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Iowa State Bank Blog

7 Absolutely FREE Activities for the Kids

kidactivities

Whether it’s during the summer or after school, keeping your children occupied takes a truly creative mind! This season, Iowa State Bank is excited to share some of our favorite and affordable activities for all of your little ones to enjoy!

  1. Take advantage of your local library and their summer and afterschool programs. Even if it’s only an hour a day, this simple strategy can keep your child learning while they play, saving you some green along the way. To bring that fun home, register your child for a library card, and show them how to check out books and take them back. ! Extra tip: If you make a game out of reading, such as who can finish a new book first, you may even instill a passion in them for reading and learning.
  2. Setup camp in your backyard, tent and all. There’s nothing like the great outdoors, except when the indoors are just steps away! Ease your little one’s into the wilderness by creating a camp in your own backyard. You can complete the evening with a s’more roast, campfire stories, and stargazing to make the most of the nighttime.
  3. Bike around town, and enjoy a pit stop at the park. Set a route for a bike ride, and see if you can end at a park close to your home. The bike ride can allow your kids to explore the town, and burn some extra energy before winding down with some playtime outdoors.
  4. Head out for a swim at your local state park and enjoy the cool water or beach. Every state has some unique local parks, many with their own watering hole! Instead of paying the fee to visit your local pool, consider making a day trip to enjoy the warm sand and cool waters of your nearby rivers or lakes. For extra savings, pack a lunch and cooler to make the most of your day without having to spend a dime on admission or food.
  5. Create a fun scavenger hunt around your home or neighborhood.  A scavenger hunt can be as simple or as complex as you make it. For some of the younger kids, it may be beneficial to keep it around your home. However, if you have pre-teens to keep occupied, creating a neighborhood or town-wide scavenger hunt could be the perfect afternoon activity. Setting up the scavenger hunt ahead of time, will help you plan your route, and determine the best prize for those who finish it.
  6. Bring some grub, and have a picnic at the park. You can do this fun-filled activity for lunch, dinner, or both! Pack a bag or cooler with some great bites to eat, and find a table or bench at your nearby park. The kids can run and play for a bit, and then come enjoy a delicious homemade meal before diving back in for round two. If you want to really make this activity sweet, pack some of these individual cherry pies for dessert!
  7. Volunteer for local organizations and give back to your community. Keeping busy isn’t always about entertaining your children or yourself. Sometimes, it can be about something greater, like helping others. Organizations such as The Salvation Army, your local Food Bank, and the county Humane Society, are always looking for helping hands to assist in their day-to-day activities. Let your little ones choose which one they want to be a part of, and see if volunteering once or several times a week can fit into their schedule!

We love getting children involved in personal finance at an early age. If you’re searching for more affordable activities for your little one to enjoy, consider some of these fun-filled games to help them understand the basics of personal finance! Everything from mobile apps to hands-on activities can help them grow their own financial education.

When to SAVE and When to SPLURGE

savesplurge

 

When you and your sweetheart set your budget each month, there are a variety of factors at play. Where can you get the best deals on groceries? How many date nights will you have each week? Do the kids have any sporting activities that require new equipment? At Iowa State Bank we recognize that everyone’s budget is different. No matter which categories you enjoy most, we’d love to showcase some great examples to help you find extra ways to save, and better identify which costs are worth the splurge.

SAVE: The best areas to find savings.

  • Weekly Groceries: If you don’t need the atmosphere or the free samples, there are numerous discount grocers which can save you BIG for weekly grocery runs. Coupling those savings with a pre-planned menu and sale scanning, can further reduce your overall food costs.
  • Kids Activities: During both the summer months and those after school hours, you may find yourself searching for activities to keep your children occupied. Whether that’s going to the pool, attending various summer camps, or finding an after school caretaker, keeping your kiddos active can be easier said than done. To help reduce these costs, we recommend season passes to recurring parks/activities, along with fun and affordable activities at home, which you can do with a number of household supplies.
  • Exercise: If you have ever purchased a gym membership you didn’t use, you are not alone! Many Americans see a gym membership as automatic attendance, when truly, it may be easier for you to workout at home. With so many new calisthenic exercises, yoga, and free-weight routines, there are a variety of tools out there to help you stay in shape without having to pay that monthly membership fee.
  • Travel: Searching “travel savings” on Google will inevitably leave you with pages of results. One fantastic tip we’ve found is purchasing travel through membership programs such as Costco, even if there’s not one in your area! There are countless reports of happy customers who not only saved money but had a much better experience when compared to booking it themselves.

SPLURGE: The expenditures worth the extra cost.

  • Budgeted Special Occasions: Occasions like your child’s birthday or you and your spouse’s 30th anniversary deserve a special treat. While we do recommend saving for these outings in advance, so long as the funds are budgeted for, feel no regret in celebrating your family’s happiness.
  • Childcare: Raising a child is no simple task, and for most parents the number one expense after a mortgage is childcare. We recognize that there are certainly savings opportunities to be had, however, in the long you’ll find that a friendly and reliable caretaker can make the world of difference on your child’s happiness, and your sanity, for years to come.
  • Healthcare: Your health, and the health of your family members is paramount to everything else in life. Whether you’re looking to find a reliable family practice physician, or are seeking long-term care treatment, now is not the time to scrimp and save. Making sure that your family is well taken care of and continues to live a happy and healthy life means you’ll have plenty of time to save for nearly everything else life throws your way.
  • Toiletries: Toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.; these are items you use every day. If you’re using poor quality products to save a few cents you may find yourself with dry skin or poor hygiene. While it’s not necessary to purchase the most expensive option available, know that spending the extra dollar or two is well worth the cost to avoid potential problems.

Whether you’re looking for a place to store your savings, or budget your spending, Iowa State Bank has the perfect solutions for you. Stop by your nearest branch today and learn about our personal savings and checking services.

How to Create Better Habits

Personal Finance

If you’re like us, starting a new diet, or working to exercise more often is more difficult than we initially planned. The same is true with many financial goals you may have. Saving for retirement, eliminating credit card debt, increasing your credit score; these are all things that take time and dedication to complete, but sometimes it’s hard to stay on track.

 

Luckily, Business Insider recently released an article that showcases just how it takes for your brain to form a habit. Surprisingly, it’s less than you’d think! It takes approximately 66 days for a consistent behavior to be added to your brain’s list of automatic actions. Thankfully, those 66 days do allow for some error. We’re all human, so there’s no need to be perfect during your trial practice. However, by committing to your new habit for 66 days or more, you can ensure that this new beneficial behavior sticks with you well into the future.

 

This new habit can be as simple as remembering to take the trash out, or as complex as maintaining a specified number of calories in a day. At Iowa State Bank we want to inspire you with some important financial habits to help you progress down the path of financial success. Take a look at these three examples, and don’t hesitate to ask our dedicated team members for help if you’re ready to begin your next 66-day practice round!

 

  1. Use the Envelope System: To help train your brain to only spend what you budget for, withdraw your total flex spending budget for the month. Then, divvy it up amongst your budget categories like food, entertainment, transportation, etc. After it’s been segmented, stick to your dollars, and only spend what you have in the envelope. No credit or debit cards to spend extra. If you can successfully make this a habit, you could see a large amount of extra savings which can then be used for vacations, retirement, or other savings ventures.
  2. Pay All the Bills Before They’re Due: Many habits appear easier than they truly are. In order to process this behavior into a habit, there are several steps you’ll need to repeat each month. To get started, make a calendar at the beginning of every month to mark the dates bills are due and for how much. Then, as the bills arrive, structure your payments to pay one at a time, leaving extra cushion in your account, should an unexpected expense arise. Using this recurring schedule, you can help yourself to get each expense paid before the designated due date. As an added bonus, an ongoing history of on-time payments may benefit your credit score too!
  3. Save for Retirement: This one is often a habit that takes longer than 66 days because there is no immediate reward for the effort you put forward. Later in life, your future self will thank you, for putting the time and savings away early on. The first step in this process to research your options. If your company offers a 401(k) and a match that may be the first place you want to start. By automating payments from your paycheck, you can use pre or post-tax dollars to bolster your savings without the temptation of spending. Then, when you save extra money with your envelope system, remember to add those surplus funds into your retirement savings account to give it an added boost.

 

We love the three goals listed above, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own unique financial habits! If you’d like to get started on a new financial behavior, stop in to your nearest branch today and speak with one our personal bankers. Our team at Iowa State Bank would love to help kick off your next 66 day habit!

Why Your Child’s Allowance Should be Tied to Their Chores

Money Management

There are literally thousands of how-to’s and self-help books for parents, but truly the only real way to learn how to raise a child is to do it! Luckily our growing team of parents at Iowa State Bank have some true hands-on experience when it comes to upbringing and explaining money management to little ones.

 

One of the most common fiscal questions parents have concerning their child’s financial education is, “How do I teach them about money using an allowance.” The simple answer is, however you want. There are a number of ways you can utilize a recurring allowance to help your children understand both the importance of good money management and a sound work ethic. Below are two of our favorite strategies:

 

Example #1: Earn Your Extras

 

In this scenario, allowances are guaranteed to an extent. Every two weeks give your child a pre-determined amount of cash, say $5.00. That money then has to be split evenly between their educational savings and their retirement savings (yes – retirement savings!) While this money is technically theirs for future use, they have no tangible money to immediately spend. Where the fun part comes in, is the commission. Assign a small dollar value to various tasks around the house. Ensure things like making their bed, or doing their homework are givens, and they are required to do them no matter what. However, extra work such as mowing the lawn, cleaning the bathroom, or cooking dinner, earn a predetermined amount of commission. Paid every two weeks, this commission is then there’s to spend between three areas, save, spend, and donate, but they MUST allocate at least $0.50 in each area. This lesson teaches three primary lessons; the first is housework is a part of everyday life and it doesn’t come with a paycheck. The second lesson is that working hard pays off, and the third is that creating a plan or budget for your money allows you to use it as a tool instead of using debt as a burden.

 

Example #2: Ambition Is Important

 

There is a viral story trending about a young boy whose allowance was determined by how many self-help books he read and wrote a report on. This simple lesson offers many variations and proves an important point on the dedication to values at a young age. For this example, there is no guaranteed allowance on a weekly or monthly basis. In this scenario, all funds are accumulated via commission. How that commission is earned is determined by you. This can be the number of extra assignments completed or the amount of successfully replicated YouTube tutorials. It could even be the quantity of miles your child is dedicated to running each week. Through this valuable learning experience, you can showcase to them that a solid work ethic is pinnacle to success, and can at times even out earn an education.

 

However you decide to help your children understand the complexities of personal finance, Iowa State Bank is here to support you. Stop in today, and ask about our designated children’s savings accounts. We’d love to help your family get started on their journey to financial success.

 

Nature v. Nurture: The Psychology of Spending

spending

If you’ve ever taken Psychology 101, you’ve probably heard the argument for nature v. nurture. In this multi-century discussion, psychologists have debated whether a person’s genetics or environment make a greater impact on their personal behavior. At Iowa State Bank we’re excited to share our take on this timeless debate, and share how nature and nurture affect your spending habits.

The financial traits which we see as more nature based are:

  • None

Are you surprised? Contrary to many personal opinions, financial lessons and preferences are 99.99 percent teachable. This concept is backed by an interesting study in which children were given one marshmallow immediately, but were given another if they could occupy themselves until the tester returned to the room. Researchers found that the kids who were able to wait to receive the second marshmallow went on to have more successful ACT scores and other measurably improved personal relationships. This information is particularly interesting due to the fact that delayed gratification is a skill, which can be taught from a young age.

Delayed gratification is one of the initial skills learnt for financial education in the form of savings. For this reason, it is practical to begin a child’s understanding of finances with this particular task, however, there are many other aspects of managing your money that can be tied to these initial skill sets as well.

The financial traits which we see as more nurture based are:

  • Whether you prefer to save or spend.
  • The specific items you enjoy saving or spending for.
  • Your skillset for prioritizing tasks and expenses.
  • The desire you have to compare yourself to others.

While the list of nurtured traits could go on for miles, the important fact is that like any other skill, fiscal education can be learnt through practice and continued repetition.

If you want to grow your personal financial skills set, we recommend starting with a household budget and saving plan. By committing to these two monthly activities you can start to build a foundation of learning to ensure you are adhering to the best financial practices.  As you grow your understanding of finances, adding in a retirement savings plan and debt repayment schedule can be valuable steps to gaining your financial freedom.

To start teaching your child these valuable lessons, we suggest great activities (like these) to help them understand the value of waiting. Simple games such as Mister Noodle can provide valuable comprehension for your child early in life.

Three Things to Look for in a Starter Home

starter home

If you’re in the market for your first home, congratulations! Becoming a homeowner is an exciting step on your financial journey. At Iowa State Bank, our dedicated mortgage lenders are here to help you find the best financing option for your new home. Remember to stop in and secure a pre-approval letter before you start your home search.

After speaking with a mortgage lender to help determine your family’s ideal price point, it’s time to start viewing potential homes. During this process you’re bound to find a home you’ll fall in love with, and others that may send you running for the hills. As you ride this rollercoaster of an experience, we recommend searching for the following three things in your family’s ideal new house:

  1. Good Bones. Starter homes are a great option to find a great house within an affordable budget. To ensure your investment lasts for the long-term, we recommend taking a hard look at any foundational cracks, leans, or other structural ailments. While the rest of the house could look fantastic, these three issues should be instant red flags signaling you to continue looking at other homes.
  2. Cohesive Neighborhood. The people you surround yourself could be the individuals you see at 6:00 AM taking the trash out, or the partiers you have to ask to turn down the music at 11:00 PM. As you tour properties, don’t be afraid to chat with any potential neighbors and see if there is any information they can give on families you’ll be living alongside.
  3. Suitable Layout. While some renovations are certainly possible when purchasing a starter home, obstacles such as load-bearing walls could limit your expectations. Consider the overall layout of the home at the showing, and see if you could picture yourself the way it is. If the answer is no, then you may want to find a few backup options should the renovations not be available within your budget.

The perfect home will look different to everyone. If you’re ready to start searching for your family’s new house, our experienced mortgage lenders are here to help. We work with many successful local realtors, and we would be happy to refer you to the one that fits your needs best. Give us a call or stop by to begin the search for your home today.

7 Items Worth the Splurge

Spending

When you make your savings plan, you often don’t think about the things you should spend extra money on. While scrimping on other items such as groceries or kids clothes could help you in the long run, there are some expenditures that could cost you in the future if you don’t pony up for the better option. At Iowa State Bank we suggest taking a second look at these seven products, and seeing if you need to upgrade the next time you buy:

 

Toilet Paper: You may not think it’s necessary, but let’s be honest; when you’re staying at a hotel that doesn’t have the good stuff, you notice. Household items such as toilet paper or garbage bags are bought to complete a task, and if they don’t complete it well or comfortably then it’s time to reconsider your options. We believe this product is worth the extra couple bucks, but we do recommend saving by buying in bulk!

 

Office Chair: If you’re like many Americans, you may spend a majority of your day sitting down. To avoid chronic back pain, and a slew of other ailments, we recommend investing in a comfortable and reliable office chair. If your employer is willing to pay for all or a portion of the chair, be sure to offer your measurements to be sure their options fit your height and weight specifications.

 

Mattress: Did you know you spend 33 percent of your life sleeping? For such a large portion of your time, you’ll want to be sure you’re getting the best sleep possible. Avoid those box store less costly options, and test out a few of the higher end options available in your budget. Not only can you sleep better, but you may find yourself spending less on coffee or energy drinks as well.

 

Pillows & Bed Sheets: While the mattress will make the biggest impact on the quality of your sleep, upgrading your thread count and purchasing the proper pillows can make a world of difference as well. Something as simple as changing the firmness of your pillow could help you sleep through the night more soundly.

 

Work Clothes: Sweats, shorts, and other home attire may not require the added expense, but the clothing that you wear to portray yourself at work should come across as professional while also remaining intact over time. We suggest finding one or two brands that fit both your budget and your style and selecting key basic pieces to compile a wardrobe of endless combinations.

 

Garbage Bags: Do you enjoy it when you go to take the trash out in the early morning and just as you reach the bin, the bag breaks across your feet? No, neither do we. We agree that it is more than worth the extra dollar or two for the name brand bags that won’t break. After all, if the bag breaks, that means you’ll need to take a shower too!

 

Data Plan: Every cell phone provider seems to come out with a brand new plan option as soon as a new phone is released. While the choice of phone is completely up to you, we think that the data plan should cover not only what you think you’ll use, but some buffer room too. Instead of paying the expensive overage fees every time to go over your data limit, we recommend purchasing a more comprehensive plan to ensure you have a little extra space when you need it.

 

These seven things will prove their worth in the long run, and many items only require a one-time investment. If you have any other items you think we should add to our list, let us know on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!

 

How to Save $1,000,000 for Retirement

Retirement Savings

Retirement, 401(k), stocks and bonds, the subject matter of saving for the long term isn’t often as appealing as saving for the short term. Perhaps that’s why nearly three-quarters of Americans are underestimating how much they’ll need for retirement. The United States is on the brink, if not already in, a retirement crisis. However, at Iowa State Bank we believe retirement saving can still be easily accomplished, there are just a few steps to get started:

 

  1. The first thing you’ll need to do is determine when and how you want to retire. There are an endless variety of retirement lifestyles, each of which entail a different budget and distribution structures. Some popular options include traveling by RV, retiring in a new location, downsizing your home in the same area, pursuing a new business or passion,  and of course maintaining your current lifestyle without the need for work. By choosing your lifestyle goal we can begin to structure your savings plan around what you hope to achieve.
  2. Once you know what you want, start saving ASAP. As the old adage goes, “Slow and steady wins the race.” This is phrase is the epitome of retirement. If you save less, but start earlier you will consistently save more than if you deposited higher amounts later in life. We recommend utilizing any 401(k) or retirement savings plans your employer offers. If you are self-employed or don’t have access to retirement benefits, an IRA is a great self-funded option to help you save and take advantage of valuable tax incentives.
  3. Create a goal for how much you need to save. Financial Mentor offers a great calculators to help you plan your path to retirement.  They can help you determine your strategy to become a millionaire, or show you how much you may need beyond $1,000,000. Saving more than one million could be more pertinent than you think. Today’s research indicates that millennials may need to save more than their baby boomer or gen x counterparts.
  4. Add any available surplus funds to your retirement savings. Simple adjustments like changing grocery stores, carpooling, and bringing your lunch to work can save more than you think! If you are able to find some additional ways to save, put those funds to work by contributing to your retirement accounts.
  5. Diversify your retirement savings. Instead of putting all your funds in company stock, corporate shares, or your 401(k), we suggest diversifying your savings options to ensure your risk isn’t higher than you need. Speaking with a professional adviser could help you determine what type of risk you’re comfortable with, and how you would like to your contributions to grow over time.

 

By continuing to save each and every month you can beat the odds and have a fulfilling and successful retirement. The most important thing to do is to start. If you’d like to open a dedicated savings account, IRA, or CD, our dedicated team is here to help. Stop by or drop us a line today to get started today.

5 Affordable Summer Vacations

Travel

One of the best things summer brings, aside from the beautiful weather, is time to enjoy with your family. Whether that’s planning a fun weekend adventure, or carving out a week to go exploring, your kids are sure to remember these getaways for decades to come. After years of trial and error, we’ve discovered some ideal destinations where you can stay in budget while enjoying all the perks of your family’s time away.

 

Wisconsin Dells, USA

This midwestern hot spot is filled with many of the nation’s premier water parks. With options at every price range, many resorts include park passes and discounts on other area activities. For those looking to save some extra funds, we recommend finding accommodations with a kitchenette. This added feature allows your family to cook meals instead of having to eat out at pricier restaurants, plus the kids will appreciate the extra time in the pool!

 

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

One of the most difficult parts of organizing a vacation is finding all the activities for you and your family to enjoy. At GO Adventures in Tamarindo, they have a bit of everything for your little ones to experience. Back at the hotel, they can run across award winning beaches, and spend the day relaxing in the sand. For those days you want to venture out, there is always an endless supply of options, and not to mention delicious food!

 

New Orleans, USA

This city is filled with a rich and vibrant history perfect for family vacations. With countless historical tours, you and your little ones can learn about the history of the South while enjoying some truly decadent dishes! Exciting excursions such as airboat tours and crocodile encounters will give your kiddos stories they’ll be anxious to share back home! For added savings, we recommend booking a home rental to avoid costly hotel fees and save some extra money by trying out your own creole recipes.

 

Vancouver, Canada

This vibrant town, just north of the border, is filled with fun and flavor! Enjoy all the best bites and adventures alongside your family at the Granville Island Public Market, and then take a walk through the Vancouver Aquarium, to watch your children learn all about Canada’s sea creatures. No matter what you and your family decide to do, you’ll be warmly greeted throughout one of the happiest cities in the world. Just be sure to remember your passport!

 

Austin & Waco, USA

These two sister towns are separated by just over 100 miles, but offer fun-filled activities in both locations. By combining the two cities for this memorable trip, your family can step on the set of Magnolia Market and savor the mouth-watering taste of Franklin Barbecue, all in one fell swoop. Austin will provide an endless list of new restaurants and tours, while Waco can set the tone for the ride home with classic family-fun that the whole clan can enjoy.

 

Wherever your summertime travels take you, Iowa State Bank is here to help safeguard you and your finances while you’re away.

 

How to Start a Garden without Splurging

Savings

Sunshine, flowering blooms, and the smell of something new, planting season is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors and begin planting your summer garden. If you’re like most hobbyists, you find your plants each year at area greenhouses and nurseries searching for that perfect pop of color.  This year, Iowa State Bank challenges you to try something different and save both time and money with these helpful gardening savings hacks:

Start from Seed: Instead of purchasing six packs of blooms, enjoy entire plots of flowers at only a fraction of the cost. A packet of mixed annual seeds may run three to four dollars and can fill an entire garden with colorful and productive plants for years to come. For some varieties, you’ll want to start them indoor using seedling pots and potting soil. After a few weeks, they’ll be ready to transplant outdoors!

Direct Sow: For some heartier varieties of plants, you can skip the indoor growing and head straight to the outdoors. These cold-tolerant flowers grow best without the shock of transplant. Some great examples are sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, and nasturtiums. If you’re planning on using any of your flowers for indoor arrangements, be sure to plan to direct sow succession plantings as well.

Make Your Own Compost: Natural fertilizer is composed of decomposing organic matter. Avoid paying the high cost of produced compost and create an outdoor container for all your table scraps throughout the season. Allow them to deteriorate along with grass clippings and other yard waste to make a nitrogen-rich supplement to aid your garden’s growth. This added nutrition will help your plants blossom and produce more flowers throughout the year.

Save Your Seeds: To further save on costs, learn how to collect your garden’s own seeds. After harvesting several plants, collect and dry their seeds to use for planting next year. You can save them in handmade envelopes and categorize them to easily find them each year. Typically seeds that are properly dried can be successfully planted for up to three years.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and start gardening! If you have a true passion for gardening and are looking to start a small business or make some renovations to your outdoor area, our experienced team can lend a hand. We’d love to hear your next gardening goal and discover how we can help you achieve it.

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