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Avoid Surprises With These Financial Planning Tips

a frustrated woman tries to balance her accounts after a financial emergency

As Election Day 2020 draws increasingly nearer, you may have heard the term “October Surprise” tossed around. Generally, an October surprise is something that changes the race in a big way during the final month before the election. No matter what happens with the elections, financial planning tips can help remove the element of surprise when it comes to your bank account.

And while some surprises are good, you rarely want to be surprised by your finances.

You may not be able to control every aspect of life when it comes to your money. Still, there are some steps you can take to minimize those surprises. Keep reading for financial planning tips that can help you stay on top of your finances.

Be Prepared for Those “Life Happens” Moments

This year in particular has brought a lot of surprises -- largest of all, the international coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It just goes to show that sometimes, there are some things you just can’t plan for.

Even without a pandemic, there are plenty of moments in each of our lives where life just happens. Whether it’s an unexpected medical bill, a change in employment, or a totaled family car. These surprises have the potential to be devastating when it comes to your financial life and moving toward your financial goals.

But being prepared for these moments can make all the difference in continuing toward a healthy financial future. How can you prepare for the unexpected? One great way is by keeping an emergency fund. We also like to call these a “peace of mind” account.

Studies show that many Americans don’t currently have peace of mind accounts. According to a Bankrate study, only 28% of Americans have emergency funds. And nearly 40% of people wouldn’t be able to come up with $400 for an emergency, reported the Federal Reserve.

A peace of mind account can help you make sure you have money in the bank for those unexpected moments. No matter whether they are life’s big and little surprises. Even if you don’t have an emergency fund savings account today, it’s never too late to start one.

Keep a Close Watch on Your Finances

Depending on your current financial situation, keeping an eye on your finances may be easier than you think. If you already have a checking account with digital banking, you likely already have access to your personal finances right at your fingertips. It’s on your mobile phone, tablet or your computer through digital banking. Digital banking is free and easy once you learn your way around.

It also can help you avoid unnecessary fees. By knowing how much money you have available, you can be sure to avoid overdraft fees and other charges.

Consider these tips for keeping a close watch when it comes to your finances:
  • Use Digital Banking and account alerts with push notifications, as well as email or text alerts* to monitor your account balances and account activity.
  • If you have made any recent deposits, please keep in mind that deposits are subject to verification and may be unavailable for immediate withdrawal.
  • Don’t forget to consider any pending items such as checks you've written that have not reached the bank or pre-authorized ACH debits that have not yet posted to your account.
Another unnecessary fee you’ll want to avoid: check cashing fees. When you visit check-cashing retailers, fees of 1-10% can add up quickly.

Consider Academy Bank's Simple checking account, which has no check cashing fees. (A $25 opening deposit is required.) With a $10 monthly service fee, you’re likely spending less than you would on check cashing fees. Plus, that $10 can easily be waived when you set up direct deposit or make 12 purchases with your debit card during each statement cycle. And you can closely monitor your finances when you sign up for Digital Banking, which includes free mobile check deposit.**

Create a Budget to Help Estimate Your Expenses

Even if you create an emergency fund and monitor your bank account with digital banking, there’s another financial curveball that may be coming -- the holiday season. November and December are often full of moments we share with family and friends near and far.

While social distancing may cause the holidays to look different this year, there’s a good chance many of us will still be celebrating in a variety of ways. This includes gift-giving.

Giving gifts to our loved ones is one way we show we care for them. But it’s important to pay attention to your spending habits at the same time. Creating a budget can help ensure that your holiday cheer doesn’t turn into financial fear. And this isn’t only important when it comes to the holidays.

Making and sticking to a budget is one of the best ways you can take control of your finances and avoid surprises to the best of your ability. By knowing exactly how much you’re going to spend and when, it removes the element of surprise when you look at your bank account.

Budgeting can also help you stay on the path toward your financial goals. Whether you’re working on paying off student loan debt, saving for retirement, or increasing your credit score. When you aren’t surprised by your bank account, your financial future may feel less stressful.

Academy Bank: Your Partner in Finance

At Academy Bank, we know the importance of avoiding financial surprises. That’s why we offer digital banking and other ways to help our clients manage their money.

No matter what life throws at you, we’re committed to being your partner through it all.

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*Message and data rates charged by your mobile carrier may apply.
**Deposit limits and restrictions apply.