Trim Your Monthly Expenses

Monday, June 19 at 10:20 AM
Category: Personal Finance
It comes as no surprise summer is a great time to get in shape. But, do you realize there's an easy way to get in great shape without having to put on workout clothes or sneakers or even breaking a sweat? It's called getting into financial shape. And you can accomplish that fairly easily by doing one simple activity — trimming your monthly expenses.
 
Here are some suggestions for losing that extra financial baggage this summer:
  • Get rid of higher-interest debt. If you have credit card debt, you may be wasting a significant part of your monthly budget on interest fees. Try to pay off any debt you can or at the very least, to consolidate higher-interest debt to lower-interest credit cards. To avoid credit card debt in the future, pay for purchases in cash.
  • Lower your cellphone bill. Most of us can't live without our cellphones. We can, however, do without those expensive monthly bills, which can be budget busters. Take some time to review your bill to determine your usage and to see if you can move to a less expensive plan. Or if that's not possible, shop around with other carriers.
  • Share the ride. Gasoline and car maintenance can take a big portion out of your budget. One way to reduce your automobile expense is to carpool with others. Or, if you live close to work, consider walking or riding your bike.
  • Dine in. There is a lot to love about dining out. You don't have to worry about what to cook or spend your valuable time cleaning up. But, dining out frequently can be very expensive. By preparing and eating your meals at home, you may be able to save hundreds of dollars each month. Also, if you work outside your home, pack a lunch and be sure to brew your own coffee.
  • Save energy at home. Put some energy into reducing your utility costs by using energy-efficient light bulbs, turning off lights, and conserving water.
  • Reduce your cable bill. Spending too much on cable? Examine your bill and see if you can get rid of premium channels. Or consider, eliminating cable altogether and using subscription services.
  • Get rid of your gym/club memberships. If you belong to a gym and don't get there often, cancel your membership. It's only worth it if you use it.
The best method for determining ways to save is to record and review your monthly expenses. Then, once you cut your expenses, take that extra money and put it in a savings account. In no time at all, you'll see that you look a whole lot better with trimmer expenses. 

Tags: Credit Cards, Debt, 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
 

6 Steps to Dig Out of Holiday Debt

Tuesday, January 03 at 09:45 AM
Category: Personal Finance

It's a holiday leftover many of us carry around for months. It's not Aunt Edna's fruitcake or even those few extra pounds amassed from all the holiday treats. It's the excess debt that comes from spending more than you can afford during the holiday season. Unfortunately, for many Americans, a few festive days of the year can result in mounds of depressing debt that can take months to shed.

If you find yourself with leftover holiday debt, here are some steps you can take:
  1. Stop the credit storm. If you can't purchase something with cash or your debit card, don't buy it. While it's important to have credit cards for emergencies, it's a good idea to put them on ice until you pay down your debt.
  2. Start digging out. On your credit card statement is the minimum payment amount you must make each month to cover finance charges. Always pay more than that amount. The more you pay, the faster you will pay down your balance. If you have multiple credit card accounts, focus on paying off the ones with the highest interest rates first.
  3. Consolidate higher-interest debt. Many credit card companies offer attractive balance transfer offers that come with low teaser rates and sometimes there are no fees to activate this benefit, allowing you to transfer higher-interest balances to save on interest. Be sure to read the fine print so you know when the introductory rate expires and what the prevailing rate will be. It's also critical to close the accounts from which you transferred the debt. Many people make the mistake of keeping those cards and running up new balances, creating even more debt.
  4. Take advantage of rewards. Competitive credit cards offer rewards points for each dollar you spend. You can often use your points as statement credits to help you pay toward your card balance.
  5. Minimize your other spending. Take a close look at your monthly budget and see if you can cut your spending in other areas in order to pay more on your credit card debt. If you have the opportunity to make more money, either by picking up more hours at work or getting a second job, consider putting excess funds on your credit card debt.
  6. Stay the course. While it can be overwhelming to look at the debt you owe, the most important thing you can do is keep making payments. If you keep digging, you're sure to see a clear path toward credit card debt freedom.
With some conscious effort, you can relieve yourself of holiday debt, so you’re not paying for your festivities for the rest of the New Year. 

Tags: Debt, Financial Education
 

Regional Consumers Made Major Purchases, Planning More

Friday, November 25 at 08:30 AM
Category: Arvest News

Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey shows spending plans continue to rise.

 FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Consumers in the Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma region said they have made major household purchases in the last six months and plan to make at least one more major purchase in the next six months, according to final information released today from the Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey. 

Those are among the more noticeable findings from the third installment of the Fall 2016 Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey released today. This installment is the final piece of the survey, conducted in March and including Greater Kansas City, and focuses on consumers’ attitudes and behaviors concerning spending, saving and debt.

Most notably, 35 percent of regional respondents indicate that they plan to make major purchases in the next six months, compared with 34 percent in March. The percentage of respondents who report they had made a major household purchase in the past six months rose from 39 percent to 40 percent. Among the remaining 65 percent who do not plan such major purchases in the next six months, 20 percent reported they were waiting for the right time to buy, while 80 percent said they had no plans to buy at all. Major household purchases were defined as furniture, televisions, refrigerators and other large items.

“Consumers may be looking forward to the holiday season with an eye toward buying presents, while continuing household updates they may have been putting off from early in the economic recovery,” Arvest Marketing Director Jason Kincy said. “They seem to be feeling a bit more confident in their personal economies, as their increasing spending plans and slight decrease in current savings rates seem to indicate.”

This was particularly noticeable in Arkansas and Missouri.

“This is the highest level of purchase expectations (in Arkansas) since the Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey began,” said Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas and lead economist for the survey.

David Mitchell, director of the Bureau of Economic Research at Missouri State University, said households in his state “are more optimistic about long-run prospects than they were at this point last year.”

Those feelings were more tempered in Oklahoma, which has been dealing with the effects of a lingering slump in the energy sector.

“As we move into the holiday season, both retailers and governments that rely on the sales tax base for general revenue funds will be watching Oklahoma consumers closely to see just how large of a purchase they will make and just how long they intend to wait before doing so,” said Russell Evans, executive director of the Steven C. Agee Economic Research & Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University.

The percent of respondents who reported having no current consumer debt was 28 percent, up from 22 percent in March. Consumer debt within the region was divided among several categories – mortgage, home equity, auto, credit cards and student loans. In the region overall, more consumers reported having consumer debt in particular categories, with increases in auto loans, which grew from 33 to 35 percent, and credit cards, up from 41 to 44 percent. Student loans remained steady at 21 percent.

When looking at the current savings rate, consumers within the region reported they are saving 13.9 percent of their earnings, which is lower than the 15.8 percent from the previous survey. The overall savings rate for Arkansas is 13.4 percent, while Missouri is at 16.3 percent and Oklahoma 14.1 percent.

The percent of respondents across the region who plan on increasing their rate of savings has risen from 22 to 26 percent since the spring survey.

The Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey is conducted by the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. The University of Oklahoma’s Public Opinion Learning Laboratory conducted the 1,200 random online and telephone surveys.

With each study, the Consumer Sentiment Survey Index score will be released first, followed by a second release on consumer outlook, including the Current Conditions Index and the Consumer Expectations Index, which are sub-indexes of the Consumer Sentiment Survey Index.

Arvest Bank’s sponsorship of this survey is due to its desire to provide beneficial data for its customers and communities. The data provides a reading of how consumers are feeling about the economy in the states where the bank operates. Because consumers drive the majority of economic activity, it is important to simply know where people in the state stand in their views. 

Information about the survey and research partners, copies of this release, summary documents and print-ready logos can be found at www.arvestconsumersurvey.com.

Data released as part of the Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey, summary and news releases is free for broadcast, publication or use in presentations. Please cite “Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey” as the source each time information is referenced.

Tags: Arkansas, Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey, Debt, Missouri, Oklahoma, Press Release, 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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