Buying Lunch Too Much? 3 Money Saving Tips

We all know in theory that brown bagging is a great way to save money and eat a bit healthier. However, for a lot of us, it’s hard to find the motivation and energy to pack a lunch, especially if it’s going to be the same old ham and cheese on wheat every day. Before long, we lose momentum and it’s back to eating burgers, pizza, and subs five days a week. If that sounds like you, here are some tips to help you pack an inexpensive lunch that will make you forget all about takeout and draining your bank account.

1. Get your kitchen organized.

The easier it is for you to pack your lunch, the fewer excuses you’ll have for skipping it.

Designate a cabinet or shelf for containers, bags and wraps, etc. Weed out any mismatched or damaged containers and lids. Make a point of keeping this area tidy and organized so that finding what you need is a breeze.

Clean out your fridge to make it easy to find condiments and salad dressings and to have room for leftovers, yogurt, prepared fruits and vegetables, and other easy to grab snacks. You’ll also want to keep a space available to store your lunch overnight if packing it the night before saves you time and forces you to bring your lunch.

Keep a basket on a shelf to store lunchbox snacks like granola bars, chips and crackers. You can portion out a week’s worth at a time in plastic bags – which is cheaper than buying individual servings.

2. Go beyond lunch meat.

Some people are happy eating the same deli meat and cheese sandwich every day, while others need variety. Foods marketed especially for lunch can also be more expensive than starting from whole foods and preparing them yourself.

Instead of deli meat – try slicing up chicken, turkey, beef and pork that you’ve cooked yourself at home and make sandwiches, lettuce wraps, and more. Not only can you save money this way, but you’ll also have more control over the ingredients.

If you like frozen meals for lunch, try making your own by freezing portions of lasagna, enchiladas, stews and other home-cooked foods that freeze well. The food will be tastier, and freezing to eat later is great for those who don’t like eating the same meals two or more days in a row.

Hummus with vegetables and pita bread for dipping can also be a very healthy lunch. Making your own hummus is incredibly cheap and you can even go beyond the normal chickpea version and experiment with black beans, edamame and other variations.

3. Make brown bagging it a fun, social affair.

You can encourage your colleagues to pack a lunch by talking to them about the benefits and encouraging them to give it a shot. Not only can they save money, but it can also help them lose weight and eat healthier.

Suggest fun ways to encourage each other to pack a lunch. Some workplaces have had great luck with a salad bar club (everyone brings different ingredients to keep in the fridge to make salads that week), or bringing dishes to share. For companies where people are interested in getting healthier, a quick brown bag lunch followed by a brisk walk during lunch hour can also be a great motivator.

As you can see – it’s easy to pack a lunch each day, and great for your health and budget!

Article Source: Tracy for Moneyning.com

4 Crucial Money Tips for Your First Job

Recently graduated college? Before you come face to face with the real world and your first job, be sure you review the following important money tips.

1. Keep your debt limited.

When you’re starting out in your first job, you will quickly find yourself probably making about five times what you were making from your part-time college gig. That account balance can look quite enticing. Try your best to not let debt grow. Tackling debt can take years, and you don’t want to add to it.

2. Start a savings account/emergency fund.

When you’re young, you tend to push things off because you think you’ll have plenty of time. When it comes to saving, the earlier you begin, the more you’ll appreciate it later. If you save $100 a month, during the first 5 years after college, you will have created a $6,000 fund that could come in handy when you need to make lemonade out of the lemons that life will inevitably throw at you from time to time.

3. Stick to a budget.

This may be one of the harder tips to stick with, especially when you have more money than you’ve ever had in your life. Buying every meal from your favorite restaurants is tempting, and the sooner you curb that habit the better. By budgeting, you can see how you’re really spending your money. Try not to look at it as restricting your spending, but rather a guide to help you spend confidently.

4. Don’t forget about retirement.

Retirement seems like it’s 40 years away (and maybe it is), but it’ll sneak up on you. Putting your money in an IRA early is one of the best decisions you can make. There’s a little thing called compound interest that wants to be your best friend. Read about it and you’ll be happier than a kid in a candy store.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

How to Choose the Right Preowned Vehicle for You

Shopping for any vehicle can be intimidating. And making a big purchase that has about 30,000 parts which need to be in safe working order is not a small feat, but here are a few important pointers on how to pick the right new-to-you vehicle.

First, before you hit the lot – understand your needs. To do this, think about your current car and why you are looking to give it up. What bothers you about it – is it too small, would you prefer a smoother ride? It’s also helpful to think about the next few years in the vehicle you are about to purchase. Are you going to be starting a family in the near future, do you have pets you transport to the dog park? Do you have a long commute? You want to make sure you will be buying a reliable vehicle that meets your personal needs. It might be a good idea to shop online prior to visiting the dealership. Be sure you are getting exactly what you want – this is a big purchase that you will need to live with for a number of years to come.

Get a friend. Or a family member who knows cars. Or does a coworker currently drive a car you like? If so, talk to them about their vehicle. Find out what they love (or don’t). See if they’ll let you test drive their vehicle. This is a big help when trying to find the right car for you.

Find a car that looks good. It’s hard to tell if an engine is in top condition, but a decent way to tell is by looking at the rest of the car. How has it been treated? If the previous owner cared for the paint, they probably cared for the bigger things as well. A used car should be as close to showroom condition as possible. A car never has to be damaged – regardless of its age. If it is, make an offer accordingly.

Fewer miles doesn’t necessarily mean fewer problems. Fewer miles is generally a good thing. Although city miles are much harder on a car than highway miles. This means a car with 10,000 miles that has lived its life in a big city may be in worse shape than a 20,000 mile car whose owner had a long highway commute each day. Miles are a good indicator of how many years are left in the car – but it’s also important to note how they may have been tallied, if possible.

Should you get an inspection? An inspection is always best if you’re serious about buying the car. It can save you thousands and give you great peace of mind. If you’re considering a used vehicle from a dealership, check out the Carfax report on the vehicle before you buy.

Always be ready to walk away. Do not fall in love with the car before you get to see it, because you may talk it up in your mind, instead of seeing the vehicle for what it truly is. Walk away if the car isn’t great. If it’s good but not as you expected, make a lower offer than what you were prepared to give. Price is always negotiable.

Price. Do you research beforehand, and make sure the dealership or private seller is in the ballpark. Most sellers are going to try to price the car higher and expect you to negotiate. Kelley Blue Book is a great resource for comparison.

Don’t be persuaded. Don’t let a pushy salesperson change your mind. Be sure you end up with the vehicle you want and are comfortable with. In the end, you’ll be the one who will be driving this car on a daily basis – so be sure you are 100% secure in your decision to purchase.

Some final pointers to consider:

  • Not all cosmetics matter. Minor dents/scratches on the exterior, a missing hub cap, a small upholstery stain – these can be easy negotiating points to lower the sticker price and simple (and inexpensive) enough for you to have fixed on your own later on.
  • Don’t get too caught up on mileage. A well maintained car can easily log 200,000 miles (maybe even more if it was a great, reliable car to begin with). Engines run for a very long time if they were properly maintained. You’ll need to do your research on the history of the used vehicle and weigh the following – is it better to buy a car that has been well taken care of with 150,000 miles or one that has only 75,000 miles but was poorly maintained?
  • Tires – another negotiation tool. It’s important to note how the tires are worn. If they are evenly worn, that’s a better sign. But if the treads are irregular, this could mean neglect or a mechanical issue. If the vehicle you are looking at needs new tires, this is another point you could try to negotiate off the sticker price.
  • Properly repaired accident damage isn’t always a deal breaker. This goes along with researching the vehicle’s history. Maybe the vehicle was in a small fender bender years ago and there’s a little dent in the body that doesn’t affect the safety or use of the car in any way. Or maybe the car had some body repairs made from a previous accident and it’s as good as new now. Just because the vehicle was in an accident, doesn’t always mean it’s damaged goods. Again, do your research and have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic if it will make you feel better.

In the market for a preowned vehicle? First Financial’s auto loan rates are the same whether you buy new or used! If you’re just starting to shop, get preapproved and if you’re ready to make the purchase – apply for an auto loan online 24/7. We have quick approval decisions and same day closings!

APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. 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 union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.

Article Source: Will Lipovsky for Moneyning.com

10 Tips for Selling Your House Fast and at Top Dollar

When you’re trying to sell your house, you want to do it as quickly as possible. But did you realize you only have six seconds? Your house may be on the market longer than that, but that’s not what we’re talking about. Homebuyers generally make their purchase decisions based on first impressions, and real estate experts estimate those impressions are formed within the first six seconds—three from the curb and three from the entryway.

If you’re going to win over a prospective buyer, you’ll have to get their attention quickly to convince them that your house is their next home. Yes, location is key. And yes, price matters too. With a few strategic preparations, you can make your property as attractive and inviting as possible. By doing so, you’ll set it up to sell sooner rather than later.

10 Ways to Prepare Your Home to Sell ASAP

1. Think like a buyer.
It can be tempting to present your home in a way that highlights the aspects you like the most. The problem with this approach is that your favorites are just that—your Potential buyers won’t be looking at your house through the lens of nostalgia. Help them see your home as a blank slate where they can form their own identity.

2. Focus on curb appeal.
It’s incredible what a tidy lawn and freshly mulched flower beds can do for a house. Most buyers will drive by your property before deciding whether or not to take a closer look. A house that looks welcoming from the street stands a much better chance of selling quickly.

3. Freshen up your front door.
If curb appeal is a friendly invitation, a freshly painted front door is a cheery welcome. Every buyer who looks at your home will most likely enter through the front door, so giving it a new coat of paint can cover up any scuffs and dings that have shown up over time. This small step will help the house look livable—not lived in.

4. Make basic repairs.
If you’ve lived in your home for any amount of time, there are probably a few problems you’ve learned to live with. Chipped paint, missing fence boards, leaky kitchen faucets, flickering lightbulbs, etc. These are just a few of the minor inconveniences that you might overlook on a daily basis. They’re also the little details that could make your house less attractive to a buyer. Make the simple fixes – you’ll be glad you did.

5. Stay neutral.
If you personalized your house by using vibrant colors in each room, it might be a good idea to repaint. While you might love bold colors, there’s no guarantee the next owner will. Painting the walls in neutral colors will let potential buyers observe the overall house without getting hung up on whether or not they like the colors you chose.

6. Make it less “you.”
While we’re focused on the interior, make a special effort to remove decorations and knick-knacks that reflect your personal tastes and identity. No matter how friendly and familiar they may be, family photos will make buyers feel like their visiting someone else’s house. You want them to feel like they’re spending time in their own.

7. Clean and declutter.
You don’t have to channel your inner Marie Kondo, but clearing clutter will not only make the house look cleaner, it will make it feel bigger. And when it comes to cleanliness, there’s no such thing as too clean. When you think things are finally clean enough, go over them once more. Buyers will notice.

8. Use some common scents.
It goes without saying (or at least it should) that you should do your very best to eliminate offensive smells like pets, dirty laundry, or cooking odors. If you want to increase your chances of selling your house, go a step beyond deodorizing and introduce a pleasant scent. Candles, essential oils, and fresh baked cookies can do a wonderful job of creating a welcoming environment for house hunters.

9. Stage strategically.
If you can’t afford to hire a professional real estate stager, you can still arrange each room to highlight your home’s top features. While each room matters, pay particular attention to the family room, the master bedroom, and the kitchen. These are the three rooms where the new owners will spend most of their time, so staging them well is a small task that can make a big difference.

10. Hire a real estate agent.
If you want to sell your home as quickly as possible, enlisting the help of a professional is a smart way to accomplish your goal. Experienced realtors know the local market, and their expertise can help you sell your house faster and for more money. Selling a home on your own might sound like a good idea, but when you consider that a real estate agent can handle the marketing, negotiations, and legal details, their commission can be money that’s well spent.

Potential home buyers want to walk through a house that feels exciting and new. They also want it to feel like home. Following the tips listed above can help you give them exactly what they’re looking for. And the faster you make that happen, the sooner those buyers will give you what you want—a house with a SOLD sign in the yard.

Have you recently sold your home and now need a mortgage on a new home? If you live, work, worship, volunteer, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in NJ – we’re sure we’ve got a mortgage product that will meet your needs!* Learn more on our website, and if you’re ready to get preapproved or have questions about the mortgage process – give us a call at 732.312.1500, Option 4. We’re happy to help you finance your dream home!

 *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. Federally insured by NCUA. ​NMLS CU ID: 685814

How to Survive Real World Budgeting for the First Time

One of the most exciting times in life is entering the real word as a young adult. Finishing school, getting that first full-time job, and venturing out on your own is always an important milestone. However for many, the excitement wears off pretty quickly and you then get hit with one of the harshest realities of being an adult: managing your own finances.

Why is it so hard? Budgeting and learning how to spend your money wisely for the first time is a challenge for everyone. And you’re bound to make mistakes. To make your transition easier, here are four tips to help you survive budgeting in the real world for the first time:

1. Know Your Take Home Income

When you get your first job, you will get a salary offer. Let’s say you’ll be making $20 an hour or roughly $40,000 annually. Does that mean you’ll be taking home a little over $3,300 a month?

Wrong! When you get your first pay stub, you’ll see that many expenses are deducted from your paycheck, such as state and federal taxes, social security income, and health insurance (just to name a few). This can take up a very large percentage of your gross pay, on average 25%. It’s important to know what your true net or take home income will be so that you can properly budget.

2. Understand All Your Expenses

Living away from your parents for the first time can be a real eye opener. You start realizing how many things you actually need to pay for that you didn’t necessarily think about before. Make sure you really understand what all your expenses will be – from the big items like rent, all the way to the little things like paper towels. If you’re trying to figure out how much to spend on rent, a good rule of thumb is no more than 30% of your gross income.

Also think about your food costs, which will probably be your second biggest expense. If you’ve never had to do grocery shopping before, a good first step is to just hit the grocery store with a list of necessary items you need to buy weekly. Get a gage of how much everything costs so that you can better budget for this in the future. Remember, all the little things add up – so make your budget as detailed as possible.

3. Be Organized, Track Everything

One of the most important things about managing your finances successfully is organization. Once you have that down, you’ll have an accurate snapshot of how you’re spending and what you should cut back on. Many people forget the little things, like a daily cup of coffee, but even a small expense like that can actually add up in the long run.

Make sure you’re keeping track of everything. The easiest way to do so is by starting a spreadsheet where you input your expenses. Tools such as Mint.com are also great to use, because you can integrate it with your bank and credit card accounts to help you track your purchases.

4. Save, Save, Save

Being on your own for the first time is exciting, and you’ll want to do everything and spend on everything. But remember that it’s important to live within your means, because not doing so will get you in financial trouble down the road. Start good financial spending habits now. Have a small budget for discretionary spending, but for the most part: save, save, save.

Start an emergency fund as soon as possible—because you truly never know what can happen in life. It’s also never too early to start thinking about retirement. With the power of compound interest, the earlier you start saving for retirement, that more you’ll see later on when you need it.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com 

3 Good and Bad Reasons for Personal Loans

A credit card is a valuable tool when you need money in a pinch. But if you’ll need a little time to pay it back, it’s probably not the right financial tool for you. Getting a personal loan is a much better idea if you’re borrowing larger amounts of money that you won’t be able to pay back immediately. Here are some good and bad reasons for using personal loans.

Good Reasons

Investing in Your Home: Whether you’ve got an expensive repair that needs to be made, or you just want to redo your kitchen –  spending money on your home doesn’t usually come cheap.  A personal loan will allow you to up the value on your home and provide you with a fixed monthly payment that you can handle.

High Interest Debt: Credit card debt can be hard to get out from under. If you’re dealing with debt on multiple credit cards, you may be in some financial trouble. A personal loan with a fixed monthly payment can be a great option for you if you’re dealing with a mountain of debt that seems impossible to climb. However, you just have to remember to not continue to use your credit cards along with the personal loan, and further get yourself into serious debt.

Starting a Small Business: You’ve been dreaming about opening up your own business. Follow your dreams and make it happen. Startup costs can be expensive, so this is a great reason to get a personal loan.

Bad Reasons

Vacation: If you don’t have the money you need to take a vacation, the last thing you want to do is go into debt just to make it happen. Staycations are a good alternative and can be just as relaxing as a vacation, so save your money and by next summer maybe you’ll be ready to book that trip to the beach.

Investments: No matter how good you think you are at investing, it’s still a little like gambling. There are no guarantees when it comes to investing, so don’t put yourself into debt for something that may just end up putting you even further into the hole.

Wedding: Weddings can be super expensive. If you can afford a pricey wedding, great. But if you don’t have the funds for your dream wedding, do you really want to start off your new life together with a shiny new pile of debt?

Sometimes, for important items we need in life – the money just isn’t there. First Financial is dedicated to providing small personal loans that can help cover the costs of life’s necessary expenses. If you live, work, worship, volunteer, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in NJ – this may be a great financial solution for you. Learn more and apply online today!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Rates are subject to change. Maximum loan is $25K and maximum term is 60 months. Not all applicants qualify, subject to credit approval. A First Financial 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. See credit union for details.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com