6 Sneaky Summer Expenses to Avoid

iStock_000016935539XSmallSummer is the time kick back, relax and just take things easy for a few months. While this means you may be feeling a little lax with your budget, you don’t have to waste those hard-earned dollars on frivolous purchases and expenses that can easily be avoided. Even if you aren’t tracking your spending on a daily basis, there are some things you can do to be more mindful about your spending habits and make better money decisions all season long.

Whether you’re enjoying some vacation time this summer or just working your way through those hot summer days, here are six sneaky summer expenses you can avoid.

  1. Excessive toll charges. You may be relying on your GPS to provide you with the shortest route and turn-by-turn directions to your final destination, but make sure you aren’t required to pay a lot of toll fees along the way. Consider taking an alternative route – even if the trip takes slightly longer – so you don’t end up paying extra money in toll charges on a single trip. Factor in the extra cost of gas on the alternate route if needed so you really are saving money on the total cost of that drive.
  2. Car rental insurance. If you’re planning a road trip but don’t want to put miles on your own car or you end up needing a rental car when you’re on vacation, don’t add more to the cost of your trip by purchasing rental car insurance. Almost all major credit card companies offer car rental insurance coverage as a benefit to cardholders – regardless of their balance. Check with your credit card provider to find out if it offers car rental insurance and also check with your insurance company to see if car rentals are included in your coverage. In many cases, your car insurance will provide primary coverage and the credit card will take care of secondary coverage, such as towing charges and other fees.
  3. Cost of personal items on vacation. Don’t let running out of sunscreen, bottled water or other everyday essentials put a dent in your vacation budget this season. Buying these items at a hotel, resort or retail store at a vacation hotspot can leave you paying a premium, so make sure to stock up on the essentials before you head out. Make a checklist of must-haves for the beach and beyond so you don’t spend extra money on the basics.
  4. Beach umbrella and chair rentals. Many resorts and hotels by the ocean offer beach umbrella and chair rentals for an additional fee. If you can bring your own, you could end up saving upward of $15 per day on these amenities. Call ahead to confirm that you are permitted to bring your own beach items – some larger resorts may not allow you to use anything but their own, so you can save some extra money on that overnight stay.
  5. Premium gas prices in tourist towns. If you’re heading to a major tourist city, make sure to fill up in the suburbs or anywhere outside of the main tourist zones to avoid the high price of gas. Many gas stations around tourist hubs charge a premium because they know visitors have limited options in the area. Be smart about where you fill up so you aren’t paying several cents more per gallon every time you need gas.
  6. Movie rental late fees. If you’re planning a movie marathon for a group or just binge-watching a few days during that summer vacation away, make sure you don’t get stuck with late charges and extra fees on those rentals. Only rent what you can watch that same night so you don’t fall into the trap of holding on to the movie for a few extra nights – and paying late fees. Redbox, for example, only charges $1.50 plus tax a night for most DVD rentals but will charge you the same price for every night you hold onto it. If you’re bad about returning movies on time, consider low-cost and free alternatives, such as rentals from the library or borrowing a DVD from a friend to offset some of the costs of movie night.

First Financial’s Summer Savings Account is ideal for those who are looking to save up for summer expenses or a vacation as well as employees who get paid 10 months out of the year. This account allows you to have money available for summer expenses during July and August and you have the ability to choose the amount of money you’d would like to have deposited each pay period through direct deposit or payroll deduction.*

You can elect to have your money transferred into a First Financial Checking Account in two different ways: Either 100% of funds can be transferred on July 1st, or 50% will be transferred July 1st, and the other 50% August 1st. This account can be opened at anytime – stop into any branch, or call us at 866.750.0100.

*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. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program. 

Article courtesy of US News – Money by Sabah Karimi.

Sun, Surf, and Savings: Summer Travel Inexpensively

54f0fbd48fba0_-_1-couple-vacation-tropical-lgnIt’s summer and time to enjoy the sun! Whether you’re an adventurer, a creature of habit, or planning your first big family vacation, here are some money saving tips you will want to consider.

Save Up

When planning summer travel, estimate your costs ahead of time for airfare, lodging, and expenses. Set a goal to save a portion every month toward that amount and track your progress. The closer you get, the closer that vacation is, and the more excited you and your travel companions will be!

One popular saving method is the hoarding of five-dollar bills. A Reddit user inspired many with his post and photo captioned: “For the past year, I put away every $5 bill that came into my possession. To date, I’ve saved $3,335.”

Get a Cheaper Flight

Plan ahead: Try to book your flights around three months in advance of your planned date of travel. Finding cheap last minute airfare isn’t impossible, but it’s hard to plan that way.

Low fare alerts: Pick a few destinations you want to visit and set up “low airfare” alerts at sites like Airfare Watchdog or Kayak to be notified when prices drop below your threshold. If you’re not limited to a certain destination, Kayak’s summer travel hacker can help you choose a lower-fare location.

When to buy: If a fare seems too good to be true, BUY IT. The price-prediction app Hopper, will advise you to purchase your flight now or wait because prices might drop further.

Avoid Airline Fees

Baggage fees: Avoid the long lines and $25 charge by packing light and flying only with carry-ons. Make sure your carry-on suitcase fits the dimensions permitted by your airline. Avoid stuffing the bag so full that it can’t fit into the bag-size tester. Summer travel often requires less clothing anyway, right?

To make sure you stay comfortable on the flight, a thin scarf – which looks fashionable and keeps the neck warm – can double as a light blanket. Wear your largest pair of shoes and bulkiest clothing on the flight so they won’t take up as much space in your suitcase.

If you travel to the same destination often, consider leaving some toiletries or clothing items at that person’s house.

Food and drink: Travel with an empty reusable water bottle that you fill when you get through security. Bring your own snacks and packable meals so that you don’t get tempted to charge an airline meal to your credit card. The food you pack will likely taste better, anyway. But be kind to your fellow passengers and try to avoid powerful odors like tuna or egg salad, or allergens like peanut butter.

Article courtesy of MintLife Blog by Kim Tracy Prince.

How to Take a Debt Free Vacation

We’re knee deep in summer and that means one thing: vacation time. While you definitely deserve some time off, we’d recommend not taking it at the expense of your budget. Unfortunately, a new study from Experian Consumer Services found that many Americans are doing just that.

Experian’s report found that 46% of people used a credit card to pay for their vacations because they hadn’t saved enough. Another 49% of travelers racked up credit card debt while on vacation and almost 70% admitted going over their budget. The most common items that added to vacationers’ credit card debt: hotels, airfare, entertainment, and dining out.

There are ways to keep your spending down and avoid going into credit card debt while on vacation. First, start small with your savings plan. Setting aside a low amount far in advance of the occasion will make things easier on you. If you try to cram your savings into the two months before the vacation, you could risk missing your mark. Also, if you’re driving, pack food for the road to avoid spending on costly meals.

When setting a budget for your vacation, keep in mind that there are always unexpected costs, so aim a little higher than you think you should. Just being mindful of debt can help. “You don’t want to come back with two weeks’ worth of memories and two years’ worth of debt,” Becky Frost, education manager for Experian Consumer Services, told USA Today.

Don’t rack up high interest – First Financial’s Visa Platinum Credit Card has no balance transfer fees, a Cash Advance Fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), and a Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount.*

Here at First Financial, rates are as low as 10.9% APR and first time card approvals are eligible for 2.9% APR for the first 6 months on purchases and balance transfers!**

Apply for a First Financial Visa Platinum Card today!

*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.

**The 2.9% promotional rate will apply to purchases and balance transfers only for six statement cycles from the new account holder’s initial balance and/or initial transfer to the First Financial VISA Platinum card. The balance transfer promotional rate does NOT apply to cash advances.

Article courtesy of Chris O’Shea of Savvy Money.

How Much Should You Have in Your Emergency Reserve?

emergency-savings29% of Americans admit they keep no emergency savings and only 22% are prepared with at least six months in reserve, according to a survey by Bankrate. However, a few simple steps could help you avoid severe financial risk.

According to CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger, a reserve should total six to 12 months of one’s living expenses for those with jobs.

For retirees, Schlesinger said the equivalent of 12 to 24 months of living expenses in reserve is ideal to avoid dipping into savings.

A reserve should be liquid cash because “it has to be safe,” Schlesinger says.

While some Americans struggle living paycheck to paycheck, Schlesinger recommends starting early and small.

“There was a great survey out recently about retirement savings. And it’s had the same result, which is a lot of people are unprepared. It also asked: ‘Do you think, even though you have no money saved today, that you could save $25 a week?’ And a majority of people said ‘Yes, I could,’ ” Schlesinger said.

The least painful way to do this is by automating your savings.

Acorns for one, rounds up the price of purchases, takes the spare change, and invests it in exchange traded funds (ETF). Another app called Level Money allows you to set how much you want to save each month and shows how much “spendable” money you have left.

Spending habits also change with age.

“When you’re young, you’ve got student debt and you’ve graduated, you really have to address paying down that debt, saving for your emergency reserves, and then starting to invest long term,” Schlesinger said. “As you get older and you’ve gone through all these responsibilities – raised your kids, put money away for their college – then you really start to accelerate.”

Establishing your habits early will make it easier to save as you grow older.

With First Financial’s Online Banking, you have the ease of managing your finances right from home (even in your pajamas and slippers if you’d like)! You have the ability to check your accounts, sign up for eStatements, enroll in Bill Pay, transfer funds, set up email and account alerts, schedule future transfers (a great tool to use to help you save), order checks, and more. We even provide you with useful videos and documents to help you get set-up with Online Banking.
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Even when you’re on-the-go, you can take First Financial along with our mobile app. As a convenient tool, you’ll have 24/7 instant access to your accounts, plus Bill Pay, make transfers easily, check balances, branch & ATM locations, account alerts, and 1 Click remote deposit capture.* Click here to learn how to download the app to your iPhone or Android smartphone.*You must have an account at First Financial Federal Credit Union (serving Monmouth and Ocean Counties in NJ), and be enrolled in online banking, to use Online Banking or First Financial’s Mobile App. Members must meet certain criteria to be eligible for Remote Deposit Capture. Standard data rates and charges may apply.

Article Source: Courtesy of CBS News

Down to Business: Trending Businesses – Do you have or plan to start one of these?

ice_cream_cone_strawberry“After crossfit I’m going to uber to fro yo, do you want anything?”

Just a few years ago this statement would have made absolutely no sense, but thanks to several fast-track trending business ideas, vocabulary is born!  Let’s briefly examine some of the pros and cons of today’s top trending businesses.

Boutique gyms/CrossFit is the new craze in the fitness world.  The smaller setting combined with intense group workout, adds a social aspect to the traditional gym setting.  On the business side, start-up costs are minimal.  The average CrossFit franchise takes less than $50,000 to open and is usually profitable within the first year.  The CrossFit name is licensed to 7,000 gyms for an annual fee of $3,000!  Don’t quit your day job just yet; medical research surrounding the intense alternative workout craze is infant at best, and many new studies reveal that these workouts may not be as beneficial to your body as you think.

If you can find a taxi across town it will most likely run you $27 plus tip.  An Uber driver can pick you up on your schedule for $20 – tip included.  This sounds like a great idea right? Well … maybe not. Ask yourself, does the driver have insurance? Does his/her insurance cover using a personal vehicle as a commercial taxi? Has he/she passed a criminal background check or drug test?  Has he/she completed a driving skills assessment?  These are just some of the requirements that registered taxi drivers are required to pass before picking you up, making that extra $7 and 10 minutes not sound so bad!taxi

Self serve frozen yogurt shops with very creative names are seemingly opening on every corner lately too.  Health conscious consumers are attracted to the portion control and healthier yogurt options,  add in dozens of popular flavors and even more toppings – and you have a successful trend.  Market research has not yet found any major flaws in this industry.  Heavy market saturation has forced a few stores out of business, but overall sales are trending VERY well!  Before starting that franchise however, be sure to check out the past 40 years of market trends in the industry.  There was a frozen yogurt boom in the 80’s that fell hard in the mid 90’s spearheaded by TCBY, and who could forget Humfreeze Yogart?!

Each of these industries born or reborn in the last 10 years, may not make it another 10 – so if you are an entrepreneur, always err on the side of caution and really do your research.

If you are looking for stable help to grow and sustain your business, look no further than First Financial Federal Credit Union.  We have been helping businesses grow since 1936 and we plan to continue this trend by providing the best value in the industry for our business members. 

For more information about any of First Financial’s business accounts and services, contact Business Development at business@firstffcu.com, call 732.312.1421 or simply leave a comment below.

Article Sources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/in-the-cross-hairs-of-crossfit-local-businesses-find-niche-in-fitness-craze/2014/01/17/28e368b2-7c95-11e3-93c1-0e888170b723_story.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erin-simmons/why-i-dont-do-crossfit_b_5411771.html

https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/advice/planning/jobprofiles/Pages/TaxiDriver.aspx

 http://smallbusiness.chron.com/potential-market-growth-frozen-yogurt-77121.html

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this July 2015

Fourth-of-July-FamilyHappy 239th Birthday, America! As we prepare to celebrate our independence this upcoming weekend, there are so many exciting celebrations that you and your family and friends can join in on. Check out the events and activities below that are going on all month long in a town near you.

4th of July Firework Celebrations:

Sunday, July 5: This year, Monmouth Park Racetrack (Oceanport) is throwing the ultimate backyard BBQ – the Red, White & Blue Party, presented by Budweiser. Gather your friends, wear your most patriotic red, white, and blue, and come party Monmouth Park style. There will be tons of food, drink specials, live music courtesy of Rockin’ Thunder 106 and Fun 107.1, games, and so much more. Eating competitions such as whipped cream pie, watermelon, and hot dogs will also take place – plus, a spicy wing eating competition! In addition, Monmouth Park will be celebrating our armed forces and local first responders – many of whom will be on-site celebrating too. So tell all your friends that the biggest summer party is the Red, White & Blue Party – you won’t want to miss it! For more information, call 732-222-5100.

Saturday, July 11: Attention runners: Register today for Belmar’s Annual 5k Run! The race will start at Silver Lake Park at 7:00am where you can run through the beautiful streets of Belmar. You can join as an individual or a team, and there’s even an opportunity for children to join the run as well! For more information, call 732-681-3700.

Wednesday, July 15: Head on down to the sandy shores of Belmar for the 29th Annual New Jersey Sandcastle Contest! The event will be held at Belmar’s 18th Avenue Beach from 8:00 am – 12:00 pm. The competition is free and open to participants of all ages. *Rain date is July 29. For more information, call 732-681-3700 ext. 214.

Saturday, July 18: It’s the Asbury Park Blues & Brews Festival at Bradley Park. Attendees will be able to enjoy music all day long on the Main Stage, plus a biergarten, arts & crafts, food, and of course, access to the beach! This event is free of charge and will be held rain or shine. You won’t want to miss some of the very best jazz and blues music around, which has become an award-winning New Jersey tradition. For more information, call 732-933-1984.

Wednesday, July 22 – Sunday, July 26: Come one, come all to the Monmouth County Fair! The fair will be located at the East Freehold Showgrounds on Kozloski Road in Freehold. Times are as follows: Wednesday-Friday 5-11pm, Saturday 3-11pm, and Sunday, 11am-6pm. Enjoy tons of food, games, and rides as well as the 2015 Home & Garden Competition! For more information, call 732-842-4000.

Thursday, July 30 – Sunday, August 2: Head to the 21st Annual Clam Fest at Huddy Park (Highlands)! This 4-day, action packed event, features the freshest seafood, live entertainment, contests, vendors, crafters, games, rides, and the best part – free entry and parking! For more information, call 732-291-4713.

We hope you’re having a great summer!