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How To Financially Prepare for the Holiday Season

A woman sitting down, budgeting in a notebook and typing in a calculator, surrounded by Christmas presents with money on the table

As we approach the end of the year, the focus starts to shift to celebrations and everything else that comes with the holiday season. Stores will become crowded, weekends will fill up with parties and gatherings, and quality time spent with family will be abundant. However, the holidays would not be complete without the added stress of planning, shopping, and traveling.

There are so many things to prepare and purchase during this time of year: Flights must be booked, food needs to be prepared, and gifts need to be purchased. With all these added expenses that pop up during this time of year, it’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle of the season without a solid plan in place. Luckily, here at Landmark National Bank, we want to offer advice on how to save yourself some money during the holidays.

Ways To Save Money This Holiday Season

Whether you are the one hosting Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah, or you’re the one traveling to all the parties, there are some expenses to plan for and keep in mind. When you host a party, you will be taking frequent trips to the grocery store each week for food and decorations that will start to take a toll on your wallet. To help you not take a huge hit all at the same time, try purchasing non-perishables a little at a time so you aren’t buying everything all at once.

If you have family in other parts of the country or in other countries altogether, you will have to worry about the high price of plane tickets. Anyone who has ever had to travel during the holidays knows how expensive it can be. One way to save is to buy your tickets before the end of October. Holiday tickets are much cheaper during this time than they are in November and December. The sooner you purchase your tickets, the better off you are.

However, even if you save on food and plane tickets, buying gifts for everyone in your family is still fairly costly. Setting a budget, saving on electric costs, and getting creative with your gifts can help you not break the bank this holiday season.

Set a Gift Budget

The most important rule is to set a gift budget early. However, it can be hard to know how much to spend on Christmas gifts. Many recommend spending $50 to $100 on family and $20 to $50 on friends. However, this all depends on your budget and how much you can realistically spend without dipping into savings or sacrificing on essentials. Make a list at the start of November of how many people you have to buy for, and then determine a budget from there.

Cut Down on Electric Costs

One of the biggest drains on your wallet during the winter months is your electricity bill. While this cost is unavoidable, there are some ways you can save money on your electric bill in the winter while still keeping warm. Some things to check around your home include:

  • Make sure your vents aren’t covered by furniture
  • Check the insulation
  • Weatherstrip your doors and windows
  • Make sure your ceiling fans are spinning clockwise
  • Don’t leave doors or windows open

You can also utilize a smart thermostat so you can set it at a lower temperature while no one is in your home. Unplugging appliances and electronics while they aren’t in use can cut down on energy costs as well. Lastly, make sure to put Christmas lights on a timer to avoid accidentally leaving them on all night and wasting energy.

Get Creative With Gifts

The last thing you can do to save a bit of cash is get creative with gift-giving this year. If you are particularly crafty, DIY your gifts for friends and family. A personalized gift will hold much more meaning than something bought from a store. You can also suggest a Secret Santa with your friend group so you are only buying one gift rather than a bunch. There are plenty of ways to still gift your friends something nice and meaningful without spending too much.

Set Your Holiday Budget at Landmark National Bank

There is no need to go into debt due to holiday expenses. At Landmark National Bank, we want to set you up for success. Our savings accounts allow you to earn interest on your money so you can save even more this holiday season. Or, open a Smart Money or Signature checking account to earn interest on your everyday spending money. Open an account at your local Landmark National Bank today!

The Best Time To Buy Christmas Gifts

A woman sits next to a Christmas tree and wrapped presents, with a laptop on her lap, entering numbers from a credit card

The holidays are a season full of joy and magic. However, the most wonderful time of the year can also wreak havoc on your savings if you’re not careful. Once you’ve bought presents for family and friends, decorations, food, and new pajamas for everyone, you may look at your credit card statement and cringe. Thankfully, Landmark National Bank is here with tips on the best time to buy Christmas presents or presents for any other winter holiday.

When To Buy Christmas Gifts

There’s no single best time to buy Christmas presents, but there is a worst time: the day before Christmas. By that point, retail shelves will have been mercilessly picked over and left barren. Plus, you’re unlikely to find the best deals right before the holiday. Instead, start your holiday shopping early—the beginning of November at the latest. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to watch and wait for the best deals to pop up. Just make sure you have a good place to hide them, away from any prying eyes!

How To Find Christmas Gift Deals

It’s not hard to find great deals on Christmas gifts—most of the time, stores will send them right to you. Most online stores have some sort of free club, membership, or newsletter you can join with just an email address. These brands will then send you information on the specials they’re running, coupon codes you can use, and some sites will even give you free shipping just for signing up. You can even create a new email address just for these coupons, so they don’t clog up your inbox.

Black Friday Christmas Gift Deals

One important day to mark on your calendar for some of the best Christmas gift bargain hunting is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. This shopping “holiday” has become so popular these days that it’s begun to creep into Thanksgiving itself, with many Black Friday deals now starting early Thursday evening. When Black Friday shopping, it’s a good idea to go in with a game plan. If you just show up at the mall to look around, you probably won’t find the best deals. Instead, do your research. Look up your favorite brands and their Black Friday specials so you know exactly where to go and when. Black Friday can be a great time to get great deals on higher-ticket items like TVs and appliances.

Cyber Monday Christmas Gift Deals

Cyber Monday, which began in 2005, is the internet’s answer to Black Friday. You won’t find Cyber Monday deals in stores, but the internet is full of them, many times extending into an entire “Cyber Week.” This massive online shopping holiday takes place the Monday after Thanksgiving, but most online stores will announce their deals well in advance. If you find a Cyber Monday deal that sticks out to you, copy the URL of the item and paste it into a document on your computer so you’ll remember exactly how to get there. If you’re a mobile phone shopper, text the link to yourself or save it in a note so you can find it quickly when Cyber Monday comes.

Homemade Christmas Gifts

If you’re on a strict budget this holiday season, remember that gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. If you have time to spare, consider making a homemade Christmas gift for your loved ones. If you’re a crafty type of person, you could crochet a scarf or blanket or stitch together a pillow. If you’re an avid baker, a tray of cookies or pan of fudge is never unwelcome. If you want to spoil your spouse or partner without breaking the bank, you could make a scrapbook of your relationship or take them to look at the prettiest Christmas lights.

Save Money for the Holidays With Landmark National Bank

However you choose to save money this holiday season, Landmark National Bank can help. Our personal savings accounts make it easy to save money for Christmas presents, and our personal checking accounts make purchases quick and easy, with access to a Landmark Visa debit card and perks like free online banking and e-statements. Shop for the best holiday bargains around with Landmark National Bank!

What Is the Debt Snowball Financial Strategy?

Illustration of a man wearing a suit pushing a huge snowball, with his necktie being blown behind his shoulder

Debt can be an overwhelming and looming burden, especially if you’re paying it off through monthly minimum payments. To tackle debt more quickly, you may want to employ another method—debt snowball.

What Is the Debt Snowball?

Debt snowball is a term coined for a strategy for paying off debt in a way that allows the amount to shrink much quicker than outlined in payment plans.

How Does the Debt Snowball Work?

The debt snowball works by targeting the smallest debt first. While paying the monthly minimum balance on all other debts, pay as much as possible on this smallest debt amount until it is paid off. Even if it’s not much more than the minimum balance, every penny counts toward a quicker end. Then, once that’s paid off, take what was being paid toward the smallest debt payment and use that toward the next smallest debt in addition to the minimum balance. When this is paid off, add that full amount to the minimum balance payment of the next area of debt. This process continues, essentially compounding into larger and larger payments toward specific debts, like a snowball increasing in size as it rolls down a hill.

How Do Interest Rates Affect the Debt Snowball?

While there may be some benefits to targeting the debt with the highest interest rate first, it can be discouraging to tackle such a large debt from the beginning. As different debts are eliminated in monthly payments, it’s more likely to gain momentum to keep the snowball going. If you’re thinking of employing this method of debt repayment, evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of either order with your own debt makeup.

How Do I Pay Off Debt Using the Debt Snowball?

If you’d like to start tackling your debt using this method, you can use our snowball debt elimination calculator to see how small changes in payments can lead to big payoffs. First, make a list of your various areas of debt and the minimum monthly payments. Then enter these amounts in the order you’d like to target them with their corresponding interest rates. Decide if you’d like to add any extra money to these minimum payments to help build a faster snowball. You’ll then see a graph depicting how your snowball will help you eliminate debt compared to making minimum payments. You’ll even see the expected time frame the whole process will take.

Meet Your Financial Goals With Landmark National Bank

Debt can seem overwhelming, but with a bit of financial literacy, it’s possible to become debt-free. Backed by Bauer Financial’s highest 5-Star rating for financial strength and stability, Landmark National Bank prioritizes your financial success. Meet your goals with the help of dedicated and friendly staff online or in person at one of our many Kansas locations. Get started today!

Common Financial Goals Anyone Can Set

Man puts $100 bill into a jar labeled “house,” alongside three other jars labeled “car,” “education,” and “investment.”

While every financial situation is different, we all should be making goals for financial planning. With this guide, discover three ways to incorporate financial goals into your budgeting and planning.

What Is a Financial Goal?

A financial goal is the end goal you’re trying to reach with your money management. Accomplishing a financial goal may involve saving, spending, or investing.

Why Are Financial Goals Important?

It’s important to name financial goals in your budgeting and planning because it gives you direction with your budgeting. Many people hope to retire at a certain age, but without setting practical measures to get there, it can become a more stressful or unattainable dream. These goals should always be measurable, specific, and time oriented. Generally, financial goals are grouped into three categories: short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals.

Short-Term Financial Goals

Short-term goals are those that can be accomplished within a year. These goals help us achieve everyday aspirations in steps. While they may be accomplished without planning, setting these goals gives us a sense of accomplishment and intentionality. Especially for early career financial planning, short-term goal setting prevents overspending and instills smart money habits that are useful to accomplish medium- and long-term goals. Setting financial goals is an important step in developing financial literacy, which is crucial to long-term financial success. Short-term financial goal examples include:

  • Creating a budget
  • Paying for a vacation
  • Establish an emergency fund
  • Maxing out retirement contributions

Medium-Term Financial Goals

As expected, medium-term goals are supposed to take a little bit longer, typically around five years. These goals are achievable but require more intentional spending and saving. Medium-term financial goal examples include:

  • Earning a goal total income
  • Paying off all or a specific type of debt
  • Buying a home or saving for a down payment

Long-Term Financial Goals

Unlike the previous two categories, these can range widely in the length of time they take to complete. The general definition is anything that will take longer than five years to achieve, but some long-term financial goals may follow you for decades. Though the common long-term goal is retirement, there may be many things you hope to achieve that will fall into this category. It’s helpful first to choose long-term goals, then see how your medium-term and short-term goals can align and help you in that process. Long-term financial goal examples include:

  • Living debt-free
  • Fund a child’s education partially or fully
  • Make a million dollars
  • Travel the world

How Do I Achieve My Financial Goals?

Achieving your financial goals can seem daunting but can always be broken down into clear, achievable steps. For example, by using our debt consolidation calculator, you can discover how to conquer your debt monthly. With careful planning, you shorten the amount of time it takes to achieve a particular goal.

It also helps to understand what resources are available to you. If you plan to buy a home, research the home loans available to you. Then use our home loan rate calculator to discover how various loans can help you work toward your financial goals.

Work Toward Your Success With Landmark National Bank

With our expert staff, many resources, and personalized banking solutions, Landmark National Bank will help you achieve all your financial goals. Learn more about our services and visit a Landmark National Bank location near you today!

How To Make an End-of-Year Financial Checklist

 

Woman sits at a desk going over documents with a calculator

As the new year approaches, now is the perfect time to think about an end-of-year financial checklist before the holiday season begins. There’s plenty to consider with your end-of-the-year personal finances: financial goals, yearly taxes, and debt payments, among numerous other things. While each household’s financial checklist may look different, we’ve gathered our best tips and considerations to finish this year strong and set up the next year for success.

Review Your Budget

Though tedious, the best way to start your annual financial review is to look at where your money has gone this past year. If you’re not already tracking your expenses, review your spending through your bank transactions and receipts. Then consider the following questions:

  • Were you able to keep within your budget?
  • Did you meet your financial goals for the year?
  • Where did you prioritize your money?
  • Where did you overspend this last year? Why?
  • Did you have any unexpected life events or purchases this year?

Check In on Your Savings

Elderly man inserts a card into an ATM

The key to a strong financial plan is having savings to fall back on. As the last several years have taught us, you never know what to expect year to year. Now is the perfect time to create a plan to grow your savings. The general rule for savings is to have three to six months of expenses saved in case of emergency. However, you may want to work toward more or less, depending on your financial circumstances, insurance, and so on. And while this might not be a goal you can work toward in one year, you can break it into smaller benchmarks in your financial plan.

Contribute to Your Retirement

Whether you’re looking to retire soon or just starting your career, it’s always a good time to save money for retirement. Since we’re limited in how much we can contribute to retirement every year, try to max out this amount by the end of the year. If you receive a holiday bonus, you can earmark that money for this purpose ahead of time. Over time, this will massively benefit your financial future, especially if your employer matches your contributions.

Make the Most of Your FSA

A flexible spending accounting (FSA) is a tax-free account that helps cover special services outside of your health care coverage. With the end of the year approaching, check with your benefits office if there’s a deadline to use these flexible funds. You never want benefits you’ve paid for going unused. Look into purchasing new glasses, buying child care supplies, and booking doctor’s appointments.

Donate to Charity

A woman holds a cell phone with a screen that reads “make a donation”

As you evaluate your end-of-year financials, you may want to consider making a charitable donation. A donation may also be able to help you with your yearly taxes. Ask yourself:

  • Have you donated cash or assets this year already?
  • Could you benefit from tax savings by donating more?
  • Is there a charity or cause you would like to support in their mission?

As you think about donating, consider also how you can maximize its impact. During the holidays, there are often specific days when donations are matched. For example, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, nicknamed GivingTuesday, is a time when organizations may fundraise in this capacity or with other benefits.

Decide What You’re Working Toward

Every year, it’s important to evaluate the purchases we intend to make in the future. After all, a home down payment isn’t gathered in a day. First, record what purchases you know you’ll have in the next year. You might have smaller, more immediate purchases on your mind like a new household appliance or car repairs. You may also have some long-term goals you’d like to work toward, like a college savings plan or debt repayment. As you think about these goals, calculate what you hope to save for these purchases and how long you have to save for them. This should provide a framework for how to save regularly for these bigger expenses.

Build a Better Budget for Next Year

After reviewing these points, consider how you want to adapt your budget or way of life to serve your financial goals better next year. You may find there are areas you want to trim spending and other areas where you may be expecting a bigger expense. While budgeting for all these things might seem intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. More than anything, setting a budget is about being intentional with your resources. Ask yourself the following questions: What are my essential expenses? What do I need to be saving for right now? How can I prevent overspending in the same areas as last year? How do my goals and budget align? From there, make adjustments to better fit what you hope to accomplish. When it comes to planning for the future, you’ll find that a little financial literacy goes a long way.

Invest in Your Future With Landmark National Bank

While there are many things to do before the year ends, there’s nothing more valuable than securing your financial future. Get set up for success with our dedicated team, helpful resources, and personalized banking services.

Recognized by Bauer Financial with its highest 5-Star rating for financial strength and stability, Landmark National Bank will help you achieve success with your financial goals each and every year.

Contact us or visit your local Landmark National Bank branch today!

How to Budget After Landing Your First Job

A young woman in a yellow sweatshirt and jeans leans against a gray couch. She is holding a credit card and a red smartphone.

Whether you’ve just graduated from college or you’ve gone straight into the workforce after high school, learn how to create and manage a budget and make the most out of your new income with the help of Landmark National Bank.

Create a Budget and Stick To It

Setting yourself up for success starts with determining how you’ll spend your money each month. From rent to utilities to gas to get you to work, you may be facing a few new expenses you haven’t had to cover in the past. While it may be tempting to spend your hard-earned new income on gadgets, tech, eating out, or clothing, remember to set up a budget to make sure you’re not spending more than you’re bringing home. These steps will help you learn how to budget after landing your first job. 

Start With Fixed Bills

A majority of your bills will show up every month including rent, car payment, student loans, phone, internet, and more. Start with these as you know they likely won’t go away or change anytime soon. In addition to fixed bills, set aside a bit of money each month for emergency expenses should they arise. 

Add Variable Expenses

two hands are holding a grocery receipt with grocery bags in the background

Additional expenses include groceries, eating out, entertainment, and other expenses that may occur some months and likely change from one month to the next. You can’t cut back on how much you spend on rent or utilities, but you can — and should — tighten your entertainment budget if you find you’re running out of money each month. 

Stick To the Budget You Set

If you create a budget but don’t stick to the parameters you’ve set, you’ve defeated the purpose of a budget. Creating a budget itself is easy, but the habit of budgeting takes time to build up and stick to. One of the best ways to see if your budget is working for you is to track your spending habits each month.

Track Your Spending Habits

If you’re making money and spending money, you should be tracking it. Tracking your spending habits is essential to make sure you’re sticking to the budget you’ve created. Tracking your spending is critical if your income is irregular, and you’re not sure what each paycheck will look like. 

Whether it’s weekly, every other week, or even monthly, take time to sit down and make sure your expenses are accounted for. Even if your paycheck is the same each pay period, tracking your spending ensure your budget isn’t off. It also allows you to adjust your budget if you notice you’re spending too much to be sustainable. You can track your spending in several ways:

  • Keeping notes with pencil and paper
  • Using an app
  • Separating money into envelopes each month

Monitor Your Credit

a person is looking at their excellent credit score on their smartphone

While owning and using a credit card can help you build up credit for future purchases such as a car or house, it’s important that you pay it off each month and don’t use it to make purchases you can’t afford. 

If you have a large amount of high-interest debit, make paying your credit off a priority. Having a credit card will help you build your credit score, but if you’re missing payments, forget about a closed account, or take on too much debt, your credit score will take a hit. 

Stay on top of your spending habits and once you’ve started building credit, stay on top of monitoring it. You can either pay for a credit monitoring service or take advantage of free tools through your credit card company, depending on the brand.

Monitoring your credit has an additional advantage; if you or a credit monitoring service notice unusual purchases or inquiries on your account, someone may be trying to steal your identity. 

Set Financial Goals

Whether you’re saving up for that pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing for months, or have been putting away money for a house for years, it’s important to set financial goals for yourself. Just as you have in the past with goals you set growing up, make sure the financial goals you set for yourself are SMART

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

Take the time to write down the financial goals you set, create an action plan, and then work to achieve them. 

If you’re not sure what goals you should set, start small by challenging yourself to save a certain amount of money each month or pay off a set amount of debit. Financial goals for college graduates will look different from financial goals set by those who have been in the workforce for 10+ years. Just as your career and life goals change, your financial goals will too and that’s okay! Take a look at the goals you’ve set every few months and adjust as needed. 

Grow Your Savings

According to NerdWallet, experts suggest saving between 10% and 20% of your paycheck each month — however that’s not a golden rule. Some people have the ability to add more to their savings each month and pay off debt, while others are only able to cover basic expenses. 

If this is your first experience with building a savings account, don’t be discouraged if you have to start small. Something as simple as saving $10 a week can add up to $520 a year. Learning how to practice saving money is an especially valuable skill for students and recent graduates.

Manage Your Money With Landmark National Bank

As you begin to navigate your new lifestyle as a young professional, find a financial service that offers products and services that fit your financial needs. Landmark National Bank has you covered with friendly and professional banking services. Find the resources you need including personal checking accounts, investment accounts, online & mobile banking, and more. 

Start your career on the right foot; find a Landmark National Bank branch location near you today!

4 Tips for Making a Clothing Budget

a man examines his clothing purchase receipt

Whether you’re a die-hard shopper or just want to save money, it’s important to budget for clothing purchases. Whatever stage of life you’re in, it’s entirely possible—and even easy—to enjoy fashion on a budget with a little planning. From deciding how to clothing shop based on your typical shopping frequency to using a savings account to manage your budget, our tips can help you enjoy guilt-free shopping.

How Much to Budget for Clothing

As with any financial advice, there’s a range of opinions regarding how much to spend on apparel. Many experts recommend setting aside five percent of your income for this category.

How you budget depends on several factors, with your job topping the list. You may need to spend more if your work requires you to keep up with current trends or have a more business-like appearance. If you work from home or are a student or stay-at-home parent, you can budget considerably less.

How to Save Money on Clothes

Learning how to buy clothes you will actually wear is essential. Take a hard look at your closet, setting aside anything you haven’t worn for six months to a year. If you notice patterns—you seem to never wear blazers while your leggings get quite a workout—pay attention and buy accordingly.

Consider setting up clothing swaps with stylish friends. You’ll pick up new-to-you clothes without spending a dime while clearing seldom-worn pieces from your own closet. Another way some smart shoppers save on clothing is to set aside a bigger chunk of their fashion budget for after-Christmas or mid-summer sales.

Create a Lifestyle-Based Budget for Clothing

Enjoy fashion on a budget by personalizing your spending plan. Some people shop seasonally while others pick up items here and there. If you fall into the latter category, try a monthly budget. You can also adjust a monthly plan by “rolling over” unspent fashion funds, so you have a larger amount set aside for the beginning of each season.

If you don’t trust yourself to leave that money alone for a few months, create a seasonal clothing budget; in this case, consider allocating a small amount in case you need to replace a wardrobe staple or make another “emergency” purchase.

Other Factors That Can Affect Your Clothing Budget

While buying clothes is a necessity for obvious reasons, emotions can get in the way of a healthy attitude towards fashion spending. When you’re learning how to save money on clothes, consider these factors that can influence your clothes budget:

  • Lifestyle
  • Fluctuating weight
  • Quality vs quantity
  • Other financial priorities

Creating a realistic budget that allows some flexibility—but not too much—will help you avoid guilt or arguments with loved ones about overspending. Moving money between spending categories helps you stay on budget. Adjust your budget by spending less in other areas if you have a big purchase for a formal event or new job coming up.

Renting clothes with a monthly subscription plan from companies like Rent the Runway, Le Tote, and Gwynnie Bee lets you expand your wardrobe and simplifies budgeting since you’ll spend a set amount each month.

Manage Your Savings on Clothing With Landmark

Whatever your lifestyle and income, learning how to clothing shop on a budget can help you gain control of your spending. From creating a flexible budget for clothing to learning how to save money on clothes, these tips can reduce spending-related guilt and maintain peace at home.

Find more ideas for budgeting in our blog, or visit a Landmark National Bank branch location near you and start managing your clothing budget with one of our savings accounts today.