Ways to Make Back to School Shopping Happy and Frugal

Summer is winding down and the school season has arrived. Whether it’s for new clothes, backpacks, technology or books, the back to school season is one where there is a ton of shopping. Furthermore, no one ever wants to disappoint their children, so this is a time when you can really break the bank without even realizing it. If you are stressing about how you can frugally (and happily) get your kids back to school, keep reading!

1. Check Out Bargains All Year

Stocking up is always a great way to save money, and back to school supplies are no different. Throughout the year, school supplies are constantly sold at a discount. If you spend some time to stock up when things are on sale, all you need to do is bring those supplies out in August and give them to your kids.

2. The Dollar Store is Your Friend

This is one of the best kept back to school shopping secrets. A lot of the time, you can even find name brand merchandise for a dollar. Don’t underestimate hitting up your local dollar store before you shop for school supplies anywhere else.

3. Do Everything Online

Shopping online is convenient and frugal. Not only can you buy things for less, it also gets delivered to your door. Plus, many merchants offer free shipping too (depending on what you spend). If you plan in advance, this is probably the easiest way to shop.

4. Shop Late

There are always last minute deals and back to school time is no different. If you can wait on the items you need to buy, you might just be rewarded.

5. Shop Alone

Kids can be amazingly talented at wanting more than you can afford. In order to resist the temptation to satisfy them, shop alone. This way, they won’t be tempted by all the advertising in the stores and you can zip through and buy only what you actually need.

6. Shop Around

Sound shopping advice tells us to always compare prices. You can most likely find a place where the item you’re looking for is being sold for less, so be sure to check all sources first.

7. Second Hand is Not Second Class

Go to garage sales and see if you can pick up items for less. You just might find something very useful for the school year.  Another idea is to organize a back to school exchange program.  Do you live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids? Get all the parents on board and list out available items and see if other parents can take advantage of what someone else bought previously and is no longer using. If you can work out a deal where you can all trade amongst each other, it’s a win-win situation.

If you need additional help paying for back to school supplies and clothing, First Financial offers some of the lowest credit card rates around. To learn more about First Financial’s VISA® Credit Cards and apply today, please visit our credit cards page.*

*APR varies up to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are 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. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: David Ning for Moneyning.com

3 Ways to Cut Back on Your Food Budget

If you’re spending too much money on food, the easy remedy is to eat out less. If you’ve already done that, then you may be looking for ways to cut back on your grocery bill. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to spend less at the grocery store, here are a few things to think about.

Only buy food: It can really be convenient to get all your shopping done at one place, and if you’re buying groceries at Walmart or Target, you might be on to something. But if you’re using your local grocery store as the place you always buy shampoo or soap, you might be throwing money away. Even though you may have to make an extra trip, you can save money by getting those household items elsewhere.

Don’t shop so often: Every time you go to the grocery store, it can be tempting to grab an extra item or two that isn’t on your shopping list. If you’re shopping once or twice a week, those extra purchases can add up quick. Try to do your grocery shopping no more than once a week, make a list, and stick to it.

Pay attention to unit prices: If you buy a 24 pack of bottled water each week, check out that 36 pack instead. You may not think you have room for it, but buying those extra 12 bottles could save you money when you look at the unit price. However, unlike shopping at bulk stores like Costco, you can’t always count on the higher count items being cheaper at your local grocery store. Pay attention to what’s on sale, check those unit prices, and compare to get the best deal.

Happy shopping (and saving)!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Create a Back to School Shopping Plan That Won’t Break the Bank

It’s that time of year again!

Summertime is winding down. Teachers are prepping to return to their classrooms and start decorating. School supply lists are starting to surface. A new school year is right around the corner.

According to the Huntington Backpack Index, in the 2018-2019 school year, the amount parents paid in back-to-school supplies was estimated as follows:

  • $637 elementary school kids
  • $941 for middle school children
  • $1,355 for high school students

There’s no way around it – school shopping is expensive. But, it doesn’t have to be. Much like financial planning, saving on back-to-school shopping requires a plan as well. With the right planning and preparation, back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to break the bank.

Take inventory

Before you go shopping and buy tons of supplies, take inventory of your house. Check drawers and cabinets to see what supplies you have that can be used again. Look at backpacks, lunchboxes and even school clothes from last year to see what can be kept and what needs to be replaced. From there, make a list and determine what your child needs and what you have.

Get the school’s supply list

Generally, retailers like Target and Walmart usually have copies of local supply lists divided by grade, school, and district. Those lists are usually also available online before they’re in the store. Check the lists, do a little research regarding prices, and make a budget accordingly. You can even check with your child’s teacher to make sure you’re getting the most important items.

Don’t forget about discount stores and couponing

Do you want to save some real money? Purchase things like notebooks, pencils, and paper at discount stores or even your nearby dollar store. If you’re into couponing, you can save some big bucks there as well. Poke around the internet and see where the deals are before you hit the stores.

If you want to see actual savings, don’t go into back-to-school shopping without a plan. Rather than charging up your high interest credit card, talk with us about one of our credit card options or a low interest personal loan that works for you. You might be amazed at the savings you find.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be overwhelming or expensive. For help or questions about savings, check with any of our First Financial staff members. Stop by a branch or contact us today.

*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 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. 

5 Ways to Save on Your Child’s Back to School Apparel

Although it seems like summer just started, it’s already time for parents to start budgeting and planning their family’s back to school purchases. One big purchase that comes with going back to school is buying new clothes. Here are a few tips to help you save money.

Consignment

Does your city or town hold a big consignment sale in September or October? Get online and do some research to see if there is one near you. If not, search for a local consignment shop. You may be able to find a great back to school wardrobe or backpack at a fraction of the cost.

Don’t Buy Everything New

All of the clothing styles your kids are begging you to buy will probably go on sale by mid-October. If you can, wait for clothing to go on sale or clearance or a good store deal. For example, maybe your clothing budget for back to school is $100 for each child. Instead of spending all of it upfront, try splitting it up over the next few months to keep an eye out for better prices. Don’t forget that the holiday season is also a great time to ask for clothes for your kids too.

Coupons and Clearance

Many stores will also allow you to stack coupons on top of sale or clearance items. Some examples of stores that allow this are JCPenney, Target, Old Navy, and Kohl’s.

Hit Up Garage Sales

This is a great time of year to look for a garage sale in your local area. Try to find a yard sale that sells your child’s size. Search Craigslist the day before to screen which garage sales near you will be worth checking out.

Try Saving Money on Uniforms

If your child wears uniforms for school, then you already know they can be costly. It’s hard to find uniforms on clearance because they are usually made just for one particular school. Try getting in contact with parents of children older than yours, to ask them if you could buy their children’s outgrown uniforms. You can also ask the school if they have any uniforms that were donated and available for purchase. If there is not a system in place, think about starting one. Many parents would be thankful for the savings break.

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 15.15% 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: Ashley Eneriz for Moneyning.com

Don’t Fall into the Unexpected Expenses Trap

Let’s face it – adulting is hard. How many times have you and your friends sat around talking about the time when you had little to no responsibility? Long before the days of mortgages, kids and car payments. The carefree days when thinking about life insurance, retirement and 401(k)s seemed light years away.

Planning for the future and life’s unexpected events can be overwhelming, but it can also be  extremely beneficial. There’s a sense of financial security that comes with knowing you have a plan in place to handle the curve balls life likes to throw at you.

Create a budget

Having a budget isn’t a bad thing. Consider your budget a reflection of your priorities and values, rather than depriving yourself of the things you enjoy. Creating and keeping a monthly budget is the key to long lasting financial planning. It allows your money to work for you as you’re giving each dollar a purpose. It puts you back in control of your money.

No matter how much your income is, there’s always the potential to spend more than you make. There are several ways to set up a budget, but it ultimately comes down to what works best for you. Check out our budgeting 101 guidebook here.

Build up your emergency fund

There’s a quote that says, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

No matter how good or solid our plans may seem, sometimes life happens and our plans are pushed to the side. What happens if your car breaks down, you have to move, or your water heater has to be replaced? Illness and employment are equally as unpredictable. If you are laid off, how long could you pay your bills without living off credit cards or borrowing money? You’re not alone. Did you know that 40 percent of Americans can’t cover a $400 expense out of pocket?

This is why an emergency fund is paramount. Completely separate from a savings account, your emergency fund is specifically designed to cover your necessary monthly expenses.  Ideally, you should keep three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund at all times. Why? It covers you in the event of a layoff or medical emergency that leaves you unable to work.

Eliminate your debt

Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study showed that the average American has about $38,000 in personal debt, excluding home mortgages. Typically, that debt is a combination of credit cards, student loans, car loans, and personal loans. Credit card debt accounted for 25% of that debt. The study further showed that 2 in 10 Americans spend anywhere from 50% to 100% of their monthly income on debt repayment.

These are staggering facts. But there is hope in those dismal numbers. Getting out of debt takes discipline, and it’s not easy. Start by paying more than the minimum payment. If you’re only making the minimum payment, you’re only paying interest and not attacking the principle. Anything over the minimum payment is applied to the principle and knocks out that balance faster.

There are many helpful methods to reduce debt, and there are several free online and mobile debt repayment tools to help you track your progress as you pay down balances. Check out our credit management and debt reduction guidebook here.

Invest in your future

It’s never too early to invest in your future. If you don’t have a retirement plan such as a 401(k), IRA or stock investments – get one.

If you already have a retirement plan, that’s awesome! Think about increasing the percentage you’re contributing. It helps you save without making an effort, allows you to take advantage of the compound interest, and it reduces your taxable income.

Financial planning is just as personalized as each member we serve at First Financial. Let us help you get your future on track, by making an appointment with our Investment and Retirement Center.* Stop by your local branch or give us a call at 732.312.1500.

 *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.

Summer 2019 Newsletter

We hope you are enjoying the Summer sunshine – be sure to take a look at our Quarterly Member Newsletter to see what’s in store over the next couple months. In a continued effort to go green, we’re publishing our newsletter electronically – it can also be found on our website and social media sites. Paper copies will be available in our branches.

The Summer Newsletter features the following articles:

To view a copy of the newsletter, click here.

Wishing you a wonderful rest of your Summer!