Fraud Alert for Debit Card Use in California

Over the weekend, F&M Bank received multiple notifications from our fraud detection system of a small number of our Virginia customers’ cards being used for fraudulent purposes in the state of California.

Over the weekend, F&M Bank received multiple notifications from our fraud detection system of a small number of our Virginia customers’ cards being used for fraudulent purposes in the state of California.

As a precautionary measure, F&M has placed a block that requires the use of a PIN in the state of California.

If you are unsure of your PIN number, please notify the bank at 540-896-8941 and we will order a PIN to be mailed to the address on file for your account.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause for you, our valued customer.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our customer support team at 540-896-8941.

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Top 10 Money Tips Every College Student Should Know

As college students head to campus this fall, money management should be on their personal syllabus. It’s important for college students to take control of their financial future by saving wherever and whenever they can. They should treat personal finance like a required college course and avoid unnecessary expenses now to reduce financial burden when they graduate.

Top 10 Money Tips Every College Student Should Know
By Bruce Whitehurst, President & CEO, Virginia Bankers Association

As college students head to campus this fall, money management should be on their personal syllabus. It’s important for college students to take control of their financial future by saving wherever and whenever they can. They should treat personal finance like a required college course and avoid unnecessary expenses now to reduce financial burden when they graduate. Students should consider the following tips to form a strong foundation for money management:

  1. Create a budget. You’re an adult now and are responsible for managing your own finances. The first step is to create a realistic budget or plan and stick to it.
  2. Watch spending. Keep receipts and track spending through a personal financial management app or through Excel or a similar program. Pace spending and increase saving by cutting unnecessary expenses like eating out or shopping so that your money can last throughout the semester.
  3. Use credit wisely. Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit. How you handle your credit in college could affect you well after graduation. It is important to start using credit now so that when you apply for a car loan, a personal loan, or a mortgage, you will have a credit history, which will help your credit score. Shop around for a credit card that best suits your needs.
  4. Take advantage of your bank’s resources. Most banks offer online, mobile and text banking tools to manage your account night and day. Use these tools to check balances, pay bills, deposit checks and monitor transaction history.
  5. Look out for money. There’s a lot of money available for students – you just have to look for it. Apply for scholarships and look for student discounts or other deals.
  6. Buy used. Consider buying used books or ordering them online. Buying books can become expensive and often used books are in just as good of shape as new ones.
  7. Entertain on a budget. Limit your “hanging out” fund. There are lots of fun activities to keep you busy in college and many are free for students. Get the most from your student ID. Use your meal plan or cook meals with friends instead of eating out.
  8. Avoid ATM fees when possible. Use your bank’s ATM when possible and be aware of fees when using other ATMs. If you must use an ATM that charges a fee, take out larger withdrawals to avoid having to go back multiple times.
  9. Expect the unexpected. Things happen, and it’s important that you are financially prepared when your car or computer breaks down or you have to buy an unexpected bus or plane ticket home. You should start putting some money away immediately, no matter how small the amount.
  10. Ask. This is a learning experience, so if you need help, ask. Your parents or your bank are a good place to start, and remember – the sooner the better.

 

About the Virginia Bankers Association

Established in 1893, the Virginia Bankers Association is the unified voice for commercial and savings banks in Virginia. The VBA maintains an active legislative advocacy program, provides training to bankers statewide, and provides a variety of products and services to help its member banks best serve their communities.

About the Author

Following a 10-year career in retail and commercial banking with Jefferson National Bank (now Wells Fargo), Bruce Whitehurst joined the Virginia Bankers Association in 1993. He has served as president and chief executive officer of the association since 2007 and was previously executive vice president. Bruce is passionate about financial literacy and works directly with the VBA Education Foundation, whose mission is to improve personal financial literacy and economic education in all public and private schools in the Commonwealth. The Foundation recognizes the importance of economic education and financial literacy in Virginia and supports the banking industry as a key participant in these areas.

 

Five Ways to Tidy Up Your Personal Finances This Spring

Five Ways to Tidy Up Your Personal Finances This Spring
When it comes to Spring cleaning, it’s time to start thinking outside the box. This spirit of renewal applies to more than just your closet! Spring is an ideal time to dust off your finances and tidy up your budget. Maybe your tax returns have motivated you to increase your emergency savings for the year ahead, or perhaps you need a refresher on the New Year’s resolution you made to improve your credit score? Whatever your situation, now is the perfect time to get your financial house in order.

When it comes to Spring cleaning, it’s time to start thinking outside the box. This spirit of renewal applies to more than just your closet! Spring is an ideal time to dust off your finances and tidy up your budget. Maybe your tax returns have motivated you to increase your emergency savings for the year ahead, or perhaps you need a refresher on the New Year’s resolution you made to improve your credit score? Whatever your situation, now is the perfect time to get your financial house in order.

Image of woman and child peeking under a bed while cleaning

These four strategies can help you get your personal finances in check and maintain a strong foundation for the rest of the year.

  1. Clean Up Your Credit

Your credit score can have one of the biggest impacts on your financial life – so don’t let it collect dust! Did you know you can check your credit score for free with each of the three credit bureaus? Staggering your requests every four months allows you to keep a regular eye on your credit report. Once you know your score, you can set goals to continue to improve your responsible credit habits. Learn how to keep your credit score healthy with a quick lesson on credit scores & reports.

  1. Pay Your Bills on Time

In today’s digital age, there are various mobile payment options available to help you to get ahead of your bills. Set up online banking and use automatic bill pay to save yourself the hassle of mailing checks, and protect against the costs of missing a deadline. Additionally, many retailers, banks, and credit unions allow you to pay your bills in real time via mobile payment technology. Take our two minute course to understand how to use mobile payments responsibly.

  1. Protect Your Accounts

With the prevalence of digital transactions, it’s important to protect yourself from consumer fraud and identity theft. In fact, nearly 3 million consumers reported fraud in 2017 alone. Regularly checking your credit score (see #1) for errors and unauthorized transactions is one simple strategy to protect your identity. Make it a priority to refresh the tactics you use to keep your identity safe this spring.

  1. Save for a Rainy Day

Rainy day funds protect against more than the weather. Did you know that 78% of Americans do not have enough savings to cover unforeseen expenses? Saving doesn’t have to be hard, although it does take discipline. Small adjustments in your daily routine can make a big difference in your ability to cover emergency costs or meet a payment due date. In addition, many savings vehicles will pay you interest on the money you have deposited, which will help your money grow over time. Commit to creating new savings habits to help yourself be better prepared.

No matter where you start your financial Spring cleaning, incorporating these tips and tactics into your routine will give your personal finances a fresh start. Check out our full suite of personal finance education resources on F&M Bank’s Community Classroom.

 

Best Apps for Money Management

With the proper tools, it’s never been easier to build your financial literacy, monitor daily transactions, and grow your accounts to meet short and long-term savings goals.

Do you like to use technology to problem solve and create more efficiency in your life? If you said yes, then “fintech,” a term that describes the merging of tech and finance, is a good match for you. With an ever-growing number of money management apps, access to everything from personal accounts to global markets is at our fingertips. People of all ages from kids to retirees, as well as business owners, can not only get a detailed overview of their financial situation but have fun tracking every dollar and cent. With the proper tools, it’s never been easier to build your financial literacy, monitor daily transactions, and grow your accounts to meet short and long-term savings goals.

Whether it’s creating a budget, organizing your personal finances, saving for vacations and retirement, or managing your small business’ spending, all aspects of your money can be managed directly from your smartphone. We’ve identified some of the best personal finance, investment, business, and kids’ apps to streamline your time and resources. All are free to download and use unless otherwise noted.

Best Personal Finance Apps

From credit cards to bank and retirement accounts, our financial lives are complicated. Understanding what you have and how to make it work for you is critical. Whether you’re trying to improve your credit score before making your first home purchase, or you want to save for a vacation or big purchase, these apps can help you take those specific steps as well as basic ones like creating a budget.

Know Your Credit Score

As your credit score is the backbone of your financial life, consider downloading Credit Karma. It gives you a free copy of your credit report as well as advice on steps you can take to get your score where you want it to be. In this age of online security threats, Credit Karma also provides you with notifications to alert you to new activity reflected on your report.

Banking Apps

Your bank account is at the heart of all you do, from paying bills to buying lunch on the go. A sound banking app, such as F&M Bank’s Mobile Banking app will make you the master of your domain from the convenience of your phone or tablet.  Your account is kept safe via passcode or touch ID entry to the app, where you can view transactions, pay bills, deposit checks through mobile deposit, and transfer funds between F&M bank accounts. Using the F&M mobile app will not save any sensitive information to your phone.

Budgeting Apps

While on-the-go access to your accounts is essential, creating objectives for your money is just as critical. Squirrel is F&M Bank’s no-cost Personal Financial Management Tool and it enables you to track your spending, create budgets, and set goals. While you’ll need an F&M Bank online account login to use Squirrel, you can link your Squirrel account to other accounts you have such as a 401(k) or other retirement account. With access to 15,000 financial institutions, Squirrel provides you with a full financial picture, including a cash flow calendar and visual tracking of progress to your goals.

With a complete financial picture, including your total net worth after debts and assets are combined, Squirrel offers the same information as the mobile banking app as well as so much more. Don’t just watch your money go in and out on your account ledger. Take control and set goals for saving and debt repayment, check cash flow before making discretionary purchases, and feel empowered to take the steering wheel of your financial life

F&M Bank Squirrel App

Best Apps for Business Owners

Companies with a business checking account can also use their bank’s mobile app to keep track of daily transactions and cash flow.

Beyond you’re a business banking app, inDinero is a tax compliance and accounting app that compiles information from all of your business bank accounts and credit cards to present a clear, comprehensive view of your company’s spending. Discover where your money goes and when, and obtain forecasts of future spending based on current trends. inDinero allows you to gain insight into the total picture of your business’ finances. Plans start at $295/month.

To take the pain out of small business accounting, consider adding Freshbooks to your life. This software makes your billing process seamless and straightforward, creating attractive, professional invoices in seconds. You can track your time on projects and follow-up with clients directly from Freshbooks, freeing you from cumbersome paperwork and administrative tasks. Freshbooks allows you to track your expenses and, because it’s cloud-based, you can have a snapshot of all of your business expenses anytime, anywhere. After a 30 day free trial, Freshbooks offers monthly plans starting at $10.

F&M Bank Treehouse Club ScreenshotBest Money Apps for Kids

F&M Bank Treehouse Club makes saving fun.  Kids can access their savings account as well as play games designed to increase their financial literacy. The app makes earning and learning can be exciting for little ones.

PiggyBot is a virtual piggy bank to make savings a more hands-on experience for kids. They can feature photos of the items they are saving for in PiggyBot for additional incentive to keep adding to their bank, combining the popularity of picture-based platforms into the app.

How will you use “Fintech” to manage your money?

Whatever your current financial situation and future goals, the range of quality personal finance and business apps can make the path to a sound financial future easier and more manageable than ever. With just a few apps added to your tablet or mobile device, you can understand your money in new ways and, more importantly, make it work for you. F&M Bank customers, and those who would like to open an F&M Bank account, can take advantage of our free Personal Financial Management Tool, Squirrel. It’s just another way we fulfill our mission as a community bank to meet the needs of our customers and community by offering the best financial products.

Join the Treehouse Savings Club!

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Avoid ID Fraud this Tax Season

As tax season gets underway, F&M Bank is urging all customers to take extra precaution when filing their return to prevent their exposure to tax fraud.

“Fraudsters are using very clever tactics to get a hold of your personal information and submit false tax claims,” said Dean Withers, CEO. “Consumers must be suspicious of any communication from the IRS – through email, text or social media – that requests personal information, and should keep a watchful eye out for missing W-2s and mail containing sensitive financial information.”

Tax identity fraud takes place when a criminal files a false tax return using a stolen Social Security number in order to fraudulently claim the refund. Identity thieves generally file false claims early in the year and victims are unaware until they file a return and learn one has already been filed in their name.

To help consumers prevent tax ID fraud, F&M Bank is offering the following tips:

  • File early. File your tax return as soon as you’re able giving criminals less time to use your information to file a false return.
  • File on a protected Wi-Fi network. If you’re using an online service to file your return, be sure you’re connected to a password-protected personal network. Avoid using public networks like a Wi-Fi hotspot at a coffee shop.
  • Use a secure mailbox. If you’re filing by mail, drop your tax return at the post office or an official postal box instead of your mailbox at home. Some criminals look for completed tax return forms in home mailboxes during tax season.
  • Find a tax preparer you trust. If you’re planning to hire someone to do your taxes, get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before handing over all of your financial information.
  • Shred what you don’t need. Once you’ve completed your tax return, shred the sensitive documents that you no longer need and safely file away the ones you do.
  • Beware of phishing scams by email, text or phone. Scammers may try to solicit sensitive information by impersonating the IRS. Know that the IRS will not contact you by email, text or social media. If the IRS needs information, they will contact you by mail first.
  • Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for W-2s, tax refunds or other mail containing your financial information. If you don’t receive your W-2s, and your employer indicates they’ve been mailed, or it looks like it has been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately.

If you believe you’re a victim of tax identity theft or if the IRS denies your tax return because one has previously been filed under your name, alert the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. In addition, you should:

  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice and complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.
  • Contact your bank immediately, and close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with. Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records:

• Equifax, www.Equifax.com, 1-800-525-6285

• Experian, www.Experian.com, 1-888-397-3742

• TransUnion, www.TransUnion.com, 1-800-680-7289

  • Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.

More information about tax identity theft is available from the FTC at ftc.gov/taxidtheft and the IRS at irs.gov/identitytheft.

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How To Teach Kids About Money: A Comprehensive Guide

Explaining money to kids can feel challenging, especially if your own finances aren’t perfect. And it doesn’t help that many of our purchases are made online or with debit and credit cards at the store. Kids don’t see their parents budget and make purchases with cash and checks as much as they used to. However, teaching financial literacy to our kids is more important than ever. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be difficult or boring. F&M has scoured the best sources out there to bring you this comprehensive guide to teaching kids to save money, budget, and develop other positive financial habits. From modeling good habits to playing a fun game or app, these tips will help kids of all ages develop a strong financial foundation. You might even learn a few things yourself along the way.

How To Teach Kids About Money By Modeling Positive Habits

Where do children learn about money? It probably won’t surprise you that parents are the most important influence. After all, children learn most things from their parents. Money is one thing you shouldn’t wait to talk about–research shows that kids’ financial behavior may already be shaped by the time they start first grade. Here are five things you can do now to model healthy financial behavior for your kids and help them develop a positive attitude toward saving and spending money.Behaviors, habits, and attitudes developed in youth appear to strongly affect adult financial well-being.

  • Let them see you save money. It doesn’t take a lot of parenting experience to realize “Do as I say, not as I do” is rarely if ever an effective teaching strategy. Your kids are watching and listening more than you realize and they will parrot your habits and behaviors back to you. So if you want to encourage children to save money you need to let them see you save. While most of your savings might be tied up in a 401k or other online accounts, you can establish a simple savings jar in a prominent place in your house. Drop your spare change in when your child is watching or let them throw the coins in. You don’t have to make a big deal of it each time, but now and then let the jar inspire a conversation about why you are saving, what it’s for, and how it can help you in the future.

For example, “When we put away our spare change every day it eventually adds up. By the time we go to the beach next summer we’ll have enough saved to pay for a special experience like dinner in our favorite restaurant.” Or, “Do you remember when our car got a flat tire last month? Car repairs can be expensive, and we don’t know when something will break. I’m saving my change in this jar so I’ll be prepared the next time something breaks.”

  • Turn everyday errands into teachable moments. Whenever your kids are with you at the grocery store, gas station, and other routine errands, explain the choices you’re making and how you pay for purchases. Many people use debit and credit cards instead of checks or cash, but you can still explain that a debit card is a method of paying with the money in your bank account, whereas a credit card is a way to temporarily borrow money and pay it back at the end of the month.

Do you use a certain credit card to accrue points or cash back? You can explain that, too; even young children can grasp the idea of rewards. You can also work in little lessons like, “I use my credit card to get rewards, but I always pay the balance at the end of the month.” Or perhaps you don’t use credit cards at all after finally getting out of debt, in which case you could say something like “Mommy and Daddy always pay with our bank account because we don’t want to spend more than we have.” Keep it simple, but don’t be afraid to talk about all aspects of money management when it comes up.

  • Let your kids watch you write a check. Preschool-age children are very interested in letters, numbers, and writing. Although most people don’t write as many checks as they used to, there are still occasions for it. Have your kids watch as you point out the different parts of a check–”Here’s the date, here we write the name of the person we’re giving the money to…this is the memo space where we can write what the check is for. Do you know what this is for? We’re paying your piano teacher for one month of lessons.”
  • Have your child press the buttons at the ATM. It’s a universal truth that kids love to push buttons. Ask your child to help you at the ATM and explain each step of the process. “First we insert our debit card. Then we type our password. Here are the different amounts of money we can take out. I’m getting money for our trip to the zoo. What do you think we’ll need to pay for there?”
  • Help your child differentiate between needs and wants. It’s natural to feel frustrated when your child begs for something at a store. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should give in. But a little empathy can go a long way and help your kids recognize the difference between things they need and things they want. After all, adults aren’t immune to wanting things. At the grocery store you can say things like, “We need to buy food so we can take care of our bodies with healthy meals and snacks. Mommy likes ice cream, too, but that is something we want, not something we need. We can choose to spend our extra money on something we want like ice cream, or save it for something bigger.” Or, “We came to Target because you outgrew your sneakers and need a new pair. There are extra things Daddy would love to buy at Target, too, but today we are just going to buy what we need.”
  • Be honest. Kids can usually tell when you’re trying to brush them off. If you try to get away with a vague or untruthful answer, you’ll probably just be met with a string of “why?” Instead of saying “we don’t have enough money to buy that toy,” if the truth is that you simply don’t want another toy in your house, frame your answers as a choice. Choices empower people of all ages. “I’m choosing not to buy that toy today because I’d rather spend the money on a fun experience like going to the movies with you.”

DIY Activities For Teaching Kids And Students About Money

DIY Savings Ideas

Parents and teachers can help kids learn about money management while also sneaking in a few Math lessons with these fun and easy-to-do activities.

  • Turn a few envelopes into a fun budgeting lesson. You’ve probably heard of the envelope budgeting system for adults, in which you divide your money in cash into envelopes earmarked for specific expenses as well as fun. Add a few crayons and you’ve got a fun activity for kids that helps them understand budgeting and saving in a concrete, tactile way.

Your child doesn’t need to have as many envelopes as an adult would. Let kids think of a few items they’d like to save up to buy. On each envelope, they draw a picture of the desired object or experience. You can even differentiate between short-term and long-term goals. For example, an expensive Lego set will take longer to save for than a trip to the ice cream parlor. As they receive money they can decide how to allocate it between their savings goals. That also teaches prioritizing and weighing instant gratification against long-term goals.

  • Make a money chart. Another way to visualize saving is to create a chart. With a piece of posterboard, a few markers, and a sheet of star stickers–all available at the drug store–you can help your child figure out how long it will take to reach various savings goals based on the cost of the item and the amount of money they can expect to receive over the next few months, whether from an allowance or holiday gifts. Each time your child saves a certain amount of money toward their goal, they get to put a sticker in the box, a tracking method that never fails to satisfy. Seeing the chain of stickers will only encourage them to keep going.
  • Role play with a toy cash register. This is a classic toy that comes in many different models. Find one with coins and cash in a drawer that opens and shut. That way, aside from the fun of pressing the buttons, kids can learn about money through play. As the adult, you can guide the role play from transactions at the grocery store to the bank. Kids will grasp the idea of handing over money in exchange for an item or service, getting change, and figuring out how much they have left to spend.

Games Make It Fun To Explain Money To Kids

Games that Teach Personal Finance

When your kids grow out of the imaginative play stage, you can still make learning fun with board games and online activities.

Online Games

Board Games

  • Payday is a classic budgeting board game for ages eight and up.
  • Lakeshore Allowance Board Game teaches kids how to make good decisions with the money they receive.
  • The Money Bags board game comes with realistic-looking bills and coins.
  • Loose Change teaches kids about different combinations of coins that add up to a dollar.Treehouse App Screenshot

Money Apps For Kids

In addition to online games, here are some educational money apps for kids and teens that make learning good financial habits fun.

  • Green$treets: Unleash the Loot is a free money management app for ages five to ten.
  • Savings Spree ($5.99) is a financial literacy app for kids seven and older.
  • Celebrity Calamity is a free app that takes a playful approach to budgeting.
  • Kids who have their own savings account can download their bank’s mobile app to keep track of their money in real time. F&M Bank also offers a special app just for kids as part of our Treehouse Savings Club. They can access their savings account, play games, and learn important financial concepts. Download the free app for iOS or Android.

Books That Teach Kids About Money

Books that teach kids about money

Reading to your child is a great opportunity to bond…and teach them essential money management skills. Here are our favorite selections for readers of all ages featuring beloved characters as well as new ones.

  • The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble With Money by Stan Berenstain
  • Just Saving My Money by Mercer Mayer
  • Amelia Bedelia Means Business by Herman Parish
  • Alexander, Who Used To Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst
  • Curious George Saves His Pennies by Margaret Rey
  • Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
  • One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent by Bonnie Worth
  • A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams
  • Bunny Money by Rosemary Wells
  • The Money Savvy Student by Adam Carroll
  • Not Your Parents’ Money Book by Jean Chatzky
  • What All Kids Should Know About Saving and Investing by Rob Pivnick

Practice And Reward

At the end of the day, one of the best ways to learn is through practice. Help your child open their own savings account so they can put money away and develop a relationship with a local bank. You can even offer to match a certain percentage of your child’s deposits, much like an employer matches an employee’s 401(k) contributions.

As a community bank, F&M cares about teaching financial literacy to the next generation. Our Treehouse Savings Club gives school-age kids the opportunity to have their own bank account with no minimum balance or maintenance fees. They even earn interest on their savings. The program also comes with a piggy bank, monthly prizes, and other fun extras. Visit your nearest F&M Bank location to learn more and sign up for the Treehouse Savings Club today.

 

Treehouse Club

What to Buy Every Month of the Year in 2018

In 2018, you may resolve to save more, spend less or budget better. Whatever your money goal, the one common key to your success is shopping smart. That means knowing the best time to buy just about anything. To help you out, we’ve created a purchase calendar so you can plan your shopping for the year.

In 2018, you may resolve to save more, spend less or budget better. Whatever your money goal, the one common key to your success is shopping smart. That means knowing the best time to buy just about anything.

To help you out, we’ve created a purchase calendar so you can plan your shopping for the year.

January

With a fresh page on the calendar comes a fresh start for sales. These products are discounted in January:

  • Bedding and linens: Department stores hold bedding and linen “white sales” in January with deep discounts on sheets and towels
  • Fitness equipment: Retailers know you want to get in shape. Expect fitness equipment and apparel sales to abound at sporting goods stores.
  • TVs and electronics: Just before the Super Bowl, retailers normally discount their selections of HDTVs and other home-theater essentials

February

It’s the month of love and gift-giving, but February might be a better time to buy major items for yourself than trinkets for your loved one. Options include:

  • TVs. TV sales spill over from January into February. Aside from Black Friday, this is one of the prime times to buy a new TV.
  • Winter products: With winter winding down, stores will be looking to unload their inventories of cold-weather products. Look for sales on apparel and winter sporting accessories.
  • Home goods: Presidents Day is Feb. 19 this year. Expect retailers to have home and apparel sales on that Monday and the weekend preceding the holiday

March

There aren’t any major shopping holidays in March, but that doesn’t mean sales are lacking. Look for sales on these products:

  • Golf clubs: Expect to find discounts on golf clubs in preparation for summer. Whenever consumer demand is down, prices usually are, too.
  • Grills: Buy your summer grilling necessities in March to avoid the spike in prices that will come when summer arrives
  • St. Patrick’s Day essentials: St. Patrick’s Day is March 17. Around that time, online retailers and department stores usually discount their selection of green-themed clothing, party supplies and jewelry.

April

April has its fair share of spring deals and discounts, including:

  • Vacuums: Buying a vacuum isn’t the most exciting purchase, but it’ll be less painful if you take advantage of a spring cleaning sale. Look for these at department stores as well as manufacturers like Dyson.
  • Jewelry: The general rule is to avoid buying jewelry close to major holidays. Try to get a good deal when jewelers have a slower period and may be more motivated to make sales.
  • Freebies: Year after year, retailers and restaurants try to lighten the burden of tax day with discounts and freebies. Keep an eye out for these around mid-April. Tax day this year is April 17.

May

April showers bring May flowers — and sales blossom then, too. Here’s a look at some products to consider buying this month:

  • Spring cleaning necessities: Before summer arrives, act on spring cleaning discounts on vacuums and mops
  • Small kitchen appliances: Use May discounts as a perfect opportunity to buy small kitchen appliances, such as coffee makers and blenders. These products normally are included in Memorial Day sales.
  • Furniture: Three of the biggest blowout shopping days are Black Friday, Labor Day and Memorial Day. This year, Memorial Day is May 28. Look for plenty of furniture and home-decor discounts from big-box stores.

June

June may be one of the shorter months of the year, but its supply of shopping events isn’t lacking. Smart purchases include these products:

  • Gym memberships: Consider buying a gym membership during the summer, and don’t forget to negotiate to get the best possible deal. Gyms may be more eager for sign-ups at this time.
  • Gifts for Dad: You don’t have to buy dad’s gift at full price. Expect Father’s Day deals this month, especially the closer you get to the holiday on June 17.

July

The temperature usually rises in July, but the prices of certain products drop. Consider buying these items this month:

  • Apparel: If you don’t want to wait for end-of-summer sales, buy clothes in midsummer. You’ll likely find a better price than you would at the start of the season.
  • Patriotic items: Retailers like a reason to celebrate. In the days leading up to the Fourth of July, there is usually an abundance of sales on red, white and blue products (and products that are all three colors), as well as on sporting goods, jewelry and furniture.
  • Personal electronics: Black Friday is a big deal day that falls in November, but many retailers have begun hosting Black Friday in July sales, including Best Buy and Amazon. Expect discounts in nearly every product category.

August

Close out summer by buying summer products? That’s right. Look for end-of-season clearance sales in August:

  • Back-to-school supplies: The start of school marks the need to buy small items such as pencils and expensive ones like laptops. Generally, the closer to the start of the school year you buy, the better your chances of getting a good price.
  • Lawn mowers: Ride out the end of summer with a big deal on lawn mowers and other seasonal outdoor equipment
  • Swimsuits: There may not be many swimming days left by the time August rolls around, but that’s exactly why swimsuit clearance sales will crest. Buy your swimsuits now to stock up for next year.

September

With deals on items as varied as electronics and back-to-school supplies, September is a surprising month for good buys. Pick up reasonable prices in these departments:

  • Mattresses: Year after year, September is the time for mattress sales. Expect these from department stores and mattress centers, usually as a part of Labor Day deals.
  • iPhones: Apple has been known to announce its new iPhone installments at the company’s annual keynote in September. Usually, the unveiling is followed by a drop in prices on the current phones in anticipation of the new models.
  • Appliances: This year, Labor Day falls on Sept. 3. Expect a series of blowout deals in the week leading up to the holiday, including promotions on appliances big and small.

October

Don’t let the cost of shopping spook you during the Halloween season. There will be plenty of deals on these product categories in October:

  • Outdoor furniture: People generally spend less time outdoors when the temperature drops. Expect deals on patio furniture and outdoor living products when summer ends.
  • Jeans: Fall inventory arrives in stores in August and September, but you’ll pay top dollar unless you wait a few weeks. October is a great time to buy a new pair of jeans.
  • Candy: The closer you get to Oct. 31, the better your chance at snagging a discounted bag of candy for your trick-or-treaters.

November

November is the month for Black Friday sales, which means some of the most popular tech products fall to their lowest prices:

  • Tablets and laptops: Electronics take center stage during Black Friday sales. Look for discounts on smartphones and activity trackers, too.
  • Gaming systems: Black Friday is the best time to buy a discounted gaming console or gaming system bundle like Xbox or PlayStation
  • Home appliances: Reserve your major home appliance purchase — refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher, etc. — for Black Friday deals. Often, sales on these can be found throughout the month.

December

The end of the year is just the beginning for discounts in some product categories. Look for sale prices on these items in December:

  • Toys: Since toys are a popular Christmas gift, stores generally host big toy sales as the holiday season draws to a close
  • Christmas decorations: Beginning the day after Christmas, shop sales for deep discounts — often upward of 50% — on decorations, wrapping paper, ornaments, artificial trees and similar seasonal fixings
  • Cars: The end of December is an ideal time to buy a car. That’s when dealerships are looking to meet end-of-year sales quotas.

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Direct Mail Coupon Scam

Scammers are constantly developing new tactics, and it is important to us to provide you timely information so that you can protect yourself or loved ones from financial loss. We are currently aware of a scam in our area involving a bulk mail “coupon” which appears to be sent from Walmart.

Scammers are constantly developing new tactics, and it is important to us to provide you timely information so that you can protect yourself or loved ones from financial loss.

We are currently aware of a scam in our area involving a bulk mail “coupon” which appears to be sent from Walmart. Yesterday afternoon, we were notified that a customer received the mailing that contained a phone number the reader could dial to receive a free $50 coupon. The literature was sent through regular USPS mail. The phone number listed on the mailing was 1-800-501-6294.

The customer called the listed phone number, and the person on the other end of the call asked very general questions, but eventually asked for the caller’s credit or debit card information. Immediately identifying the call as a scam, the customer ended the conversation and did not provide card information.

We are very thankful to the customer who shared this experience as this mass mailing might have targeted many in our area.

Please, be cautious when receiving coupon offers that require additional steps and never provide your credit or debit card information when being offered a “free” deal.

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Protect Yourself from Card Skimming at the Gas Pump

Recently, card skimming has been a hot topic in our area. There is a group of professional criminals placing skimmers on gas pumps along the 1-81 corridor. How can you protect yourself from the agony of a fraud claim? Here are our 6 best tips:

Recently, card skimming has been a hot topic in our area. There is a group of professional criminals placing skimmers on gas pumps along the 1-81 corridor.

F&M Bank has been in contact with the Secret Service in Richmond to help combat this issue and protect our customers. The Secret Service has shared the following information:

Skimmers are placed inside the gas pumps making detection near impossible. There is a Bluetooth device being plugged into the card reader on the inside of the pump that is capturing card and PIN numbers. The criminals have even created stickers that look legitimate in order to convince consumers that the gas pump is secure.

How can you protect yourself from the agony of a fraud claim? Here are our 6 best tips:

1) Pay for your gas inside the store. You will completely avoid the skimming device.

2) Do not use pumps located farthest away from the store. They are hardest for store employees to monitor and most likely to be targeted.

3) If you pay at the pump, ALWAYS run your card as credit. If you enter your PIN, the criminals then have the number which can lead to fraudulent ATM withdrawals and larger losses.

4) Sign up for transaction text alerts. Knowing each time your card is used can give you the power to shut down your card quickly if an unauthorized transaction comes through. We offer this service through our mobile app!

5) Be sure your card issuer has your current phone number and offers 24/7 fraud watch so that you can be contacted when suspicious activity takes place.

6) Finally, fraud losses are covered by the card issuer, and this offers some relief. It may take up to 10 days to get your money back, which is a financial hardship and can be stressful, but you will recover your losses!

We understand that fraud can be an extremely frustrating situation, that is why we’re offering these tips. Help us protect your money and be cautious when paying at the pump!

 

Take the Stress Out of Your Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be a relaxing time spent with family and friends reflecting on the current year and looking ahead to the next. However, for most Americans, the holidays invoke feelings of stress and fatigue. According to a poll conducted by the American Psychological Association, nearly a quarter of Americans report feeling extreme stress during the holiday season, and 45% of Americans would prefer to skip Christmas. But, that doesn’t have to be the case. We can’t guarantee a white Christmas, but with proper planning and budgeting, you can make your holiday season the most wonderful time of the year.

The holidays are supposed to be a relaxing time spent with family and friends reflecting on the current year and looking ahead to the next. However, for most Americans, the holidays invoke feelings of stress and fatigue. According to a poll conducted by the American Psychological Association, nearly a quarter of Americans report feeling extreme stress during the holiday season, and 45% of Americans would prefer to skip Christmas. But, that doesn’t have to be the case. We can’t guarantee a white Christmas, but with proper planning and budgeting, you can make your holiday season the most wonderful time of the year. Here are some tips!

Keep it Basic

Your holiday dinner doesn’t have to consist of a cranberry stuffed Cornish game hen and 12 side dishes to turn heads. In our social media driven world, you may look to Pinterest and Facebook for inspiration, but don’t let those platforms set the standard for what is normal. If you want to try a fancy dish, that’s great!

But, if you don’t want to cook a spread suitable for Country Living Magazine, just stick to the basics. You’re guaranteed to save money on groceries, plus, it’s less stressful! And, once you put the essentials on your plate – turkey, potatoes, stuffing, rolls, and green beans – who has room for more?

Before roasting an entire turkey, take a look at your guest list. Is a whole bird really necessary? That’s a lot of food (and a lot of work). Consider serving just turkey breast instead! It cuts down on leftovers, and it’s more affordable.

Coupons and Savings Apps

Coupons are your friend! Often, you can find lots of great deals in the Saturday paper. Try browsing the weekly circulars online to look for sales on items you need. Also, try loading digital coupons to your store discount cards!

There are great savings apps out there as well! Jessica Hartman, Customer Service Representative at our Coffman’s Corner branch, offers the following tip: “I try to pair sales up with my Ibotta and Checkout 51 apps. If you watch the sales, you can purchase a turkey fairly cheap – I ended up getting one for $0.59/lb last year.”

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are hosting the holiday dinner at your home, ask family and friends to bring a side dish or dessert. Divide out the responsibility so you’re not drained, both physically and financially.

Plan Ahead and Budget

Spending money on gifts is the most stressful part of the holiday season, according to the APA study. Don’t let it be! Begin planning for the holiday season early in the year. Katie Fulk, Head Teller at our Bridgewater Branch, says, “Some of the girls here like to buy Christmas gifts throughout the year. This helps financially because the cost of gifts can be spread from month to month, and then things are not as overwhelming at Christmas time. Also, if you save $20 a week, you end up with over $1,000.00 in a years’ time of saving.”

Looking for a great way to save throughout the year? Open a Christmas Club! The concept is that customers deposit a certain amount of money each week into a special savings account. Then, receive the money back near year-end for Christmas shopping. It’s a great way to put aside a small amount of money each week lessening the financial burden in December.

Save Money While Shopping

It might be too late to start saving for Christmas this year, but you still have options to save! Black Friday offers a variety of deals. If you hate fighting the crowds, most deals are also offered online, so stay home in the comfort of your pajamas and shop! Cyber Monday also offers great savings!

Charles Halterman, Branch Specialist at our Myers Corner location suggests a Chinese gift exchange to cut down on costs. He says, “My family and I did a Chinese gift exchange one year for the adults. Everyone buys one gift and wraps it. Then, you put numbers in a bowl for however many people are participating. Everyone draws a number, and Number One chooses a gift. Then, Number 2 can steal Number 1’s gift or choose a new gift…and so on, and so on. In the end, everyone gets one gift, you have fun playing a game with friends and family, and everyone saves money!”

Gifts to Please Anyone

Finally, we all have that family member who won’t make a Christmas gift suggestion. If you find yourself not needing anything, consider asking friends and family to make a donation to a charity you support instead of receiving another pack of socks you don’t need (or want). Kristen Huffman, Customer Service Representative at our Craigsville Branch does this every year. She says, “I ask family to send money to a charitable organization instead of buying me gifts. I don’t really need anything especially something that will just clutter up my house even more. Each year my husband gives money to World Vision as my Christmas present.”

Gift cards are also a great option for those family members without a Christmas list. Did you know you can purchase Visa gift cards at any F&M Bank Branch location? Avoid the long lines at Walmart, and pick up a Visa gift card next time you’re making a banking transaction.

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