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Make Smarter Spending Choices With These Important Questions

Make Smarter Spending Choices With These Important Questions

Woman looking at a yellow sweater on a rack.

In today’s fast-paced world, making spur-of-the-moment purchases has become almost second nature for many of us. Whether it’s a shiny new gadget, the latest fashion trend, or an impulse buy in the grocery store checkout line, we often find ourselves reaching for our wallets without giving it a second thought.

However, taking a moment to pause and ask yourself a few crucial questions before you buy can make all the difference in ensuring you make smarter spending choices and avoid buyer’s remorse. This guide from Landmark National Bank will go over some of the best questions to ask before making a purchase to keep you from overspending or deviating too far from your financial goals.

Is It a Need or a Want?

The first and most fundamental question to ask yourself before making any purchase is whether it’s a genuine need or simply something you want. In a world filled with advertisements and constant product promotions, it’s easy to fall prey to the allure of things we desire but don’t require.

Take a moment to reflect on the necessity of the purchase, going over a mental impulse buy checklist. Will it contribute to your well-being, daily life, or long-term goals? If the answer is yes, it might be a justifiable expense. However, if it’s more of a passing or momentary desire, it’s worth reconsidering. By making a conscious effort to distinguish between needs and wants, you can prevent unnecessary expenses and spend your money more wisely.

Have I Accounted for My Essential Expenses?

It’s key to consider your financial situation when deciding whether to make a purchase. Before you reach for your wallet, think about the broader financial implications of the transaction. Can you afford it without impacting your ability to cover essential expenses such as rent, bills, or groceries?

Creating and sticking to a budget can help you stay on top of how you allocate funds for essential and discretionary spending. If the purchase aligns with your budget and won’t jeopardize your financial stability, it’s likely a responsible decision. On the other hand, if buying the item means sacrificing necessary expenses or accumulating debt, it’s a clear sign to reconsider.

Moreover, exploring alternative financing options like saving up for the purchase or waiting for a sale can also be beneficial. Delaying the instant gratification of buying something not only ensures financial stability but also allows you to make sure you’re spending your money on things you can feel good about.

Am I Sure This Is the Best Price?

The digital age has made information readily available at our fingertips. Before purchasing, try to take advantage of online resources to research and compare prices. This not only helps you save money in the long run but also guarantees you’re getting the best bang for your buck. It’s a small investment of time that can lead to significant savings and a sense of satisfaction knowing you made an informed choice.

Additionally, reading product reviews and seeking recommendations from friends or online communities can provide valuable insights into the quality of the item. Armed with this information, you can make an informed decision that’s more reliable than one based on the initial allure of the product.

Invest in Expert Financial Services With Landmark National Bank

In conclusion, making smarter spending choices requires a conscious effort to pause, reflect, and ask yourself some important questions before you buy. By distinguishing between needs and wants, evaluating your financial situation, and researching prices, you can make informed decisions and understand how to stop overspending.

Landmark National Bank is here to help you navigate all your financial decisions with a range of services for checking accounts and savings accounts available. We can help you set up a budget, choose the right credit card, and develop a plan to pay off your bills on time. Contact Landmark National Bank today or locate a bank branch near you to get started!

Financial Book Suggestions

Financial Book Suggestions

Open laptop propped against a stack of financial literacy books.

In a world driven by financial complexities, it’s crucial to equip yourself with the knowledge and principles necessary to navigate the intricate landscape of personal finance. Whether you’re a recent graduate entering the workforce, a seasoned investor, or someone looking to improve their financial literacy, reading the right books can be a great starting point on your journey to economic well-being.

Landmark National Bank is here to help connect you with the literature you need to adopt the right financial mindset. This blog will provide a curated list of the best financial literacy books that offer practical tips, insights, and strategies to educate you on managing your money.

“Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki

Kiyosaki’s classic book offers a paradigm shift in how we perceive money and wealth. Through the contrasting stories of his “rich dad” and “poor dad,” Kiyosaki imparts timeless lessons about financial independence, the relationship between assets and liabilities, and the importance of financial education. This book lays a solid foundation for developing a wealth-building mindset.

“The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey

Ramsey’s approach to personal finance is straightforward and action-oriented. In this book, he outlines a step-by-step plan for getting out of debt, building an emergency fund, and investing for your future. Ramsey’s principles, including the debt snowball method, resonate with many seeking a practical guide to financial freedom.

“The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham

Considered a classic in investing, Graham’s book provides timeless principles for successful long-term investing. Known as the mentor to Warren Buffett, Graham’s insights on value investing, risk management, and market behavior are invaluable for those looking to navigate the stock market wisely.

“The Psychology of Money” by Morgan Housel

A modern gem in personal finance literature, Housel’s “The Psychology of Money” delves into the complex relationship between human behavior and financial decisions. Through captivating storytelling and insightful analysis, Housel offers valuable perspectives on navigating the unpredictable world of personal finance, making it an essential read for those seeking a nuanced understanding of money management.

“The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason

Set in ancient Babylon, this timeless classic imparts financial wisdom through parables and stories. Clason’s principles, such as saving a portion of income and making your money work for you, are presented in an engaging narrative that helps you easily digest the concepts. These lessons remain relevant and applicable to modern financial challenges despite the historical setting.

“Get Good With Money” by Tiffany Aliche

One of the most highly regarded modern books about financial literacy, Aliche’s “Get Good With Money” is a comprehensive guide offering practical advice on budgeting, debt management, and wealth-building. With an engaging writing style and relatable anecdotes, Aliche makes financial concepts accessible, making her book an invaluable resource for those striving to achieve financial wellness.

“I Will Teach You To Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi

Sethi’s book offers a practical, no-nonsense approach to personal finance. Focusing on automation, optimization, and sensible investing, Sethi outlines a plan for building wealth without sacrificing the joys of life. His humor and relatable anecdotes make financial concepts accessible to readers of all backgrounds.

“The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

Stanley and Danko’s extensive research on millionaires challenges common misconceptions about wealth. By exploring the habits and characteristics of everyday millionaires, the authors reveal practical insights into accumulating wealth over time. This book serves as a reality check, dispelling myths and providing a road map for building wealth steadily.

Seek Expert Advice From Landmark National Bank

Landmark National Bank strives to help you understand your financial situation and make informed decisions for your future. We provide a range of services for checking accounts and savings accounts that can help you set up a budget, choose the right credit card, and pay off any debt you have. Contact Landmark National Bank or find a bank branch near you to get started today!

Simple Steps To Reclaim Control of Your Budget

Simple Steps To Reclaim Control of Your Budget

Mature couple looks over bills and documents together in their home.

Effectively managing your finances is an essential skill to have in today’s fast-paced world. Whether you’re trying to recover from unhealthy spending habits or looking to establish new ones, staying on top of how you spend your money is the key to setting yourself up for future success.

It may feel a bit daunting to get started, but there are a few simple steps you can take to learn how to get your budget under control. The experts at Landmark National Bank are here to help you get back on track. This blog will guide you through the process of reducing your expenses and developing a plan to take charge of your finances.

Start by Assessing Your Situation

The first step to getting your budget under control is to conduct a thorough assessment of your current financial situation. This includes analyzing your income, savings, expenses, and debts. Begin by listing out all your sources of income, followed by a detailed account of your monthly expenses, including fixed and variable costs.

Once you have a clear picture of your financial status, think about your financial goals. Are you looking to save for a major purchase, reduce debt, or simply live better within your means? A good formula to follow is to set SMART goals.

  • S Your goals should be explicitly defined and narrowly focused.
  • M Making sure your progress is easily trackable is vital.
  • A You can’t set goals too lofty or you’ll begin to feel hopeless.
  • R Any goals should be meaningful and valuable to you.
  • Time-bound. Your efforts must have an end date or you’ll never finish them.

Keeping your ambitions reasonable and attainable will provide you with a clear direction and help your chances of staying the course.

Set a Realistic Budget

Woman looks over documents as she builds her budget.

Once your goals are set, the next step in reducing expenses is to create a realistic budget. A budget is a blueprint for how you plan to spend your money each month. It should reflect your income, necessary expenses (rent, utilities, and gas), and other planned spending like the gym or nights out.

Remember to be realistic in your allocations, as setting an overly strict budget can be discouraging if it’s not achievable. After all, a budget isn’t set in stone. It’s a flexible tool you should regularly review and adjust to ensure it remains relevant and practical.

Track All Your Expenses

One of the most critical aspects of managing your budget is diligently tracking your expenses. Every penny you spend should be accounted for. This practice will help you identify areas you are overspending and give you some ideas on how to stop overspending.

You can track your expenses in various ways, from traditional pen-and-paper methods to digital tools and apps. Find a method that works best for you and stick to it. Consistency in tracking is vital to understanding your spending habits, as constantly changing your methods can allow expenses to slip through the cracks.

Prioritize Your Spending

Another step in maintaining a healthy budget is prioritizing where your money is going. Begin by categorizing your expenses into two categories: needs and wants. Needs are essential expenses, such as paying bills or buying groceries. Wants are non-essential expenses, such as dining out, trips, and entertainment.

Focus on covering your needs first, then allocate any remaining funds to your wants. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life’s pleasures! It simply means making more mindful decisions about spending. For instance, instead of dining out multiple times a week, limit it to special occasions like a date night, birthday, or other celebrations. You’ll be surprised how much money you save by learning how to stop overspending.

Couple sits at kitchen table, looking over documents.

Stay Committed and Patient

Budgeting is not a one-time activity—it’s an ongoing process. Staying committed to your budget requires discipline and patience. It can be challenging initially, especially when cutting back on things you enjoy. However, remember that these are short-term sacrifices that will lead to long-term financial stability and peace of mind down the road.

Regularly review your budget and spending habits to ensure everything is current. As you go, be sure to celebrate the small victories, such as paying off a debt or reaching a savings goal. These successes provide motivation and reinforce the importance of staying on track.

Get Expert Advice From Landmark National Bank

Landmark National Bank is ready to lend a hand if you have trouble managing your budget or think you could benefit from professional assistance. We offer personalized financial services tailored to your individual situation, ranging from checking accounts and savings accounts to significant life decisions like taking out a home loan.

Whether you’re just beginning your financial journey or looking to optimize your current situation, our friendly team of associates is ready to help. Contact Landmark National Bank today or locate a bank branch near you to get started!

Simple Savings Plans To Fit Your Budget

 Simple Savings Plans To Fit Your BudgetA smiling young adult at the table using a calculator

An effective savings plan can help you meet your financial goals, pay off your debt, and make life-changing purchases. When you want to start saving, it can be difficult to know where to start. Throughout this blog, we’ll share budgeting and savings tips for beginners, suitable for just about any budget. 

Set a Savings Goal

Before you develop a savings plan, set a savings goal. Think about the following questions as you set your goal:

  • Why are you saving money? (Is it for a big purchase? To pay off debt? For a safety net?)
  • How much money do you need to save?
  • How will you save money?

Once you think about these core questions, you’ll begin to have a better idea of how to move forward and develop a savings plan. 

Set SMART Goals

When setting a financial goal or any type of goal, try following the SMART method, where each letter represents a different aspect of your goal:

  • S: Specific. How much money do you want to save? Set a specific amount.
  • M: Measurable. Track and measure progress—for instance, with a savings account.
  • A: Attainable. Clear obstacles and gain the tools you need to make your goal attainable.
  • R: Realistic. Set a goal you’re able to meet based on your specific financial situation.
  • T: Timely. Aim to achieve your goal within a specific time frame, such as within a year.

An example of a SMART goal would be: I want to save $5,000 in a year to pay off a loan. I’ll measure this with a savings account. To make my goal attainable, I’m going to work with a bank to get the tools I need. This is a realistic goal for me, as I can afford to save $100 weekly. 

How To Create Simple Savings Plans

Setting a savings plan doesn’t require you to be a financial expert, and you don’t have to have a lot of money to start. There are plenty of budget-friendly savings plans suitable for beginners. Even if you can only aim to save a few hundred dollars in a year, that’s substantially more than zero.

Set a Monthly or Weekly Savings Goal

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests a simple method to set a savings goal:

  • Determine how much money you need to save (and remember your “why”).
  • Set a timeline based on weeks or months (ex: one year, 12 months, or 52 weeks).
  • Divide the total amount of money by the number of weeks or months you have.
  • Save the calculated amount with weekly or monthly goals.

For example, let’s say you want to save $10,000 in a year for your wedding. You’ll divide $10,000 by 12 months for a monthly savings goal of around $834. You could also divide your savings goal ($10,000) by 52 (the number of weeks in a year) for a weekly goal of around $193.

How To Reduce Spending To Meet Your Goals

The difficult part of saving money is cutting your spending to meet your financial goals. Look for lowering spending on unnecessary expenses. Track your spending using online banking, a spending tracker app, or another method so you know exactly where your money is going. 

Wondering how to save money on a budget? Try these ways to cut spending:

  • Cut down on dinners out and try out fun meal prep recipes instead.
  • Use a subscription tracker to find monthly subscriptions you’re paying for but don’t use.
  • Switch to home workouts and stop paying for an expensive gym membership.
  • Buy secondhand. Check out thrift stores and Facebook marketplace for clothing, furniture, décor, and more. 

Use Landmark’s Banking Tools To Manage Savings

Saving money can be challenging, so don’t try to do it alone. Here at Landmark, we’re ready to give you the tools you need to meet your financial goals. We’ll make keeping track of your spending simple with our online banking and mobile banking tools for checking and savings accounts.

With the help of our savings account options, you’ll hit your savings goals in no time. If you don’t have a lot of money to start your savings account with, our Smart Savings Account is a great option, only requiring an opening balance of $50. Find your nearest Landmark bank branch to get started. 

DIY Holiday Gifts: Thoughtful and Budget-Friendly Ideas

DIY Holiday Gifts: Thoughtful and Budget-Friendly IdeasA woman wraps a homemade DIY holiday gift in a brown paper box.

Looking to give your loved ones thoughtful gifts this holiday season without breaking the bank? With enough effort and creativity, the possibilities are endless! Creating and delivering DIY holiday gifts is an affordable and heartfelt way to spread holiday joy and show appreciation for those you love.

Whether you’re new to taking on crafty projects or an experienced gift maker, opting for homemade budget-friendly holiday gifts can be a great choice. In this guide, we’ll go over some DIY gift ideas and further explain the value of homemade holiday gifts.

Personalized Photo Gifts

Capturing moments from the past in photo form is a great and affordable holiday gift. Gather some of your favorite photos of your loved ones together and make a photo book full of memories. Include photos of pets, vacations, and more for added joy. To take it a step further, you can even include a note with the date and description of the photo.

Memory Box

A memory box is a treasure trove of shared moments and experiences, making it a great inexpensive holiday gift. Start by finding a sturdy box, ideally made of wood, metal, or sturdy plastic. Decorate it with paint or stickers, then fill it up with photos, handwritten notes, ticket stubs from trips, and other memorable items. The recipient will love reminiscing about these treasured memories.

Scented Candles

Impress your loved ones with homemade candles that will make their homes smell amazing. All you need is a cheap candle-making kit that includes soy wax, wicks, and fragrance oils. Melt the wax in a double boiler, pour it into jars with wicks, and add your choice of fragrance. To make them even more special, decorate the jars and come up with fun names for the scents based on inside jokes or past memories you’ve made.

Custom Coasters

One of the most fun thrifty holiday gifts to create is custom coasters that match the recipient’s personality. Gather some cork coasters and decorate them with a design or create a collage with photos or magazine clippings. If you want to make them waterproof, add a layer of resin or protectant on top. Not only is this gift functional, but it also makes great home décor!

Homemade Treats and Snacks

Nothing says “I care about you” like a delicious homemade treat! Baking a batch of your favorite cookies, brownies, or other pastries is guaranteed to be a hit. You can also make some homemade jam, lemon bars, or hot cocoa mix for an outside-the-box idea. Package your treats in boxes or Mason jars with ribbons and personalized tags for a personal touch to complete a delicious and thoughtful gift.

Handmade Jewelry

You can also create beautiful homemade jewelry for a sure-to-be-appreciated gift. There are many video tutorials online you can follow for making earrings, bracelets, and necklaces using beads, wire, and other materials. Depending on what you make, you can also create personalized stamped jewelry with meaningful phrases or initials.

Save Money This Holiday Season

In addition to saving you money, creating DIY holiday gifts is a great way to add a personal touch to your gift-giving this year. Your loved ones will appreciate the thoughtfulness and effort you put into making something unique just for them, especially if you go the extra mile. Whether you use one of these DIY gift ideas or come up with something on your own, you can spread love and cheer this holiday season on a budget.

If you’re looking for more money-saving tips and financial advice, contact Landmark National Bank today or find a branch near you. Happy crafting and happy holidays!

Resolutions That Pay Off: How To Improve Your Credit Score in 2024

Resolutions That Pay Off: How To Improve Your Credit Score in 2024A cartoon person pushes the needle on “credit score,” scale.As you begin thinking about your New Year’s resolutions, don’t forget to set some financial goals for the upcoming year. Set a goal of improving your credit score to help ensure a bright financial future. A good credit score can help you achieve other goals, such as buying a home, renting a new apartment, or purchasing an automobile.

What Is Credit? Understanding Credit and Credit Scores

If you don’t know much about your credit and credit score, you’re not alone! In fact, in a 2019 study, CNBC found that four out of 10 Americans had no idea how their credit score is determined. For many U.S. consumers, a credit score can feel like a black box shrouded in mystery. In this blog, we hope to clear up some of the fog surrounding credit scores.

A credit score is essentially a three-digit number ranging from 300-850 that indicates your credit risk level, especially when you’re applying for a loan or financing. You may hear your credit score defined as a FICO score. This is because the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) created the credit score model. 

Why Do Credit Scores Matter?

For those who are new to learning about credit and credit scores, you may not understand why having a good credit score matters. The reality is that your credit score is taken into account in many different situations.

Credit scores are considered when you need a home loan or mortgage, if you apply to rent an apartment, when applying for credit cards, and more. Lenders typically offer significantly better interest rates on loans to those with better credit scores.

How Are Credit Scores Determined?

You may be wondering how credit scores are determined. FICO breaks down factors influencing your score into percentages, where higher percentages mean a higher impact on your score:

  • 35% payment history. Have you paid off past debt on time (credit card bills, loans, etc.)?
  • 30% accounts owed. How much debt do you have? What percentage of your credit do you use? 
  • 15% length of credit history. How long have you had credit accounts? 
  • 10% credit mix. Do you have a variety of credit accounts? 
  • 10% new credit. Have you opened several new accounts in a short period of time?

How To Improve Your Credit Score Through Good Financial Habits

Apply for a Credit Card if You Don’t Have One

Woman smiles while holding a phone and credit card.

If you’re a student or a younger adult, you may not have many credit accounts yet. While you don’t need a credit card to build your credit score, responsibly using a credit card can go a long way toward improving your score.

When you do end up getting your first credit card, be sure to spend responsibly by paying your balance as soon as possible and only using your credit card for items you can afford. Many consumers opt to use their credit cards exclusively for necessities they can afford, like gas and groceries.

Regularly Monitor Your Credit Usage

Whether you have installment loans, a credit card, or another type of credit account, keeping track of your credit utilization is essential. Look for credit cards that allow you to view usage online, such as Landmark National Bank’s credit cards.

A general rule of thumb is to keep your credit utilization below 30% of your overall limit. For example, this would mean a consumer with a $10,000 credit limit should keep their balance below $3,000. To keep your credit utilization low, pay off your statement frequently. 

Make All Payments on Time

Since payment history is a significant factor when it comes to your credit score, it’s essential to pay credit card bills, loan installments, financing accounts, and mortgage loans on time. Late payments can lower your score and stay on your credit report for months or years.

If you have trouble remembering to make payments, try these strategies:

  • Use autopay when available.
  • Create a reminder on your smartphone’s calendar app to make payments.
  • Set up bill pay reminders if possible.

Review Your Credit Report Frequently and Request Corrections When Needed

Businesswoman reviews credit report for errors, using a laptop and calculator

Your credit score is broken down in detail on your credit report, which is a summary of your credit history and usage. In short, your credit report basically determines your score. Checking your credit report frequently can help you catch potential errors made by the credit agencies that generate the reports and possibly improve your credit score. You can get a free credit report at annualcreditreport.com, a website run by the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.

Build Your Credit With Resources From Landmark National Bank

If you’re ready to take the first steps toward a better credit score, let Landmark National Bank help. Check out our personal credit card options, which can be a great first step toward building credit. If you’re improving your credit score to buy a home, Landmark has home loans that can help you through the process.

Start on your path toward meeting your financial goals with the support of a truly excellent bank. Locate your nearest Landmark National Bank branch to get started. At all our Kansas bank branches, you’ll find friendly banking professionals happy to help you with your banking needs. You can also find more helpful articles on personal finance, budgeting, estate planning, and more on our blog.

How To Pay for Unexpected Expenses

How To Pay for Unexpected Expenses

A man in a blue shirt puts a $100 bill into a jar of cash while writing in a notebook

One of the scariest economic statistics these days is that almost 40% of Americans lack enough money to cover a $400 emergency expense. That’s an increase from 32% in 2021.

Unexpected expenses can absolutely derail your financial plans and put a real dent in your future. Despite this, you can still plan for them. With careful budgeting and planning, it’s possible to blunt the worst impacts. It takes dedication and willpower.

If you’re someone who panics at the thought of saving for unexpected expenses, you’re not alone. It’s a big concern for many people. Fortunately, Landmark Bank has helped our customers with their financial needs for years. Let’s walk through the basics of financial planning with tips on paying for unexpected expenses.

Common Types of Unexpected Expenses

Unexpected expenses come in many forms and can catch us off guard. Here are some common examples:

  • Medical Emergencies: Accidents, injuries, or sudden illnesses can lead to hefty medical bills, especially if you require hospitalization or surgery.
  • Car Repairs: Vehicle breakdowns and accidents can result in significant repair costs. Even routine maintenance can sometimes reveal issues that lead to unexpected expenses.
  • Home Repairs: From plumbing leaks to roof damage, home repairs are often unexpected and can be quite costly.
  • Job Loss: Losing your job unexpectedly can lead to a sudden loss of income, causing you to incur expenses you’re not prepared for.
  • Legal Problems: Whether it’s a dispute with a neighbor or an unexpected lawsuit, legal problems can lead to significant attorney fees and court costs.
  • Tax Bills: Sometimes, you may end up owing more taxes than you expected, leading to an unplanned expense.
  • Travel Emergencies: Things like flight cancellations, lost baggage, or health issues while traveling can lead to unexpected costs.

These are just a few examples. The reality is that life is unpredictable, and almost anything can lead to unexpected expenses. That’s why financial preparedness is crucial.

Understanding Financial Preparedness

Budgeting for unexpected expenses is one of the cornerstones of financial preparedness, which is crucial for many reasons.

Firstly, it provides a safety net for unforeseen circumstances, giving you peace of mind and reducing stress related to financial uncertainties. It allows you to handle unexpected expenses without having to resort to borrowing or going into debt.

Secondly, being financially prepared can help prevent serious repercussions that could arise from not being able to pay for necessary expenses, such as medical bills or car repairs. It ensures that you can meet these costs without compromising your current lifestyle or future financial goals.

Lastly, financial preparedness can give you more freedom and control over your life. When you have a financial cushion, you have the ability to make choices and decisions based on what you want and need, rather than what your financial situation dictates.

Immediate Actions for Handling Unexpected Expenses

A woman in a polka-dot shirt leans over a table and rubs her forehead while looking at a letter.

Dealing with unexpected expenses can be stressful regardless of your level of preparation. Even if you plan ahead, there’s a good chance you’ll still be caught off guard. Whatever the case may be, it’s essential not to panic. If you’re hit with a surprise expense, don’t do anything rash. Take a moment and think about your options.

Immediate actions you can take to deal with the expense(s) include assessing your financial situation. Can you afford to pay directly for this issue on your own, or is it something you need help with? Evaluate your options. The expense might be covered by insurance. If it is, file a claim as soon as possible. If not, consider savings or a line of credit to help cover the cost.

If possible, avoid using a line of credit — especially a high-interest credit card — to cover the expense. If you have an emergency fund, now is the time to use it! However, if you choose to cover the cost, create a plan for dealing with the aftermath. If you’re using emergency savings, plan to rebuild that fund. If you’re using a credit card, know how you will pay that balance off to avoid interest.

When all else fails and the expense is significant, consider making a call to a trusted financial advisor. They can help steer you in the right direction.

Long-Term Financial Planning for Unexpected Expenses

While one sudden expense can catch you off guard, you’ll want to avoid repeat surprises, and that means carefully planning for the future and saving for unexpected expenses. Before a financial emergency hits, consider taking the following steps to prepare.

Building an Emergency Fund

Your emergency fund is money set aside to cover financial surprises thrown your way. But how can you start one and keep it growing? Take the following actions starting today:

Set a Monthly Savings Goal: This makes it more manageable. Start with a small, achievable goal. For example, aim to put away $50 or $100 a month.

Open a Separate Savings Account: Keeping your emergency fund separate from your regular checking account can help prevent you from dipping into it.

Automate Your Savings: Set up automatic transfers to your emergency fund each time you get paid. What you don’t see, you won’t miss.

Adjust Your Budget: Look for areas in your budget where you can cut back, and then apply those savings to your emergency fund.

Save Your Windfalls: Dedicate at least a portion of any windfalls, such as tax refunds or work bonuses, to boosting your emergency fund.

Remember, this savings account is meant for rainy days. It’s not for things that feel like an emergency but aren’t.

Creating a Sustainable Budget

A woman sits at a desk looking at charts while typing in a calculator. The table holds more documents, a succulent, and an open laptop.

The only way to create a good emergency fund is to have a sustainable budget for your everyday expenses. If you’ve never created a budget before, you’ll want to sit down and do this before you start saving.

The easiest way to make a budget is to write your monthly income down and start subtracting your regular expenses first. These include things that don’t often change, such as your mortgage payments or rent, car payments, student loan payments, and other bills.

Once you’ve totaled these items up and subtracted them from your monthly income, it’s time to start creating a budget for your remaining incidentals. Set spending limits for things like groceries, entertainment, and fast food. Consider placing a set amount or whatever is left in savings.

Credit Cards, Personal Loans, and Lines of Credit

Credit cards, personal loans, and lines of credit can be an effective tool for dealing with unexpected expenses, but you shouldn’t rely on them. Carrying a balance on a credit card or loan can become very expensive once you factor in interest.

If you do need to use one of these methods to pay for an expense, try to pay it off quickly. Never open a new credit card to pay for expenses, even if promotional interest sounds good. The impact on your credit score could do more harm than good.

The Role of Insurance in Covering Unexpected Expenses

Insurance can help offset the cost of unexpected expenses, especially if you have a great policy. The major forms of insurance that most people rely on to cover these surprises include:

  • Home insurance: This coverage pays for damages and claims related to your dwelling. It can also cover injuries that occur on your property.
  • Auto insurance: Car insurance covers damages to your vehicle, other people’s property, and medical claims that arise from car accidents in which you’re involved.
  • Health insurance: This insurance pays for expenses that arise from medical treatment and/or preventive care.
  • Life insurance: This coverage pays a death benefit when the insured person dies. These funds can be used to pay for burial expenses, outstanding debt, and as income replacement for that person’s potential earnings.

Most insurance policies are subject to deductibles, which are amounts you must pay before the coverage kicks in. In most cases, home, auto, and life policies are subject to coverage limits.

Consulting with Finance Professionals and Finding Assistance

If you have questions about how to budget, save, and prepare for emergency expenses, you’re not alone. Many people do. One of the best decisions you can make is to find a trusted financial advisor to help navigate these tricky waters. Whether you’re trying to set good financial habits after landing your first job or recovering from a financial issue that’s left you reeling, seeking out professional assistance can make a big difference in avoiding financial catastrophe.

How Banking Can Help Deal With Unexpected Expenses

One of the best ways to secure your financial future is to start with basic banking services that lay the foundation for future success. That means finding a bank that can cover all your bases, from basic checking and savings to helping plan for future financial goals.

Landmark National Bank offers personal and business banking solutions for customers at all stages of life. Visit your nearest Landmark National Bank branch today to speak with a personal bank and open your new account today.

How To Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast

How To Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast

Woman holding three different credit cards.

There are plenty of financial benefits of using credit cards. However, credit card debt is a major problem plaguing many Americans across the country. In fact, as of 2023, the average amount of credit card debt in America is $7,486. While this amount fluctuates depending on interest rates, cost of living, and the general state of the economy, it continues to remain an issue that many are unable to resolve on their own. Here at Landmark National Bank, we want to give you the tools and information you need to succeed and help you pay off your credit card debt.

We are committed to answering your most pressing questions when it comes to paying off credit card debt such as what a balance transfer is, whether you should get a personal loan for credit card debt, and how to pay off credit card debt when living paycheck to paycheck. In this blog, we will take you through different methods of credit card debt relief, including personal loans and balance transfers as well as warnings to keep in mind as you are paying off your credit card debt.

If you still have questions or want to apply for a loan or checking account, contact your nearest Landmark National Bank today.

Methods for Credit Card Debt Relief

While the task of lowering your credit card debt seems incredibly daunting, it doesn’t have to be. There are many methods for escaping credit card debt fast that are effective and reliable. The best method for paying off credit card debt depends on multiple factors, including your credit history, your income, and how much debt you currently have.

Debt Snowball

If you are confident that you can pay off your debt without transferring the balance over or consolidating them with a loan, it’s still smart to have a method in place to make it easier as you start lowering your credit card debt. One such method is the debt snowball, which involves paying off one credit card at a time, either starting with the card with the lowest amount due or the one with the highest APR.

During this time, you’ll be paying the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards, and putting a larger amount towards your target debt. Once you’ve paid off your first credit card, you take that payment and apply it towards the next card. As you continue paying off credit cards, you’ll begin paying them off faster and faster, resulting in a “snowball.”

When you are able to only focus on one card at a time, it makes it easier to see your progress and gives you more digestible goals. However, if you are looking for something that helps pay off your credit card debt faster, you may need to look into taking out a personal loan or performing a balance transfer.

Personal Loans

Financial adviser speaking to a customer about loan options.

One method for paying off credit card debt is to consolidate your balances into one personal loan. With this method, you will only be making one payment each month rather than a multiple that are scattered across your different accounts. Most personal loans also have a lower interest rate than a typical credit card. While this does not make the amount you owe less, it does help lower your monthly payments, making it easier for you to pay all your bills each month. For those living paycheck to paycheck, this can offer major relief.

However, there are some things to keep in mind as you are browsing for a personal loan that fits your needs. Each lender has different eligibility requirements in order to qualify for their loans. Make sure to check if you meet their basic requirements by looking into your credit score and debt to income ratio.

You also need to determine the amount you qualify for to see if it will cover your debt amount. You may only receive enough to cover a part of your debts, but in many cases it could still provide relief. The last thing to keep in mind is the interest rate. It’s important to make sure the interest rate is indeed lower than your credit card interest rate in order to make the loan worth it. Once you’ve paid off the balance on your credit card, you can then decide whether to keep it for future purchases, or close it completely.

Balance Transfers

Balance transfer cards are also a viable option for paying off debt fast. With this option, you could transfer your remaining balance to a new credit card that carries a balance transfer offer. These cards normally have a 0% introductory APR if you transfer the balance within a certain period. This means you can start paying off debt without accruing interest right away. You may have to pay a fee to complete the balance transfer, but it will likely be much less than what you’re saving on interest.

Remember, you have a limited amount of time before you start accumulating interest, so you should start paying off the debt as soon as you can. You also want to make sure you are making your payments on time as your offer could be revoked if you begin making late payments.

Another thing to consider is the credit limit of the card you are transferring your balance to. Make sure it exceeds the amount you currently owe or you will still have to keep your current card open and you won’t have any wiggle room if it’s too close to what you owe.

Scams To Avoid When Paying Off Credit Card Debt

Woman staring at credit card and multiple bills in front of a computer

While there are many viable options for paying off your credit card debt, there are also several scams to watch out for in order to avoid going into even more debt. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are several red flags to avoid when you are looking for credit card debt relief. If a company charges you fees before actually settling your debt or claims that you are being entered into a “new government program” that will help bail you out of personal debt, there’s a good chance it’s fraudulent. Remember: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

You also want to steer clear of anyone guaranteeing that they will make your unsecured debt go away. Another sign of a debt settlement scam is if the company tells you to stop communicating with your creditors or that they can make debt collection calls and lawsuits go away. If you are ever unsure if something is a scam or not, contact the experts at Landmark National Bank.

Help Pay Off Credit Card Debt With a Landmark National Bank Checking Account Today

With the proper resources and the right information, you can start saying goodbye to your credit card debt. Stop by your local Landmark National Bank to open a checking account or ask about our loan options. We are here to help you find everything you need to feel good about your finances. Contact us today.