Monthly Archives: March 2017

5 Financially Savvy Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

Taxes

Getting your taxes done early not only takes one more thing off your to-do list but further allows you to start planning for the future. Working with your tax professional, determine how much your family may receive this year from a tax refund. No matter the amount, we recommend putting it toward your financial goals for the year. Here are some great strategies we’ve tried to get the best bang for our buck:

  1. Max out your 401(k) or Traditional IRA contributions. If you aren’t taking advantage of one of these two accounts, we highly suggest opening one! These tax-beneficial accounts help holders accumulate and grow their funds without the burden of tax at the time of deposit. Each account; however, is limited by how much you can contribute. By allocating funds into these account types it may not only help you save for retirement, but also allow your money to mature throughout the years with no additional effort.
  2. Make an extra payment on your mortgage or student loan. Paying down your loan is always a great option when selecting financial goals. In the case of a mortgage, you earn more equity as you pay, while with student loans you gain more momentum toward financial freedom. Instead of adding money to each monthly installment, we recommend creating one lump payment. By doing this you can create a single (but large) decrease in your principal amount owed, drastically reducing your associated interest as well.
  3. Save for the 2017 holiday season. While holiday events, family gatherings, and memories are held dear, the burden of the season can pose potential problems for your personal finances. If you struggled saving last year, then now is the perfect time to set aside funds for the holidays. Determine how much you need to pay for each aspect of your seasonal activities, and save as much as possible in a separate account from your tax refund. If additional funds are needed, automate your savings to transfer a specific dollar amount into this account each month.
  4. Pay off outstanding credit card debt. With one of the highest interest rates, credit cards are notorious for taking years to pay off. If you want to make a dent in your debt, we recommend tackling one card at a time.  Using your tax refund, see if you can eliminate smaller debts first, then with the remaining funds, begin paying down each additional credit card. By paying off the card with the least amount of debt first, you can begin to snowball your way to financial freedom!
  5. Start saving for a vacation. Whether it’s a spring break, a summer adventure, or a fall festival, it’s never too early to start saving. Once you have determined a destination, you can then create a rough budget of the expected expenses. Depending on your refund you may be able to pay for the whole trip outright, or you may need to supplement the funds with some additional monthly savings. No matter how you choose to save, we recommend keeping your vacation funds in a separate deposit account so you’re not tempted to use them throughout the year.

If you still have questions on how to best use your tax refund, our personal bankers would love to help. At Putnam Bank, we can assist you in coordinating all your accounts to help make the most of your money. Stop in and see us today!

Planning Your Spring Garden for the Best Return

Seasonal

Spring is just out of sight, and for prospective spring gardeners, the time to start seed germination is almost here! With seeds for some summer produce taking up to three months to prepare for planting, planning ahead of time can truly make or break both personal and commercial growers. Before you start organizing your garden for the season, we offer these helpful tips to help you make the most of your agricultural investment:

Grow Heirloom: Tomatoes are a staple of countless summer gardens, but what will differentiate your juicy produce from other countless selections at the market? Variety! With new strains of tomatoes being discovered each year, blue, striped, and white fruits can offer your family and customers a unique and delicious twist on a summertime classic. The basic large red tomato has an average price point of approximately $3.50 per pound, but smaller heirloom varieties often go for more than $5.00 per pound. With one plant typically producing over 20 pounds of fruit, you could easily make $100 off of one heirloom plant!

Learn to Preserve: Once you’ve harvested the tomatoes grown above you can continue to tack on the savings by processing those fruits into recipes which can be canned. Packaged goods like salsa and pasta sauce can run about $3.00 a piece; however, you can create a pantry full for the low cost of the plants and reusable mason jars.

Add Some Flavor: Personal herb gardens have continued to grow in popularity over the past several years, and 2017 is no different. With many urban gardeners opting to plant their own seedlings, you’d think the retail need would decrease; however, the opposite may be occurring. With an influx of gardening comes an influx of use. Many home cooks are beginning to learn the benefits of using fresh herbs, and they’re not always cheap. Generally, a small bunch of herbs can run between $1-3. Most healthy plants are able to produce a consistent amount of bunches throughout the summer, and even into fall. If you have one plant that offers 50 bunches at $2 apiece, that’s a simple $100 earned for just one plant.
With so many incredible plant varieties to choose from, we’re sure your next garden will be a success! Whether you’re planning to sell your crops at the weekend farmer’s market, or stock a pantry your grandmother would be proud of, the practice of gardening has proven to be a money saver for you and your family. If you have any other great gardening tips, be sure to share them with us on our Facebook page.

6 Steps to Scoring Your Savings Goal

Savings

Do your savings goals make you feel frozen? Get back on the ice this season, and let Putnam Bank help you win your personal financial game. We’ll show you how to keep pushing forward with these strategic hockey tactics:

Find the 5-hole.

One of the first and most important ways to save is to keep your eyes open! Whether it’s taking advantage of grocery store specials, buying household items in bulk, or cutting spending from your monthly budget, the biggest opportunity you have while saving money is continually searching for new ways to save.

Complete the hat-trick.

Before you start saving for the short-term items, be sure you have the long-term set in place. Just as in hockey there are three things you need to make the best play of the game. Start by setting up an emergency savings account, to help guard your savings. Follow up by opening a personal retirement account, such as an IRA, to continually grow your savings. For the last trick of the play, we suggest creating a 529 or Coverdell account to help save for your child’s future education. These three accounts will help you not only score your savings goals, but assist you in winning your entire financial game as well.

Put your debt on the boards.

Show your debt whose boss, and push it against the glass. By aggressively paying off your outstanding debt, you make additional funds available to further your monthly savings. We recommend paying the minimum payment on each debt, and then using any surplus funds to add extra payments to help pay it off sooner. Once you have paid off a debt, use the funds from that allocation to help erase the next obstacle, one payment at a time.

Place your spending in the penalty box.

While working on your savings goals, look into your monthly spending to see where you can cut costs. Consider reducing your funds for eating out and entertainment. The extra money can go towards your debt, or once paid off, can help you achieve your savings goal sooner!

To help, there are some innovative apps available that can help you visualize your various expenses.

Beat the buzzer.

Saving for retirement is a marathon, not a sprint. Like hockey, if you don’t play until the end, you may lose the game in the last five minutes. To help prevent this, we recommend working with a personal financial adviser, ensuring your funds are in the right place at the right time. If you make a pass and transfer them to stocks too late, you could lose money and valuable time. We suggest creating a strategic and well-coordinated retirement plan to make certain all your savings get time on the ice, and your key players continue to stay in the game.

Drop your gloves for additional fees.

Whether it’s big banks searching for unnecessary add-ons, or potential financial advisers looking for a percentage of earnings, don’t be afraid to negotiate fees you deem excessive. The business is certain to have referees to let you know if you’re asking too much; however, it never hurts to ask!

With our affordable deposit accounts and expert financial coaching, we look forward to helping you sink your upcoming goal in the back of the net! Stop by and meet our dedicated team today!

 

How to Plan Spring Break on a Budget

Travel

Spring break is a magical time of the year when school is out, the beaches are calling, and wanderlust seems to finally hit at full force. Before you jet-set to your next destination, make sure you’ve saved enough to enjoy this vacation without the addition of debt. To help cut the costs, but not the fun, Putnam Bank offers these proven money saving tips:

  1. Split Costs – Make the most of your money, and divide the cost of a room among you and your fellow friends. Paying $150 a night may be a high price tag, but by splitting the cost, you can stay twice as long!
  2. Drive Instead of Fly – If your traveling troop decides to book a trip abroad, then this tip may not apply, but for eager spring breakers traveling south, driving instead of flying could save you hundreds!
  3. Try Alternate Accommodations – Who says a hotel is the only appropriate place to stay. With innovative new offerings on VRBO and AirBnb, you can find deals that not only save you money but offer a unique setting as well.
  4. Get Groceries – One of the most expensive parts of a vacation is the food. Cut down on this cost by hitting up the local grocery store when you arrive. You can grab breakfast items, and other easy foods to prepare to avoid exorbitant dining fees.
  5. Maximize Free Activities – Things like going to the beach or relaxing by the pool can be both enjoyable and cost effective. Since there are typically no entry fees you can enjoy this fun-filled relaxation again and again.
  6. Bring Your Own- Everything is more expensive on the beach. Food, drink, shade, you name it! Instead of purchasing everything ala carte pack a reliable beach kit with everything you need for the day. Don’t forget sunscreen!
  7. Utilize Your Rewards – What’s the point of having travel rewards if you never use them? By putting those points to work you can cover the cost of your flight and/or room, and reserve your money for food and fun.

7 Financial Goals to Make 2017 a Success

Money Management

Putnam Bank challenges you to make 2017 the year of financial prosperity. With an emergency fund, sound credit, and a monthly budget, you can conquer any fiscal goal so long as you keep moving toward it. We recommend these seven goals to optimize your money management potential:

  1. Check Your Credit Score. There are many websites available which allow you to view your current credit score across the three reporting bureaus; however, the only federally authorized FREE site is annualcreditreport.com. This site gives users one free report from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian every year. By keeping regular track of your score, you can ensure that no fraudulent inquiries have been made, and no outstanding debts are currently being held against you. After all, a higher credit score, could mean potential savings elsewhere.
  2. Make a Monthly Budget. This tool is invaluable when building your personal financial success. By creating a plan for each dollar you earn you are no longer reacting to your spending, but proactively telling your money where it should go. Adding this transparency to your spending can often showcase areas where you may be spending more than desired. After adjusting your monthly allocations you can then reassign some of those dollars to help build your personal savings, and other areas of improvement.
  3. Automate Your Savings. “Out of sight, out of mind,” or so the saying goes. Adding processes to your budget, such as automated savings, can help you accumulate money before you miss it. Before you start planning your spending for the month, determine how much you want to save. So long as your fixed monthly expenses are covered, you can then create an automatic monthly transfer from your checking to your savings. By doing this the same day you are paid, the funds will be gone before you even know to miss them. You can then budget the rest of your spending to cover flexible categories like groceries, entertainment, and more.
  4. Start an Emergency Fund. In order to safeguard your savings, you’ll need to create an emergency fund. This particular account offers protection against unexpected expenses or dilemmas that could otherwise infringe upon your diligent accrual of funds. It is often recommended to begin by saving $1,000, and then gradually work up to three or six months’ worth of income. By adding this cushion to your personal finances, you ensure that you are financially stable enough to weather storms both big and small.
  5. Submit Your Taxes Early. Tax fraud is an increasingly relevant issue, posing many problems for both the IRS and tax paying citizens. We suggest completing your tax return as soon as possible in order to help keep potential criminals from using your information to their benefit. Additionally, if you have a potential tax refund, the earlier you file your return, the sooner you are able to receive it.
  6. Maximize Your 401(k). We recommend revisiting your HR materials to find out the specifics of your company’s 401(k) plan, and to make the most of your diligent savings. If they will match up to ten percent, and you’re only contributing six, you could be missing out on free funds! Additionally, if you want to retire by a certain age, you may need to adjust your contributions to maximize the years you still have during your employment.
  7. Pay Down Your Credit Cards. Interest rates on credit cards are infamous for being consistently high. If you have multiple credit cards which carry a balance, we recommend paying down the account that has the least amount on it. By continuing to pay the minimum installment on each card, you can then assign any additional funds to the card with the lowest value, to help pay it off sooner. Once the first card is no longer carrying a balance, you can then utilize the monthly installment and the additional funds to put toward the next card, and continue through the accounts.