Digital Tools That Help You Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

by Sara Seeger 13. January 2014

New Year’s resolutions are one of the hardest promises to keep. It’s not uncommon for us to surrender our commitment shortly after we start due to lack of energy, willpower, support, or a plethora of other lame excuses. Fortunately for us, there are convenient apps and digital tools that we can use to help us achieve our resolutions.

Healthy Produce

1. Dieting and Healthy Eating

After all of that holiday overindulging, many of us resolve to eat healthier or diet. MyFitnessPal has a free app and an online tool to assist us with a healthier lifestyle. This digital tool has an easy to use calorie counter where we can search for food and track calories from more than 3 million entries. Record what you eat and the app will calculate the number of calories you’ve eaten. The app also offers numerous exercise options and a motivational tool for you to share your progress with others who use the app. A little friendly competition to keep us on target can’t hurt.

2. Smoking Cessation

There are numerous apps that can help smokers nix the habit. One such app is called, Quit It Lite. Quit It is a free app that uses motivation to encourage and support smokers to quit and to motivate ex-smokers to stay away from tobacco. This app tracks the number of cigarettes a person doesn’t smoke, the amount of money a person saves by not smoking, and shows the health benefits of a tobacco-free lifestyle, all while calculating a ranking that is specific to the individual. So, if the health benefits aren’t enough to motivate a smoker to quit, the financial savings may do the trick!

3. Learn Something New

Tired of trying to achieve the same New Year’s resolution year after year? Why not set your sights on learning a new language? Duolingo is a free app and website tool that allows users to master up to six languages through engaging games that assess reading, writing, and speaking skills. You can choose to compete against yourself to maintain high scores, or if you need a little extra motivation, you can compete against friends. This app makes learning a language fast, fun, and convenient.


4. Get Organized

Do you have a lot on your mind? Do you forget important events like meetings, birthdays, or (yikes!), wedding anniversaries? EasilyDo Smart Assistant is a free app that proactively reminds you of important events. It also organizes contacts, checks traffic reports, sends bad weather notifications, and tracks packages- all in the convenience of one app. This app allows you to save time and stay on top of everything you need to remember so you can stay out of the “doghouse.”

5. Help Others

Interested in giving back to your community? VolunteerMatch is a free app and website tool that allows users to connect with great causes. Users can search more than 62,000 available volunteer opportunities to find the perfect match for them. The app enables users to search geographically to choose organizations near their home, work, or school. This option gives people the flexibility to volunteer outside of their own “backyard.”

6. Get Your Finances in Order

Many people resolve to manage their money better, specifically to spend less and save more. Mariner360, from 1st Mariner Bank, can assist with this goal. Mariner360 is an online individual money management tool that helps users develop, track, and continuously monitor their expenses and budgeting strategies. It is free to all Online Banking customers, and is robust enough to track all of your accounts, regardless of financial institution. Start your New Year off on the right foot and set solid financial goals with Mariner360.

Organization begins with Mariner360

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4 Ways to Control Excessive Spending This Holiday Season

by Sara Seeger 25. November 2013

Holiday Gift

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or another holiday, it’d be best to regard the advice from popular holiday carols and “make your list and check it twice” to avoid a “bah-humbug” state of mind. Holidays incite conflicting reactions for many people; positive experiences gathering with family and friends and post-holiday stress of credit card bills for those gifts for family and friends. It's important to plan your spending so that you can dream about a white Christmas instead of shoveling yourself out of debt.

1) Make a List and Check It Twice

Really think about and make a decision about whose names should be on your list. Is it necessary to purchase gifts for immediate family, extended family, second cousins, distant relatives, or your significant other’s extended family? Determine where to “draw the line” with gift buying and stick to your list. “Secret Santa” exchanges or “family gifts” are great alternatives to buying individual gifts for each person and can make gift-giving more manageable and less costly.

2) Set Spending Limits – Everyone Gets a Price Tag!

After you make your list, the next step is to check it against your discretionary spending budget. Take a look at your monthly income, debts, and overall budget and be realistic about what you can spend. As you think about what to buy, estimate the cost of each item and write it down so you have an approximation of the total cost to determine what you can afford. Remember to check your list twice as you shop to ensure you stick to your budget.

Shop Smart

3) Shop Smart – Compare Prices, Use Coupons, and Look for Those Sale Prices

It is wise to start holiday shopping early to give yourself enough time to find the best deals on the gifts you wish to purchase. Keep in mind Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales (see some of the leaked ads here), where you can save some serious money. Don’t be afraid to shop at warehouse stores when buying in bulk can save you money. Compare prices by using price comparison websites and tools, such as Google Shopping,, Nextag, and Amazon.

4) When all Else Fails… Get Creative & Give Back

It’s the thought that counts. So, don't underestimate the power of a homemade gift. If finances are tight or if you’re the creative type, a homemade gift is the way to go. Homemade gifts reflect the style and creativity of the gift giver and have more sentimental value than store-bought gifts. Websites like Pinterest have great ideas for creative and useful homemade gifts. Materials to make these gifts are fairly inexpensive, and can be purchased at any local craft store.

Don’t forget to consider the charity of choice for your recipient. Most charitable organizations provide donation options to suit any budget. This type of gift warms the heart of the giver and the receiver and knocks the Scrooge out of us all.

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Five Ways to Reduce Your Credit Card Debt

by Sara Seeger 13. November 2013

Good Credit Bad Credit

It's that time of the month again; the bills are piling up and accumulating in a growing stack on the nearest table. You may let a day or two (or more) go by before opening them because you know what awaits your attention – a dreaded credit card bill. Don’t worry. You have the power to take control of your financial situation and to free yourself from credit card debt. By following these five steps, you can confidently state, “The check’s in the mail,” and mean it!

1) Create a Budget - and Stick to It

The first step to eliminating your credit card debt is to create a realistic budget. There are a few ways to do this - you could use an online service like Mariner360, or you could simply track your monthly income and expense on an Excel spreadsheet. By tracking your income and expense, you’ll be able to determine your spending habits and, if needed, be able to identify areas you may need to adjust your spending. The most important part of this step is follow-through. Make sure you stick to your budget.

2) Reduce Your Monthly Bills

Some monthly expenses are constant, such as rent, mortgage, or a car payment. However, some expenses are discretionary. Ask yourself where you can reduce your expenses. Are you able to downgrade to a less expensive data plan for your smartphone? Can you manage with basic television instead of the “deluxe” channel add-ons, can you eat dinner at home a few more times a month? Taking a more conservative approach to spending, at least for a little while, will help you get your debt under control.

3) Cut Out Unnecessary Purchases

Before you get out your credit card, ask yourself, “Do I really need that item?” Categorize your purchases into “need to have” and “nice to have.” Keep track of those “nice to have” items as this expense is within your ability to control. Do you really need 500 pairs of shoes?

4) Choose Your Payoff Strategy

There are two fairly common ways to pay off your credit card. The first strategy is to put all your extra money toward the credit card with the highest interest rate, while paying the minimum balance on the others. Once the high-rate card is paid off, you can apply extra money to the card with the next highest interest rate, and so on. This strategy should allow you to save money on accumulated interest.

The second strategy is to pay off the credit card with the lowest balance first, while continuing to pay the minimum balance on the others. This strategy is the quickest way to eliminate debt on a single credit card - not to mention the psychological benefit of one less credit card debt.

5) Reward Yourself

Paying off credit card debt isn’t easy. It requires dedication and a responsible attitude. Make a game of it and set goals that help you stay motivated and track your progress along the way. When you reach these goals, reward yourself – within reason. Remember that the decisions you make in the short term impact you in the long term. Enjoy your road to becoming debt free!

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