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Giving Back During the Holiday Season

At Bank Five Nine, we believe that the holidays are about giving AND giving back! 

Here are 12 great and easy ways that you can give back during the season.

  • Donate your time. Time is invaluable and volunteers are an appreciated resource for a non-profit organization (many of which look for extra help around the holidays).
  • Donate gently used clothing.
  • Donate canned food. Buy a few extra cans of soup. Nonperishable food drives are happening everywhere during the holidays. It costs you just a few dollars, but means so much to someone receiving them.
  • Pay it forward. Buying a coffee while shopping for all of those holiday gifts? Pay for the coffee for the person behind you.
  • Support the troops. Send holiday cards or care packages to those who are away from their family and friends during the holiday season. Some great ideas for care packages are listed here.
  • Visit a nursing home: During the holidays, senior citizens may experience loneliness. A good way to give back to the community is to visit senior citizens in your community.
  • Shop with organizations that give back!
  • Sponsor a family with the Christmas Clearing Council! Bank Five Nine employees pair up with this great organization each year during the holiday season. Since 1949, CCC of Waukesha County has promoted and coordinated giving to families in need during the Christmas season.
  • Help an elderly neighbor put up their Christmas lights or shovel their driveway!
  • Give blood. Giving blood costs you nothing, generally takes less than an hour, and could save a life. Click here to see where the American Red Cross will be and schedule an appointment!
  • Volunteer at a local animal shelter. Are you an animal lover? Make a new fur friend at the local animal shelter by volunteering to be a dog walker.
  • Give a monetary donation to a charity or organization.

Your Top Mortgage Questions Answered

Whether you’re purchasing or refinancing your first home or your hundredth, Bank Five Nine is with you each step of the way to help navigate the process for you.  Keep reading to hear our frequently asked mortgage questions answered. 

Mortgage Questions Answered: What is APR?

APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate.  To make it easier for consumers to compare mortgage loan interest rates, the federal government developed a standard format called an “Annual Percentage Rate” or APR to provide an effective interest rate for comparison shopping purposes.  Some of the costs that you pay at closing are factored into the APR for ease of comparison.  Your actual monthly payments are based on the periodic interest rate, not the APR.

Click here to view our Mortgage Glossary Blog that will walk you through the most common mortgage terms!

Mortgage Questions Answered: Is comparing APRs the best way to decide which lender has the lowest rates and fees?

The Federal Truth in Lending Act requires all financial institutions to disclose the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) when they advertise a rate. The APR is designed to present the actual cost of obtaining financing, by requiring some of the closing fees charged at closing be included, in addition to the interest rate, to determine the cost of financing over the full term of the loan. For adjustable-rate mortgages, the APR can be complicated. Since no one knows exactly what market conditions will be in the future, assumptions must be made regarding future rate adjustments. You can use the APR as a guideline to shop for loans but you should not depend solely on the APR in choosing the loan program that’s best for you. The APR doesn’t include all the closing costs. Consider the total fees, possible rate adjustments in the future if you are comparing adjustable rate mortgages, and consider the length of time you plan on having the mortgage. Don’t forget the APR is an effective interest rate – not the actual interest rate. Your monthly payments will be based on the actual interest rate, the amount you borrow, and the term of your loan.

Mortgage Questions Answered: I am selling my current home to purchase a new home. What type of documentation will be required?

If you’re selling your current home to purchase your new home, we’ll ask you to provide a copy of the settlement or closing statement you’ll receive at the closing to verify your current mortgage has been paid in full and you’ll have sufficient funds for our closing. Often the closing of your current home is scheduled for the same day as the closing of your new home. If that’s the case, we’ll just ask you to bring your settlement statement with you to your new mortgage closing.

Mortgage Questions Answered: I was in school before obtaining my current job. How do I complete an application?

If you were in school before your current job, enter the name of the school you attended and the length of time you were in school in the “length of employment” fields. You can enter a position of “student” and an income of “0.”

Mortgage Questions Answered: I’m getting a gift from someone else. Is this an acceptable source of my down payment?

Gifts are an acceptable source of the down payment if the gift giver is related to you or your co-borrower. We’ll ask you for the name, address, and phone number of the gift giver, as well as the donor’s relationship with you. Prior to closing, we’ll verify the gift funds have been transferred to you by obtaining a copy of your bank receipt or deposit slip.

Mortgage Questions Answered: I’ve had a few employers in the last few years. Will that affect my ability to get a new mortgage?

Having changed employers frequently is typically not a hindrance to obtaining a new mortgage loan. This is particularly true if you made employment changes without having periods of time in between without employment. We’ll also look at your income advancements as you have changed employment. If you’re paid on a commission basis, a recent job change may be an issue since we’ll have a difficult time predicting your earnings without a history with your new employer.

Mortgage Questions Answered: I’m self-employed. How will you verify my income?

Generally, the income of self-employed borrowers is verified by obtaining copies of personal (and business, if applicable) federal tax returns for the most recent two-year period to confirm the income is stable. We’ll review and average the net income from self-employment that’s reported on your tax returns to determine the income that can be used to qualify.

Mortgage Questions Answered: What is an escrow or impound account?

An escrow or impound account is set up by your lender during the loan closing to pay property taxes, fire and hazard insurance premiums, mortgage insurance premiums, and other escrow items on a monthly basis. Escrow accounts also protect homeowners from having to come up with several large, lump-sum payments at different times throughout the year.

Mortgage Questions Answered: How much money will I save by choosing a 15-year loan rather than a 30-year loan?

A 15-year fixed-rate mortgage gives you the option to own your home free and clear in 15 years unless you refinance before paying the loan in full. While the monthly payments are somewhat higher than a 30-year loan, the interest rate on the 15-year mortgage is usually a little lower; and more importantly – you’ll pay less than half the total interest cost of the traditional 30-year mortgage. However, if you can’t afford the higher monthly payment of a 15-year mortgage, don’t feel alone. Many borrowers find the higher payment out of reach and choose a 30-year mortgage.

Mortgage Questions Answered: What is the difference between a fixed-rate and an adjustable-rate mortgage?

A fixed-rate mortgage is a home loan with steady interest rates and monthly payments that do not change throughout the life of the loan. Fixed-rate mortgages are available in varying terms from 10 to 30 years.   An Adjustable Rate Mortgage, or ARM, means the interest rate adjusts on a regular schedule to correspond to current rates, usually once or twice a year. The interest rate and payments rise and fall with the index, such as the Treasury Bill rate, Prime rate, or LIBOR. ARMs come with an interest rate cap that limits the total amount your rate can change over the life of the loan.

Is a fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgage better?

No one loan product is objectively better than another. The best mortgage for you depends on a variety of factors, including your financial situation and housing goals. Generally speaking, adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) offer lower initial interest rates than fixed rate loans, but also have the potential to fluctuate every month, every six months, or every year, depending on the type of adjustable mortgage you get. An ARM therefore may be more attractive to homeowners who plan to sell their home in the timeframe before the adjustable rate surpasses a fixed-rate loan. On the other hand, homeowners who plan to remain in their home, or who want more stability in their rate and monthly payments, may find a longer-term 15, 20, or 30 year fixed rate more attractive. A fixed interest rate provides homeowners with a stable mortgage payment that does not change. Ask one of our Home Loan Lenders about Bank Five Nine’s adjustable, short term fixed, and long term fixed rate loan programs to see what can best help you with your individual goals.

How are closing fees determined?

A home loan often involves fees, such as the appraisal fee, title charges, closing fees, and state or local taxes. These fees vary from state to state and also from lender to lender. Any lender or broker should be able to give you an estimate of their fees.

Can I apply for a loan before I find a property to purchase?

Yes. Applying for a mortgage loan before you find a home may be the best thing you could do. If you apply and qualify for your mortgage, we’ll issue an approval subject to you finding the perfect home. You can use the pre-approval letter to assure real estate brokers and sellers that you are a qualified buyer. Having a pre-approval for a mortgage may give more weight to any offer to purchase you make. When you find the perfect home, you’ll simply call your Home Loan Lender to complete your application. You’ll have an opportunity to lock in our great rates and fees, and we’ll complete the processing of your request.

I’ve co-signed a loan for another person. Should I include that debt on my application?

Yes, the debt should be entered in the Liabilities section of the loan application. Generally, a co-signed debt is considered when determining your qualifications for a mortgage. In order to eliminate the debt as a consideration to qualify for the loan, you can provide verification that the primary borrower responsible for the debt has made the required payments, by obtaining copies of their cancelled checks for the last twelve months.

If my property’s appraised value is more than the purchase price can I use the difference towards my down payment?

Unfortunately no. If you are purchasing a home, we’ll have to use the lower of the appraised value or the sales price to determine your down payment requirement. It’s still a great benefit for your financial situation if you are able to purchase a home for less than the appraised value, but our investors don’t allow us to use this “instant equity” when making our loan decision.

Mortgage Questions Answered: What can you expect when you apply for a mortgage?

First, you’ll complete our online application.

The application will ask you questions about the home and your finances and will take approximately 20 minutes to complete. As soon as you’ve finished the application we’ll review your request for a loan and, if authorized by you, will obtain a credit report.

After completing your application, a Bank Five Nine Home Loan Lender will contact you to discuss your loan application. Your Home Loan Lender is a mortgage expert and will explain the process and provide guidance along the way. Your Lender will ask you for any information and documentation required to make a decision about your loan. If you are purchasing a new home, the Lender will also contact the Real Estate Broker or the seller so they’ll know whom to contact with questions.

We’ll send you your application package.

The application package will be sent via U.S. mail or delivered by your Lender and will contain information and documents for you to sign along with a list of items we’ll need you to provide. An application deposit may be requested in the package. We may order an appraisal from a licensed appraiser who is familiar with home values in your area. Depending on your loan amount request and value of the property an appraiser may need to schedule an appointment to view the interior of the home.

Title insurance will be necessary. If you’re purchasing a home, we’ll work with the real estate broker or seller to ensure the title work is ordered as soon as possible. If you are refinancing we’ll take care of ordering the title work for you. We’ll use the title insurance to confirm the legal status of your property and to prepare the closing documents.

Your Lender will keep you informed every step of the way via telephone or email.

We’ll contact you to coordinate your closing date.

After we have received the application package from you, including requested documentation and application deposit, appraisal, and title work, we’ll review the application and your Home Loan Lender will be in contact to advise you if your loan is approved with or without changes.

If you are purchasing a home, we’ll also schedule the closing with the real estate broker and the seller. For a refinance of your current mortgage, your Home Loan Lender will coordinate the time and place for closing with you.

The closing will take place at one of our offices, or the office of a title company in your area who will act as our agent. A few days before closing, your lender will contact you to walk you through the final information.

Mortgage Questions Answered: Will the inquiry about my credit during the loan process affect my credit score?

An abundance of credit inquiries can sometimes affect your credit scores since it may indicate your use of credit is increasing. However, the data used to calculate your credit score doesn’t include any mortgage or auto loan credit inquiries that are made within the 30 days prior to the score being calculated. In addition, all mortgage inquiries made in any 14-day period are always considered one inquiry.

Mortgage Questions Answered: What is an appraisal and who completes it?

An appraisal report is a written description and estimate of the value of the property. National standards govern not only the format for the appraisal; they also specify the appraiser’s qualifications and credentials. In addition, most states now have licensing requirements for appraisers evaluating properties located within their states. The appraiser will create a written report for us and a copy will be delivered to you prior to your loan closing. Usually, the appraiser will inspect both the interior and exterior of the home. In some cases, only an exterior inspection will be necessary based on your financial strength and the location of the home. Exterior-only inspections usually save time and money, but if you’re purchasing a new home, we will require a full inspection. After the appraiser inspects the property, they will compare the qualities of your home with other homes that have sold recently in the same neighborhood. These homes are called “comparables” and play a significant role in the appraisal process. Using industry guidelines, the appraiser will try to weigh the major components of these properties (i.e., design, square footage, number of rooms, lot size, age, etc.) to the components of your home to come up with an estimated value of your home. The appraiser adjusts the price of each comparable sale (up or down) depending on how it compares (better or worse) with your property.

Mortgage Questions Answered: What is title insurance and why do I need it?

Get ready to read a bit more than a few lines for this answer!

The answer is simple: The purchase of a home is most likely one of the most expensive and important purchases you will ever make. You, and your mortgage lender, want to make sure the property is indeed yours: That no individual or government entity has any right, lien, claim, or encumbrance on your property.

The function of a title insurance company is to make sure your rights and interests to the property are clear, that transfer of title takes place efficiently and correctly, and that your interests as a homebuyer are fully protected.

Title insurance companies provide services to buyers, sellers, real estate developers, builders, mortgage lenders, and others who have an interest in real estate transfer. Title companies typically issue two types of title policies:
1.Owner’s Policy. This policy covers you, the homebuyer.
2.Lender’s Policy. This policy covers the lending institution over the life of the loan.

Both types of policies are issued at the time of closing for a one-time premium if the loan is a purchase. If you are refinancing your home, you probably already have an owner’s policy that was issued when you purchased the property, so we’ll only require a lender’s policy to be issued.

Before issuing a policy, the title company performs an in-depth search of the public records to determine if anyone other than you has an interest in the property. The search may be performed by title company personnel using either public records or, more likely, the information contained in the company’s own title plant. After a thorough examination of the records, any title problems are usually found and can be cleared up prior to your purchase of the property. Once a title policy is issued, if any claim covered under your policy is ever filed against your property, the title company will pay the legal fees involved in the defense of your rights. They are also responsible to cover losses arising from a valid claim. This protection remains in effect as long as you or your heirs own the property.

The fact that title companies try to eliminate risks before they develop makes title insurance significantly different from other types of insurance. Most forms of insurance assume risks by providing financial protection through a pooling of risks for losses arising from an unforeseen future event; say a fire, accident, or theft. On the other hand, the purpose of title insurance is to eliminate risks and prevent losses caused by defects in the title that may have happened in the past.

This risk elimination has benefits to both the homebuyer and the title company. It minimizes the chances that adverse claims might be raised, thereby reducing the number of claims that have to be defended or satisfied. This keeps costs down for the title company and the premiums low for the homebuyer.  Buying a home is a big step emotionally and financially. With title insurance, you are assured that any valid claim against your property will be borne by the title company, and the odds of a claim being filed are unlikely.

Mortgage Questions Answered: What happens at the loan closing?

If you get a loan from Bank Five Nine, your closing will take place at a Bank Five Nine branch or the office of a title company or attorney in your area who will act as our agent. If you are purchasing a new home, the seller may also be at the closing to transfer ownership to you, but in some states, these two events actually happen separately. During the closing, you will be reviewing and signing your loan documents. The Home Loan Lender or closing agent conducting the closing should be able to answer any questions you have or you can feel free to contact Bank Five Nine if you prefer. Your Home Loan Lender will contact you a few days before closing to review your final fees, loan amount, first payment date, etc.

Ready to take the next step?

How to Understand Mortgage Language

If you are buying a home, it may be the largest purchase you make during your lifetime. You want everything to run smoothly from finding the right house, to having your mortgage approved. You may discover that there is a lot of mortgage terminology to learn when it comes to homes.

To understand the main aspects of the mortgage process, take some time to familiarize yourself with some of the mortgage terminology home buyers encounter:

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)

A mortgage in which the interest rate is adjustable, meaning the rate can go up or down according to current financial market conditions.

Adjustment Frequency

How often the interest rate changes or resets on an Adjustable Rate Mortgage. Typically, the adjustment frequency is once a year, but it can be as often as once a month or as infrequently as once every five years.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

The actual cost of borrowing money, shown in the form of a yearly rate. The APR may be higher than the interest rate stated in the note due to the fact that it may include the interest, loan discount points, fees, and/or mortgage insurance.

Assumption

An agreement between a buyer and seller in which the buyer assumes responsibility for the seller’s existing mortgage. This agreement usually saves the buyer money because closing costs and current interest rates, which could be higher, do not apply.

Buydown

In exchange for more money upfront, lenders are willing to lower the interest rate they charge, thereby lowering the borrower’s payments.

Cap

The highest rate an Adjustable Rate Mortgage can rise to in a specified period of time.

Closing

At the conclusion of a real estate sale, the meeting in which the property and funds are exchanged between the two parties involved.

Debt-to-Income Ratio

This ratio is calculated by dividing a borrower’s monthly payments, including credit cards and other loans, by the borrower’s gross monthly income. It is used by lending institutions to determine whether a person qualifies for a mortgage.

Discount Points

Fees paid to a lender at closing in order to lower the mortgage interest rate. A point is equal to 1 percent of the loan amount. One discount point for $100,000 would cost $1,000.

Down Payment

The amount of money allocated by the buyer toward the purchase price of a home.

Earnest Money

A modest cash deposit paid by a prospective buyer to prove good faith to bind the sale of real estate. Typically, earnest money becomes part of the down payment if the offer is accepted. It is generally returned if the offer is rejected or forfeited if the buyer backs out of the deal.

Equity

The value an owner has in real estate above the amount of debt on the property. For example, a homeowner with a house worth $100,000 and an $80,000 mortgage has $20,000 in equity.

Escrow Account

An account in which money for property taxes and insurance is held until paid. Money is added to the account each time a mortgage payment is made.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

A federal agency established to advance homeownership opportunities. The FHA assists homebuyers by providing mortgage insurance to lenders to cover losses that may occur when a borrower defaults. As a result, lenders are encouraged to make loans to borrowers who might not qualify for conventional mortgages.

Fixed Rate Mortgage

A mortgage in which your loan payment and interest rate are fixed for the life of the loan.

Interest Only Loan

A loan in which only the interest is paid for a stated term (usually a short period of one to five years) or during a construction period.

Loan-to-Value Ratio

The ratio between the amount of the mortgage loan and the appraised value of the property.

Market Value

In a competitive and open market, this is the probable sale price of a property.

Mortgage Insurance

Insurance designed to cover the lender if the borrower defaults on the loan. Depending on the mortgage and the loan-to-value ratio, mortgage insurance may be required by the lender.

Origination Fee

A lender fee for work involved in preparing and servicing a mortgage application (usually one percent of the loan amount).

PITI

Stands for principal, interest, taxes and insurance – the components of a monthly mortgage payment.

Underwriting

The decision-making process of granting a loan to a potential homebuyer.

Vacationing: Without all the Financial Stress

If you have a vacation on the horizon, you probably have visions of a relaxing, fun, and stress-free getaway. However, unless you’re one of the lucky ones, and budget isn’t a concern, the stress of taking a vacation without placing a strain on your everyday finances can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are ways to escape and not jeopardize your finances.

Here are 6 ways to save money on your next vacation –

1. Do Your Research

This seems obvious but can take some time and is non-negotiable if you want to save money. Consider travel guides, websites and travel agencies. Travel agencies can be a big help if you’re short on time, or aren’t sure where to get started. Most important, don’t overlook your friends, family and co-workers. They may offer invaluable advice and tips, and may even own or have access to a place you could stay for less than the standard rate. Check ahead for free admission opportunities and local events that don’t cost money, but will provide a fun, educational outing.

2.  Travel Outside of Peak Times

Consider traveling during off-peak times, maybe just after or just before the popular months, when the weather may still be at its best, but the rates less. According to most travel experts, it is always good to avoid traveling on Friday or Sunday, as they are the most common days for travel, and, therefore, the most expensive.

3. Consider Alternate Lodging

Camping is always a less expensive option (and a great way to bond with your loved ones), but if outdoor living isn’t for you, there are still many ways to save money.

  • Shopping online for hotels can save you big bucks. You can compare pricing and many times a hotel room is less online than it is when calling the hotel direct. Consider bundling your flight and rental car and you’ll save even more.
  • Hostels aren’t just for the young backpackers anymore. Couples and families all use them, but keep in mind, this requires a little extra research to ensure it turns out the way you want it to.
  • Rent a house, condo or cabin if you’re planning on staying in one place for more than a day or two. This is another place the Internet comes in handy. There are websites out there just for this and they often have pictures, reviews and pricing options.
4. Pack Smart

If you’re taking a road trip, pack all the necessities so you don’t have to purchase basic toiletries and everyday items at twice the price. Consider packing snacks and breakfast bars to save on the cost of food as well.

5. Buses, Trains, and Automobiles

Sometimes flying a whole family to a destination vacation spot seems to cost more than your first car. If that’s the case, it may be time to consider hopping in the car, taking Amtrak, or heading to the bus station. Be sure to weigh out all your options though. Using up gas, time and your sanity can be costly. Keep in mind, the train and bus are less expensive and a great way to take in the scenery and a good book.

6. Staycations

Whether it’s because of cost, health issues, or work obligations, for many of us a big trip just isn’t in the cards. The good news is that it doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun, relaxing vacation. The whole point of a staycation is to get “away,” without all the cost, hassle, and hours on the road. Consider treating a stay at home just as you would a vacation away: shut off your phones and laptops, close down the kitchen, and leave the day-to-day chores until after your vacation. Then get creative. Sleep in a tent in the front yard, or even your living room. Go sightseeing, geocaching, or canoeing – whatever you would do in the area if you didn’t live there, but decided to vacation there.

We’re here to help! To learn more about savings options, call or stop in today.

4 Tips for a More Merry, Stress-Free Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday season is right around the corner, a time for festivities, cheer, and reunions with family and friends. But as we deck the halls or spin the dreidel, many of us will have something else on our mind: money. In fact, more than three in four Americans overspend during the holiday season, with the average household adding nearly $1,000 in debt. While it may seem like a fact of life, going into gift-purchase debt is not inevitable. In today’s post, we’ll offer four key tips to stress-free holiday spending, allowing you to devote yourself to some worry-free celebrating.

1.  Make a Budget
A good rule of thumb from financial advisors is to spend no more than 1.5 percent of your annual income on holiday expenses. If you earn $65,000 a year, for example, your holiday budget should top out at $975. Once you’ve established your maximum, you can then then make a list of potential spending – on gifts, food, entertaining, travel – and see what might need to be modified or cut. To prevent yourself from scrambling to save right before the holidays, it’s a good idea to establish a holiday fund ahead of time. For instance, if you start at the beginning of the year and tuck away 10 percent of your budget each month, you’ll roll into the holidays with the money you need and a spending limit to keep you in check. 

Need to brush up on your budgeting skills? We’ve got you covered with our budgeting module

2.  Be Smart with Credit
When used wisely, credit cards can be your friend: many of them offer special offers like reward points and travel miles, leveraging your everyday purchases to bring that perfect gift or special holiday trip within reach. And with purchase protection, you’ll be protected for losses in a way you may not be if you pay in cash. So how to enjoy the benefits of credit cards without the dangers? First, choose a credit card that allows you to repay purchases over time, without interest. Second, make sure you pay the balance due in full and on time – every single month.

3.  Know Your Limits
If your finances don’t allow you to buy everyone on your list a gift, be honest with yourself about it. There are plenty of other ways to show people that you care: by spending time with them, sharing a plate of cookies or treats, making your own gifts, or choosing a small, personalized present instead of a larger, expensive one. Another popular idea is getting everyone in your circle of family or friends to draw one name to give a gift to, with the recipient having to guess who their gift-giver was. Getting creative helps you spread holiday cheer without inadvertently bouncing checks or racking up overdraft fees, which could hurt your ability to obtain credit from your bank in the future, or even, if left unattended, reduce your overall credit score. 

Want more info on overdrafts – and how to avoid them? View our interactive module here

4.  Secure Your Information 
With each passing year, more holiday shoppers opt to avoid the lines and crowds by purchasing their gifts online. But however convenient and comfortable, online shopping is not risk-free: according to a study by Javelin Strategy and Research, 16.7 million US customers were the victims of identity fraud in 2017, with a total of $16.8 billion stolen. Fortunately, there are some basic steps you can take to protect your information, such as monitoring your accounts, securing your devices, and placing security freezes on your credit reports. And, of course, if you are the victim of identity theft, it is important to respond rapidly. Learn how to keep yourself data safe with our short identity protection video

In today’s world, holiday stress might feel as American as apple pie – but it doesn’t have to! With a budget, a holiday spending fund, smart use of credit, honest limits, and protected information, you can make your holiday season more like a Hallmark special and less like National Lampoon’s. To find out more about stress-free holiday shopping and about smart finances in general, check out our online financial education program here!

This article was developed as part of Bank Five Nine’s partnership with EVERFI, Inc.

Budget Friendly Ideas for Thanksgiving

Here are some ideas to enjoy the holiday this year – and on a budget!

Buy in season.
Sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkin should be more affordable than many other fresh veggies during this time of the year, and they’re pretty much as autumn as you can get.

Use what you already have.
You may have some cans in the back of your cabinet that you totally forgot about or even some frozen vegetables way in the back of your freezer. Before you get started on your shopping list, see what you can make with what you already have in your kitchen and pantry.

Don’t be afraid of frozen vegetables.
It would be shocking if anyone realized the green beans you put in the casserole were purchased from the frozen section of the grocery store. Most frozen veggies are frozen just after they’re picked, so they will still be good and they are more affordable.

Collect those deals for your shopping list.
Shop tactically by collecting or looking up all of the Thanksgiving grocery store coupons the week before Thanksgiving. Compare prices between stores on all the items you need (via coupons or even online), then make a shopping plan to pick up everything at the most affordable price.

Look up budget friendly recipes.
We are sure you already have a whole collection of classic Thanksgiving recipes that you want to make, but it doesn’t hurt to learn some more or substitute a few this year. Head over to Pinterest to search for some budget-friendly options and make sure to follow the Bank Five Nine Pinterest page while you’re over there.

Buy in bulk.
Buying in bulk saves money, and if there are a few of the items you are making that have ingredients you use frequently, it’s a good way to save over time.  If you can, make extra servings of the meal and use your freezer to enjoy some of your Thanksgiving favorites all year long.

Figure out your turkey needs and do a little math.
Does it make sense to buy a whole bird, or could you settle for some breasts, thighs, and/or drumsticks? Since the CDC is suggesting that this year’s Thanksgiving tables be a little smaller while limiting the number of guests, maybe you  do not need a whole turkey. If you have family or friends who prefer chicken anyway, it could be the cheaper option.

Remember what the holiday is about.
Most of us at Thanksgiving reflect on what we are thankful for and although we don’t have to be thankful for the pandemic, but we can be thankful through it. We encourage you to write down a few things you are thankful for to share with those you’re close with.  We will get it started! Bank Five Nine is grateful for those who choose to bank with us!

Inexpensive Activities To Do With Your Kids This Fall

  1. Visit a pumpkin patch and carve a pumpkin! Have younger kids? Have them paint the pumpkin instead.
  2. Roast pumpkin seeds.
  3. Make a pressed leaf journal.
  4. Craft a cozy no-sew blanket together (click here for a step by step instruction sheet).
  5. Take them apple picking. Check out this  list of Wisconsin apple picking orchards.
  6. Do some baking! Not wanting to do the classic pumpkin or apple pie? Decorate some fall shape cookies instead. Click here for some fall cookie cutters.
  7. Have a (PG) Halloween movie night. Click here for a list of kid friendly Halloween movies!
  8. Make a pinecone bird feeder.
  9. Have an apple cider “tea” party.
  10. Thanksgiving arts and craft.
    • Grab some craft paper and make some homemade Thanksgiving cards for your loved ones to give them during the holiday season
    • Make a thankful hand turkey by having them list what they are thankful for on the fingers.
  11. Camping – indoors! Grab some flashlights and build a tent out of couch cushions and sheets. Roast marshmallows in the microwave and sip on hot chocolate or cider while you watch a family friendly movie.
  12. Fall scavenger hunt! Create a fall scavenger hunt sheet with items that the kids need to look for on the walk. Below you’ll find a print out to get you started!

Senior Discounts and Savings

While 65 is the age to officially claim Medicare and Social Security benefits, many senior perks and discounts start much earlier as not all companies classify seniors in the same way! If you enroll in an AARP or Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) membership on your 50th birthday, you’ll have a head start cashing in on senior discounts. For all other discounts, the minimum age requirements vary based on the company or location and can range from 50 to 65 years of age.

Here is a good overview of some of Senior Discounts that are available!

RetailerDiscountEligibility
Amazon Prime50% off Prime membershipMust be a qualifying government assistance recipient, including SSI and SNAP
CVS ExtraCareEarn 2% back in ExtraBucks Rewards every time you use your ExtraCare cardCVS ExtraCare card member
CVS Veterans Advantage20% off your purchaseVetRewards member
Home DepotPrice match guaranteeNo age requirement
Goodwill Senior Savings Day10% off your purchase60+ years
JOANN Senior Discount Day20% off your purchase55+ years; must present a state-issued photo ID for proof of age upon checkout to receive discount
Kohl’s15% off your purchase60+ years; must present a state-issued photo ID, which is required at checkout
Lowe’s Veteran Program10% off your purchaseMilitary veterans must first enroll online; valid photo ID required at checkout
Ross Dress for Less 55+ Program10% off your purchase55+ years; must provide a photo ID at checkout
Michaels10% off your purchase55+ years; Must create a Michaels Rewards account
Walgreens Seniors Day20% off eligible items and cash rewards55+ years or an AARP member; must create a myWalgreens account
RestaurantDiscountEligibility
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. (Minnesota)Save 10% on food and nonalcoholic beveragesPresent AARP card at checkout
Bonefish GrillSave 10% on food and nonalcoholic beveragesPresent AARP card at checkout
Carrabba’s Italian GrillSave 10% on food and nonalcoholic beveragesPresent AARP card at checkout
Denny’sSave 15% off your check; dine from Denny’s 55+ menuPresent AARP card member to save 15%; 55+ years for the senior menu
IHOPDine from IHOP’s 55+ menu55+ years
Joe’s Crab ShackSave 10% on food and nonalcoholic beveragesPresent AARP card at checkout
Landry’s Inc. RestaurantsSave 10% on food and nonalcoholic beveragesPresent AARP card at checkout
McCormick & Schmick’s (Illinois)Save 10% on food and nonalcoholic beveragesPresent AARP card at checkout
McDonald’sDiscounted or free coffee at participating locations55+ years
PerkinsDine from Perkin’s Fifty-Five Plus menu at participating locations55+ years
Outback SteakhouseSave 10% on food and nonalcoholic beveragesPresent AARP card at checkout
CompanyDiscountEligibility
AMC TheatresDiscounted movie tickets at select locations60+ years
AudibleSave $2 per month for monthly membership, or save $30 on an annual membershipAARP member
AncestrySave 30 percent on a World Explorer or All Access membership for the first yearAARP member
Marcus Theatres and Movie TavernYoung at Heart special: $6.00 for any show that starts before 5:30 p.m.60+ years
National Parks America the Beautiful Senior Pass$20 annual park pass or $80 lifetime park pass provides admittance to more than 2,000 recreation sites62+ years; must provide proof of age and residency or citizenship. A $10 fee applies to passes bought online or by mail
SilverSneakersFree healthy living and fitness classes at over 17,000 fitness locations & online65+ years and a member of select Medicare or other health plans
TicketmasterSave on tickets to select shows and eventsAARP member
Cruise companyDiscountEligibility
AARP Travel Center Powered by ExpediaUp to $300 in extra onboard credits on select cruisesAARP member
Carnival CruisesExclusive savings for seniors55+ years
Collette Cruise ToursSave $50 per person on cruise toursAARP member
Grand European TravelSave up to $100 per person on over 30 luxury river cruisesAARP member
Royal CaribbeanExclusive senior pricing on selected sailings55+ years
Vacations By RailSave 5% on more than 40 rail and cruise vacationsAARP member
Hotel or rental carDiscountEligibility
Avis Rent a CarSave up to 30% off Avis’ base rates, plus get an upgrade on compact through full-size car class bookingsAARP member
Budget Rent a CarSave up to 30% off Budget’s base rates, plus get an upgrade on compact through full-size car class bookingsAARP member
Budget Truck RentalSave 10% to 20% on truck rentalsAARP member
Best Western Hotels & ResortsSave 5% to 15% at over 4,000 hotels worldwideAARP member
Cambria HotelsSave up to 10% off the best available rateAARP member
Choice HotelsSave 10% on advance reservations60+ years or an AARP member
HertzSave up to 20% off Hertz’s base rates with the Fifty Plus Program50+ years
IHG Hotels & ResortsSave with IHG’s Senior Discount Rate program62+ years
MarriottOffers a senior discount rate at participating locations62+ years
Payless Car RentalSave 5% on leisure daily, weekly, weekend, and monthly base rates, plus get a free upgrade on compact through full-size car class bookingsAARP member
Thrifty Car RentalJoin the Silver Thrifty Club and save 5%50+ years
Wyndham HotelsSave 10% off Wyndham’s best available rateAARP member
ZipcarSave 43% off an annual Zipcar membership, plus $40 in free driving creditAARP member
TransportationDiscountEligibility
AmtrakSave 10% on most rail fares on most Amtrak trains65+ years
British AirwaysSave $65 off World Traveller (economy) and World Traveller Plus (premium economy) or $200 off Club World (business class) fares when you purchase round-trip transatlantic tickets online to over 130 destinationsAARP member
Delta AirlinesSenior discounts are available for limited itinerariesCall Delta’s customer care at 800-221-1212 to find out if your flight is eligible for the discounted fare
GreyhoundSenior discounts are available for specific destinations and dates62+ years
United AirlinesSave on senior fares to select travel destinations65+ years

Source: Seniorliving.org

Starting an Emergency Savings Account

When things are going well, saving for an emergency can seem unimportant.  However, once an unexpected life event happens, having savings for it can feel extra significant. (We are talking about true emergencies here – like a pandemic, an unexpected visit to the emergency room or an emergency home/car repair. We are not discussing an unexpected sale on your favorite brand of shoes.)  Having a fund set aside for emergencies can turn a true crisis into more of an inconvenience, and allows you peace of mind that if something unfortunate would happen, you’d have a financial cushion in place.  

Having an emergency fund can help you with the following things:

  • First and foremost, it will keep you prepared.
  • It will help you to avoid debt. There is of course other ways you can quickly access cash, like borrowing, but keep in mind this comes with interest, fees, and possible additional penalties. Debt can quickly snowball if you’re not able to pay it off at the end of the month.
  • It will give you peace of mind and less stress. Being prepared with an emergency fund gives you self-assurance that you can handle life’s unexpected events without adding money worries to your list.

Where should you keep an emergency fund?
Your emergency fund should be kept in a safe place where you can get to it easily and quickly.  

  • A separate savings account connected to your checking account.
    • If the emergency fund is just for you, choose an individual account.
    • If a spouse or someone else will possibly need to access the account, you may want to consider a joint account. (Learn about joint accounts here.)
  • A money market account that comes with a debit card or allows check-writing. (Bank Five Nine’s Money Market accounts comes with both, as well as ATM access.)  
     

How big should an emergency fund be?

The standard advice or rule of thumb is that you should save at least 3-6 months of living expenses for emergencies.  Keep in mind that the size of an emergency fund can vary depending on your lifestyle, monthly costs, income, and number of people in your household. We suggest starting with a goal of 3-6 months, and then work your way up to a year. (Something many people learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that an unexpected crisis can drag on for a lot longer than anyone is prepared to handle.)

What are a few ways to start saving for an emergency fund?

  • Make a budget (or look at your current one) to see where, and how much, you can start saving money to put towards an emergency fund.
  • Automate your savings to make consistent contributions. Set up an automatic transfer from checking to savings each paycheck via direct deposit. This helps remove the temptation to spend extra money in your budget.
  • Save part or all of your tax refunds, economic impact payments and rebates and put them toward boosting your emergency fund.
  • If you have the opportunity, gradually increase your contributions.  If you are just starting your emergency fund and feel overwhelmed – start small. After you get used to saving, you can increase the dollar amount over time.

Having an emergency fund gives you some financial control over how you react to unforeseen events. As a bonus, this also can help you stay on track for other savings goals. 

Bank Five Nine has the products and expertise to help you through budgeting, savings, credit, and more.  Compare saving options, or learn more about building your emergency fund in our learning module on emergency savings here, or contact one of our personal bankers.

Questions to Ask Your Home Inspector

In general, all home inspectors should examine and evaluate the following during the home inspection:
•    Exterior: siding, doors, windows, and trim
•    Structure of the Home: walls, basement, crawlspaces and framing structure
•    Heating and Cooling Systems: systems and ductwork
•    Plumbing: plumbing pipes and plumbing fixtures
•    Electrical: panels, outlets, switches, and visible wiring
•    Attic, Insulation and Ventilation: accessible attic spaces, insulation, and ventilation sources
•    Roof: coverings, visible flashings, chimneys, and gutter systems 
•    Doors, Windows and Interior: this includes doors, operation of windows, and interior wall, floor, and ceiling conditions
•    Fireplace: cleanouts, damper doors, and gas inserts

Here are some great questions to ask your home inspector after they do the home inspection. 
1. What condition is the house in?  This will help you discover if the house is move in ready or needs some work prior to move in. Most houses do have some small problems and they are not always deal breakers. If there is something that is a deal break for you – that is exactly why you’re having the home inspection done! You can address it with the seller prior to purchase, or in some cases may need to walk away.

2. How do we fix that? The inspector should be able to recommend a quick fix or an expert that can help you fix the issue. It’s also not a bad idea to call in another expert—a plumber, electrician, roofer, or HVAC professional—to take a look at anything the inspector flagged as a concern or issue.

3. What would you fix first? This question will help you decide how to prioritize repairs. At the end of the inspection, your inspector should give you a summary of what he found. You’ll get a written report later, but this is a great moment to get clarity on what the inspector thinks are the house’s biggest issues and fixes. 

4. Should we know how “x” works? Learn how appliances work and the maintenance for them. Flaws aside, a home inspection is your golden opportunity to have an expert show you how to take care of your house. Inspectors are used to explaining basic things. If you have an inspection question, ask it.  Now with that in mind, don’t expect your inspector to teach you how to build a deck onto your house, but they should be okay with explaining how general things in your home should work.

5. How much time is left in “x” item? Get an estimate of when you will likely need to replace appliances (or when they can see the warranty ends). This helps you budget for the future! Maybe something is all good and dandy for now, but having a timeline for when it may need to be replaced can help you save for when that time comes.

We do suggest you hold your questions until the end of the inspection. This allows the home inspector to complete his work fully and thoroughly. If you ask the questions while he is doing the inspection, this may distract the inspector causing him to miss critical items.

Whether you’re purchasing or refinancing your first home or your hundredth, Bank Five Nine is with you each step of the way to help navigate the process for you. We have a team of mortgage lenders ready to help with all your home financing needs and questions! Contact or choose a lender to get started

Not ready to contact a lender quite yet? You can find some additional resources about what to expect during the mortgage process and tools to hopefully help answer some of your questions.