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DIY Holiday Gifts: Thoughtful and Budget-Friendly Ideas

A 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

A 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, 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.