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.

Lifestyle Trends & Tips, Smart Savings Tips

It’s More than Just a Savings Account

moneybankAccording to America Saves, only two out of five households are making “good” progress in achieving their savings needs. Insufficient savings is a growing trend in our society, and we want to change it. Setting a little extra cash aside for an emergency fund or stowing away money in a retirement account may seem like simple tasks, but we know the toll it can take when living from paycheck to paycheck – that being said, we also realize it’s importance.

Saving is more than just a financial task, it’s a state of mind. It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a gradual process that is built over time. Setting aside extra cash does not mean giving up half a paycheck. Extra cash can be as much or as little as $25, which is an amount that will make a build-up and make a difference over time.

Realizing this, in 2016 we set out to develop a product that was a fun way to help our customers begin the gradual process of saving regularly. The FirstPrize $avings account was launched in October and has been a success since. Account holders are encouraged to save $25 deposits and resist the temptation to withdraw it. Customers who successfully make eligible deposits are entered in a drawing for $1,000 – which is put right into their account.

Saving isn’t always the most exciting topic of conversation. We’re hoping that through efforts like the FirstPrize $avings account, we can change the trend of setting extra cash aside in our local area and helping everyone make better progress in achieving their savings needs.

 

Smart Savings Tips, Trends & Tips

How we Celebrate America Saves Week

IMG_5827

Brooke Ann Bean of Stamford is presented with a $1,000 check as our First-Ever FirstPrize $avings Winner.

We understand the importance, but also the challenge of putting extra cash aside. Building your savings is a challenging task for most Americans. America Saves Week was established in 2007 to promote savings and the positive benefits of this difficult task.

At First County Bank, we promote savings every week of the year, and developed the FirstPrize $avings Account to make savings more enjoyable. This account allows you to build your savings while earning chances to win $1,000. Every month, the first ten deposits of at least $25 into the account automatically earn entries for a chance to win!1  It’s only appropriate that America Saves Week is the same week as our second drawing period. We’re excited to announce that, we will soon have our second FirstPrize $avings $1,000 Winner!

Saving is a challenge. However there’s no reason it can’t be exciting at the same time. If you’re ready to shake things up and turn saving into a positive experience, talk to your local banker or visit one of our branches to open a FirstPrize $avings account. To learn more about the FirstPrize $avings Account, click here or visit the link below.

http://firstcountybank.com/firstprize-savings

 

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

Smart Savings Tips, The CEO's Posts

On Building an Emergency Fund – How Much for That New Transmission?!

RGCEO1According to conventional wisdom, everyone will at some time have a need for emergency funds. Unfortunately, many people still live their lives “paycheck to paycheck.” As a result, setting aside money for unexpected expenses can be a real strain on one’s household.

Before we tackle the issue of how to save for a rainy day, let’s figure out how much to save “just in case.” Most companies and nonprofits I work with say having six months worth of expenses set aside should carry their organization through a financial emergency. I think the same holds true for most families. A good starting point is to set aside at least six months of living expenses – household expenses, food and clothing allowances, health care costs and, of course, transportation expenses, to name a few.

Sure, this is easier said than done so here is some help on how to start. First, set a goal and talk with one of our financial experts at First County Bank about enrolling in an automatic savings program, which can be set up to deposit a portion of your paycheck to a savings account. Our trusted advisors will help you navigate your options to find the best savings plan to suit your individual lifestyle. The key is having immediate liquidity so be sure you don’t tie your emergency fund up in a CD, which generally makes funds harder to access at a minute’s notice. Investment products are also not the best vehicle for an emergency fund because of their inherent risk so you may want to steer clear of those.

Another tip is, resist the temptation to spend your tax refund and add it to this emergency account instead. Additionally, reviewing your expenses carefully may provide you with an opportunity to plan your budget and watch unnecessary expenses until you have achieved your financial goal. There are many easy-to-use online tools to help you save; a simple Google search is a good starting point for that.

Finally, resist the temptation to break open this “piggy bank” for a vacation or any expense that doesn’t meet the definition of an emergency. You’ll find that the alternatives to not having an emergency fund—like borrowing from a friend or family member—  aren’t ideal. Just watch any episode of Judge Judy to see how badly that can end.

Lifestyle Trends & Tips, Smart Savings Tips

America Saves Week

MoneyBag iconAmerica Saves Week was established in 2007 by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council in an effort to promote personal savings throughout America and to change people’s behavior when it comes to saving money. AmericaSavesWeek.org uncovered some startling statistics from the 2016 Annual America Saves Week survey:

  • Just two out of every five U.S. households report good or excellent progress in meeting their savings goals
  • 52 percent are saving enough for retirement at a desirable standard of living
  • Only 43 percent have automatic savings outside of work
  • More men (74 percent) report savings progress than women (67 percent)
  • Those with a savings plan with specific goals (55 percent) are making more savings progress than those without a plan (23 percent)

At First County Bank we have many initiatives and programs to help promote savings. From our most basic savings account to comprehensive retirement strategies, we have the people in place to help you achieve the results you want when it comes to savings.

Smart Savings Tips

Marianne’s Savings Tip

We asked our customers and community to share their “Smart Savings Tips” – and you answered with some amazing ideas, including this one:

FCB-SavingsTips_Reinvest

Start putting away surplus money you have in a tax-free municipal fund and re-invest the interest you get. You will be amazed how it adds up.

Stay tuned as we share more of your Smart Savings Tips in the coming weeks and months. With your help, we can all learn to save smart.