10 Life Hacks to Help You Free Up Money

Screen-Shot-2015-09-17-at-2.15.00-PMAre you looking for ways you can cut down on expenses and put a little extra money aside? Maybe you’re looking to budget more efficiently, fund that big vacation or save for retirement.

This post is dedicated to little tricks to keep more of your money in your pocket. You can have a little fun with these things, too.

1. Call to Cancel. See How They React.

Savings doesn’t always mean going without. Sometimes when you call to cancel a service (e.g. cable, Internet, satellite radio, etc.), they’re very motivated to retain you as a client. After all, some of your money is better than none at all.

If they’re focused on retention, they may give you a reduced rate for a certain period of time or direct you to a plan that costs less without 37 channels that show 20-year-old movies.

Another good strategy in this situation is to research their competition. Tell them you’re switching to Competitor X who’s offering the same or better level of service for $50 cheaper. Play them against each other. Even if they just offer to match, this works to your advantage. You don’t have to take the equipment back.

2. Cut the Cord.

A lot of people are cutting the cord and canceling cable for good. A couple of technological developments happening right now make this very possible.

For starters, you can now get HDTV out of an antenna to watch your local programming. You can also subscribe to multiple services like Netflix, Hulu and even HBO online to get your television for less than you would pay on a monthly basis for a cable subscription.

However, you might run into a problem with sports. Many games are shown on cable, but all the major professional leagues have their own subscription services now. Just be aware you may have to pick and choose sports to make cutting the cord cost-effective.

3. Reacquaint Yourself with Your Local Library

Take some time to browse your local public library. While it is good to see they still have books at the library, they also have a large selection of CDs and DVDs.

You can also check out e-books! Seriously though, your library may have a lot more education and entertainment options than it used to. It may be worth checking out if you haven’t been there in a while.

4. Lunch at the Grocery Store.

Check out your grocery store’s sample selection – it’s worth your while. A motivated person has many choices, often including dessert, from various sample lines. Why do you think everyone is queued up when you go in there on a particularly busy Saturday? They’ve discovered a secret.

“Of course I’ll try the chicken cordon bleu…Why yes! I think I’ll have a butterscotch cookie.”

It’s important to note that the portions are small. You can definitely make this work for lunch, but not dinner.

5. Pay Attention to Those Receipts.

After you’ve done your shopping (and maybe gotten a midday meal in the bargain), it’s time to head to the cash register. However, it’s important to remember the savings doesn’t always stop when you check out.

Many stores add coupons to the backs of receipts now. It’s their way of keeping you coming back for more, but it also saves you money to use those coupons.

6. Get That Deposit Back.

Many states charge a small deposit on the purchase of all bottles and cans. You get that deposit back when you bring them back to the store and feed the machine.

You won’t be able to retire early on the amount you get back, but it will give you some spare change for the drive-through.

7. Save Those Ketchup Packets.

Save those extra ketchup packets from fast-food restaurants. If they give you four sauce packets and you only use two, stick the others in a drawer. They could come in handy when you run out. You’ll also be well-stocked when the zombie apocalypse causes a worldwide shortage of whatever that stuff is they use for onion ring sauce.

8. Rewards Programs.

Many businesses have rewards programs for their customers. You can shop around to see who gives you the best deal. There are programs for things like credit cards, airline miles and grocery stores. Although these are the more traditional ones, you can find rewards programs for all sorts of things like movie theaters, pharmacies, etc.

9. Attend Matinee Movies.

There’s not many things you want to roll out of bed before 9 a.m. on a Saturday for, but it might be worth it for a matinee movie. Different theaters will have different times, but if you go to one of the early showings, you can often get a ticket for $5 or $6.

It can be super cheap entertainment if you manage to run through without succumbing to the smell of the popcorn stand. But there is one trick that could save you a couple bucks: If you and your friend are going to drink the same beverage, don’t go with two smalls. It’s often cheaper to get a large drink and two straws. Just make sure you know whose is whose. Plus, the same matinee strategy will work if you go to the theater for a play as well.

10. Gift Card Sites.

There are sites online where you could sell such unwanted gift cards to someone else at a slight discount to benefit you both. Convert a gift card you’re not going to use into cash and get a great deal on something you would use!

*Original article source courtesy of Kevin Graham of ZING!

6 Ways You Can Save More Money in 2016

Save-Save-SaveDid you close out 2015 with a little less in your bank account than you would’ve liked? If you’re like a lot of people, you might be disappointed in how much you managed to set aside.

Saving more was the biggest financial priority for 29% of young people, as revealed in a recent survey by Bankrate. The only money issue millennials were more concerned about was paying bills.

Knowing you need to save more and being able to do it are two different things, however. How can you set aside more money when you’re stretched thin as it is? Thankfully, saving a little extra each month isn’t as hard as it may seem. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Pay yourself first. One of the hardest parts of saving money is doing it consistently. You can make it easier on yourself by automating the process.

“Pay yourself first by setting up automatic savings through payroll deduction in your work retirement plan or through automatic transfers through your bank account,” Antonio Morello, the chief investment officer at McMahon Financial Advisors, said. Aim to save 10% to 15% of your salary every year, including contributions to your retirement plan. As an added bonus, those deductible retirement contributions will also save you money come tax time.

2. Spend less on food. Frequent delivery orders and dinners out with friends add up quickly. Save yourself some money by being smarter about how you eat.

“Plan your meals for the week to avoid last minute take-out orders,” Willie Schuette, a financial coach with The JL Smith Group, said. You can also save by buying in bulk and saving leftovers for later rather than tossing them in the trash, Schuette suggested.

3. Cancel subscriptions you don’t use. Do you have a gym membership you barely use or a monthly box subscription you don’t really need? Cancel those recurring charges and funnel the extra money into your savings or to pay down debt. You could end up with a few hundred extra dollars in your pocket at the end of the year.

Have trouble keeping track of which subscriptions you’ve signed up for? There’s an app to help you out. Trim will comb through your credit card statements and bank accounts, find the recurring payments, and ask if you want to cancel the service. It’s free to use, though there’s currently a waiting list.

4. Donate to charity. “Donating to charity is a great way to boost your deductions while helping others,” said Don Chamberlin, a Saint-Louis-based financial advisor and president of The Chamberlin Group.

Donations can come in the form of cash, stock, and even big-ticket items like cars, but you’ll need to itemize and keep accurate records to get the tax breaks.

5. Keep an eye on your credit. Don’t pay more than you have to the next time you need to borrow cash. Maintaining a good credit score “can save you money when it comes to buying a car or anything else on credit, car insurance, or buying a home,” Herb White, a financial planner and president of Life Certain Wealth Strategies, said.

Credit scores above 700 show lenders that you do a good job of managing the money you borrow, according to Experian. You can boost you credit score by paying bills on time, not running up balances on your credit cards, and reducing your debt.

6. Check your withholding. A big tax refund sounds pretty awesome. That is, until you realize that the government is really just paying back the interest-free loan you gave them.

“If you got a big tax refund it means you are having too much taken out of your paycheck every pay period,” Schuette said. File a new W-4 with your employer so that you get more of your money when you actually earn it. Then, shift that extra cash to savings or use it to meet another financial goal.

*Original article source courtesy of Megan Elliot of Money & Career Cheat Sheet.

How to Save Money Even When It Feels Impossible

When living paycheck to paycheck, it’s hard to set aside any money at all, let alone start saving substantially for things like retirement and emergencies. You get a paycheck, you immediately use it for rent, student loan payments, utilities and more, and all of a sudden you’re left with just barely enough to get by. So how can you even think about saving?

Well, the truth is, you can and you should, because the last thing you want is to be stuck with an emergency room bill or totaled car and have absolutely no money. In fact, most financial experts agree that everyone should have at least $1,000 in savings for those types of financial emergencies. To that end, here’s how to save money– even when it feels impossible:

Get in the Right Mindset.

Saving money is more than just a habitual practice– it’s a mindset.  Like starting a new workout regimen, saving money must be a lifestyle you’re completely committed to in order to be effective. So, the first step to saving money is making the decision to do so. That way, when you’re enticed by that sale at the mall or a nice dinner, you’ll have a clearly defined reason to say “no.”

Start Small – Very Small.

Saving money doesn’t have to mean putting 10% of every paycheck away. You’ve likely heard it before, but every dollar counts. At first, save more like 2% or even just $20 per month. OK, maybe that won’t make you rich as fast as saving a more substantial amount, but the important thing is it’s a start. For weeks or months that you don’t spend quite as much, put a bit more in savings than you normally do. Just commit to saving something,no matter how small the amount.

Make it Automatic.

When many people first start learning how to save money, they find it’s easiest when it isn’t a conscious decision. In other words, if you have your bank automatically transfer money into your savings account every time a paycheck is deposited, you won’t even see that money for long enough to consider spending it. If auto-transfers make you feel a bit out of control, take on that responsibility yourself.

Deny Yourself Access.

One of the hardest parts about saving money is seeing it accrue and knowing you could use it if you wanted to. If that sounds like a feeling you’re familiar with, do yourself a favor by setting up an account that’s a bit harder to access. For instance, ask your bank if they can add an account that can only be accessed by physically walking into a bank to make a withdrawal or using an ATM card. If you don’t have a debit card attached to it, you’ll be less likely to swipe first and regret later.

Keep Careful Track of Your Spending.

It goes without saying, but how much you spend has a direct impact on how much you’ll be able to save. If you know you have some spending problem areas (like eating out a lot or buying an unnecessary amount of upscale sneakers), focus on reducing those however you can. The best way to spend less (and save more) is to know where every dollar is going– then you can pull back in certain areas. If you can’t do this without a bit of help, try using budgeting apps like Mint, Mvelopes, or BillGuard to track your spending and come up with a financial plan.

Cut a Few Expenses (At Least for Now).

As you start keeping better track of your spending, look for certain regular expenses that you may be able to do away with completely. Are you still paying for cable that you rarely watch, a magazine subscription that goes unread more often than not, or a gym membership you could replace with free workouts in your apartment? Get creative, and know that you don’t have to give these things up forever. Even just cancelling for a few months can allow you some wiggle room to save more money faster.

You can also look at refinancing options for certain expenses, like car payments and student loans. See if you can spend less each month on those- at least for now while you’re working on building a savings account.

Find Ways to Earn More.

If you have some extra time on your schedule (even if you work a 9-to-5 office job it’s likely that you do), consider finding ways to earn some more money each month. Pick up dog walking or babysitting gigs, or even do some freelance work on the side. This is beneficial for two reasons: One, you’ll be making more money. And two, you may find yourself spending a bit less if you’re, say, babysitting on a Friday night instead of going out.

If you’re trying to figure out how to save money, remember: It’s doable, you just have to be committed, organized, and focused on an end goal. You can do it!

*Original article source courtesy of Forbes.com.

10 Ways to Bounce Back After Holiday Spending

holiday_spendingIf you’re waking up with a holiday spending hangover, you’re not alone. According to the Experian Holiday Shopping Survey, 60 percent of adults say holiday shopping puts a big strain on their finances.

“We have Black Friday, then dark January,” said Rod Griffin, director of public education at Experian. Consumers tend to find themselves trying to dig themselves out of debt and get back on track financially in the new year. This is typically because they spend more than they expect to during the holidays and use credit to fund their shopping.

If you exceeded your holiday shopping budget, racked up debt and depleted your savings, you can bounce back. Here are 10 steps you can take to get your finances back in shape in the new year.

1. Review Your Holiday Spending.

The first step you should take after the holidays is to review all of your spending, said Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Look at how much you charged to credit cards, how much you spent from savings and the categories you were spending on — such as gifts, food and entertainment. “It gives you a good starting point to get out of debt and rebuild savings,” McClary said.

2. Make a Plan to Tackle Debt.

Plenty of consumers will be digging out of debt in the new year. Those surveyed by Experian expected to charge about a quarter of their holiday spending to a credit card. To quickly eliminate that debt, you need a plan.

“The worst thing you can ever do is plan to pay the minimum payments,” said McClary. “That debt may be around for the next holiday season, and may be in the way of planned purchases and activities.”

Ideally, you should aim to pay off your credit card balance in one to two months, he said. If you owe money on more than one credit card, he recommended using one of these two strategies: tackling the smallest balance first or paying off the card with the highest interest rate. “The process that is most motivating is the one that you should go with,” said McClary.

You might need to tighten your belt to wipe out your debt quickly. “Look at everyday spending to find ways to cut back to contribute more to debt repayment,” said Bethy Hardeman, chief consumer advocate at Credit Karma. You can also put yourself on a cash-only diet so you don’t rack up more debt as you’re trying to pay it off.

3. Put Extra Cash Toward It.

In addition to cutting back, look for ways to generate more cash in the new year to pay off your debt, or to rebuild savings you might have tapped to cover holiday spending.

If you loaded up on gifts this holiday season, you can make room for your new things by selling some older items online, said Farnoosh Torabi, a personal finance expert and Chase Slate financial education partner. “This will not only help declutter your space, but you can earn some extra cash to help pay down that December credit card balance.”

You can sell clothing and accessories at sites such as Thredup.com and Tradesy.com, which get a commission for reselling your items. Or you could try listing items for sale on Craigslist, or download the Poshmark app to your mobile phone.

4. Set up Automated Payments.

Nearly a quarter of adults surveyed by Experian said they’ve paid holiday shopping credit card charges late. Not only will you get hit with fees if you pay your credit card bills late, but your credit score will take a hit, according to the NFCC.

Torabi said you can avoid making late payments by setting up automated payments through your bank or card issuer. Apps such as Mint Bills can also send you reminders when bills are due.

If you plan to skip a payment because you can’t afford to pay your bill, McClary said you should call your credit card company first to see what remedies you can find together while your account is in good standing. “If you have good credit, there are plenty of options to give yourself some breathing room so your credit score doesn’t take a hit,” he said.

5. Transfer Balances.

Here’s an easy money tip to follow: If you have good credit, lower the cost of your holiday debt by transferring balances to a low-rate card.

Be sure you read the fine print, though, before accepting a balance transfer offer. Most balance transfer cards have waived interest, which means you’ll pay interest only on any remaining balances that haven’t been paid off at the end of the introductory period.

Transfer your high balance from holiday shopping to First Financial’s Visa Platinum Credit Card today!* Enjoy great low rates, no balance transfer fees, no annual fees, and 10 day grace period.** Getting started is easy – click here to apply online, 24/7. 

6. Develop a Support Network.

You won’t be the only one needing help getting your finances back on track after the holidays, Torabi said. So team up with someone else in a similar position to share your goals and keep each other accountable. “Hitting the reset button on your finances is more manageable and fun with the help of a friend,” she said.

Some people even create bill-paying clubs — similar to book clubs — to get together with others in debt to talk about the progress they’re making and offer support to one another, Griffin said.

7. Seek Professional Help.

If you’re really struggling to pay off the debt you owe, or need help getting your finances back on track, get advice from a professional. “Don’t be afraid to seek help,” Griffin said. It won’t affect your credit score or credit history, but it can help you manage debt, he said.

Also consider meeting with a financial representative if you tapped savings that were earmarked for things other than holiday spending. “If you’re raiding your short-term emergency savings or long-term retirement savings, there’s a bigger issue about priorities,” McClary said.

Here at First Financial, our first priority is helping you achieve your financial dreams by defining your dream goals and lifestyle, empowering you through financial education, building your wealth, planning your retirement, and managing your risk. Establishing financial goals is an important part of saving enough money, and being ready for the future and we are here for you! Stop into any one of our branches and sit with a representative to have a complimentary annual financial check-up for a review of your finances to get you back on track. 

8. Avoid Quick Fixes.

Even if your debt seems overwhelming, you should avoid companies that promise to help you settle debts for pennies on the dollar of what you owe. “It’s very tempting, but it’s also probably illegal,” Griffin said.

Debt-settlement firms might charge an upfront fee before providing any services. But Griffin said that firms promising credit repair have to fulfill the terms of their offer before taking any money.

Don’t forget about First Financial’s free, online 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.

9. Monitor Your Credit.

Holiday shopping has negatively affected the credit scores of 10 percent of consumers, according to the Experian survey. So it’s important to see where you stand by reviewing your credit report. Griffin said your score should include risk factors that are affecting your score and what areas you should focus on to help build your credit.

Another reason to monitor your credit report and your credit accounts closely after the holidays is to look for signs of fraud. If you see any unauthorized charges on your statement, contact your credit card issuer immediately to cancel your card and dispute the charges. Check your credit report for accounts you don’t recognize, which could be a sign that someone has used your identity to get credit in your name.

Be sure to enroll in our newest, upgraded Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa – don’t wait until it’s too late! The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. 

10. Start Saving for Next Year.

Help yourself avoid a holiday debt hangover next year by saving money throughout the year. Add up all of your holiday spending, and divide that total by 10 to determine how much you should set aside each month from January to October. That can help you save enough for when the holiday shopping season starts in November, McClary said.

If that monthly amount is too high, create a strategy to have a more affordable holiday season next year, he said. As you follow these steps to bounce back, try to stay positive.

“Patience is key — don’t get discouraged,” McClary

*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. **No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date.
Original article source courtesy of Cameron Huddleston of GoBankingRates.com.

 

21 Ways to Save Money On Your Next Trip

bigstock-Man-Traveler-relaxing-alone-in-84557870Every cent counts for budget travelers, and the internet is full of helpful tips for saving money. There are so many, in fact, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it all. Here we’ve pulled some of the most helpful suggestions for strategies and tech to use while you are out on your adventure so you can save up every last dollar (or Euro, or peso…)

Financial Institutions and Credit Cards

1. Open an account with a financial institution with no ATM fees or with international partners so you can withdraw money for cheap, wherever you are headed.

2. Make sure you are using a credit card that gets miles that can be used easily — i.e. there are no blackout dates or restrictions on which airlines you can use. Travel-themed credit cards also often give huge mileage bonuses when you sign up, so be sure to do your research to see which one has the best deal.

Flights

3. Subscribe to airline newsletters so you are the first to know about sales or special promotions. Airlines like Alaska, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin offer promo codes and special deals through email notifications (though sometimes you must register for their frequent flyer program to receive the alerts).

4. Follow flight deal accounts, like @TheFlightDealand @FareDealAlert, on Twitter and check in regularly for information on sales and the occasional mistake fare.

5. If scheduling allows, fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. Even better, take the 6am flight. The less popular the flight, the cheaper you are likely to get it.

6. Look for flights on Tuesday — this is still the traditional best day to buy U.S. domestic tickets because it is the day that airlines are matching their competitor’s deals and offering lower prices.

7. Don’t wait until the last minute (the belief that airlines offer last-minute bargain deals is mostly a myth). Book at least 1.5 months out for most destinations, though some U.S. domestic fares are still good through about two weeks out.

8. Clear cookies on your browser before looking for flights (or check on an incognito window). Airlines and booking websites like to keep tabs on you, and if you search for a flight multiple times, it will bump the price because it knows you are likely to buy.

9. Having a single favorite airline or booking website may cost you — sometimes checking the same flight on a different website can yield a significant price difference. Check a couple price comparison sites, like Kayak, Momondo, or SkySkanner, and then once you have a general idea of the flight you want, check the airline’s own website.

10. Take a little extra time and be creative with how you look for flights. “Hacker” fares — combining two one-way trips or booking two round trips with a “layover” in between — can save a lot of money, but you’ll need the patience to try lots of different options manually.

Hotels

11. Compare hotel prices on Gogobot to make sure you are getting a good deal. (Duh!)

12. Traveling with a big group? Consider a vacation rental — it can be cheaper than booking multiple hotel rooms, and give you a more authentic local experience. Plus, you’ll have a kitchen where you can cook your own meals and save a little more dough.

While You Are Traveling

13. Get a collapsable water bottle. You can take it through security at the airport, and it will pay for itself pretty quickly when you don’t have to buy a $5 bottle of water at your gate. Plus, you can keep it tucked away in a purse or backpack and refill it on your travels to save even more.

14. Take public transport as often as possible. Especially in foreign countries, it can be daunting, but grab an app for your phone (or print a public transportation map) before you leave to make things easier. Google Maps can be viewed offline if, while you are still on WiFi before you set out, you type “ok maps” into the searchbar to save your current view. MetrO (for IOS and Android) is another great app for navigating public transport around the globe.

15. Bring your student ID card to get discounts at attractions. Even if you graduated a few years ago, many student IDs don’t have expiration dates.

16. Do a bit of research on when the local museums and attractions have free or discounted days to save on entrance fees.

17. International data plans for your phone can be pricey. If you don’t plan on needing much data (and can mostly stick to WiFi), a basic international plan with your carrier might work. If you need to take internet with you wherever you go, try a mobile option like MiFi or Tep Wireless. You can also use apps like WiFi Finder to map out where you can grab free WiFi while you are out and about.

18. How easy is it to accidentally buy twelve too many gelatos in Rome and end up throwing your travel budget out of whack? (Really easy, for the record.) Manage your finances while you travel with easy-to-use apps like Trail Wallet (only IOS).

19. Do not — we repeat, do not — use the phone in your hotel room to make international calls (or any calls, for that matter). There are lots of apps that you can use over WiFi to call for free or cheap, like Skype, Viber, and Google Voice. Need to make a local dinner reservation or book tickets for an event? The hotel concierge or front desk will often do that for you, so you don’t have to pay for the call.

20. Street food should be your go-to meal. Empanadas in South America, kebabs in Turkey, samosas in Mumbai — these foods are cheap, easy, and delicious.

21. Shop at local grocery stores. This is, first and foremost, a cultural experience — you’ll get to see what new and exciting foods and drinks stock the shelves (and guess at what they might contain if you don’t speak the language). It’s also considerably more affordable than eating out for every meal.

*Article source courtesy of Alix Farr of the Huffington Post.

Free “I Bought What?? How to Not Be Afraid When You Open Your Bills and Stick to a Budget” Seminar in January 2016

courtney-method-budgetingGet your finances in order for the new year! Join the experts at First Financial at our budgeting seminar to help get on the right financial path for 2016. If you’re interested in attaining financial stability, understanding budgets, or saving money we encourage you and a guest to attend.

Attendees will learn how to:

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

Join us on Wednesday, January 13th at 6:00pm for our “I Bought What?? How to Not Be Afraid When You Open Your Bills and Stick to a Budget,” seminar presented by the experts at First Financial. The seminar will take place at our Freehold/Howell Service Center located at 389 Route 9 North (Next to the Howell Park & Ride), Freehold. Space is limited, so make sure you sign up today!

Register Now!