Friday, January 29, 2016

Do You Know Your Credit Score? (How to Dispute Errors)

Do you know your current credit score? When was the last time you checked your credit report?

Your credit score affects many aspects of your life, including making large purchases, obtaining loans, renting an apartment and even applying for a job!

Here are a few important facts to keep in mind when monitoring your credit score.

First and foremost, make sure you check your credit report three times per year (one for each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). 

You can do so for free by visiting This is especially important to do a few months prior to major purchases like a house or vehicle.

Second, use this check of your credit report to protect your identity. Unauthorized accounts, loans or purchases will damage your credit and let you know someone has stolen your identity. 

This is also important because your credit report has information on current and previous addresses, your social security number, and the number of times you
have applied for credit. 

All of this information is valuable to identity thieves and needs to be checked regularly.

So what do you do if your credit report is inaccurate? You can dispute errors on anything from inaccurate late payments to accounts that aren't yours. You can also dispute falsely reported bankruptcy, or a bankruptcy that has stayed on your report for longer than the ten-year limit.

You can make the dispute online, by mail or over the phone. 

To dispute via the Internet or phone, you must have ordered a copy of your credit report within the past month and you will need to provide the credit report number.
Once you have the necessary information assembled, contact the credit bureau associated with the inaccurate report (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax). 

The bureau will then have 30 days to investigate and respond to your credit report dispute.

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC

Friday, January 22, 2016

Winter Activities for Kids (On A Budget)

Get Creative Sledding 

Many city sledding hills don't charge admission You can cut down the cost of buying a new sled by re-purposing your summer water toys. Inner tubes and other inflatables make for great sleds. If they're getting worn, reinforce the weak spots with some duct tape. 

It's also a good idea to check your local thrift store, as plastic sleds and saucers are often donated after a child outgrows them.  

Visit Your Library

Take a field trip to the local library. Most have a kids' section where children of all ages can bring their selected books and read together. Check out any books that they don't finish and have the kids read them at home while you cook dinner.

Most libraries also have fun programs for your kids to participate in for little to no cost. 

If your kids aren't into reading, libraries also have a host of movies available for check out. Have a family movie night!

Craft Night

Find a fun winter craft to sit down as a family and work on together. It can be as simple as making and hanging paper snowflakes around the house. As long as you are all doing it together, your kids will probably enjoy it. 

If you need craft ideas, a simple internet or Pinterest search should give you an overwhelming number of results.

Restaurant Night-In

Get your kids involved in making dinner! They will have fun planning a menu and creating a 'restaurant atmosphere'. 

Either let them be the waiter/waitresses and serve you or switch and you be the waiter/waitress and wait on them.

A "fancy" table cloth and paper menu can transform your family's evening.

 Squirt Gun Painting

Have snow? Fill up the squirt guns with water and just a drop of food coloring and let the kids go outside and 'paint' the beautiful white canvas of snow.

Make A Blanket Fort

You can do a lot with blankets or sheets and an imagination. 

Either make it into a Indian tepee and play cowboys and Indians, or a fairy fort for your princess. 

Read books, make puzzles, play cards, or watch movies. If it's in the fort, it'll be more fun. 

Make finger foods and let them eat in the fort!

That's the list we've put together for you, what are some of your ideas? 

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC

Friday, January 15, 2016

Household Budgeting Made Simple

Was one of your resolutions to start a budget?  

Working with numbers can be very intimidating. The thought of developing a household budget can be overwhelming. This may explain why so many people haven’t created one. 

Even a simple budget can uncover ways to save money. Here are some quick, easy-to-follow tips on how to start.

The easiest way to begin is with these three basic steps:

  • Add up your income
  • Track your spending
  • Make it balance

Create a simple budget worksheet for each month that itemizes expenses to better track spending and record income. Sort expenses into categories that make the most sense to you.Typical categories include:

  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Food
  • Household expenses
  • Entertainment
  • Savings

Create a one-page sheet for each month containing these categories to follow where and how much money is being spent. Most people starting a budget are surprised at how much goes toward non-essential, entertainment or convenience expenses like:

  • Fast foods and drinks
  • Buying on impulse rather than for need
  • Carrying a credit card balance rather than paying in cash
  • Extra entertainment
  • Cable with movie channels
  • Buying books rather than using libraries
  • Dining out frequently for meals rather than packing a lunch or eating at home
  • Extra cell phone features
  • Club memberships 
Each month, sit down and review last month's budget to see if you stuck to it and what areas you may need to adjust for the coming month. Write out a new budget plan with the adjustments made. 

Anyone having financial troubles or wishing to increase their savings will be able to use a household budget to identify and cut back in many of these areas. Others will be pleasantly surprised at how a well-managed budget will make it easier to save for future purchases and retirement.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Save Money on Your Heat Bill During Winter

Doesn't curling up fireside with a mug of hot cocoa sound like a great way to spend your time? But, the winter cold forces many consumers to dig deeper into their savings to pay for higher-than-normal heating bills and other cold-related expenses. 

Here are a few cost-saving tips to help you wait out the winter without deep freezing your budget.

Check your furnace

If your furnace is old (i.e. inefficient) consider saving up to replace it in time for next winter. 

To save money now, check the furnace filter regularly, even if your furnace is relatively new. Keeping the filter clean improves your furnace's efficiency, bringing down your heating/cooling costs. Depending on the type of filter you have, how often you need to change it or clean it will vary. If you have pets that shed hair or a person who smokes living in the house you should change your filter as often as once each month, but some filters can last as long as six-eight months.

Keep the heat in!

Especially in older homes, it is important to seal the windows during colder months to eliminate drafts and keep in as much heat as possible. 

Plastic sealing kits are available at most major home goods stores and are easy to install. Sealing leaks around doors, ducts and pipes with caulk or weather-stripping will also keep heat inside your house longer, meaning you need to run your furnace less.

Turn down the temperature

Turn the temperature down on your furnace at night and when you're not at home. Between 60-65 degrees is comfortable for most households. 

Keeping your water heater set around 120 degrees can also save money; water heating accounts for 14 - 25 percent of the energy consumed in the average home.

By opening the curtains or blinds on south-facing windows during the day, you can turn down the thermostat a few degrees and let the sun naturally heat those areas of the house.

Layer Up

Consider keeping your house cooler and wearing a few layers and slippers to stay warm. Throw another blanket on your bed.

Cook meals at home

Not only is cooking and baking at home cheaper than eating out, but the extra heat from the stove will help keep your house warm. When you use the oven, keep the door open after you've turned it off so the extra heat goes into the house rather than outside.  

Reverse ceiling fans

A lesser-known heat-saving tip is to switch your ceiling fans to spin clockwise.  In a still room, all the warm air rises and ends up collecting near the ceiling.  Depending on how well your house or apartment is insulated, that can mean up to a seven degree difference in temperature from the floor to the ceiling.  Reversing the ceiling fan will push all that warm air back down into the room, meaning you'll feel comfortable even with the thermostat set a little cooler.

If you use these strategies and still see a skyrocketing heating bill every month, consider replacing your insulation or appliances with more energy-efficient options. Depending on what products you purchase, you can even earn an energy tax credit!

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC