Do Your 2018 Resolutions Need a Do Over?

Believe it or not, it’s May already. You’ve flipped the calendar page four times, and if you’re like more than 80% of the general public, it’s been a few months since your New Years’ resolutions crashed and burned. Have you taken the time to analyze why your good intentions didn’t pan out? Maybe they were too ambitious. Maybe they weren’t challenging enough. Whatever the reason (or excuse), your resolutions are over. Done. Finished. Or are they?

Failed goals aren’t ashes. They’re embers.

Is it possible to revive resolutions that haven’t shown signs of life in months? Absolutely. To stoke your motivational fire, you’ll need to revisit the reasons you set those goals in the first place. Take a close look at the things you want to accomplish, and then determine whether they’re still a realistic possibility. If so, recommit yourself. If not, adjust your expectations. But once you decide to have another go at it, work smarter not harder.

Find your momentum with micro-goals.

While it can be discouraging to examine missed goals or failure in general, author Erin Lowry addresses the topic of failed resolutions with refreshing candor on her Broke Millennial blog. Lowry shared, “Like most of us, I fail each year at my New Year’s resolutions. Then I realized I should apply one of my favorite money tactics to my resolutions. Micro-goals. I’m a big believer in setting a lofty goal and then working backward to chunk that goal down into manageable pieces.”

The beauty of micro-goals lies in their universal application. Financial Goals. Fitness ambitions. Relational hopes and dreams. Whatever the category, micro-goals can help you get back on track. The key to starting over is finding a way to gain momentum, and breaking your big goals into smaller goals can set yourself up for easy wins. Then, as you experience the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing each little task, you’ll find the inspiration to carry on toward your ultimate destination. Like the peaceful painter, Bob Ross, once said, “There’s nothing in the world that breeds success like success.”

Take another run at those financial goals.

Are you doubling back to pursue a financial resolution like paying off debt, building an emergency fund, or saving for retirement? Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Your credit union can be an incredible partner in your pursuit of financial stability. From low-interest loans and high-interest savings accounts, to financial counseling and investment advice – credit unions provide a wide array of solutions designed to help their members win with money.

Not a credit union member? Your first micro-goal is an easy one: become a credit union member as soon as possible! If you live, work, worship, volunteer, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey – you are eligible to become a member of First Financial. It’s easy, get started now!

It Might Be Time to Adjust Your Home Buying Strategy

You’ve done your research, you’ve prepared your budget, and you’re ready to start your housing search. From the number of bedrooms and bathrooms to the optimum square footage—you know what you’re looking for. But did you know that if your search is too narrowly focused on what you want, you’re hurting your chances of finding the right house at the right price? In a tight housing market, knowing what the seller wants can be a valuable secret to homebuying success.

Apply some high-stakes strategy.

Know what the seller wants. Sounds simple, right? The problem is that most sellers (likely at the advice of their listing agent) rarely tip their hand—at least not on purpose. Like a high-stakes poker game, the winner isn’t always the person holding the best cards. Sometimes a winning housing search requires you to look for a seller’s “tell”—subtle signs that suggest they’re eager to unload the property quickly.

In her Huffington Post article, reporter Ann Brennhoff shares tips for situational house hunting. Based on her suggestions, a discerning eye for detail can help you gauge a seller’s motivation by decoding domestic clues hidden in plain sight. Whether a young family has outgrown their starter home or a retired couple needs to downsize to a more manageable residence, the details of each situation may provide the insights you need to make a successful offer. But if you only focus on your personal checklist, you could walk right by without even noticing.

Flexibility can help you find hidden gems.

To carry the poker analogy a little further, finding a prime deal in a tight housing market can require you to play the cards you’re dealt. Having a list of preferences is fine, but it’s important to stay open to other options. For example: if you’re looking for a home in a popular suburban area but also demanding several acres of land, you’re probably going to be disappointed. When it comes to house hunting goals, the old song lyrics ring true: “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.”

Locking yourself into a restrictive search process often results in frustration, and frustration doesn’t lead to sound decision making. If you’re willing to expand your search horizons and embrace a spirit of adventure, you may wind up uncovering treasure in places you never expected. What are a few ways to start thinking outside the proverbial box?

Discover the value of sweat equity. If you’re able to find a structurally sound house, foreclosed houses offer an incredible upside for a smaller initial investment. But even if you don’t pursue a bank-owned property, you can adjust your search criteria to look for houses priced roughly 20% lower than your target. This adjustment increases the chances of finding a solid home that merely needs a little TLC. If you’re willing to invest the time and effort, you could be rewarded with significant equity for a fraction of the price.

If you can’t be first, be patient. In a hot housing market, the demand is higher than the supply. The likelihood of you being the first person to make an offer on a property is pretty low. Instead of making a reactive offer that exceeds your budget, you may benefit from shifting your search to homes that have been on the market for an extended period. The longer a house sits for sale, the more flexible the seller tends to be. This willingness to negotiate can increase your chances of finding more house for your money, or purchasing a home below market value.

Help the odds be ever in your favor. When you approach your home search like an investor, you realize it’s a numbers game. Sure, you’ve heard fantastic stories of buyers falling in love with the first house they see and stumbling across an unbelievable deal in the process. Those scenarios are the exception, not the rule. If you want to increase your chances of finding a home that meets your needs at a price you can comfortably afford, the solution is simple – look at more houses.

Poker players who go all-in on every hand rarely win big. The champions play the long game. Successful homebuyers play by the same rules. If you’re willing to pay attention to sellers’ needs, adjust your search criteria, proceed with patience, and expand your search options, you will increase your odds of success dramatically.

Looking to buy a home in the Monmouth or Ocean County area? First Financial can help! Check out this short mortgage video from our financial solutions series, presented by our Lending Manager. If you have questions about the mortgage process or don’t know how to get started, we are here for you. Contact the Loan Department at 732-312-1500, Option 4 or learn more about First Financial mortgages on our website.

 *Subject to credit approval. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey. See Credit Union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

Important Member Alert: Publishers Clearing House Scam

Who wouldn’t love to be that winner you see on TV holding a great big sweepstakes check? That’s what con artists are counting on when they claim to be Publishers Clearing House. This trick is an oldie but goodie for scammers.

The scam starts with a call or letter saying you’ve won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. But to collect your prize, they say, you need to send money to pay for fees and taxes. Typically you’ll be asked to send money by Western Union or MoneyGram, or by getting a reloadable card or gift card. Scammers ask you to pay these ways because it’s nearly impossible to trace the money — and you’ll almost never get it back.

But that’s not the only way scammers get your money with this scam. Some will send you a realistic-looking fake check in the mail. You’re told that, to claim your prize, you need to deposit the check and send some of the money back for made-up expenses. But when the check you deposit bounces — even after it seemed to clear, you may be on the hook for the money you sent.

If you think you’ve won a prize, here are a few things to know:

  • Never send money to collect a prize, sweepstakes check, or lottery winnings. If you have to pay, it’s a scam.
  • Never deposit a check and send back money, even if the funds appear in your account. That’s a sure sign of a scam.
  • If anyone calls asking you to pay for a prize, hang up and report it to the FTC.

Still think this sweepstakes is real? The real Publishers Clearing House says it will never ask you to pay a fee to collect a prize.

If at any time you feel any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised in a similar scam, contact our Member Relationship Center right away at 732.312.1500. If your First Financial credit or debit cards were compromised in a scam, call the 24/7 toll-free number on the back of your card to report the incident and replace your card. All important phone numbers for members can be found on our website: https://www.firstffcu.com/contact-us.htm

Article Source: Emma Fletcher for FTC.gov

3 Money Saving Birthday Party Tips

 

Here are three tips on how you can spend less time and money hosting a party, and more time enjoying your child’s special day.

Reserve a shelter at a city park

Depending upon where you live and the time of year, a community park might be the best venue for your party. Not only will the children enjoy a day at a playground in fresh air and sunshine, you won’t have to pay to replace items broken by your little guests or for someone to shampoo red cake frosting out of your carpet.

In some towns you can rent a covered shelter with five large tables for around $35 for the entire day. That’s much cheaper than a trampoline park or Chuck E. Cheese, isn’t it? And when the party is over, toss the decorations and paper plates right into the park’s trash cans.

Serve donuts

Who doesn’t love donuts? They’re inexpensive, come in a variety of flavors, and they’re delicious. There is most likely a local donut shop nearby, with colorful donuts that appeal to kids and created a Pinterest-worthy display for your treats table.

Ditch the goodie bags

Goodie bags are not good for parents who are short on cash and time. Instead of goodie bags, buy a couple of bags of latex or Mylar balloons and a small helium tank. Before the party, fill the balloons and use them as decorations. The kids are absolutely thrilled to learn that they get to take one or two home at the end of the party … much more thrilled than they would be with a bag full of items they’ll play with for 10 seconds. The parents are also relieved of goodie bag clutter. Everybody wins!

Article Source: Heather Anderson for CUInsight.com

The Best Times to Buy Airfare

Surprisingly, there’s no difference in airfare whether buying a ticket on a Sunday, Tuesday or any other day of the week. The cheapest fares are typically found when you book about 70 days before departure.

Bargain shopping? Try to monitor airfares for travel routes during the prime booking window (4 months to 3 weeks before leaving). Destination discount fare alerts can be set up on such sites as Hipmunk.com, Airfarewatchdog.com, GoogleFlights.com or an app like Hopper. The one factor that plays a significant role in price is the time of year you plan to travel.

Here are some tips on when to buy flights for each season:

Summer

The best summer deals are in August and September, with late summer offering the lowest prices overall.

  • The average best time to buy is 47 days (about 1.5 months) in advance.
  • Prime Booking Window is 14 – 160 days (2 weeks – 5 months) from travel.

Fall

If you’re traveling in the fall (excluding Thanksgiving), you can usually wait a bit longer to book air tickets and still not miss out on the good prices.

  • The best time to buy is 69 days out
  • Prime Booking Window is 21 – 100 days from travel.

Winter

Here are tips for general (non-holiday) winter travel.

  • 62 days from your expected travel date is the best time to buy an affordable airline ticket in the winter months.
  • Prime Booking Window is 21 – 110 days from travel.

Spring

With Spring Break dates spanning March through April, finding a good deal in the spring can be challenging.

  • Exactly 3 months (90 days) from your travel date on average is the window to buy best airfare for spring air travel.
  • Prime Booking Window is 46 – 122 days from travel.

Happy vacationing!

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

 

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this May 2018

We can finally enjoy the Spring sun and warming weather! Don’t forget to take advantage of our local parks and enjoy a bike ride, a hike, play basketball or even a have a family picnic this month. It’s a free, fun and a great way to stay active and get some fresh air at the same time. And, Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13th so don’t forget to appreciate Mom! Check out some more free or inexpensive activities below that you can enjoy this month with your family and friends.

May 5: Spring Fling Arts & Crafts Show in Ocean Grove from 10am-4pm. Free admission to the event, which includes over 200 crafters and artisans, and live music. The event will be held rain or shine. Learn more at http://www.oceangrovenj.com/ or call 732-774-1391.

May 6: County Seat Jazz and Blues Fest in downtown Freehold from 12-6pm. This event takes place on West Main Street between Court Street and Throckmorton Street. Many vendors are participating with a variety of items such as jewelry, t-shirts, clothing, handmade dog biscuits, soaps, honey, unique crafts, and more. Food provided by Big Harlie BBQ and House of Cupcakes. Learn more about the event here, or call 732-333-0094.

May 12: Late Spring Flea Market at Allaire Village (Farmingdale) from 8am-3pm. Enjoy a day of bargains, treasures, artwork and more. Then enjoy a stroll through the Historic Village, General Store, and Village Bakery. $1 admission. To learn more call 732-919-3500 or click here.

Mommy and Me Tea Party at Allaire Village (Farmingdale) takes place between 11am-2pm also on May 12th. Seating times at 11am, noon, 1pm, and 2pm.This event is designed for children up to age 10, but all ages are welcome. Feel free to bring a fuzzy friend and a fun hat! There will also be storytelling. The event fee is $5 per person, and pre-registration is required. Please be sure to park in the main parking lot for Allaire State Park and come to the Row House & Village Museum (aka Visitor Center) for the event check-in. Please arrive 30 minutes in advance of your seating time. Call 732-919-3500 for details or click here to register online.

May 13: Mother’s Day at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk (Pt. Pleasant). Moms receive FREE admission to the Aquarium, Fun House, Mini Golf, Rides and Adventure Lookout all day with a paying child! FREE Chair Massages for Moms across from the aquarium from 1pm-4pm. Enjoy Arts & Crafts, Face painter and Balloonists from 1pm-4pm too. Details at http://www.jenkinsons.com/ or call 732-892-0600.

May 18-20: Annual Seafood Festival in Belmar. The event takes place at Silver Lake Park (5th and Ocean Avenues) from 4-8pm Friday, 11am-8pm Saturday, and 11am-6pm Sunday. Free admission, live music, children’s activities, beer tent & wine garden, seafood & specialty vendors, and more. Go to http://www.visitbelmarnj.com/ or call 732-681-3700 to learn more.

May 19: Ocean Grove Vintage Car Show from 10am-4pm, rain or shine. Over 90 cars will be on display on Main Avenue, as well as live music for everyone to enjoy. $5 donation for car admission or bring a canned good with you. Canned goods and donations will go to the Lunch Break organization. Call 732-774-1391 or go to http://www.oceangrovenj.com/ for more information.

Annual NJ State Chili and Salsa Cook-Off on Main Street in downtown Toms River, 11am-5pm. Come taste the best chili from your local restaurants and chefs and vote for your favorite! If chili isn’t your thing, there will also be food trucks offering up everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to gyros, empanadas and more. Toms River Fire Co. #1 will have a beer & wine garden. Live entertainment, merchandise vendors, and kids rides. Free parking downtown during the event, and free admission. Tasting kits for sampling chili are $7. Go to www.downtowntomsriver.com or call 732-341-8738.

May 26 & 27: Spring Lake Race Day and Sidewalk Sale. Spring Lake’s annual 5 mile run starts at 8am on May 26 and you can register at www.springlake5.org. The race day sidewalk sale starts on Third Avenue at 10am on May 26 and goes until 5pm on May 27. Learn more here or call 732-449-0037.

May 26-28: Jersey Shore Food Truck Festival at Monmouth Park (Oceanport). This year’s annual food truck festival will feature 45 trucks including fresh-made empanadas, to ocean-fresh lobster rolls, to warm and gooey Belgian Waffle sundaes. 5/26 and 5/27 gates will open earlier at 11am, and 11:30am on 5/28. There will be live music each day and on 5/27 and 5/28 face painting, pony rides, a bounce house, and more. Admission is $5, and kids 12 and under are free. Learn more here, or call 732-222-5100.