Heather Dewey

Spring Maintenance Checklist for Your Home

Routine home maintenance can help you avoid costly repairs and also help you budget for any future repairs or upgrades! Below you’ll find our Spring Home checklist for homeowners to keep your home in good shape.

  • Clean out gutters and downspouts.
  • Inspect caulking around doors and windows for damage or any notable wear.
  • Inspect your roof for any loose shingles and popped nails.
  • Inspect and get your lawn maintenance equipment in working order by sharpening dull blades, charging batteries and replacing old gas.
  • Clean your kitchen exhaust hood and air filter.
  • Safety check! Spring is a good time to review your fire escape plan with your family. It’s also a nice time to check the batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms and replace them if needed. 
  • Perform/schedule Spring HVAC maintenance to your home’s heating and cooling system. Spring maintenance can also prevent costly repair bills when your system runs more in the summer months.   
  • Clean your clothes dryer exhaust duct, damper, and space under the dryer.
  • Check for and repair any concrete or asphalt damages. Winter in Wisconsin can be harsh on driveways and walkways. Even if the crack is minor, if water gets inside of it and freezes during the cooler months, it will increase the crack and it will be a more expensive repair. It’s a good idea to repair the crack while it’s still small.

Spring is also a great time to get organized. Check out our blog on Budget Friendly Ways to Organize Your Home.

Holi-days of Giving 2022

Photo of people smiling at the Holidays of Giving event in Brookfield

During the final weeks of December, as part of our annual “Holi-Days of Giving” program, the branches of Bank Five Nine delivered much-needed holiday cheer to thirteen individuals in Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington Counties. Bank Five Nine collected and received hundreds of nominations during November 2022. We want to thank everyone who nominated someone this year for the program, as many amazing nominations were received!

Each recipient received holiday gifts, valued up to $500 from Bank Five Nine. Some of the chosen recipients included a 9-year-old boy with a rare genetic disease called Fanconi Anemia, a six-year-old little girl with cancer, an urgent care nurse, a 13 year old boy who was recently diagnosed with not 1 but 3 autoimmune diseases MOG-AD, a dad who had two heart transplants, a family in need that could use some new tires for their vehicle, and a woman whose sister has sister is having dementia and would love to go visit her loved one out of state.

As a true community bank, our mission is to ‘Make Lives Better’. We are so thankful we can bring some joy through this wonderful annual program we do here at Bank Five Nine.

8 Ways to Save Money on Gas

Gas prices have been high for months, and it’s widely known that this has not been kind to wallets everywhere. If you’re looking for some ways to pay less for gas, we’ve compiled a few ways to help.

Rewards Programs
Major grocery chains like Pick N’ Save (Kroger) offer reward programs that can help you save at the pump. Members can earn fuel points for money spent on groceries and general merchandise. Example: Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market customers are eligible to save up to $1 per gallon of fuel for every 1,000 points redeemed at participating BP gas stations.

Become a Member 
Take advantage of warehouse club memberships. In most areas, warehouse clubs also sell gasoline, including Sam’s Club and Costco, and the costs generally beat local competitors by anywhere from 5 cents to 25 cents per gallon. Although a membership at a warehouse club can cost you anywhere from $45 to $60 per year, you can make this back in savings from the reduced gas prices – and also have access to many other benefits of cost savings with this membership.

Stay Light
The more weight you carry, the more energy and fuel is needed to move your vehicle. So keep your emergency kit, but remove any of the other unnecessary items in your car that you don’t need daily.

Gas Trackers and Price Comparison Tools
There are several websites and phone apps that allow you to quickly check gas prices at stations near you. They use your current location and list gas station locations nearby in order of price, so you can choose the lowest priced station at which to refill. (Remember not to drive out of your way to get to the lowest price!) Here are a few of these price comparison tools to look into to get you started: GasBuddy, Upside, Gas Guru, Waze, Dash, and MapQuest. Organizations like AAA and even some local news stations also allow you to check gas prices in your area on their websites.

Map Your Drive and Combine Errands
Obviously the best way to spend less on gas is to use less gas. Planning a route ahead of time and avoiding backtracking will make your next journey fuel-efficient. Instead of running out every time you need something, schedule time once a week to complete all your errands at once. Having a mile and a minute off a frequent route you take once a week can save an hour and several hundred dollars over the course of a year.

Set That Cruise Button
If you do a lot of highway driving, it pays to use your cruise control button.  Not only does it help to reduce the wear and tear of the engine and transmission systems, setting the cruise control and staying at a steady speed has been shown to save on fuel usage (plus you can make sure you don’t go over the speed limit).  Accelerating slowly and coasting more are not only safer ways to drive, but they can be cost-efficient driving habits as well.

Check Your Tire Pressure
Confirm your tire pressure is set according to your car’s manufacturer recommendation. Studies show that under-inflated tires result in more fuel being burned per mile as opposed to when the tires are properly inflated.

Proper Maintenance
If you have been putting off your scheduled maintenance, now is the time to schedule an appointment. Poor car maintenance can drop fuel efficiency.  Along this line, make sure you are using your manufacturer’s recommended grade of oil. The wrong grade of motor oil can cost you 4 to 9 cents per gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

If you do try a few of the ways above, check to see how much lower you have gotten your monthly gas budget! It’s nice and motivating to see that dollar amount drop.

5 Ways to Boost Your Financial Health (Amidst COVID-19)

Financial decisions can feel complex and hard even under normal circumstances. If the current  market volatility has you questioning what are the “right” actions you should take now, you are not  alone. Here are five concrete ways for you to jumpstart your financial wellness in the wake of the  novel coronavirus. 

Don’t touch your face or your 401k 

Time for some facts. Markets fluctuate over time, and returns often come with risks. While  COVID-19 is certainly adding unprecedented volatility to the stock market, it is critical to take a  long-term view when it comes to investing. 
Chances are that when you set up your 401k or IRA you picked a diverse asset portfolio, and  selected a monthly contribution that you were comfortable with. Trust that you picked the right  option, and stay the course. When considering your retirement, ​the strategy you had in place in  February should be your continued strategy for the months ahead.​ Take a deep breath and trust  that the market will bounce back. 
When it comes to investing in your retirement, the best thing to do is invest regularly and aim to  have a monthly contribution of 10-15% of your total income.  
Have more questions about saving for retirement, and finding a plan that’s right for you? Check out our digital financial resources. ​ 

Build Emergency Savings 

Unexpected moments like these are precisely why an emergency fund of 3-6 months take-home  pay is so critical. If you have an emergency fund to tap into, great job! If you are among the ​40% of  Americans who would find an unexpected $400 expense challenging to pay​, know that you are not  alone, and there is always time to build your savings
To start, dive into your finances from the previous month. Take a hard look at non-essential  spending. Eliminating even small expenses, especially monthly membership fees, can quickly add  up over time. After you have cancelled or paused any non-essential recurring payments, create a  budget tracker to identify where and how you spent your money. How much were you spending  on dining out? Ridesharing? Online shopping? Once you have that breakdown, you can more  accurately set goals around what you need to start, stop, and continue doing in order to build your emergency savings.  

If you’re new to the world of budgeting, the ​50 / 30 / 20 rule​ is a great place to start. Set a goal of  how much money you want to contribute to your emergency savings each month, and don’t forget  to celebrate when you meet (or exceed!) your goal. 
For additional help with how to approach emergency savings, explore our online resources.

Refinance a Loan 

March 2020 marked a period of extreme market volatility, to say the least. To stabilize and protect  the economy, the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to record lows. These decade-low  interest rates could save you money if you choose to refinance your mortgage, private student  loans, or other debts. Keep in mind that federal and private student loans are different, and you  could be losing benefits by adjusting your federal loan
Traditional advice is to refinance when rates are 1-2% below your current rate. Make sure to keep  an eye on your closing costs, so you make a decision that takes all costs into consideration. 

Time Your Taxes 

For any procrastinators that have put off doing their taxes, good news – U.S. taxpayers have a  three-month extension on the deadline to file their federal tax return due to the novel coronavirus  pandemic. Tax Day has been pushed from April 15th to July 15th, 2020. Most states have matched  the July 15th deadline, but ​check here​ to determine your state’s filing deadline. 
If you are among the many Americans who typically receive a tax refund — that is, you paid more  taxes to your state or federal government (through payroll withholding, for example) than your  actual tax liability, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is advising that you file your taxes earlier so  that you can get your money sooner. 
Click here to learn more about taxes with this short, interactive overview. ​

Make a Plan and Regain Control 

You can only control what you can control. The good news is that your financial decisions and  behaviors are 100% under your control.  
Use this time at home to reset any riskier financial behaviors. This is a great time to start building  healthy financial habits, while the lure of expensive purchases like events, sporting games, travel,  fancy restaurants, etc. are off the table. Find your money zen – what spending habits make you  happy? What do you spend money on that you have no memory of a month later? Which purchases  sit on a shelf collecting dust or cluttering your space?  

Take the time to build a budget and stick to it. Set up regular monthly investments. Build your  emergency savings fund. Use this time as a bootcamp to become a top-notch steward of your  financial present and future. You’ve got this. 
To continue upskilling your financial capability, visit our financial education center, ​for our full suite of educational content.

This article was developed in part by EVERFI, Inc., a resource of Bank Five Nine.

What Is a Money Market? (And What Are Its Benefits)

The portrait of an African-American man is on the street, he is walking and using a mobile phone on the go

FAQs: What is a money market?  What are the benefits of a money market?

Let’s break down and answer these two questions in an easy-to-understand way!

What is a money market?

A money market account is a type of personal savings account offered by a bank that typically pays a higher interest rate than traditional savings accounts. It is a type of deposit account that allows you to earn interest on your balance while also having easy access to your funds.

What are the benefits of a money market?

When you invest in a money market account, you’ll deposit a set amount of money into the account, which will then earn interest.

  • Higher interest: Money market accounts typically offer higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts, which means you can earn more money on your deposits over time.
  • Low risk: Money market accounts are FDIC-insured, which means that your deposits are backed by the full faith and credit of the US government, up to a certain limit. This makes them a relatively safe investment option for those who are looking to earn a return on their savings without taking on a lot of risk.
  • Liquidity: Money market accounts are designed to provide easy access to your funds. One key feature of money market accounts is that they often come with check-writing privileges or a debit card, which allows you to easily access your funds when you need them. However, generally, there can be limits with this and on the number of transactions you can make each month, so it’s important to understand the terms of your account.
  • Diversification: Money market accounts can be a good way to diversify your investment portfolio. They offer a low-risk, low-return option that can balance out higher-risk, higher-return investments.

How is a money market different from a savings account?

Money market accounts offer a higher interest rate than traditional savings accounts, but they also require a higher minimum balance to open and maintain the account.

How is a money market different than a CD (Certificate of Deposit?)

A CD is a type of deposit where you agree to leave your money in the account for a certain amount of time. If you withdraw your money before the end of the term, you will typically pay a penalty fee. (Learn more about what a CD is here.)  Money market accounts generally offer lower interest rates than CDs, but they offer more flexibility in terms of accessing your funds.  Money markets are generally a better choice if you do not want to tie your money up for a length of time.

How is a money market different from a checking account?

A checking account is designed for everyday transactions, while a money market is designed as a short-term investment.

Overall, if you can afford their minimum balances, a money market account can be a good option for people who want to earn a higher interest rate on their savings while still having easy access to their money. Think a money market is right for you? Contact us or apply for a money market online!

Preparing Financially for a Baby

With a baby comes one of life’s biggest joys, but they also comes with a lot of new expenses. In the US, the average cost of raising a child through the age of 17 is $233,610.  This figure is based on the most recent ‘Expenditures on Children by Families’ report completed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Beyond the purchase of items such as a crib, diapers and car seat; here are some additional financial items to think about to help you prepare for the arrival of your new family member.

The first month of your baby’s life may be the priciest, because it includes maternity care, the cost of delivery, postnatal care, and a hospital stay.  The numbers can vary depending on where you live, if you are giving birth or adopting, and your insurance policy.

Understand your maternity/paternity leave

It’s important to familiarize yourself and understand your workplace’s maternity and paternity leave policies. You’ll want to look into how much leave is offered and how much of your salary will you be paid during that time.

Review Insurance Policies

Health Insurance: Having a baby is expensive, even when you have health insurance, so you’ll want to check your policy to see what is covered and what is out of pocket. Keep in mind that the cost of routine birthing care is variable based on your insurance coverage so you will want to review your policy to find out what your out-of-pocket costs are for prenatal care, tests, hospital stay, and postpartum.

Make sure you know what it costs to add an additional dependent to your health insurance policy, and how you long you have from child’s birth date to add them. (It’s recommended to do it sooner rather than later). Plan on around 6 wellness visits for evaluations, immunizations, etc., and possibly a few additional visits for illnesses for your baby in the first year. If possible, make you stay in-network while choosing your child’s pediatrician, as well as avoid going outside of your network of hospitals to avoid paying additional costs.

Life Insurance: This is also a good time to review or modify your life insurance policies. Assuming you already have life insurance, you may want to review or consider adding policies for medical, dental, and disability.  During this time you may want to add your child as a beneficiary on your policy (same for your 401(k) and IRAs as well). Keep in mind that you’ll need to make adjustments elsewhere, such as a will or trust, to ensure when, and how, your child will have access to the money.

Adjust your current budget to accommodate your new baby

Babies come with a lot of expenses, including instant and longer term ones. A great tool for approximating first year costs is the cost calculator at BabyCenter.com. This tool takes into account one time and ongoing items, such as a car seats, diapers, clothing, daycare etc.  This tool can be very helpful when accounting for these items while creating your monthly and yearly budget.

Your exact expenses during your child’s life will depend on choices like school, childcare and lifestyle. While you are budgeting, try to look ahead to be able to plan for both your short and long-term financial goals.

Additional tip: If you are planning to have a baby shower, be practical about your baby registry. If you can wait, don’t go baby shopping till after. You will most likely get a lot of items at your shower, and you can put the money you would have otherwise spent on these items towards filling in the gaps of what you still need and your financial saving goals.

Other ways to save:

  • Babies grow fast! Buying clothes secondhand can save you a good amount of money
  • Buying in bulk, using cash-back apps and ‘couponing’ can cut your budget  
  • Prepare your own baby food at home to help with food costs when baby starts getting introduced to food other than formula or breast milk.  Here is a Step-By-Step Guide to Making Baby Food by verywellfamily.com

18 and beyond:

Savings Account: Consider starting to save for long-term expenses as your baby grows. Set up a savings account for your baby (check out our Good Savers Account that is specific for children). Putting away a specific percentage of your paycheck each month can help you build up this savings.

Continuing education: Starting early in your child’s life allows you to leverage time to build up nice savings for your child’s post-high school education.  If your child decides to go to college, the current average cost of a full-time undergraduate, per year according to Education Data (2019-2020), is roughly estimated at $30,500.

Parents who choose to help pay for college can take advantage of savings plans like the 529 College Savings Plans. A 529 plan is a state sponsored plan that allows families to save specifically for college costs.  As long as the money is used to pay for college expenses, the withdrawals are free of federal taxes. If you start a 529 plan, and your child decides not to go to college, the money may be used for another child or withdrawn, subject to tax and penalties. A bonus of these plans is that family and friends can contribute to your child’s 529 plan for easy gift ideas for birthdays and holidays. 

Overall, planning for a child is an exciting time. By preparing for these financial items in addition to dreaming of what their eye color is going to be, it will allow you more time to enjoy your new addition to your family.

Things to Avoid During the Mortgage Loan Process

Here are some important reminders to expedite a successful home closing!

It’s essential to be aware of certain actions and events that can potentially impact your loan approval. In this Bank Five Nine Mortgage blog post, we’ll discuss some important reminders to help expedite a successful home closing.

Large Purchases:

Making significant purchases before closing on a home can have a direct impact on your loan approval. Lenders analyze your debt-to-income ratio and acquiring new debt can alter that. It’s advisable to avoid major purchases, such as buying a car or big furniture, until after the closing to maintain a stable financial profile.

Remember, once the closing is complete and you have secured your mortgage, you can then consider making those large purchases without affecting the loan process. At that point, as a bonus, you will have a better understanding of your overall financial commitments!

Major Life Changes:

  • New Job: Lenders review your income and job history to evaluate your ability to make consistent mortgage payments. An unexpected job change without notification may create uncertainty, potentially affecting your loan approval. Talk with your Bank Five Nine lender before accepting a new job to ensure it aligns with their requirements for the loan you are looking to get, and to provide them with accurate employment information.
  • Change in Marital Status: Changes in marital status, such as getting married or divorced, can impact your mortgage application. Lenders typically evaluate the combined income and financial stability of married couples. In the case of divorce, the division of assets and potential financial obligations may affect your qualification for the loan. It’s essential to inform your Bank Five Nine lender about any changes in marital status and provide updated documentation to ensure accurate evaluation of your financial situation.
  • Long Vacation: Planning a long vacation, particularly if it overlaps with the home buying process, can potentially raise concerns for lenders.  It’s advisable to discuss your vacation plans with your lender in advance and ensure that all necessary documentation and communication can still be facilitated during your absence.

    Lenders evaluate your employment stability and financial circumstances, and sudden changes can raise concerns. It’s crucial to inform your lender of any major life changes to ensure they have accurate and up-to-date information.

New Credit:

Opening new lines of credit or obtaining additional loans during the home buying process can raise red flags for lenders. Each new credit application generates a hard inquiry on your credit report, potentially lowering your credit score. It’s best to refrain from applying for new credit until after your home purchase has been successfully closed.

Random Deposits (Especially in Cash):

Depositing large sums of money into your bank account, especially in cash, without a clear source or explanation can be viewed as suspicious by lenders. Transparency is key in the mortgage process! When you make a large deposit, whether in cash or through other means, it’s important to provide proper documentation to your lender. This includes evidence of where the funds originated from, such as paycheck stubs, bank statements, or gift letters if the money is a gift from a family member. By providing clear documentation, you demonstrate the legitimacy of the funds and help alleviate any concerns your lender may have.

In some cases, you may encounter a situation where you receive a significant amount of money that is out of the ordinary. This could be from the sale of an asset, inheritance, or a one-time financial event. It’s crucial to communicate with your lender about these unusual deposits and provide a detailed explanation.

Maintaining Clear Financial Records:

Throughout the mortgage process, it’s essential to maintain clear and organized financial records. This includes keeping copies of bank statements, deposit slips, and any other relevant documents. By having well-documented records, you can easily provide the necessary information when requested by your lender. It also helps you stay on top of your finances and ensures accuracy in your mortgage application.

Late Payments:

Even after your credit has been initially pulled, it’s essential to continue making all your payments on time. Late payments can negatively impact your credit score and raise concerns for lenders. Consistent and timely payments demonstrate financial responsibility and can contribute to a smooth closing process.

Throughout the home buying process, maintaining open communication with your lender is crucial. If you have any questions or concerns about specific actions or events that may impact your closing, it’s important to reach out and seek clarification. Your lender can provide guidance and help you navigate potential obstacles. By staying informed and proactive, you can increase the likelihood of a smooth closing and fulfill your dream of becoming a homeowner. Remember, your Bank Five Nine lender is there to support you, so don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns along the way!

Summer Fun Bucket List

Budget friendly Summer activities to do in Wisconsin

Summer is finally here, and there’s no better time to make the most of the sunny days ahead without breaking the bank. Whether you’re looking to keep the kids entertained or enjoy some quality time with friends and family, we have you covered with this budget-friendly summer bucket list!

1. Have a Picnic

Grab a blanket and pack some homemade sandwiches and snacks. Head to a local park or even your backyard for a relaxing picnic in the sunshine.

2. Wash the Car

Cool off and get your car sparkling clean with a DIY car wash session. It’s a productive way to spend a hot afternoon.

3. Play in Sprinklers

No pool? No problem! Set up the sprinkler in your yard for hours of refreshing fun for the kids (and adults too). It’s a classic summer activity that never gets old.

4. Play Frisbee

Invite your friends to a frisbee game at the park as a fun way to stay active and appreciate the outdoors. If frisbee isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other outdoor games to choose from!

5. Blow Bubbles

Bring out the bubble wands and create magical bubbles in your backyard. It’s simple, nostalgic fun for all ages.

6. Water Balloon Fight

Cool off with an epic water balloon fight. All you need are balloons, water, and some willing participants!

7. Do Some Tie-Dye

Transform plain white shirts or old clothes into vibrant masterpieces with tie-dye kits.

8. Bake Cookies

Heat up the kitchen on a rainy day and bake some delicious cookies. Get creative with flavors and decorations for extra fun.

9. Sidewalk Chalk

Unleash your artistic side with sidewalk chalk. Create colorful masterpieces or play classic games like hopscotch or four square.

10. Roast Marshmallows

Gather around a fire pit or grill and roast marshmallows for s’mores. It’s a classic summer activity!

11. Watch Fireworks

The Fourth of July generally offers free fireworks displays in many communities. Explore local events or host a backyard viewing party to experience these fireworks.

12. Plant Flowers or a Tree

Green up your surroundings by planting flowers or a small tree. It’s a rewarding activity that beautifies your home and helps the environment.

13. Visit a Local Park

Explore a nearby park for hiking, biking, or simply enjoying nature. Many parks offer free admission and activities for all ages.

14. Bird Watching

Grab binoculars and a guidebook to identify local birds. It’s a relaxing way to connect with nature without spending a dime. 

16. Visit a Farmer’s Market

Support local farmers and artisans by visiting a farmers’ market. Enjoy fresh produce, baked goods, and crafts.

17. Beach Day

Pack a cooler with snacks and sunscreen and head to the nearest beach for a day of sun and sand. Swimming and building sandcastles are free activities everyone can enjoy.

18. Visit a Library

Escape the heat and dive into a good book at your local library. Many libraries also offer free summer programs and events for families.

19. Volunteer

Give back to your community and make lives better by volunteering together as a family or with friends. Help out at a local shelter, food bank, or a local nonprofit.

20. Bike Ride

Explore your neighborhood or local trails on two wheels. Biking is not only great exercise but also a fun way to discover new places.

21. Make Some Ice Cream

Cool off with homemade ice cream. No fancy machine required! Try making ice cream in a bag or with a few simple ingredients at home. Here is how:

  1. Mix the Ingredients: Combine heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, and vanilla extract (if using) in a quart-sized zip-top bag. Seal tightly.
  2. Prepare the Ice Bath: Fill a gallon-sized zip-top bag halfway with ice cubes. Add salt to the ice.
  3. Freeze the Ice Cream: Place the sealed quart-sized bag with the ice cream mixture into the gallon-sized bag with ice and salt. Seal the gallon-sized bag tightly.
  4. Shake it Up!: Shake vigorously for about 5-10 minutes, massaging the bag occasionally. The ice cream will gradually thicken and freeze.
  5. Serve: Once the ice cream reaches your desired consistency, scoop it out and enjoy immediately for a soft-serve treat. For firmer ice cream, transfer it to a freezer-safe container and freeze for 1-2 hours. Serve with your favorite toppings!

22. Attend a Free Community Event
Make sure to browse through local event listings to find outdoor movie events or festivals near you. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy your local communities and entertainment without breaking the bank! Keep an eye on our Facebook page where we share the events we sponsor, many of which are free –follow along here.

Have a fun budget friendly summer activity you feel could be added to this list?
Email us.