Financial Articles

Advantages of Community Banks

Most people in America bank at one of the big banks. Whether it's because of access needed everywhere, or mergers when they were at a smaller bank, or it's where they opened their first account and never changed, the reasons don't matter, it's a fact. Many people are becoming more distrustful of the big banks, and looking at alternatives. While many may be discouraged about switching because they think they'll lose some services, that is not true. Community banks offer the full range of banking services, often with lower costs and better rates than at larger institutions.

Much of the recent innovation in banking has taken place online. Many of us have no need to write checks anymore, so we can do most of our banking online. We get our paychecks electronically, we check our balances online, we transfer money on our computers or smartphones. There's a lot less that we need to physically go to a bank for.

So say you're looking for a bank with online checking in the state of Minnesota. You aren't limited to just the national banks. Community banks now offer the same online services as their national rivals. Whether you're looking for online checking, online bill pay, or mobile banking, your local community banks have that covered.

In addition to providing the same services as larger banks, local banks also do so at lower cost. The fees at local banks are on average much lower than those at big banks. So you can get the same services at a local bank, and pay lower fees than you normally would.

Another popular misconception is that community banks don't offer all the financial services of larger ones. So no matter what you're looking for, whether it's checking and savings accounts, a mortgage, auto loans, or loans for a small business, make sure that you check out your local bank as well.

In addition, when shopping for a loan, community banks often take your whole situation into account. They won't look at just your credit history, or just at a generic form that every applicant gets. Your situation will be weighed by a loan officer, who will be able to take into account the nuances in your life.

And on top of that, local banks keep their loans in the community, and are often one of the largest sources of lending for small businesses. So if you're looking to support your local businesses in another way, banking at a community bank is a great way to help.

 

The Importance of Saving

No matter how young or old you are, it is not too late to start saving. This could be something as simple as setting aside spare change in a coffee can to something as elaborate as setting up a 401(k). No matter what type of strategy you decide to take, the idea is to start simple and work your way up. That way, saving money becomes part of your lifestyle and regular routines. It is something that you should be thinking about every day, at least a little bit, but it should come so easily that should also not have to give it any thought at all.

Get a coffee can, jar, or piggy bank and toss your spare change in there each time you find some in your pockets. If it is not in your pockets, you will not feel tempted to spend. When the change container gets full, bring it to your bank or to one of those change counting machines. You can either deposit the money into your savings account or put the money into an envelope. Either way is fine, so long as you see the total somewhere.

Continue putting money into the coin container and bringing it to the bank. If you are putting it into your savings account or an envelope, you should see it adding up gradually by now. Use your willpower and do not spend this money. The next step is to move on to a bigger portion of savings. The next time you receive a paycheck, take 10% off the top and put it into your savings account or your savings envelope. If you can afford to keep it in there for one week without hurting your household budget, then you are going to be fine.

Every week, continue saving by counting coins and skimming 10% off the top of each paycheck. How much have you saved so far? Are you noticing a difference in your household budget? If you can feel the pinch, is it significant enough for you to stop skimming the 10% off the top? If so, then stop saving money from your paycheck for one week out of each month to see if that helps. The idea is to be flexible, but to still try to save as much money as possible. After the first six months of saving in this manner, you should see a savings account that you are proud of.

When visiting your bank, ask about savings programs that will help make the most of your money. Explain that you are starting small and that you are taking gradual steps toward building up your savings accounts. Ask them what you can do with your savings once you reach a certain dollar amount to help see your money grow. How can you diversify? How can you roll your investments to see even more growth? What other types of safe investments can you make with your money? Your bank will help answer all of these questions and more.

Need more ideas? Let MidCountry Bank help you with savings tips and innovative online banking services.

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