraft fees as well as detect any unauthorized transactions faster.
- Use credit cards wisely: The best advice we can give is to make sure you include credit card spending in your 2016 budget. Know your financial limits and think of your credit card as an extension of your debit card rather than free money with unlimited funds. If you don’t have the means to buy that new pair of shoes right now, your credit card is not the answer. Unpaid balances and interest rates can quickly catch up to you.
- Utilize automatic savings: This is another great feature of online banking. An automatic transfer plan can pull from your checking account and directly deposit to your savings account as soon as you get paid. Setting aside a little money every payday is totally manageable and will ultimately help you achieve your financial goals. Be sure to take into consideration your monthly spending when determining how much to put aside each month.
- Protect your identity: Do not freely provide your credit card, debit card or checking account information and try to only use your cards on websites that are trusted. Be wary of spam calls that ask for your bank account number over the phone and be sure to contact us if you do receive a suspicious call.
The teams at each Points West Community Bank branch are here as a resource for you and your family. We are always more than happy to answer any questions, help with your financial plan and work with you to set long-term goals for success.