8 Tips to Keep Your Holiday Shopping Focused on Saving the Most Money

1211-women-holiday-shopping-lgnWe all love and hate shopping during the holidays, and it’s important to shop both safely and affordably during the season. Here are some ways to stay focused to keep you and your budget in-check this holiday season!

The National Retail Foundation’s annual survey shows that holiday spending is at an all-time high.

  • Americans spent 3.8% more in 2013 than in 2012 (to the tune of $601.8 billion total).
  • November and December spending last year totaled 19.2% of annual sales nationwide.

This is our national spending forecast — what we can expect if we “go with the flow.” The good news is, unlike with our local weather forecast, we can change our personal holiday spending forecast if we resolve to do things differently this year!

While it may seem like an oxymoron to attempt to save on holiday spending, experts say it can be done. Here are tips that will help:

1. Coupon for holiday “varieties” of regular household items.

It’s always nice to have holiday-themed paper goods, towels, candles and other festive items on hand for guests and visiting relatives. The good news with these items is that, unlike strings of lights and mistletoe, if you have extras you still can use them all year long.

Here are some ideas:

  • Paper goods: Paper towels, napkins, party plates of various sizes, wrapping paper
  • Plastic goods: Festive flatware, plastic cups (go for one-size-fits-all to save), gift bags, ribbons and bows
  • Tea lights and candles: So long as you enjoy the scents, you can use these all year.

Note: If you dislike using holiday themed items after the holidays, then opt for holiday solid colors (red, green, blue, white, etc.) so if you have extras to use up, they won’t be so noticeable.

2. Consider hosting an in-home sales event to reduce the cost of gifts for everyone.

If you have a friend who is an independent sales rep for a popular line of jewelry, accessories, kitchenware, skincare or scrapbooking supplies, consider hosting a pre-holiday party in your home. You’ll save on gifts and so will your friends — and your sales rep friend will make their holiday quota!

As a party host or hostess, you can expect to receive:

  • Free hostess gifts
  • One-on-one time with the consultant for personalized gift recommendations
  • Deeper discounts on your purchases (Discounts typically escalate with higher totals on party purchases).

Your attendees can expect to receive:

  • Attendee free samples
  • Discounts on purchases

3. If you can’t find the item at the price you want, go ahead and wait it out.

You just never know what the holiday shopping mania will bring. If there’s an item you want but the price isn’t right, don’t buy it.

  • What to do: Wait…chances are the price will not go up before the holidays arrive in earnest, and it might decrease as merchants become more eager to move their holiday inventory.

4. Don’t fall for “door busters.”

A “door buster” is a marketer’s term for a low-priced item that is so enticing, it can bring customers to the store all by itself. But experts caution against assuming that just because an item is advertised at an “all-time low” for that store, do not assume that is the lowest price you can find!

  • What to do: Use your price comparison tools and coupons to “challenge” that price—see if you can find the item for lower somewhere else. Download the “ShopSavvy” app to scan an item and see other prices at surrounding stores!

5. Wait for holiday clearance sales to start.

Traditionally, many merchants begin their holiday clearance sales right before the holidays actually begin. Once the clearance sales start, prices on those items will continue to decline until the inventory is all gone, or the new sales cycle starts.

  • What to do: Research when your favorite merchants will begin their clearance sales (often you can find this by signing up for their email newsletters or following them on social media). Then plan your shopping accordingly.

6. Watch social media for “flash” coupons, deals and offers.

As we become increasingly social media-driven, merchants are using the power of free social media-based advertising to draw in customers.

  • What to do: For items you really want, be sure to follow those merchants on Facebook and Twitter (you can set up your social media accounts so they deliver alerts as they happen to make sure you don’t miss an offer). Also be sure to sign up for Amazon’s Lightning Deals.

7. When asking for price matching, don’t forget about online store offers.

During the holiday crush, many brick-and-mortar merchants rely on holiday sales to close out the year in the black. (Remember, 19.2% of all annual spending happens in November and December!). So not only will many retailers offer price matching guarantees, but often these apply to competitors’ prices both online and offline.

  • What to do: If you see a low price online offer, bring in the proof and ask the merchant to honor it.

8. Sign up for the holiday store credit card and promotional offers.

Nearly 20% of annual purchases are made during the holidays, so the holidays represent a merchant’s best chance to attract new customers and build long-term customer loyalty. So prepare for retailers to compete by offering mouth-watering incentives to sign up for their in-store promotional offers, including freebies with purchase, discounts when signing up for a new line of store credit and more.

  • What to do: Take the offers, discounts, deals and freebies! Pay for what you owe, then stash those cards away until the holidays arrive again (or even better, cut them up so you won’t be tempted).

Need some extra cash for the holidays?  Check out First Financial’s Holiday Loan Special here for the 2014 holiday season! Fixed rate of 10.9% APR – click here to learn more about this limited time offer and apply online today.*

The perfect way to save for your holiday expenses is by opening a Holiday Club Account right here at First Financial! No need to put yourself into debt over holiday spending – simply save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!**

  • Open at any time
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
  • Accounts automatically renew each year
  • Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
  • Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness. Maximum 12 month term. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a holiday loan and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth of Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. Cannot be combined with any other offer. Promotional period 11/1/14 to 1/31/15. See credit union for details. **A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

Click here to view the original article source courtesy of thekrazycouponlady.com.

4 Ways to Save on Your Holiday Shopping Now

Art Img 7 TipsIt is hard to believe, but the holiday shopping season is here. If you’re like most families, holiday shopping can be a strain on the budget. Many shoppers also fear looking cheap when passing out gifts, which can lead to over-spending and blowing the budget.

According to the American Research Group, Americans on average spent $801 on Christmas shopping in 2013. That kind of number will have a big impact on a budget. If you’re looking for ways to cut down the cost of holiday shopping and still get great gifts, these tips will help.

Start now:

The best way to save money on holiday shopping is to start early. There is a belief that the best deals are available around Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and that is not always the case. Instead of waiting, be on the lookout for even bigger deals that might be hitting stores sooner. The ever expanding influence of online shopping has moved many retailers to begin pushing major holiday campaigns back as early as Halloween, if not earlier. The added benefit is being able to avoid the craziness that Black Friday shopping brings.

Check out the Dollar Stores:

It might not be too common, but shopping at discount or Dollar stores can be a great way to shave some spending off of your gift budget. You might not find your gifts there, but you can probably save on other holiday-related items, such as wrapping paper, gift bags and decorations.

While they might not have good options for a traditional gift, Dollar stores can be a great option for gag gifts, office Christmas parties and white elephant gift exchanges. Beyond that, Dollar stores are a useful alternative for party favors or decorations for parties you may be hosting. Since many of those items will likely be thrown away anyway, there is no point in spending more than you need to.

Shop at stores that match prices:

Price matching has become increasingly expected as many brick and mortar retailers deal with the presence of online shopping. While not every store offers price matching, it can be a great way to save money when added to your shopping strategy. The trick is to know the terms and conditions of the given retailer you’re shopping at. Some will match any retailer while others will not match online-only retailers.

If you have a smartphone, bring it with you when you go shopping. There are many apps available now, from Amazon to others, which allow you to scan the item to see what is charged for it elsewhere. Add that to your arsenal to save money while shopping. Lastly, make sure to check the retailer’s site itself to make sure it’s not offering a cheaper price online than in-store. If you find a discrepancy, you can always ask for a price match, or at least allow a free shipping option.

Watch the daily deal sites:

Like the Dollar store option, daily deal sites may not be commonly thought of as options for gift shopping but they can be a great way to save money. Many daily deal sites regularly sell significantly reduced deals for national retailers that can be great options for presents. They might also give you ideas for items that you can then go track down in local stores.

The problem with daily deal sites is they have a limited window in which you can get the deal. This can definitely pose a problem when shopping for that special someone. However, there are options available if you missed out on the deal you were looking for. CoupRecoup, for example, allows those who have bought deals they’re unable to use to sell them. This can be a great way to potentially score a deal on an item you were looking for.

The holiday shopping season can be a stressful one, especially on a tight budget. By using some simple tips like the ones mentioned above you should be able to shave some money off your holiday shopping budget, and maybe even have some leftover for yourself.

Make gifts merrier with First Financial VISA® Gift Cards and currency envelopes! Available in denominations of $20 to $500, a First Financial VISA® Gift Card* is the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday list at a small cost of $3.95 per card. Gift card envelopes are just $1 and currency envelopes are free (limited 5 per person)!** All proceeds from the envelopes sales go directly to the First Financial Foundation.

Check out First Financial’s Holiday Savings Club Account – don’t put yourself into debt over holiday spending, save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!***

  • Open at any time
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
  • Accounts automatically renew each year
  • Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
  • Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account

*If the gift card is inactive for 360 days, an inactivity fee of $2.50 per month will be charged to the card – starting from the date of activation. If the card is lost or stolen, the replacement fee is $15.00.** 5 currency envelopes limit per person or purchase 10 currency envelopes for $2. ***A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

Click here to view the original article source written by John Schmoll of U.S.News.

6 Apps That Can Save Your Financial Life

Save-Money-with-AppsWelcome to the bulging world of smartphone applications that will do the logging, tracking and thinking for you as you get your financial life in order, help you follow a budget, and nudge you to pull in the reins on your spending. New smartphone apps are going to market at speedy rates as consumers, both young and old, demand on-time access to all their accounts at a moment’s notice and thanks to Mint, Bona was able to do just that.

1. Mint: Mint is the oldest and most popular free app that pools your personal-finance accounts and investments into one place. You can pull up Mint on your smartphone or laptop and set goals — like paying off credit cards or saving to buy a home — that you can follow closely through graphs and colorful pie charts. If you stray by spending too much on, say, clothing, Mint does the equivalent of yelling at you. The app will alert you when a bill is due, but you cannot actually make a payment directly. This function is actually a good thing, in that it doesn’t allow you, or anyone else, to deposit or withdraw money, move money around or pay bills. It is encouraged that you download your financial institution’s mobile app or sign-up for Online Banking to move, transfer, and/or pay bills.

Here are budgeting and bill-paying apps besides Mint that will make your financial life simpler:

2. LearnVest: This new app is an extension of the financial-planning site of the same name that’s been around since 2009, initially as a personal-finance education site for women. The free app is a lot like Mint. It helps you create budgets and prioritize your financial goals while nudging you to meet them. Like Mint, it also connects directly to all your accounts — savings, checking, credit cards, investments — and tracks every credit and debit. That gives you an instant picture with easy-to-decipher charts and graphs of your net worth as well as alerts that you’re spending too much in one category. There’s a lot of reading material to help you navigate your financial future and for an extra $19 a month, plus an initiation fee of as much as $399, you can get financial advice services.

3. HelloWallet: This app, which is owned by Morningstar, takes a behavioral science approach to business to help you plan your financial future, not just today’s bills and debt management. Its founder, Matt Fellowes, is a consumer-finance scholar at the Brookings Institution who melded technology with behavioral psychology to offer individualized personal-finance recommendations based on income, age and spending patterns. Using your GPS, for example, it can alert you that you already have spent too much money at a particular restaurant. It will also point out the gaps in your financial life, like a missing emergency-savings plan or inadequate levels of insurance. It’s primarily distributed through employee wellness plans but household memberships are available — with a three-year commitment — for $100 annually.

4. OnBudget: This new app and its fee-free prepaid-card component follow an unfussy approach to budgeting: You can’t spend more than you have. With a MasterCard prepaid debit card — what OnBudget calls a “monthly budgeting card” — you find yourself organizing spending much as your parents and grandparents may have, with different “envelopes” for each spending category. But in this case it’s virtual envelope organizational behavior that delivers real-time spending patterns, tips on saving money and constructive suggestions for better decision-making. There’s no setup involved because the software system learns your habits as you spend — and tells you about them. A plus: Unlike with most other personal-finance management tools, more than one person in a household can share a single budget. And there’s no hiding spending here because the system tracks who is spending what.

5. Better Haves: Another envelope-budgeting system, this is a relatively new one designed particularly for couples, though individuals can use it too. You can track expenses on the go and watch your color-coded envelopes deplete with each purchase. Once the envelope’s empty, everyone is advised to stop spending in that category. This one’s dashboard charts joint expenses, but there are separate tabs for joint and individual budgets. There’s even an early-warning system that a money fight could be in the offing. Plus it asks you how you felt about your spending that day.

6. Check: This is the rare app that helps you stay on top of your bills and actually pay them from your smartphone. It touts itself as a “free app that does the worrying and work for you.” Once you set it up, it sends reminders of due dates as it monitors your bank accounts and credit cards. It also alerts you in real-time of large purchases or unusual charges, but it won’t assist in budgeting.

Our Mobile App is now available for iPhone and Android users! Receive 24/7 instant access to your First Financial accounts – including bill payment, make transfers, check your balances, find branch and ATM locations, and receive account alerts. Click here to learn more and how you can download the app today!*

*You must have an account at First Financial Federal Credit Union (serving Monmouth and Ocean Counties in NJ), and be enrolled in online banking, to use this application. Standard data rates and charges may apply.

Original article source by Jennifer Waters of Personal Financial, Market Watch.

Learn Credit Management & Debt Reduction at this FREE Seminar in October 2014

credit:debtseminarAre 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 Credit Management & Debt Management Seminar will begin at 6:00pm on Thursday, October 23rd 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!

Our Fall 2014 Newsletter is Here!

Our Fall Bi-Annual Newsletter has arrived! In a continued effort to “go green,” we’re publishing our newsletter electronically – it can also be found on our website and social media sites. Paper copies will be available in our branches in the coming weeks – stay tuned. This Fall “First Edition” newsletter covers some great new topics and talks about some of the exciting events and promotions going on at First Financial for the rest of 2014.

The Fall Newsletter Magazine features the following articles:

  • Upcoming First Financial Seminars (October – November 2014)
  • New Mobile App Announcement
  • “How to Save Money by Simplifying Your Life” Article
  • Note from the CEO
  • New Instagram Announcement
  • “Living in Retirement” – IRC Article
  • Groundbreaking Event Photos & New Freehold/Howell Service Center Address
  • Tell a Friend Referral Program with Holiday Bonus Offer
  • “4 Ways to Save” Financial Tips
  • 2014 Erma Dorrer Literary Scholarship Recipients and Photo
  • Penny Smart’s Food Truck & Restaurant Birthday Bash Summary with Photos
  • Important information, holidays, phone numbers, and branch locations

To view a copy of the newsletter, click here.

Enjoy!