5 Ways to Throw Away Your Money

1. Paying credit card interest.
Make a plan to pay off your credit cards as quickly as possible, then set up reminders to pay them in full each month.

2. Utility Waste.
There is a really good chance you are wasting your utilities, such as water and electricity. Here are some energy and water wasters to keep in mind:

  • Leaving devices plugged in. Even if a device is switched off it can sometimes still draw power.
  • Poor insulation will cost you more money to cool and heat your home.
  • Using old and outdated appliances.

3. Paying for things that are free.
Making coffee at home is a great way to save money. Here are some other things you can get for free:

  • Water. Carrying a reusable water bottle is way more cost effective than paying for bottled water. (Plus drinking more water is good for your health).
  • Borrowing books, movies, and magazines from the library.
  • Free meals – sign up for birthday coupons. What a great way to treat yourself on your birthday!
  • Entertainment. Many cities embrace farmer’s markets, free museum days, and community sports games.
  • Perks and benefits through your workplace. Find out from HR if there are various discounts available through the company or your selected health insurance plan (i.e.: gym membership reimbursement).

4. Living above your means.
This is easy. Live by this motto: Spend less than you make (or a lot less than you make).

5. Paying for a gym membership you rarely use.
Do you spend money each month to have a tag on your keys with the name of the gym you send money to? Exactly.

Here are some more affordable options:

  • Ditch the gym entirely and workout at home. There are a ton of home workouts for free on YouTube.
  • Go on hikes! If you can, this is a free and scenic option.
  • Find a drop in gym where you can pay by the day.

Article Source: Robbie Young for CUInsight.com


Financial Quick Fixes Can Come at a High Cost

Prohibited in 18 states, payday loan companies still manage to offer more than 20,000 locations across the United States, making them more common than McDonald’s restaurants. Banking on consumer desperation, these programs market their services to financially vulnerable customers. When potential borrowers encounter an unexpected money crunch, the appeal of getting instant cash with minimal qualifications seems too good to pass up. If the borrower is employed and receiving regular paychecks, that’s usually all it takes to get a loan. However, these loans traditionally charge rates of 300% annual interest (APR) or higher, saddling the already-struggling borrower with an even heavier financial burden.

Even though a payday loan is designed to be paid off when the customer receives their next paycheck, the outrageous interest charges often make it incredibly difficult to pay off the full amount. Since the average payday loan payment consumes 25-50% of a borrower’s income, the threat of default is extremely high. To avoid defaulting on the loan, many customers elect to pay only the interest charges and roll over the loan for another pay period. According to recent CFPB research, almost 4 out of 5 payday loan customers re-borrow within a month. What started as a temporary fix becomes an ongoing cycle of debt.

High-interest consumer loans: overspending over time

While payday lending companies are traditionally limited to loans of $1,000 or less, there is no shortage of consumer lending companies willing to offer similarly unfavorable terms on higher loan amounts. Like payday lenders, these lenders commonly target individuals with less-than-perfect credit or little to no collateral. But rather than charging outrageous interest rates for short periods, they make their money by charging slightly-less-outrageous rates (59% instead of 300%) over longer periods of time, often 2-3 years.

Consider this example: borrowing $2,100 at an interest rate of 59.39% for 36 months would result in a total payment of $4,644, more than double the original amount borrowed. You don’t need a financial advisor to explain why that’s a bad deal. Fortunately, these lenders aren’t the only game in town.

Credit unions offer a convenient, cost-effective alternative

Because they’re structured as not-for-profit, member-owned financial collectives, credit unions (like First Financial!) are able to reinvest their earnings into programs that benefit their members—instead of paying dividends to shareholders like traditional banks. This distinction allows credit unions to approve personal loans with lower interest rates and higher flexibility than programs offered by payday lenders or banks.

For more details about First Financial’s Fast Cash Loans*, and how we can help you find smart solutions for your financial needs, stop by one of our local branches or call us at 732-312-1500, Option 4.

*Loans of $200 to $1,000 available for terms of one to six months. An application fee of up to $20 will be charged; other fees and charges may apply. At least one month of First Financial Federal Credit Union membership is required to obtain a Payday Alternative Loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. Not all applicants qualify, subject to credit approval. Rates vary based on creditworthiness, but will not exceed 28%.

5 Ways to Save at Theme Parks this Spring

Spring Break is coming up, and if you have kids – or you’re a kid at heart , you might be making plans to visit a theme park. But a day riding roller coasters and eating funnel cake can be very expensive. Here are some tips to save on your next theme park trip.

1. Go two days or more.
Most theme park price-per-day rates drop significantly when you buy two days or more. For example, according to an article earlier this year in The New York Times, it costs $89.99 to go to Busch Gardens once, but only $10 more to buy an annual pass that lets you visit unlimited times.

2. Buy tickets online.
Most parks offer a discount if you purchase tickets ahead of time on their website instead of showing up to buy tickets at the gate. At Six Flags Magic Mountain, a daily ticket costs $84.99 at the gate. But if you buy it online and pick your date, rates start at just $59.99.

3. Be flexible about your dates.
Sure, everybody wants to visit Disneyland on various holidays, but most parks hike up the price of tickets on their most popular days to avoid overcrowding. If you are willing to visit early in the season when school is still in session – especially on a weekday – you can save quite a bit. At Sesame Place theme park in Pennsylvania, between April 28 and May 25 – daily tickets are only $45, much less than the regular $75 price.

4. Use social media.
Follow your favorite theme park on social media and you may be lucky enough to snag tickets during flash sales. At the very least, you’ll be notified of special promotions and discounts.

5. Spring for fast passes.
Any deal that keeps you from waiting in line means you’ll spend more time enjoying the rides and less time standing in line. As much as theme park tickets cost these days, that’s important. Usually, the cost to upgrade is well worth the extra fun you get in return.

Article Source: Heather Anderson for www.financialfeed.com

Should You Pay for Credit Repair Services?

Should You Pay for Credit Repair Services? Probably not.

Call it a coincidence. Call it savvy marketing. Whatever you call it, there always seems to be a spike in credit repair advertisements around the time the first holiday shopping bills arrive. Maybe you’re staring wide-eyed at a balance that’s higher than you expected, wondering how you’re even going to keep up with the minimum payments. This kind of uncertainty can the stage for bad decisions. So, before you scramble and sign up for credit repair services, take a deep breath and realize you have more control than you think.

Risk vs. Reward: Is credit repair worth the cost?

It’s important to remember that some credit repair services are legitimate businesses, able to follow through on their claims. Unfortunately, the reputable companies reside in a corporate landscape littered with scam artists and opportunists. If you’re willing to devote enough time and research, it’s possible to separate the upstanding services from the scams, but as NerdWallet columnist Liz Weston points out, “If you’re able to do that kind of research, then you can certainly figure out credit repair and do it yourself.”

While the trustworthy credit repair companies aren’t necessarily too good to be true, there’s a good chance they’re too costly to be worth it. When you consider that many of these services charge monthly fees ranging from $30-$100, the boost in your credit rating may not justify the ongoing expense.

Facing credit challenges? Your credit union can help.

Good credit isn’t the result of tricks and trade secrets. It’s established by applying solid financial habits over time. The same holds true for credit repair. While there may be some additional steps required to clean up your credit report, rebuilding good credit requires a consistent commitment to responsible money management.

Credit unions exist to ensure the financial success of their members. Educating people on proper credit management is part of that mission. If you’re drowning in debt and struggling to regain your financial footing, your credit union could be the lifeline you’re looking for. Discussing your current challenges with one of the credit union’s representatives can be the first step toward putting those struggles behind you.

Repairing damaged credit is no walk in the park. But with a little hard work and dedication and the guidance of your credit union’s financial professionals, you can be on the way to reclaiming the good credit you deserve.

Need a little help understanding your credit score or want to sit down with a First Financial representative to help with debt management strategies? Stop into your nearest branch location, email marketingbd@firstffcu.com, or call 732-312-1500 to schedule an appointment. We’ll help you get back on track!

Check out out guide for understanding your credit score.


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

Let’s spring into March with a little bit of luck and have some fun with family and friends! Check out the list below of local (free or inexpensive) activities to do with your loved ones all month long.

March 3 and All Weekends until March 25: Ragtime the musical at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal. Saturday performances begin at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. March 17 will feature two performances at 2pm and 8pm. For more information call 732-531-9106 or click here to purchase tickets online.

March 4: Belmar St. Patrick’s Day Parade begins at 12:30pm on Main Street. This is one of NJ’s largest St. Patty’s events – don’t miss it! Learn more at http://www.belmarparade.com/ or call 732-280-2648.

March 10: Ocean County’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place in Seaside at noon. The luck of the Irish is bound to smile upon you. Join the enthusiastic crowds on the Boulevard for a fun-filled Irish parade with bands, floats, and marchers, and a street celebration where everyone is Irish. Visit www.ocstpatricksdayparade.com  for more information or call 848-480-3990.

March 10-11: Chocolate lovers’ weekend in Ocean Grove begins at 10am on Saturday. All events begin at the Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce office. On Saturday the hunt for hearts takes place between 10am-4pm and there is a tour of the historic inn’s at Ocean Grove from 11am-4pm. Participating restaurants will also feature special chocolate lovers’ dinners. On Sunday there is a winter walk from 12-3pm. For details call 732-774-1391 or go to http://www.oceangrovenj.com/

March 11: Belmar Restaurant Tour from noon-4:30pm. Sample the fine cuisine of local Belmar restaurants in downtown Belmar. Learn more by calling 732-681-3700 ext.214 or go to http://www.thebelmarrestauranttour.com/

Asbury Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade: Starting at 1pm on March 11th, there will be marching bands, antique cars, floats and more. The parade runs from waterfront to Main St. Call 732-775-7676 for information or go to http://www.asburyparkstpatricksdayparade.com/

March 17: St. Patty’s Day Festival at Laurita Winery in New Egypt from 12-8pm. Come celebrate a weekend where everyone is Irish, with Irish food, dancing and music! Admission fee is $5 for ages 21 and older. Go to www.lauritawinery.com  to learn more or call 609-758-8000.

March 22-25: Annual Garden State  Film Festival in Asbury Park. Come see the best independent films in the Garden State! Times vary. Call 732-359-6467 or visit http://www.gsff.org/ to learn more.

March 25: Jenkinson’s Egg Hunt in Pt. Pleasant Beach begins at 1pm. The event takes place rain or shine. This is a free event that adds some spring family fun! Learn more at www.jenkinsons.com or call 732-892-0600.

March 26: Early Spring Sunset Photowalk at the Belmar Marina. This is a free event! The photowalk takes place between 6:30-8:30pm. Call 732-245-6699 or go to http://visionsworkshops.net/

Phishing Scam Alert: Fake Invoices

Scammers have been relentless lately – here they are, back at it with a new twist on an old phishing scam.

Recently, scammers have been posing as well known tech companies and emailing phony invoices which show that you purchased music or apps from them. Check out our recent blog on these types of scams here. The scam emails tell you to click on a link if you did not authorize the purchase. If you get one of these emails, do NOT click on the link! This is a phishing attempt scheme.

What is phishing? When a scammer uses fraudulent emails, copycat websites, or texts to get you to share valuable information. The fraudsters then use this information to commit identity theft or other fraud in your name.

Scammers are also using phishing emails to get access to your computer or network – then they install programs like ransomware that can lock you out of important files on your computer.

Here are some tips to help keep your information secure:

  • Be suspicious if a business, government agency, or organization asks you to click on a link that then asks for your username or password or other personal data. Instead, type in the web address for the organization or call them. The link in the email may look right, but if you click on it you may go to a copycat website run by a scammer.
  • Be cautious about opening attachments. A scammer could even pretend to be a friend or family member, sending messages with malware from a spoofed account.
  • Set your security software to update automatically, and back up your files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. Back up your files regularly and use security software you trust to protect your data.

Lastly, report phishing emails and texts by forwarding them to spam@uce.gov and file a report with the FTC.

If you feel that any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised as a result of a scam, please contact Member Services at 732-312-1500 Monday through Friday 8am-6pm EST, or Saturday 8:30am-1pm.

Article Source: Ari Lazarus for FTC.gov