8 Ways to Simplify Your Financial Life

Sunday, January 21 at 02:00 PM
Category: Personal Finance

As you ring in the New Year, you may make resolutions to spend more time with your family and friends, improve your health, or focus on your financial well-being. To help you get started on that last one, consider taking time to streamline and automate your finances so that you can free up your schedule, alleviate money worries and give your other resolutions the time and effort they deserve.

Here are eight easy ways to get more out of your money and save time.

  1. Use online and mobile banking. Don’t spend valuable time wondering what your account balance is or if a check has cleared your account. Instead of calling the bank or reviewing your monthly account statement, enroll in online and mobile banking to view up-to-the-minute account activity — any time. With these convenient services, you can check balances, transfer funds, and even set account alerts to notify you about specific account activity. Arvest offers Online Banking with BlueIQ™ and Arvest Go mobile banking to help you organize and stay on top of your finances.
  2. Pay bills and people electronically. Think paying bills is a hassle? You can make the process easier by paying bills electronically with online bill payment and transfer services You can pay just about anyone — from your babysitter to the utility company — with just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on your phone. You can even arrange to have recurring bill payments set up to make paying your rent or mortgage easier each month. Arvest BillPay, Arvest to Arvest Transfers and Popmoney are services that give you the control and flexibility you need to move your money where it needs to go.
  3. Set up automatic debits. Need to pay your gym membership or your monthly phone bill? You can save time by having these vendors automatically debit your account each month. Generally, the vendors’ websites will include information regarding automatic debits. You’ll need to provide your account number and routing number to set up the services.
  4. Shop with your debit card. Whether you're going to the grocery store or on a vacation, be sure to bring along your debit card for a fast, safe, and convenient way to pay for purchases. Using a debit card is much faster than writing a check and a lot safer than carrying cash. Arvest Chip-enabled debit cards work anywhere Visa® is accepted.
  5. Deposit checks from your mobile device. Need to deposit a check, but you aren’t near a bank or ATM? With Mobile Check Deposit, you can deposit your check in seconds — right from your mobile device. Enjoy faster access to your money with Mobile Check Deposit.
  6. Sign up for electronic statements. You'll not only save valuable time storing and filing statements; you'll also help save paper and the planet. Arvest e.Statements are available through online banking and delivered as PDF files for most accounts.  
  7. Set up transfers to savings. Saving money is possible, especially when you can arrange to have funds automatically deposited in your savings account each month.
  8. Sign up for direct deposit. Why wait to receive a paper check on payday?  With direct deposit, your funds can be automatically deposited into your checking or savings account on payday, giving you quicker access to your money.

 

Take advantage of automated services to make 2018 the year you bank smarter and save time! 

Tags: Financial Education
 

Saving Money on Gas

Saturday, January 20 at 02:00 PM
Category: Personal Finance

Whether driving cross-town or cross-country, everybody wants to save money at the pump. Regardless of the make and model, your car's estimated gas mileage is just that — an estimate. Here are some simple steps to help you get the most mileage out of your vehicle:

At the Pump

·       Check your owner's manual for the most effective octane level for your car. For most cars, the recommended gasoline is regular octane. In most cases, using a higher octane gas* than the manufacturer recommends offers no benefit — and costs you at the pump. Some cars do require premium fuel, so before you fill up, check your owner's manual to find out if the higher-priced gas is required or just recommended.

·       Shop around. Specialized phone apps and websites can help you find the cheapest gas prices in your area. Also, many gas stations advertise regular weekly specials at their locations.

On the Road

·       Start driving as soon as the engine is started. Modern engines don't need much time to warm up. The engine actually warms up more quickly once the car is operating, and will stay warm after stopping.

·       Don't speed. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 miles per hour. According to Fueleconomy.gov*, each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional 24 cents per gallon for gas.

·       Avoid unnecessary idling. It wastes fuel, costs you money, and pollutes the air. Turn off the engine if you anticipate a wait.

·       Use overdrive gears and cruise control when appropriate. They improve fuel economy when you're driving on the highway.

·       Minimize the need to brake by anticipating traffic conditions. Be alert for slow-downs and red lights. Anticipate bends and turns on familiar roads. Letting up on the gas often eliminates the need for braking.

·       Use the air conditioner only when you absolutely need it. Air conditioning dramatically reduces fuel economy. Most air conditioners have an "economy" setting that allows the circulation of unchilled air. Many also have a "maximum" or "recirculation" setting that reduces the amount of hot outside air that must be chilled. Both settings can reduce the air conditioning load — and save gas.

·       Combine errands. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.

·       Remove excess weight from the trunk. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce a typical car's fuel economy by up to two percent.

·       Avoid packing items on top of your car. A loaded roof rack or carrier creates wind resistance and can decrease fuel economy by five percent.

At the Garage

·       Keep your engine tuned. Tuning your engine according to your owner's manual can increase gas mileage by an average of four percent.

·       Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned. It can increase gas mileage up to three percent, improve handling, and prolong the life of your tires. Check your owner's manual or the door jamb for the proper level of inflation (not the tire itself, which shows the maximum tire inflation pressure); check the tire pressure when the tires are cold, because internal pressure increases when the car has been on the road for a while and the tires heat up.

·       Change your oil. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can improve your gas mileage by using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil. Motor oil that says "Energy Conserving" on the performance symbol of the American Petroleum Institute contains friction-reducing additives that can improve fuel economy.

When Shopping

·       Be skeptical about any gizmo that promises to improve your gas mileage. The EPA has tested supposed gas-saving devices — including "mixture enhancers" and fuel line magnets — and found that very few provided any fuel economy benefits. Those devices that did work provided only a slight improvement in gas mileage. In fact, some products may even damage your car's engine or cause a substantial increase in exhaust emissions. For a full list of tested products, visit www.epa.gov/otaq/consumer/reports.htm*.

Information courtesy of Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.  

    

Tags: Financial Education
 

Give Yourself the Gift of Identity Protection

Tuesday, December 12 at 02:00 PM
Category: Personal Finance

It may not show up on many shopping lists, but identity protection could be one of the biggest gifts consumers can give themselves this holiday season. 

That’s because, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, an estimated 15.4 million consumers were victims of some type of ID theft in 2016. That number is up from 13.1 million in 2015. 

Arvest Bank understands how much people enjoy the holiday season, but we also want to remind everyone that December is Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month. Arvest also wants consumers to know it is critical to know how to help protect themselves from identity thieves because of the long-lasting effects such an attack can have on their credit and bank accounts. 

With that in mind, here are some tips created by the Federal Trade Commission that can help consumers avoid identity theft. 

  • Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home, and lock your wallet or purse in a safe place at work.
  • Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, credit, and debit cards you need. Leave your Social Security card at home.
  • Before you share information at your workplace, a business, your child's school, or a doctor's office, ask why they need it, how they will safeguard it, and the consequences of not sharing.
  • Shred receipts, credit applications and offers, insurance forms, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, and similar documents when you don’t need them any longer.
  • Take outgoing mail to post office collection boxes or the post office. Promptly remove mail that arrives in your mailbox. If you won’t be home for several days, request a vacation hold on your mail.
  • Before you dispose of a computer, get rid of all the personal information it stores. Use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.
  • Before you dispose of a mobile device, check your owner’s manual, the service provider’s website, or the device manufacturer’s website for information on how to delete information permanently, and how to save or transfer information to a new device.
  • Keep your browser secure. To guard your online transactions, use encryption software that scrambles information you send over the internet. A “lock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser means your information will be safe when it’s transmitted. Look for the lock before you send personal or financial information online.
  • Use strong passwords with your laptop, credit, bank, and other accounts. Be creative: think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for some words or letters. For example, “I want to see the Pacific Ocean” could become 1W2CtPo.
  • If you post too much information about yourself via social media, an identity thief can find information about your life, use it to answer ‘challenge’ questions on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal information. Consider limiting access to your networking page to a small group of people. Never post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, or account numbers in publicly accessible sites.
  • Install anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and a firewall. Set your preference to update these protections often.
  • Don’t open files, click on links, or download programs sent by strangers.
  • Before you send personal information over your laptop or smartphone on a public wireless network in a public place, see if your information will be protected. If you use an encrypted website, it protects only the information you send to and from that site. If you use a secure wireless network, all the information you send on that network is protected.
  • Don’t use an automatic login feature that saves your user name and password, and always log off when you’re finished. 

For more information on privacy and identity protection, visit www.ftc.gov* and look for the ‘Tips & Advice’ tab. If you’re interested in the kind of identity-theft protection that includes theft-resolution and file-monitoring services, Arvest offers IDProtect®* with some of its checking accounts. Identity monitoring services can alert you if someone tries to open an account or secure a loan in your name. To learn more about Arvest Bank and IDProtect®, visit www.arvest.com and select IDProtect® under the ‘Personal’ tab.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution

Tags: Financial Education, IDProtect
 

Simple Steps to Save Energy & Money in October

Monday, October 16 at 03:00 PM
Category: Personal Finance

When we think of the month of October, we think of vibrant fall foliage, football games, and, of course, Halloween. But there's another event that happens in October that many of us don't know about, despite the fact that it involves one of our most important and valuable resources — energy.

To promote conservation of this critical resource, October has been dubbed “National Energy Awareness Month.”

Instituted in 1991 by then President George Bush, the annual event is designed to prompt government organizations, businesses, individuals and families to take proactive steps to preserve energy.

Join the Celebration

It doesn't take a lot of effort to do your part to help conserve energy. Here are some simple steps you can take in your home that will not only make a difference in your energy costs, but also make a difference in the future of our planet.

Energy costs:

  • Start by reviewing your utility bills. This will give you a baseline of how much you are spending on energy. After you implement energy conservation steps, compare your bills to see how much you saved.

Electrical costs:

  • Turn off lights in empty rooms or consider putting some lights on timers (such as outside lights).
  • If you're not using your computer monitor for more than 20 minutes, turn it off. And shut down your CPU if you won't be using it for two hours or more.
  • Replace light bulbs with energy-efficient ones.
  • Unplug unused appliances. For example, if you're not charging your cellphone, unplug the charger from the outlet.

Heating and cooling:

  • Schedule regular, routine maintenance on your furnace to ensure it is operating efficiently.
  • Clean or replace filters in your furnaces and air conditioners to keep heating and cooling systems running smoothly.
  • Caulk or replace leaky windows.
Tags: Financial Education
 

12 Ways to Lower Your Health Care Expenses

Monday, October 16 at 02:00 PM
Category: Personal Finance
You may have heard the phrase: "You can't put a price on good health." But anyone who has received a bill from a hospital or gotten sticker shock at the pharmacy, knows that health care in America today is very costly. In fact, managing rising health expenses can be one of the biggest challenges for families.
 
Here are some smart steps you can take to help lower your family's costs:
 
  1. Take care of yourself. If you eat well and regularly exercise, you can lower your risk of illness or injury.
  2. See your doctor. Preventative care is key to maintaining good health, so be sure to visit your doctor and dentist for regular check-ups.
  3. Choose a higher-deductible health insurance plan. If you're healthy and don't go to the doctor more than a few times a year, you may consider choosing a health plan with a higher deductible, which will help keep your premiums lower.
  4. Leave the emergency room for emergencies. Trips to the emergency room can be quite expensive, so try to go only when you need urgent care. For example, if you have a cold, visit your doctor before visiting an emergency room.
  5. Get a flexible spending account. If your employer offers flexible spending accounts, be sure to sign up for one. This will allow you to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses while taking advantage of tax benefits.
  6. Ask for generic drugs. Ask your doctor if there is a generic alternative for medicine prescribed, which could result in significant savings. Also, consider getting your medications at large retailers, which offer set, low prices on generic drugs.
  7. Get mail-order prescriptions. Depending on your health plan, you may also be able to lower your prescription costs by getting your prescriptions through the mail.
  8. Protect yourself. If you lead an active lifestyle, be sure to take precautions, including wearing protective equipment, such as a helmet, padding and a mouthpiece.
  9. Stay in network. If you have to see a specialist, make sure you stay within your health plan's network.
  10. Follow doctor's orders. One way to avoid illness is to follow your doctor's advice. For example, if your doctor tells you to stay in bed and rest, do it.
  11. Review your medical bills. If you receive a bill, be sure to go through all the line items to ensure accuracy. Medical bill errors are very common.
  12. Stop smoking. Smoking not only presents health risks, but also will cost you more for insurance.
Follow these steps and you just may notice a healthy difference in your bank account!
 
 
Tags: Financial Education

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