Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How to Save on Vacation this Summer

How to Spend Less on Vacation
It’s natural to want to make the most of precious vacation time. All too often, though, that desire leads to overspending on things that don’t necessarily make the trip more enjoyable. As you plan your next vacation, consider the following tips to reign in spending.

Choosing a destination
New York, Las Vegas, Disney World: They’re top destinations, and you’ll pay top dollar to visit them, especially during peak tourist season — something to avoid if you can.
To help you brainstorm alternatives, compare official tourism websites for different states. Those sites typically have huge databases of tourist attractions off the beaten path, and often include sample itineraries and travel deals as well.

Booking accommodations
It might be tempting to stay at the nicest hotel you can afford. But depending on the kind of trip you’re taking, you might consider these thrifty approaches to lodging:
  • Use peer-to-peer rentals. Check out Airbnb, VRBO and its parent company, Homeaway (all available as both websites and smartphone apps). 
  • Hotels. You may find lower costs by reviewing sites like Expedia, Priceline or Kayak, or smartphone apps like Hotel Tonight, for those who need the privacy and security of traditional travel accommodations.

Note that you can also lower your food costs by finding a place to stay that has at least some kitchen facilities and cooking sometimes rather than dining out.

Getting there

In some cases, flying is the only practical option, but it can be expensive. Some lower-cost alternatives: 

  • Drive. It’s usually much cheaper than flying, all the more so if you’re not traveling alone and your vehicle is reliable.
  • Bus. Rolling down a highway with a bunch of strangers can be a great deal, especially if you look beyond the major national carriers to regional or discount lines like MegaBus and BoltBus in the East, and California’s CA Shuttle. Some charge just $1 for certain routes with advance purchase.
  • Train. Riding the rails can cost less than flying and be faster than a bus, though neither is true in every case. Still, it provides an unusual travel perspective, and is typically a little more comfortable than either a bus or plane.
Getting around
Renting a car provides the ultimate in convenience, but it can be costly. Consider visiting a city where you can rely on a combination of public transportation, cars-for-hire, bicycle rentals and other cheap ways to get around.
You might also be able to skip the rental by staying within walking distance of things you’re likely to want to do. Slightly more expensive accommodations near a city center might well be worth it if it saves you the cost of a car or other ground transportation.

Setting your priorities
To help you stay disciplined about reserving funds for your trip, consider opening a savings account from a financial institution like PriorityOne Bank if you don’t already have one.
Even with a savings plan in place, you may not be able to afford every detail of the dream vacation you might want, but even the cheapest trips are still a good chance to relax, often with the people you love the most. So focus your dollars on the things that matter most to you, and enjoy your trip!

Devan Goldstein, NerdWallet

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Best Money Moves for April

Best Money Moves for April

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Best Money Moves for April
As winter melts away and spring begins, April can be the time to renew your financial life. The tax season is nearly over, so you can finally say goodbye to 2014 and focus on just this year’s finances. Here are some ways to reassess your situation and spring into action:

Step up your budgeting

It’s been three months since you made your New Year’s resolutions, so consider updating your money goals. Look at which online or mobile budgeting apps work for you.
While apps may help you budget, “it’s really about how you spend money,” says Dana Twight, a financial advisor and owner of Twight Financial Education in Seattle. She suggests referring to these as “spending plans” rather than “budgets.”
“A lot of personal finance is about trade-offs and where you place the gratification on your spending plan,” she adds. If you spend a lot more than you need to, consider setting up an automatic savings plan.

Reflect on your tax situation

While your tax-filing experience remains fresh, determine how to be better prepared for next year. If you don’t keep track of receipts well, use mobile apps like Shoeboxed or Proximiant to digitize and sort them. This can help cut down on paperwork and avoid misplaced documents.
Also focus on the benefits of filing earlier next year. If you’re owed a refund, you can get it sooner. Alternatively, if you owe taxes, filling out your return in January or February can give you more time to come up with what you have to pay by April 15. Either way, you get to plan more accurately for the first few months of next year.
Apart from the stress of facing a last-minute race to the deadline, there’s another downside to waiting.
“If you’re focused on 2014 until April, then you’re three months behind for your 2015 taxes,” Twight says.

Look at creative debt reduction

After finishing with your taxes, consider using any spare cash you may have — including any refund you may get — to reduce any student loans or credit card balances. This can be tough after forking over money to tax collectors, but remember that you’ll be better off later.
If you’re looking to consolidate debt or reduce what you pay in interest, one option is to find a good balance-transfer credit card. Some cards offer 0% introductory rates for transferred balances, meaning that you avoid paying interest on it for that initial period.
Another alternative to reduce debt may be borrowing from your 401(k) retirement plan at work. According to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 87% of participants in these plans could potentially borrow, but few do.
If your plan allows loans, you can borrow 50% of your contributions, or up to $50,000, usually for as long as five years, according to Internal Revenue Service rules. Interest rates tend to be low and fixed, which often beats most credit cards.
“Your 401(k) is your own bank, if you think about it,” says Rob Riedl, director of wealth management at Endowment Wealth Management in Appleton, Wisconsin. Since you’re borrowing from your account, the interest goes back into it along with the principal payment.
This strategy can make sense for those with manageable debt, a healthy 401(k) balance and good payment habits. But there can be some risks. If you leave your job, you may have just 90 days to repay the debt. Plus, you’re taking capital from your retirement fund’s investments, albeit temporarily, which will reduce the returns generated by the account.
From reviewing budgeting apps to consolidating debts, make April the month that you lift yourself out of passive money-management strategies. By taking a more active approach, you can get better control of your finances and help ensure a brighter future.
Spencer Tierney is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow him on Twitter@SpencerNerd and on Google+.

Illustration by Dora Pintek.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The 3 Biggest Mistakes People Make At Tax Time

The 3 Biggest Mistakes People Make At Tax Time

The 3 Biggest Mistakes People Make At Tax Time
It’s an annual tradition: As April 15 draws near, millions of Americans scramble to round up all their receipts and other documents from the previous year to make the federal tax filing deadline.
But that urgency can lead to poor decisions that cost thousands of dollars in the long run, tax specialists say.
NerdWallet surveyed certified public accountants and asked them to list the most common mistakes taxpayers make at tax time, as well as how to avoid them. Here’s what they said:

Mistake No. 1: Not Being Organized

Lugging a shoebox full of receipts into your tax preparer’s office may not be the best way to deal with your return, but at least those harried taxpayers have everything in one place. That’s not the case with many people, CPAs say.
“One of the biggest mistakes we see folks make is simply not being organized,” says New York-based CPA Becky Egan. “People constantly come in for their tax appointment without all their documents, forgetting their charitable contributions, neglecting to let us know they invested in a partnership, or leaving out a 1099 they received.”
Egan advises clients to keep track of their earnings, expenses, accounts and other important information during the tax year itself, instead of leaving everything for the night before their tax appointment.
“It’s impossible to do any tax planning if you’re always in reactive mode, looking behind at the year that’s passed.”
As Brian S. Devers, a CPA in Forest, Virginia, puts it: “January 31, when you receive your W-2, is not the time to do tax planning for the previous year, because that ship has sailed.”

Mistake No. 2: Not Getting Good Advice

Younger people with few financial complications can get by with filing a 1040EZ form, and tax-preparation software has turned millions of Americans into virtual tax experts. But for many people, filing taxes without getting professional help can be a costly mistake.
“The biggest mistake people make is that they prepare their own return or they go to a tax-prep shop that is not staffed with professionals,” says Huntington Beach, California, CPA Mark Prendergast. “While going to a CPA or an enrolled agent may cost more for the services, they are much more aware of tax savings techniques compared to the nationally syndicated tax-prep companies who hire and train part-timers.”
Prendergast says a tax professional can pick up on nuances that can save taxpayers plenty of cash. Knowing how to handle college tuition payments is one example. Qualified tax pros can figure out whether to use the tuition deduction, the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit to maximize tax savings.
“Determining which is the best [option] can save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars,” Prendergast says. “Some apply to some situations but not others. Maybe one dependent child qualifies for one, but another child qualifies for another.”
Another key decision for which good advice is needed is whether to make a Roth IRA contribution or a traditional IRA contribution, he says. “Usually [people] think, ‘I save taxes with a traditional IRA but not with a Roth IRA.’ But in certain circumstances, a Roth IRA contribution will give rise to the Retirement Savings Contribution Credit (Form 8880) and save the person some taxes.”

Mistake No. 3: Not Contributing to an IRA

This issue leads to the third major mistake that CPAs cite.
“The biggest mistake people make at tax time is not contributing to an IRA because they are not eligible for an income tax deduction on the contribution amount,” says San Francisco-based CPA James Dowd. “Every taxpayer under the age of 70½ with earned income is eligible to make an IRA contribution. If the taxpayer has no existing IRA, the mistake is especially costly, and it compounds over time, because they could make an after-tax contribution and immediately convert the IRA to a Roth with no tax consequence.”
For a 30-year-old taxpayer, Dowd says, the cost of this mistake “could easily be worth more than $250,000 over a lifetime.”

Zoran Basich is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow him on Twitter@zoranbasich and on Google+.

Image via iStockNerdWallet

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


PriorityOne Bank’s CEO, Robbie Barnes made the announcement earlier this week regarding some exciting plans for PriorityOne Bank in 2014.  In 2009, a lot was purchased at the intersection of Hwy.98 and Hwy.589 in Hattiesburg with the intention of constructing a branch on this site at some time in the future. In addition, property was also purchased in 2013 on the Hwy.49 frontage road in Collins next to the new Civic Center with the intention of constructing a branch on that site.   In PriorityOne Bank’s January Board meeting, the Board of Directors unanimously approved both projects and PriorityOne Bank is in the process of finalizing contracts and requesting regulatory approval to get the construction of these branches started.  It is expected that these branches will be completed sometime in the 4th quarter of this year and these offices will be open before the end of 2014.

In addition, for several years there has been discussion concerning PriorityOne Bank making a move into the Madison County market with a branch location. In regards to this, Barnes announced, “I am pleased to say that we have filed an application to open a branch in the Township at Colony Park on the Parkway in Ridgeland.  It is anticipated that this location will be open in the second quarter of 2014.  I am also pleased to report that we have hired Eddie Woodard to manage this office as our Madison County President.”  Woodard was employed with M & F Bank for the past 8 years and comes to us from Renasant Bank in Madison where he worked as a Commercial Lender.  Barnes said, “Eddie brings to us a wealth of knowledge and experience in the Madison market.”

This expansion will enhance PriorityOne’s ability to serve its customers by providing more locations for them to do business with the bank.  PriorityOne has partnered with Level 5 to design build the two branches that we will construct in Hattiesburg and Collins, which will be non-traditional branches without traditional teller stations and/or a separate drive through teller station.  This is a design that many banks are beginning to adopt and it provides a much more open feel for the customer as well as enhancing the overall customer experience.

When asked how he feels about the success and upcoming growth of PriorityOne Bank; Barnes stated, “None of this would have been possible without the support of our loyal customers and the hard work and dedication of each and every employee.  We are blessed to have some great employees who do a great job serving our customers and growing our business which has created these opportunities.”

PriorityOne Bank, based in Magee, Mississippi, operates in ten Mississippi communities:  Collins, Seminary, Hattiesburg, Magee, Mendenhall, Richland, Brandon, Pearl, Pelahatchie, and Morton. PriorityOne Mortgage also has mortgage loan origination offices in Hattiesburg, Collins, and in Brandon, Mississippi.  The bank has assets of approximately $525 million.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Financially fit in 2014

I hope that 2013 was kind to you. I hope that you accomplished all that you intended to and more. I really hope that 2014 will be your best year ever. It can happen if we all will make good choices each and every day.
It is 2014, and it is time to set goals and look ahead with great anticipation and excitement. Year 2014 is going to be your year. You intend to eat correctly, hydrate properly, get plenty of rest and take much better care of your body. You have great intentions. However, you did not get specific and say that you were going to lose 20 pounds, drink the daily-required water, sleep eight hours a night or exercise daily. If you were setting goals, all of this would be a PHYSICAL goal. My advice would be to do all of the above and do it the best that you can. Its all about good choices made daily.
I want to discuss with you today about FISCAL goals for 2014. It is re- ally a matter of Personal Finance, and it is as much Personal as it is about Finance. It goes back to making those good choices each and every day. So to do your Personal Finance correctly, you must get personal with it; you must be aware. Unconscious and un- tracked spending can cause you more than a little trouble.
·      So here are a few steps that may help you get and stay “financially fit” in 2014:
·      Know your net income, that income that is available to cover expenses.
·      Know all your expenses. Emphasis is on all.
·      Establish and implement a budget that is based on your net income and all your expenses.
·      Commit to living within your budget. Commit to spending your time comparing actual income and expenses. Make revisions in your budget as needed.
·      Commit to your plan or program (it is called discipline), and this will assist you in making good choices every day.

Well, what happens if you do all this? Maybe you will be able to pay some of your debt off at a faster pace. Maybe you will be able to save more money for a car, a trip, a down payment on a mortgage, or maybe you will get so involved that you begin to see how you can take control of your own financial destiny. You make your own choices each and every day. Choose to manage your money and not let it manage you.
If you will be good to 2014, its a safe bet that it will be good to you. While this little writing has emphasized FISCAL, you need to make good choices in all facets of your life. You can do it, if you choose to.

I want to hear from some of you in 2015. I want to hear from you, and I hope you tell me that you have placed emphasis on your financial well-being and that it paid off for you. I want to know that you have accomplished something in 2014 and that you feel dog gone good about it! I have way over simplified this process, but you can make it as detailed as you want. If you want 2014 to be better than 2013, to be your best year ever, then, you need a plan like this. Make it a game, have fun with it and play to win.

By: David Farris 
PriorityOne Bank Vice President - Pelahatchie Branch

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

FDIC Consumer News

Click on the photo below to read the FDIC Consumer News Newsletter for the Spring of 2013. Lots of great information is included in this newsletter about Banking in a High Tech World!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Online Banking E-Book

Click the photo below to download our Online Banking E-Book for helpful tips on all of our online services.