Tips for the New Year

 

 

It’s that time of year — the time to ring out the old and ring in the new, to ditch bad habits and replace them with good ones. We can’t guarantee you’ll lose weight, or become a better human being, but we can give you some suggestions to help you whip your finances into shape. Here are some tips for the New Year.Tips for the New Year

 

Save and invest. Don’t underestimate your ability to save and invest. With compound interest, even modest investments now can grow over time.

Lighten your credit load. Paying off high-interest debt may be your best investment strategy. Few investments pay off as well as, or with less risk than, eliminating high-interest debt on credit cards or other loans.

Boost your “rainy-day” fund. Many experts recommend keeping about six months of expenses in a federally insured account to cover sudden unemployment or other emergencies.

“Sure thing” is fine as an expression but not as an investment pitch. Promises of guaranteed high returns, with little or no risk, are a classic warning sign of fraud. The potential for greater returns typically comes with greater risk. You know the saying—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Take charge of your money. If you don’t know where it goes, start keeping track. There are plenty of tools to help you set a monthly budget and stick to it.

Pay yourself first. Put yourself at the top of your “payee” list. Regular automatic deductions from your paycheck or bank account into a savings or investment account will keep you on track toward your short and long-term financial goals.

Know your investment self. You’re the best judge of yourself. Use that knowledge to find investments that are a good match for you, based on your goals and your ability to tolerate risks.

Make sure your older investments still fit you. Take time to review your holdings and see if they’re still appropriate for you. If you’ve outgrown them, it’s probably time to sell them and buy something better suited to you.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. One way to reduce the risks of investing is to diversify your investment holdings. Think twice before investing heavily in shares of your employer’s stock or any single investment.

Ignorance isn’t always bliss, especially when it comes to your account statements. Sure, it can hurt to look at statements when investments are losing value. But if you don’t review your statements, you may miss problems in your accounts that are unrelated to performance.

Do your homework. Asking questions about financial opportunities and checking out the answers with unbiased sources can help you make informed choices and avoid fraud.

To learn more financial tips and how to get your finances in our in the new year, visit your local branch or contact a member of our team today.

Little Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

You don’t have to be a great detective to figure out that the holiday season is the time for giving. Retailers, from jewelry stores to auto manufacturers,season to give have made that painfully clear as they flood the airwaves and cyberspace with images of beautiful diamond bracelets and luxury cars with giant red bows. And while many of us would love to indulge and shower those we love with beautiful and expensive gifts, it’s simply not financially possible.

 

But to experience the true meaning of the holiday season, and the joy of giving, you don’t have to spend large amounts of money. There are plenty of little ways you can give back to make a big difference in the lives of others. Here are a few suggestions on how to give:

  • Collect canned goods and other foods and bring them to a food pantry. We have our annual Food and Toy Drive through December 7. Stop by any branch and drop off any donations and we would be happy to see that they make it to the food bank.
  • Donate old coats and boots to a shelter. The winter can be cold and harsh for many struggling families.
  • Visit elderly patients in nursing homes. The holidays can be a very lonely time for many people.
  • Buy someone’s cup of coffee in the drive-thru line.
  • Shovel a driveway or walkway for an elderly neighbor.
  • Write a letter or make a card to thank someone you care about.
  • Collect and donate toys to give to less fortunate children, or to children in hospitals.
  • Bake a cake or cookies for a neighbor.
  • Do an act of kindness for someone and invite them to do the same for someone else. You’ll start a chain of kindness.
  • Volunteer at a food pantry or homeless shelter and invite family members to join you. You’ll form a great bond of kindness.
  • Read to a child.
  • Smile and say hello to everyone you meet or encounter.
  • Send a card or letter to a soldier away from home.
  • Pick up trash to keep your community clean.
  • Share your skills. If you have expertise in a certain area, such as resume writing, tutoring, cooking, etc., volunteer your time to help others who could benefit from your knowledge.
  • Call or write a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while.

Start giving today!

Again, it doesn’t take much to give back; all you need is an open heart. And that’s a gift that’s priceless.

Tip for Shopping Online

Tips for Shopping Online 
(Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information)

Know who you’re dealing with.

Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name. Confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number in case you have questions or online shoppingproblems. And if you get an email or pop-up message that asks for your financial information while you’re browsing, don’t reply or follow the link. Legitimate companies don’t ask for information that way.

Know what you’re buying.

Read the seller’s description of the product closely, especially the fine print. Words like “refurbished,” “vintage,” or “close-out” may indicate that the product is in less-than-mint condition, while name-brand items with bargain basement prices could be counterfeits.

Know what it will cost.

Check out websites that offer price comparisons and then compare “apples to apples.” Factor shipping and handling into the total cost of your purchase. Do not send cash or money transfers under any circumstances.

Check out the terms of the deal, like refund policies and delivery dates.

Can you return the item for a full refund if you’re not satisfied? If you return it, who pays the shipping costs or restocking fees, and when you will get your order? A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rule requires sellers to ship items as promised or within 30 days after the order date if no specific date is promised. Many sites offer tracking options, so you can see exactly where your purchase is and estimate when you’ll get it.

Pay by credit card.

If you pay by credit or charge card online, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, you can dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them. In the event that someone uses your credit card without your permission, your liability generally is limited to the first $50 in charges. Some companies guarantee that you won’t be held responsible for any unauthorized charges made to your card online; some cards provide additional warranty, return, and purchase protection benefits.

Keep Records.

Print or save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the seller. Read your credit card statements as you receive them; be on the lookout for charges that you don’t recognize.

Protect Your Information

Don’t email any financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting financial information like your credit card, checking account, or Social Security number. If you begin a transaction and need to give your financial information through an organization’s website, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a URL that begins “https” (the “s” stands for secure). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some fraudulent sites have forged security icons.

Check the privacy policy.

Really. It should let you know what personal information the website operators are collecting, why, and how they’re going to use the information. If you can’t find a privacy policy — or if you can’t understand it — consider taking your business to another site that’s more user-friendly.

Holiday budgeting tips

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or the general holiday season, chances are you’ll be spending money on things during this time ofholiday budget year that are outside your regular budget. Remember the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future in Charles Dickens’ classic story, A Christmas Carol? Those three ghosts have inspired a timeless strategy for holiday spending. Here are some tips for spending smart.

 

CHRISTMAS PAST

Look back. Review how much you spent last year and how you spent it. Analyze what you spent money on, over what period of time, and how you paid for it. If you used credit cards, be sure to look at how long it took you to pay them off. If you were still carrying Christmas debt on your credit card while on summer vacation, you may want to rethink how you handle the holidays.

CHRISTMAS PRESENT

Make a list. Include not only gifts, but decorations, cards & postage, food & drink, travel and any special stuff you’ll need to buy.

Decide how much you have to spend. Set a budget and stick to it. Period.

Comparison shop—use online resources. If you’ve taken time to make a list of who you’ll be buying for, it will be easy to think about what to buy for them. Start shopping at home—or at least start looking at home. Go online for gift ideas and start comparing prices.

Use cash if possible. Since you’ve established a budget, done your homework to find the best price and have committed to staying within your budget, shopping with cash will be a cinch. You’ll be forced to think about an impulse purchase, perhaps thinking it through to the point of realizing it really isn’t worth it. If you do choose to use credit cards, be sure to exercise discipline to stay within your budget.

Track Expenses. Track every dollar you spend: cash, checks and credit cards. It doesn’t matter if you use money management software, a spreadsheet or the back of an old Christmas card, but be sure to record how you spend. Not only will this keep you on track, but it will also help with returns and with planning for next year.

Beware of the spirit of Christmas Present(s). Retailers spend a lot of time and even more money to help you “get in the spirit”. Their hope is that the more spirit you have the more money you will spend. Hold strong against developing an overly generous heart for the wrong reasons. That happy high in your gut at the register will likely be replaced with a spending hangover when the credit card bill arrives. 

CHRISTMAS FUTURE

Shop early. Buy next year’s holiday decorations on clearance as soon as the holidays are over. Keep your eyes open for bargains throughout the year and stash them away. Beware though: track that spending and don’t lose track of what you’ve bought.

Save all year. Make holiday saving a year round commitment. Set up an account at a local bank, perhaps a different bank than your main bank, just for holiday savings. Set aside a designated amount with each paycheck or as you pay your monthly bills.

With a little planning and some discipline, the holidays can truly be a relaxing time to enjoy family, friends and responsible gift-giving.

Fifth Annual Food and Toy Drive November 12-December 7. Donate today!

You can help us make a difference and brighten up the holiday season for those in need.Holiday Food & Toy Drive

 

We’re proud to announce the start of our Fifth Annual Food and Toy Drive. Each year it brings us great pleasure to bring back this special seasonal event to help support the organizations and individuals in our communities.

Helping others during the holidays

You can drop off non-perishable food goods, such as canned vegetables and fruit, soups, baby formula, powdered milk, peanut butter and hot/cold cereals, at any Community Bank branch between November 12 and December 7.

Collections made in Southern Maryland will be donated to the Southern Maryland Food Bank, collections in King George County will be donated to the Department of Social Services for the King George Food Pantry and collections in Fredericksburg will be donated to the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank.

We are also collecting new, unwrapped toys to distribute to local families with young children during the holidays. Toys collected will support the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.

Looking for vacation ideas? What about a staycation?

Vacations can be costly and sometimes even stressful. But if you could, wouldna backyard campout / for excited little kids / with help from mommy’t you like to find a way to relax, spend time with family, and not spend

 

lots of money? Maybe you should consider a staycation!

A staycation is like a vacation, but without the time, expense and stress of actually traveling. The most expensive part of vacation is usually the combination of travel, accommodations and meals. In an effort to get the most out of the money being spent, there is often temptation to do as much as possible to feel the trip was worth it. While the experiences of a traveling vacation can be exceptional, there’s much to be gained from staying home — if you do it right.

Determine expectations

The first step to even considering a staycation is to determine the expectations of those taking part. Is the time meant to be relaxing or exciting? Family time or individual time? What kind of activities do family members like to do? Brainstorm as a group to come up with ideas.

Set a budget

While staying local will certainly save you money, you should still set a budget for your staycation. Your budget will probably be less than if you were going away, but more than you would spend at home. Planning a budget in advance will guide you in planning your activities and reduce the stress or guilt of spending money you wouldn’t normally spend.

Have a plan

This is the fun part! If you were traveling to a different state or country, you’d have a list of activities and sites you wanted to include in your trip. A staycation is no different. Be a hometown tourist. Put yourself in the mindset of someone who is visiting your home area. What is your area known for? What would a “tourist” do? What sites would they see or landmarks would they visit?

Put yourself in the mindset of “traveling” to your area. Visit the local chamber of commerce or their website. Pick up tour guides at your library or travel club. Look at the ads in your local newspaper. Make a list of activities you’d like to do or places you’ve always meant to visit. Then choose the ones you plan to do each day.

Or make a list of low key activities to do at home. A backyard pool that the entire family seldom has time to enjoy together becomes a point of reconnection when everyone is together without anywhere else to go. A game of whiffle ball or croquet takes on a whole new feel when everyone is focused on playing together. Plant a garden. Explore plants or wildlife in your backyard or neighborhood. Nap in that hammock that’s calling your name.

Splurge. You’re saving money by staying home so do something you wouldn’t generally do. Try out that expensive restaurant that doesn’t fit into your regular budget. Spend a day at a spa. Hire a housecleaner if you don’t have one. (Your room would be cleaned every day if you stayed in a hotel!) Take the kids to an attraction in the area that is usually cost prohibitive.

Make sleeping at home fun. Let the kids sleep somewhere other than their bed. Camp out in the backyard. Set up sleeping bags in the living room. Switch rooms with each other to mix it up. Have breakfast in bed.

Having a plan ahead of time will greatly reduce stress when you get up each morning. You can always change the plan, but having one to start with will make everyone happy.

Before you “go”

Prepare as if you were going away — pay bills, take care of the lawn, do all the laundry, pick up the house — do all the things you would do if you were going away. That way you won’t be distracted or feel obligated to do your regular household “chores”. And make a decision to not “get caught up” on household projects during this time.

If you were going away, you’d let your office know you’ll be unavailable. You must have the same mindset for a staycation. If you must be in communication with the office, at least designate one time during the day to check messages and email, but leave an out of office message indicating your limited accessibility. Remember, this is still your vacation. Same rules apply.

Making it count

No matter what you do for your staycation, the goal is for it to be relaxing, enjoyable, stress free and less expensive than if you went away. How you reach that goal is entirely up to you, but put some thought into it ahead of time to make the most of your vacation at home!

A Special Holiday Message from our President

Winter is in the air, the holiday season is in full swing and another year is drawing to aHoliday2014- close. While it’s easy to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle, it’s important to remember that the holiday season is a time to reflect and give thanks for the blessings and opportunities that we have had over the past year.

2014 was a big year for us at Community Bank of the Chesapeake. We started off the New Year with an updated name, a new red sailboat and a commitment to continuing our tradition of exceeding expectations. We brought our personalized style of banking to new markets as we celebrated the opening of a new branch in Fredericksburg and a Lending Center in Annapolis. We saw our workplace family grow as we welcomed new lenders, customer service representatives and support staff to our team. We supported the mission of many nonprofit organizations through our Casual for a Cause program, Day of Caring participation and Holiday Food and Toy Drive. We helped hundreds of high school students understand the importance of being fiscally responsible, financially literate young adults with the help of our Financial Scholars Program and watched with pride as they received their certifications.

We have so many things to be thankful for this holiday season. But above all, we are thankful for our wonderful communities and for you, our customer. You are the reason that we are able to do what we do at Community Bank of the Chesapeake. It is a joy and a privilege to serve you day in and day out, and we look forward to continuing to do so in 2015.

On behalf of the executive team and the entire staff, I wish you and your family a very happy holiday season, and a prosperous New Year.

Friday Focus: Toys for Tots

Each year, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program works to brighten the Toys for Totslives of less fortunate children throughout the United States with its annual toy drive. From October to December, the organization works with local communities to accept donations of new toys to be distributed at Christmas time. Their mission is simple: to deliver a message of hope to one of the nation’s most valuable resources—its children. This week, we spoke with Staff Sergeant Brett Wagner, a coordinator from King George County, VA,  who shared some information about the organization and one particularly special instance of how Toys for Tots was able to touch a family in need.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)    

A: The mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?  

A: I was very touched when we were able to support a family that just lost their house due to a fire two days before Christmas, but there are a few stories that are similar that happen almost every year.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?  

A: Getting toys early in the campaign season.  A lot of people tend to wait until closer to Christmas to begin their shopping, but we need to get the toys to the families as soon as we can.

Q: How can people get involved this holiday season?  

A: There are many ways to support the program.  Volunteering in the warehouse and donations are the primary things that come to mind.

This year, Community Bank of the Chesapeake proudly supported Toys for Tots programs throughout the communities we serve through our annual Toy Drive. Thanks to the generous donations of customers and employees, we were able to donate over 270 new toys… just in time for Christmas!

Holiday Travel Survival Tips

There’s an old expression that says “getting there is half the fun”, but if you’ve ever Happy family driving in  the car surrounded by snow.taken road trip, you know that all that time spent traveling in close quarters for long periods of time isn’t exactly restful. Throw in extra holiday traffic and the excited frenzy of the holiday season and traveling by car can be especially stressful.

Ways to Make Your Journey a Little Less Bumpy This Holiday Season

Before you head out on the road with your family to visit loved ones or take a much-needed vacation this holiday season, be sure to read these important survival tips:

  1. Take a reliable vehicle. Your old minivan might be comfortable, but it also could break down, leaving you in the worst situation possible: stranded with cranky children. Even if you have a newer car, it’s important to have routine maintenance done before you leave.
  2. Join a travel club. In the unfortunate event your car breaks down, you’ll be able to get roadside assistance. Companies like AAA can also bring you other benefits like discounts on shopping, dining and hotels, in addition to helping you out if you’re stranded.
  3. Map your route in advance. Today there is no shortage of online tools to help you map out a route. Give your route to a family member so that they know how to locate you.
  4. Plan your travel times. If you have younger children, plan your travel around their sleep schedules. Traveling at night is a great way to avoid heavy rush hour traffic.
  5. Pack healthy snacks and refreshments. Bring along a cooler with water, fruit and other refreshments, and pack other healthy snacks. Avoid unhealthy sugary foods.
  6. Stay connected. Charge your cellphone before leaving, and don’t forget bring along your car charger. Also, be sure to charge those electronic games and music players in advance!
  7. Play family games. In the event that those electronic games or players run out of battery life, there’s nothing like a good old fashioned game of “license plate” to engage children.
  8. Dress comfortably. Dress kids in loose, comfortable clothing or even their pajamas for nighttime travel.
  9. Play good music. Bring along relaxing music for the ride. Be sure to select songs you and your children will enjoy.

And lastly…

  1. Remember to keep your sense of humor and a positive attitude!

Online Holiday Shopping Tips

If the weather outside is frightful (or if you’re just looking to save some time), online shopping is the way to go for your holiday purchases. The advOnline shopping safetyantages to the online marketplace are many: no lines, no crowds and no multi-store trips to find that one specific toy. As you zoom from Amazon to Etsy and back again, here are some tips to make your holiday shopping as productive and safe as possible:

  • Protect your data

The holiday shopping season always comes with a host of horror stories about identity theft, so when you log on, make sure you take the proper steps to keep your information safe. Shop only through sites you trust and always check that the site is secure. Secure sites typically have URLs that being with “https” instead of “http” on any page where you’re entering card information. Additionally, you should always see a lock icon somewhere in your browser window when you’re on a secure page.

  • Choose credit

When it comes to checkout time, it’s better to use a credit card rather than a debit card for online purchases. Credit cards tend to have a higher level of fraud protection than debit cards, and you are not liable for debt incurred after a credit card is reported lost or stolen. On the other hand, if your debit card information is compromised, your entire bank account balance could be at risk.

  • Keep track of those receipts

Have a designated place (either a physical folder or folder in your email inbox) to keep track of your receipts, payment confirmations and tracking numbers for your purchases. Always be sure to read the fine print with respect to returns; different vendors’ policies will differ where returns and exchanges are concerned.

  • Buy items together to save on shipping

The one obvious downside to online shopping is the cost of shipping. Depending on the site and the shipping option you choose, a reasonably priced item could easily become one that causes you to hesitate at the checkout page. Sites like Amazon offer you the option to bundle items together and ship them in the fewest boxes possible to save you money, and may also offer free shipping when you spend a certain dollar amount. Plan out your shopping in advance to maximize your transactions on each site—it will help you take advantage of these benefits and keep your shipping costs low.

  • Check the dates

Speaking of shipping, pay close attention to the estimated shipping times on your purchases and make sure to leave enough time for things to arrive. Most sites will provide you with a tracking number for your package once it’s shipped.

Remember: Identity theft increases around the holidays, so take extra care when shopping online. Here are some additional safe shopping tips from Webroot.com.