Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this August 2014

family august blogCan you believe this summer is almost over? June and July quickly came and went, so now it’s time to focus on spending the last month of good weather and beach days with your loved ones by your side. Carnivals, contests, movie nights and fireworks are only some of the family fun activities that are coming near to a town near you this month. Check out some more free or inexpensive activities below that you can enjoy with your family and friends.

Friday, August 1: It’s the 2nd Annual Beach Ball-A-Palooza! Head down to Ocean County Park in Lakewood Township from 5:30pm-8:30pm and enjoy kayaking and canoeing on the lake, live music from Jimmy and the Parrots, crafts and family fun games. Bring your beach blankets, sweatshirts, and chairs – and enjoy the party. This event is free and it’s the perfect way to bond with your family and friends! For more information, call 732-506-9090.

Saturday, August 2: From noon-6pm head on over to the Bayshore Irish Festival in Keansburg! This day long festival is free of charge and offers a variety of activities and entertainment for the entire family. It’s encouraged that you make yourself comfortable and bring blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy a gorgeous summer afternoon. Local Irish musicians as well as Irish bands will be providing entertainment all day – including Celtic Connection from Philadelphia, and the always upbeat Narrowbacks from New York. You can also enjoy traditional Irish step dancing by the Shea-Jennings School of Irish Dance. This is one event you certainly do not want to miss!

Thursdays, August 7 – August 28: Enjoy a Firework Spectacular every Thursday throughout the moth of August at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk! Spend the evening wandering around the mile long amusement park and visit the aquarium, amusement park rides, arcades, mini-golf course, or the delicious food stands – before finishing the night with a fireworks show on the beach. It’s a free event that the whole family can enjoy – for more information, call 732-892-0600.

Tuesday, August 12: It’s the annual Seashell Decorating Contest! Come down to Seaside at 6pm and kids ages 12 and under will have the chance to participate. This contest is free of charge and prizes will be awarded to the kids with the best seashells! For more information, call 732-793-3700.

Tuesday, August 19: Celebrate a beautiful night along the Manasquan Inlet and enjoy good food, music, a car show, and more! The celebration is being held from 5:30pm-9pm. For more information, call 732-223-0544.

Wednesday, August 20: Looking for a relaxing family night on the beach? Head over to the North End Pavilion in Spring Lake and watch Finding Nemo! Admission is FREE and the movie begins 30 minutes after sundown. For more information, call 732-241-6038.

Saturday, August 30: What better way to spend a Saturday night than a Moonlight Hike! Head over to Island Beach State Park and for $5.00, take a hike around the beach and learn about plant and animal life. The hike ends with a bonfire, roasted marshmallows and a beautiful scenic view of the ocean! For more information, call 732-793-0506.

Have a great end of your summer!

The Smartest Post-College Money Plan: Start Budgeting Now

budget deficit - recession 3d conceptIf you’ve recently graduated from college, and especially if you don’t have a job, it might seem ridiculous to turn your attention to budgeting. You’re exhausted from exams, and you have no money to budget. Why worry now, right?

It’s a fair question, but as anyone who has been there knows, this is precisely the time to avoid money mistakes. Unless you’re lucky and your parents are willing to pay your way for the time being, from free rent to food, to going out with your friends, you’re going to be spending in the near future – and spending too much can naturally lead to trouble.

For instance, many recent college graduates rely heavily on credit cards. When you don’t have a job, it’s not the best idea to pile all of your expenses on your credit card and figure you’ll pay it off once you get a job.

So if you’re an unemployed recent college graduate, here are some strategies to consider implementing to set yourself up for a bright financial future – debt free.

Get a job. It may not necessarily be your dream job, but find a job. It’s recommended that you visit temp agencies and recruiters to find an emergency job. It’s important to have some money coming in, even if the position isn’t closely related to your major or what you want to do in life.

New grads should not be so picky. It isn’t necessary that you get your dream job right out of college, you have to work your way up to get that job. Don’t worry, it’s okay to take a week or two off after graduation to recoup and relax – but generally, try not to waste too much time and start looking for a steady source of income.

Don’t stay in that hastily found job for long. Start looking for a better career move as soon as possible – you want the money coming in, not satisfaction settling in. If you’ve been at the job for more than six months, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and ask everyone you know for recommendations, or put yourself out on LinkedIn – because when it comes to job hunting, it always helps to know someone.

Live cheaply. You know what it’s like to live on a college budget, so don’t go crazy with spending your money on entertainment, clothes, travel, or going out. It’s not the best idea to spend money carelessly if you don’t land a job soon because the more you spend, the deeper you will dig yourself into debt.

It may be tough to go the frugal route and watch TV with your parents instead of going to the movies with your friends, but you should think about your new spending habits as “financial yoga – hurts now, helps later.” Even if you have a new, promising job, it’s smart to keep your expenses as low as possible – think about getting roommates.

That might be the last thing you want to hear if you had a bunch of roommates in college and you’re itching to finally live solo, but roommates will allow you to cut back on your rent and utilities in a big way. Whatever you do, keep expenses low so you can see what your budget can handle. You don’t want to get an apartment, update your wardrobe and buy a car, then realize your entry-level paycheck can’t handle the financial stress.

For a list of helpful college graduate accounts, loans, and services available at First Financial, click here. We know there are things you need to set-up your financial future, so we’ve customized some of our products and services like special Savings and Checking accounts, as well as an auto loan offer and more – to make this next step of your life one smooth ride.  Remember, if you ever need any financial guidance or have a question, reach out to us at 866.750.0100, email info@firstffcu.com or feel free to stop by any of our locations – we are here to help!

*Click here to view the article source by Geoff Williams of US News.

 

The 10 Commandments of Saving Money

saving moneyThere are thousands of savings tips that can help you grow your nest egg. Whether they involve brown-bagging it to work or using coupons at the supermarket, these are generally useful savings habits that can give you a leg up on ending each month in the black.

But there are only a few super-sized savings rules that can truly transform your finances. Rules so big they deserve to be etched in stone. So, here are the “The Ten Commandments” of saving.

1. Thou Shalt Know Where Thy Money Goes

When generals go to war, they need an overview of the battlefield. Maps, exploration and data show them where the enemy is susceptible. In the battle for savings, the first thing you have to know is where your money is going.

Sites like Mint.com allow you to connect all your bank accounts, credit cards and loans to cloud-based software so you to track your finances on one screen, in real time, with just the click of a button. They also analyze your expenses and highlight areas where you might be wasting money. Best of all, it’s free.

2. Thou Shalt Eliminate Debt with Extreme Prejudice

Debt is bad, but it’s the interest on that debt that’s like kryptonite to your savings goals, and the sooner you eliminate it, the sooner you can become a savings Superman.

You can also track your finances and debt with First Financial’s free, anonymous debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

Moving debt from high-interest instruments, like credit cards, to lower-interest instruments, like a line of credit, is a start. Consolidation loans can be a help as well, but the easiest way to get out of debt fast is to take the interest expense you save and put it directly toward your debt’s principal amount.

First Financial’s Visa Platinum Credit Card starts as low as 10.9% APR!* It’s a good idea to check the APR on your current credit cards to see if it’s time to switch. Keep in mind, we also don’t have any balance transfer fees and as an additional BONUS, for a limited time if you are approved for a balance transfer of $5,000 or more to our VISA Platinum Credit Card, you will receive 10,000 bonus CURewards Points! You can apply for the balance transfer by stopping into any branch or by calling 866.750.0100 to be sent a balance transfer request form.**

3. Thou Shalt Read the Fine Print

Most people would be shocked at the amount of money that they waste on service charges, convenience fees and annual dues hidden in financial contracts. If that low-interest credit card charges you $99 annually no matter if you use it or not, is it really that great of a deal?

Bank where checks are included and there is no minimum balance requirement (like a First Financial Checking Account!.*** Make sure if you transfer a balance to a lower-interest credit card that there is not a transaction fee attached. And if you rarely or never use that credit card with the annual fee, think about applying for a card that better suits your financial well-being.

4. Thou Shalt Pay Attention to Timing

At the risk of sounding like a ’60s folk-rock star, to everything there is a season, and waiting for the right season to purchase big-ticket items can save you a bundle. For example, car dealers will discount their inventory when the new model year arrives to free up room on their lots, so If you are in the market for a new car, that’s the season to buy.

Many big-box retailers and department stores have semi-annual sales where you can pick up appliances, electronics and home goods at a discount. The key is to fight against the urge for instant gratification on your purchases.

5. Thou Shalt Keep an Eye on Interest Rates

Even if you are able to pay off your credit cards and loans, the one debt most people can’t pay off is their home mortgage, which is why you should watch interest rates. When interest rates move down, it can be an opportunity to refinance your home loan and save money on your monthly mortgage payment.

But remember, if you just take the money you save and spend it, you’re not saving at all. Earmark the difference between your new mortgage payment and your old one for your bank account, or if you plan to live in your home for the life of the loan, put the extra toward your principal and own your home sooner.

We offer a number of great mortgage options, including refinancing – click here to learn about our features and services and see what’s a good fit for you! To receive updates on our low Mortgage Rates straight to your mobile phone, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our Mortgage Rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.****

6. Thou Shalt Find Money in Thy House

Most people would be surprised to learn just how much money they have laying around their house. Those books you’ve already read can be sold on Cash4Books or Amazon.com, and your old phones and mobile devices can be sold to companies like Gazelle.

Cleaning out the clutter in your home doesn’t just feel good but provides you with an opportunity to feed your piggy bank by having a garage or yard sale. And what about those figurines you inherited or your comic book collection? Do you still really want them? If not, try listing them on eBay.

7. Thou Shalt Use Technology to Find Deals

The Internet makes saving money so easy that your grandmother would likely throw her coupon box at your head if she knew. Sites like Groupon and Living Social will send deals on goods and services in to your inbox, and apps like Out of Milk can alert you to store sales just by driving by them.

The Internet also is a great resource for finding free activities for you and your family to do on weekends, holidays and school breaks.

Subscribe to our First Scoop Blog and receive free, fun financial education straight to your inbox – at the beginning of each month we post a budget-friendly activity list for that month in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, NJ!

8. Thou Shalt Not Forget to Prioritize Your Retirement

This is a tough one, because it’s hard to save money now that you don’t expect to use for 30 or 40 years. But like it or not, there is going to come a time when your earning years are over and we will all need a retirement fund to bankroll the golden years. So if you don’t want yours to be bronze years, you have to make retirement saving a priority.

The good news is that you have many years to accumulate those funds and to let them grow, which means that small amounts of savings directed toward it can go a long way. For example, you can take a percentage out of every saved dollar, say 25 percent, and earmark it for your retirement. This is an easy and painless way to create both a short-term and long-term savings fund.

To set up a no-obligation appointment with our Investment & Retirement Center to go over your retirement and investment portfolio or to get started with one, call 732.312.1565 or email samantha.schertz@cunamutual.com. *****

9. Thou Shalt Not Try to Keep Up With the Joneses

A huge part of winning the saving game is changing your mindset about how you think of money and what its function is. Too often we get caught up in the game of keeping up with the Joneses and buy things we don’t really want — and certainly don’t need — just to keep up appearances.

What many people don’t take into account is that that boat, RV, ATV, third car or giant flat screen that their neighbor bought probably comes with a loan or a high-interest credit card payment. Before making that next impulsive purchase, ask yourself if you really want it and if it will bring you that same warm fuzzy feeling that a full savings account will.

10. Thou Shalt Act Like Thy Don’t Even Have It

We can’t spend what we don’t have, so the more you act like you don’t have it, the more you will be able to save it. Have retirement and college savings funds automatically deducted from your paycheck before you ever see it. Schedule a “secret” payment from your checking account to your savings account each week.

When you come across found money — like a rebate, an overpayment refund or even $20 in your pants pocket — just act like you never had it and put it right into your savings. With practice, you can get pretty good at this, so much so that if you have an unexpected windfall — say from an investment or an inheritance — you’ll forget it even happened. Only your savings account will know.

Click here to view the article source by Brian Lund of Daily Finance.

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**Additional bonus points will be reflected within 30 days from the balance transfer approval and can be viewed when signed into your VISA Platinum Card Account online through Online Banking. In order to redeem bonus points, an offer reference must be made to a First Financial representative. Bonus points can only be redeemed one time per member, on an approved balance transfer of $5,000 or greater during the promotional period of 4/28/14 – 12/31/14.

***A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Visit firstffcu.com to view full Rewards First program details, and to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

****Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

*****Securities sold, advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution to make securities available to members. Not NCUA/NCUSIF/FDIC insured, May Lose Value, No Financial Institution Guarantee. Not a deposit of any financial institution. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

 

How to Save Money By Simplifying Your Life

save-money-travel-photo-ccNearly half of households in the United States are “liquid asset poor,” meaning they have less than three month’s worth of savings in the bank, according to a report this year from the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a nonprofit that tracks household financial security. Surprisingly, 25% of those who are considered “liquid asset poor” are in the middle class with earnings of $56,113 to $91,356 annually. What’s even more surprising is that 89% are employed.

Statistics like these might make you wonder how we got here. The fact is, modern life has become more difficult and complicated than ever. We not only have more inconveniences and responsibilities than previous generations, but we also have more bills to pay. We work more, relax less, and spend most of our time planning for the future instead of enjoying the present. Everything costs more than it did generations ago, which is another reason so many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. And when you’re living a hand-to-mouth existence, it can be next to impossible to break the cycle.

Breaking the Cycle in 5 Simple Steps

But what if someone told you it didn’t have to be that way? What would you do if you discovered that merely simplifying your life could help you save and prepare for a brighter future? The truth is, a simpler existence might be exactly what it takes to transition from a lifestyle of struggle into one where you’re able to enjoy life a little. It may not be easy, but change might just be within your reach.

Here’s how:

  • Pare down your possessions. If you’re struggling to keep up and feeling bogged down by life’s ups and downs, it might be time to lighten your load. The truth is, many of the belongings that bring you joy could also be a source of stress either because they require upkeep, take up too much space or come with additional financial costs. So, instead of holding on, figure out what you can sell and take the necessary steps to do so. You’ll not only simplify your life, but you’ll also rake in some extra cash in the process.
  • Cancel unnecessary services. Many monthly bills are non-negotiable, including things such as utilities, insurance, mortgage or rent payments, and transportation costs. But the rest? You can typically do without it. If you really want to simplify and get ahead, consider canceling services that aren’t necessary. This could include things such as cable television, expensive gym memberships (when there are many more affordable monthly plans out there), pricey cell phone contracts, or other unnecessary monthly subscriptions (magazines, movie rental/streaming services, etc.). Eliminating or cutting even a few of your monthly expenses can make a huge difference in your bottom line over the months and years. Plus, who doesn’t want fewer bills to pay?
  • Pay down debt. If you’re like most people, you have a few lingering debts from the past. The bad news is, those monthly debt payments might be part of the reason you’re struggling. They might even mean the difference between mere survival and getting ahead. Unfortunately, the only real way to escape the grasp of your debt is to make a commitment to become debt-free. Use the money you’ve freed up by paring down your possessions and eliminating unnecessary services to work toward becoming debt-free once and for all. It may take a while, but it will be worth it.

Utilize First Financial’s free, anonymous debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

  • Make a commitment to save. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, one surprise bill or emergency is all it takes to knock you completely off track. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to begin saving for the future and for any unexpected expenses that might arise. Saving money might seem like a lofty goal, but it can be done if you make the commitment to never give up. Your future self will thank you.
  • Make it automatic. If you’re worried you’ll fall off the savings wagon in a hurry, the best thing you can do for yourself is make all savings automatic. This generally means setting up an automatic account transfer on payday or at the end or beginning of the month. Making it automatic helps you accomplish your savings goals in two ways: First, it ensures you’re saving on a regular basis by forcing you onto a savings schedule. Second, it forces you to live on less than what you earn, which is required if you truly want to get ahead and stay ahead.

It’s true that modern life has become burdensome and overly complicated in some ways, but it’s also true that our decisions often make it worse. Fortunately, the key to escaping a lifetime of struggle is often within reach if you’re willing to look hard enough. All it takes is a fresh perspective, a willingness to live on less, and the fortitude to make it happen. A simpler and more prosperous life can be yours if you want it.

*Click here to view the article source by Holly Johnson of US News.

Learn How to Talk to Your Kids About Finances at this FREE Seminar in August 2014

teach-kids-howto-save-moneymomdaughtersTeaching kids about money can be done quite simply, following a few guidelines that will be taught to you at this FREE seminar. Parents are hands-down the most influential force in any child’s life, and studies show that this extends to money management. Yet, the money talk still doesn’t happen in many U.S. households. This free seminar will teach attendees about ways to get your children financially educated.

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • Financial literacy for every child’s lifestage
  • How to raise money-smart kids
  • Simple steps to get your children excited about saving money

Join us on Thursday, August 7th at 6:00pm for our free consumer seminar titled, How to Talk to Your Kids About Finances, presented by the experts at First Financial. The seminar will be held at our Wall Office located at 1800 Route 34 North, Building 3, Suite 302. We invite you to bring a guest but space is limited, so make sure you sign up today!

5 Budget Killers You Can Avoid

budgeting-money-to-conquer-debtCreating a budget is the first step in taking control of your finances. Sticking to your budget is another challenge altogether.

Even when you believe you have factored in every cost you may encounter by week, by month or by year, somehow you end up needing more money than you allocated – right? If this sounds like you, you are likely encountering a budget killer (or several). Below are some of the most common costs that can cause you to veer off your budgeting course.

1. Account Maintenance Fees: Some big bank accounts and credit cards tack on fees if you don’t maintain your account or meet specific requirements. Some charge you extra if you don’t maintain a certain balance, if you write too many checks, or if you don’t make enough transactions. These can add up quickly. Make sure when choosing an account or credit card, you read the specifics of your account agreement carefully. Look into which checking accounts and credit cards offer services that fit your lifestyle.

Be sure to check out the variety of flexible Checking Account options that we offer here at First Financial including First Protection, High Yield, Free, Go Green Checking and more. Plus, if you’re on the hunt for a great new maintenance-free credit card with rewards, click here to learn more about our low-rate Visa Platinum Credit Card and apply online.

2. Subscriptions: While seemingly low monthly fees can be attractive, subscription magazines and online services (think Netflix, Hulu, etc.) add up. These costs are hurting your budget if you are not using the services or if you could find them elsewhere online for free. Eventually, these just become another add-on to your monthly payments so it’s a good idea every so often to re-evaluate whether yours are worth keeping.

3. Credit Card Interest: Credit cards have several attractive features: allowing you to buy now and pay later, providing cash back, and helping you earn points toward a new car, vacation or night out. Paying installments on your purchases over time may appear to be a great way to buy all your monthly and superfluous purchases. However, high interest rates add up over time if you carry a balance and you can find yourself deep in debt before you know it. You may think you are paying off your purchase when all you are doing is treading water by paying off the interest. To avoid this, it’s important to know the interest rates of your credit cards, pay off your balance in full every month, and save before you purchase. Carrying a lot of debt can have longer-term implications on your credit scores too. If you want to see how your debt is affecting your credit, check out our free and anonymous debt management tool, Debt in Focus and be sure to take advantage of our First Score service to learn ways to improve your score as well.

Did you know that our Visa Platinum Credit Card rate starts as low as 10.9% and offers rewards?* It’s a good idea to check the APR of some of your current credit cards to see if it’s time to switch! Keep in mind, we also don’t have any balance transfer fees – and as an additional BONUS, for a limited time if you are approved for a balance transfer of $5,000 or more to our VISA Platinum Credit Card, you will receive 10,000 bonus CURewards Points! You can apply for the balance transfer by stopping into any branch or calling 866.750.0100 to be sent a balance transfer request form.**

4. Excess Phone, Cable & Utility Bills: Many households are paying hundreds of dollars for TV, Internet, cell phone, and utility expenses each month. No matter how comfortable these tools make us, they are taking up valuable space in our budgets. Look through your bills carefully and try to scale back from services you aren’t using or do not need to use, from running the air-conditioning while you are at work to paying for a DVR on a second TV you never even watch. Also, be sure you are not paying for a level of service you don’t need. If these alterations don’t bring a big enough impact on your budget, consider alternatives like prepaid phone services and switching cable providers.

5. Convenience Fees: Certain businesses tack on “convenience fees” when you utilize their goods or services as a way to make up any added expenses that can incur during your transaction. Be wary of these types of fees before you make various transactions, to see if there is a less expensive way for you to do so.

Having an emergency fund can be a big help when you come in over budget. This money can save you from stress when you have fallen victim to these and other budget killers. It’s a good idea though to deal with the root issue instead of repeatedly ruining your budget and having to dip into your emergency fund. If you do have to use that money, it’s important to replace it and frequently evaluate your budget to match your changing lifestyle.

Article source courtesy of Fox Business.

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**Additional bonus points will be reflected within 30 days from the balance transfer approval and can be viewed when signed into your VISA Platinum Card Account online through Online Banking. In order to redeem bonus points, an offer reference must be made to a First Financial representative. Bonus points can only be redeemed one time per member, on an approved balance transfer of $5,000 or greater during the promotional period of 4/28/14 – 12/31/14.