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How to Start a Garden without Splurging

Seasonal

Sunshine, flowering blooms, and the smell of something new, planting season is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors and begin planting your summer garden. If you’re like most hobbyists, you find your plants each year at area greenhouses and nurseries searching for that perfect pop of color.  This year, MBT Bank challenges you to try something different and save both time and money with these helpful gardening savings hacks:

Start from Seed: Instead of purchasing six packs of blooms, enjoy entire plots of flowers at only a fraction of the cost. A packet of mixed annual seedsmay run three to four dollars and can fill an entire garden with colorful and productive plants for years to come. For some varieties, you’ll want to start them indoor using seedling pots and potting soil. After a few weeks, they’ll be ready to transplant outdoors!

Direct Sow: For some heartier varieties of plants, you can skip the indoor growing and head straight to the outdoors. These cold-tolerant flowers grow best without the shock of transplant. Some great examples are sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, and nasturtiums. If you’re planning on using any of your flowers for indoor arrangements, be sure to plan to direct sow succession plantings as well.

Make Your Own Compost: Natural fertilizer is composed of decomposing organic matter. Avoid paying the high cost of produced compost and create an outdoor container for all your table scraps throughout the season. Allow them to deteriorate along with grass clippings and other yard waste to make a nitrogen-rich supplement to aid your garden’s growth. This added nutrition will help your plants blossom and produce more flowers throughout the year.

Save Your Seeds: To further save on costs, learn how to collect your garden’s own seeds. After harvesting several plants, collect and dry their seeds to use for planting next year. You can save them in handmade envelopes and categorize them to easily find them each year. Typically seeds that are properly dried can be successfully planted for up to three years.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and start gardening! If you have a true passion for gardening and are looking to start a small business or make some renovations to your outdoor area, our experienced team can lend a hand. We’d love to hear your next gardening goal and discover how we can help you achieve it.

Why Checking Your Credit Score Matters

Personal Finance

Across television ads, online banners, and even chit-chat among relatives, the phrase, “Check your credit score,” seems to be popping up everywhere. If something so important needs constant reminders, why does it have such a key importance in your personal finances? Well, the truth is that it doesn’t, your financial actions do.

A credit score is comprised of five different measures which indicate how you as an individual are perceived in terms of repayment and risk. Individuals who pay their bills on time, have been utilizing loans and credit cards, and don’t maintain too much debt, typically have a higher score. While the score itself is seen by potential lenders as a positive or a negative, the true meaning it portrays is to showcase whether you as an individual are a promising person to repay any funds you are lent. This score can be changed for the better or the worse depending on the actions you take.

This is why checking the report itself can be beneficial for your personal financial reputation. By reviewing your history on a recurring basis you can quickly identify any mistakes or missed payments that need correcting and do so in a timely manner.

For those who do not check their score scenarios like the following could occur:

Say you accept a job in another town, and after moving, you realize you still need to forward your mail. After a week or two in the new place, you go online and make the switch. However, unbenounced to you, there was one last utility bill that was mailed to your prior address after you moved away. Weeks go by, even months, only now you’re connected with a new utility company, and you have new bills to pay. Behind the scenes, however, your credit score could be declining, because that one last bill has now be reported to collections. Your credit history will now note that a payment has been missed, and the longer it is missed the more it could damage your credit score.

Situations like this happen to many Americans, and while sometimes they can’t be prevented, the damage they cause can be minimized by checking your credit score on a monthly basis. Instead of allowing a payment like this to retain a balance for over 120 days, you can catch it in under 90 and minimize any potential negative effect on your score.

This is just one example in how checking your credit score can impact your financial health for the better. Other benefits include fraud prevention, better financial negotiation, and more accurate personal financial records.

Student Loan PSA: What Student Debt Really Looks Like

Student DebtObtaining your secondary education can be a landmark goal on your journey to success. By opening up opportunities, and enhancing your capabilities, the study of a discipline gives you the skills you need to conquer your future ambitions. More often than not, student loans offer a helpful supplement when financing this experience. However, many students are able to obtain these financial aids without having to budget or offer a credit history, causing a higher likelihood of default among student borrowers. To help avoid this, MBT Bank suggests answering the following questions before choosing how to pay for your collegiate participation:

What are you starting with?

The first question you should ask yourself is, ‘What money do I have to begin my education?’ If you have applied for and received scholarships, those should first count towards tuition and books. Additionally, if you have any financial support from relatives, these funds may be allocated best at the base of your budget during your college planning. By totaling the sum of these two amounts, you can determine the support outside your own savings that will be contributed towards your future learning efforts. Knowing whether or not this amount will be offered on a recurring basis can help you then decide what financial steps you need to take in order to save, earn, and/or borrow the remaining funds necessary.

How much and how often can you contribute?

After learning your total amount of support, it is now possible to create a plan of action to facilitate the rest. Depending on your length and type of education, your costs may vary drastically. When selecting both a field and institution of study, the factor of price is an important one to consider. By thinking of your education as an investment, you can ensure that you choose both a rewarding and promising career path to help you repay any debt you do incur during this time. To help decrease overall expenditures, many students take on a part-time job to supplement the costs of their education, along with the associated room and board. Utilizing this choice can decrease the overall amount of your anticipated loan, and help you avoid the additional expense of interest.  Should the cost of your education still be more than you can currently cover, the option of a student loan may be a viable solution.

What is student debt?

While obtaining an education has potential and opportunities, the accompanying debt can often be overbearing. In order to minimize this, we recommend borrowing only the minimum amount needed. By opting for a lesser sum, you are able to save your future-self hundreds or thousands of dollars on interest alone. For example, the average debt for a United States student is approximately $37,172. With borrowers averaging ten years for repayment, the potential cost of interest alone can add up to over $9,000.

Choosing the best option to finance your education can affect your life well past college. To help you make the most informed decisions, our team at MBT Bank offers sound financial advice and information. To learn more, stop by one of our locations, we’d love to get to know you and your education aspirations.

Can You Really Save on Travel: True or False?

TravelChecking numerous sites for the best deal can be labor-intensive, and potentially counterproductive. With many American travelers turning to vacation book sites and apps, MBT Bank is curious if they really save you money. After thorough research, we’ve discovered these four truths to successfully budgeting your next getaway:

TRUE: Travel sites offer money-saving opportunities.

FALSE: The lowest value is found on the hotel’s or airline’s website.

Many travel booking sites offer discounted airfare and accommodation, boasting the same services, only at a fraction of the cost. However, many times these sites merely display the cost an airline or hotel already has on their own site at no additional reduction. Select providers have begun to reduce participation in these travel search engines, and strive to instead offer their continued customers the best value straight from their own corporation.

TRUE: Credit cards are the most secure and affordable payment option while abroad.

FALSE: Airport currency exchange is worth the convenience.  

While there are many different options to exchange currency before your next trip, the safest method of payment during your getaway will still be your credit card. With many options now offering no currency exchange fees, you’re sure to avoid unwanted conversions costs while still protecting your finances. According to both Visa and Mastercard, credit card users are held liable for zero percent of any fraudulent charges. This means that should your credit card information become compromised during your stay, you won’t lose any funds because of it.

TRUE: Traveling outside of the peak seasons offers great savings.

FALSE: The skiing in Colorado is great in June.

While it is true that avoiding the crowds can save you and your family some extra dollars, it may not be worth it if it means decreasing the activities of your trip completely. Instead of limiting your travel timeline, we recommend looking for alternative accommodations such as VRBO, along with creative dining options, to maximize your destination’s budget. These additional savings can help to bring your overall cost down, while still making your dream vacation a reality.

TRUE: You can save a lot of money by using airline miles.

FALSE: Airline credit cards are worth the annual fee for a yearly vacation.

Unless you plan to fly every month, an airline credit card is hardly worth the cost. While these cards offer tempting miles for flights, increasing numbers of travel options are blacked out throughout the year. The annual credit card fee for United, American, and Delta, costs approximately $95.00 after your first year of use. While boarding in group one can be a well-enjoyed perk, it doesn’t boast much ROI for fliers who are simply looking to reach their annual destination.

As you begin to plan your next vacation, MBT Bank looks forward to helping you save the funds to make it happen. Stop in today and learn how to open a designated savings account today!

 

How to Shave Thousands of Dollars off Your Mortgage

Mortgage

 

Congratulations on purchasing your home. You are now privileged to enjoy the thrills of home repair, maintenance, and occasional renovation. Depending on your mortgage structure, you may be paying off your home for up to thirty years. Luckily MBT Bank has some tips and tricks to help you reduce your repayment time. Using these three strategies, we’ll show you how to pay off more of your principal to decrease the term of your loan, and lessen your overall interest costs.

 

Method 1: Making Additional Payments

In addition to your regularly scheduled payments, making extra installments can help you knock down your principal and associated interest. These additional amounts can be paid on the same day as your scheduled portion, or they can be more frequent throughout the month as funds become available. If you find yourself having a surplus in your budget, a great option would be to use those dollars as an additional mortgage payment.

 

Method 2: Increasing Your Monthly Payments

As you make your mortgage payments each month, create a plan for how much you can add on top of your regular installments. Similar to method two, these subsequent funds will continue to help you pay down your principal amount, and lessen the amount of interest owed for the life of the loan.

 

Method 3: Making One Lump Payment

Sometimes if you’re refinancing or purchasing a home, you may be trading an old mortgage for a new one. In this case, we recommend making one large installment after closing. This not only pays off a large portion of your loan but brings your overall interest accumulation down as well.

 

Owning a home is an exciting and well-earned milestone, however, the additional costs of ownership can raise questions. If you’re curious about the most efficient way to pay down your mortgage, stop in and speak with one of our experienced lenders today.

10 Steps to Opening Your Own Business

Commercial Lending

 

Creating the foundation of your next enterprise can be a challenging process. For everything from ideas to permits, it takes a lot to get a new business up and running. At MBT Bank we would like to help you make your dream a reality, and offer these ten steps to opening your avant-garde operation:

  1. Write a business plan. Creating the sound reasoning behind what you want to do and how you want to do it, represents the building blocks to a good business. There are many tutorials to help you develop a plan and to accompany them, we recommend researching information for each section of the document.
  2. Select the best location. Location can make or break a business. In conjunction with your plan’s market research, we suggest scouting out the best potential locations. Adding this element to your proposal can help you create the optimal visualization when describing your concept.
  3. Build a marketing strategy. Great service and great promotion go hand in hand. Unfortunately the old adage, “If you build it they will come,” no longer applies. Now, in order to get clients through the door, you’ll need a structured and continual marketing plan to ensure customers in your area are aware of your business.
  4. Plan your finances. These not only refer to the funds you need to open your business but also the additional costs to help support the initial years of operation. This extra capital will help ensure your business doesn’t topple while building its ongoing customer base.
  5. Meet with a commercial lender. Once you have the core of your business planned and calculated, it’s time to meet with a small business lender to evaluate your risk. He or she may require a percentage down, or that certain criteria are met before loan signing.
  6. Fulfill any requirements. Whether it’s saving additional funds, offering up collateral, or obtaining designated permits, it is best practice to meet and exceed the requirements that your lender has suggested, in order to maximize your lending potential.
  7. Close on a business loan. After securing the funds for your business, be certain they’re placed within a business account instead of a personal one. To help ensure your funds are separated, we also recommend creating an LLC for your business prior to opening.
  8. Purchase or lease space. Using the money you’ve budgeted, move forward with purchasing or leasing space for your new enterprise. After space has been secured you’ll need to acquire equipment and supplies from another portion of your predetermined budget.
  9. Structure and hire your team. Another old saying goes, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.” This is a great adage to stick by, as more often than not, people are what makes a business successful. Decide your role within the company, and then craft detailed job descriptions for the rest of your potential employees. Start building your team with the best people for the job, and add further help as needed.
  10. Open and continually promote. The big day has arrived and the doors are officially open. Continue to keep them open through constant and innovative marketing efforts. By pushing your products and services to the public you can ensure that they’re aware of your offerings and consider your business a valued option.

We look forward to meeting with you about your next corporate venture. If you have any questions on how to complete the steps above or have additional inquiries on commercial lending, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

6 Steps to Scoring Your Savings Goal

Do your savings goals make you feel frozen? Get back on the ice this season, and let MBT Bank help you win your personal financial game. We’ll show you how to keep pushing forward with these strategic hockey tactics:

Find the 5-hole.

One of the first and most important ways to save is to keep your eyes open! Whether it’s taking advantage of grocery store specials, buying household items in bulk, or cutting spending from your monthly budget, the biggest opportunity you have while saving money is continually searching for new ways to save.

Complete the hat-trick.

Before you start saving for the short-term items, be sure you have the long-term set in place. Just as in hockey, there are three things you need, to make the best play of the game. Start by setting up an emergency savings account, to help guard your savings. Follow up by opening a personal retirement account such as IRA, to continually grow your savings. For the last trick of the play, we suggest creating a 529 or Coverdell account to help save for your child’s future education. These three accounts will help not only you score your savings goals but will assist you in winning your entire financial game as well.

Put your debt against the boards.

Show your debt whose boss, and push them against the glass. By aggressively paying off your outstanding debt, you make additional funds available to further your monthly savings. We recommend paying the minimum payment on each debt, and then using any surplus funds to add extra payments to help pay it off sooner. Once you have paid off a debt, use the funds from that allocation to help erase the next obstacle, one payment at a time.

Place your spending in the penalty box.

While working on your savings goals, look into your monthly spending to see where you can cut costs. Consider reducing your funds for eating out and entertainment. The extra money can go towards your debt, or once paid off, can help you achieve your savings goal sooner! To help, there are some innovative apps available that can you visualize your various expenses.

Beat the buzzer.

Saving for retirement is a marathon, not a sprint. Like hockey, if you don’t play until the end, you may lose the game in the last five minutes. To help prevent this, we recommend working with a personal financial adviser, ensuring your funds are in the right place at the right time. If you make a pass and transfer them to stocks too late, you could lose money and valuable time. We suggest creating a strategic and well-coordinated retirement plan to make certain all your savings get time on the ice, and your key players continue to stay in the game.

Drop your gloves for additional fees.

Whether it’s big banks searching for unnecessary add-ons, or potential financial advisers looking for a percentage of earnings, don’t be afraid to negotiate fees you deem excessive. The business is certain to have referees to let you know if you’re asking too much. However, it never hurts to ask!

With our affordable deposit accounts and expert financial coaching, we look forward to helping you sink your upcoming goal in the back of the net! Stop by and meet our dedicated team today!

5 Financially Savvy Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

Personal Finances

Getting your taxes done early not only takes one more thing off your to-do list but further allows you to start planning for the future. Working with your tax professional, determine how much your family may receive this year from a tax refund. No matter the amount, we recommend putting it towards your financial goals for the year. Here are some great strategies we’ve tried to get the best bang for our buck:

  1. Max out your 401(k) or Traditional IRA contributions. If you aren’t taking advantage of one of these two accounts, we highly suggest opening one soon! These tax-beneficial accounts help holders accumulate and grow their funds without the burden of tax at the time of deposit. Each account, however, is limited by how much you can contribute. By allocating funds into these account types it may not only help you save for retirement but also allow your money mature throughout the years, with no additional effort.
  2. Make an extra payment on your mortgage or student loan. Paying down your loan is always a great option when selecting financial goals. In the case of a mortgage, you earn more equity as you pay, while with student loans, you gain more momentum towards financial freedom. Instead of adding money to each monthly installment, we recommend creating one lump payment. By doing this you can you create a single but large decrease in your principal amount owed, drastically reducing your associated interest as well.
  3. Save for the 2017 holiday season. While holiday events, family gatherings, and memories are held dear, the burden of the season can pose potential problems for your personal finances. If you struggled saving last year, now is the perfect time to set aside funds for the holidays. Determine how much you need to pay for each aspect of your seasonal activities, and save as much as possible in a separate account for your tax refund. If additional funds are needed, automate your savings to transfer a specific dollar amount to this account each month.
  4. Pay off outstanding credit card debt. With one of the highest interest rates, credit cards are notorious for taking years to pay off. If you want to make a dent in your debt, we recommend tackling one card at a time.  Using your tax refund, see if you can eliminate smaller debts first. Then with the remaining funds, begin your paying down each additional credit card. By paying off the card with the least amount of debt first, you can begin to snowball your way to financial freedom!
  5. Start saving for a vacation. Whether it’s a spring break, a summer adventure, or a fall festival, it’s never too early to start saving. Once you have determined a destination, then create a rough budget of the expected expense. Depending on your refund you may be able to pay for the whole trip outright, or you may need to couple the funds with some additional monthly savings. No matter how you choose to save, we recommend keeping your vacation funds in a separate deposit account so you’re not tempted to use them throughout the year.

If you still have questions on how to best use your tax refund, our personal bankers would love to help. At MBT Bank, we can assist you in using all your savings options to help make the most of your money. Stop in and see us today!

 

5 Ways to Stay Fit without Breaking Your Budget

 

Budgeting

Holiday season means delicious feasts, scrumptious treats, and unforgettable drinks. All these added meals, can only mean one thing – extra time working out! If your favorite festive foods are breaking your calorie budget, try these tips to help both you and your wallet in great shape.

  1. Youtube Videos. Who said exercise videos has to be expensive? Peruse through the YouTube catalog of new and old workouts to find the perfect match for your schedule. Some great videos to start with are 10 Min Abs Workout, No Gym Full Body Workout, 30 Minute at Home Strength Workout.
  2. Running. While this option may depend on the weather, the feeling of running outdoors with the fresh air in your lungs can never compare to the jolting feeling a treadmill can bring. With the basic investment of a good pair of running shoes, and some comfortable outdoor athletic attire, you can enjoy this sport whenever the urge hits.
  3. Calisthenics. This is a great home exercise that is entirely based around using your own body weight. Through structured movements, and small equipment extras, you can complete your entire weekly workout, in the comfort of your living room.
  4. Purchase Multi-use Equipment. When purchasing equipment, look so see how many different exercises you can complete with it. Instead of buying the upscale item that is specifically engineered to optimize one exercise, expand your home-gym with affordable equipment that can serve multiple purposes.      
  5. Downsize Your Gym. If you already belong to a gym, and prefer the atmosphere to your home workout area, consider downsizing your gym spending, or switching to a more cost-effective workout center. If you have family members paying for gym access that never go, consider revising your plan, and incur the cost for their access only when they use it.

The holidays are a great time of the year, don’t miss out on any of your favorites this season, and stick to these cost-effective workout tips! If you’re looking to save for your next holiday gathering, stop in today, and we’ll help get your holiday season started out right!

 

10 Tips for a Great Holiday Party

Seasonal

No matter which holiday you are prepping for, there are some essential party essentials you should always plan for! Throughout this holiday season, try these top 10 planning tips, courtesy of MBT Bank:

  1. Pick the best date. Saturday’s are always the prime time for holiday parties. Be sure to book venues ahead of time to ensure you can capture the best date for your gathering.
  2. Choose a simple theme. Don’t oversimplify it, but make sure it’s something that will click well with your guests. Simple things such as color coordinating, can help continue your theme throughout the event.
  3. Send invites at least six weeks before. People want time to plan, but not too much time to forget. Let your guests know about this holiday party six weeks prior to ensure they have plenty of time to plan. If you ask them to RSVP this can help you gain an accurate head count for food and beverage purposes.
  4. Email a reminder the week of. Sometimes people forget, ensure that all your guests who are available can attend, with a simple email reminder one week out from the party.
  5. Keep food fun yet familiar. A little twist here and there keeps things interesting, however, going too far can turn guests off to food altogether. Work with your caterer to determine what the best mix is for your holiday event!
  6. Set-up a good flow of traffic. Create a space that allows hungry guests to move through the food on both sides, well out of the way of your more conversational area.
  7. Create a timeline. Every party has activities, whether it’s dancing, trivia, or a simple informational slideshow, planning ahead of time can save you a headache later. Create a schedule for the evening to share with your guests. This will help them plan their time accordingly as well!
  8. Play festive music. Create a simple playlist full of upbeat and festive songs, but also be sure to include some current music selections as well! This will keep the holiday tone, without being overwhelmingly so.
  9. Give away or donate leftovers. Leftovers are a given at any holiday event, be sure you send your guests home with some goodies to help avoid discarding surplus food. If doggie bags are not an option, stop by your local food bank that night, or the next day to see if it can be used.
  10. Have a clean-up crew. Cleaning up is the worst part of event coordinating. Make this task easier on yourself, and recruit a team of guests and friends to help clean after the event, or the next day. Offer to provide a meal and beverages as thanks, in addition to a free ticket or gift at the

If you follow these holiday hacks, your event could be the best gift of the season! Show us your favorite holiday get together by sharing a photo on our Facebook page. We can’t wait to see all the different themes!