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!

5 Times Your Credit Score Matters Most

Credit - Arrows Hit in Red Target.Your credit score has a huge impact on the net loss or gain of some of life’s biggest financial moments: a good score gives you more options, better terms and bigger savings. Your credit score will follow you throughout your life and affect a variety of situations, but these five times are when your credit score really matters the most.

1. Financing a Car

There are three factors that determine how much financing a car will cost: how much money you put down, the length of the term of the loan and your credit score. On a $10,000, 60-month auto loan, a borrower with a low credit score could pay nearly $4,000 more in interest charges than a borrower with a prime credit score. If you have a less-than-stellar credit score, shop around for the best car loan rate available — the savings will be well worth the effort.

2. Buying a House

It’s common knowledge that your credit score matters when applying for a mortgage, but just how much your score costs you in the long run is often ignored. The difference between an excellent score and good score can cost you tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a loan, and having a poor score can cost you your dream of homeownership altogether.

According to Informa Research Services*, the average national interest rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage for a consumer with a 760 or higher FICO score is 3.547% APR. If you take out a $200,000 mortgage loan at 3.547% APR, your monthly payment would be around $903. If you have a FICO score of 660, your rate could go up to 4.16% APR, which would raise your monthly payment by $70. The number seems negligible until you annualize those costs. The $70 increase adds up to more than $25,000 in additional interest on your home for the life of the mortgage.

3. Starting a Business

If you are a small business owner or have dreams of entrepreneurship, your personal credit is a major influence on the kind of capital you can access. Even if a business is set up as a corporation to limit personal liability, credit scores are often tied to the owner’s ability to personally guarantee the business’ debts; an analysis by the Federal Reserve estimated that 40.9 percent of all small business loans and 55.5 percent of small business borrowing is personally guaranteed.

4. Renting an Apartment

Though there are no official credit score requirements to rent an apartment, the higher your score, the better your housing options. A competitive credit score can give you the edge you need to rise above other applicants or take advantage of offers, like low down payment promotions for qualifying applicants.

Rental markets can be competitive, especially in large cities where many owners of multi-unit apartment buildings have a minimum score requirement to rent within the community. If you have a low score and have a hard time getting your rental application approved, you may have better success with a private landlord — your options will be limited but the requirements tend to be less strict.

5. Qualifying for Insurance

Insurance companies have standard practices for setting their rates, weighing various risk factors to calculate the exact rate to charge a customer, including their credit score. But the scores insurance companies use are different than the ones used by banks and financial services companies — these scores are called Insurance Credit Bureau Scores, or Insurance Risk Credit Scores.

Insurance scores consider credit information and previous insurance claim information, which allows insurers to determine how much of a risk someone is to insure. Actuarial studies suggests that someone who pays all of their bills on time, has a good credit history and hasn’t filed any insurance claims is less of a risk and a more profitable customer, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Therefore, a favorable credit score will not only get you a better rate on your insurance premiums, it could be the determining factor on whether you even get approved for coverage.

If you are looking to finance a vehicle, buy or refinance a home, or start your own business – be sure to contact First Financial for low rate loans and personalized service!**

*Calculations are accurate as of Dec. 8, 2014.

**A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to credit approval.

Article Source: Morgan Quinn for gobankingrates.com, http://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/5-times-credit-score-matter/

NCUA Phishing Scam Alert – March 2015

alert-resized-600Website Uses Logo Similar to NCUA’s, Mimics Website Design and Language

 

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (March 17, 2015) – The National Credit Union Administration has received reports of an online phishing scam that uses a website with a logo and a design similar to the agency’s own site in an attempt to convince unwary customers to provide information or send money.

Consumers have received emails from the National Credit Union website, which apparently originates in Australia and claims to offer services in the United States, Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. This website is not affiliated in any way with the National Credit Union Administration, a federal agency, and the emails are not from NCUA.

The emails attempt to persuade individuals to provide personal information, such as Social Security numbers, account numbers and login information, or transfer large amounts of money. Consumers should neither provide information to this website nor attempt to conduct any financial transactions through it. NCUA would not request personal or financial information in this manner. See NCUA’s Privacy Policy for more information.

Consumers receiving such emails should call NCUA’s Fraud Hotline toll-free at 800-827-9650 or 703-518-6550 in the Washington, D.C., area. Consumers should also contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. NCUA also offers information about avoiding frauds and scams on its MyCreditUnion.gov website.

Consumers who suspect they may have become victims of identity theft should immediately contact their financial institutions and, if necessary, close existing accounts and open new ones. NCUA urges consumers also contact the three major credit bureaus— Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742) and TransUnion (800-680-7289), to request a fraud alert be placed on their credit reports.

Think you don’t need identity theft protection?  Think again. 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.

When’s the Best Time to Buy a Car?

Happy woman buying a carIt’s a good time to be in the market for a new car – especially if you plan to finance the purchase, as nine out of 10 Americans do. Buyers with good credit can take advantage of some very low interest rates.

Rates for new and used car loans are at “their lowest point in the past few years,” according to a new survey of 157 lenders by the website WalletHub. The average interest rate for new-car loans is currently 4.29 percent and 4.96 percent for used cars.

WalletHub found that car loans at credit unions are 25 percent below average, national banks are roughly average, and regional banks are 40 percent above average.

Jack Gillis, author of The Car Book 2015, cautions buyers that the financing arranged through a dealer may be higher than what’s offered from the manufacturer.

“Often the low interest rates advertised by dealers require extraordinarily high credit ratings and sometimes are accompanied by extra fees,” Gillis told NBC News. “Before you talk financing with the dealer, check with your credit union and banks to see what they offer. It’s the only way to know if the dealers’ financing is a good deal.”

Good credit is a real money saver

WalletHub reports that it will cost you about four-and-a-half times more to finance a car if you have fair credit rather than excellent credit. That translates into additional interest costs of about $5,500 for a five-year, $20,000 loan.

Someone with excellent credit can also get extremely low rates for used car loans now. The average rate for these loans dropped nearly 18 percent from last year, WalletHub reports.

“So a few months before you go shopping for a car, check your credit report,” WalletHub’s Jill Gonzales said. ”Make sure everything is in order and there are no errors that could affect your credit score and drive up that interest rate.”

Car loans are also getting longer

As car prices have gone up, car loans have gotten longer. The average car loan in the U.S. is now 67.2 months – a record high and the average price paid for a new vehicle last year was $32,386, reports Edmunds.com.

“A longer loan will lower the monthly payment, but you will be ‘upside down’ in that loan longer,” noted Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education at Credit.com. “So if you need to sell the car or something happens to it – maybe it’s totaled in an accident – you could owe more than it’s worth.”

A longer loan also drives up the cost of financing that vehicle because you’re borrowing the money longer. The experts at Consumer Reports Autos point out that extended loans also tend to have higher interest rates. Their advice: limit your loan to about 48 months.

First Financial has great low Auto Loan rates – and they’re the same whether you plan to purchase a new or used vehicle!  You can view our current rates by clicking here, and if you like what you see – you can apply right online 24/7.  If you need a handy tool to help you figure out those monthly auto loan payments to see what you can afford before you buy, try our free loan calculator application called AutoCalcubot. We also provide a free auto buying and research tool, AutoSMART – a great place to find new and used vehicles!

Article Source: Herb Weisbaum – NBC Contributor, http://www.today.com/money/whens-best-time-buy-car-right-now-survey-shows-2D80507620

 

 

 

7 Not So Smart Things People Do in the Name of Being Frugal

quarter in handBragging about being thrifty may get your props from your peers. But just because a decision appears to be a savvy money move, doesn’t mean it actually nets savings.  Here are seven things people do in the name of frugality that actually cost them money — or worse.

Maintain membership in The Clean Plate Club. Just because it’s in your bowl doesn’t mean you have to eat it. If you’re full or it’s unhealthy, stop eating. Throw the rest away (or save it for later). Your choice is obesity or throwing out food. Neither are great, but obesity will cost you in medical expenses and lost wages. Tossing out uneaten food will teach you to serve yourself smaller portions.

Buy clothes that don’t fit (or you don’t like) because they’re on sale.  It’s not a good deal if you don’t wear it. And if it doesn’t fit now, it won’t be in style when in may fit in the future (though it probably won’t ever fit).

Manage your own investments. Yes, fees can eat away at your hard-earned savings. But unless you’re a financial professional, hire an expert to advise you on managing your finances (and there are some excellent arguments for why everyone should hire a neutral, non-emotional third-party).

Save half-used cosmetics. Look: If you found that eye concealer to be a shade too dark last summer, and the hair gel was too sticky, you will not feel differently next year. Plus, many beauty products have expiration dates for a reason. So, if you’re not going to use it now, toss it already.

Rent a storage unit to save valuable stuff. In general, no one stashes valuables in a $99/month self-storage unit. Storage Wars aside, most of those places are probably full of junk that no one wants in the event they are abandoned and the contents are auctioned off by the property owners. Sell, give or toss it, and find ways to curb your habit of accumulating too many things.

Drive a hoopdie. In addition to being frugal and driving your car well past its pretty, you are being political and rejecting our culture’s obsession gas-guzzling, status-making vehicles. But at some point your ride just gets too old to make financial sense.  Even if over the course of a year the repairs on your current car do not exceed monthly payments on a new one, there are other things to consider: Is your car unreliable, possibly leaving you without a way to get to work — or worse, stranded on the side of the road?

Clean your own home. So many highly paid people insist on cleaning their own homes. If you are a professional, your time is worth more money per hour than what it costs to hire a housekeeper to scrub it clean every week or two. However, if that pro is more efficient at this task than you are – use those hours to invest in your career or business, or just enjoy life.

Article Source: Emma Johnson for Forbes.com, http://www.forbes.com/sites/emmajohnson/2014/12/15/6-dumb-things-people-do-in-the-name-of-being-frugal/