How to Keep Halloween from Scaring Your Budget

The average American spends around $86 on Halloween – between candy, decorations, costumes, and the like. And that’s only the national average, so many of us tend to spend quite a bit more.

If you’re on a strict budget this year, that amount might give you a scare. However, you can keep from frightening your budget this year. Try these tricks to help you stick to a painless Halloween budget.

Costumes

One of the main parts of Halloween fun are the costumes. However, dressing up can get costly – especially if you have several members of your family dressing up this year. Instead of buying a $40+ costume at the store or attempting to sew one together, turn looking for children’s costumes into a family game.

Head to your local consignment shop or thrift store and give each child an envelope with no more than $10 inside. Split up into teams to pick out a costume or find items that can be put together to create one. Don’t forget to also look in your closets at home to see if there’s anything you already have that can be used for dressing up.

Also check with your family, friends and neighbors to see if they have any costumes or items they aren’t using that you can borrow. Don’t spend a fortune on something that will most likely only be worn for a few hours.

Decorations

Some people really love to go all out for Halloween. However, if you keep blowing your budget on expensive Halloween decorations each year – you may be paying off your debt well into Halloween next year. If you need to stretch your budget, stop by your local dollar store for decorations. You’ll be surprised at the great items you’ll find!

Also save and reuse your decorations year after year. Store all your ghouls and goblins in a reusable bin once the season is over. Then pull them out next Fall without having to spend a dime!

Candy

Do you live in a neighborhood or on a street where it seems like the amount of trick or treaters are endless? Candy can be pricy too. If you know you’re typically visited by what seems like hundreds of kids in costume, don’t buy gourmet chocolate bars. Pick up a large bag of assorted candy in bulk instead. Do an online search for coupons and deals, too. Buy what you can afford, and when the candy is gone, it’s gone.

Try to keep track of how many trick-or-treaters visit your home so you can plan amounts better for next year. You probably also don’t want to overbuy and then be stuck with tons of candy sitting around either. The key here is to plan ahead!

Pumpkins

Pumpkins may only last a few weeks at most. And with that being said, they aren’t always cheap either. Once you start, it’s hard to stop with just buying one pumpkin too. From the porch to your patio, stairs and table – you might pick up 20 pumpkins when all is said and done.

Give yourself a strict pumpkin budget. Let your kids each pick only one or don’t spend more than $20 (or whatever number you decide is best for your budget).

While going to the pumpkin patch is a great Autumn past-time, don’t buy your pumpkins there if you’re looking to save money. Instead, buy pumpkins from the grocery store (they’re usually always cheaper and still look great!).

Greeting Cards

Is sending out a Halloween greeting card really necessary, even if it’s for your adorable niece or nephew or grandchild? Cards can be $5+ each nowadays, and that’s not cheap for something that may very well end up in the garbage can after it’s opened and read. If you really feel that you need to send a greeting card, try making your own instead. Use cardstock and get creative. Or hit the dollar store for cards – this is a best kept secret.

Fall Activities

Are there lots of farms with weekend harvest and Halloween events going on this month near you? The good news is, admission is typically free or not very expensive. Take advantage of this gorgeous time of year and all the farm budget-friendly activities such as corn mazes, pumpkin bowling, and the like. Take a hayride with the family or spend a few hours walking around the farm. You can also pile into the car and take a drive to look at the changing colors of the leaves, pick some apples, or pack up an outdoor picnic at your favorite local park. Look at your community calendar or website and scope out what’s going on near you.

Traditions

Plan a weekend for family or friend get-togethers this Fall. Save money by staying at home and trying a new tradition with your crew. Ideas include a Fall food cooking day (caramel apples, pumpkin pie, etc.), watch scary movies together, or do a backyard scavenger hunt.

It’s definitely possible to have an unforgettable Halloween without haunting your budget! With some planning and creativity, you’ll have a great holiday celebration without giving your bank account a fright. Happy Halloween!

Article Source: Dave Ramsey

3 Ways to Supercharge Your Car Buying Savings

Are you missing out on one of the best deals in car buying? With many people opting to continue to stay at home due to COVID-19, many rental company vehicles have been stationary. Why is this important?

Many of these car rental companies are looking to make deals with increasing unused inventory, like Hertz, which recently filed for bankruptcy. If you do decide to buy a former rental vehicle, there are a few things you should do to ensure you’re making a smart purchase.

RESEARCH

Did you know that you could save up to 15 percent more when you purchase a rental vehicle?* While you can save a significant amount by buying a rental car, you should still do your research on price ranges to ensure you’re getting a great deal.

We also recommend researching and checking out the car as you would if you were buying it new. Be sure to consider which vehicle you believe to be the best fit for your lifestyle and determine your budget from there. Remember, you will need to take precautions when purchasing a car from a rental company (as you normally would when looking to buy any vehicle) — even if you’re considering a certified vehicle.

We also recommend checking for any vehicle recalls. If there has been a recall, take the extra step to cross-reference the recall with a vehicle history report — rental car companies have been required to fix these types of issues for at least the past few years.

CONDUCT A PRIVATE INSPECTION

Many rental car companies have a lengthy trial period. Use this time to your benefit and conduct an independent vehicle inspection before you buy. Even certified pre-owned vehicles should be inspected to ensure that your vehicle is safe and that you are making a solid purchase. Along with reviewing recalls and the vehicle history report, this could go a long way in putting your mind at ease when buying a used vehicle from a car rental company.

SECURE YOUR FINANCING

The purchase price of the vehicle is only one step in the process. While rental car companies can save you up to 15 percent off the sticker price when buying one of their vehicles, getting the right financing can significantly boost your savings. When you secure auto loan pre-approval with First Financial FCU, you can ensure you snag an affordable rate and monthly payment.** Check out your options for financing your next vehicle and view our affordable rates on auto loans. You can apply online 24/7 and close electronically too!

*Source: CNN Business

***APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on creditworthiness and term. First Financial FCU maintains the right to not extend credit after you respond if we determine you do not meet our guidelines for creditworthiness. Rates are fixed and will be based on model year of vehicle & term. Current loans financed with First Financial FCU are not eligible for review or refinance. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this October 2020

It’s officially fall – and October is one of the best and most beautiful weather months in New Jersey. Get the family ready for an action-packed month filled with fun outdoor and socially distant fall and Halloween activities. Check out these free or inexpensive events happening in a town near you!

Monmouth & Ocean’s Best Pumpkin Picking and Fall Outdoor Activity Spots!

  • Casola Farms (Holmdel) – Open 7 days a week from 8am to 7pm for hayrides, pumpkin picking, farm animals, a Halloween shop, fall plants/décor, wild west show, bakery and food! There is also a corn maze available every Saturday through 10/31. For the adults 21+, every weekend there is a wine tasting from 10am-6pm at Fox Hollow Vineyards.
  • Argos Farm (Forked River) – The farm has plenty of fall country fun activities such as a hay mountain, cow train, double hay slide, pedal carts, tractor rides, corn maze, pig races, farm market, pumpkin picking, and more. The pre-purchasing of tickets for activities online is recommended. Hours are Monday-Friday from 1-6pm, and 10am to 6pm on weekends.
  • Battleview Orchards (Freehold)Open everyday from 9am-6pm except closed Tuesdays. Pick your own apples and pumpkins, stop by the country store for pies, apple cider donuts and fresh apple cider!
  • Bullock Farms (Cream Ridge) – Open Friday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Take a 25 minute hayride, pick some pumpkins, explore the corn maze, check out some farm animals, and kids get their very own kids maze and fall play/activity area.
  • Eastmont Orchards (Colts Neck) – Open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm and weekends from 9am to 6pm. There are 9 different types of apples to pick currently in season! You can also pick your own pumpkins.
  • Emery’s Farm (New Egypt) – Open daily from 9am-6pm for pumpkin picking, hayrides, corn mazes and more. Famous pies are fresh baked daily, as well as jellies, preserves, and spreads are available for purchase.
  • Hallock’s U-Pick Farm (New Egypt) – Stop by the farm market, and pick some pumpkins (as well as other vegetables). Open weekdays from 7am-7pm and weekends from 7am-5pm.
  • Happy Day Farm (Manalapan) – Don’t miss the Farm Festival and Pumpkin Picking Event at Happy Day Farm through 10/25! Hours are Friday through Sunday from 10am-5pm. Over 30 different activities are available for the whole family – including a corn maze, pumpkin bowling, and giant Jenga. There is also a concession stand available to purchase refreshments. Visitors are required to purchase tickets online in advance.
  • Wemrock Orchards (Freehold) – Pumpkin picking is available on weekends from 10am-5pm, as well as a 15 minute hayride, 5 acre corn maze, munchkin fun patch, bakery full of fall treats and Jersey fresh produce.

All October: Sunflower Festival at Holland Ridge Farms (Cream Ridge) from 9am-6pm. Tickets must be purchased in advance online for your selected date. Wander through towering rows of sunflowers to pick and bring home! Prices vary depending upon your selected day of the week. Click here for more information and to purchase admission tickets online. *No refunds, purchased tickets are for your chosen date and will be available rain or shine.

October 9-12: Pier Village Fall Sidewalk Sale from 11am to 8pm (Long Branch). You won’t want to miss a Columbus Day Weekend filled with outdoor shopping! There’s sure to be incredible deals and fabulous finds. Learn more here.

October 10: Allaire Village Fall Flea Market from 8am to 2pm (Wall). Hunt for bargains among vintage treasures, books, artwork, handmade items, crafts, and more. Admission is $3 per person. The general store, bakery and gourmet food truck will also be open. Find out more here.

October 17 & 18: Allaire Music Jamboree from 11am to 4pm (Wall). Join in the fun at Allaire Village’s fall music jamboree! Local NJ bands will perform bluegrass and folk music outside. There will be multiple stages and sessions throughout the weekend. Artist tables will also be available. Food and beverages will be available for purchase at the Allaire Bakery and Food Trucks. Pre-purchased tickets are required. Adults are $8 each and kids ages 4-12 are $4 each. Learn more here.

October 24: Hocus Pocus Outdoor Movie at 6pm (Barnegat). Bring in the Halloween season with a classic family outdoor movie at the Elizabeth Edwards School Football Field (North Main St, Barnegat Township). Free admission, and don’t forget a blanket and chairs! Call 609-698-0080 ext. 12 for details.

October 24 & 25: Long Branch Fall Bazaar from 2-7pm. Shop small and celebrate fall! Don’t miss artisan vendors, craft beer, a costume contest, food, Halloween goodie bags, fall selfie stations, live DJs, and fun – outdoors both days at the Whitechapel Projects. Get more information here.

October 29: Witches Night Out from 5:30-9pm (Allentown). Join in this wicked fun night with a Halloween scavenger hunt, tarot card readers, palm readers, a witches hat contest, refreshments and more! Tickets can be purchased at Bruno’s One Sweet Ride. Details are available here.

October 31: Halloween at Allaire Village from 11am to 4pm (Wall). Come and experience a family friendly Halloween with spooky storytelling, a children’s costume parade, scavenger hunt, fortune telling, kids’ activities, historic demonstrations, and tours of Allaire’s historic homes. Adults are $8.95 each and kids 4-12 are $4.95 each. Buy tickets online here.

Questions to Ask Before Deciding to Refinance Your Mortgage

With the mortgage market the way it has been lately, have you been thinking about refinancing? Before you make an appointment with your lender, take the time to ask yourself the following five questions. This will help you decide if refinancing is a good idea or if it might turn into a financial problem down the road.

Why do you want to refinance?

Many borrowers contemplate refinancing to extend their loan for another 30 years to reduce their monthly mortgage payment. Another group who might want to refinance are those who bought their homes under an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). These mortgage loans have an initial period of a fixed interest rate and then a floating rate that changes based on market conditions, so it’s sometimes best to refinance before that initial rate is set to fluctuate in an effort to manage the monthly mortgage bill. By refinancing, an ARM borrower will be able to either change to a fixed rate mortgage or extend their initial fixed rate.

How will you know if this is the right choice for you? Ask yourself if the benefit of a lower interest rate mortgage and possible lower monthly payments will be worth the cost after closing fees are added in. Closing costs can sometimes be upwards of 2% of the total loan amount, so you’ll need to do some math and figure out how long it might take you to pay that back and if refinancing is worth it.

How long will you stay in the house?

If you might be moving within the next few years, it most likely won’t make sense financially to refinance. Here’s an example: You’d like to refinance your $250,000 mortgage and you’ll pay 2% in closing costs. That’s $5,000 you have to make up so that the refinance process worth the effort. If your monthly mortgage payment is only reduced by $200, it would take you two years to make up the closing costs alone – and that’s not even factoring in that the mortgage has been extended out another 30 years.

If you plan to stay in your current home for years to come, then refinancing would most likely make sense over the long run. If you don’t think you will be in your current home in the next couple years, it might be best to hold off on refinancing for now.

How much equity do you have in your home?

If you still owe more than 80% of your home’s value, refinancing probably won’t make financial sense for you. If you currently have home equity loans, you will also need to pay them down before you look into refinancing. Otherwise, your rate and payment will be affected and most likely won’t be as low as it could possibly be – which would defeat the purpose of refinancing.

On the other hand, it’s a smart idea to refinance if you put less than 20% down when you bought the home and you now qualify to take out a mortgage with 20% or more in home equity built up. This would happen as you pay down the mortgage over the years, or due to home appreciation. When you have 20% or more in home equity, you will also eliminate your private mortgage insurance (PMI) payment. Refinancing with enough home equity can eliminate this monthly fee altogether!

How is your credit score?

If your credit score decreased since your original mortgage, refinancing would not be a good idea. A dip in credit will affect the rate you will qualify for or you may not even qualify at all. If your credit score isn’t the greatest, wait to build it back up before applying to refinance your mortgage.

Are you trying to get out of debt?

For those facing large credit card debt or medical bills, refinancing with a cash-out option (where you borrow more than the amount of your mortgage and take the extra in cash), may seem like a great idea. Technically, you can use the lower interest rate funds from the refinance to pay off your higher rate interest bills, and pay off your debt.

However, this usually only works for those who are disciplined, have adequate income to continue to pay off the debt, and fell on hard times temporarily. Even if you don’t run up your credit cards ever again, you are potentially spreading this new obligation to 30 years by adding it onto your new mortgage. You might have a smaller monthly payment, but if it takes you the full 30 years to pay off the refinanced mortgage – you’ll owe 30 years of interest built in as well. This is definitely something to consider and you’ll want to really do your research before you consider the cash-out refinance option.

In the end, not everyone will benefit from refinancing their mortgage. If you are considering it, be sure to answer the five questions above to know if refinancing is the right financial step for you. Questions about refinancing? Contact the Loan Department at First Financial, and we’ll help you decide between your options with personalized service.*

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only, are subject to change without notice and may be adjusted based on several factors including, but not limited to, property location, loan amount, loan type, occupancy, property type, loan to value, debt to income ratios, FICO credit scores, refinance with cash out and other variables. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. 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. 

Article Source: Moneyning.com

Could Your Budget Handle a Decrease in Income?

One of the most difficult situations to deal with is a decrease in income, especially if you are like many Americans of late – living paycheck to paycheck. Many of us base our lifestyle around and live right up to the limit of what our income can afford us to purchase. Living this way can really hinder your budget no matter how much you bring in.

However, spending above our means and not sticking to a budget can really be a problem – because what happens if life throws out a curveball? This unfortunate instance happened to many Americans this year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few ways to make sure you are financially prepared should you ever experience an unexpected income drop.

The Importance of a Variety of Income Sources

One of the best ways to handle a potential loss of income is to build up income from various sources, if possible. This can be important so that you aren’t relying on one source of income for everything.

If you don’t make as much as you’d like in your daily 9 to 5, starting a side business or part-time job in order to be able to fall back on additional income can be a help. Try to consistently save some of your extra income when times are good so that you are prepared the next time a crisis happens.

What Can You Cut from Your Budget?

It’s important to know which items you would cut in a pinch from your budget if you had to. It’s also good practice to plan ahead of time and figure out where you could cut back if you ever needed to.

Look at your spending patterns, and figure out what is most important. Items such as groceries and bills are necessities, and will need to be managed even if you are making less. However, dining out and added services such as cable can always be temporarily cut from your budget if you needed to.

Review what you spend money on currently and start to get prepared. You could even think about cutting back on some of that spending now, and put it aside in your emergency savings fund to be ready for a rainy day.

Do You Have an Emergency Fund?

This is one of the most important savings accounts to ever have. An emergency fund’s purpose is to be a safety net in the event that your income takes a cut, and you no longer have enough money to meet your current financial obligations. When you have somewhat of a buffer saved in the bank, you’ll feel better prepared and less stressed should you experience any sort of financial emergency. Continue to save what you can and keep putting it away into your emergency savings account – every little bit helps!

Article Source: Moneyning.com

Should You Take Out a Personal Loan or Line of Credit?

When it comes to Personal Loans and Personal Lines of Credit, the options for how to use the funds are endless. While both offer flexibility in the different ways you can use them, there are certain instances where choosing a Personal Loan might be a better fit than a Personal Line of Credit and vice versa. Let’s explore these options and help determine which is the best choice for you and your budget.

Consider the Nature of the Expense

Personal Loans are distributed in one lump sum and are typically best for large, one-time expenses. Popular uses include back-to-school costs, paying off high-interest debt, and higher education expenses. In contrast, Personal Lines of Credit are revolving and operate similarly to a credit card – where you only pay on the amount you use for a specified term. This credit line is consistently available – once you pay off the money you have borrowed, the funds open up again.

A Personal Line of Credit can be optimal if you aren’t sure how much money you will need to borrow or for how long. Common examples of ways to use a Personal Line of Credit are supplementing irregular income, making home improvements, and having a backup for when unexpected expenses arise.

Evaluate the Terms and Your Budget

One way to remember the difference between a Personal Loan and a Personal Line of Credit is that a Personal Loan is fixed and a Line of Credit can change over the term. If you’re looking for a way to budget a certain amount each month, a Personal Loan ensures that you’ll pay a set amount each month for the life of the loan. With a Personal Line of Credit, the term will typically be longer and you’ll only pay on what you use. For example, if you are approved for a $10,000 credit line and only use $2,000 of the money, you will only need to make payments on the amount you’ve used. Alternatively, if you have a Personal Loan – you’ll make payments on the total amount of money borrowed, whether you’ve used the funds or not.

Qualifying for a Personal Loan vs. a Personal Line of Credit

Typically, receiving approval for a Personal Line of Credit is more challenging to obtain than a Personal Loan. Why?  Due to the flexible nature of a Personal Line of Credit, having a good credit score is a significant factor in the decision to approve funding. On the other hand, a Personal Loan with its fixed term and amount borrowed – usually allows for easier approval.

Making the Decision

Why is it important to know the differences beyond the interest rate when it comes down to Personal Loans and Personal Lines of Credit? While often confused, these loan types have distinct differences that – if not chosen wisely, you could end up paying more. Factor in the end result of what you will be using the loan or line of credit for, how soon you’ll be able to pay it back, and take a close look at what your monthly budget is before you apply.

If you’re looking to fund the next step in your life, First Financial can help you achieve your financial goals. Talk to us today about your options and how to choose the right solution for you. Learn more about our Personal Loan and Line of Credit options here, and apply online 24/7!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Actual rate will vary based on creditworthiness and loan term. Subject to credit approval. A First Financial Federal Credit Union membership is required to obtain a Personal 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. Federally insured by NCUA.