The Smartest Post-College Money Plan: Start Budgeting Now

budget deficit - recession 3d conceptIf you’ve recently graduated from college, and especially if you don’t have a job, it might seem ridiculous to turn your attention to budgeting. You’re exhausted from exams, and you have no money to budget. Why worry now, right?

It’s a fair question, but as anyone who has been there knows, this is precisely the time to avoid money mistakes. Unless you’re lucky and your parents are willing to pay your way for the time being, from free rent to food, to going out with your friends, you’re going to be spending in the near future – and spending too much can naturally lead to trouble.

For instance, many recent college graduates rely heavily on credit cards. When you don’t have a job, it’s not the best idea to pile all of your expenses on your credit card and figure you’ll pay it off once you get a job.

So if you’re an unemployed recent college graduate, here are some strategies to consider implementing to set yourself up for a bright financial future – debt free.

Get a job. It may not necessarily be your dream job, but find a job. It’s recommended that you visit temp agencies and recruiters to find an emergency job. It’s important to have some money coming in, even if the position isn’t closely related to your major or what you want to do in life.

New grads should not be so picky. It isn’t necessary that you get your dream job right out of college, you have to work your way up to get that job. Don’t worry, it’s okay to take a week or two off after graduation to recoup and relax – but generally, try not to waste too much time and start looking for a steady source of income.

Don’t stay in that hastily found job for long. Start looking for a better career move as soon as possible – you want the money coming in, not satisfaction settling in. If you’ve been at the job for more than six months, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and ask everyone you know for recommendations, or put yourself out on LinkedIn – because when it comes to job hunting, it always helps to know someone.

Live cheaply. You know what it’s like to live on a college budget, so don’t go crazy with spending your money on entertainment, clothes, travel, or going out. It’s not the best idea to spend money carelessly if you don’t land a job soon because the more you spend, the deeper you will dig yourself into debt.

It may be tough to go the frugal route and watch TV with your parents instead of going to the movies with your friends, but you should think about your new spending habits as “financial yoga – hurts now, helps later.” Even if you have a new, promising job, it’s smart to keep your expenses as low as possible – think about getting roommates.

That might be the last thing you want to hear if you had a bunch of roommates in college and you’re itching to finally live solo, but roommates will allow you to cut back on your rent and utilities in a big way. Whatever you do, keep expenses low so you can see what your budget can handle. You don’t want to get an apartment, update your wardrobe and buy a car, then realize your entry-level paycheck can’t handle the financial stress.

For a list of helpful college graduate accounts, loans, and services available at First Financial, click here. We know there are things you need to set-up your financial future, so we’ve customized some of our products and services like special Savings and Checking accounts, as well as an auto loan offer and more – to make this next step of your life one smooth ride.  Remember, if you ever need any financial guidance or have a question, reach out to us at 866.750.0100, email info@firstffcu.com or feel free to stop by any of our locations – we are here to help!

*Click here to view the article source by Geoff Williams of US News.

 

The 10 Commandments of Saving Money

saving moneyThere are thousands of savings tips that can help you grow your nest egg. Whether they involve brown-bagging it to work or using coupons at the supermarket, these are generally useful savings habits that can give you a leg up on ending each month in the black.

But there are only a few super-sized savings rules that can truly transform your finances. Rules so big they deserve to be etched in stone. So, here are the “The Ten Commandments” of saving.

1. Thou Shalt Know Where Thy Money Goes

When generals go to war, they need an overview of the battlefield. Maps, exploration and data show them where the enemy is susceptible. In the battle for savings, the first thing you have to know is where your money is going.

Sites like Mint.com allow you to connect all your bank accounts, credit cards and loans to cloud-based software so you to track your finances on one screen, in real time, with just the click of a button. They also analyze your expenses and highlight areas where you might be wasting money. Best of all, it’s free.

2. Thou Shalt Eliminate Debt with Extreme Prejudice

Debt is bad, but it’s the interest on that debt that’s like kryptonite to your savings goals, and the sooner you eliminate it, the sooner you can become a savings Superman.

You can also track your finances and debt with 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.

Moving debt from high-interest instruments, like credit cards, to lower-interest instruments, like a line of credit, is a start. Consolidation loans can be a help as well, but the easiest way to get out of debt fast is to take the interest expense you save and put it directly toward your debt’s principal amount.

First Financial’s Visa Platinum Credit Card starts as low as 10.9% APR!* It’s a good idea to check the APR on your current credit cards to see if it’s time to switch. Keep in mind, we also don’t have any balance transfer fees and as an additional BONUS, for a limited time if you are approved for a balance transfer of $5,000 or more to our VISA Platinum Credit Card, you will receive 10,000 bonus CURewards Points! You can apply for the balance transfer by stopping into any branch or by calling 866.750.0100 to be sent a balance transfer request form.**

3. Thou Shalt Read the Fine Print

Most people would be shocked at the amount of money that they waste on service charges, convenience fees and annual dues hidden in financial contracts. If that low-interest credit card charges you $99 annually no matter if you use it or not, is it really that great of a deal?

Bank where checks are included and there is no minimum balance requirement (like a First Financial Checking Account!.*** Make sure if you transfer a balance to a lower-interest credit card that there is not a transaction fee attached. And if you rarely or never use that credit card with the annual fee, think about applying for a card that better suits your financial well-being.

4. Thou Shalt Pay Attention to Timing

At the risk of sounding like a ’60s folk-rock star, to everything there is a season, and waiting for the right season to purchase big-ticket items can save you a bundle. For example, car dealers will discount their inventory when the new model year arrives to free up room on their lots, so If you are in the market for a new car, that’s the season to buy.

Many big-box retailers and department stores have semi-annual sales where you can pick up appliances, electronics and home goods at a discount. The key is to fight against the urge for instant gratification on your purchases.

5. Thou Shalt Keep an Eye on Interest Rates

Even if you are able to pay off your credit cards and loans, the one debt most people can’t pay off is their home mortgage, which is why you should watch interest rates. When interest rates move down, it can be an opportunity to refinance your home loan and save money on your monthly mortgage payment.

But remember, if you just take the money you save and spend it, you’re not saving at all. Earmark the difference between your new mortgage payment and your old one for your bank account, or if you plan to live in your home for the life of the loan, put the extra toward your principal and own your home sooner.

We offer a number of great mortgage options, including refinancing – click here to learn about our features and services and see what’s a good fit for you! To receive updates on our low Mortgage Rates straight to your mobile phone, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our Mortgage Rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.****

6. Thou Shalt Find Money in Thy House

Most people would be surprised to learn just how much money they have laying around their house. Those books you’ve already read can be sold on Cash4Books or Amazon.com, and your old phones and mobile devices can be sold to companies like Gazelle.

Cleaning out the clutter in your home doesn’t just feel good but provides you with an opportunity to feed your piggy bank by having a garage or yard sale. And what about those figurines you inherited or your comic book collection? Do you still really want them? If not, try listing them on eBay.

7. Thou Shalt Use Technology to Find Deals

The Internet makes saving money so easy that your grandmother would likely throw her coupon box at your head if she knew. Sites like Groupon and Living Social will send deals on goods and services in to your inbox, and apps like Out of Milk can alert you to store sales just by driving by them.

The Internet also is a great resource for finding free activities for you and your family to do on weekends, holidays and school breaks.

Subscribe to our First Scoop Blog and receive free, fun financial education straight to your inbox – at the beginning of each month we post a budget-friendly activity list for that month in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, NJ!

8. Thou Shalt Not Forget to Prioritize Your Retirement

This is a tough one, because it’s hard to save money now that you don’t expect to use for 30 or 40 years. But like it or not, there is going to come a time when your earning years are over and we will all need a retirement fund to bankroll the golden years. So if you don’t want yours to be bronze years, you have to make retirement saving a priority.

The good news is that you have many years to accumulate those funds and to let them grow, which means that small amounts of savings directed toward it can go a long way. For example, you can take a percentage out of every saved dollar, say 25 percent, and earmark it for your retirement. This is an easy and painless way to create both a short-term and long-term savings fund.

To set up a no-obligation appointment with our Investment & Retirement Center to go over your retirement and investment portfolio or to get started with one, call 732.312.1565 or email samantha.schertz@cunamutual.com. *****

9. Thou Shalt Not Try to Keep Up With the Joneses

A huge part of winning the saving game is changing your mindset about how you think of money and what its function is. Too often we get caught up in the game of keeping up with the Joneses and buy things we don’t really want — and certainly don’t need — just to keep up appearances.

What many people don’t take into account is that that boat, RV, ATV, third car or giant flat screen that their neighbor bought probably comes with a loan or a high-interest credit card payment. Before making that next impulsive purchase, ask yourself if you really want it and if it will bring you that same warm fuzzy feeling that a full savings account will.

10. Thou Shalt Act Like Thy Don’t Even Have It

We can’t spend what we don’t have, so the more you act like you don’t have it, the more you will be able to save it. Have retirement and college savings funds automatically deducted from your paycheck before you ever see it. Schedule a “secret” payment from your checking account to your savings account each week.

When you come across found money — like a rebate, an overpayment refund or even $20 in your pants pocket — just act like you never had it and put it right into your savings. With practice, you can get pretty good at this, so much so that if you have an unexpected windfall — say from an investment or an inheritance — you’ll forget it even happened. Only your savings account will know.

Click here to view the article source by Brian Lund of Daily Finance.

*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.

**Additional bonus points will be reflected within 30 days from the balance transfer approval and can be viewed when signed into your VISA Platinum Card Account online through Online Banking. In order to redeem bonus points, an offer reference must be made to a First Financial representative. Bonus points can only be redeemed one time per member, on an approved balance transfer of $5,000 or greater during the promotional period of 4/28/14 – 12/31/14.

***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. Visit firstffcu.com to view full Rewards First program details, and to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

****Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

*****Securities sold, advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution to make securities available to members. Not NCUA/NCUSIF/FDIC insured, May Lose Value, No Financial Institution Guarantee. Not a deposit of any financial institution. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

 

5 Budget Killers You Can Avoid

budgeting-money-to-conquer-debtCreating a budget is the first step in taking control of your finances. Sticking to your budget is another challenge altogether.

Even when you believe you have factored in every cost you may encounter by week, by month or by year, somehow you end up needing more money than you allocated – right? If this sounds like you, you are likely encountering a budget killer (or several). Below are some of the most common costs that can cause you to veer off your budgeting course.

1. Account Maintenance Fees: Some big bank accounts and credit cards tack on fees if you don’t maintain your account or meet specific requirements. Some charge you extra if you don’t maintain a certain balance, if you write too many checks, or if you don’t make enough transactions. These can add up quickly. Make sure when choosing an account or credit card, you read the specifics of your account agreement carefully. Look into which checking accounts and credit cards offer services that fit your lifestyle.

Be sure to check out the variety of flexible Checking Account options that we offer here at First Financial including First Protection, High Yield, Free, Go Green Checking and more. Plus, if you’re on the hunt for a great new maintenance-free credit card with rewards, click here to learn more about our low-rate Visa Platinum Credit Card and apply online.

2. Subscriptions: While seemingly low monthly fees can be attractive, subscription magazines and online services (think Netflix, Hulu, etc.) add up. These costs are hurting your budget if you are not using the services or if you could find them elsewhere online for free. Eventually, these just become another add-on to your monthly payments so it’s a good idea every so often to re-evaluate whether yours are worth keeping.

3. Credit Card Interest: Credit cards have several attractive features: allowing you to buy now and pay later, providing cash back, and helping you earn points toward a new car, vacation or night out. Paying installments on your purchases over time may appear to be a great way to buy all your monthly and superfluous purchases. However, high interest rates add up over time if you carry a balance and you can find yourself deep in debt before you know it. You may think you are paying off your purchase when all you are doing is treading water by paying off the interest. To avoid this, it’s important to know the interest rates of your credit cards, pay off your balance in full every month, and save before you purchase. Carrying a lot of debt can have longer-term implications on your credit scores too. If you want to see how your debt is affecting your credit, check out our free and anonymous debt management tool, Debt in Focus and be sure to take advantage of our First Score service to learn ways to improve your score as well.

Did you know that our Visa Platinum Credit Card rate starts as low as 10.9% and offers rewards?* It’s a good idea to check the APR of some of your current credit cards to see if it’s time to switch! Keep in mind, we also don’t have any balance transfer fees – and as an additional BONUS, for a limited time if you are approved for a balance transfer of $5,000 or more to our VISA Platinum Credit Card, you will receive 10,000 bonus CURewards Points! You can apply for the balance transfer by stopping into any branch or calling 866.750.0100 to be sent a balance transfer request form.**

4. Excess Phone, Cable & Utility Bills: Many households are paying hundreds of dollars for TV, Internet, cell phone, and utility expenses each month. No matter how comfortable these tools make us, they are taking up valuable space in our budgets. Look through your bills carefully and try to scale back from services you aren’t using or do not need to use, from running the air-conditioning while you are at work to paying for a DVR on a second TV you never even watch. Also, be sure you are not paying for a level of service you don’t need. If these alterations don’t bring a big enough impact on your budget, consider alternatives like prepaid phone services and switching cable providers.

5. Convenience Fees: Certain businesses tack on “convenience fees” when you utilize their goods or services as a way to make up any added expenses that can incur during your transaction. Be wary of these types of fees before you make various transactions, to see if there is a less expensive way for you to do so.

Having an emergency fund can be a big help when you come in over budget. This money can save you from stress when you have fallen victim to these and other budget killers. It’s a good idea though to deal with the root issue instead of repeatedly ruining your budget and having to dip into your emergency fund. If you do have to use that money, it’s important to replace it and frequently evaluate your budget to match your changing lifestyle.

Article source courtesy of Fox Business.

*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.

**Additional bonus points will be reflected within 30 days from the balance transfer approval and can be viewed when signed into your VISA Platinum Card Account online through Online Banking. In order to redeem bonus points, an offer reference must be made to a First Financial representative. Bonus points can only be redeemed one time per member, on an approved balance transfer of $5,000 or greater during the promotional period of 4/28/14 – 12/31/14.

Learn How to Plan for Life Milestones at this Free Seminar in April 2014

will-lawyers-Montgomery-County-PA-life-milestones-for-estate-planningHave you wondered how you’re going to budget for life’s biggest events such as getting married, buying your first home, having a baby, and retiring? Attending this FREE First Financial seminar, you’ll learn how to properly plan and budget for these life milestones and receive information on different options that will work best for you.

At this seminar, attendees will learn:

  • How to plan for life’s milestones (i.e. marriage, house, children, retirement)
  • Life insurance policy options and why they’re important
  • What a living will is and why you need one

Join us on Wednesday, April 30th at 6:00pm for our “Planning for Life Milestones” Seminar, presented by the experts at First Financial, Peter A. Loffredo, Esq., and Daniel Ressegiue of Liberty Mutual Insurance. The event will be held at our Wall Office at 1800 Route 34 North, Building 3, Suite 302 in Wall. Space is limited, so make sure you sign up today!

Register Now!

Peter A. Loffredo, Esq. is an attorney who has been in practice for 22 years. He has a general practice office in Toms River, with a concentration in assisting individuals and businesses in real estate transactions. Other areas of practice include municipal court, landlord-tenant matters, litigation and the preparation of Estate Planning Documents, such as Wills, Powers of Attorney and Living Wills.

Daniel Ressegiue graduated from The Pennsylvania State University majoring in Psychology and business and is currently finishing an MBA at Monmouth University. During his tenure at Liberty Mutual, he has been awarded many awards including National Rookie of the year special recognition, 5 Time “Pacesetter,” Pursuit of Excellence and is a Liberty Lamplighters Club inductee. During his spare time, he enjoys staying active playing soccer, racquetball and partaking in long distance running competitions. He is also a member of Jersey Shore Runners Club, Penn State Alumni Association, as well as SCORE, a nonprofit entity dedicated to the mentoring of small business owners.

Learn Easy Steps to Organize Your Finances at this Seminar in January 2014

Household-Budget1Get your finances in order for the new year. Join the experts at First Financial Federal Credit Union at our budgeting seminar on Easy Steps to Organize Your Finances! Anyone interested in attaining financial stability, understanding budgets or saving money is encouraged to attend.

Attendees will learn how to budget their finances in these easy steps:

  1. Build an emergency fund to avoid money pitfalls.
  2. Create and maintain a simple budgeting worksheet.
  3. Pay bills on time.
  4. Pay yourself by saving money.

Join us on Tuesday, January 28th at 6:00pm at our Howell Branch at 4817 Route 9 North, Lanes Mill Shopping Center (Next to Verizon Wireless).

Register Now!

*Please note that this seminar is free of charge for First Financial members to attend. The seminar is open to non-members of the credit union to register and attend, however a $15 fee payable by check or cash will be collected at the seminar and credit union membership will be confirmed for all in attendance at the seminar. Should a non-member wish to become a First Financial member after attending the seminar, $5 will fund their membership deposit and be kept in their base savings account upon membership opening, and the other $10 will go to the First Financial Foundation for scholarships and classroom grants.

5 Big Budgeting Mistakes Most People Make

Top-10-Big-Budgeting-Mistakes-in-Travel-2Some people take budgeting very seriously. They budget their money down to the very last cent. Others ignore the subject completely and don’t even bother to look at the big picture every now and then.

Regardless of the situation you’re in, there are five budgeting boo-boos that most people make — and they are big. Let’s review these pitfalls so you don’t fall into any of them.

1. Not Tracking Your Actual Expenses

Budgeting is great, but without tracking it against your actual expenses it’s a useless endeavor. The ultimate purpose of budgeting is to determine if your spending behavior is getting you closer to — or further away from — your life goals. A budget is a dream. Actuals are reality. The dream is nice, but it won’t change your life.  Your actual spending, if you track it and make critical decisions around it, can propel you forward in ways you could never imagine. It’s important to track your actual spending every month.

2. Neglecting Emergency Planning

There are two kinds of emergencies. The first kind are involuntary, as in, “Oh my gosh, my car needs a new transmission!”  The second kind are voluntary, as in, “Oh my gosh, I just have to go to Vegas this weekend!”

These are both examples of unplanned expenses that throw most people off track. But they don’t have to. Here’s why. If you look back over your records for prior years, you’ll probably notice that these kinds of emergencies (voluntary and involuntary) pop up about once or twice a year.  If it’s not one thing, it will be another. You don’t know what it will be or what the price tag will be exactly, but people get smacked with “unexpected” expenses in a fairly predictable manner if they view it on an annual basis.  That’s another reason why it really pays to keep good records.

Look at your past “emergencies” to get a sense of how much goes out more or less each year and divide that number by 12 and set that amount aside every month to cover these costs.

3. Forgetting to Allow for Non-Recurring Expenses

Of the people who do track what they spend each month, few put aside the bills that come in infrequently like property taxes and insurance. That’s why, when people are asked what they think they spend on average each month, they usually undershoot it by 30% or more. And that kind of miscalculation poses a huge danger.

If you retire thinking you spend “X” but actually spend 130% of “X” you’ll be back to work before you can say, “Flippy Burger.” Track everything that goes out. It doesn’t matter how you do it. It just matters that you know what it costs you to live on average each month including everything – even non-recurring expenses.

4. Not Expecting the Really Bad Stuff

Do you budget for the really terrible “what if” scenarios? Part of that includes a family continuation plan and that usually includes a discussion about life insurance. According to JD Power and Associates, 40% of the adult population in the United States has no life insurance at all. And according to that same study, 25% of all widows and widowers (35 to 50 years old) feel their deceased spouses didn’t have enough life insurance.

Make sure you know how much coverage you need, carve out a spot in your budget and then put the policy in place. Term life is very affordable. And don’t let health issues stand in your way.  Each insurance company views your health history differently.  Even if your doctor’s chart is really ugly, don’t despair.  You may be eligible for a guaranteed issue policy.  You have nothing to lose and your family to protect, so put the latte down and take care of this.

5. Not Budgeting Your Top Resource: Time

Regardless of how much money you have or don’t have – time is your most precious resource.  Are you budgeting and tracking it?  Don’t feel bad, most people don’t. Something you can try is to make a daily list of three things you need to get done. Only jot down three things because you want to set yourself up for success rather than failure. Keep that list by your side all day long and don’t unplug your computer until you cross each item off the list. Sticking to your list and plowing through it before doing anything else will yield powerful results. You’ll be more effective and feel less stress — it’s a win-win.

Take a look at the way you spend your time and money. Are you satisfied? If not, which of these budgeting tips offer the greatest potential for you? When are you going to start? Why or why not?

Click here to check out our free financial calculators that are conveniently located on our website. We also offer a number of free tools and low-cost services that can be helpful organizing your finances and getting yourself back on track, these include:

If you’d like to sit down and review your current finances with a First Financial expert, contact us to make your complimentary annual financial check-up today by calling 866.750.0100, email info@firstffcu.com, or stop into any branch and ask to speak with a representative.

*Click here to view the article source written by Neal Frankle.

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