Maximize Your Most Valuable Resource: Time

“You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” – Jim Rohn

By now, you’ve been enjoying the perks of longer days: better weather, a happier mood and a little more time to get things done! You may have heard the phrase “time is more valuable than money,” but no matter how long the sun lingers in the sky, most of us sti1-free-timell find ourselves wishing for one more hour in the day. We’re a busy society, and the demands on our time often pull us in many directions at once.

Are you feeling like the clock runs out too soon on your daily plans? Check out these tips for maximizing your time and extracting more value out of those extra daylight hours.

Planning Your Time = A Smart Use of Time

Reserve 15 minutes each morning to plan how you would like to spend the time in your day. Start with free-form lists for family, work, and yourself and then prioritize. If you prefer using your phone to organize tasks, there are plenty of amazing apps to help master your daily to-do list.

Don’t measure your success based on finishing an entire list: get to your most important items, then use 15 minutes at night to review your progress and begin thinking about the next day. By instituting these “bookends” on your day, you’ll relieve the stress of feeling like you’re not in control of your time and go to bed feeling a real sense of accomplishment.

Supercharge Your Time Effectiveness

You already consider the cost-effectiveness of your purchases. How about considering the time-effectiveness of your actions? Before taking on a task, consider if you’re using your time well: Are you adding too many steps? Could you delegate or ask for assistance? Is this task contributing to your priorities?

Once you’ve determined your time-effectiveness, consider using the “one-touch rule.” Popular among productivity experts, the one-touch rule means you must finish a task completely once you start it. No switching to a new task or giving in to distractions. If your task is on your computer, try Freedom, software that disconnects your computer from the Internet to keep you from browsing the web. The one-touch rule allows you to complete, say, three big tasks by the end of the day instead of having ten incomplete projects on your hands. Try it out – and don’t be hard on yourself if life sometimes gets in the way!

Take Advantage of Wait Times

A not-so-fun irony: the busier we get, the more downtime we face waiting! Whether it’s at the doctor’s office, in the grocery store line or waiting for the train, small wait times can add up to considerable hours wasted. Always keep a notebook or tablet on hand to brainstorm for a project that needs your attention, catch up on emails or check in on your household budget. Your phone is great, too. Sometimes you’re the most productive when you have no other options competing for your attention!

Respect Your Energy

You can certainly fill every available second of your day with tasks, but if you don’t have the energy to complete them, what’s the point? Respect your finite amount of energy and try to find times throughout the day for fun, rest and re-charging – whether it’s a walk around the block, some extra quality time with your children or even five minutes of quiet time on the couch. And always give yourself downtime between tasks! You’ll be more focused, present and diligent when you take the time for self-care.

Here at First Financial, we respect your time and strive to provide convenient banking solutions everyday. Click on the links below to learn more about a few services we offer to help make your life a little easier:

Article courtesy of MintLife Blog.

10 Ways Too Many People Throw Money Away

Packs of dollar in the garbage can. Waste of money or currency collapse concept. 3d

There are all sorts of ways to cut spending and boost your savings, and there are just as many ways to sabotage your own finances. In addition to missing out on money-saving discounts, making unwise shopping decisions, and purchasing unnecessary items, you might also be throwing your money down the drain without even realizing.  Keep reading to ensure this doesn’t happen to you!

1. Never redeeming gift cards.

Even if you don’t want your gift card, at least give it to someone who will use it. According to statistics compiled by Gift Card Granny, more than $41 billion in gift cards went unused over a 6 year period. American households also average $300 in unused gift cards, and nearly half of recipients do not use the full value of the card. Don’t let dollars go down the drain!

2. Letting Groupons expire.

According to Yipit, roughly 15% of Groupons go unredeemed by the time the expiration date rolls around. Make a note of your daily deal coupon’s expiration date to ensure this doesn’t happen to you. And if your Groupon does expire, you may be able to contact the merchant directly to get some value from it.

3. Buying tickets and not showing up.

Purchasing tickets for a concert, sporting event, or other cultural activity often requires planning far in advance. But if you change your mind later or something comes up, you’ve already spent that money. These days people even buy movie tickets in advance online. If you can’t get a refund, you may be able to at least pass along your tickets to a friend. To make every dollar count, when possible it’s best to wait until you are certain to actually buy your tickets.

4. Paying late fees.

Even small late fees add up quickly. This can include everything from overdue library books, Redbox DVD rentals, or late payments on utilities. To avoid incurring late fees on your credit card, pay in advance of your due date, schedule automatic payment, or set a reminder for yourself. If you are hit with a late fee, call customer service and ask to have the charge waived. On your first offense many companies are willing to let the late fee go.

5. Paying bank fees.

It seems like every year big banks come up with new ways to nickel and dime their customers. Between minimum balances, fees for checking accounts, and ATM fees – these charges can add up. Avoid these unnecessary fees by joining a local credit union like First Financial! Credit unions typically offer free checking accounts and savings accounts with better interest rates.

6. Not returning unwanted goods.

It’s easy to let unwanted items or gifts just sit there in the closet, but with a little effort, you could be getting money back in your pocket. Even if you are past the return date, give it a try anyway. You may be able to at least get store credit. For online purchases, many retailers even cover the cost of shipping for returns. Some retailers will even take returns without a receipt.

7. Failing to ask for a refund.

Consumers who are dissatisfied with their service often don’t take the time to voice their concerns. The ones who do however, could end up with a full refund or at least a discount. If you have a bad experience, don’t be shy about speaking up. Even if you don’t get any money back, retailers and service providers should know when their customers aren’t satisfied.

8. Never disputing mistakes on a bill.

If you think your bill may be incorrect, it’s worth disputing the charges with the company. At most respectable businesses, the error will quickly be corrected. Unexpected medical bills are also a growing problem, and patients almost never file a complaint with a state agency. The Consumers Union online insurance complaint tool is a good place to start.

9. Forgetting to follow up on a rebate.

The sneaky thing about mail-in rebates is they are designed to be so complicated that consumers either forget to mail them in or do so incorrectly. More than $500 million in rebates go unfilled every year, often due to deceptive practices. The Wall Street Journal reported that about 40% of mail-in rebates go unredeemed or are filed incorrectly and denied. Think twice before getting involved in a rebate in the first place. If you are waiting on a rebate check from weeks or months ago, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

10. Not claiming money that’s yours.

Every year, unclaimed money is reported by the government, and rightful owners are encouraged to step forward and claim their funds. In 2013, states, federal agencies, and other organizations together reported $58 billion in unclaimed cash and benefits. This can include unclaimed IRS refunds, old bank accounts and stock holdings, unclaimed life insurance payouts, mortgage refunds, forgotten pension benefits, and more. Health insurance companies report forgotten funds as well. And if that money isn’t claimed, it gets turned over to the state.

The moral of the story – pay attention, follow up when necessary, and don’t throw good money away!

Article Source: Chloe Della Costa,

Emergency Savings – Here’s What You Really Need

3D Illustration of a Piggy Bank and a Stethoscope

Costs related to an unexpected illness or accident can spiral. Here’s the truth about savings in America: We all talk a lot about how much we should be saving and spending, but the majority of us don’t save enough to pay for a surprise expense that must be covered immediately.

More than 60% of Americans don’t have enough money stashed away to pay for unforeseen expenses such as a $1,000 visit to the emergency room or a $500 fender-bender, according to a study.

The same survey found that 82% of us keep household budgets — mostly with pen and paper or in our heads, but we look to outside help to pull us out of a financial crisis.

Staying afloat after a job loss.

We also seem to have a blind spot about how much emergency savings we actually need. Most financial experts will tell you to stockpile three to six months of paychecks in an interest-earning account like a money market that you can get your hands on without tax or early-withdrawal penalties. But what many unwittingly discovered after job layoffs in the depth of the recession was that three to six months of paychecks for emergency savings wasn’t nearly enough when unemployment lasted six to 12 months, sometimes even longer. It also matters if you’re single or if you’re part of a two-income household, and if you rent or if you own a condo rather than a house.

Cushioning the blow of surprise expenses.

Gauge your emergency savings needs not just on income — but on what you own and what replacement costs might be. How much would a replacement roof be? What about a new transmission in your car?

How about a health emergency? It’s the most feared and pricey crisis Americans face and for good reason, since it’s the #1 cause of bankruptcy. HelloWallet has created a calculator to allocate emergency savings into three tiers: minor emergencies, major emergencies and job-loss protection.

  • Minor emergencies

They’re what you’d expect: health-care deductibles and negligible car and home repairs. But be sure you are prepared to cope with multiple minor emergencies around the same time. For example, there could be a domino effect of emergencies, like a car crash could lead to a broken leg and an unexpected car insurance deductible as well as a healthcare deductible.

  • Major emergencies

The good news is that major emergencies don’t happen with the same regularity that minor ones do. A key premise here is that the cash you have on hand — a liquid asset, can be used for any major emergency. The caveat for those with health savings or flexible spending accounts is that those accounts can cover health costs but are hands off for other emergencies.

  • Job loss

In general, there’s a 10% probability that any one of us could lose their job in any given year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those numbers, of course, are skewed during recessions and economic hiccups like we’ve seen in recent years. In these cases, according to the BLS, more than 10% of those who are jobless need more than a year to find employment.

Add that all up and the advice is to save enough to cope with a year of unemployment. That’s a tall order, but remember you don’t have to do it all in one year and it doesn’t necessarily mean a year’s worth of paychecks – but rather a year’s worth of expenses covered. Unemployment insurance is considered too. In two-income families, it’s unlikely that both people will lose their jobs during the same year, but they should be covered as if the higher income gets knocked out of the equation.

Hopefully you will never need to worry about most of the items on this list, but it’s always better to be financially prepared and plan ahead when you can!

Article Source: Jennifer Waters,

10 Ways to Save Money Before Labor Day

end of summer savingsLabor Day is only about a month away, which means summer is coming to an end. It also means your bank account might be bracing for a hit as you squeeze in a trip, start stocking up on back-to-school items for your children, or send a child off to college.

To prepare for these and other costs, you can take several steps to lower your expenses and save money on things you need to buy this month. Here are 10 ways you can save money before Labor Day:

1. Lower Your Cooling Costs.

If you’re cranking up your air conditioner to combat a heat wave, be prepared for a hefty electric bill. To keep costs low and stay cool, try the following tips:

  • Fans cost less to operate than air conditioners. You can raise your thermostat by four degrees and feel no reduction in comfort if you turn a fan on also.
  • You can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15% by replacing or cleaning dirty filters.
  • Cook outside using a grill to avoid heating your home with your oven.

2. Freeze Your Gym Membership.

If you’re not using your gym membership because you’re exercising outdoors or taking a summer trip, then freeze your membership. Putting your membership on hold can allow you to avoid any early termination fees if you have a year long contract, and save money on your membership fee during months when you’re not using the gym.

3. Save on School and Office Supplies.

Families are expected to spend an average of $97.94 on supplies such as notebooks, pencils and backpacks for school-age children this year, according to the National Retail Federation. You can keep the cost of school supplies under control by shopping back-to-school sales at retailers such as Target and Walmart, and office supply stores such as Staples.

Even if you don’t have kids, you can benefit from these sales – especially for office supplies.  Plus, you’ll find great deals on laptop computers in August as part of back-to-school sales, according to

4. Take Advantage of Sales-Tax Holidays.

Seventeen states have back-to-school sales-tax holidays in August, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators. These holidays offer consumers an opportunity to avoid sales tax on clothing, footwear and school supplies. Some states even waive the sales tax on computers.

5. Start Price-Shopping for Holiday Travel.

The winter holidays are months away but now is the time to start comparing airfares “so you can lock in a good price when you find one,” said Holly Johnson, a frugal travel expert who blogs at To get the best price on airline tickets, you need to book flights at least 27 to 114 days in advance, according to a study by Flights for holiday travel fill up quickly, so you’re better off booking sooner rather than later.

6. Sign Up for a Rewards Credit Card.

If you are going to do some back-to-school shopping, book holiday travel or take a trip before Labor Day, take some of the sting out of that extra spending by using a credit card rewards.

Here at First Financial we offer a Visa Platinum Credit Card* with no annual fee, no balance transfer fees, a 10 day grace period, and a CURewards program where you can redeem points for gift cards, merchandise items, travel, and so much more! PLUS, we’re currently offering an introductory rate of 2.9% APR for the first 6 months on all purchases and balance transfers.**

7. Get Freebies From the Library.

If you have kids, you’re likely hearing them complain by now that they have nothing to do. To fend off boredom, take them to the local library to pick out books and DVDs for free. Whether or not you have children, you also can take advantage of free programs at your library, such as writing workshops or lecture series, in an air-conditioned environment.

8. Watch Inexpensive or Free Flicks.

Another way to keep the kids entertained in the weeks before school starts — without spending a lot of money — is to take advantage of discounted family movies at theaters. For example, Regal Entertainment Group, which operates 569 theaters in 42 states, charges just $1 for tickets for family movies at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Additionally, plenty of communities offer free movies in parks. Check for listings on community calendars, the parks and recreation department, or local government websites.  Or check out our First Scoop Blog’s monthly things to do on a budget in Monmouth and Ocean Counties series!

9. Cut Food Costs With Seasonal Produce.

A great way to lower your grocery bill is to buy produce that is in season where you live, because the prices will be lower on those fruits and vegetables than ones shipped in from other areas of the country or other parts of the world. You should be able to take advantage of late summer fruit and vegetable harvests to save money this month.

10. Snag Summer Clothing on Clearance.

Retailers are making way for fall clothing in preparation for back-to-school shopping crowds, which means you can score serious savings on summer apparel. Expect discounts of 60% or more on summer staples, which you’ll still be able to wear for a few months and into colder months by layering. If you shop before Labor Day, you’ll have a better and bigger selection.

*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.

**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: Cameron Huddleston, 

10 Tips for Vacationing on a Budget

065_tropical_sunset_21. Avoid peak season.

It’s no secret that as summer or holidays approach – travel costs, such as airfare and hotel lodging often go up in price. Consider taking your trip during an off-season month, such as September or October, as opposed to summer or the peak holiday months. The prices associated with your vacation may be considerably less, and better yet, your destination might be less crowded. All of this will help you travel on a budget.

2. Consider alternative lodging locations.

If your vacation takes you to a large city, it could be more cost effective to stay outside the city limits. The hotel rates, in some cases, can be much lower. Consider smaller hotel chains or bed and breakfast accommodations with fewer amenities to save money during your time off.

3. Try public transportation.

One of the best ways to get the local flavor of your vacation spot is to take public transportation. Plus, taking public transportation is also an excellent way to save money. Whether you go by bus, subway or train, you’re not burdened with car rental, gas, or parking costs. Plus, you get to see more sights because you’re not behind the wheel driving.

4. Avoid the trendy eateries.

Food can eat up a large portion of your vacation budget. Avoid the cost of high-priced meals by seeking out and going to lesser-known restaurants. Read up on local spots and plan ahead to make reservations at restaurants that are within your budget.

5. Watch the currency.

When planning a trip abroad, look into the currency exchange rate of the country you will be visiting as compared to American dollars. Try to plan your trip when the dollar is trending strong. This will give you more bang for your buck with hotel accommodations, food and local events.

6. Limit the souvenirs.

It’s nice to have a reminder of your travels, whether in the form of a t-shirt or baseball cap. Just be mindful of places in your destination where these items can cost far more than their usual amount.

7. Seek out friendly advice.

Do you have a relative or friend who’s been to where you’re vacationing? If so, ask for some advice, such as are there any inexpensive accommodations or restaurants that are within your travel budget?

8. Stay closer to home on your vacation.

Instead of vacationing abroad, where you could be subject to higher airfare, and unpredictable currency fluctuations, consider staying in the U.S. There are many national attractions. Plus, if you travel within the U.S., you won’t have to budget for the expense of renewing or obtaining a passport!

9. Take a road trip.

If you do stay close to home, an entertaining and cost-effective vacation could simply entail getting in your car. You’ll be able to travel at your own pace without the hassle of hurrying to airports or connecting flights. Just remember to be mindful of the fluctuating price of fuel as that could affect your travel budget.

10. Consider a staycation.

How well do you know your own state, or even your own city? A cost-effective and fun vacation idea could simply be a trip around your own city. With all the money you save by not taking a flight or renting a car, you could stay in a fancy hotel with all the amenities and pampering imaginable — just a few miles from your own home.

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

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

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program. 

Article Source: David Dorion, 

6 Sneaky Summer Expenses to Avoid

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

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

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

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

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

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program. 

Article courtesy of US News – Money by Sabah Karimi.