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

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

 

10 Tips to Save Money on Your Upcoming “Big Game” Football Party

superbowl-partyIt’s that time of year when millions of people start to talk about the “Big Game.” Aside from the game itself on 2/1, these football parties are pretty big events. If you’re trying to keep to a budget this year and not spend as much on food or drinks, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Have a Potluck

One of the cheapest and easiest ways of hosting a “Big Game” party is to have a potluck where everyone brings their own dish. This not only saves you money, but also saves you time which can be even more important so you aren’t spending all your time in the kitchen and you can actually enjoy the game as well. Whether your guests want to buy something to bring or make it themselves, this is a great alternative to a traditional party where the host makes everything themselves.

Supermarket Deals

Since the “Big Game” is such an iconic event, grocery stores and brands often put popular party food items on sale during the weeks leading up to the game. Keep an eye on your local grocery store flyers for these deals so that you can buy any of your intended snacks for well below retail price.

Coupons

If supermarkets are eager to get into the hype of the game by advertising big sales on certain products, then you can bet that manufacturers are as well. This is definitely a great time to scour for coupons on certain items. Whether it’s looking on the manufacturer’s website, social media, the Sunday paper, or at the grocery store, keep an eye open for coupons that will help you save money, and make sure to use them when you’re buying your party necessities.

Make Foods That Cater to a Lot of People

While it might be tempting to go all out and create a number of smaller dishes and plates, it’s much less expensive to make a huge dish of something. For example, a giant pot of chili or a giant batch of nachos will be a lot less expensive than several rounds of appetizers. Opting for a single item that will taste good and be filling can save a ton of money on party food.

BYOB

If you’re hosting a party with alcohol involved, you might want to consider telling your guests to bring their own drinks. Alcohol can be pretty expensive, especially if you’re buying for a lot of people. Not only will it be cheaper for you, but you won’t have to deal with any complaints about the brand of beer or hard liquor you buy. You’re more than welcome to buy some alcohol to accommodate your guests, but it’s still a good idea to ask them to bring something of their own to even out the expenses.

Decorations

Some people don’t decorate for football parties while other people go crazy with decorations. If you’re looking to decorate for your party, consider picking up some decorations from a dollar store or other inexpensive store in team colors rather than branded with team logos. There’s no need to spend a lot of money for decorations that you’re probably going to throw away within 24 hours. Moreover, dollar stores have can have a surprisingly large section of party decorations.

Buy in Bulk

If you’re having an extremely large party where buying in bulk is appropriate, then you should go for it! A lot of guests means that you’ll need more food, drinks, and paper or plastic utensils, and it’ll usually be much cheaper to buy all of that in bulk rather than individually at the supermarket. But before you run out to Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s, take the time to compare prices of all the stores around you to make sure that buying in bulk really will be financially to your advantage.

Don’t Splurge

You should think twice before you splurge on decadent desserts or expensive alcohol or a new flatscreen TV. While it may be tempting to have expensive foods or the latest TV in order to impress your guests, spending more money than you need isn’t always a smart idea. You don’t want to regret your spur of the moment purchases the next time you look at your bank account, after all. If you’re seriously thinking of buying expensive items in time for the big game, do your research and make sure that you’re getting the best deal.

Delivery

While it’s always nice to prepare and cook your own meals and snacks for a party, sometimes delivery is the cheaper alternative. Since the “Big Game” is such a huge deal, many pizza places or other takeout places have special deals. It’s worth considering whether or not ordering delivery is a better option for your party.

Take Stock of What You Have

Of course, one of the most important things to remember when you’re trying to host a frugal party is to take stock of what you already have. Whether this is food items you can serve or decorations that you may have forgotten about, there’s nothing worse than going out to buy something you already own. A few days before the party, go around and take stock of what you own and what you truly do need.

Happy saving and good luck to the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks!

*Article courtesy of SavingAdvice.com written by Danielle Warchol.

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!

*Click here to view the original source by Nasdaq.