Friday, February 26, 2016

Teachable Money Moments for Kids

There is often debate among parents as to what their kids should or should not be expected to pay for. While the answers depend on the age of the child and are personal to each family, here are some factors to consider:

First, you will need a child that has their own source of income. Whether it is an allowance or income earned from a job, there needs to be a way for them to pay for items with their own money.


Secondly, a decision should be made as to what lesson is being taught. Some general lessons are:

  •         How to divide money between saving and spending
  •         Importance of setting a budget and how much things cost
  •         The decision-making process for prioritizing expenses
  •         Responsibility and care for purchased items

Each of these lessons plays a role in determining what children pay for with their own money.

Some examples of what children can pay or help pay for include:

Birthday presents for friends. If a child has been invited to their sixth birthday party in two months, this becomes expensive for the parents. It's a good opportunity to work with a child on setting an overall gift budget for the year, then deciding what to buy and how much to spend on each friend.

Clothes or entertainment. Parents will buy basic clothes and other necessities for their children. The question becomes should the child pay for brand name clothes, or the extra purse, or the extra entertainment out of a pre-set budget?

Lost items.  Maybe the parent paid for the original cell phone or hand-held electronic game, but should they pay to replace the item if it is lost due to carelessness?

College tuition.  Post-high school education is expensive and parents should consider whether they will require their children to work during college. This may be during school, summer only or simply weekends. It depends on each family’s personal situation. Some studies have shown that kids who keep a job through college graduate with better grades. 

Vacations. Some families encourage their kids to help contribute to a family vacation or outing. While the children won’t pay for a majority of the expense, this provides the opportunity to teach them the cost of this type of entertainment and share in the decision of how that money is spent while on vacation.

However a parent chooses to do it, allowing children to manage their own money and make financial choices will benefit them tremendously in the future and teach them critical life-long financial habits.

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC

Friday, February 19, 2016

Planning Your Summer Vacation (On a Budget)

Summer vacation time is just around the corner. Planning ahead can keep your vacation from blowing your entire budget for the summer. 

Time it right

Picking the right time for your family vacation is difficult. There are several schedules to juggle, after all! When you're selecting the best dates, keep pricing in mind to save money. 

Hotel rates fluctuate with supply and demand, so it really pays to go against the flow. In many popular summer resort destinations, prices peak between July 4 and mid-August. 

Consequently, vacationing in June or late-August can translate into significant savings.  

Tourist attraction admission prices fluctuate in much the same way. If you're flying to your destination, keep in mind that it's typically less expensive to fly on Wednesdays than on Fridays.

Watch for freebies and coupons

Whether you're selecting a hotel/resort or setting up your itinerary, be on the lookout for cost-saving bonuses. Free continental breakfasts and cheap transportation to attractions or tourist destinations add up. 

Before you leave, look for coupons for activities and events near your destination. 

Planning your vacation around the savings - rather than trying to find ways to save on events or activities you've already committed to - will make keeping the budget in check easier.

Pack your own meals

Packing your own meals is one of the most effective ways to save money on a vacation. 

Eating out for every meal will cost hundreds of dollars each week. If you plan to stay at a hotel or resort that provides cooking space, simply plan to go grocery shopping on the day of your arrival; just have a meal plan prepared so you don't over-shop! 

If you want to avoid grocery shopping in a new location, you can pre-make freezable meals such as casseroles, soups and lasagna to bring along. 

If you don't have access to a kitchen where you are staying, you can get creative and still save on food. For example, if you are going to the beach or the park for the day, instead of buying lunch, pack a picnic in a cooler. Head to a grocery store or deli before you reach your destination and pick up the basics for sandwiches plus some fruit and other snacks.

Vacation locally

Finally, you can get the most bang for your vacation buck by avoiding travel altogether. If you plan sightseeing trips and activities that are within a few hours' drive of your home, your hotel costs disappear and you definitely save on gas.

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC

Friday, February 12, 2016

Couples: Preparing Financially for the Unexpected

Most couples know that they need to discuss large financial decisions, such as buying a car, college planning and home renovations. However, much of the day to day financial maintenance is left to just one person. 

Would you know how to handle your finances if anything happened to your spouse? Here's a financial checklist of information everyone should have about their money:

Location of important documents - Wills, titles, deeds and other vital financial documents are usually stored in a safe or a safe deposit box. Be sure you know where it's located and how to access it. 

Keep in mind that in Wisconsin, it can take a court order to open a safe deposit box that is kept only in your spouse's name.

Monthly bills - Find out which bills are paid with which accounts and when they are due. 

If you use online accounts, be sure both partners have the usernames and passwords, or know where this information is stored. This will reduce the hassle and stress that comes from missing payments or accidentally overdrawing an account.

List of assets - Each partner should know their combined assets, including real estate, automobiles, personal income tax returns, life insurance policies and investment accounts or mutual funds. Having all of this information readily available will help you avoid being victimized by scammers claiming to have assets that belonged to your spouse that require paying a fee to transfer to you.

Up-to-date wills - This may sound like common sense, but both partners should know where to find the other's most current will. 

If you don't currently have a will, it's important to put one together. Even if your finances are simple, it's a good idea to hire an attorney to draw up the documents.

If the unthinkable does happen, there are a few things the surviving spouse should remember to stay in good financial standings. 

First, continue to pay debts, including mortgages and utility/phone bills in order to maintain a good credit rating. 

Second, don't immediately make permanent significant financial decisions like selling your home. Take time to think these decisions through thoroughly after you've practiced managing your individual finances for a while.

Take these steps now to give yourself peace of mind, knowing that your finances will be stable, no matter what happens.

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC

Friday, February 5, 2016

Date Night! (On A Budget)

Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and many couples have already planned their romantic night out. 

On average, the 54 percent of Americans who celebrated Valentine's Day in 2014 spent over $130 on candy, cards, dinner and gifts. In total, Americans spent nearly $17 billion last year celebrating the most romantic holiday. If you're hoping to keep your Valentine's Day spending in check this year, consider the following romantic ideas in place of more expensive gifts and treats.

Make Your Plans in Advance

Nothing costs more on Valentine's Day than trying to do everything last minute. Flowers, traditional gifts, restaurant reservations, etc. are all more expensive the week before the holiday. 

Make your Valentine's Day plans well in advance to allow you to take advantage of better pricing options. It's also important to plan so that both parties have the same expectations. Going frugal for the holiday is a great way to save money, but it will backfire if your partner still has bank-breaking expectations.

Cook Your Romantic Dinner Together

Swap out a fancy (and expensive) restaurant reservation for a home-cooked meal. Many couples find cooking together to be romantic. Cook a long-time favorite or try something new; whichever fits your relationship better. Either way, you'll get to spend quality time together at a fraction of the cost of going out - a high-end dinner out can cost hundreds of dollars, including drinks, but a home-cooked meal will only be as expensive as the ingredients you pick out. 

Remember to decorate the table, too! Use a tablecloth, flowers and/or candles. Be sure to use the nice dishes, and get dressed up to really create that romantic restaurant atmosphere.

Compose Mini-Love Letters
Instead of buying a card for your significant other (which can be $5 - $10 and will be thrown away by the end of the month), write words or phrases on post-it notes describing what you love about your significant other and place them all around the house. Imagine opening the cabinet to grab some cereal and seeing "I love your smile." 

You'll both spend the day finding messages unique to your relationship, not a cliché saying found in any generic card from the store. 

As a bonus, these little notes make great keepsakes! Whether you put them in a scrapbook or a shoe-box, you can pull them out whenever you need a little relationship pick-me-up.

Recreate the Past
If possible, recreate a romantic event from your past. Did you sight-see when you first moved to your current city? Take a stroll through downtown to recapture the moment. 

Where did your first kiss happen? Set the stage and relive the moment. Often, these activities are the most romantic thing you can do on Valentine's Day because they are unique and significant to your relationship; they're often less expensive than traditional activities, too!

Other Ideas

If you do want to go out, try the romantic dinner at home and going out for a fancy dessert or drinks afterward. 

Unleash your inner kid together, find a hill and go sledding! It will end in lots of laughs and memories. Finish the night with some hot chocolate. 

Go to the library and borrow your favorite movies and have a marathon. Try out a new popcorn recipe for the night or pick up some caramel corn. 

Pick up a new card/board game and have a fun competition. Loser has to (fill in the blank...).

Have an indoor picnic on your living or bedroom floor. 

Borrow a romantic novel from the library and choose a scene to act out together. 

Use these ideas to celebrate a romantic, budget-friendly Valentine's Day this year. Put the money you don't spend toward one of your long-term financial goals, such as buying or renovating a house, or saving up for a vacation.

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC