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

Learn How to “Get out of debt, manage your credit, & stop paying more than you have to!” at this FREE Seminar in March 2015

246657_bigAre you interested in improving your credit score, paying down debt, and saving money in order to get your finances on track? If so, allow the experts at First Financial to provide you with insightful information to help you manage your credit & debt in this free seminar.

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • What affects your credit score
  • What makes up your credit score and how to improve it
  • How to budget and cut spending
  • How to promptly pay off debt

This FREE “Get out of debt, manage your credit, & stop paying more than you have to!” Seminar will begin at 6:00pm on Thursday, March 19th at First Financial’s Neptune Branch. The seminar will teach attendees ways to keep their credit score where it should be in just a few simple steps. The seminar is located at 783 Wayside Road (Off Route 66) in Neptune. Register today, space is limited. 

Register Now!

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/

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.

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.