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Best Ways to Save for a Vacation

A jar with dollar bills in it on a map that reads "travel"

A vacation is meant to be relaxing and to enjoy time with the ones you love, however: they can turn stressful when it comes to budgeting and planning. We want 2020 to be your year to go on your dream vacation minus the stress. Here is a guide to help you get started, so you’ll be traveling in no time.

Create a Plan

Having a plan is key to saving for a vacation. The earlier you start, the more money you can put into your plan. Start your plan by making a list of everyone’s top priorities for the trip. This will help you identify how to budget for your vacation effectively.

Open a Separate Account Dedicated to Your Vacation

One easy way to save for your special trip is to open a dedicated vacation savings account. If you choose a high-yield savings account, your money might even grow a bit while you’re planning your trip. Next, set up automatic deposits into the account and leave that money there until it’s time for your trip. Bulk up your account balance by depositing any $1 bills or $5 bills that you receive as change from your everyday purchases. This sounds insignificant but it can really add up as time goes on.

Cut Some Expenses and Add Some Income

As you build your budget during the upcoming months, look for adjustments that can help your vacation planning. For example, you might find some places where a little trimming could make your savings grow. Or maybe you’ll come across opportunities to earn some extra income to put toward the trip. Something as simple as making your morning cup of coffee at home can make a huge difference.

Track Your Spending on Your Trip

This step is incredibly important because it helps you stick to a budget and avoid overspending. Also, don’t forget to include all of the small expenses in your plan. Examples of these expenses include airport parking, travel insurance, gas, souvenirs, cell phone fees, abroad Visa costs, foreign transaction fees on your credit card, and taxis and ride-sharing services.

Follow these steps and don’t let vacation planning and budgeting take the fun out of your experience. Remember, 2020 is YOUR year to take your dream vacation! Learn about our savings accounts and stop in to get your vacation account set up today.

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New Year, New Financial Plan

A Jar of money for savings

It’s a new year, which means that it may be time for a new financial plan. Make 2020 your year to start saving for your goals. The best way to do that is to start off the year with a strong financial plan. Here are the first steps to take in creating your plan!

Step 1: Find Out Where Your Money is Going Now

To do this, get a notebook or a financial planning app and write down every time you spend money on something. Make sure to record how much you are spending and what it is specifically. Then, at the end of the week, total all those numbers up and put them in the categories: food, travel, housing, clothing, entertainment, healthcare, rent, mortgage, utilities, and other. We recommend doing this for about 3 months to get a good picture of common themes. This process is extremely important to create a realistic financial plan with fairly accurate estimates of monthly expenditures.

Step 2: Set Financial Goals

It is important to make SMART goals. These goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. An example of a SMART goal is “I want to save $10,000 by December 2020 to start my own business”. It’s crucial to make these goals specific and attainable to accomplish them!

Step 3: Start an Emergency Fund

Often times, people ignore the fact that emergencies are bound to happen. It is a good idea to also set aside money for emergencies. You want to make sure you are prepared to weather a storm. Otherwise, you could face getting yourself into some extra debt.

Step 4: Get Insurance

After working hard to earn your money, the last thing you want is an unplanned occurrence to disrupt your financial plan. Insurance is your back-up plan that will protect your assets if something happens when you need a large amount of money to resolve it. Your insurance coverage should include health, auto, disability, life, home or rental, and business.

Step 5: Start Saving

The key to a successful savings plan is not increasing your income. The key is to decrease your total expenses. This means being mindful of your outgoing money, not just your paycheck. After looking at your list of expenditures, determine where you might be spending too much. Look for ways to save here and there, but don’t be too harsh on yourself. Your goal is not to eliminate guilty pleasures. Rather you should try to control them so that you can free up some extra cash! A realistic goal would be to try to save 10% of your monthly income.

Step 6: Review Your Plan Frequently

Once you have your financial plan outlined and you have begun chugging along, it’s important to review your plan and make any necessary adjustments if your goals or the circumstances around your life change. If you check infrequently, it’s harder for you to deal with unplanned life occurrences, bounce back from setbacks and accomplish your financial goals.

Step 7: Stick With it

Your journey to financial independence won’t always be easy. Pursuing a goal of financial independence is not always fun, but it’s completely achievable. Remember to have a solid plan for your finances, be disciplined and avoid overspending. You’ll feel great when you really make a constant effort to stick to your budget.

We’re Here to Help!

We know that financial planning can be difficult and knowing where to start can be hard. All of our Points West Bankers are here to help you with your financial plan and help you stay on track throughout the year! Contact us today to get started on your 2020 financial plan!

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Small Business Financing

Man working on his laptop at his small business

Starting a new business in the competitive business world comes with excitement and a lot of planning. You need to overcome a multitude of problems and administrative tasks, which require a lot of time and attention. Managing your small business finances is one of them. Here are 3 tips to help you manage your small business finances like a pro!

Avoid Expensive Credit

A crucial step in getting your business off the ground is to establish your financial goals. As you are setting up a startup, optimum use of funds is the key to success. Try your best to avoid any expensive credit options. Shop around for the best deals and check out your local community banks as they typically provide loan options that are competitive.

Manage Expenses

In the early stages of starting a business, it is important to keep your fixed expenses as low as possible. Expenses include anything that keeps your gross revenue from going straight into your account. Planning a year in advance for large expenses such as rent, payrolls, taxes, interest, cost materials for goods and products, debts, utilities, and other operating expenses can help reduce the financial burden.

Set Up Insurance

As an entrepreneur, insurance is one of the things that you will probably dread paying for. In the end, it’s an important component of owning a business. In order to build a profitable portfolio and manage your small business finances, you should spend some time researching different insurance options to determine which one is right for your business and your personal needs.

Points West Community Bank and all of our experienced bankers are here for you every step of the way as you make this endeavor into business ownership. Our bankers can help you manage your finances and navigate the trials and tribulations that come with owning your small business. Contact us today with any questions you have or to set up an appointment with one of our financial advisors!

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Benefits of Paperless Statements

Man in a grey sweater using an IPAD by a green window

Times are changing and so are the ways that people prefer to receive their banking statements. You might be asking yourself what the real benefits of going paperless are. We have compiled the top 4 benefits for you below:

  1. Decrease the clutter

Paperless billing helps decrease all of the piles of papers that you have sitting around. It will also reduce the risk of losing a statement due to clutter.

  1. Retrieve your records anytime, anywhere

With paperless billing, you can retrieve your statement 24/7 from any location. This adds to the convenience of paying your bill and decreases the chances of you missing a payment.

  1. Increased security

Mail theft is one of the most common ways people can attempt identity theft and fraud. With paperless statements, you don’t have to worry about someone stealing your statement through the mail.

  1. Save the environment

PayItGreen claims that Americans save 452,819 trees per year for every 5 percent of households that switch to electronic bills, statements and payments. Switching to paperless statements is an easy way to have a significant impact on the environment.

 

As you can see, there are many benefits of breaking away from traditional paper statements and opting towards paperless statements. Going paperless not only reduces environmental impact but also increases convenience and enhanced security. Learn more about going paperless on our website and see if this is the right switch for you!

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What Lowered Interest Rates Means for Small Businesses

Women in striped shirt talking on the phone and typing on an ipad

We all know that low-interest rates are usually a good thing but how beneficial can low interest rates be for small businesses? The answer might surprise you! Here are some of the top implications of low-interest rates for small businesses. 

Less Expensive Loans

Most small businesses need a loan sometime in their lifetime. As interest rates decrease, so does the costs of loans. When interest rates are lower, so is the cost of paying back loans. This means that they take less time to pay off. Also, it will be easier to take out new short-term loans to help pay for unexpected expenses.

Low-Interest Rates Can Spur Consumer Spending

When interest rates are low, consumers tend to borrow more money. They then put that money back into the economy by spending more on products and services because they have more disposable income. This is extremely important for small businesses as it can mean that their customers have more money to spend in their business. 

Low-Interest Rates Can Spark Business Growth

Low-interest rates make it more beneficial for a small business to take out new loans to invest in expansion. Capturing a lower interest rate means your loan will cost you less in the long run. You may also be able to refinance some of your outstanding loans during a period of sustained low-interest rates to help stabilize your company’s debt load. Also, when rates are low, you can take the available cash your business generates and place it in high-yield accounts to generate more capital.

In times with low-interest rates, it’s important to take that opportunity to evaluate your business to see if it is the right time to expand and grow your business. At Points West Community Bank, we are always happy to answer any questions you may have. Contact us today!

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The Perks of Online Banking

Man holding phone in one hand and credit card in the other hand

The world of banking is changing and it is becoming less common for a person to physically walk inside a bank. Now, there are so many other options to make banking more convenient for you as the customer. One of these options is online banking. Online banking offers many benefits and gives you more flexibility overall. We’ve compiled some of the top perks of online banking. 

Around the Clock Access to Your Account

With online banking, you have 24/7 access to your account and the ability to make changes to it. This means that there is no need to make the typical bank schedule work for you. You get to decide when to do your banking no matter what time of day it is. This gives you more flexibility and puts banking back in your hands.

An Increase in Speed and Efficiency 

No bank near you? No problem! With online banking, there is no need for driving all over town only to wait in line during your small window of free time during the day. Now you can use that time more efficiently by making any bank transactions online without any extra stress added.

Increased Organization

Online banking can help you better organize your finances and make it easier to avoid any late payments and the fees associated with that. Online banking allows you to set up automatic payments and gives you a platform that makes it easy to track these transactions. This helps you stay on top of your finances without adding any extra hassle.

Security 

A common misconception of online banking is that it is less secure than regular banks. However, this is not the case, as most online banks have encryption and fraud monitoring services built into it. Both of these services make online banking just as safe as traditional banking. Just make sure to make a secure password and do not share it with anyone.

 

Learn more about online and mobile banking on our website to see if this is the banking method for you!

 

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The Benefits of Banking Local

pink piggy bank with 5 stacks of coins increasing in size in a raising the bar motion

It’s a common misconception that smaller banks and community banks can’t meet your needs. But, you’ll often find that most local banks offer essential services like checking and savings accounts that are very comparable to those of larger banks. Let’s explore the main reasons people tend to choose local banks over large banks.

Grow the Local Economy

When you bank locally, you can be certain that your money goes directly to the growth of your local economy. According to BankBound, Community banks, on average, devote more than 50% of their lending to small businesses (compared to just 18% at the 20 largest banks). Small businesses will borrow from the local banks, create jobs in the local economy, and, in turn, help fund the community as a whole. By banking local, you will be able to see the impact that your money has on the community around you.

Personal Service

To a local bank, you are not just an account number. You are a person with a story and goals, and your bankers are just like you. Local bankers will get to know you and will be able to help you find the right services that fit your unique banking needs. You will know what to expect from your bankers and feel comfortable asking questions when you need to. This kind of service is not usually possible with larger banks.

Same Services at Lower Costs

Local and community banks are often a good bet for free checking accounts. Some offer free checking to all, while others will waive fees if you enroll in paperless statements or online banking. Local and community banks will also offer attractive interest rates on savings accounts and loans, oftentimes beating out the larger banks. This is something to think about if you are planning on borrowing a large sum of money.

Community Involvement

Since local and community banks are dedicated to the community, they often support special causes in the community. Monetary donations, volunteering, and local event sponsorships are just a few ways Points West Community Bank shows support for the community surrounding it.

 

If you’re ready to join your community in banking locally, Points West Community Bank is here for you. We have several locations spread across northern Colorado to make it convenient for you. Our local bankers are happy to help you find the right checking accounts, savings accounts, and loans to fit your unique needs. Contact us today to get started!

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Saving for College

Stacked quarters next to a mason jar filled with coins and a graduation cap on top.

How much student loan debt do you think the average college student has when they finally get their degree? $10,000? Think again! According to the Wall Street Journal, the average American college student graduates with over $37,000 in student loan debt. They will be lucky to have that paid off before their own children attend college. Saving for college has never been more important! Here are a few easy ways to get started.

Education Savings Accounts (ESA)

An Education Savings Account or an Education IRA will allow you to save $2,000 per year per child in an account that is tax-free while it grows! If you begin saving from the time your child is born up until they turn 18, that’s $36,000 invested into their future. The account would earn a better rate of return than a regular savings account, and you will not be taxed until the money is withdrawn. There are income limits placed on the account to qualify, but these are a great way to get started while your child is young.

529 Plan

If you don’t meet the income limits for an ESA or you want to contribute more per year, a 529 Plan is a great option. The best 529 Plans allow you to choose the funds that you want to invest in through the account and generally have a maximum limit of $300,000. These accounts also grow tax-free and can be transferred from child to child if need be. These accounts also receive favorable financial aid treatment and are treated as parent assets and do not have to be reported on the FAFSA when funds are used to pay for college.

Roth IRA

Roth IRAs are another good college savings option. Contributions can be withdrawn at any time for any reason and the normal early withdrawal penalty can be waived when spent on qualified higher education expenses. Most IRAs have a maximum yearly investment of $5,000, but if you begin saving from the time your child is born to the time they turn 18, you will have $90,000 saved for their future. The value of the account is not counted as an asset on the FAFSA, but withdraws to pay for college will be counted as income on the FAFSA.

It is never too early to begin saving for college. Talk to your local banker about these options to find the one that makes the most sense for you and your family. The bankers at Points West Community Bank are your resource for all your personal savings needs!

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5 Things to Know When Buying Your First Home

A small house decoration on a desk with someone handing keys over.

Buying your first home can be exciting and stressful all at the same time. Before you start working with a realtor and attending open houses and showings, you should first make sure that you are financially ready to buy a home. Here are 5 things to know when you’re looking to buy your first home.

Check Your Credit Score

Getting a mortgage requires a good credit score, so we recommend checking your credit report. Look for any errors in your report that may be dragging your credit score down. Most errors can be fixed, and by monitoring your credit before applying for a mortgage, you will avoid any surprises. If your score is less than you’d like it to be, try paying down any credit cards and stop using them for a couple of months. Also, avoid opening any new lines of credit until after you have closed on your new home.

Save for a Down Payment

In addition to making sure your credit score is in order, you will also need to think about the down payment that you will need in order to make your first home a reality. Down payments are typically between 3.5% and 20% of the purchase price of a home. For example, for a $300,000 home, the minimum down payment you will need is $10,500. You should also be sure to save more than your minimum down payment to pay for closing costs.

Determine How Much You Can Afford

With rent prices on the rise in Colorado, it may actually be cheaper to buy a home than continue to pay rent. However, you want to be sure that you buy a home that you can afford today, not 5 years from now. You can estimate what you can afford by calculating 30% of your gross monthly household income. Any more than that could leave you with financial stress.

Learn About Mortgage Types

Mortgage types can vary and it may be confusing to compare one mortgage to another. Take time to learn about the differences between fixed-rate mortgages and adjustable rates. Mortgages can also vary in length from as little as five years to as much as 30 years. Most first time home buyers opt for fixed-rate 30-year mortgages. There are also different mortgages available to first-time home buyers. For example, an FHA mortgage requires a small down payment, which means that your monthly payment is a little more expensive because you have to pay for private mortgage insurance. Do your research on all of the loan options available to you.

Get Documentation In Order

Once you’re in the right place financially to purchase your first home, it’s time to get documentation in order. You can get a pre-approval from a bank like Points West Community Bank, or from a local loan officer. This will help you submit your offer on the home you want to purchase. To close on a home, you will need copies of paystubs, W-2’s, bank statements, and if you’re self-employed, copies of your last two tax returns.

At Points West Community Bank, we are your resource for financial knowledge. If you have any questions about how to save money for a home or improve your credit score, talk to one of our friendly bankers at your local Points West Community Bank! With several locations across Northern Colorado, we’re easily accessible.

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How to Save Money for Travel

Family on the beach

Are you dreaming up a vacation, but you’re worried about how to afford it? What if we told you that you could start saving travel right now? Well, you can, and here’s how.

Assess Your Monthly Expenditures

The amounts of money that are automatically debited from our accounts are often forgotten about. Go through your monthly statement, and see what you can cut back on. It is common that expenses such as gym memberships, magazine subscriptions, music streaming services, or even cable can cost you a large amount of your monthly allowances. Cancel some of these services or re-negotiate costs.

Create a Budget

Start with the most important categories first: mortgage/rent, groceries, gas, utilities, credit card bills, etc. With the money that you have left at the end of the month, decide where it is allocated, and do not budge. You can re-evaluate at a later date if you find that you have less/more money than necessary. The money that is extra in each category now goes straight into savings.

Set Up Automatic Transfers

If you have a direct deposit set up with your employer, change the way it is being deposited into your account. For example, automatically set your direct deposit up so a certain percentage or amount is put into your savings account instead of your checking. You will be saving money each paycheck without even trying.

Cut Out Convenience

Your morning coffee runs always seem like a small expense at the time, but let’s break it down. Spending $3.50 on coffee Monday thru Friday morning totals to $17.50 a week. That is $70 a month. If you often eat lunch out, cut that cost as well. Bring coffee and lunch from home, and you will be able to put those amounts straight into your vacation fund instead.

 

If you don’t have a savings account already, get in touch with your local banker today.

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