5 Ways You Could Be Sabotaging Your Future Net Worth

The 3d person under a bill's rain. crise hopelessnessYou may not realize it, but the actions you take now can greatly impact your sense of financial security down the road. Many Americans inadvertently minimize their future net worth by focusing only on the short-term. It can be great to live in the moment, but in some situations it’s a good idea to take a step back to evaluate the long-term impact of your financial decisions.

Here are five ways many Americans are shooting their future net worth in the foot:

1. Renting a Home Instead of Buying

Purchasing a home is probably the biggest investment you’ll ever make, but if you choose a property wisely, it’s definitely worth it. Sure, you’ll need to come up with an initial down payment and you’re responsible for all upkeep and repairs, but in most cases these costs pay themselves back.

When you own the property, you build equity in an investment that will likely increase in value over time. Rather than making monthly rent payments to someone else, your mortgage payments are essentially an investment in your future. Homeowners enjoy the stability of knowing their monthly housing expenses are for the long term, whereas renters never know when their monthly rent will increase. Additionally, interest and property tax paid by homeowners is tax deductible, often offering the chance for an annual break from Uncle Sam.

Need a mortgage or you’d like to re-finance your current mortgage? First Financial has great, low rate mortgage options!  Check them out today. We also have a mortgage rate text messaging service, and when you text firstrate to 69302 – you’ll receive a text message whenever our mortgage rates change.*

2. Not Paying Into a Retirement Plan Early in Your Career

When you’re young, saddled with student loans and barely making enough money to pay the rent, it’s easy to put off saving for retirement because it’s still 40 years away. However, waiting until you’re older to start saving can have a significantly negative impact your financial stability in your golden years.

The earlier you start saving, the more money you’ll earn in interest. For example, if you opened a 401(k) account in your mid-20s, saved a total of $30,000 and realized an 8 percent rate of return, you would have approximately $280,000 by age 65. However, if you save the same amount, realizing the same rate of return, but wait until your mid-40s to start the process, you’ll have only about $60,000 at age 65. Many companies also have a 401(k) match program, where they’ll match your contribution to a certain percentage or dollar amount, so you’re essentially turning away free money by not taking full advantage of this opportunity.

3. Waiting Until Withdrawal to Pay Taxes on Retirement Plan

Traditional 401(k) and IRA plans allow you to make tax-free contributions into your retirement account, with the deductions made in retirement when you withdraw funds. However, it might be smarter to open a Roth 401(k) or IRA, where taxes are deducted upfront, allowing you the benefit of making tax-free withdrawals in retirement. This could be a savvy move, as there’s a very good chance you’ll be in a higher income tax bracket when you retire than you were when you opened your retirement account.

4. Leasing Vehicles Instead of Financing

At first glance, leasing a vehicle can seem like an attractive option — less money down, lower monthly payments and the ability to drive a higher-priced car than you could afford to finance. However, leasing won’t add any gains to your future net worth. The monthly payments you make are essentially rent to the dealership, as you don’t get to keep the vehicle at the end of the lease. Rather than paying off the car and driving it for a few years payment-free, you’re forced to return it and immediately start making payments on another model — and continue the cycle every few years when your lease is up. Additionally, you’re limited to the number of miles you can put on a leased vehicle, you have to pay extra for excess wear-and-tear charges and you’ll pay sky-high early termination fees if you need to break the lease early.

In the market for a vehicle?  At First Financial, our auto loan rates are the same whether you buy new or used.** Apply online 24/7!

5. Using Credit Cards to Overspend

Everyone wants things they can’t afford, but offers for zero or low-interest credit cards can make it very difficult to avoid temptation. It might seem harmless to book a vacation or purchase a new furniture set using a credit card with little-to-no introductory financing, but what if you can’t pay the balance off before the promotional period ends? It’s not uncommon for these promotional interest rates to rise from zero to 18 or 20 percent, which can seriously increase the initial price of your expenditures and leave you with a mountain of debt that can take years to pay off.

Do you have a large balance on a high interest credit card? Have no fear, First Financial’s Visa Platinum Card has a great low rate, no balance transfer fees, no annual fee, and rewards!*** Apply online today.

Making savvy financial choices now can help ensure you’re able to enjoy stability later in life. Sometimes it’s worth making initial sacrifices now to allow yourself to ultimately come out ahead. Always consider what the impact of the choices you make now will have on your long-term happiness before jumping head first into a decision you’ll grow to regret.

 *Subject to credit approval.  Credit worthiness determines your APR. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.  See Credit Union for details. Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

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

***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.

Article Source: Laura Woods of gobankingrates.com, http://www.reviewjournal.com/business/money/5-ways-you-re-sabotaging-your-future-net-worth

 

5 Types of Debt – What to Pay Off Now and Later

debt dollar billYou often hear that there’s good debt and bad debt. That’s probably because it would not sound too great if financial experts went around referring to bad debt and even worse debt.

After all, it’s challenging to live without owing somebody something – right? If you want to buy a house with cash, by the time you save up enough, it may be time to retire. If you’re saving up to buy a car free and clear, you may have to spend a lot of years riding the bus first. Most people get through life by borrowing money.

So sure, there’s good debt (the kind you probably can’t avoid carrying) and there’s bad debt (the kind you should try to get rid of sooner rather than later). One key to determining which debt to pay off now versus later is the interest rate: the lower it is, the longer you can carry the debt without it becoming a burden. Here are some guidelines to help you prioritize your debt.

Mortgage: Pay off later.

If you have a large mortgage and you win the lottery or come into an inheritance that allows you to pay your house off easily, doing it now is probably not a bad idea. But if you make it your main goal to pay off your mortgage, you might end up sacrificing other goals like saving for retirement or your kids’ college education.

Revolving credit card debt: Pay off now.

With the steep interest rates on credit cards (the national average is 13% APR for fixed-rate credit cards and 15.7% APR for variable-rate credit cards), this one’s a no-brainer. Revolving credit card debt is not good, and should be paid off as quickly as you can.

Not only is paying all of that interest expensive, it’s a result of a lifestyle people can’t yet afford. Once you establish a pattern of increasing expenses for your lifestyle, it could be impossible to catch up.

Did you know you can transfer your high-interest credit card balances to First Financial’s Visa Platinum Credit Card, which has a great low rate and no balance transfer fees?* Apply online today!

Student loans: Pay off later.

Let’s just stress that if you have a choice between buying a sports car or retiring that student loan debt, you know what the smart decision is (hopefully you were thinking to pay off the student loan first!).

In most cases, you’ll be just fine if you make the monthly student loan payment and don’t stress over paying it off any faster. Student loans typically tend to have a lower interest rate and an extended payment period. In most cases, if you have an extra thousand dollars, you’re better off using it to pay down your revolving credit card debt than putting it toward student loans (unless this is your only source of debt and your goal is to be debt-free).

Car loans: Pay off sooner rather than later.

If you can buy a perfectly good used car and borrow less, or buy a car without a loan, that’s ideal. But if you’re going to go into debt when you buy an automobile, try not to get stuck in a lengthy loan. Experian Automotive recently reported that in the second quarter of 2014, the average new car loan, for the second quarter in a row, was 66 months. That’s an all-time high. And that’s just the average. Approximately a quarter of new car loans are between 73 and 84 months long. Those are six and seven year car loans.

Historically, the average car loan has been around four to five years, with three years considered to be the sweet spot. Consumers are naturally attracted to an 84 month loan because the monthly payment is far lower than it would be if you took on a 36 month or even 60 month car loan. But you’ll likely pay thousands more with a lengthy loan. You may also find that your warranties will run out long before you make that final payment, and your car may not even last seven years depending upon what you bought.

Did you know at First Financial, our low auto loan rates are the same whether you buy new or used? Be sure to check them out today, and if you like what you see – you can apply for an auto loan online 24/7.**

Car insurance premiums: Pay off now, but only if you can.

This is small potatoes as far as your financial obligations go, and it may not be fair to call it a debt, since you pay as you go with insurance. Still if you have car insurance, it’s a financial obligation that you’re generally stuck paying indefinitely, so it feels like a debt.

If you can pay six or 12 months ahead of time instead of just once a month, you can avoid installment fees, which generally run between $5 and $9 dollars month. These additional costs, although relatively small individually, can add up over a 12 month policy period. Moreover, you’ve not only saved some money – you have one less monthly bill to worry about as you deal with your bigger debt.

On the other hand, if you’re going to have trouble making your car payment because you’re paying for a year’s worth of car insurance, stick with the monthly plan. Paying debt off successfully is really about successfully managing your cash flow.

*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.

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

Article Source: Geoff Williams of money.usnews.com, http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/12/11/5-debts-you-should-pay-off-now-or-later

The 4 Easiest Ways to Budget

corruption conceptBudgeting strikes fear (or annoyance, or disgust) into the hearts of many people, because we tend to see budgeting as something that is tedious, complicated, and keeps us from having any fun. But budgeting doesn’t have to be a scary word. Here are four ways to make budgeting as easy and painless as possible.

1. Automate It

To make room for savings in your budget, pay yourself first. Set up automatic deductions from your checking to your savings account each pay period so you’re not tempted to spend money you’ve earmarked for your emergency fund or retirement goals.

To avoid late fees and having to keep track of numerous due dates, set up automatic payments for as many bills as you can. The amount due will be deducted straight from your bank account when it’s due, and you won’t need to worry about mailing anything out by a certain date – or paying for postage.

Remove the potential for human error as much as possible, and you’ll find budgeting is already a lot easier!

2. Use Budgeting Tools

You don’t have to go it alone, especially if you’re not mathematically or organizationally gifted.

There are tons of great programs and software out there that can help you create a budget, track your spending and identify areas for improvement. Some are free, and some require a purchase — but they’re all waiting to make budgeting a breeze.

Check out free websites like Mint, that let you view all your accounts at a glance, or use an old-school worksheet to help you track your spending. Whichever tool you choose, make sure it feels intuitive and easy-to-use to you.

3. Adopt an 80/20 Budget

If the idea of tracking every purchase and reviewing your budget line-by-line makes you crazy, you may want to adopt an “anti-budget” or 80/20 budget.

Simply put, an 80/20 budget is where you put 20% of your income into savings automatically. This money becomes untouchable, and you have the other 80% available for the rest of your monthly expenses, such as groceries, utilities, and rent. If you find your monthly expenses go over 80%, then it’s time to trim some fat and find spending areas you can reduce.

You can also adjust the “anti-budget” to fit your own personal financial goals. If you’d like more savings to fall back on, try a 70/30 budget. If you want to aggressively pay down debt, you may want to consider a 60/40 (or even a 50/50) budget until you’re out of the hole.

4. Try the Envelope System

Another alternative is the envelope system, made famous by financial guru Dave Ramsey. If you’re a visual or tactile person, this could be the system that helps you finally see what budgeting looks like in action.

The envelope method involves taking all of the discretionary cash you have for the month and placing it in — you guessed it — envelopes that represent each of your budget categories.

If you can only afford to spend $300 a month on groceries, you place $300 in the “groceries” envelope. Being able to see how much cash you have left for the month helps you stretch out your spending, and if you use up what’s in the envelope before the month is over, you’re forced to make do with what you’ve already spent. (Maybe it’s time to get creative with leftovers, “shop your pantry,” or eat ramen noodles for the rest of the month).

If you’re the sort who tends to swipe a card and not really think about what you’re spending, the envelope system could be a great, old-fashioned way to get back to basics.

Did you know First Financial offers free budgeting seminars throughout the year?  Be sure to check our online event calendar to find out when the next one is, and register online.  Plus, when you attend – you’ll receive a computerized budgeting spreadsheet to use and easily plug in your expenses each month!

Article Source: Paula Pant for dailyfinance.com, http://www.dailyfinance.com/2014/12/20/easiest-budget-approaches/

How To Save When You’re Young

Businesswoman saving moneyIt’s hard to save money when you’re young. If you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’re probably not overflowing with cash. With a ton of young and talented job seekers, companies also have little pressure to offer generous starting salaries.

Meanwhile, apartment rents have steadily risen for 23 straight quarters, and life’s other inevitable expenses — utilities, food, taxes, etc. And these haven’t gotten any cheaper.

Let’s not forget educational expenses too. Inflation in college tuition has massively outpaced broader consumer price inflation for decades, meaning most college graduates start their careers with large student loan debts hanging over their heads. A recent poll found that college graduates finish their studies with an average debt load of $35,200. And if you are the ambitious type who decided to go to graduate school, you might have multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

Still, the savings you manage to sock away while you’re young will have an outsized effect on the lifestyle you’re able to live when in middle age and your golden years.

Pay Yourself First.

Humans are hardwired to expand our spending to absorb any increases in income. In order to mitigate these impulses, you have to “pay yourself first” by allocating your first dollar of income to savings rather than your last. Figure out a dollar amount that you want to save, and set it aside before you budget your regular monthly expenses.

If your employer offers a 401k plan, this is easy enough to do. Your 401k contributions come out of your paycheck before you have a chance to spend them. Not including the value of employer matching, if your employer offers this – is an “out of sight, out of mind” way to save for your retirement one day.

Even contributing $500 per month to savings will get you to $6,000 per year, and many young workers can try to make do with $500 less per month.

Make it Automatic.

Very closely related to paying yourself first is making your savings as automated as possible. For example with a 401k plan, this accomplishes both. Once you set your contribution limits, your company’s payroll department will take care of the rest. It’s automated, and you don’t have to think about it.

But what if your company doesn’t offer a 401k plan? There are plenty of other ways to automate your savings process. Often times, your payroll department will allow you to split your paycheck among two or more accounts. This will allow you to automatically divert whatever sum you can afford away from your primary checking account and into a savings or investment account.

You can also generally instruct your brokerage account or savings account to automatically draw from your checking account on a specified day every month. The key here is automating the process so as to remove your discretion. If you have a real emergency, you can always suspend the automated instructions for the time being. Otherwise, you have made saving part of your monthly routine and made it a lot harder to throw the money away on something frivolous.

Slash Your Budget.

Let’s face it, it can be easier said than done when your monthly bills seem to get bigger every month. Here are a few concrete examples of how to save without crimping your lifestyle too badly.

First off, ditch cable TV. Most of the programming you watch is probably available for free over the airwaves or at a very modest cost with Hulu Plus or Netflix  after a short delay. And the handful of shows not available probably aren’t worth the $100 per month or more you’ll pay in cable bills. If you can’t live without HBO, chances are good that one of your friends or relatives has a subscription that you can borrow from time to time.

Also, try to put off a new car purchase as long as possible. If you take reasonably good care of your car, it will last you 150,000-200,000 miles. Not only will you save money on a car payment, but the older your car the less insurance coverage you will need. And when you finally do need to replace your wheels, buy a late-model used car rather than a new one.

Did you know at First Financial, our auto loan rates are the same whether you buy new or used? Be sure to check them out today, and if you like what you see – you can apply for an auto loan online 24/7.*

Consider cutting your rent and utilities bills in half by having a roommate. Chances are, you did it in college. Why not share an apartment for a few more years? The average apartment rent is more than $1,000 per month, and it is considerably more in the popular urban cities that attract younger people. Cutting that bill in half will make reaching your savings goals a lot easier.

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

Article Source: Charles Sizemore for investorplace.com, http://investorplace.com/2014/12/how-to-save-when-youre-young/#.VL65zNLF8uc

 

4 Times You Should Ignore Good Financial Advice

finances-e1303266500480It’s so great when someone gives you advice that helps you make a positive change in your life. Sometimes, we can truly learn from the experience and the tips that others provide. However, there are other times when we need to learn to ignore the advice given to us by other people. While it’s often well-meaning, sometimes the advice that other people give can lead us down the wrong path entirely.

Especially when it comes to financial tips and advice, sometimes people become set in a certain way of thinking, or they believe a financial myth because it has been told to them by someone else. It’s important to make your own financial decisions. There are certain financial tips that are either out-dated or conditional. Some tips are just wrong all together.

Here are four financial tips that you definitely should ignore, and how to spot poor financial advice.

1. Avoid credit cards. Credit cards can be dangerous. According to Lifehacker, they make it easy to spend money, we can easily feel peer pressure to use them because so many other people do, and of course, the interest can really add up.

However, credit cards are not all bad, as long as you use them responsibly. If you can afford to pay the balance off immediately, there is no harm in using a credit card. There are actually several positive aspects of credit cards, including the fact that most credit card companies protect you against fraudulent charges (whereas if someone steals $200 in cash, you probably are not getting it back). Also, many credit cards come with excellent rewards.

Did you know First Financial has a lower rate VISA Platinum Credit Card, great rewards, no annual fee, and no balance transfer fees? Apply today!*

2. Save first. It is absolutely essential to set savings aside each month toward future purchases, an emergency fund, and your retirement. If you don’t save now, you risk not having enough saved later. However, as important as prioritizing savings is, it isn’t always the right decision for each person. If you are drowning in debt, but you are setting aside hundreds of dollars each month toward savings (while your bills lay unpaid), you are probably making the wrong choice. There’s no use having savings if you are in a bad financial situation, and it’s getting worse because interest and late fees are piling up while you focus on your savings.

We offer a number of Savings Account options, click here to learn about our various accounts and to find one that fits your needs.**

3. Stick to your budget. Many Americans have a hard time sticking to their budgets (and many don’t even have one), and in general, you should try to stick to your budget. However, you actually need to be flexible when things change. If you go from a two-income household to a one-income household, and you are still living on a budget that was designed when you had a lot more money available, you could set yourself up for a lot of debt.

At the same time, when you get a raise, it’s appropriate to change your budget (even if you are just adding the extra income directly into savings or your retirement fund). Circumstances change, and inflation causes prices to go up, so it isn’t fair to yourself, or even responsible, to expect to have the same budget all the time. While in general you should try to stick to your budget each month, sometimes you need to reevaluate it.

Don’t forget to utilize our great financial calculators – they’re free and a great tool to help you get your finances on track.

4. Don’t take a risk. This is another piece of advice that is often well-meaning, but is given by people who usually are more interested in saving everything than taking risks. While it is important to save, unless you take risks, you probably won’t get very much interest back on your savings. People disagree about the best way to handle various financial decisions, but you have to determine what is right for you. You might lose a lot of money by taking a chance on a risky stock, or you might end up rich. Although diversifying your portfolio is often the smartest choice, it might not be the right choice for you. If you want to start your own business, but others advise you against it because of the risk of failure, you have to decide if the risk is worth it to you. There is very little financial advice that fits every single situation.

According to Fox Business, if you are trying to figure out if the advice you are receiving is bad, there are certain signs you should watch out for. If the person giving you the advice has a stake in your decision, they may not be presenting a fair picture. If you didn’t solicit the advice, that could be another sign to watch out for, and they might be trying to scam you. You should also avoid accepting advice that follows the one-size-fits all idea (like don’t take a risk).

Financial advice can be extremely helpful, whether it comes from a financial advisor or even a trusted friend or family member who really wants to help. Just make sure that the advice is really worth listening to. Also, remember to go with your gut. If someone suggests a financial move that you don’t feel good about, don’t do it. Whether the other person is intentionally leading you down the wrong path or not, your intuition might be trying to warn you.

Take advantage of the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial. If you have questions about retirement savings or investments, set up a no-cost consultation with our advisor to discuss your brokerage, investments, and/or savings goals. Call us at 732.312.1565 or stop in to see us!***

*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. 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.

**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, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

***Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC , a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Nondeposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Original article source by Sienna Beard of Personal Finance Cheat Sheet.

10 Huge Mistakes to Avoid When Trying to Save Money

downloadAddressing the issue of saving money is the most fundamental, yet neglected, aspect of personal finance in the U.S. today. According to a 2012 survey by Credit Donkey, almost 50 percent of Americans don’t have more than $500 in their emergency savings accounts, which not only puts a kink in savers’ finances in the event of an unforeseen expense, but also creates undue stress for failing to prepare a safety net adequately.

Here are the top 10 money mistakes Americans make when it comes to saving money.

1. Not budgeting.
There are a number of philosophies on the best approach to take when budgeting your money, but at times the thought of sitting down with statements, bills, and an expense sheet is just too stressful. This mind-set is an easy trap to fall victim to, but is one of the worst money mistakes to make if you want to grow your savings fund.

2. Saving too little.
It’s commendable that about half of Credit Donkey’s survey participants had saved up some cash; but often, individuals don’t save enough money to carry themselves through a challenging and sudden financial crisis. A common recommendation when it comes to the appropriate amount to save in a nest egg is about three months’ salary, or six months worth of expenses (i.e. mortgage, auto loan, utility bills, gas, etc.).

For instance, the average American in 2013 made $42,693 before taxes. Take away about 25 percent of that income for taxes, and the average person walks away with $32,020 annually. Three months of net income (the ideal emergency fund amount) is about $8,000 to help keep you comfortably afloat in an emergency.

3. Not setting specific goals.
Determining what exactly you’re saving for, and when you need to save by, is a helpful motivational guide to follow. It acts as a constant reminder of what you’re working toward, and lets you know when your efforts have been successful.

Examples of this include saving money for a down payment on a car in the next six months, or getting more specific like committing to saving $200 per month for the next six months, to achieve this goal.

4. Failing to track spending.
Creating a budget is the start of the savings process and setting a goal is the end of it, but there has to be a quantitative way to follow your progression in the time between. Tools such as Mint.com  or even a simple spreadsheet are great ways to avoid this money mistake.

5. Living paycheck to paycheck.
When budgeting your spending allowance, don’t stretch your money to the last dollar. Not allowing yourself about a $100 per month buffer sets you up for disaster, as small, seemingly harmless purchases quickly add up.

6. Overdrawing an account.
Overdrawing a checking account is usually the result of making one of these other money mistakes, but expensive overdraft fees are a cost you have complete control over. A $35 overdraft fee might not sting now, but as more pile up on your account statement, the damage can become apparent in a short period of time.

Simply put, overdrawing is a money waster and an entirely avoidable circumstance if you stay diligent with your savings plan.

7. Claiming the wrong tax withholding.
Claiming the lowest withholding allowance when it comes to your federal taxes is a mistake that Americans commonly make. When you do so, the government takes away more income taxes throughout the year, and you’re left with a fat tax return check.

Don’t let this windfall fool you — what you’re doing is essentially giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan and getting nothing back in return. Instead, you can claim the withholding allowance you rightfully qualify for, and use the extra cash in each paycheck to grow your savings fund in a high-interest savings account.

8. Signing up for low deductibles.
One way to increase the amount of cash you can save each month is to lower your premium and raise your deductible for auto and health insurance. This means you assume more risk up front by paying a lower monthly premium, with the expectation to pay more out of pocket in the event you have to file a claim (which should be no problem if you’ve saved that emergency fund).

According to the Insurance Information Institute, increasing your deductible from $200 to $1,000 can lower collision and comprehensive coverage premiums by at least 40 percent.

9. Buying name brands.
More customers are employing frugal tactics like passing on branded products in lieu of a generic version. Similarly, retailers have caught onto the fact that shoppers are looking for a frugal alternative in today’s challenging economic times.

That’s not to say you should never splurge on a brand that’s worth it, but most generics are the same product as their pricier counterparts. Look for generic products on the lower shelves of grocers’ aisles.

10. Waiting.
One of the worst money mistakes you can make is procrastinating on getting started with your savings plan, since achieving a savings goal can take longer than you might expect. Paying $500 per month toward an emergency fund at the income outlined in mistake No. 2, for example, would take the average American 16 months to save up three months’ income.

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.

Here at First Financial, we also encourage our members to come in at least once a year for an annual financial check-up – to sit down with a representative at any one of our branches to make sure you are currently placed in the correct Rewards First tier for you, and also that you are receiving the best value, products and services based on your financial situation. Give us a call at 866.750.0100 or stop in to see us today!

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