Strategies to Make Your Home Key to Your Success in 2018

Enjoy this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409). Looking for mortgage loan advice to help you purchase real estate in Michigan’s  Lenawee, Jackson and Washtenaw Counties? Contact Kacie today!

The old saying, “Home is where the heart is,” still holds true for many of us; but did you know that with the following organizational strategies, your home can also be key to your success? Whether you are looking to buy a new home, or maybe refinance or spruce up an existing one, these tips from Marie Kondo’s best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing can help you create an environment to support greater success in the year ahead:

Tackle categories instead of rooms in your home. One of Kondo’s key strategies is to tidy things up by category instead of room by room. For example, start with your clothes, then move on to books, then photographs, etc. Doing so will allow you to have a feeling of accomplishment by getting one area done at a time—a strategy that you can use to tackle work projects and the items on your resolution or goal lists, too.

Respect your possessions. While it may seem a little odd at first, Kondo encourages people to consider how their physical items feel about how they are stored in their homes. For example, do clothes crammed into a messy closet look happy? Likely not—so use this “personalization” of your clothes and any other items to set things right, to weed out what you don’t need and to bring harmony to your environment.

Let go of the past. Just like hesitating to leave an old home for a new one, hesitating to part with sentimental “stuff” will only hold you back from the future.  As Kondo says in her book, nostalgia is not your friend when it comes to creating an environment that supports your success. Be selective in what physical memories you keep and get rid of those that don’t truly stir positive emotions.

Seek joy from your surroundings. According to Kondo, you should focus on keeping only the things that give you joy or are truly necessary. In short, when you organize your possessions you should discard anything that you don’t absolutely need or love. The same theory can be applied to the people, places and work that you do when you focus on creating more success in your life and career.

Applying Kondo’s strategies for organizing your home can help to make it key to your success. It will also help to create mental clarity about what you need to do to achieve your objectives. If buying a new home is one of your goals in 2018, an OSB mortgage can help clear the way to make it a reality. Contact Kacie Eberenz, Mortgage Lender/Lead Personal Banker (#1458409) at 517-592-3205. today to get your mortgage approval process started.

Avoid Holiday Debt by Getting a Handle on Your Financial Emotions

Enjoy this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409). Looking for mortgage loan advice to help you purchase real estate in Michigan’s  Lenawee, Jackson and Washtenaw Counties? Contact Kacie today!

Most of us are well aware that we shouldn’t spend more than we have. Yet many of us spend more than we should—or we can afford—especially around the holiday season. Financial experts estimate that last holiday season, about 25 percent of American consumers went into debt to purchase gifts and other seasonal items—why is this?

Accumulating holiday debt is often a tied to self-defeating emotions related to money that kick into overdrive once the season of indulgence arrives. While this time of year may push some consumers over the edge financially, it doesn’t have to. The key to controlling spending during the holidays (or any other time of the year) is understanding why you are prone to overspending and participating in other negative financial behaviors, such as not saving enough money.

Here are some tips to help you reduce holiday debt and identify the emotional financial triggers that may lead you to overspending:

Make a holiday budget and shopping list. This may seem elementary, but many people do not set a budget for holiday spending or shop from a list. This is the first step in eliminating self-defeating spending behavior. Determine what you can afford, then make a list when you are in a rational, rather than an emotional mood. Put the list in your wallet and use it to check off the items you need, so you can see visually what you should be purchasing, rather than shopping spontaneously.

Become aware of the feelings that accompany emotional holiday spending. Identifying the emotions that lead to spending more than you should is essential to getting to the root of the problem. Do you find yourself spending more when you are stressed, sad, happy or angry? If so, give yourself an alternative to spending when you are feeling these emotions like taking a walk or writing holiday greetings to family and friends. If you’re spending to try to compete with others, acknowledge this as a poor strategy that is only going to get you deeper into dept.

Identify external emotional spending triggers. Your feelings can certainly drive impulsive spending, but there are likely external influences as well. If you find that you spend more at a mall or browsing online, or when you receive promotional emails, avoid those triggers and find alternative places to get the things on your list that you really need.

Ask for accountability—and support. It’s too easy to overspend and mismanage money when you are only accountable to yourself. Enlist the support of family or trusted friends to help you curb your spending habits. They can help you avoid situations when you may be prone to overspending and help to remind you about your financial limits and goals!

The holiday season can be a tough time on anyone’s budget, and if you are prone to letting your emotions get the best of you when it comes to spending, it can be even more challenging—but it’s not impossible. Use the tips above to help you manage your emotions and your money. If you do, you’ll be feeling much happier and in control when January rolls around and you have little or no holiday debt!

Use OSB’s $hopping Rewards Benefits to Make the Most of 2017 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Savings

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner and if you’re an OSB Advantage Checking or Advantage+ Checking account holder, this year you may be able to stack your savings even higher to score lower prices using your $hopping RewardsTM benefits.

As a member of OSB’s $hopping Rewards program, you have access to exclusive offers and discounts at thousands of leading online retailers including these and many more:

  • Home Depot
  • Target
  • Macy’s
  • Best Buy
  • Banana Republic
  • Rockport
  • Nine West

Use OSB $hopping rewards for more 2017 Black Friday and Cyber Monday savings.

Once you complete the online registration for the $hopping Rewards program, all you need to do is shop your favorite retailers online using the customized shopping portal and you will receive cash back. Your cash back rewards will be held in your $hopping Rewards account to use toward future purchases or they can be conveniently sent to you as a check.

While you are making your 2017 Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping plans, be sure to add registering online for $hopping Rewards to your list of must-dos. If you are not already an OSB Advantage Checking or Advantage+ Checking account holder, don’t delay opening your account! Visit your local OSB branch today to get your account in time to use the $hopping Rewards for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping.

Additional tips for shopping 2017 Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

In addition to using your $hopping Rewards to get the best deals, use these tips to make sure that your Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargain hunting is successful:

  • Create a holiday shopping plan prior to making purchases by researching deals in advance.
  • Screen all direct mail and email offers against your shopping list, so you buy only things you really need.
  • Be sure to check social media for exclusive deals, too.
  • Enlist a buddy if you need moral support to avoid unnecessary purchases.

If you are like many southeastern Michigan shoppers, you are planning to kick-off your holiday gift buying this Thanksgiving. Be sure to use your OSB $hopping Rewards to maximize your savings. If you have questions about OSB Advantage Checking or Advantage+ Checking accounts and the $hopping Rewards program please contact your local OSB branch.

Simple Fall Decorating Tips to Help You Celebrate the Harvest Season

Enjoy this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409). Looking for mortgage loan advice to help you purchase real estate in Michigan’s  Lenawee, Jackson and Washtenaw Counties? Contact Kacie today!

Now that Halloween is over, many of us are looking to transition from spooky to more seasonal fall décor. Fortunately, decorating for fall occasions and family gatherings like Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean spending hours on Pintrest or lots of money, especially if you try these simple tips for fall home décor which tap into the bounty of the harvest season.

1. Hold on to your pumpkins (and gourds)! If you already have uncarved pumpkins and gourds from Halloween or a trip to a fall fair or orchard, then you can easily transition these items into your Thanksgiving and fall decorating scheme to frame your doorway, accent your porch or interior areas of your home. Small pumpkins and gourds look great on a mantle or dining table, too.

2. Take a fall stroll and gather foliage and other natural items. The best fall décor may be right in your own backyard, or as close as a local park. Beautiful fall leaves, acorns and pinecones are in abundance right now and make lovely additions to centerpieces, so round up the family and take a walk to enjoy the autumn weather while scooping up these natural (and free) decorations. If you are worried about insects or allergies, you can also use artificial leaves and decorations, many of which can be found at your local dollar or discount store.

3. Get your groceries and beautiful autumn decorations. With all of the fall fruits, veggies and flowers in season, your local grocery store can be one of the best places to find décor to bring the fall season into your home. A few ideas: Place a gorgeous display of apples in a wicker basket or seasonal-themed bowl on your Thanksgiving buffet; tie colored corn in a bundle to use in place of a wreath on your door, or to accent a pumpkin display on your porch; and don’t forget some hardy chrysanthemums which can brighten up your home inside and out.

4. Raid the kids’ Halloween candy—or buy fall sweets on clearance. It just isn’t fall without candy corn, is it? If you agree, now is the time to sort through your kids’ Halloween haul for it (they won’t miss it!) and use it to decorate fall treats, or simply put it in a pretty bowl as a decoration. Check the kids’ candy loot for other treats, too, that are autumn themed but don’t “scream” Halloween. No kids around? Then head to the grocery or dollar store to get clearance-priced fall treats!

5. Hang up some hand towels and throw some pillows. Another easy and inexpensive fall decorating idea is to use throw pillows (or blankets) and hand towels featuring fall patterns and colors around your home. If you keep these items specifically for the season, they’ll last a surprisingly long time while adding a festive fall refresh to your home’s décor each year.

6. Surround yourself (and your guests) with scents of the season. Great fall décor goes beyond the visual to entice all of the senses. Try infusing seasonal scents such as pumpkin spice, apples, cinnamon and woodsy scents into your autumn decorating with candles, essential oils, air fresheners and fragrant room sprays. Before guests arrive you may want to mull some cider or bake an apple pie for a truly delicious addition to your fall decor that everyone will enjoy.

Beautiful fall décor sets the stage for memorable harvest season celebrations and family gatherings such as Thanksgiving. Using the simple fall decorating tips above will ensure that you don’t spend too much time or money on your autumn décor—so you can truly enjoy this special time of year with family and friends.

Worried About Data Breaches? Protect Yourself with these Tips

Recent data breaches have many of us worried that our most sensitive personal and financial information is at risk—with good reason.

For our part, OSB is continually working to ensure that your data remains secure. One way we are doing this is with the introduction of our new Community Checking Account options. Both our Advantage Checking and Advantage Plus Checking accounts feature IDProtect® which includes comprehensive identity theft monitoring and resolution services as well as other features to help you keep your identity safe. You can review these account options here.

Our Online Banking system is also designed to protect you from data theft. It has many safeguards to secure your account information including authentication, SSL, exclusive encryption software, high-end firewalls, and automatic sign-off. For additional details please review the security information on our website.

If you are not utilizing IDProtect® through our Advantage or Advantage Plus checking accounts, here are some other tips you can use to help keep your sensitive information safe:

  1. Monitor your accounts regularly. Keeping an eye on your bank and other financial accounts is part of being fiscally responsible and allows you to take prompt action if unauthorized activity does occur.
  2. Report suspicious account activity immediately. If you believe that your OSB Online Banking access ID or passcode has been compromised, or if an unauthorized transaction has occurred, let us know within two business days to mitigate your financial exposure. If you think that your credit information has been stolen, contact one of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) and the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338).
  3. Set up automatic fraud alerts. In addition to self-monitoring your bank and credit accounts, set up automatic fraud alerts using tools offered by financial services providers like OSB. The three major credit reporting agencies listed above all offer free fraud notifications, too.
  4. Consider a credit freeze if you are concerned. If you believe you have been impacted by a data breach, you may want to contact each of the credit reporting agencies to ask for a lock on your credit files to stop any new credit information releases until you can determine if your information was actually stolen.
  5. Check your credit report. Each year, you are entitled to one free credit report from all three major reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com. Requesting these reports should be a regular practice to proactively monitor the security of your information.

Unfortunately, data breaches are becoming more commonplace in our digital world. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to take every measure you can to protect yourself from identity and data thieves. Choosing one of our Community Checking Accounts with IDProtect® services is a great first step as is implementing the tips above. If you have any questions about our Advantage Checking or Advantage Plus Checking accounts and the protection they provide or OSB’s commitment to your security please contact us.

Make Time to Enjoy These Local Autumn Activities

As your local mortgage lender, OSB can help you secure the southeastern Michigan mortgage loans in Lenawee,  Jackson and Washtenaw counties. To help you make optimal decisions about your mortgage options, we’re featuring  this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409).

Fall is one of the best times to get outdoors for some quality time with family and friends and there’s an abundance of fun fall activities in our local area to enjoy. From walking through rustling leaves on a nature trail, to finding treasures at craft shows and downtown shops, to cheering on young athletes at school sporting events, the fall season in southeastern Michigan has something for everyone.

Although the weather has been warm recently, the sure signs of fall are appearing! The leaves are changing color—and a new crop of delicious apples is coming into season, which means that apple picking, another favorite fall family activity is ready to enjoy at local orchards in Jackson County, Lenawee County and  Washtenaw County. If you’re ready to celebrate this year’s harvest season, here are a few of the area’s local farms and orchards you may want to visit:

In Jackson County—Meckley’s Flavor Fruit Farm was established more than 60 years ago. It is located at 11025 S. Jackson Road in Cement City, Michigan. This full “farm experience” truly has something for everyone, including an orchard, cider mill, farm tours, a bakery, plus a cidery and wine cellar. There’s even special live music events throughout the season.

In Lenawee County—Carpenter Farms in Adrian, Michigan is a place that’s perfect for making family memories. The working farm offers lots of fun activities during the fall season including a corn maze, hayrides and pumpkins, a petting farm and more. Plus, you can take a great family snapshot in their beautiful fall photo-staging display.

In Washtenaw County—Part farm, part orchard, part county fair—a trip to Wiard’s Orchard in Ypsilanti, Michigan adds up to a ton of family fun! Located at 5565 Merritt Road, you can plan to spend a full afternoon at Wiard’s to enjoy lunch and take in all of the amusements such as games, slides, the corn maize, tractor rides, pony rides, paintball and a trip through the haunted woods. Not to mention, you’ll want to spend time picking apples and pumpkins in the u-pick area and paying a trip to the country store featuring baked goods and more.

These favorite fall destinations are just a sampling of the outings that you and your family can enjoy in our local community. By exploring all of the fall activities and events in Jackson County, Lenawee County and  Washtenaw County you’ll make the most of one of the most beautiful times of year in southeast Michigan.

Seeking Success? Start by Finding Your Sweet Spot

Mortgage season is definitely here, with the real estate market in full swing and interest rates poised to rise, making it the perfect time to refinance an existing loan. To help you make optimal decisions about your mortgage options, we’re featuring  this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409).

While everyone has a different definition of success, striving for it is a driving force for many of us. Setting and achieving goals, working to bring a vision to life and making progress in our personal and professional lives are all examples of the kinds of success we seek.

Success can seem elusive as we find ourselves facing challenging circumstances and setbacks. This can be frustrating, especially when you are looking to make a career move or reach a personal goal. While there are rarely many shortcuts to finding success, finding your sweet spot can help make it considerably easier.

Your sweet spot defined. What do we mean by “sweet spot”? It’s the intersection of the things that you are good at (usually these things come relatively easy to you) and the actions that will help you achieve your particular goal. Finding your sweet spot allows you to operate with efficiency, strength and, usually, positive results. So how do you find that special place in your heart and mind that can accelerate you on the path to achieving what you want? It’s not as hard as it sounds, especially if you follow these four steps:

Visualize and write down what you want to achieve. As legendary author and inspirational speaker Stephen Covey says, “Start with the end in mind.” Many of us want to achieve goals related to fitness, finances and family, but we keep our goals in our heads and in very general terms. Covey’s advice is to envision in your mind and articulate on paper (or your electronic device) in very specific detail, exactly what you want and the steps you need to take toward getting it. While this may seem simple, it is a very powerful principle, too.

Identify your inner strengths. Once you have a specific vision and goal in your mind and in written form, you need to leverage your core competencies—the strengths that make you unique and can help you achieve your goal. Make a list of the unique talents you have that you can use to help move you in the right direction. For example, maybe you want to increase your success in your professional life by finding a different job opportunity. Without knowing what your aptitudes are and looking only superficially at the kind of position you want, rather than what will use your best skills and personal characteristics, it is unlikely that you will be successful in finding a role where you can reach your full potential  and be truly satisfied.

Listen to your family, friends and fans. While you can’t let others determine your definition of success, don’t discount what people tell you about your strengths. If the praise you receive is sincere, it can help point you in the direction of your sweet spot. Consider writing down the actions that you have been recognized for doing exceptionally well and your positive characteristics that people often comment on, then look to find common themes. These will likely be indicative of what internal strengths will help you achieve your goal with relative ease.

Put it all together. Now that you have a clear goal and a clear idea of the strengths and internal resources you have to achieve it, it’s time to use your sweet spot to activate your success. Make a plan with specific action items of what you need to do to achieve your goals and then match them up with your greatest aptitudes that will allow you successfully complete them.

Final thoughts…Nothing is more rewarding than setting a goal and actually achieving it, but sometimes we stand in our own way by not doing the work required to know where our sweet spot lies in terms of being successful. Spending just an hour or two to envision what you want and tap into the internal power you have to achieve it can make your journey on the path to success easier—and your accomplishments that much sweeter.