Meet Tayler Swanson, Electronic Banking Representative at Merchants Bank

Tayler Swanson, Electronic Banking Representative at Merchants, on a trip to Alaska last summer.

Tayler Swanson, Electronic Banking Representative at Merchants, on a trip to Alaska last summer.

How long have you been with Merchants?

Tayler: I’ve worked in the Electronic Banking department at Merchants for two years. I enjoy working with customers and helping them solve a problem. It’s a great feeling when things “click” and they value my help.

What is your top electronic banking tip?

Tayler: Always double check everything. Simple accuracy can be the problem half of the time when typing in your password or PIN.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Tayler: Whenever you have something you want to buy, wait and see. I’m actually giving that same advice to my younger brother right now, who is considering making a large purchase.

If you won the Powerball (currently estimated at $50 million) what’s the first thing you would buy?

Tayler: I would buy back my childhood home. I grew up out in the country in Faribault and my parents sold our house shortly after I left for college at Winona State.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Tayler: I like exploring the outdoors. I actually got to visit Alaska this past summer with my girlfriend, which was amazing. We went mountain climbing, visited Lake Eklutna and went on an eight hour whale watching cruse. We saw seals, puffins, dolphins, sea otters, humpback whales, fin whales and a massive glacier.

For more information on our electronic banking options (including Online and Mobile Banking), visit our website.

Holiday Gift Guide

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With the holidays right around the corner, everyone seems to be filled with joy and cheer. But if you haven’t done your holiday shopping yet, the mantra, “It’s better to give than to receive” is probably repeating over and over in your head. And if you’ve exhausted earrings for mom or ties for dad, holiday shopping can turn stressful.

Don’t fret: Below are several unique present ideas that are sure to satisfy every mom, dad, or kid this holiday season.

Gifts for Mom

Book pillow – How often does your mom curl up on the couch with a good book — and then has to re-angle herself repeatedly to find a comfortable position? A book pillow is specifically shaped to help you prop up a book when reading — no matter if you’re at a table or on your bed. The pillow does it all — even holds the book — so hands remain free to have a snack or even take notes as you read.

Jewelry armoire – Does your mother always seem to be untangling her necklaces or wondering where the matching earring is her favorite pair? A jewelry armoire mounts directly to a bedroom wall to open up more space on the dresser. It features tons of hooks and drawers for jewelry storage, and sometimes a mirror is included, so Mom can easily see which piece you’d like to wear that day without going too far.

Spa gift card – Every mom deserves to get pampered from time to time. Give her the gift of stress relief with a prepaid massage, manicure/pedicure or skin treatment. Take it a step further and get yourself a spa card as well so that you and Mom can relax together.

Gifts for Dad

Remote control cooler – What father wouldn’t want the beverage of his choice delivered right to the couch he’s sitting on? Up to 60 feet away, Dad can use a remote control to operate a cooler, which glides directly to you on its four wheels. The cooler holds up to six bottles as well as ice to keep them cold, and it can be used both indoors and out.

A good razor – Chances are, Dad hasn’t invested in what most men should — a good razor where blades stay sharp, nicks are scarce and one that will help make a close shave a breeze. Introducing King of Shave’s razor with Hyperglide. The razor’s hydrophilic self-lubricating cartridge creates a HydroGel on your face when it makes contact with water, so there’s no need for any shaving creams or gels — and the shave is as close as it gets. Other options for good razors include Gilette or Schick.

Front-pocket wallet – Does Dad ever complain of back pain? A unique culprit could be from wedging a wallet in his back pocket and sitting on it. A front-pocket wallet is uniquely designed to be kept in the front pocket of any type of pants, making grabbing a license, money or credit cards even more convenient than before. This thin, compact wallet will also help eliminate the risk of Dad being pit-pocketed.

Gifts for Kids

TV buds – If your kids are into watching TV, it may get pretty loud in the house sometimes. With TV buds, a personal TV listening system, they’ll be able to hear the TV clearly, but you won’t. It’s not just a gift for you, though, as these buds make the TV watching experience even better for the youngsters. TV buds offer sound enhancement, added range, and quality, plus they’re super comfortable and lightweight to boot.

Kid-approved coupons - You don’t need to spend hundreds on a popular toy — especially when you can make your child a gift they’ll really appreciate. Create an envelope of coupons that they can use whenever they please  —things like “stay up a half hour after bedtime” or “get out of a chore free card.” You could even make the coupons about hosting a movie and popcorn night or doing an activity the child is interested in. They’ll love getting to use their gift over and over again.

Hooded towel – For children ages 2 and up, bath time may not be their favorite time of day. Make it fun with a hooded bath towel that comes in different characters. The kids will love taking a bath knowing that they get to put on an adorable, comfy towel afterwards.

With these holiday gifts, you are sure to see some smiling faces. Head to the stores now to beat the holiday rush!

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Meet Marcus Krings, Electronic Banking Representative at Merchants Bank

Meet Marcus Krings, Electronic Banking Representative at Merchants, pictured playing with his band, The Whistle Jacks.

Meet Marcus Krings, Electronic Banking Representative at Merchants, pictured playing with his band, The Whistle Jacks.

When did you start your banking career?

In 2006, started working at Winona National as a Lead Teller and worked there for several years. In 2012, I came to

Merchants and have been in the Electronic Banking department since. I like working with computers and helping people, so this job combines two things I really enjoy.

What is your top electronic banking tip?

My first tip would be for people traveling outside of the tri-state area: Make sure that you know the pin number associated with your debit card. Merchants has fraud protection rules in place that require you to enter your pin when making purchases far from home. If you don’t know your pin, you can call Electronic Banking a 866-496-0522 and we can help you reset your pin in time for your trip.

For those interested in using our mobile app, it’s important to note you’ll need to sign up for Online Banking first. You can get started with Online Banking by contacting a Customer Service Representative at your local Merchants Bank, calling Electronic Banking or enrolling at merchantsbank.com. Then, when you search for the app in the app store, use “merchants bank na” because that search term will bring you directly to our app page.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

You have to earn your money. My parents always emphasized that money was something you worked for, whether it was simply doing chores around the house or having a high school job.

If you could ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange with anyone, who would it be and why?

My wife. She really likes to travel and we’d have fun in New York together.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Sour apple green gummies. Those are delicious.

For more information on our electronic banking options, visit our website.

What is Most Important to Homebuyers?

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If you’re looking to put your home up for sale, there are an array of things to do that can entice a potential buyer. For starters, you can clear the clutter, clean the carpets and try to paint over your kid’s fingerprints on the walls.

But besides making your home as picturesque as it can be, it’s important to understand what real estate buyers are really looking for in the current day and age. Like homes change, so do homebuyers, and now those of the Gen X and Gen Y population are taking the home-buying floor. It turns out they have some pretty high standards, which differ greatly from what previous generations sought in a home.

“It’s critical that real estate professionals understand what embodies a quintessential home for the Millennial generation, which vastly differs from the traditional norms of generations before them,” says Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC, which conducted a survey on the essentials of what current homebuyers are seeking. According to the results, a whopping 77 percent of next-generation homeowners would prefer a home that encompasses the technological capabilities they grew up with and have become accustomed to (smart phones, apps, etc.).

“These survey findings allow our brand to continue to best serve the next generation of homebuyers and find homes that can or do appeal to their lifestyles and unique spirit,” says Chris. “Understanding technologies to communicate with this generation is now only one piece of the puzzle for agents; ‘smart’ technological capabilities must now be ingrained into the home itself.”

The survey results proved that technology was a huge part of what next-generation homebuyers crave in their home. In fact, 56 percent said home technology capabilities topped “curb appeal” in terms of importance in a home. What’s more, if a home didn’t live up to their advanced technology standards, 64 percent said they’d rather not live there. One of the most important technology components that participants wanted was an energy-efficient washer and dryer (which 57 percent said they’d like this commodity in a home), followed by a security system (46 percent) and a smart thermostat (44 percent).

Additionally, 77 percent of those surveyed said they’d rather purchase an “essential” home instead of a large, luxurious abode. Forty-three percent even went so far as to say they’d rather the home be less “cookie cutter” style and more customized to their level of practicality. For example, 1 in 5 Millennials surveyed stated they would more appropriately name their dining room a home office, which is what they’d more commonly use the space for. Also, 43 percent would prefer to use their living room as a home theater.

Technology in the home doesn’t end there for this present home-buying crowd. Fifty-nine percent surveyed said they’d prefer more space in the kitchen for a TV (over a second stove), and if possible, they’d like to have a form of entertainment in each room in the house. While kitchen renovations are and have always been a main precedence , now Millennials say the most desirable part of the room are tech updates. And, 41 percent of participants said they’d likely brag to a friend about a home automation system over a newly redone kitchen.

The desire for a technologically-equipped home is not a shock among Millennials, but results that didn’t include anything about technology included that 82 percent of participants said they’d rather invest in a home that needed renovations if given the choice between that and relying on their parents’ money.

In addition, other commodities homebuyers wish for in their home include walk-in closets, home offices and hardwood flooring. With that said, if your current home does come equipped with one or all of these things on current buyers’ wish lists, it may be a good idea to emphasize them in your listing. Also, given how important technology is to current homebuyers, before you list your new home, you may benefit from transforming your home into a “smart home.”

Not sure where to start? Your financial institution is the best place to help with all your real estate needs.

Loans are subject to credit approval. Merchants Bank is an equal housing lender. Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Be Green by Wasting Less Food

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If you are searching for new ways to be environmentally friendly, you may have noticed that many options, such as installing solar panels in your home, can require an initial expense that may be hard to manage before the cost savings add up to offset the expense. There are ways to help save the planet that don’t cost anything and can even create instant money savings, however, and learning how to waste less food is one of the easiest and most rewarding.

According to Good Housekeeping magazine, it is estimated that people waste a third of the food they purchase on a weekly basis. This is an obvious drain on your wallet, and nobody likes to waste money, especially when it is continuously wasted for the same reason, week after week.

Not only is it unpleasant to have mystery food items rotting in your fridge, this wasted food can also have a negative impact on the planet. Many people don’t realize that by finding ways to throw away less food, they can actually help reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warning.

“When food is disposed in a landfill it rots and becomes a significant source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide,” states the EPA.

If you want to stop spending money on food you don’t use and help fight against climate change, the following tips are a great place to start.

Make a meal plan

When you make a meal plan, you are less likely to end up wasting food. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be too elaborate or take much time at all. For example, if you plan to order pizza one night and know that you typically have one day’s worth of leftovers from each meal, then you should only plan to cook three dinners. This means that you don’t need to buy chicken, pork chops, hamburger and fish, unless you plan to freeze one of those items.

 Stick to your list

Once you’ve made a meal plan for your dinners and lunches (breakfast items typically don’t go bad as quickly and don’t require as much planning) write a grocery list of items you will need. If you stick to that list when shopping you will spend less time lingering in the aisles, which will help you ignore the tempting impulse buy items that are craftily displayed to grab your attention when browsing. Furthermore, sticking to your list will help you avoid purchasing more than your family can eat in a week.

Check your fridge’s condition

Even if you don’t have too much food, it can still go bad if your fridge isn’t keeping it at the right temperature.

“Check that the seals on your fridge are good and check the fridge temperature, too. Perishable food should be stored at 37 degrees Fahrenheit for maximum freshness and longevity (keep your freezer at 0 degrees or just a little lower),” states Good Housekeeping.

Rotate pantry and fridge items

When you bring home new groceries to store in your pantry and fridge, bring the older items to the front of your shelves first. This will help you remember to use up items that are closer to going bad, before breaking into the new packages.

These tips are easy to incorporate into your life and can help you start saving money and the planet today.

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10 Days of Giving 2014 Schedule of Events

10DaysofGivingEvents

Please join us in the following Merchants Bank communities for events to support the 10 Days of Giving (click on a specific location for more information). We’re collecting donations to stock local food shelves.

Cannon FallsCottage GroveHastingsOnalaskaRed WingSpring GroveSt. CharlesWinona

Cannon Falls
December 1-10:
Change Collection – Merchants Bank staff will be collecting your loose change in their lobby with the donations going to Cannon Falls Food Shelf.

Cottage Grove

  • December 1-10 – Cottage Grove will be holding its “10 Days of Giving”  to benefit the Friends in Need Food Shelf. You can bring cash donations or toiletry items to Merchants Bank in Cottage Grove or any participating school or business.
  • December 10, Holiday Train
    Date/Time – Wednesday, December 10 at 5:45 p.m.
    Location – South of the Sieben Bridge, in front of the Youth Service Bureau.
    Don’t miss performances by Home Free and and Kira Isabella. Santa Claus will stop by and there will be entertainment, snacks and refreshments for everyone.

Hastings

  • December 1-10 – Hastings will be holding its “10 Days of Giving” to benefit Hastings Family Service. Bring cash or food donations to Merchants Bank in Hastings or any participating school or business.
  • December 9Holiday Train
    Date/Time – Tuesday, December 9 at 8:30 p.m.
    Location – Canadian Pacific Depot, 500 E. Second Street.
    Don’t miss performances by Home Free and and Kira Isabella. Santa Claus will stop by and there will be entertainment, snacks and refreshments for everyone.

Onalaska
December 2: Onalaska employees will again be hosting the La Crosse Rotary Lights Event from 5:00-10:00 p.m. at Riverside Park in La Crosse, WI. Please bring cash or food donations that night to the event to benefit WAFER.

Red Wing
December 1-10: Change Collection – Merchants Bank staff will be collecting your loose change in their lobby with the donations going to Red Wing Area Food Shelf.

Spring Grove
December 1-10: Spring Grove will be holding its “10 Days of Giving” to benefit Semcac Houston County Food Shelf. Bring cash or food donations to Merchants Bank in Spring Grove or purchase a pre-packaged grocery bag at Red’s IGA.

St. Charles
December 1-10: St. Charles will be holding its “10 Days of Giving” to benefit Southeastern Minnesota Resource Center. Bring cash or food donations to Merchants Bank in St. Charles or any participating school or business.

Winona

  • December 1-10 – To give a gift of food, drop off items at Merchants Bank in Winona, Goodview or Lakeside or any participating school or business. You can mail a donation to Merchants Bank, 102 East Third Street, Winona, MN 55987, attn: “10 Days of Giving.” You can make a donation online by going directly to the Winona Volunteer Services website. Indicate “10 Days of Giving” after entering your name.
  • December 1, Culver’s Night
    Date/Time – Monday, December 1 from 5:00-8:00 p.m.
    Location – Culver’s of Winona
    Culver’s will be donating 10% of all sales from 5:00-8:00 p.m.
  • December 2, Santa Paws
    Date/Time – Tuesday, December 2 from 5:00-7:00 p.m.
    Location – Merchants Bank-Downtown Winona
    Pet lovers, get your pet’s photo taken with Santa for a $10.00 donation and a non-perishable food item.
  • December 5, Elks Fish Fry
    Time/Date – Friday, December 5 from 5:00-7:30 p.m.
    Location – Winona Elks Lodge
    For only $9, you’ll get your choice of batter-fried or broiled cod, choice of baked potato or fries, coleslaw, dinner roll and refreshments. Place your bid in our silent auction.
  • December 6, Holiday Lighted Parade
    Date/Time – Saturday, December 6 at 5:30 p.m.
    Location – 6th Street in downtown Goodview.
    Lighted and decorated barrels will be placed at Merchants Bank in Goodview and the Elks Lodge. People coming to watch the Holiday Lighted Parade are invited to bring monetary gifts or non-perishable food items with them. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be collecting food along the parade route. Christmas cookies and hot chocolate will be served by Merchants Bank staff at the Bank on Sixth Street. After the parade, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the Elk’s Lodge to greet children.
  • December 7, Holiday Concert for the Hungary
    Date/Time – Sunday, December 7 at 2:00 p.m.
    Location – Winona State University Performing Arts Center
    The Winona State University Symphonic Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Donald Lovejoy, and the Winona State University Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Paul Vance, will perform their annual Holiday Concert. Residence Hall students from WSU will be collecting non-perishable food items. Admission to the concert is free with the gift of food or monetary contribution to the “10 Days of Giving” Food Drive.
  • December 8, Rocco’s Pizza Night
    Time/Date – Monday, December 8 from 5:00-8:00 p.m.
    Location – Rocco’s Pizza in Goodview
    Rocco’s Pizza in Goodview will be donating 10% of all sales from 5:00-8:00 p.m.
  • December 9, Holiday Train
    Date/Time – Tuesday, December 9 at 4:00 p.m.
    Location – Winona Amtrack Station.
    Canadian Pacific Railway’s “Holiday Train” will make a stop in Winona. Entertainment, cookies and refreshments will be provided. CPR officials will make a monetary contribution to the Food Shelf at Winona Volunteer Services. Guests who attend are encouraged to make a non-perishable food or monetary donation.

DIY Ways to Prep Your House for Winter

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As fall morphs into winter and temperatures increasingly drop, you may notice cooler weather inside your home as well. One reason: Things like cracks in window panes, poorly insulated water heaters and clogged air filters can mean your home is not acquiring its maximum energy efficiency.

You could hire a contractor or other worker to fix a hole in your window letting cold air in, or affix insulation to your attic walls — but that can be a hassle, breaking your budget and butting into your schedule. The good news is there are easy projects you can do yourself around your home to prepare for winter — that will save you time and energy, won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and you can do it on your own time, whenever you please.

Here are some common problems that occurs in homes when winter arrives, and how you can fix them — all by yourself.

1. Seal holes and gaps in walls and windows

Gaps and cracks in your foundation and walls can cause chilly air, and sometimes even rodents, to sneak inside your home.

“It doesn’t take much to get rid of that outdoor draft that comes in,” says Jan Cregier, owner of Interior Expressions by Jan in Bartlett, Ill., and a member of the national board of the Interior Design Society (IDS). All you need to fill the holes are some foam and caulk, which can be found at nearly every local hardware store. Use an adhesive foam around window and door gaps and expanding foam for sealing cracks and pipes. Also try a paintable caulk, which comes off easily if you’re mistake prone (and it will last for years to come).

 2. Add insulation

Insulation’s job? To keep warm air inside and keep cold air out.

“It’s amazing how even a small draught can make a room a lot colder, so if you can cut that bit of air out it immediately makes a difference,” says Claire Potter, an interior designer. Use rolls of foam insulation, which are inexpensive yet still get the job done. Additionally, mineral wool, glass fiber and recycled paper products work just as well to insulate your home. When installing insulation, remember to wear protective face ware such as a mask or goggles and protective clothing.

 3. Give doors and windows an upgrade

The most energy efficient windows are double- and triple-pane. At your local store, look for “low-emissivity” (low-E) window glass that’s been treated with an invisible metallic coating, which saves energy and reflects heat.

“It’s kind of like putting sunglasses on your window,” says Anna Marie Mavrakis, president of Mavrakis Construction and Cottage Draperies & Interiors in Canton, Ohio, and president of IDS. An even easier option is covering the inside of your windowpanes with Frost King, a removable polyurethane film. All you need is a hair dryer to shrink and pull the plastic tight to avoid wrinkling.

4. Fill cracks in flooring

As much as 10 percent of heat can be lost through floors if they’re not properly insulated, according to the National Energy Foundation (NEF). The easiest fix is placing a decorative rug on the floor or installing carpet, but if you’re set on your hardwoods, some filler will do to heal the cracks.

“Floorboards and skirting boards can contract, expand or move slightly with everyday use, so you should use a filler that can tolerate movement,” the NEF recommends. Note: A silicone-based filler is a good example of one that can tolerate movement.

 5. Pay attention to air filters

A dirty or clogged air filter means that central air will have to work overtime to heat your home — and that can be costly. It’s important to change your filters every one to three months, but especially when it gets cooler outside. A great choice of filter is a pleated one, which may capture more dirt. You can do this yourself in a matter of minutes, and filter replacements can be picked up at your local hardware store.

All it takes are a few quick fixes and your home will be warm, cozy, and best of all, energy efficient come the arrival of Old Man Winter.

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