Four Overlooked Expenses You Are Leaving Out Of Your Budget

To have an accurate budget, it is necessary to include every expense, no matter how small.

To have an accurate budget, it is necessary to include every expense, no matter how small.

Budgeting is an important part of finding financial stability. While many people use a budget, they often forget to factor in all of their expenses. A new year is a good time to re-evaluate your budget to make sure you aren’t forgetting any of these categories.

1. Subscriptions/memberships

While it is easy to remember major costs like rent and utilities, small monthly costs are often overlooked. To budget for an annual subscription or membership, divide the total cost by 12 and set aside that amount of money in a separate category each month.

2. Gifts/special occasions

Since you can always anticipate when special occasions like birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries will be, it is easy to budget for them. Add up your yearly special occasions and divide the total by 12. Take into account the expense of the presents as well as the cost of any special dinners or parties.

3. Fun Money

To keep your budget from feeling like a restriction, it is important to treat yourself too. Something as small as a fancy coffee drink once a week is a good treat! Allow yourself a certain amount each month that can be spent however you please. This will not only relieve you of guilt but also makes it easier to stick to the budget in other categories.

4. Home repairs

While some home maintenance costs are annual and easy to budget for, many repairs are unforeseen. Set aside a certain amount each month to cover any surprises as they arise.

If you have a hard time sticking to your budget each month, make adjustments. Look for areas where you are spending that aren’t included on your budget.  If you are spending any amount of money on something, it should be included. For more budgeting advice, stop in to see your friends at First Security State Bank. Stop by either our Cedar Falls or Evansdale locations today!

Things People with Good Credit DON’T Do

We hear a lot of advice about improving a credit score. It's time to take a look at what you should not be doing.

We hear a lot of advice about what you should do to improve your credit score. It’s time to take a look at what you should not be doing.

Your credit score is not a new topic for First Security State Bank. While we usually emphasize tricks you can use to raise your credit score, the importance of maintaining that score is often overlooked. Instead of listing a bunch of things you can do to raise your score, we are going to look at a few things that people with good credit DON’T do.

People with Good Credit Don’t:

1. Wait Until the Due Date to Pay Bills

Paying bills on time is not a new or novel idea. But just paying off bills by the due date will not guarantee good credit. If possible, pay off your cards by the report date. This is the date, typically a few days before the due date, is when a creditor sends updates to credit bureaus. If you haven’t paid your bill by the day, it could appear that you are carrying a balance from month to month. But when you pay by the report date, the creditor reports a zero dollar balance. And the less debt you have, the higher your score will be.

2. Open Retail Store Accounts

The credit inquiries that each retailer asks for impacts your credit score. Each one can reduce your credit score by up to five points. This may seem minor, but if you apply for multiple cards in a short period of time, those points add up. Is lower credit worth a one-time discount?

3. Stop Using Credit Cards

When you can’t control spending, it may seem like a good idea to cut up the credit cards. But people with good credit never stop using their cards, even if it means spending just $20 a month. Some credit card companies will cancel accounts after a certain time of inactivity. This can drive up overall credit utilization ratio, causing a drop in credit score. It can also shorten your credit history, which triggers a drop as well.

It is an achievement to raise your credit score, but it is even more important that you maintain it. This will make it easier to qualify for loans and earn lower interest rates. For more advice on getting your credit score up, contact First Security State Bank.

Beat the Retailer

Retail stores are strategically set up to make you buy more. If you know the tricks they use, you will be able to resist them.

Retail stores are strategically set up to make you buy more. If you know the tricks they use, you will be able to resist them.

How many times have you gone into the store to grab one thing, but ended up blowing $50 at the checkout? We have all been guilty of this at least a time or two. While your self-control might be called into question, stores are actually setting you up to overspend. They use professionals and psychologists to strategically map out their floor plan to make you buy more. By understanding some of the tactics used by stores to get you to spend, you can avoid falling into their traps!

The Decompression Zone – As you enter a store, the foyer or “decompression zone” is where you find yourself first. This area is meant to get you in the frame of mind to shop. The decompression zone has friendly greeters, advertisements, and some of the best deals on display. But those displays aren’t necessarily created to make you grab one of those items. Its purpose is to prove that there are great deals all over this store and you should explore further to find them.

The Center – In the grocery store, you may notice that convenience food displays make up most of the items stocked in the center of the store. You are forced to pass them in order to locate the basic items like milk and eggs. Clothing stores save the center of their shops for full-priced items. You must walk past the more expensive items in order to reach the clearance section in the back. Sometimes, you may be fooled into thinking you are getting something for the sale price until you check out and realize that you have spent more than you thought.

The Checkout Line – Every parent knows that checkout lines in most retail stores are packed with impulse buys. Some stores have tabloid magazines to flip through and impulsively buy. Some have novelty or “As Seen On TV” items. Others have shelves of practical items like batteries, Tylenol, or lip balm. Consumers need to be aware that retailers are manipulating their fears of forgetting something.

Some ways to beat retailers are shopping quickly with a list of needed items, checking price tags, and taking your time to weigh options. If you understand the methods that retailers use, you can be in control of your shopping and spending.

FSSB wants you to stay in control of your money. As always, we will continue to offer you financial tips and information in our future blog posts!

Shop Online. Shop Smart.

Online shopping is convenient but consumers must be careful with their information to avoid fraud.

Online shopping is convenient but consumers must be careful with their information to avoid fraud.

Online shopping offers good bargains, a wide selection and fast shipping. Shopping has never been more convenient for consumers. However, there are also terrifying stories of identity theft and security breaches that occur online. All of the scary statistics about online fraud should not keep you from shopping online though. You just need some common sense and good advice. That’s why FSSB is here! Here are some tips for staying safe online.

Look For The Lock – NEVER use your debit or credit card to buy anything from a website that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed. You can tell if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// instead of just HTTP://. A locked padlock icon will also appear in the status bar or address window of your web browser. Also, never give anyone your credit card over email.

Use Familiar Sites – Start your shopping with a trusted site rather than shopping through a search engine that can be easily rigged. If you know the site and have used it before, the chances are less likely that it is a rip off. Almost every major retailer has an online store and carries every product under the sun. Stick to these reputable sites for complete security.

Check Your Statements – Don’t wait until the end of the month when your bill comes. Check your credit card, debit card, and checking account statements online regularly during the holiday season. FSSB offers Online Banking that allows you to view transactions in your account history.

Privatize Your Wi-Fi  – If you are using a laptop or mobile device, only use the wireless internet if you access the Web over a virtual private network (VPN) connection. This is also not a good time to try out a hotspot that you aren’t familiar with. Stick to the networks you already know. Free Wi-Fi access is available at libraries, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble stores, McDonalds, Panera Bread and many more, but they don’t generally have high levels of security associated with them.

If you plan to shop online this holiday season, use your head. Don’t fall for deals that seem too good to be true. Keep your guard up and be wise with who you give any information to.

How to Stay out of the Red on Black Friday

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. But there are different tricks you can use to keep from overspending.

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. But there are different tricks you can use to prevent overspending.

Most of us can’t resist a good sale. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving filled with massive sales from retailers nationwide, is still on the rise with its popularity.  Almost 250 million people visit stores on Black Friday, with another 130 million shopping online on Cyber Monday.

These big sale days are actually a great time to get holiday shopping done or at least started, but how do you resist the temptation to buy more than you should?

One word: BUDGET.

Here are a few savings strategies for those committed Black Friday shoppers this year:

  • Find savings before hitting the store- sit down with a newspaper, look at deals on the “official” Black Friday website or download the Black Friday app!
  • Compare ads- the first price you find for an item may not be the lowest, so be sure to peruse the ads for lower prices.
  • Make a specific list for each store- find what you want and buy ONLY those gifts. Map out your route based on store hours and locations.
  • Use cash- if you absolutely can’t resist the urge to overspend despite doing all the above strategies, use cash.  Figure out the total amount you want to spend, get that amount in cash, and leave your debit or credit card at home to avoid going over the limit. Don’t forget about the money deposited from your Christmas Club Savings account in October!

Many serious Black Friday shoppers have developed creative ways to save. Hopefully whichever strategy you use will help you to spend smarter and actually save money.

Most importantly, First Security State Bank wants you to stay safe this Black Friday. Drive carefully, park in well lit and populated areas and don’t leave purchased items in plain sight in your vehicle. We hope all goes well and look forward to seeing you soon in our Cedar Falls or Evansdale locations!

Are Thieves Targeting Your Child for Identity Theft? Here’s How to Know.

Many of us don't consider the possibility of our child's identity being stolen, making them an easy target.

Many of us don’t consider the possibility of our child’s identity being stolen, making them an easy target.

Do you know what your child’s credit report looks like? Of course not! Why would you check a credit report for someone who doesn’t have any credit? While it may seem ridiculous, this is the reason that children are easy targets for identity theft.

Thieves know adults aren’t going to be checking a credit report for a child so they can run up debt for quite a few years without being detected. Common ways that thieves get information about children are medical records, mail tampering and computer searches. Here are a few ways to help protect your child’s identity.

  • Guard their Social Security number – Never carry your child’s Social Security card in your wallet, give the number out over the phone unless you trust the recipient, and don’t give them the number until he or she is old enough to understand what it is.
  • Be mindful when posting information about your child – If you want to post on social media that it is your child’s birthday, don’t reveal their age. Thieves can use that information to get their complete date of birth and access personal information. If you have a child online, stress to them the importance of protecting personal information on the internet.
  • Be careful with their birth certificate – A lot of club sports teams ask parents to present a birth certificate as proof of a child’s age. If your child’s coach asks for personal documents, make a copy and show it to the coach. Put the copy in a sealed envelope with your name on it and let the coach know that you expect to get the envelope back unopened at the end of the season.

Signs that your child’s identity has been stolen:

  • Your child receives unsolicited credit offers or letters from debt collectors
  • If you try to open an account for your child and the bank tells you that an account with your child’s Social Security number has already been opened
  • The IRS sends you a letter saying that the Social Security number listed for your child on your tax return is a duplicate

Unfortunately, identity theft is becoming increasingly common and nobody is free from risk, including children. First Security State Bank wants to keep you and your family safe and at peace. Contact us today if you have any questions or concerns about your family’s financial security.

6 Strange, but AMAZING Ways to Save

Coins in a jam jar

Finding small ways to save can add up to larger funds

As we head into the cooler months of fall and winter, food prices may begin to rise at the grocery store. This will likely change many people’s shopping lists. But coupon clipping is not the only way to save big anymore! FSSB wants to share some of our tips, tools and tricks that can cut back your grocery bill.
Grocery shop less often – This is one of the easiest ways to cut back on food costs each month. It not only keeps you from buying items you don’t need but also forces you to create meals out of the food that you already have!
Use price-comparison tools – Many retailers now have price match features where they will match the price of a competitor if it is a better deal than their own. This is made easier through various apps that will show you the lowest price for an item you are about to buy.
Shop on Wednesdays – Many grocery stores start new sales mid-week so Wednesday shoppers get first access to the new deals. Additionally, stores will often honor the previous week’s coupons for extra savings.
Check the store’s app – Before you hit the store, check out the different shopping lists, recipe builders and comparable prices that the retailer may offer through their app. Some stores even offer reward points and deals if you use their tools.
Coupon Codes – Coupons are easier than ever to come by. They can be found on retailer websites, social media, emails and coupon sites. The best coupons can be found at the beginning of the month so planning your meals in advance can make for big savings.
You have probably already heard many of the standard budgets and saving tips but try out a few of these creative ways to get more out of each paycheck. October is one of the months that sees a higher than average volume of coupon code releases according to Take advantage of the abundance of savings! First State Security Bank offers online banking and the Shazam Bolts app for an added convenience. Stop by either location today to set up a new account!

Helping America’s Truck Drivers with Truck Loans from First Security State Bank

The trucking industry is vital to American commerce

The trucking industry is vital to American commerce

Did you know that there are 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States alone? If you stacked all 15.5 million commercial trucks in the United States end to end, you could reach the moon! Booking an average of 105,000 miles a year, trucking and transportation industries are vital to commerce in this country. They transport goods from clothing and food to furniture and machinery. First Security State Bank realizes the importance of this and has remained committed to the transportation industry for over 30 years. We have been providing truck loans to trucking businesses of all types and sizes for many years and understand the current transportation trends as well as the challenges that companies are facing every day. Available financing options include truck loans with extended terms and programs that provide for new equipment purchases or upgrades. First Security State Bank is dedicated to help the industry that we drive in and thrive in.
In addition to our specialization in traditional trucking transportation, First Security State Bank also offers assistance to aviation businesses. We offer aircraft loan options for small private aircraft, agricultural aircraft and commercial aircraft. First Security State Bank President and CEO Dennis M. Hansen has been flying for over 30 years. His experience lends him knowledge of the industry and the unique needs of an aviation business.
At First Security State Bank, we are proud to call ourselves a friend of the Iowa transportation industry. Whether you need help with a truck loan for your transportation business or an aircraft loan for aviation, First Security State Bank has the resources and know-how to help with your financial needs. We know the ins and outs of these transportation industries and can help you reach your goals. Contact either First Security State Bank location to start a conversation with us today!

8 Steps to Building an Emergency Fund

Ensure your financial future with tips from First Security State Bank

Ensure your financial future with tips from First Security State Bank

“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”
As we go through life, circumstances present themselves that are impossible to predict. Death, divorce, illness, and natural disasters all come as a shock to people every day. These are not always the most pleasant situations, but they must be dealt with in a rational and thought out manner. One of the best ways to prepare for a financial crisis is by having an emergency fund set up and ready to turn to at a moment’s notice. First Security State Bank has eight ways to build an emergency fund in the case of a financial crisis to help you get started:

  1. Start a savings account with the intention of saving up to three months’ worth of living expenses. An emergency fund with three months of support will allow you to get your feet on the ground in the event something terrible does happen.
  2. To start saving successfully, create a budget to track where your money is going and coming from. A budget will not only force you to spend less, but it will draw your attention to where your hard earned money is going and possible areas where you could save more.
  3. Organize your bills, banks statements, pay slips, and any other financial documents. Put them in a filing cabinet for easy access to ensure you make all payments on time.
  4. When going through your bills, take note of areas where expenses can be cut. Get your monthly expenses as low as possible and put the remaining money into the emergency fund.
  5. Do the little things that add up. Turn off your air conditioning when you are not home and shut off lights in unused rooms.
  6. Take time to plan out healthy meals to make at home instead of eating out. Pinterest offers fun and creative meal ideas that can be made for one or a family of five. Pack lunches for work or school and take coffee from home.
  7. Keep up on home and car maintenance. It’s cheaper to replace one part then an entire car, and to replace a couple boards rather than have the entire house tented for termites.
  8. Keep your health in check. By eating healthy and exercising now, you will avoid health issues down the road that can be dangerous and expensive.

These are all ways to save that can be incorporated into your everyday life. By taking action now to build an emergency fund, you will be better prepared when the unexpected occurs. First Security State Bank believes it is never too late to start smart saving habits. Serving the Cedar Falls and Evansdale areas, we are here for you!

5 Things to do Before Purchasing a Home

Purchasing a home can be a stressful time. Use these tips to ease the process.

Purchasing a home can be a stressful time. Use these tips to ease the process.

The decision to purchase a new home is a big one. One must consider the location, square footage, number of bedrooms, and more. You also have to find the right mortgage for your needs, and such a big decision should not be made alone. With the help of mortgage lenders at First Security State Bank, we are sure to find you a payment plan that works for your specific financial situation.
Below we have included several items to include on your home purchasing checklist. Take these into consideration when you go home shopping and you are sure to have a successful experience.
Start Saving – The sooner you start, the better. You will have to eventually pay for living expenses and make a down payment. Lenders like to know you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck and will be able to support yourself once the offer is made.
Improve Your Credit Score– A credit score of 720 and higher is considered a good credit score and will help you get the mortgage you need at a good interest rate. It is based on your credit use, length of credit history, new credit, types of credit used and other factors.
Evaluate Your Needs - Do you really need a four stall garage and granite counter tops? Prioritize what is important to you and don’t overspend on unnecessary items. Make a tangible list of items you need, a location you want, and what you can go without. Keep this in mind and don’t let the excitement of home shopping take over your decision making.
Get Preapproved – Before stepping foot into your new home, ensure your finances are in place. The preapproval process can be extensive, but is vital to helping you shop with confidence.
Don’t Rush – If you plan to move within the next five years, don’t rush into buying a home. Short-term home ownership is expensive and should generally be avoided. Take advantage of renting and save yourself the hassle.
As we mentioned, First Security State Bank can help your homeownership dreams come true by providing attractive mortgage options. Get in touch with one of our mortgage lenders today to see how we can help!