10 Valentine's Day Ideas That Won't Break the Bank … or the Romance

Monday, February 08 at 10:15 AM
Category: Personal Finance

"Can't Buy Me Love" was a great song by Lennon and McCartney and frankly, a pretty good philosophy for Valentine's Day in general.

There really are ways to enjoy a unique and memorable Feb. 14 without overspending. Here are 10 ideas to warm their heart and spare your wallet:
 
  1. Begin at the beginning. Maybe your relationship began at work, a party or a bus stop. Returning to that place and re-staging that moment using little props can re-capture memories.
  2. Try a little due diligence. Ask your significant other or friend about his or her best Valentine's Day ever. Listen for clues about gifts, activities or places you might try. Don't wait until 48 hours before the holiday; you can always collect creative Valentine's Day ideas 365 days a year.
  3. Stay near the stove. A fabulous dinner almost always costs less at home. Plus, it's a more intimate setting and shows dedication and thought.
  4. Deliver kindness, not presents. Instead of wrapped gifts, what about chores or crafts? Focus on a gift based on something you know how to do rather than something you could just buy.
  5. If it's a night out, do your homework. Valentine's Day can be one of the most crowded and expensive nights to go out. If you have a restaurant or event in mind, research everything you can about the food, ambiance and specials at various times of day – particularly during early, fixed-price periods and slower days of the week.
  6. Grab those coupons, free passes and points. Mileage, restaurants and online discount clubs can offer a range of options. Points can be used for discounts or free nights out on Valentine's Day or immediate dates. Decide which offers are the best deals and leverage them the best you can.
  7. Consider substitutions and alternatives. Why have that glass of champagne or celebratory cocktail at the restaurant if there's a happy hour nearby where you can save a little money? Consider mixing and matching venues on a night out to save money.
  8. Declare a staycation. Visit museums on half-price days or out-of-the-way eateries you always thought about trying. Even local hotels might be a better deal than traveling a greater distance.
  9. You don't have to run for the roses. A dozen roses are a classic gift. But there are potentially cheaper and equally beautiful flower alternatives. If your loved one has a green thumb, consider potted plants or seeds they can sow later. Remember, spring is right around the corner.
  10. If you must bling, bling responsibly. If this Valentine's Day involves a wedding engagement or another grand gesture of romance, plan well in advance so you can get advice on what you're buying and ensure it's in line with your loved one's taste. Maybe a relative with a beautiful ring might offer it or sell it at a friendly price.
Bottom line: Valentine's Day is about the people, not the bill. A little time and creativity can help you devise a memorable day without digging too far into savings.
 
Written by Nathaniel Sillin courtesy of Arvest Money Skills.

Tags: Budgeting
 

7 Bad Spending Habits to Avoid This Holiday Season

Tuesday, December 15 at 10:25 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Amid the bustling holiday season, the American Bankers Association has identified seven habits shoppers should avoid to minimize their holiday spending debt.

“The holiday season is an exciting and inspiring time of the year that promotes giving, but spending within your means is the best gift you can give yourself,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “Managing a realistic budget and developing a shopping list that complements it will help you start the new year with a clean financial slate.”

Steering clear of these bad spending habits will help you begin the new year fiscally fit:
  • Forgetting to plan ahead. Before you start shopping, develop a realistic budget. Consider your income, subtract your normal monthly expenses and then add any savings to whatever cash is left over. If you need to use your credit card, think about what you can afford to pay back in January.  
  • Losing track of other costs. Don’t forget costs beyond gifts, like postage, gift wrap, decorations, greeting cards, food, travel and charitable contributions.
  • Winging it. Make a list and check it twice. Keep your gift list limited to family and close friends, noting how much you want to spend on each.  
  • Waiting until the last minute to shop. Avoid shopping while rushed or under pressure, which can lead to overspending. Make sure to comparison shop online first, or download an app that lets you compare prices before you buy anything in a store. Before you head to the cashier (or online checkout), make sure your purchase is within the budget you set.
  • Shopping impulsively. Finding a spectacular sale on something you’ve been wanting can easily throw you off course. Stay strong and stick to your budget. And, don’t apply for store credit cards you don’t need just to get a one-time discount.
  • Using credit recklessly. Limit the use of credit for holiday spending. If you must use credit, use only one card — preferably the one with the lowest interest rate — and leave the rest at home. Pick a date when you can pay off your holiday credit card bills, and commit to paying off the balance by that time. Be sure to check statements for unauthorized charges and report them immediately.
  • Throwing away your receipts. Not only will you need them for possible returns, you’ll need them to keep track of what you’ve spent and to compare with your credit card statement. Knowing how much you spent will help you plan for next year, too.
Make your holiday season and the new year more joyful by avoiding these bad spending habits now.
 
Article courtesy of American Bankers Association. 

Tags: Budgeting, Credit Cards, Debt, Financial Education
 

Keep Your Financial Sleigh on Course During Holiday Shopping

Monday, November 23 at 09:35 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Holiday shopping can easily get out of control when you have a long list of gifts to buy, and you’re easily enticed by the latest gadget, toy or trend in the store window. Review these tips to rein in your spending before your financial sleigh gets off course.

Set a budget. This basic principle often gets abandoned when you have the non-routine expenses of the holidays. BEFORE you begin shopping, decide how much you’re going to spend on each person. Don’t forget your co-workers, babysitter, housekeeper, lawn maintenance person, postal delivery worker, etc. Allocate some money for people you may have forgotten when making your list. 
 
Start early. When you keep your eyes out for gifts, even before the holidays, you give yourself time to find a good deal so you’re not pressured to overspend on a gift at the last minute. 
 
Take advantage of free shipping. Many online retailers offer free shipping during the holidays. Take advantage of this offer, and it’ll save you the cost of gas and parking associated with going to a brick and mortar store. 
 
Team up with a friend. If you find buy one get one free sales or discounts for buying in bulk, then team up with a friend to share the goods and the savings. 
 
Accumulate rewards. An indirect way to save money is to earn money! Consider opening an Arvest Credit Card with Arvest Flex Rewards which can be redeemed for travel, shopping and dining rewards. Apply online
 
Don’t indulge. Your child doesn’t need every toy he or she desires. Just because an item is on someone’s wish list doesn’t mean you have to buy it for them, especially if his or her list is long.
 
Personalize it. Buy basic gifts and then add a personal touch at home. For example, buy plain stationary and then use letter stamps to put the receiver’s initial on each card. The receiver will appreciate the personalized touch and your wallet will appreciate the money saved from not buying customized items. 
 
With some conscious planning and forethought, you’ll hear the sleigh bells and change in your pocket jingling as a reminder to enjoy the season by shopping within your means. Come January you’ll feel like you’re riding along in a wintery fairyland when you see a positive balance in your bank account.
 
Blog edited by Blog Admin 1/4/16.

Tags: Arvest Flex Rewards™, Arvest Rewards, Budgeting, Credit Cards, Financial Education
 

Halloween Budgeting Doesn’t Have to be Tricky

Tuesday, October 27 at 09:15 AM
Category: Personal Finance

October is a month of pumpkins, candy and goblins, and it’s a time when "Trick-or-Treaters" of all ages open their wallets to spend. But Halloween purchases can really add up.

Don’t let the first holiday of the season bust your budget. Read on to discover tips to reduce those tricky costs.

1. Trick-or-Treating
Trick-or-treating is a great time to show off your cool costume and earn some serious candy. But for items you’ll only use for a couple hours, consider budget-friendly alternatives.
 
Treat Bags. Stores stock shelves with plastic baskets shaped like pumpkins and other fun candy carriers. But going back to the traditional pillowcase treat bag offers an opportunity to get creative, like dying an old pillow case or decorate it to match your costume. You might even find it will hold more candy than a store-bought basket.

Candy. In the case of Halloween candy, waiting until the last minute just might work in your favor. Stores often lower prices to rid their shelves of Halloween candy early to make room for Thanksgiving and Christmas merchandise. Check the Sunday paper for coupons and don’t be too picky in your selection – avoid the supersize and grab whatever’s cheapest.

2. Halloween Entertaining
Whether you’re hosting a big party or going to someone else’s event, keep these tips in mind to make a big impression without spending big bucks.
  • Plan Ahead. Make sure you have all of the costume materials, decorations and candy you need on Halloween day to avoid last–minute splurges.
  • Make a budget and stick to it. Like any holiday, there is the temptation to overspend during Halloween. You can set a realistic budget for your family in advance using an entertainment planner calculator.*
  • Reuse decorations. If you keep decorations in good condition, they can often last you for years to come.
  • Get creative. Want to have the scariest looking house in your neighborhood? Get your kids or friends involved in making decorations, so you don’t break the bank making the house look frightful. Construction paper, pens and a little imagination can go a long way.
  • Get together. To help defer some of your holiday costs, plan a party with friends and family so you can share the burden (and the fun!) of hosting a neighborhood bash.
  • Shop clearance sales for next year. Enjoy significant savings on costumes and decorations by shopping just after Halloween this year for supplies you can use next year.
  • Be safe. Everyone wants to have fun on Halloween, so when hosting an event, remember to keep the environment safe for children and parents alike.
3. Cost-conscious Costumes
Whether you're outfitting yourself or helping to dress up your kids, you don't have to break the bank to have a ghoulishly good costume this Halloween. Here are a few time-tested tricks for saving yourself big-time.
 
Skip the store. Seasonal Halloween stores can be tempting, but purchases can really add up. Instead of visiting a specialty store to shop for your entire costume, get your costume elsewhere first and visit seasonal stores for accessories only.

Be thrifty. Cruise the thrift stores to look for accessories or the costumes you are creating. Whether it's a princess, a superhero or a zombie, you can often find what you need at a second-hand store. The price tag is likely to be less than $10 compared to $70 for a costume purchased at a specialty store.
 
Swap with friends. Kids don't typically wear the same costume year after year. Consider getting together with neighbors who have kids the same age as yours and swap costumes from previous years. As it happens, swapping isn't just for kids. Planning to dress up as a popular celebrity? Raid your friends' closets for the perfect accessories.

Jump online. If you are set on the idea of getting a complete costume online, check out eBay's Halloween store* or other discount sites. The kids' clothing swap site, thredUP,* and Freecycle* are other good online options for cost-conscious costumes this Halloween.

Budgeting for Halloween doesn’t have to be tricky in order for it to be a treat!
 
Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.

Tags: Budgeting, Financial Education
 

Teens: How to Ace Your First Test Managing Real Money in the Real World

Monday, October 19 at 08:20 AM
Category: Personal Finance

As a teen, you're beginning to make some grown-up decisions about how to save and spend your money. That's why learning the right ways to manage money, right from the start, is important. Here are suggestions.

Save some money before you're tempted to spend it. When you get cash for your birthday or from a job, automatically put a portion of it — at least 10 percent, but possibly more — into a savings or investment account. This strategy is what financial advisors call "paying yourself first." Making this a habit can gradually turn small sums of money into big amounts that can help pay for really important purchases in the future. 

Also put your spare change to use. When you empty your pockets at the end of the day, consider putting some of that loose change into a jar or any other container, and then about once a month put that money into a savings account at the bank.

"Spare change can add up quickly," said Luke W. Reynolds, chief of the FDIC's Community Affairs Outreach Section. "But don't let that money sit around your house month after month, earning no interest and at risk of being lost or stolen." 

If you need some help sorting and counting your change, he said, find out if your bank has a coin machine you can use. If not, the bank may give you coin wrappers.

Keep track of your spending. A good way to take control of your money is to decide on maximum amounts you aim to spend each week or each month for certain expenses, such as entertainment and snack food. This task is commonly known as "budgeting" your money or developing a "spending plan." And to help manage your money, it's worth keeping a list of your expenses for about a month, so you have a better idea of where your dollars are going.

"If you find you're spending more than you intended, you may need to reduce your spending or increase your income," Reynolds added. "It's all about setting goals for yourself and then making the right choices with your money to help you achieve those goals."

Consider a part-time or summer job.
Whether it's babysitting, lawn mowing or a job in a "real" business, working outside of your home can provide you with income, new skills and references that can be useful after high school or college. Before accepting any job, ask your parents for their permission and advice. 

Think before you buy. Many teens make quick and costly decisions to buy the latest clothes or electronics without considering whether they are getting a good value. 

"A $200 pair of shoes hawked by a celebrity gets you to the same destination at the same speed as a $50 pair," said Reynolds. "Before you buy something, especially a big purchase, ask yourself if you really need or just want the item, if you've done enough research and comparison-shopping, and if you can truly afford the purchase without having to cut back on spending for something else."

Be smart about college.
If you're planning to go to college, learn about your options for saving or borrowing money for what could be a major expense — from tuition to books, fees and housing. Also consider the costs when you search for a school. Otherwise, when you graduate, your college debts could be high and may limit your options like where you can afford to live.

For more information on saving and borrowing for college, visit Federal Student Aid.*

Information courtesy of FDIC Consumer News.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.

Tags: Budgeting, Debt, Financial Education, Savings
 

Score a Touchdown with Your Finances

Tuesday, October 13 at 11:40 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Football season is in full swing and while you’re monitoring your fantasy team and binge watching games on the weekends, these football terms can also help you hoist the trophy of financial success!

  • Score Six with a Budget – A surefire way to score a touchdown with your finances is to create a budget and stick to it!
  • Nail the Extra Point – Build up your savings by putting a percentage of each paycheck into your savings account. 
  • Have a Game Plan – Whether it’s saving for your children’s college education, paying off debt or planning for retirement, having a plan for how you are going to meet your financial goals is very important. 
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Call a Time Out – Circumstances change, and it’s okay to take some time to rethink and reprioritize your game plan, or come up with a new one!
  • Be Prepared for When Life Calls an Audible – Emergencies happen, job statuses change, your transmission needs to be replaced. It’s important to have an emergency fund for life’s unexpected events. 
  • Don’t Deflate! – Don’t take the “air” out of your account because of overdraft fees. Did you know that you can set up Account Alerts through Arvest Online Banking? Create alerts to notify you of low balances, transactions over a specified dollar amount and more! Set up these alerts so that you are always on top of your spending activity.
  • Avoid Penalties – Set up automatic payments on things like car payments and credit card bills. This will help you avoid paying late fees by ensuring your bill is paid on time!
Even if you’re not a football fan, you can still be a financial MVP!

Tags: Budgeting, Credit Cards, Financial Education, Savings

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