Ways to Save on Your Last Minute Summer Vacation

We’re in the midst of August and that means the start of the school year is around the corner. But the summer heat is lingering and there’s still time to take a last-minute vacation before fall arrives. Here are four ways to save on your final summer trip of the year.

Stay close.

You can still get away while not venturing too far from home. Check out places to visit that are within driving distance. That way you can see something new and different without paying the hefty price of air travel.

Visit friends and family.

Check into areas where you have connections and a free place to rest your head. Accommodations are a budget-killer so forget the pricey hotels and ask a friend or family member if you can pay them a visit before the busy school and work year gets revved up.

Research airline discounts.

Many flights are a fraction of the cost at the end of the summer season. Start by following your airline of choice on social media and track their last-minute summer travel deals. Also, because you’re planning quickly, consider traveling during the week or at flexible times when airlines will reduce rates to fill flights.

Hold off on the hotel.

Instead of dropping hundreds on a pricey hotel room, consider booking your accommodations through Airbnb. Although you may not receive turndown and concierge services offered at hotels, Airbnb will offer lodging that is charming and unique. Also, consider checking out Roomer.com, a service where travelers who’ve cancelled their plans (and had a non-refundable room) the opportunity to sell them back to those on a budget. Many rooms available are offered at up to 85% off the original booking price.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer!

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

3 Ways to Save on Back-to-School Basics

It’s hard to believe, but it’s time for kids to start heading back to school. Back-to-school season means shopping for new supplies and whether it’s a backpack, a lunch box, or a new wardrobe, it can be a pricey time for parents. Bankrate has reported that on average, parents spend up to $670 for one child on back-to-school gear. Here are 3 ways you can save on your school shopping, while making sure your kids have everything they need.

Clean out the closets.
The key to not overspending is figuring out exactly what your children need, and not just what they want. Take a detailed inventory of what they have, what is in good condition, and what still fits. Then, you will know exactly what you need to purchase when you hit the stores. Although it may be fun for your kids to pick out a new backpack, if last year’s bag works, tell them the money can be used on something else that they actually need.

Buy in bulk.
Do your children have a favorite lunch item or snack? If so, head to the nearest warehouse store and buy these goodies in bulk. Whether it’s goldfish or peanut butter, you’ll be glad to have enough when making their meals this school year. Also, if you have multiple children, these stores are an excellent option for stocking up on supplies for every kid.

Check out consignment stores, clip coupons.
Many local consignment shops have great name-brand items at reasonable prices. Back-to-school season is a popular time for them as well, so hit up the secondhand shop to see what new inventory they’ve gotten in. Additionally, pay attention to sales and coupons in store circulars. Even small savings can help in the long run when you’re trying to stay on budget while buying all your children’s new school gear.

Want to earn cash back on all your back to school purchases this year? Apply for a Visa Signature Credit Card from First Financial! You’ll earn 1% cash back, no restrictions.*

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa® Signature Credit Card. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. APR varies from 13.9% to 18% for the Visa Signature Card when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date. Visa Signature Card Cash Back: Your First Financial Visa® Signature Credit Card will earn cash back based on your eligible purchase transactions. The cash back will be applied to your current credit card balance on a quarterly basis and be shown cumulatively on your billing statement. Unless you are participating in a limited time promotional offer, you will earn 1% cash back based upon eligible purchases each quarter.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

4 Easy Ways to Start Building Your Emergency Fund

Things happen. And then we have to spend money. Hopefully you’ve got some money put away to help out with life’s curve balls. If you don’t, it’s time to start that emergency fund. Here are some easy, pain-free ways you can build up some extra cash.

Start with your tax return: If you’re getting money back at the beginning of next year, a great destination for that cash would be your emergency fund. Start putting a little away now, and when that refund check comes, you can be on your way to having 3 to 6 months’ living expenses saved away.

Start a small direct deposit: Hardly anyone gets a paper check anymore, so you’re probably familiar with direct deposit. Another easy way to start that emergency fund is to open up a savings account and put a small amount into your account every week. If money’s tight, and you don’t feel like you can afford to take too much out of your check each pay period, then it’s okay to start small. $10 a week won’t hurt your wallet too much, but will still help you put away almost $1,000 a year. Add that to your tax return and you’re off to a good start.

Start with coins: You probably have loose change piled up in multiple areas right now. Throw all of that change into a jar and count it up. That loose change might not seem like much, but if all your change goes into your new emergency fund, you’ll be surprised at how fast it adds up.

Start clearing out that checking account: If you’ve budgeted well you may not have much “free” money left in your checking account after the bills have been paid, the groceries have been bought, and the 401k has been stocked. If there’s a good bit still floating around, move a little into your emergency fund. In fact, any time extra money finds its way into your pocket, put it away for emergencies.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Retire

There are probably hundreds of questions someone should ask themselves if they’re planning on retiring in the near future. Some of those questions may pertain to you and some may not. Here are three basic questions everyone should know the answer to before they start the retirement process.

Can you afford to retire?

This is easily the most important question when considering retirement. You may be ready to call it quits, but you need to make sure your income in retirement will be greater than your expenses. Is your house paid for? Do you plan on relocating? Do you have car payments? Can you max out your social security benefits if you wait a little bit longer? These are all things you should be thinking about before you declare yourself ready to retire.

What are you going to do?

You can’t just sit around all day. You’ve spent your adult life working 40 hours a week and now you have nothing to do. Are you going to travel? Pick up a hobby like woodworking or golf? Figure out how you want to spend your time in retirement so you’ll know how you’re going to be spending your money. If you’ve got grandkids nearby you may be starting a new life as a babysitter. Whether you do a lot in retirement or choose to do as little as possible, that’s okay – but it’s good to have a plan.

Who are you going to be doing it with?

You make a lot of friends at work. When work is a big part of your life, your coworkers are sometimes the only people you have time for. What are you going to do after you retire? Will those work relationships last? Do you spend a lot of time with family? Is your spouse still working? Plug yourself into activities or organizations that will keep you engaged with others. Finding ways to stay social will help keep you active and feeling young.

Questions about retirement planning? To set up a complimentary consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your savings goals, contact us at 732.312.1564, email samantha.schertz@cunamutual.com or stop in to see us!*

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Weekend Money Traps to Avoid – Round 2

When Friday arrives after a busy week and we gear up for free time over the weekend, it’s easy to fall hard into money traps. Here are some more money traps to consider this weekend and ways to avoid them.

The road trip: Doesn’t hitting the open road with a group of friends sound like a fun idea? While this is often a popular way to take a quick trip over the weekend, consider how much you will actually spend. First off, there’s the cost of driving. It can cost you up to $5 an hour on the gas alone, along with the eventual expenditures resulting from wear and tear on your vehicle. Then, there’s the food. Chances are while on the road, you’ll be eating fast food, which is not the best use of your money. Additionally, you will more than likely stay in a hotel along the way that can cost at least $75. So, if you do decide to take off on a weekend road trip, make smart choices. Decide how much you want to spend on gas and only travel as far as that will take you. Pack your food to save money (and the extra pounds the junk food will add to your waistline). Also, cut out the hotel cost and consider traveling to places where you have family and friends so you have a free place to crash.

The big event: Are you a sports fan? Do you love catching the hottest concert? These things are a lot of fun, but they will certainly cost you. Not only are the tickets expensive, but the refreshments and food at most venues are priced ridiculously high. Also, unless you live in a bigger city, chances are these big-ticket events aren’t actually taking place in your hometown. Therefore, not only will you have to buy the ticket, you’ll also spend money on travel and possibly hotel accommodations. Before you purchase your ticket, consider looking into local music shows or sporting events. While they may not be the hottest things out there, you can still have a very similar experience while supporting local artists or athletes.

The mall: We all know shopping can get expensive – but consider the mall the absolute worst place for weekend money traps. Not only is there an endless amount of stores where you can waste your money, there is also a food court and often a movie theater. The mall can literally be a one-stop shop for blowing your money and breaking your budget. While it can be fun to hit the mall where there’s something for everyone – before you do, think about what you actually need. Does your child need a new pair of shoes? If so, go directly to that store and nowhere else. If you’re just looking for a shopping experience, then hit the grocery store instead and get what you really need for the coming week.

If you missed the first article on weekend money traps, click here.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

How to Eliminate Debt Using the Snowball Method

The snowball method is a simple debt elimination strategy that can be employed by anyone of any income level to quickly pay off debt.

Begin by making a chart of all outstanding debt and list your monthly payment.

Then, organize your debt in order of highest monthly payment to lowest monthly payment.

Each month, pay the minimum payment on all debt except the lowest.

For the lowest debt, pay the minimum plus any extra you can. Ideally, pay double (or more if possible) to quickly pay off this loan.

After the lowest debt is paid off, roll what you were paying on it into the next lowest debt. It will be the next loan you pay off.

This accumulation method, like a snowball effect, works because it’s clear and concise.

By tackling the smallest debt first, it’s easier not to be overwhelmed. Once it’s paid off, you’ll feel more empowered to tackle debt after debt till there’s none left!

Article Source: Jennifer Reynolds for CUInsight.com