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July 2019 E-Newsletter

15 Ways to Lower Your Energy Bill


Woman Doing LaundryHeating and Cooling
Home heating and cooling are 10 of the biggest culprits behind hefty utility bills — and the best places to look for cost-cutting opportunities.

1. Check seals on windows, doors and appliances: Make sure your fridge and freezer are well sealed to keep the cold air where it belongs. Same goes for your doors and windows. A bad seal allows energy to seep out, draining your wallet in the process.

2. Fix leaky ductwork: Improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems by repairing leaky heating, ventilation and air conditioning ducts.

3. Give your thermostat a nudge: Set your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees when you’re asleep or away from home. Doing so for eight hours can lower your annual heating and cooling costs by around 10%. A programmable thermostat will do the work for you.

4.Adjust your fridge and freezer temperature: Set your fridge to 38 degrees and your freezer to 5 degrees. This will keep your food fresh, but your fridge and freezer won’t need to work as hard to maintain the temperature.

Water
Hot water is the second-largest expense in powering most homes, according to the Energy Department. Cutting back on your hot water usage — in the shower, laundry and dishwasher — can make a sizable dent in your overall energy bill.

5. Take shorter showers: Trimming two minutes off your shower time can cut your water usage by 10 gallons.

6. Replace your showerhead: An efficient showerhead can reduce your water usage by 2,700 gallons per year. Look for one with the WaterSense label, which is certified to meet efficiency criteria set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

7. Don’t wash clothes in hot water: Cut your per-load energy usage in half by sticking to warm or cold water when you do laundry.

8. Fix leaky faucets: That drip, drip, drip isn’t just annoying, it wastes gallons of water.

9. Adjust the temperature on your water heater: The default temperature setting on water heaters is typically 140 degrees. Lowering it to 120 degrees can reduce your water heating costs by up to 10%. Leaving town for a few days? Turn your water heater to the lowest setting to conserve energy usage.

10. Purchase energy efficient appliances: If you’re in the market for a new washer, dishwasher or water heater, buy an energy efficient model to yield long-term savings. A dishwasher with the Energy Star label is required to use 5.8 gallons of water or less per cycle, compared to the more than 10 gallons used by some older models. Prioritize appliances that run most often, like the fridge, HVAC system, water heater, dehumidifier, television, washer and dryer.

11. Ask about discounted rates: Some utility providers offer cheaper rates during certain times of the day, making laundry and other energy-intensive chores 5% to 25% less expensive during off-peak times. 

Power and Lighting
Keeping the lights and electronics on accounts for roughly 12% of a home’s energy usage.

12. Swap out your light bulbs: Save $75 per year by swapping out the bulbs in your most used light fixtures with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs that bear the Energy Star label.

13. Install dimmer switches: Dimmers let you set the brightness in a room to suit your needs, setting the mood and saving electricity.

14. Use smart power strips: Some electronic gadgets never truly power off; instead, they sit in standby mode using a trickle of power that can add up over devices and time. These are usually — but not exclusively — items with a remote control, because the remote sensor needs power while waiting for your input. Plug these electronics into a smart power strip, which cuts off the current when the devices aren’t in use.

15. Do an energy audit: Utility providers will often conduct a home energy audit, sometimes for free, and can identify additional ways to reduce your energy usage.

The article 15 Ways to Lower Your Energy Bill originally appeared on Nerdwallet.com

How to Choose a Student Checking Account

Woman Using Mobile BankingChoosing a student checking account can be as difficult as choosing a major, especially if you’ve never had a bank account before. And even if you have, you’re likely to be so bombarded during orientation with promotions and sales pitches that it’s hard to know which option is best for you.

Banks and credit unions offer accounts geared toward students — often with simpler terms and freer access — so if you need a safe place to keep your money, there are some good options out there.

Here are some things to think about as you choose a student checking account. (A major? That’s up to you.)

Understand and avoid fees
ATM fees: You want your checking account at a bank with plenty of ATMs conveniently located on campus, because ATM withdrawals at your bank’s machines are usually free. (Coulee Bank offers free ATM service at any Kwik Trip ATM or any Coulee Bank Branch ATM). It’s a plus if the bank also reimburses out-of-network ATM fees or has a large ATM network, so you’ll have free access when you go on spring break or head home for the holidays. (Check out Coulee's No Hassle Interest Checking Account).

Maintenance fees: Some banks or credit unions waive monthly maintenance fees and minimum balance requirements if you enroll in electronic statements, set up a direct deposit, or make a certain amount of debit card purchases each month. (Coulee Bank's Totally Free Checking Account and No Hassle Interest Checking Account have no monthly service charges.)

Consider convenience
Technology can help you stay on top of your budget and simplify banking if you can’t easily drive to a branch or if you keep a full schedule — or if you’d rather bank from your couch.

Mobile and text banking: You do most everything else on your phone. Banking can be no different. Most banks and credit unions offer an app for your phone from which you can check your balances, pay bills, move money between accounts, and even deposit checks by taking and uploading a photo. (Check out Coulee Bank's Free Mobile App).

SENDING money TO FRIENDS: When you’re out and a friend picks up the tab, you want to pay him or her back quickly. Most checking accounts can be linked to popular person-to-person payment apps. But some banks have their own P2P service, and it might come with fewer fees.(Coulee Bank offers a free service called Pay a Person for customers set up with Bill Pay.)

Customer service: How you prefer to communicate will determine the type of service you need. A feature allowing you to instantly message a representative on a bank or credit union’s website or mobile app could be useful. (Coulee Bank offers Live Support (Chat) within Online Banking)

Think twice about College-sponsored ACCOUNTS: Just because a checking account has your school’s name or logo on it, that doesn’t mean it’s good. In fact, it might be a very bad choice. In many cases, your school has a business relationship with the bank, which is providing services in exchange for access to potential student customers. And although it’s possible the deal you can get on campus is great, more likely it’s no better — or is indeed worse — than what you could get elsewhere.

Shop around, and always read the fine print before opening any account.

The article How to Choose a Student Checking Account originally appeared on Nerdwallet.com

Business Corner: 5 Tips for Choosing the Right Bank for Your Business

Man On PhoneSelecting a bank to handle your small business’ financial needs is different from choosing one for your personal needs. To get the most from a bank, be prepared to spend some time investigating the services different banks offer, the fees they charge for those services, and the opportunities to establish a relationship with a bank you know and trust.

Here are five tips to help you choose the right bank for your business.

1. Know What You Want From Your Bank
Are you hoping to take out a loan or establish a line of credit? Do you want investment advice? What about other services banks offer, such as automatic bill payment or credit-card processing? Having a precise idea of what you need from a bank will help narrow your choices. If personalized customer service is high on your list, for example, don’t hesitate to put a bank to the test. Call and ask a question related to your business. How long does it take to get through to a knowledgeable representative? Send an email requesting information or use the contact form on their website. Do you get a response within 24 hours? It’s best to know ahead of time if a bank demonstrates a genuine commitment to prompt responses and customer support. (Call Coulee Bank's Business Banking Team for any questions on our Business Accounts)

2. Compare Small and Large Banks
Big, national banks may offer more favorable interest rates and a wider selection of products, but smaller banks often have a more compelling interest in promoting local business growth. These local banks may be more amenable to granting a loan when it’s needed most. “Smaller, regionally focused banks may be better because they know local market conditions,” notes The Wall Street Journal. “They often provide more one-on-one access to a loan officer and put more emphasis on a borrower’s character rather than just applying a credit-score model. And they can be more flexible during tough times, such as covering overdrawn accounts without imposing stiff penalties.”

3. Investigate Fee Structures
Your conversation with any bank representative should include a close look at fees the for everything from using the ATM, writing a check, and getting a monthly account statement. But also take note of other bank services you may need down the road, including wire transfers and credit-card processing. (Check out Coulee's Totally Free Business Checking.)

4. Look into the Bank’s Reputation
Business owners in your professional network can share their experiences with various banks and help guide you in the right direction. Find out how satisfied they are with their bank’s services and its willingness to grant loans and provide valuable banking advice. Also investigate whether a local bank qualifies as a Small Business Administration lender. If you decide to apply for an SBA loan, having a relationship with an SBA-sponsored bank may prove beneficial in the approval process. According to the SBA, these lenders employ a “streamlined paperwork process,” which can make loan approval easier for small-business owners. (Coulee Bank is a proud SBA Preferred Lender.)

5. Establish an Ongoing Relationship
After selecting a bank for your small business, make the effort to build a relationship with a banker who “gets” you and your business. Ideally, this individual will identify ways to support your business you hadn’t thought of and can become a useful resource in the event of a fiscal emergency. Your banker can also help you forecast the types of banking services you’ll need a year or more down the road. (Call Coulee Bank's Business Banking Team for any questions on our Business Accounts)

This article, 5 Tips for Choosing the Right Bank for Your Business, originally appeared on www.quickbooks.intuit.com

Coulee Investment Center: Keeping Summer Safe: Pool and Spa Safety Tips

The backyard pool can be great summer fun, but it can also be a source of danger for children. Every year hundreds of children fatally drown. In fact, drowning is the leading cause of preventable death among children ages 1-4.¹, ²

If you have a pool or spa, here are seven simple tips to keep your children and their friends safe during swim season.

1. Adult Supervision: Always be present when children are using the pool. As any parent knows, it only takes moments for children to place themselves in dangerous situations, so stay attentive.

2. Keep a Life Ring or Shepherd’s Crook Nearby: This lifesaver can quickly pull someone from the pool. Always check that it is in good condition.

3. Fence and Alarms: Make sure your pool is protected by a fence. You may even want to add an alarm system that can warn you of unintended use of the pool.

4. Rope or Float Line: This can distinguish between the shallow and deep ends and serve as a visual reminder to young children not to pass.

5. Lock Your Hot Tub Cover: Young children may not be tall enough to stand up in the hot tub or fully appreciate how quickly heated water can lead to dehydration or other accidents.

6. Safely Store All Pool Chemicals: These chemicals represent a danger not only to children but the adults who use them. Find a safe storage area and handle them properly.

7.Cover Pool Drains Suction entrapment can lead to death. Make sure all drains are properly installed with certified covers. Periodically check to ensure that they are not damaged. With these simple steps, you can increase the safety of your pool or hot tub, without any loss in the fun and joy they bring.1

Have financial questions? Shari Hopkins, our Certified Financial Planner, will provide you with financial guidance through every stage of your financial journey.

1. CDC,gov, 2017
2. The information in this material is not intended as legal advice. Please consult legal or insurance professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Insurance products offered through LPL Financial or its licensed affiliates. Coulee Bank and/or Coulee Investment Center are not registered broker/dealers and are not affiliated with LPL Financial.

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