7 Tips for Financial Spring Cleaning

Metal Spike File With BillsSpring is not only a great time to spruce up your home and organize your closets, but it’s also an ideal time to clean up your finances too.

Sweep away winter bills.

Here’s a scary statistic: Consumer Reports estimates that 7% of all shoppers go into a new holiday season carrying debt from the previous one. And it’s costly.You certainly don’t want to continue making payments on your holiday purchases for another 9 months. Try to clear up this debt in the spring.

Polish your budget.

How are you doing so far now that the first quarter of the year has ended? Are you over budget or under budget? Do you even have a budget? If you’re close to your expectations – great, but if you’ve veered off track for any reason – perhaps because there’s been a job switch, you had a baby, bought a new house, or there’s been another life change – it’s time to re-evaluate the situation. Your budget will need to be refreshed to meet current needs as well as short and long-term savings goals.

Tidy up bad credit.

Have you been subject to high interest rates? Denied a loan altogether? Been unable to rent an apartment? If you’ve got bad credit, then you’re aware of these consequences. To improve your score, make your payments on time and avoid carrying large balances on your credit cards (keep your utilization rate — the amount you owe versus your total available credit — below 30%).

Purge clutter.

Now that you’ve filed your income taxes, shred statements, bills and other financial records and keep only the documents that are absolutely necessary. As a rule of thumb, you want to hang onto tax records and supporting documents for seven years, and it might be easiest to keep hard copies of those (even though the IRS is okay with digital copies). Definitely no need to hang onto paper records forever.

Dust off unwanted items.

To boost your savings goals or earn extra money to help pay down debt, sell your unwanted gift cards on a site like Gift Card Granny where you can get up to 95 cents on the dollar in return. There is also Thred Up – a site you can sell baby, kids and women’s clothing. Poshmark is another site (and free mobile app) where you can sell women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories. As for old electronics, consider Gazelle and Nextworth. You’ll get a fast quote, a free shipping label and quick payment once the item’s mailed in and inspected, and the payout is generous.

Clean up accounts.

Are there brokerage accounts that can be consolidated? Bank accounts you rarely — if ever — use that should be closed? Old retirement accounts from previous employers that should be rolled over? After years of bill paying online, do you have a huge list of creditors you have to scroll through every time you make a payment? Try to get all of these cleaned up and organized.

Straighten out spending.

We all know that the key to financial freedom is to spend less than you earn. However, given how easy it’s become to spend, and given the proliferation of ads, marketing schemes and various tactics that tempt us to buy more than we need, keeping spending in check is becoming increasingly challenging. It’s more important than ever that you control impulse shopping. How? Eliminate triggers such as browsing favorite online shops, heading to the mall after work to window shop, or buying something new when you’re feeling down to help boost your mood.

When it comes to need-based purchases, to get the best prices, use apps like Coupon SherpaRedLaser, and PoachIt.

Happy spring financial cleaning!

Article Source: Vera Gibbons for Marketwatch, http://www.marketwatch.com/story/7-tips-for-financial-spring-cleaning-2015-03-12

 

 

Local Alert: Skimming Device Found on Brick NJ Bank ATM

Woman entering her PIN at an ATMA skimming device was found on a local ATM in Brick, New Jersey at Ocean First Bank this past weekend.  To read the full article from the Asbury Park Press, click here.

Please be careful of such devices and be sure to protect yourself and your bank account by using the following steps:

  • Use secure ATM machines under video surveillance or inside of a bank lobby. They’re less likely to be tampered with!
  • Pay careful attention to what the card reader and keypad normally look like on the ATMs you use most frequently.
  • Don’t use an ATM if the card reader appears to be added on, fits poorly, or is loose. Some thieves place a fake box over the card slot that reads and records account and PIN numbers.
  • Call the customer service number on the ATM immediately if a machine appears suspicious or if it does not function properly.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored and you can try it FREE for 90 days!*

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!**

*Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program. 

**Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

Learn About Marketing and Sales for Business at This Free Seminar in May 2015

Concept of trendAre you looking to learn new techniques to drive sales and publicize your company? Jack Gottlieb, President of the Total Solutions Group, Inc. will be providing top-notch information to help you market your business in this technological and aggressive economy. We invite business owners, those interested in starting a business and professionals in the marketing and sales fields to attend this informational seminar.

During this seminar, you will immerse into and apply the key elements of building a marketing strategy that will provide the foundation needed to build a business in today’s more competitive environment. This will include knowing your customer’s true needs, branding and gaining consistent leads as a result. From there you will develop a more strategic approach to maximizing sales opportunities and relationships with key customers.

Join us on Tuesday, May 12th at 8:30am for networking and a light breakfast followed by our seminar, “Marketing and Sales for Business.” The seminar will be held at First Financial’s Corporate Office located at 1800, Rt. 34 North, Building 3, Suite 302, Wall, NJ. Space is limited – register below.

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Jack Gottlieb is the President of The Total Solutions Group, Inc. a strategic consulting, training and coaching firm committed to driving a sustainable increase to an organization’s results, value proposition and culture. Jack brings 14 years of proven high level success along with the collective capability of his team and advisory board. Jack has also been one of the highest ranked speakers at various state wide SHRM (Society of Human Resource Managers) Annual Conferences as well as the New Jersey Organizational Development Annual Conferences for the past 7 years. Jack also serves on the Executive Board Collegiate Empowerment which is an educational firm committed to driving systemic change and impact for Colleges and Universities. Jack also is actively involved with two universities. The first is Kutztown University where he is one of the key leaders of the College of Business Advisory Board to support their efforts in further development and expansion. The second is with Rider University with their Center for the Development of Leadership Skills.

Learn How to Avoid ID Theft at This Free Seminar in May 2015

Identity Theft on Dark Digital Background.Identity theft is the fasting growing crime in the United States and about 19 people per minute fall victim to identity theft.* First Financial encourages you to be cautious – especially when it comes to the Internet and now even on your mobile phone, and always be on the lookout for instances of fraud. This free seminar will teach attendees about important preventative measures.

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • The best way to safeguard your personal information
  • Common warning signs of identity theft
  • How you can defend yourself from identity theft
  • How to react if you suspect identity theft
  • The most common ways identity theft occurs

Join us on Thursday, May 7th at 6:00pm for our free consumer seminar, How to Avoid Identity Theft, presented by the experts at First Financial. The seminar will be held at our Neptune Branch located at 783 Wayside Road. We invite you to bring a guest but space is limited, so make sure you sign up today!

*Click here to view fact source.

7 Ways to Save More Money This Year

Icon of coupon cutout with money1. Change Cell Phone Providers

Smartphones have become commonplace in today’s society. While that brings a number of benefits, it also brings one major problem – the cell phone bill. According to a recent study at CouponCabin.com, 46 percent of Americans have a cell phone bill of at least $100 per month with another 13 percent over $200. The major culprit behind this is the cell phone contract. Many people believe that if you’re under a contract, you’re obligated to pay that amount. However, a simple call to your provider to review your needs can often result in saving money by reducing the plan. If you’re not in a contract, or are coming up for renewal, consider one of the many reputable non-contract offerings out there such as Republic Wireless, Straight Talk Wireless or Ting – as you can often get coverage for less than $50 per month

2. Change Your Grocery Shopping

The average grocery bill for a family of four can be as high as almost $300 a week. The good news is that there are ways to significantly cut that amount. Some of those might be painful changes, but can save you real money. Look at how often you go to the store. Can you extend the time between trips? Can you coupon as well? Another idea is to have a freezer or pantry week once a month, or once per quarter. This forces you to use everything in your kitchen, reduce food waste and save money.

3. Reduce Entertainment Costs

It’s no surprise that cable bills can be expensive. The obvious alternative to save money is to cut the cord. If that’s not an option for you and your family, then analyze the channels you are watching, as you can often reduce your cable package and save yourself some money each month. Even if you have ditched cable altogether, look at what alternatives you’re using. You may find that you only need two plans to get your shows and not three. Cut the third one and put some of that money back in your pocket.

4. Cut Insurance Bills

Insurance, in many cases, is a necessary evil. In the case of auto insurance you obviously need it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save money on it. Like with cable and your cell phone, analyze your insurance needs. If you drive an older car do you really need full coverage? Are you driving fewer miles? Can you afford to increase your deductible? Those are all justifiable ways to save money on your auto insurance, not to mention comparing other companies.

5. Kill the Interest Rates

Many Americans carry debt, and debt of course – carries interest responsibilities with it. Depending on the type of debt you will likely have options to find lower interest rates. If you’re dealing with credit card debt, you can try and do a balance transfer to a lower rate card. If you’re hacking away at student loan debt you can look into consolidating for a lower rate. Better yet, pay off the debt altogether if you’re able.

First Financial has a great Visa Platinum Card with a really low rate, no balance transfer fees, no annual fee, plus rewards for purchases!* As a first time user, if approved – you may also be eligible for an introductory APR of 2.9% on all purchases and balance transfers for the first 6 months.** Get started by applying online today.

6. Don’t Always Call in the Pros

If you’re a homeowner, than you know how often it seems that something breaks or needs replacing. The temptation is to call in a professional to fix the issue, but that can cost a pretty penny. Instead of calling in a pro, try doing it yourself (depending upon what the issue is of course). It may feel daunting, but many jobs require only simple tools to take care of them. If you don’t know how to do a certain task, the Internet is a great resource for free tools and YouTube videos that can teach you how to do something. That can result in a huge money savings, not to mention the satisfaction of learning something new.

7. Fall In Love With a Budget

While not necessarily a task that will allow you to save money, starting a budget will indeed allow you to save more money. Don’t let the feeling that budgeting is restrictive hold you back, as it can actually be quite freeing. There are many ways to budget and many free resources available to help get you started (like this First Scoop blog, or by attending one of First Financial’s annual budgeting seminars). Find what works best for you and modify it to your life. This will allow you to see what spending fat can be trimmed which will help you control your money and not the other way around.

It may feel like it’s impossible to save money in most cases. However, with a little work and research – you can often find many areas in which you can save money pretty easily!

*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 purchases or cash advances.

Article Source: John Schmoll for Money.USNews.com, http://money.usnews.com/money/the-frugal-shopper/2015/01/13/7-ways-to-save-more-money-this-year

Video: 2014 Annual Report

At First Financial, our first priority is helping you achieve your financial dreams every time you do your banking with us. Together we will define your dream goals and lifestyle, empower you through financial education, build your wealth, plan your retirement, and manage your risk.

Check out our successes and accomplishments from 2014 in the Annual Report Video below.  Thank you for being a valued First Financial member!