Managing your finances can be overwhelming. Let Heritage Bank make it simpler.
Create a Budget.
First, you need the right tools. Get it on paper (or at least on screen) using our Template and Instruction Sheet. You can also find digital budgeting tools at your favorite app store. Some are even free.
Next, understand how much money you have available to spend (in a current checking account or savings account) as well as how much money you typically earn in a week or month. Include all income from jobs, government benefits, retirement benefits, legal settlements and child support payments.
Then, track how much you are spending in a typical week or month. Look back over the last year, then look ahead 12 months. Once you are confident that you’re aware of everything you can expect to spend if nothing in your life or lifestyle changes, enter the expenses into our template as an “essential” expense or as an “other” expense.
Setting up automatic payments from your paycheck to a savings account will help you grow a nest egg quickly. This can be used for emergencies or saving for a big purchase. No matter how well you budget, there will be unexpected expenses at some point. Also, developing a habit of saving can help you to afford large aspirational items like a new car or a new home in the future.
One surefire way to save is to set up automatic payments from your paycheck to a savings account. Many people say they “forget” about the amount automatically saved and learn to live on what is deposited in their checking accounts while building up a nest egg. Ask your banker about higher earning savings accounts.
Be Conscious of Your Credit Cards.
Managing credit cards can be difficult, but also an important way to build your credit history. If you plan to carry a balance from month to month, choose a credit card with the lowest interest for which you qualify. If you plan to pay off the balance every month, look for a credit card with rewards.
For many people, credit card charges are harder to track and the amounts you are charging can quickly climb to uncomfortable or unmanageable levels. Learn to stay within your budget even if the act of paying is simple and easy. Review your credit card statements every month to identify questionable charges and to note when you are spending more than budgeted and racking up unnecessary expenses.
Also, always pay on time. Even if you carry a balance over the next month, pay your credit card on time to maintain good credit scores. Also, paying late can result in extra fees. Ask your bank how to set up BillPay or other automatic payments to your credit card to avoid late charges and dings to your credit history.
Learn more about Heritage Bank’s consumer credit card options.
When you’re ready to make a big purchase, like a house, a vacation or a car, plan ahead so you have time to do your research and prioritize the factors that really matter to you. Making big financial decisions on a whim or under pressure rarely produces favorable results. A few things to consider:
- What factors make this expense worth the money?
- Is there a time of year or type of market condition that would work in my favor?
- Have I done enough research to narrow down my options and make deciding easier?
- Do I need the help of an expert? Home buyers usually find realtors and mortgage loan officers very, very helpful. A travel agent may charge a fee, but still make your vacation stress free and identify discounts you couldn’t access.
- If you are going to finance a large purchase, speak with a banker who can walk you through all of your options for making the purchase, including rates. Retailers often advertise “12 months same as cash” offers, but unless you are confident you can pay off the money charged on the credit cards they require you to apply for, you might be better off applying for a home equity line of credit or refinancing your home. Sometimes people save for years to make a big purchase, then realize it might make more sense to finance all or part of the purchase in order to invest their savings somewhere else.
- Negotiate. If you don’t ask for a lower price, a better rate or a bonus item, you’ll never know if you received the best deal.
Protect Your Personal Information.
Be wary of sharing personal information, especially online. Fraud is at an all-time high, so resist clicking on links in emails or texts from people you don’t know. Don’t let anyone intimidate you or trick you into believing they are from the Internal Revenue Service in order to induce you to share personal information over the phone or through a website. Remember, your bank will never ask you for your bank account numbers – we already have those on file. If you receive an email or telephone call from a credit card company or bank, it’s always wise to confirm the message is legitimate before engaging.
Sign up for Heritage Bank fraud updates.
You will need to provide personal information whenever you apply for credit, but be sure you are sharing personal information with a reputable organization through a secured web site or through an official representative of that organization. Today, you can find brick and mortar banks with online banking tools, so before opting for what seems to be a convenient way to check rates or submit pre-approval loan information, make sure there’s someone you can call (or even visit) if you have more questions or just want to be cautious.
Heritage Bank urges its customers to take advantage of our digital tools for monitoring your credit cards and bank accounts. Ask your banker about CardGuard, SecureAlerts and protections against debit and credit card fraud. Only use direct pay apps like Zelle with people you know and trust.
Improve Your Financial Literacy.
Only 60 percent of Americans can pass a financial literacy test, yet the information you need to become more adept at managing and guarding your finances is readily available free or charge. Invest some time in learning, identifying tools and forming good habits. Much of the best information is free or available for a nominal fee.