4 Simple Categories to Create Your Budget

It’s the new year – do you have a budget plan in place? If not, here are some great places to start!

1. Housing

Having a place for all of your stuff and somewhere to lay your head should probably be your biggest priority, so as you can imagine this category will be a large portion of your budget. Along with the mortgage, insurance and property taxes, make sure you include repairs and necessary utilities like gas and electric.

2. Transportation

Remember that when it comes to transportation, it’s more than just your car payment. Gas, insurance, repairs, and preventative maintenance like oil changes should all be included. Planning ahead will help keep your car on the road, which will keep money in your pocket.

3. Life

This category is huge. Several categories could be made out of this one, but if you want to keep it all together, it should include the following:

  • Cell phone
  • Food (at home or at a restaurant)
  • Health insurance
  • Medicine
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment
  • Tuition
  • Childcare

All of these things will add up to a large percentage of your budget, so if separating them into their own categories will help you, definitely do that.

4. Savings/Debt

This final category is one of the most important. Saving money for your future is something you want to make sure you’re doing every month. The earlier you start, the better. You’ll be surprised at how a little bit each month can really add up. Also make sure you’re steadily paying down your debt, whether it’s credit cards or student loans. Focus on paying them off and enjoy the freedom you’ll feel when that’s all accomplished.

Learn to create your own budget with our handy budgeting worksheet!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUinsight.com

 

Throw a Super Bowl Party That Doesn’t Break the Bank

Now that the holidays are behind us, it’s time to plan for the next big event. That’s right—Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner! As the NFL’s top two teams prepare to battle at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the festivities leading up to the game will clearly show that the NFL has spared no expense in trying to make Super Bowl LIII the greatest championship game in history. So when it comes to planning your Super Bowl party, we suggest taking a different—and slightly more sensible—financial approach.

8 Ways to Throw a Budget-Friendly Super Bowl Party

If you’re looking for some ways to host a Super Bowl party that’s as frugal as it is fun-filled, here are a few of our favorite suggestions.

Start with a financial game plan.  Sounds better than “make a budget,” doesn’t it? Since Super Bowl parties are all about football, it makes sense to prepare like a coach. Setting a spending limit before you shop will help you stiff-arm the creative displays and impulse items at the grocery store. To quote Super Bowl-winning QB, Russel Wilson, “The separation is in the preparation.”

Team up with a co-host. Since football is a team sport, why not recruit a co-host to help you plan your party? Not only can the two of you share the cost of food and decorations, you’ll be able to split the stress of planning as well. Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it?

Digital invites over classic invitations. Sure, Pinterest is packed with clever ideas for intricate Super Bowl invitations, but you know which detail those posts forget to mention? Postage costs. Rather than sending out old-school invites, create a Facebook event and share it with your friends or jump over to Evite.com, where you can design and send online invitations for free!

Downplay the decorations. Let’s face it, even though extravagant decorations might make impressive Instagram posts, people aren’t coming to your Super Bowl party to marvel at your elaborate sandwich stadium and coordinated team napkin displays. Don’t overdo it with the decorations. Dollar store party supplies are perfect.

Generic snacks: The Real MVP. Your guests will probably be snacking from the pre-game festivities to the post-game trophy presentation. What they won’t be doing is critiquing the subtle flavor undertones of your chips and pretzels. So rather than springing for brand name snack foods, grab the store-brand counterparts, serve them in a giant bowl, and kick back knowing you have money left in your food budget.

Encourage crowd participation. Food and drinks are usually the most expensive part of a Super Bowl party—especially if the beverages are of the adult variety. A pot luck meal plan and BYOB policy are great ways to ensure refreshment costs are divided evenly and everyone is guaranteed to have at least one dish they’ll enjoy.

Save big with Super Bowl promos. If you decide to provide all the food for your party, you might as well look for the best deals. Keep an eye on your local grocery store flyers, as they routinely run special sales on traditional party food. If you’re trying to stay out of the kitchen, check your local restaurants for money-saving party promos.

Make post-game meal plans. You plan, prepare, and present a spread of tasty food for your guests. Then, when the game’s over, you have to figure out what to do with the leftovers. Fortunately, game day favorites like burgers, chili, and sandwiches can make delicious meals for a few days after the big game. This makes meal planning easy and lunch costs less expensive.

With a little creativity and some careful planning, it’s entirely possible to throw a great party without throwing away money in the process. Whether you use all these ideas or just a few that work for you, following these tips will help you host a winning party without spending more than you should.

4 Ways to Save in January

The holidays are over and that means most of us are strapped for cash. January can be a tough month for many recovering from holiday spending. Here are four ways you can save a little this month as you work to get your finances back on track.

Winterize your home.
This is the coldest time of the year, so make sure your house is ready for the cool temps. There are a variety of things you can do to save this month by lowering your energy bills. Check out these simple tips for winterizing your home. Your wallet will thank you.

Eat what’s in season.
After all the groceries needed for preparing those holiday meals, it’s no wonder you’ll want to cut down on food costs this month. Check out the various fruits and vegetables that are in season in January, many of which are sold at a lower cost. Surprisingly there are a number of yummy seasonal foods that are at their prime in the dead of winter, such as: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, tangerines, and turnips.

New year, new budget.
Take a look back at 2018, what worked for your finances and what didn’t? Learning from the past is an excellent way to make smarter choices this year. This month, take a look at the year ahead, anticipate months that will be more costly, and plan accordingly.

Shop sales.
After holiday sales can be an excellent way to save on items you need for the coming year. Check out reduced prices on everyday household items (like household cleaners, soaps, and baking supplies) that are marked down simply because they come in holiday packaging.

Article Source: Wendy Moody for CUInsight.com

Budget Busting Rationalizations to Stop Doing Immediately

Did you spend money you didn’t intend to this past holiday season? If you are regularly falling victim to money rationalization (talking yourself into a purchase you don’t really need or can’t afford), you are doing yourself and your budget no favors.

Have you told yourself any of the following lies recently? If so, make it your new year’s resolution to stop right now.

  1. It’s on sale! There’s a very good reason why retailers put things on sale, offer two for one deals and give discounts. By offering something on sale, it gives the consumer a sense of urgency about purchasing the item. You know that the sale or discount will not last forever, so you want to snatch up the item before you lose out on the great deal. The thing is, it doesn’t matter how good a bargain the price is if you don’t need that item, because it’s still too expensive. If you are tempted by an item that’s on sale, put it down and walk away. If you still want it the next day (or even the next week), go ahead and buy it. The sale will still be in effect, and you will know that this is a good purchase, and not just an exercise in retail psychology.
  2. Buy now and save later. Later is a great time to do things you don’t want to do, whether that’s budgeting or dieting. It’s very easy to promise yourself that you’ll pay for your splurge by saving money in the future. If you are trying to rationalize a purchase by thinking about what you can give up next week or next month to pay for it, then you simply can’t afford the purchase. If you haven’t learned how to budget (or diet, etc), you’re not going to magically wake up knowing how to do this in the future. Telling yourself no now will be the first step in being the savvy budgeter you hope to be tomorrow.
  3. I need a reward. After a stressful period at work or at the end of a major project, it can be easy to want to reward yourself with something nice. But looking at a new pair of shoes or an expensive car and thinking “I deserve this!” is not the right way to go about being financially secure. Giving in to impulse buys because of stress will not help you achieve your financial goals.
  4. I want to fit in. Sometimes the worst purchasing mistakes come from peer pressure. It’s much easier to spend money when everyone around you is doing the same. Even if your friends would never dream of putting pressure on you, just seeing them spend money can influence your decisions. If this is a problem for you, then shopping should no longer be an activity you do with friends. Find other ways to socialize with the people in your life. Your bank account will thank you.

The best weapon you have against spending rationalization is to know yourself. If you are aware of the things that deceive you into purchases, then it will be much easier to avoid them.

And if you haven’t created a budget for yourself – that might be part of the problem. Learn everything you need to know about budgeting with our quick budgeting guide.

Article Source: Emily Guy Birken for Moneyning.com

Do You Know What It Takes to Run a Successful Side Hustle?

The process of finding financial security has gone through some dramatic changes over the last few decades. As recently as the 1980’s, conventional wisdom suggested following a career path that went something like this: Go to school. Get a good job. Work for one company for 20 years or more. Collect a pension. Retire in relative comfort.

If that approach sounds completely foreign to you, you’re not alone. On his personal finance blog, 20SomethingFinance, G.E. Miller observed, “Most twenty-somethings have never and (unfortunately) probably will never sniff the sweet security provided by a pension plan.” So, if there’s almost no hope of finding financial stability by following same path as previous generations, how can set yourself up for success? Two words: Side. Hustle.

What Does “Side Hustle” Really Mean?

With more and more people realizing that working a single job leaves them living paycheck to paycheck, side hustles are experiencing a considerable spike in popularity. Since we’ve already used the phrase twice in this article, you may be wondering exactly what constitutes a side hustle. Is it a second job? An online business?  In his new book (conveniently titled Side Hustle), Chris Guillebeau provides some much needed clarity. “A side hustle is not a part-time job. It is an asset that works for you.” This definition reveals a crucial distinction between trading hours for dollars, and building something that pays dividends for years to come.

Side Job vs. Side Hustle

Thanks to a surging economy and advances in technology, finding a side job is easier than ever. From Etsy to barista gigs and seasonal retail, potential work opportunities are plentiful. But if Guillebeau is right, the additional income you can earn from these jobs might not give you the long-term security you want. So, are they even worth pursuing? Do they offer any asset-building benefits? Absolutely. You just have to adjust your motivation for doing the work.

Rather than focusing on the job itself or the hourly wage it provides, entrepreneur Jeremiah Dew recommends looking a little deeper. “Find an endeavor that makes you become a better person—something that requires you to build a skill set that will help you in future ventures as well.” Sell crafts on Etsy in order to get better at e-commerce and digital marketing. Become an Airbnb host to upgrade your customer service skills. You get the point.

Success Requires a Different Perspective

When you’re trying to earn additional income, it can be tempting to jump at the first opportunity that offers real money. And while a traditional side job isn’t necessarily a bad thing, be careful not to confuse it with a legitimate side hustle. You may be able to earn extra money, but if your income is still tied to your ability to show up and perform a specific set of tasks, you’re not developing an asset. However, if you utilize those opportunities to gain experience and lessons that transcend a specific job or industry, you may be on your way to developing a successful, sustainable side hustle.

You Won’t Win Alone

Now, before you rush out and start a supplemental career, it’s important to remember the value of a good mentor. As the old saying goes, “A smart person learns from his mistakes. A wise person learns from the mistakes of others.” If you’re going to be wise about building your business, it pays to develop a relationship with someone who has experience running a business of their own, someone who made mistakes you can learn from. Whether you find them yourself or ask for suggestions from people you trust, the impact of a business mentor can be priceless.

From a financial standpoint, business ownership requires money management skills you won’t learn as an employee. Fortunately, your local credit union is an outstanding resource where you can find the knowledge, expertise, and programs to help you navigate the often-confusing early stages of your side hustle. By relying on their services and recommendations, you’ll be able to sidestep potential pitfalls and put yourself in a position to succeed. To learn more about the Business Services at First Financial, click here.

First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to Bradley Beach School

Press Release

(Pictured above: Bradley Beach Elementary School Principal and Superintendent Dr. Wisniewski and Alison Zylinski).

FREEHOLD, N.J. – Bradley Beach Elementary School social worker and anti-bullying specialist, Alison Zylinski, was surprised by members of the First Financial Foundation with the final Erma Dorrer classroom grant for the 2018-2019 school year.

Zylinski submitted a grant application to purchase supplies to create vinyl inspirational messages to promote students’ actions of kindness, respect, empowerment, and positive self-esteem on a daily basis.

“It is my responsibility to improve school climate and culture,” said Zylinski. “This year, every class in our K-8 school will engage in a 20 minute morning meeting, where the focus is to develop a sense of connection among students, work on social-emotional skills, and improve each classroom’s overall culture and climate. Creating inspirational messages would be a fantastic environmental change for our school.”

(Pictured above: First Financial’s President/CEO, First Financial’s VP of Marketing & Business Development, Alison Zylinski, and First Financial’s AVP of Business Development).

Since First Financial began with a group of Asbury Park schoolteachers back in 1936, the credit union has not forgotten its educational roots. That is why its Foundation offered current Monmouth and Ocean County educators six (6) classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2018-2019 school year.

“Education has and always will be a pivotal piece of our organization, and we’re delighted to be able to help our local educators enhance their classroom experience,” noted First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.

Stephan also noted that the Foundation committee had a tough job of choosing just six winning teachers out of the numerous applications received this year. “We received dozens of heart warming essays from educators hoping to use the grant money to implement or maintain a variety of creative programs in their schools such as flexible seating, virtual reality glasses, book stands and shelving, new classroom cabinets, and interactive books and games – to name a few,” said Stephan. “We wish we were able to reward each and every one of our participants, and after extremely careful consideration we selected the six classrooms in which we felt the grant money would have the largest impact.”