Make the Grade on Back-to-School Shopping

Tuesday, July 18 at 11:00 AM
Category: Personal Finance

As kids prepare to return to class, it’s the parents who are gearing up for the shopping assignment.

Back-to-school shopping is one of the most significant shopping events all year, second only to the winter holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation.* Last year, total back-to-school spending was estimated to top $75 billion nationwide.

During the weeks leading up to the first day of school, parents generally spend hundreds of dollars per child* on clothing, accessories, school supplies, electronics and more. It’s no wonder that the winding down of summer can be a stressful time for many families. 

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of three easy tips to help you ace the school shopping assignment with confidence and perhaps a little less stress.

  1. Make a list and set a budget
    This step is paramount to your back-to-school shopping success. Gather your child’s school list of needed supplies and take an inventory of any leftover school supplies* that your child may be able to use again this year. Compile lists of clothing items, electronics and equipment that your child will need for the year. It’s also important to think beyond supplies, electronics and clothing—consider upcoming school activities or clubs your child may want to join and the costs associated. Examples could include field trips, basketball uniforms, a musical instrument, or fees for Spanish club. This will help you get the full picture and plan out your budget accordingly. 

    BONUS POINTS: Planning for back to school is a perfect opportunity to talk to your kids about money. Having your children develop and stick to a budget for back to school expenses can help instill good financial habits. Arvest’s Education Center also has a number of online calculators and links to useful articles to help families budget and save for the school year. 
     
  2. Plan ahead and find deals
    Be on the lookout for bargains, especially for big-ticket items that are on your list, like computers and graphing calculators. Experts note that deals on pencils and notebooks are easier to find. Consider following your favorite retailers on social media or subscribing to store e-newsletters to be among the first to learn of flash sales, special discounts and promotions announced via those channels. If you prefer to do your back-to-school shopping online, look for special “online only” deals and free shipping from many of the major national retailers. 

    Also, be sure to take advantage of tax free shopping days, where applicable. Shopping on those days will help you get the biggest bang for your buck on clothing and other qualifying items, even some online retailers participate. Many of the communities Arvest serves are located in states that have tax free holiday shopping days. Additional details are available at the links below.
  3. Spend wisely
    When it’s time to tackle your list, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but you should try to resist the urge to splurge, experts warn. Stick to your list and budget and you’ll be glad you did. It’s also a good idea to discuss how your family will pay for the purchases before hitting the store or buying online. Will you be paying with a debit card or charging the purchases on a credit card? If the latter, be sure to factor in the costs and advantages you may have by using the card, including rewards points.
Now that you’ve finished your back-to-school shopping homework, you can make the experience a positive one for you and your family! 

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.
 
Tags: Budgeting, Cash Management, College, Financial Education, Savings
 

6 Financial Traps New College Graduates Should Avoid

Monday, June 12 at 08:45 AM
Category: Personal Finance
As college students graduate and start their careers, financial responsibility should be a top priority. However, it’s easy to fall into traps that could hinder new college graduates from securing their financial future.
 
New college graduates should avoid the following financial traps:
  • Not having a budget. Simply put, don’t spend more than you make. Calculate the amount of money you’re taking home after taxes, then figure out how much money you can afford to spend each month while contributing to your savings. Be sure to factor in recurring expenses such as student loans, monthly rent, utilities, groceries, transportation expenses and car loans. 
  • Forgoing an emergency fund. Make it a priority to set aside the equivalent of three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Start putting some money away immediately, no matter how small the amount. A bank savings account is a smart place to stash your cash for a rainy day.
  • Paying bills late – or not at all. Each missed payment can hurt your credit history for up to seven years, and can affect your ability to get loans, the interest rates you pay on loans and your ability to get a job or rent an apartment. Consider setting up automatic payments for regular expenses like student loans, car payments and phone bills.
  • Racking up debt. Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit. Shop around for a card that best suits your needs, and spend only what you can afford to pay back. It’s a great tool if you use it responsibly. 
  • Not thinking about the future. It may seem odd since you’re just beginning your career, but now is the best time to start planning for your retirement. Contribute to your employer’s 401(k) or similar account, especially if there is a company match. Invest enough to qualify for your company’s full match – it’s free money.  
  • Ignoring help from your bank. Most banks offer online, mobile and text banking tools to manage your account night and day. Use these tools to check balances, pay bills, deposit checks, monitor transaction history and track budgets.  
College graduates can find many enticing ways to spend their paychecks from their first “real” job. However, by avoiding these financial traps, the new graduate can make financial responsibility a top priority instead of exceeding their new income.
 
Information courtesy of American Bankers Association. 
 
Tags: Budgeting, Debt, Financial Education, Savings
 

Watch Your Spending

Monday, February 27 at 09:30 AM
Category: Personal Finance

It often feels like you never have enough money to buy everything you want. Whether you make $150,000 a year or you make $35,000 a year, you can still be just as hard up for cash. In fact, those with the higher incomes may be even more in need of money to meet their expenses.

The simple truth is it isn't how much you make, it is how much you spend. If you make $100,000 and spend $120,000, you are still in debt just as someone who makes $40,000 but spends $48,000 is in debt.

With easily accessible credit it has become very easy to overspend and not even know it. Years ago, when you were out of money, you were out of money. But, today you can easily create debt and not realize how much debit you’re creating. Granted, sometimes events happen that are out of your control. People get ill, lose jobs and face other emergencies. But, many people with debt and money problems haven't faced these emergencies. And if they do in the future, they will have very little to fall back on.
 
What you have to learn is how not to spend your money. Not where and when to spend, but how not to spend at all.

The more you make, the more you spend. Have you ever noticed that as soon as you get a raise, you have it spent? In fact, plenty of people who are planning on getting a raise go ahead and buy that new car or bigger home before the raise even comes. And it goes beyond the large spending. There is a whole new attitude with a higher income. You think you can afford the little things now, but those little things all add up quickly.
 
The key to controlling your spending is found in setting goals. When you have a concrete financial goal you are working towards, you are better equipped to avoid temptation. You may be more willing to drive your older vehicle a few more years if you know the money saved will help you retire one year earlier. Not buying that sweater may seem like a little sacrifice next to realizing the goal of remodeling your kitchen.
 
When you are faced with the temptation to splurge, think about your goal. Find other ways to spend your time instead of shopping. If you never go in the store either in person or online, you won't spend the money.
 
Remember, each dollar you spend is costing you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in the long run. Spending is the problem, not the lack of money.
 
The most important thing you can do for your finances is to learn to budget. Take the time to make a budget work for you. A good budget will let you plan for the future, while keeping you aware of exactly how much money you have right now. It will help you see what you’re spending your money on and what you could be spending it on.
 
As you create a budget and watch your spending, you can make your income, big or small, fit your needs. 

Tags: Budgeting, Financial Education, Savings
 

A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

Monday, January 23 at 12:25 PM
Category: Personal Finance
Savings can help you achieve financial goals. Whether it’s a comfortable retirement, a down payment for a house, or a new car or laptop, you can get there by setting money aside. And best of all, you can have what you want without getting bogged down in debt.
 
However, if you’re like most people, you don’t save as much as you’d like to. Or, you don’t save at all. Americans spend more than we earn. Today’s high energy, home and food prices may make saving seem less possible than ever. But, the time is now. With a little forethought and effort, saving money is possible.
 
Make Saving a Priority
You’ll be more likely to save money if you make it a priority. Sit down and figure out what you’d like to save money for – retirement, a house, car, college, dream vacation – and how much it will cost. Then make your plan:
  • Set a timeline for when you’d like to reach your goal.
  • Set a schedule by dividing the total goal amount by the number of weeks, months or pay periods between now and your goal date.
  • Be vigilant by treating your savings contribution just like any other must-pay expense, such as rent or groceries.
Find Money to Save
While it may seem difficult sometimes just to make ends meet, chances are you have extra money you didn’t even know about. Here are some ways to find it:
  • Keep track of everything you spend for a week. You might be surprised what you’re buying, and what you can do without.
  • Make purchases with cash. This can help you stick to a budget and avoid impulse purchases. Simply decide ahead of time how much you want to spend and then set aside that amount in cash before you go shopping.
  • Lower your bills. Many creditors will give borrowers a lower interest rate if they’re asked. Also, conserving electricity and gas can make a big difference.
  • Rank your nonessential expenses. Keep the ones you like the best and cut the items on the bottom of the list.
  • Pack a lunch or cook more dinners at home. Eating out at restaurants can eat up a lot of money that could be saved.
Pay Yourself First
You're probably inclined to pay everyone else first – whether it’s your landlord or your grocer or the electric company. But it’s vital to start paying yourself first by saving money. Once you’ve made a contribution to your financial longevity and well-being, then you can divide up your money to cover everything else. Don’t worry. You'll more than likely have plenty left over to cover everything you need.
 
In fact, most banks make this easier. You can have them automatically transfer funds from your checking account to your savings account. You might also check with your employer. Companies will often deduct savings from paychecks if asked.
 
When you make saving a priority, look for money to save and pay yourself first, you set yourself up to meet your savings goals. 
 
Information courtesy of Arvest Money Skills. 

Tags: Budgeting, Financial Education, Savings
 

6 Financial Traps New College Graduates Should Avoid

Wednesday, July 13 at 10:25 AM
Category: Personal Finance

As recent college graduates start their careers, their financial lifestyle should be top of mind, says the American Bankers Association. ABA has highlighted six traps new college graduates should avoid to fortify their finances as they transition from the dorm to the office.

“Now is the time for college grads to get their financial life started on the right foot,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “When it comes to managing your finances in the real world, pulling an all-nighter isn’t the best strategy. Forming positive financial habits today will set you up for lifelong success.”

According to ABA, new college graduates should avoid the following financial traps:
 
  • Not having a budget. Don’t spend more than you make. Calculate the amount of money you’re taking home after taxes, then figure out how much money you can afford to spend each month while contributing to your savings. Be sure to factor in recurring expenses such as student loans, monthly rent, utilities, groceries, transportation expenses and car loans.  
  • Forgoing an emergency fund. Make it a priority to set aside the equivalent of three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Start putting some money away immediately, no matter how small the amount. A bank savings account is a smart place to stash your cash for a rainy day. Use your tax refund for this instead of an impulse buy.
  • Paying bills late – or not at all. Each missed payment can hurt your credit history for up to seven years, and can affect your ability to get loans, the interest rates you pay and your ability to get a job or rent an apartment. Consider setting up automatic payments for regular expenses like student loans, car payments and phone bills.
  • Racking up debt. Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit. Shop around for a card that best suits your needs, and spend only what you can afford to pay back. Credit is a great tool, but only if you use it responsibly. 
  • Not thinking about the future. It may seem odd since you’re just beginning your career, but now is the best time to start planning for your retirement. Contribute to your employer’s 401(k) or similar account, especially if there is a company match. Invest enough to qualify for your company’s full match – it’s free money that adds up to a significant chunk of change over the years.  
  • Ignoring help from your bank. Most banks offer online, mobile and text banking tools to manage your account night and day. Use these tools to check balances, pay bills, deposit checks, monitor transaction history and track budgets. 
For more tips and resources on a variety of personal finance topics such as mortgages, credit cards, protecting your identity and saving for college, visit aba.com/Consumers.*
 
The American Bankers Association is the voice of the nation’s $16 trillion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional and large banks that together employ more than 2 million people, safeguard $12 trillion in deposits and extend more than $8 trillion in loans.
 
Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution. 

Tags: Budgeting, College, Debt, Financial Education, Retirement, Savings

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