Smart Savings Tips

4 Tips on How to Save at College

moneybankBy now college students are nearing the end of their first full month of a new semester. This often means a few things: midterms are a lot closer than they appear, their roommates are likely better than they initially expected and they begin making the infamous call home asking “can you please send money”. If you plan on making this call, here are four tips on ways to save while you’re away at school.

  1. Track your expenses. This may be the most simply yet satisfying way to save some cash. In order to save, you need to know where your money is going. Additionally, tracking your expenses is a good skill to have once you enter the “real world”.
  2. Cut unnecessary costs. Learn the ins and outs of your school’s meal plan; be sure to maximize what is offered so you don’t find yourself eating out every day.
  3. Look for extra income. Aside from scholarships and grants, try getting a work-study job on campus or internships that will pay money.
  4. Build your savings. Don’t get a work-study or internship just to turnaround and spend what you make. Get in the habit of putting some money aside – the “senior-year-you” will thank the “freshman-year- you”.

For more tips on how to save at college or to read the entire article, click here

Smart Savings Tips

6 Last-Minute Strategies to Pay for College

collegesavingsmonthBy now you have most likely settled into your semester at school. If you’re already worrying about the costs of next semester, here are six strategies to use, which are recommended by specializing in college admissions.

Contact your school’s financial aid office.
Call your school today to discuss your options with a financial aid officer who can lay out funding options or direct you to the school’s payment plan, if available.

“They want the student, they’re expecting the student, they have the deposit, they’re holding a dorm for them, so they have a huge incentive to work things out for the student,” says Donald Heller, provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of San Francisco.

Submit a student-aid application.
If you haven’t already, fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which is used by the federal government, states and schools to determine what kind of aid might be available to you. You should complete a FAFSA every year, as early in the year as possible to qualify for the most financial aid.

Since you’re submitting it close to the start of the fall classes, you may have missed out on certain grants, scholarships or need-based aid, but federal loan options are still available. The student aid award letter you receive from filing the FAFSA will detail what federal loans you may qualify for. The sooner you apply, the better the chances that you’ll receive any aid that’s left on the table. Let your school’s financial aid office know that you have submitted the FAFSA and keep in touch once your award letter arrives.

Appeal your financial aid offer.
If your family’s finances have taken a hit since you received a financial aid award, let your school know, since you could be eligible for more aid. Financial aid can be negotiable.

Find scholarships.
Look for scholarships with deadlines that haven’t passed, or ask the financial aid office if your school has scholarships that haven’t yet been awarded. Occasionally, a scholarship will remain open because an applicant has yet to meet the criteria, Heller says. You can find scholarships and deadlines at the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop scholarship finder.

Consider private student loans.
Federal subsidized and unsubsidized student loans come with borrower protections and income-driven repayment options that private loans don’t offer, so the federal options should be exhausted first.

Private loans usually require a co-signer and typically carry higher interest rates than federal subsidized loans, but the private-loan option may be necessary to close a funding gap. You can borrow private loans from banks, credit unions and online lenders. College admissions experts advise to borrow no more in student loans over the course of getting your degree than you anticipate making in your first year’s salary.

Plan long-term options

“Financial aid are presented as one-year deals, so students tend to think of them as one-year problems,” says Bart Grachan, interim associate dean for progress and completion at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, New York. “So if they have cobbled all kinds of resources — ‘I have this emergency funding, this local scholarship, grandma kicked in $2,000’ — they need to multiply out the next four years and ask themselves, is that sustainable?”

Anna Helhoski is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: anna@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @AnnaHelhoski

Smart Savings Tips, Trends & Tips

September is College Savings Month

moneygradcap-icon

The month of September is often a turning point for many – we welcome back pumpkin-flavored coffee, a new season of sports and of course, a new academic year. Annually regarded as College Savings Month, we will be using September to offer the latest tips and trends on how you can save – whether it’s your first or last semester.

Saving while in college can be as simple as having the right account. At First County Bank, we offer a variety of savings accounts. FirstPrize $avings may be the perfect fit for a college student. The account encourages you to save, by entering each eligible deposit into a drawing for $1,000!* Not only will this account instill the valuable lesson of saving each month, it can reward you for your efforts!

Stay on the lookout for more college savings tips throughout the month of September! If you’re interested in learning more about the FirstPrize $avings account, click here.

 

* Refer to http://www.firstcountybank.com/savings-account-disclosure for account official rules and disclosure.

Smart Savings Tips

7 Money Tips to Bank On

moneybankAs some Americans face unprecedented financial burdens such as student debt, the American Bankers Association is highlighting seven money tips to help them plan for a financially sound future.

“With student debt and high housing costs creating challenges for many, now is a better time than ever for to map out your finances and invest in your future,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “Banks can help with everything from free budgeting tools and mobile resources to in-person check-ups to help you identify and reach your financial goals.”

ABA recommends these seven tips to help you secure a strong financial footing:

  1. Shop around. Be selective and choose a bank that’s best for your lifestyle. There are lots of banking options out there with different advantages – whether it’s the lowest fees, the widest range of services, the most convenient locations or the best loan rates.
  2. Get a head start. Banks play a major role in helping customers prepare for major life events such as buying a house and planning for retirement. Ask your banker how you can get a head start on your first major purchase by establishing credit or starting a retirement account.
  3. Don’t miss out on free money for your future. If your employer matches your 401(k) or other retirement contributions, contribute enough from day one to get the full match. It’s free money, and its value compounds over time.
  4. Save without thinking about it. Make saving a part of your lifestyle with automatic payroll deductions or automatic transfers from checking to savings. Arrange to have a specific amount transferred to your savings account every pay period.
  5. Tap into bank tech to make smarter decisions. By literally tapping into your bank’s mobile app, you can track your transactions and manage your finances. Some bank apps even highlight money-saving deals at nearby retailers. Be sure to download the latest app updates when they are available.
  6. Sign up for email or text alerts. Keeps tabs on your money by asking for an automatic alert when your balance falls below a certain level, or to confirm when certain types of transactions occur, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $20.
  7. Expect the unexpected – set up a rainy day fund. The last thing you want to be is stressed when life’s unexpected expenditures come knocking on your door. Set up a secondary checking or savings account for emergencies or link an existing account to your main account as an added layer of protection.

For additional consumer tips from ABA on things like mortgages, credit cards, fighting fraud, or saving for college, visit www.firstcountybank.com.

Smart Savings Tips

Smart Back to School Shopping

FCB_FirstClassGrantEach year, summer passes in a seemingly never-ending whirlwind of poolside fun, time with friends and family BBQs. But, as we flip our calendars from July to August, it’s impossible to miss that the back-to-school season is just around the corner. As always, with its return is the demand for new backpacks, sharpened pencils and fresh sneakers. So how can you save money when faced with long supply lists? Here are a few tips on being a smart consumer:

  1. Get the list of mandatory school supplies from the school or teachers.
    This list should tell you exactly what you need for the upcoming school year, so you don’t have to guess.
  1. Shop your home then make a list
    Before you go on a big shopping spree, look through your drawers and closets to see what you already have and let this act as your starting point. From there, make a list of what you need to purchase and bring it to the store with you. This list, as well as the one offered by the school,  will help keep you on track while shopping.
  1. Set a budget
    Each year, stores seem to have even wider selections of school supplies to offer. It can be hard to resist buying that extra videogame, new toy or scented markers. Like having a list ahead of time, setting a budget before you shop encourages you to separate needs from wants.
  1. Look out for savings
    Before you set out on your shopping adventure, remember to search for savings opportunities and to amass any coupons. Signing up for Target’s REDcard gets you five percent off every purchase and free online shipping. Online, Kohl’s, Walmart, Staples and many other retailers offer back-to-school deals. In addition, Bed Bath and Beyond sends its customers coupons throughout the year which do not expire.
  1. Shop around
    While stores like Target and Walmart seem to have everything you could possibly need in one fell swoop, shopping around at different stores can help you find the best deals. Don’t be afraid to expand your search to online shopping, where sites like Amazon offer exclusive content or the opportunity to buy in bulk.
  1. Spend where it matters
    Saving money is always good, but it’s important to remember that some things merit the higher cost. Spending extra on a sturdy backpack that won’t fall apart midway through the year, for example, is a wise investment. For kids going to college, splurging on a comfortable mattress topper or bedspread will ensure a good night’s sleep throughout the year.
  1. Hold off on winter wear
    Although it may be tempting to buy for future seasons right now while sales are hot, hold off on buying winter gear. The clothes you buy now will be wearable for a few months and come November, there will be another round of sales for those long pants you really like. In addition, you never know when the 2 inch growth spurt may happen, which can make purchases for the future become too small and thus a waste of money.
  1. Mind the date
    One special week to mark down is Sunday, August 20th through Saturday, August 26th, when Connecticut holds its tax holiday week. For those days, the state gives customers a tax exclusion – a break from Connecticut’s normal 6.35% sales tax rate – on clothing and footwear less than $100. Take advantage of this once a year offer!
  1. Travel smart
    When you’re packing the car for college, space can prove quite the challenge. Take advantage of stores that allow customers to order school and dorm room supplies and have them set aside for you at the store closest to your son or daughter’s college. For example, Bed Bath and Beyond will reserve items selected online and set them aside at the store nearest the college. Upon arrival, you can choose to either purchase what you have set aside, or to not buy those items. Target’s order pickup option allows customers to shop online and pick up their order in select stores.  Shopping this way helps you save on car space, shipping costs, and unnecessary merchandise.  It also assures your reserved items will be available for you so you avoid the too frequent, and very disappointing, “empty-shelves-syndrome” in the college town.

 

Smart Savings Tips, Trends & Tips

10 Tips to Green Your Home and $ave Money

FCB_ICONS_LightbulbWhether you’re a renter or a homeowner, chances are you care about protecting the environment – and saving money. Here are some tips from the American Bankers Association to help you do both.

Location, location, location efficiency.
Carefully consider the location of your home. If you’re close to work, shopping and entertainment, you may not need a car. Without a car you would save money on gas, car insurance and maintenance, not to mention reduce pollution. If you’re thinking about moving further away, try to find something near public transportation and shopping.

Light up the house, not the electric bill. 
Replacing incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs will save you about $6 a year in electricity costs per bulb and more than $40 over its lifetime. According to ENERGY STAR, if every American home replaced just one light bulb, we would save enough energy to prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Remember to recycle used CFL bulbs. Go to www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling​ for recycling locations.

Some like it hot, hot, hot…or cold, cold, cold. 
Closely monitor your thermostat. Adjusting it just a few degrees while you’re out can save energy and money. You can make it easier by installing a programmable thermostat. Use fans and close the blinds during the warm months and let the sun in for natural warmth in the winter. Also, change your filter every three months.

How low can you go?
One way to save water is by using low-flow toilets. The most cost-effective way to do this is to simply take a 1 liter plastic bottle, fill it with water and place it inside the tank. This will reduce your water use per flush. Another way to save water is placing an aerator on all of your faucets.

Make it mean-green-clean. 
Cleaning supplies can be expensive and are made with toxic chemicals. You can save money and the environment by making your own cleaning supplies. All you need are some basic household ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and borax to clean everything from windows to tile. Look online for recipes and suggestions.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! 
Sticking to this mantra can help you save money around the house. Use a rag instead of paper towels. Buy products in bulk, concentrate or refillable containers to reduce packaging waste. Look for products made from recycled content. And don’t forget to recycle!

Win-dos for your windows. 
There are a number of ways you can make your windows more energy efficient without replacing them. For better insulation from the weather you can caulk exterior joints, put shrink wrap on them or hang blackout curtains.

Fan the green flames.
To keep your refrigerator running efficiently, keep the fan clean. The motor won’t have to work as hard if the fan is clear of debris.

Decorate green. 
Houseplants are like living air-filters. English Ivy, rubber trees, peace lilies and red-edged dracaena can help clean the air and look pretty too.

Vampire energy is sucking you dry. 
On or off, anything plugged into the wall sucks energy. Vampire power costs U.S. consumers more than $3 billion a year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Unplug your electronics and appliances when they’re not in use.

 

Smart Savings Tips, Trends & Tips

6 Financial Traps New College Graduates Should Avoid

FCB_GradCapAs college seniors across the nation graduate and 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 the 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.
Bank News, First County Bank Profile, Smart Savings Tips

Interview with AITE Branch Student-Employee, Justin Blum

Justin_BlumIn September 2016, First County Bank opened a limited-access bank branch at The Academy of Information Technology and Engineering (AITE) high school in Stamford, CT. With the first school year coming to a close, we took some time to talk to one of our AITE Branch student-employees to hear about his experience working at the AITE Branch.

Justin Blum is a graduating senior at AITE and in the fall will continue his education at the University of Massachusetts (UMASS), Amherst. Here are some highlights from the interview:

What were your initial thoughts about being a student-employee of First County Bank at AITE?
Well, at first I thought it was an interesting concept – opening a branch in a high school. I then realized it would be a great opportunity for me as a student. I want to study business in college, so I knew this would be a great opportunity for me to get real experience in the “business world”.

What surprised you the most about your experience in the financial industry?
The amount of different regulations was surprising. I had never really considered the amount of regulations in place to protect not only the Bank but the customers as well. One thing I did learn was that banking is much more personable than I previously thought. I expected to crunch numbers most of the day in a stricter, more formal environment. This was not the case, much of my job centered on the customer experience and building relationships!

What’s a key educational takeaway from your experience?
I accomplished my main goal of learning about the business world – it’s a complex place. It was interesting to understand how transactions are handled between deposits and withdrawals, especially how things done today can affect something further down the road.

How will you use the skills you’ve learned in college?
I’ve learned how to think more critically. I believe I can use the complexity of the behind-the-scenes work that I’ve learned and apply it when learning new materials in college courses and better connect the dots. It’ll give me an advantage in class and the ability to help my future classmates.

What financial tip or lesson would you share with a friend or family member based on your experience?
The most important tip I would share is to save. Building a savings is something my family has always instilled in me, it was only further reinforced by working in the branch. Today many of my friends are getting their license and starting to drive – it is now much easier for us to go a spend money on things we don’t necessarily need. I’d encourage everyone to carefully track their spending and begin to set money aside in case of an emergency.

At UMASS, Amherst Justin will pursue a double major in Business and Psychology. He hopes to one day become a Human Resources Psychologist or Business Consultant. We wish Justin and all graduating seniors of AITE the best of luck in all their future endeavors!

Smart Savings Tips

Cuban, Zuckerberg, Sorkin and Company Build Financial Literacy Awareness with #MySavingsTip

gearcoinIn an effort to build awareness around financial literacy, the Council for Economic Education (CEE) kicked-off a month-long financial literacy initiative with the help of Mark Cuban, Randi Zuckerberg, Andrew Ross Sorkin and many others. This campaign known simply as “My Savings Tips” works to raise the awareness of personal savings, personal finance and general economic education around the country.

The #MySavingsTip campaign is currently running across various social media platforms throughout April. Follow the campaign via Twitter or Facebook, or make your own difference by using the hashtag #MySavingsTip!

Here are some savings tips from Bank employees:

“A good way to start saving is by eliminating a simple purchase per week, like a coffee. Savings on a ‘coffee’ per week can lead to big savings over the course of a year.”
– Sheila Content, Branch Manager, AITE Branch

“Pay yourself first – when you get a paycheck, pay yourself by immediately depositing a portion of it into a savings account.”
– Mark Rosenbloom, VP, Cash Management Services Manager

“Hindsight is always 20-20. Don’t let savings be something you wish you had, start building your savings today.”
– Chris Strauss, VP, Risk & Credit Division

“Change your mindset – when you see your paycheck your first question should be, ‘how much can I save?’ instead of ‘how much can I spend?’”
– Prasanta Nath, Assistant Branch Manager, Prospect St. Branch

“Easiest way to save – set-up your account so that a percentage of your paycheck is automatically deducted and placed in a savings account before you even get your paycheck. If it’s not there, you won’t miss it!”
– Debbie Anderson, VP, Mortgage Lending Operations

Lifestyle Trends & Tips, Smart Savings Tips

How to Stay Financially Literate

networkmoneyApril is National Financial Literacy month. Whether it’s in schools, in the community or in the workplace, the importance of educating each other on personal finance seems to have lost its importance.

We have also noticed this issue and have made great strides to improve the financial literacy and the availability of financial education to those within our community. In 2011 we began the First County Bank Money Smart Program. We’ve conducted over 150 seminars for hundreds of members of the Norwalk and Stamford communities. With an FDIC Money Smart Alliance Certificate of Membership and as an FDIC Money Smart for Young Adults Partner, this program has made an impact in our community and demonstrates our dedication to financial literacy education as a year-round effort.

Our Money Smart Program is not limited to just adults, we have held seminars in four high schools in the Norwalk and Stamford communities. Recently in 2016, we opened a limited-access high school branch at the Academy of Institute Technology and Engineering (AITE) for high school students and managed by high school students. This high school branch no only represents our commitment to financial literacy but creates an opportunity for students to ask questions and explore the challenges of personal finance.

Whether it’s in your school, your community, your workplace, or your family – use this month to start a conversation around financial literacy. More and more seminars are becoming available to educate members of the community on personal finance and its importance. Let’s not let the importance of National Financial Literacy Month slip by without action.