Lifestyle Lessons

Seven Simple Ways to Use Your Debit Card Safely - Early Spring 2015

The majority of Americans use their credit and debit cards for daily purchases. The following simple tips can help you use your debit card safely and keep your identity and bank account secure.

  • Keep your PIN a secret: You should never share your PIN (personal identification number) with anyone. Try to use your hand or body as a shield when entering your PIN at an ATM or checkout.
  • Be aware at ATMS: Always pay attention to the surroundings when approaching an ATM. Make sure that the ATM is located in an open and well-lit location. Be prepared before approaching the ATM. When the transaction is complete, remember to take your receipt, card and cash and then leave immediately. Do not stop to count your cash until you are in a safe location.
  • Report lost or stolen cards immediately: Prevent unauthorized use and report a lost or stolen card immediately. When your card has expired and you have received your new card, be sure to destroy your old card.
  • Never leave receipts behind: When using your card, be sure your card is returned and that you received a copy of your receipt. When the receipt is no longer needed, be sure to shred or otherwise destroy it.
  • Choose a card with built-in protection: It is important that your debit card has the protection built in to keep your account safe. First Free Checking offers a free Visa ® debit card with Visa’s Zero Liability policy to protect you from unauthorized use.
  • Monitor your statements: Monitor your credit card, debit card or ATM card transactions daily to ensure there are no unauthorized transactions. View all your transactions with ease with First National Bank North Platte Online Banking and our Mobile App.
  • Subscribe to credit monitoring: Subscribe to a credit-monitoring service, which will help protect you and notify you immediately if there are any activities on your accounts of which you need to be aware.

Dining out on a Dime - Early Spring 2015

Enjoying a family dinner out or a romantic dinner for two doesn’t have to break the bank. While eating out can be expensive, the following tips can help you save.

  • Choose the right day and time: Take advantage of mid-week deals, happy hour pricing, and early-bird specials to save. These are all great ways to save, while also avoiding crowds.
  • Drink water: Not only is water healthier for you, but it allows you to avoid highly-marked up soda, tea and alcoholic beverages.
  • Bring your own wine: Call the restaurant ahead of time to see if you can bring your own wine, and if there is a corkage fee. This allows you to avoid the high markup of the restaurant’s alcohol and still enjoy a nice glass of vino.
  • Look for coupons: Daily deal sites such as Living Social or Groupon, restaurant Facebook pages, loyalty cards, and coupon apps are all great places to find coupons or other discounts for your favorite restaurants. New restaurants will typically offer big discounts to get you in the door to try them out.
  • Practice portion control: Portions at restaurants have grown considerably over the last few years. Share a meal, or stretch your own meal into lunch the next day.
  • Skip dessert and coffee: While it may be tempting to end your meal with a piece of pie and coffee, you can save by stopping elsewhere for dessert to avoid higher-priced desserts at restaurants.

Charitable Giving Checklist - Winter 2014

There is no better time to give back than during the holidays, but before you donate to a charity, you can use the following checklist to make sure your donations will benefit the people and organizations that you want to help.

  • Choose a charity: Find more information on an organization by researching their website and reviewing their financial documents, including annual reports and audits. Become familiar with the organization's mission, services, and what percentage of each donation is actually used towards the actual cause.
  • Check third-party sources: Evaluate the financial health and accountability of an organization through online charity reports and reviews, such as the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator.
  • Maximize your donations: Simple considerations, such as paying by check or cash instead of credit card to avoid processing fees or donating goods instead of money, can help make sure your chosen charity receives the full benefit of your contribution.
  • Look for matching contributions: Ask your employer, a local business, or large donor if they will offer matching contributions.
  • Consider tax deduction eligibility: Confirm the charity you are donating to registers with the IRS as a "qualified organization" to ensure your contribution will qualify for a tax deduction.
  • Keep a record: Keep payment records including receipts or other charity acknowledgements, check copies, and bank statements for tax and audit purposes.

Social Media Safety - Winter 2014

Social media allows us to connect to friends, family and others around the world through photos, videos and personal messages. But as social media continues to gain popularity, the privacy and safety risks associated with using these services continue to grow. The following tips can help you protect yourself:

  • Be selective: Only accept friend invites from people that you know to avoid sharing personal information with the wrong people.
  • Review the privacy policy: Read the privacy policy of your social networks to understand what information a user shares can be used by the site. Become familiar with what information may be publicly visible by default and what information is shared with third-party sources.
  • Don't share identifying information: Consider everything that you post on your social network to be public knowledge. Avoid posting anything publicly that could give others ways to break into your online accounts or find out where you live or work, such as contact information, your hometown or birthday.
  • Avoid clicking suspicious links: Hackers, spammers and identity thieves often use links or app installs to gain personal information from you. Be aware of suspicious-looking URLs and never open a link from someone you don't know.
  • Always "log out": Log out of your account after each session to ensure other users of a computer cannot gain access to your account.
  • Set guidelines with your children: Do not let children under the age of 13 use social networking sites. Once you do allow them to use social media, be sure to evaluate the site your child plans to use and set strict safety guidelines such as never meeting anyone in person that they've only talked to online, never using full names or sharing additional personal information and not permitting any cyberbullying activity.

Tips for Becoming a Good Money Role Model - Fall 2014

Teaching your children the ins and outs of responsibly managing their finances is an important part of parenthood. Developing good habits at an early age can help lead to a successful financial future.

  • Explain the difference between needs and wants: The foundation of a successful financial situation is a clear understanding of needs versus wants. It can be challenging for adults and children alike to honestly distinguish between the two, so it’s important to teach your children early, and about how to budget for each accordingly.
  • Budget and save together: Include your whole family when tracking expenses and planning your budget. Set a mutual savings goal, such as a family vacation or a new family TV, and work towards the goal together, identifying expenses that can be cut and brainstorming new ways to make money.
  • Teach the value of earning money: It’s important to teach your children the relationship between working hard and earning money. Set clear boundaries on earning money for household duties and get your children used to being paid on a fixed schedule.
  • Open a savings account for each child: Encourage your children to set aside a portion of their allowance or part-time job income to reach their financial goals, whether it’s to buy a new toy or a future college education. Open a First National Bank North Platte savings account for your child and have him or her make monthly contributions to the account. Review the account balance with your child each month and as he or she hits savings milestones, reward your child with an additional amount to teach the concept of earning interest.

By encouraging small, smart financial habits from a young age, you can help your children to become financially savvy and develop good money habits for the future.

Turn Your Hobby Into a Business - Fall 2014

Are you passionate about your hobby and want it to be more? While you may not be able to leave your steady, full-time job, there may be ways to monetize your hobby or skillset and subsidize your income. From selling your goods to teaching your skills to others, the following tips may help you turn your hobby into a business.

  • Sell your goods: If your hobby involves creating a product, such as art, jewelry or clothing, you may be able to sell your goods, both online and in-person. Online marketplaces such as or local markets or craft fairs are great places to see if there is a demand for your product, make some sales and earn some extra money.
  • Teach your skill to others: Create your own classes or look for opportunities at local community colleges and organizations to teach and share your passion with others. From cooking classes to guitar lessons, sharing your knowledge can help monetize your hobby.
  • Start a blog: Writing and posting about your hobby, such as photography or baking, is a good way to engage with fellow enthusiasts while potentially earning money from online advertisers at the same time. There are a variety of online ad networks you can link to your blog that display targeted ads next to your online content, making you money with each click, such as Google Adsense.
  • Offer your services: If you enjoy a skill or talent such as landscape design or home decorating, set a price, market yourself and offer your services. Create a website and post your qualifications and experience on local classified sites to start spreading the word.

As your business starts to grow, First National Bank North Platte has the tools to help you reach the next level. Check out our Small Business Checking Accounts and Lending Options.

Tips for Becoming a Volunteer - Summer 2014

Summer is just around the corner and so is the season of community events. Supporting the community and getting involved is a great way to spend your summer vacation. Not only does volunteering help improve the lives of others, strengthen communities and solve problems, but it can also help enrich your own life and help you connect with others. The following tips can help you down the path of an enjoyable and beneficial volunteer experience.

  • Research organizations and causes that you have a passion for or have a personal interest. Use your community resources to find non-profits in need or use online resources such as to find volunteer opportunities you may not otherwise have considered.
  • Consider your skillset and what you enjoy. If you enjoy teaching, you may enjoy becoming a mentor in an after-school club. If you have a knack for home improvement, there may be opportunities to help build or repair houses for the elderly or those in need.
  • After narrowing down your list of options, request an informational interview to find out more about the organization and the benefits they offer to both recipients and volunteers. Be sure to ask about their expectations and required commitment to find the best fit.
  • Commit to an event or activity that fits best with your schedule. If you have the time for a standing weekly commitment, go for it! If not, it’s okay to just commit for what you reasonably have time for.
  • Recruit your family and friends to volunteer with you. Not only can it be a chance to help others, but you can also spend valuable time reconnecting with those who mean the most to you.
  • Share your experiences with others and encourage life-long volunteering. Volunteering can lead to future habits of continuing to give back to your community.

First National Bank North Platte is dedicated to doing what’s right for our customers and the communities in which we serve. We’re proud to support the community that supports us.

Host a Summer BBQ on a Budget - Summer 2014

Summertime is the perfect time to bring good friends, good conversation and good food together for a summer BBQ. The following simple tips will help you create a perfect, budget-friendly menu for a relaxing and fun summer evening.

#1 - Stock up on Staples: Watch for sales on family favorites and popular BBQ staples. Stock up on items you can store in your pantry or freeze, such as canned pork and beans or veggies, potato chips, hamburger buns and soda. Buying now can help you save later.

#2 - Invest in Reusable Napkins & Plates: An environmentally-friendly and cost-saving alternative is to replace paper plates and napkins with reusable dinnerware. Shop at your local thrift store to find an eclectic set of plates or check out the dollar store or clearance aisles for plastic outdoor dining sets. Not only will it add some color and style to your patio table, but will save you the expense for your gathering.

#3 - Buy Local: Buying local produce and meat is not only good for the environment and your community, but it’s also good for your wallet. Check out your local farmers market or stop at a produce stand along the street to buy fruits and veggies that are fresh and in-season. When produce is in-season locally, prices are less expensive and as a bonus, you’ll get a better taste.

#4 - Consider Quality, Not Just Price and Convenience: When shopping for your dinner, consider the quality of the food and don’t just buy the least expensive or most convenient options. Convenience can cost you. Instead of buying a pre-cut vegetable or fruit tray, take the time to buy fresh, whole fruit and cut it yourself. And the discount package of hot dogs may contain eight, skinny pork hot dogs, but a package of six, larger, all-beef hot dogs may go further and satisfy (and fill up) your guests more.

#5 - Host a Signature Drink: Instead of hosting a wide variety of soda, tea, beer or other beverages, concoct your own signature drink, such as a pitcher of freshly-squeezed lemonade or fruity sangria. Not only will this save you money, it will save you time and add a creative element to your BBQ.

Travel Insurance: Do You Need It? - Early Spring 2014

Travel insurance covers a wide variety of unexpected expenses that may occur when traveling, including trip cancellations or delays, lost or stolen luggage, major weather events, and medical expenses. But do you need it? Consider the following factors when determining if you need coverage for your next vacation.

Decide which kind of coverage you need. Baggage insurance provides coverage for damaged, stolen, lost or delayed bags. Trip cancellation and interruption insurance covers any costs incurred if your travel provider stops operations or goes out of business before your trip or if you have a personal emergency or become sick and are unable to travel. Flight insurance can cover flight accidents, airline strikes, and cancellations. Additional health insurance is also beneficial if you are traveling outside of the U.S. and your existing health insurance does not cover basic emergency care in foreign countries.

Compare policies and prices. When booking your travel, be sure to ask about insurance available through your travel providers. If you are interested in additional 3rd party travel insurance, be sure to compare policies and prices to determine what works the best for you, your travel plans, and your budget. Popular insurance providers include SquareMouth, InsureMyTrip, and Travel Guard.

Consider the price point of your travel plans versus the cost of the travel insurance. If you book a cheap flight to Las Vegas for a long weekend, you may not need travel insurance. But if you are purchasing a Hawaiian cruise, it is worth the risk in the event the cruise line goes out of business, your flight is cancelled and you miss the cruise departure, or you have a personal emergency.

Wedding Planning on a Budget - Early Spring 2014

The holiday season is behind us, but if you became engaged during the holidays, the excitement is just beginning. Starting the wedding planning can be a daunting task, especially if you are on a tight budget. The following steps will help you plan the wedding of your dreams, while not breaking the bank.

#1 - Set a budget: Determine how you are going to pay for your wedding and if you will have help from family.

#2 - Create your guest list: Decide who you want to be there on your special day. Surrounding yourselves with your closest family and friends is important; decide who you want to be there with you on your special day.

#3 - Choose a date: Keep in mind dates that may be more expensive such as holiday weekends, special events that cause demand in event and hotel space, or popular and highly-coveted spring and summer dates. Consider a Friday evening or Sunday afternoon to avoid the peak prices of a Saturday wedding.

#4 - Make a list of priorities: Lay out the costs for the items that are most important to you, including the invitations, venue, food and drink, photographer, flowers, music and the wedding dress. Fit these into your budget first, then add in extras with the money you have left.

#5 - Save on postage: Skip the save-the-dates and send out a fun electronic save-the-date instead. You can save on postage and put the savings towards other priorities.

#6 - Get inspired: Wedding magazines and websites are full of DIY (Do It Yourself) and budget wedding ideas, from decorations to desserts. Gather your friends for a fun evening of crafting centerpieces for the reception or ask a close family member if she’d consider making the dessert for your wedding.

#7 - Be upfront with your budget: When discussing your options with vendors, be upfront on how much you have, and want, to spend. This will not only save you time and energy, but will eliminate any surprises when you receive your bill.

#8 - Be realistic: Your budget isn’t the only thing you should manage; also consider the value of your time. While it may be less expensive to make your own bouquets, is it worth the time it will take for your big day?