Got Money Back After Doing Taxes?

You’ve hopefully filed your taxes by now. Maybe you had to pay more, but maybe you’re getting a refund! If so, do you know what you’re going to do with it? While it might be fun to spend it all on a treat, how about putting some of it toward something more beneficial in the long run?

You’ve hopefully filed your taxes by now. Maybe you had to pay more, but maybe you’re getting a refund! If so, do you know what you’re going to do with it? While it might be fun to spend it all on a treat, how about putting some of it toward something more beneficial in the long run?

If you owe any money on loans or credit card debt, you could start by making an extra payment or two. It’s best to put your money toward the highest-interest debt first. This might also positively impact your credit score!

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You can donate to charity – it’s not always easy to find the extra money during the rest of the year, but now you’ll have some. Not only will it make you feel good to pick your favorite cause to support, but you can claim it as a tax deduction next year.

Another good use for some of your money would be adding to your emergency fund – or starting one, if you haven’t already. It doesn’t hurt to have some backup money for those unexpected events like your fridge breaking down or losing your job. With anywhere from three to eight months’ worth of savings being suggested, that can take a while to build up if you’re just taking a little out of each paycheck. The tax refund could help boost your emergency fund a bit more quickly.

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Of course, it doesn’t hurt to spend some of your refund on something you’ve wanted for a while. From a nice dinner for yourself or your loved ones, to a more substantial vacation, just try not to get carried away. You could even use it to improve on your own well-being: maybe buy a new mattress if you haven’t been sleeping comfortably, or get a gym membership for a year if you have a goal of getting healthier.

Whatever you choose, if you’re lucky enough to get a tax refund, put it to good use! Check out these articles for more ideas. Let us know what you plan to do in the comments below or on social media!

Saint Patrick’s Day Tips and Treats

Saint Patrick’s Day is a fun holiday that, in America, celebrates Ireland in a number of ways! People enjoy drinking and eating green-colored beverages and food. They wear green – and if you don’t you might get pinched! There are also a variety of events to attend.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a fun holiday that, in America, celebrates Ireland in a number of ways! People enjoy drinking and eating green-colored beverages and food. They wear green – and if you don’t you might get pinched! There are also a variety of events to attend.

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You can visit the Irish Cultural Center for music, food, crafts, dancing, and more! Everyone of all ages is sure to find something delightful. And of course there’s the parade that goes through Phoenix! Our own McDowell branch will be closed because of the road closures. Imagine the fun floats! It’s sure to be the “greenest day in the desert”, as they say! For even more ideas, check out this list!

If you have more time over the weekend or just prefer to celebrate at home rather than go join the crowds, there’s plenty you can do. Make some traditional Irish food, like boxty, coddle, or barmbrack! If those names aren’t enticing enough for you, there’s a lot more to check out! You could also spend some time crafting with your kids – some of these are so fun, you might want to make them even if you don’t have kids!

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What are your plans for this weekend? Hopefully some of these ideas will catch your eye. Perhaps you already had plans in mind! Let us know so that we (and others) can share in the celebration. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find (or craft!) a pot of gold!

Stay Safe At ATMs

How often do you go to an ATM? A lot of transactions happen online these days, but there are still plenty of people that have to visit a teller, whether human or automated. ATMs can be pretty convenient – but are you making sure you and your information are safe?

How often do you go to an ATM? A lot of transactions happen online these days, but there are still plenty of people that have to visit a teller, whether human or automated. ATMs can be pretty convenient – but are you making sure you and your information are safe?

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Do your best to have a good awareness of what’s around you when you go to an ATM. It helps to be in a public location with good lighting whenever you can. And of course, you want to be careful with your pin. Don’t write it on the back of your card! Memorize it and try to make sure others can’t see you typing it in. If anything about the ATM or people around you seems suspicious, leave and contact the police and/or bank as soon as possible.

Have you come to withdraw cash? Put it away quickly, and wait until you’re safely in your car to count it! Similarly, if you’re going to make a deposit, have your cash or check ready to go. You don’t want to be digging around in your wallet or purse while standing in front of the ATM, whether you’re alone or there’s a line behind you. If you feel like the ATM’s not working normally, don’t let strangers help you. Make sure to go to the branch staff for help.

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Stay safe by being alert and aware of your surroundings. Your information should be kept secret so that your account and the money in it can’t be taken advantage of. But when it comes down to it, your safety is more important than money. If someone tries to forcefully take your cash or card at an ATM, give it to them! You can always call the police and the bank right after so the situation can be handled. You are the priority. It’s not that often that something bad will happen at an ATM, but make sure you don’t take the convenience for granted.

Managing Your Money in College

We know college is a huge expense, especially if you don’t get a lot of scholarships or grants. The average yearly tuition can be anywhere from around $10,000 to $25,000, and that’s just for a public four-year college. Getting financial aid can be a huge help and students should focus their efforts there. However, they shouldn’t forget they will still need to manage their money well in order to not go into more debt than necessary!

We know college is a huge expense, especially if you don’t get a lot of scholarships or grants. The average yearly tuition can be anywhere from around $10,000 to $25,000, and that’s just for a public four-year college. Getting financial aid can be a huge help and students should focus their efforts there. However, they shouldn’t forget they will still need to manage their money well in order to not go into more debt than necessary!

However you get your funds, from scholarships to loans to a job, make sure to live within your means. Don’t spend the money just because you have extra from your loan that didn’t all get used up on tuition and books and rent. Everyone needs to enjoy themselves a little bit, but don’t go wild. Save now so that you don’t have to keep living like a student after you graduate.

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If you find yourself running out of money, go to your college’s financial aid office. They can often help you find more sources of funding. Just remember, taking out loans should be a last resort! You don’t want to add more to your debt than you already have, if you can help it. Similarly, be careful with your credit cards. A lot of them can have high interest rates, and it’s so easy to spend money that you might spend too much too quickly without even realizing!

Use a money management tool like Microsoft Money or Mint.com to record your spending. You can keep track of how much you spend on needs versus wants. Everyone has had to figure out how to balance the two at some point in their life! The sooner you start, the sooner you can take control of your spending habits! Budgeting will help a lot, and you can try other helpful things too, like the envelope system. Every month, you keep just enough cash in envelopes for things like food and gas, and only spend what’s in the envelope for those categories. A system like this can keep you from overspending.

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Start working on good money habits now so that it will be easier for you as time goes on. You’ll feel much more prepared for life after school if you already have a head start on knowing how to manage your finances! Making payments on debts like student loans can help your credit score, but not if you’re behind. There are plenty of apps to help you budget and stay on track. For another step in the right direction, check out our Journey Accounts for young adults. If you have any questions, leave us a comment or come talk to us in person at any of our branches!

Valentine’s Day: Gifts from the Heart

What are your favorite Valentine’s Day gifts you’ve ever gotten? What are the ones you’re most proud of giving? Now, how much did these gifts cost? Sometimes the more expensive ones will keep a loved one happy. But almost always, a gift that is less pricey but more personal will be remembered forever.

What are your favorite Valentine’s Day gifts you’ve ever gotten? What are the ones you’re most proud of giving? Now, how much did these gifts cost? Sometimes the more expensive ones will keep a loved one happy. But almost always, a gift that is less pricey but more personal will be remembered forever.

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Lisa from Retro Housewife has collected some great ideas. Try making your own lavender bath bombs, in the shape of hearts, to give to your significant other – or a friend or family member you want to show how much you love and appreciate them. Or try giving something a bit more unusual, like homemade beard oil, or 12 months of pre-planned date nights! There are plenty of other good suggestions in that list.

How about this homemade heating pad by Bren from Bren Did? It’s perfect for those who are a little more crafty. You can customize it for your loved one by color, and put whatever short message you want. She’s also given a printable pattern for the tags to go with it! It’s super nice for those who want to stay warm, have tired muscles, sick kids, and more. It’s useful and a pretty uncommon gift to give, especially when made yourself!

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Gifts like these are sure to stay in the minds and hearts of your loved ones for a long time. They are great for family, friends, and your romantic partner. Try saving some money this Valentine’s Day and adding a personal touch to your present. It’s sure to be a great experience for all involved, with memories to cherish long into the future.

Valentine’s Day: Inexpensive Ways to Celebrate

Only two weeks until Valentine’s Day is here! How do you celebrate it? With friends, family, a special someone? There are all sorts of people you might share this holiday with, leading to many ways you can end up spending a lot of money. Spend your time instead and create wonderful memories without breaking the bank.

Only two weeks until Valentine’s Day is here! How do you celebrate it? With friends, family, a special someone? There are all sorts of people you might share this holiday with, leading to many ways you can end up spending a lot of money. Spend your time instead and create wonderful memories without breaking the bank.

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Sensi from The Metamorphosis has great ideas on cheap dates. While these were thought up with college students in mind, people of all ages could benefit from these ideas. A picnic, whether indoors or outdoors depending on how cold it is, could be fun for anyone! Get heart-shaped foods, a red blanket, some candles, and maybe flowers, and you’re ready to go. Make it more romantic based on the cards you choose, some champagne, the lighting, or music. A movie night at home could also be romantic or platonic, depending on the movies you choose and who you invite, of course! No matter what, you’ll save money and still enjoy yourselves.

For more ideas, check out Kristin’s suggestions from Believe in a Budget. She has great tips for inexpensive gifts, but also for activities. Cooking dinner together with your loved one (or loved ones, if you want to include more of your family or friends) is a perfect way to spend quality time together. You could hand-write love letters together, or work on a different project like painting or making centerpieces. Your creations will always remind you of this Valentine’s Day experience!

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While fancy gifts and glamorous dates are exciting, a simple, less-expensive activity can be even more meaningful. Plan a cozy evening at home with your significant other, take your date on a moonlit walk, make heart-shaped treats with your family. Valentine’s Day is a time to spread the love, and you don’t need a bunch of money to show others how much you care.

Grow Your Savings With A Garden

Planting season is upon us! Depending on what you want to plant, of course. Vegetables and fruits are always a good way to save money on groceries while encouraging healthy habits at home! Here are some suggestions for which ones to grow and tips on the best times to plant in Arizona.

Planting season is upon us! Depending on what you want to plant, of course. Vegetables and fruits are always a good way to save money on groceries while encouraging healthy habits at home! Here are some suggestions for which ones to grow and tips on the best times to plant in Arizona.1-25 1.jpegAccording to the A&P Nursery, February is a good time to plant vegetables such as spinach, rutabaga, lettuce, carrots, beets, and more! You can start planting watermelon, corn, and peanuts in March. What a wonderful variety you can have just in your own backyard! They give some great advice on what you need to consider when gardening, from location to bed size to soil types.

Check out the frost dates on Urban Farmer’s site to avoid planting when there’s more risk! Give your seeds and young plants the most advantages you can. As you can see from the planting schedules lower on the page, there is a multitude of fruits and veggies you can be growing throughout the year. And don’t forget the herbs for flavoring your dishes! Plus, flowers are recommended to be planted among your produce because they can increase pollination rates, meaning more vegetables and fruits to eat.1-25 2.jpegYou’re sure to save a bunch of money if you can manage your own garden instead of buying all your fresh produce from the store. It will take some planning, regular work, and time to get it going, but once you do, the rewards are plentiful! Which foods are you most excited to grow yourself?

Saving For Retirement

Are you saving what you need to for retirement? If you’re younger you may be wondering when you should start saving. If you’ve already started, you could have questions about how you should invest or how much you should be setting aside. We’re here to help!

Are you saving what you need to for retirement? If you’re younger you may be wondering when you should start saving. If you’ve already started, you could have questions about how you should invest or how much you should be setting aside. We’re here to help!

First off, the sooner you start saving, the better! When you get your first job you should begin setting money aside in a tax-deferred retirement account. This is an investment that you won’t have to pay income taxes on until you start withdrawing money after you retire! Starting younger, even if you end up stopping- after 10 or 20 years, for example – is still way better than starting later, as your money gets more time to collect interest. The returns are well worth not being able to buy every single thing you want in your youth.1-18 first.jpegMost people believe you’ll need about 70% of your salary to survive when you retire – but that depends on if you still need to pay for your house, or you want to travel the world, and so on. Each person will have to figure this out for themselves, so make sure to be honest about how you want to live after you retire so you can better estimate your expenses.

A general guideline for how much of your income you need to set aside is around 10%-15%, if you’re starting in your 20s. Use a retirement calculator like this one to help figure out if you should be saving a different amount. Again, it depends on what kind of lifestyle you’re planning on having when you retire!1-18 second.jpegWhen you plan your budget, make sure to include enough for savings. Changing your spending habits now could help a lot in the long run, especially when it comes to your retirement. No matter your age, there are things you can do now to work on investing enough money to keep you comfortable when you finally retire. Have any more questions? Message us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or come talk with us in person at one of our branches! We want to help make your retirement not something to stress about, but something to look forward to.

Before You Buy A House

Owning a house is part of the American Dream for many. But first-time home-buyers might not know everything they need to have ready. The process can get pretty overwhelming if you don’t know what to expect and find yourself unprepared! If you’re thinking about buying a home soon, here are some ideas on how to start.

Owning a house is part of the American Dream for many. But first-time home-buyers might not know everything they need to have ready. The process can get pretty overwhelming if you don’t know what to expect and find yourself unprepared! If you’re thinking about buying a home soon, here are some ideas on how to start.1-10 first.jpegYou don’t necessarily need a buyer’s agent, but hiring one can help you save time. First you will need to figure out what you’re looking for in a house – what size, how many stories, how many bedrooms, and so on. Once you give them this information, they can send you listings matching what you want, sometimes including homes that aren’t yet on the market. Many agents will also drive you around, so you don’t have to use your own gas. They can also be helpful in advising you on overpriced listings and other good or bad aspects of a home, which is definitely great if you and your family and friends all have little to no experience!

Save up for a down payment – start as early as possible! Even if you’re not thinking of getting a house in the next few years, now’s a good time to begin setting aside funds anyway. A down payment of 20% is common, but there are many lenders and first-time home buyer programs that allow you to put down less. But a small down payment can still be a lot – 5% down on a $250,000 house is $12,500. Plus, things like the mortgage insurance might end up costing more. So start saving now!1-10 second.jpegRemember, you don’t necessarily need to start out with an all-or-nothing mentality, thinking you’ll get your dream home or nothing at all. You could get a home that will be good enough for 5 years, and cheaper than where you currently stay, so that you have more time to save up for a place you like even more. Or, if you like where you’re at, and the price is right, then continue to save up and maybe check out listings on the internet every so often, until you feel ready to start looking more seriously. Check out these articles for more ideas.

Start The New Year Off Right

Are you ready for the New Year? There isn’t much more time until 2019 is here! What are your New Year’s resolutions? Maybe you’ve got at least one that has to do with you money situation. If so, here are some ideas on how to start yourself off right and make 2019 your best financial year yet.

Are you ready for the New Year? There isn’t much more time until 2019 is here! What are your New Year’s resolutions? Maybe you’ve got at least one that has to do with you money situation. If so, here are some ideas on how to start yourself off right and make 2019 your best financial year yet.

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In any plan, it always helps to be organized – but even more so for your finances. Make sure to set solid goals. You can start with the year, then see how you can break down the steps to get there by each month. Then break the steps down even further to what you can do each week to stay on track. It may or may not be easy for you to write out these steps to your goals, but once you are done, the most important thing will be to stick to them.

Maybe you want to lower your utility bills. Maybe you want to put more into your savings. Maybe you’re trying to pay off your debt. Whatever you’re aiming for, try to start with steps that are small and doable so you can build yourself up to making bigger and bigger changes. Check out here how you can work on this plan.

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If you don’t have any financial resolutions for 2019, maybe you’ll think of some now! You might be in a financial situation you’re happy with already, but in that case, you could help out someone else. Teach your kids or a friend or other family member how you got to where you are so they can improve their money habits too. So what are your New Year’s resolutions? Comment here or on our social media pages, you could end up inspiring others to do the same!