How to Enjoy Summer Without Going Broke

Summer has arrived! Here are some less expensive alternatives to enjoying the season without breaking the bank.

Have a Picnic in the Park

Summer is a great time to be outside enjoying the warm weather. Gather your family, friends, or even just have a quiet day by yourself outdoors. Bring fruit, cheese, crackers, a blanket and a book. This is a great way to soak up the sun and relax. If you’re inviting a larger crowd – make it a potluck picnic, where everyone brings something to eat. Music, board games, and a Frisbee or ball to throw around also make great additions. A simple day at the park can be a lot of fun (and not too expensive either)!

Get Creative in the Kitchen

It’s nice to partake in buying yourself an iced coffee everyday, happy hour after work and trying new restaurants. But doing so several times a week can really add up. If you’re slightly strapped for cash this summer, think about getting creative in your kitchen at home. Make your own iced tea, iced coffee, and infused water. You can even add fruit and herbs to your ice cube tray, and freeze them to add refreshing flavor to your summer beverages. By working in your own kitchen instead of spending money out, you’ll save some cash and feel accomplished at the same time.

Enjoy Free Community Activities

In nearly every community, there are usually lots of activities in the summer ranging from free movies and concerts in the park, bike rides, festivals, craft shows, and more. Check out the various activities by looking at your community calendar, a local newspaper, as well as online. A little bit of research can result in a ton of free or low-cost activities that are fun for the whole family. If you’re in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey – check out our monthly Things to Do on a Budget blog posts!

Go on a Summer Purge

If you didn’t partake in a major spring cleaning, now is a great time to go through all your clothing, paperwork, and items around the house.  If you haven’t used it in six months, it’s probably a good idea to either throw it out, recycle it, donate it, or sell it. Having a purge in the summer is a wonderful time to have a garage sale and declutter. You can make some extra cash and learn to live with only what you need.

Write Letters to Family and Friends

Have you ever noticed that nearly all of your mail is typically either a bill or junk? The only time our mailboxes really get any love is during the holiday season. If you aren’t traveling for the summer to see friends or family, write them a letter and maybe include some photos. It will be an unexpected surprise for the receiver and also boost your mood!

Explore Your Neighborhood

You may think you know your neighborhood inside and out, but there may be certain hidden corners and areas that are undiscovered. Be a tourist in your own city. Go for a walk and get lost. Enjoy a bike ride on a different path. Make a wrong turn. Appreciate the little things and actively look for things you’ve never seen before. Having a new perspective can show you things you may have been missing out on, right in your own backyard.

Host a Themed Party

As fun as traveling is, it can definitely be pricey. If you can’t get away this summer to your desired destination, do the next best thing and host a themed party instead. If you are dreaming of going to Japan, have a sushi night and invite some friends and family over. If you are wishing for island beaches, make some Caribbean food, put on some island music, and print out some tropical photos. Having a themed event can be fun and inspire you to save, so you can make your dream trip happen in the future.

Summer is a great time to explore, get together with friends and family, and enjoy the outdoors. There are plenty of ways you can do it for less, so you can still have some summer fun without breaking the bank.

Article Source:  Melanie Lockert for Moneyning.com

How to Manage Financial Stress

Are you financially stressed? Here are a few tips to help you maintain your cool and get back on track to achieving your financial goals.

Focus on the positive.

If you’re in debt, it’s a lot easier to focus on the negative. However, staying positive can help you remain calm and clear your head. List out the positive aspects of your money management skills, so that you can clearly recognize your financial strengths. You may be able to expand on those strengths to provide yourself with a solution.

Look back at your budget.

Go over your bills and expenditures with a fine tooth comb. There are always things that you can cut back on, so try to reduce any expenses and put that money to better use. Setting up an emergency fund, paying off debt, and putting money toward retirement are all good options.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

Its human nature to feel jealousy when you feel like you’re missing out. Avoid the fear of losing out by not comparing yourself to those around you. You don’t know their financial status – they may have material wealth, but could still be in worse shape.

Meet with a professional.

In most cases, stress comes from the unknown. If you don’t understand your finances – it can be stressful, but it will only get worse if you don’t ask for help. Before things get worse, seek someone who deals with similar situations every day.  If you are a First Financial member, we offer complimentary annual financial reviews. Stop into your nearest branch or contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Embrace the concern.

You shouldn’t be worrying about money all the time, but a little bit of worry can help you stay aware, keep your spending in line, and your savings on track.

Article source: Tyler Atwell for CUInsight.com

5 Ways to Get a New Car for Less

Premium styling. Flawless paint. Glistening tires. That unmistakable new car smell. Everything about a new vehicle practically begs you to buy it. When you close your eyes and think about driving your brand new set of wheels off the lot, it quickens your pulse a little, doesn’t it? Shopping for your next vehicle is a uniquely exciting experience. Usually until you look at the price tag, that is.

If you haven’t priced cars recently, you may be surprised by the figures you find. According to a recent report by Edmunds, the average loan amount for a new car jumped to more than $32,000, and the average monthly payment rose to $558. Sure, the latest models may be nice, but facts are facts—that’s a lot of money to pay for a car.

Now, before we go any further, if you’ve been saving up for your dream car and figured out how to buy it without demolishing your budget, then by all means – go for it! But if you find yourself in the market for a new vehicle and you want to avoid overspending, we’ve got five tips to help you hang onto more of your hard earned money.

5 Ways to Save Money When Buying a Car

Do your research.

The last thing you want to do is show up to a car lot with no idea what you’re looking for. Lack of preparation puts you at the mercy of the salesperson. And while they may be genuinely nice people, sales professionals make their living by getting you to buy a product at the highest price possible. So, before you head to a dealership, narrow down your choices by doing your research. Thanks to the Internet, companies like NADA, Car and Driver, and CarsDirect can help you sort thousands of options by everything from location to price to trim packages.

Get preapproved. ​​

Once you’ve determined which vehicle fits your preferences and meets your needs, it’s smart to get preapproved for financing. There’s a good chance you’ll find better financing rates through your local credit union than through another lender. Once you’re preapproved, you’ll know how much you can afford, what interest rate you’ll pay, and what your monthly payments will be. This information gives you the upper hand in price negotiations and keeps you from getting distracted by dealer tactics that focus strictly on monthly payments. Preapproval lets you negotiate based on the most important aspect—price.

Shop for incentives.

When sales are lower than expected, automakers will often extend money saving incentives to encourage buyers to purchase their vehicles. This is an instance where the manufacturer’s loss can be your gain. If you’re not already loyal to a particular make or model, you may be able to take advantage of dealer incentives such as discounts, rebates, and lower APR on financing. If you are loyal to a specific type of car, that can work in your favor as well, as some car companies will offer customer loyalty incentives to encourage you to keep driving their cars.

Ask for a lower rate. 

There are plenty of books, websites, and podcasts that offer tips and tricks on negotiating more effectively. While most of their ideas have merit, there’s one suggestion that may seem a little too simple and straightforward—ask for a better deal. In most cases, a dealer or salesperson will start negotiations with an offer that benefits them the most. Asking them to do better is part of the game. To give yourself the best chance of success, be polite and be prepared to walk away. Some dealers will play hardball, but when they have an interested buyer (especially one with preapproved financing), most would rather sell a car for a little less than let it sit on the lot and hope another buyer comes along.

Choose a used car instead.

Maybe this tip isn’t exactly a way to “get a new car for less,” but it is an excellent way to save money on your next vehicle purchase. Since most new cars depreciate an average of 20% in the first year and nearly 50% after five years, buying a preowned vehicle is a smart way to steer clear of that depreciation. It’s also worth mentioning that in addition to their lower upfront prices, used cars usually cost less to insure. Save now. Save later. That’s a pretty convincing sales pitch, isn’t it?

When you’re ready to start shopping for your next car, we’re confident that you can handle the research portion. But when it comes to the financing and preapproval, do yourself a favor and contact us here at First Financial. We may be able to offer you a lower rate and more flexible terms than a traditional bank or lender.* Give us a call today. You’ve got nothing to lose — except months of unnecessary interest payments!

*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. 

 

5 Nontraditional Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding

Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life, but it can also be one of the most expensive. You want your day to be perfect, but with the average cost of a wedding totaling $25,200 – that price tag is hard to swallow. That’s a lot of money to pay for a few hours of celebration.

Thankfully, you don’t have to spend your life savings or go into a huge amount of debt to have a fabulous wedding. You can still have a beautiful day on a tight budget. Here are 5 tips to help you save on your special day.

1. Set the Date During Off-Peak Seasons

One of the first steps to planning a wedding is setting the date. Choosing the right one has a big effect on your budget. Wedding season tends to run from April to October, and during this time – costs can be a lot higher. If you’re flexible, consider scheduling your wedding during an off-peak season or less popular time of year. Additionally, Saturday is the most popular day of the week for weddings by far. While it may be slightly inconvenient for you and your guests, a weekday or Sunday afternoon wedding can save you a lot of cash.

2. Rent Your Dress

For women, choosing the dress is one of the most exciting parts of the wedding planning process. Your dress is probably something you have been dreaming about for years – but the fact of the matter is, most dresses don’t come cheap. Do you really want to end up paying thousands of dollars for a dress you’re only wearing for a few hours?  In order to avoid this, many women are now renting wedding dresses for their big day.  This way, you can get your dream dress and still save money.

3. Limit the Options at the Bar

Your guests will undoubtedly be looking forward to the open bar at your wedding. But, you don’t necessarily need to go all out either. To save money on drinks, you have a couple options. You could limit the bar to wine and beer only — just don’t forget about champagne for toasts! Even though the selection will be limited, the drinks will be flowing and your guests will still have a great time.

4. Get Creative with the Venue

Traditionally, most weddings are held in a hotel, country club, or banquet hall – but these locations tend to be the most expensive. To save money, get creative with your venue. Think of places that mean something to you and your partner – like a park, library, or aquarium. You might be able to get a good deal on a nontraditional approach to your venue. Just be sure to get all the licenses and permits you’ll need before moving forward with the ceremony.

5. Stay True to the Purpose

Wedding planning can definitely get a little crazy. And sometimes, you might want to spend more money just to please everyone. However, the most important thing for you and your partner (as well as your budget) to remember – is that the wedding day is to celebrate you merging your lives into one. Stay true to yourselves, and keep the purpose of the day in perspective.  If there’s one thing to remember, it’s this: stop stressing and enjoy the celebration.

Coming into your special day with the right attitude will allow you to focus on the true purpose of what a wedding is supposed to be. And doing so will allow you to have more money to spend on the honeymoon and your married life together!

Getting married in the Monmouth or Ocean County NJ area? Apply for a Financial Helper Wedding Loan from First Financial. We’ll help you cover the expense of your big day with a low interest rate!*

*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 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. Federally insured by NCUA.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com

How Much Does it Take to Be Rich?

The results of a recent YouGov survey show that most Americans think you need to make $100,000 per year to be considered “rich.” Assuming you weren’t one of the people interviewed for that survey, does $100,000 a year sound like wealth to you? What if someone makes less than six figures per year? Can they still be considered wealthy? How can someone with a goal of getting rich know when they’ve finally arrived?

What does “rich” even mean? Here’s the challenging thing about defining what it means to be rich or wealthy—it’s all relative. In a recent article for CNBC, reporter Kathleen Elkins shared that, according to a recent Global Wealth Report, “If you have just $4,210 to your name, you’re better off than half of the people around the globe.” That report went on to show that anyone with a net worth of $93,170 or more ranks in the world’s wealthiest 10 percent. How about that? It turns out wealth has little to do with your income after all.

Yes, earning a lot of money can help you build wealth, but there’s more to it than that. We’ve all heard stories of individuals who made massive amounts of money yet wound up broke and bankrupt. At the same time, there are many examples of ordinary people who earned average salaries and somehow managed to retire with extraordinary wealth and financial stability. When you analyze their stories, you find that those who were successful focused less on their income and more on their net worth. If you want to “get rich,” you’ll need to make your money work for you instead of the other way around.

Net worth is the key to lasting wealth. Maybe net worth is a new concept for you, maybe it’s not. Either way, let’s define the term for the sake of clarity. Credit Suisse, the research institute that compiled the Global Wealth Report mentioned above, defines net worth as “the value of financial assets plus real assets (principally housing) owned by households, minus their debt.” Simply put, your net worth is the difference between what you own and what you owe. By this definition, it’s easy to see why income is only part of the wealth equation. You might earn $250,000 per year, but if your debt and payments outweigh your income and assets, you’re just broke at a higher level.

Do you want to get rich? Start with these simple steps.

Follow a budget. Whether you make minimum wage or a CEO’s salary, it’s essential to have a plan for how you’ll spend your money. Some experts recommend zero-based budgeting, which means you’ll designate where every single dollar will go during the month, starting with your basic needs (housing, food, utilities) and financial obligations (credit card payments, loan installments) and placing any remaining funds into savings. Others recommend a broader 50/20/30 guideline, which dedicates 50% of your income to needs, 20% to savings, and 30% to wants. These are only two out of many budgeting approaches. There are pros and cons to each, so take your time and find the right fit for your financial situation. Remember, the best budget for you is the budget you actually follow.

Minimize your debt. To create a substantial net worth, it just makes sense to limit your debt. If you’re starting out on your own and haven’t racked up mountains of debt, do your best to keep it that way. If you’ve made some poor financial decisions that left you saddled with considerable debt—especially high-interest consumer loans and credit card balances, create a plan for paying off that debt as quickly as possible. If you need help formulating a plan, you can find a variety of resources online – including this First Scoop blog. You can also contact your local credit union to see if they offer debt counseling services. If you live, work, worship, volunteer or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in NJ – you can make an appointment at your nearest branch to go over your financial situation and come up with a debt management plan that works for you. Once your money is no longer going to pay off debt, you’ll be able to take significant strides toward building wealth.

Invest in assets. Speaking of strides toward building wealth, investing in appreciable assets can help build your net worth. The most common assets are real estate, stocks, and bonds. While real estate varies by location and depends on fluctuating market conditions, it is historically a safe investment that typically increases over time. Buying individual stocks is another way to grow your money, but this kind of investing can often be a high risk, high reward proposition. If you’re looking for stable growth over time, investment products like 401(k) accounts and mutual funds offer stability through diversification. Since there are so many investment options available, it’s always a good idea to consult a qualified financial advisor before committing your hard-earned money. Be sure to contact First Financial’s Investment and Retirement Center to learn more and get started today.*

So, how much does it take to be rich? That answer is going to be different for everyone. Your situation is unique, which means your road to riches will be as well. Fortunately, you don’t have to plan your route alone as a First Financial member. Our dedicated staff is ready to help you find your starting point, establish your monetary goals, and select the best products and services to accomplish your financial dreams.

*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.