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 DealNews.com.

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 ClubThrifty.com. 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 CheapAir.com. 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, http://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/10-ways-save-money-before-labor-day/ 

Back to School Shopping Strategies to Spend Smart

back-to-schoolSo here is the deal: it is impossible to avoid back to school shopping. The plain truth is you need to get certain supplies to make sure your child is prepared for back to school season. This can become quite expensive, as children seem to need more and more every year. But savvy spenders know that there are several tips and tricks you can follow in order to save big. You don’t have to be a shopping guru or expert in order to save, you just need to know where the deals are, and the places you can save a few pennies. Below, you will find back to school shopping strategies to spend smart and save big.

You will find that these tips are simple to follow and don’t require a great deal of know how or time. Give these tips a try and see how easy it is to shop smart and save big. Take a peek!

1. Get your child involved.

Explain to your child what the difference between wants and needs are. They won’t be able to get every single item they want and you should be able to tell them that. Before shopping, make a list with your child based on the list the school provides. Make sure your child understands what they will be getting to prepare them for school and what can wait.

2. Eliminate gimmicks.

Teachers will tell you that things like sparkly erasers, light up pencils, and other fancy items can be a distraction. They are not only a distraction, but they are more expensive than plain items. Instead, forget about these back to school gimmicks and keep things simple. It costs less.

3. Keep your supply list in the car.

While you are running your errands, you will want to keep your list on you should you run into any deals. If you don’t have your list, you could miss out on a hot deal. Keep your list in your car or in your purse so if you come across a sale or a free with rebate deal, you have your list to see if you need it or not.

4. Buy basic supplies in bulk.

You can buy basic supplies such as paper, pencils, and notebooks in bulk. Warehouse stores are perfect for buying these items for less and having enough to sustain you for the rest of the year. Do the math and make sure the bulk price beats the a la carte price before you shop.

5. Negotiate a group discount.

Gather the other parents at school and see if you can rally together to save. A group of parents may be able to negotiate a group discount from a local office supply store. Contact stores in your area and see if they are open to the possibility of this. Then, contact parents and get the ball rolling.

6. Stock up and set up a home store.

Buy items on sale, free with rebate, or in bulk and then gather them in a storage bin. Keep the bin in a safe place where they can be shopped during the year as they are needed. That way, you are not having to run out and buy items during the year, possibly spending more.

7. Help your school and yourself.

Ask if your school participates in a program like OneCause. If so you can shop for supplies often receiving a discount and special coupons. Plus with your purchase, your local retailer will donate a percentage to the school of your choice. It is a win/win!

See how easy it is to save money on back to school? With these back to school shopping strategies you can learn how to spend smart and save big. These tips will help you make the most of your cash and stretch your shopping dollar. Give them a try and see how quickly the savings add up for you!

*Click here to view the article source.

Back to School Shopping: 10 Ways to Save Your Money

back-to-school1First Financial gathers some easy tips and advice in order for you to save on back to school shopping:

  1. Coupons and Coupon Codes: It’s all about the bargains. When shopping online, don’t forget about coupon codes that you can apply to your cart. Also, remember to look through newspapers and your junk mail to cut out coupons for various items that might be on your checklist.
  2. Get Ahead: Most clearance items go on sale after the season has ended. Take advantage of this opportunity and buy items for the fall and winter even though it may be spring or summer, you’ll be able to save money and use it for the following year.
  3. Use Your CU Rewards: All First Financial VISA® Platinum Credit Cardholders are eligible to earn reward points at various retailers by shopping on our CU Rewards Mall. For more information login to your CU Rewards account.
  4. Outlet Shopping: Many people forget that large retailers have factory outlet stores. Outlets are great for special deals and markdowns on your favorite brands without paying full-retail price.
  5. Leave the Kids at Home: Parents, you know all about the guilt-trip. Don’t be pressured to buy certain things and wind up spending more money than you have to!
  6. Use Your Smartphone: They’re called “smart” for a reason. For example, the Google Shopper app enables you to scan an item’s barcode and then it shows the prices for the same product at different stores in your area so you can get the best bargain.
  7. Utilize Social Media: While you’re poking around on Facebook and Twitter, make sure you “like” or follow your favorite stores and brands. They often post different deals, coupons, and promotions that are going on.
  8. Sharing is Caring: Buy in bulk and split it amongst the kids, or save it for later on in the school year.
  9. Don’t Forget About eBay and Amazon: Use these sites to your advantage; your kids don’t need the latest and newest technology, they need something that works and is fitting for them. Frequently, these sites will sell items new or barely used for a great price.
  10.  Maybe Hand-Me-Downs are Good: Do a little “summer cleaning” and go through your kids’ closets and see what could be passed on to another sibling.

If you need additional assistance paying for back to school supplies and clothing, First Financial offers one of the lowest credit card rates around. To learn more about First Financial’s VISA® Platinum Card and apply today, please visit our credit card page.