5 Reasons You’re in Debt

Are you in debt and not sure how you got there? Some of these reasons may be the culprit.

1. You justify your purchases

Don’t try to rationalize unnecessary purchases. On some level, we are all guilty of this. Between “I deserve this” and “I need this,” we’re constantly making excuses for spending money. This doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself, but do it affordably and make sure you budget for it.

2. You refuse to address your debt

The first stage of grief is denial, and dealing with debt can look very similar. Do not ignore your debt. As difficult as it is, you need to face your debt head on. Understand what you owe and create a plan of attack.

3. You are an impulse spender

With next day shipping and one-click shopping, this has never been a more prevalent issue for consumers. These purchases are beyond trying to justify, and that impulse is what is hurting your wallet. Try holding off on some purchases unless you’ve given them some thought, or saved up first.

4. You assume you are going to make more later

A great example of this is taking on student loans. Most students don’t have a choice if they want to go to college, and are now graduating with debt upward of $40,000 in hopes that they can land a job that will pay them enough to pay it back. In other cases, people are making purchases because they think they will be up for a promotion or have a raise around the corner. Even if all of these things do come to fruition, you will still be paying more in interest than if you’d waited.

5. You often dip into savings for expenses

J.P. Morgan once said, “if you have to ask how much it is, you can’t afford it.” When you look at a price tag and immediately start thinking about how to move money around, take a step back. Once that money goes into your savings, it should disappear from your thoughts. The only time you should ever spend money from savings is when there’s an emergency and you need to use your emergency fund.

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CUinsight.com

How to Pay Off Your Holiday Credit Card Debt in 3 Months or Less

The holidays are a time for joy, family, giving … and racking up debt. More than a quarter of Americans have fallen into debt paying for holiday expenses — and it’s not a small amount of debt either. Overall, the average amount owed among those with holiday debt was more than $1,000. Of course, it’s easy to feel the pressure to spend during the holidays. But you don’t want to let overspending set you back financially in the new year. So if you ended up charging a little too much in 2018, here’s how to quickly pay off your holiday debt and start 2019 off on the right financial foot.

1. Figure Out How Much Debt You Have

To pay off your holiday debt quickly, you need to know what you’re dealing with. That means opening your credit card bills or checking your statements online. Add up all your balances to get a clear picture of how much holiday debt you have.

2. Develop the Right Debt Payoff Mindset

You might feel overwhelmed by how much you owe. But you can find the motivation to pay it off by focusing on the benefits of being debt free. Ask yourself why it is important to you to pay off your debt and what you’ll do with the extra money once your debt is paid. Having a specific goal will give you willpower to pay your debt off and not continue to charge. Maybe your goal is a vacation to Hawaii this summer. Print out a photo of your financial goal and keep it somewhere that you will be forced to look at it daily, and remind yourself that you’ll book the vacation once your holiday credit card debt is paid off and you start to save that money for your trip.

3. Create a Debt Payoff Plan

Another way to avoid feeling overwhelmed by your debt is breaking down the total you owe into manageable amounts. For example, if you have $1,000 of holiday debt and want to pay it off in three months, you’d need to make monthly payments of about $333. If you get paid twice a month, that’s about $166 per paycheck — or $11 a day. You could also make a chart showing how much you need to pay each week or month to eliminate your debt and track your progress.

4. Start as Soon as Possible

You don’t have to wait until you get your credit card bills to start making payments. The more frequently you make payments, the less interest you’ll end up paying and the more quickly you’ll be paid off. If you can, consider making weekly or biweekly payments.

5. Try Paying Off High-Rate Debt First

Focusing on your credit card or loan with the smallest balance first and making only minimum payments on other debt can help you feel a sense of accomplishment and build momentum to pay off bigger debt. However, you could actually pay off what you owe faster by prioritizing your debt with the highest interest rate.

6. Find Expenses You Can Temporarily Eliminate

To pay off your holiday debt quickly, take a look at what you might be able to live without for a few months. You could cancel some subscription services, eliminate lunches out and make coffee at home to free up extra cash for debt repayment.

7. Minimize Costs You Can’t Eliminate

You can’t eliminate all of your monthly expenses, but there are plenty you can reduce. For example, can you call and try to cut your phone or cable bill? Every little bit helps.

8. Make Extra Money for Debt Payments

After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, take time to go through your stuff to find things you no longer need that you can sell for cash. You can sell DVDs, books, clothing, tech items and unwanted gift cards online. You also could pick up a side hustle in your free time to bring in extra money for debt repayment.

9. Make Use of Credit Card Rewards

If you have cash back or rewards credit cards, consider putting them to use to help pay off your holiday debt.

10. Stick to Cash

If you want to pay off holiday debt quickly, you have to avoid racking up more debt. Allot yourself a certain amount of cash each week. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Not only can using cash help reduce your reliance on credit, but also it might help reduce your overall spending.

11. Create an After-Action Plan

After paying off your holiday debt, you need to take steps to avoid racking up debt again next holiday season. Create a savings plan to have enough cash for the holidays in 2019. Just as you created a plan to pay off debt by breaking down what you owed into smaller payments, you can figure out what you need to save based on 2018 holiday spending. Then, divide that amount by the number of months left in the year until the holidays to know how much you need to set aside each month.

Article Source: Cameron Huddleston for Gobankingrates.com

Don’t Let These Mistakes Ruin Your Credit Score

When it comes to your finances, your credit score can be a big deal. A good credit score can mean big savings (or costs) if you take out a loan. Good credit can also mean lower costs when you get car insurance in some states.

If you have good credit, you’ve worked hard to manage your finances and your loans in a way that shows you are responsible. You are proving that you are a solid risk. But what happens if you slip up? How much could that ruin your score?

According to the major credit bureaus, the damage affects different people differently. One late payment will affect a person with a lower score, but it’ll have a much bigger impact on someone with a really high score. That’s right: if you have great credit now, a mistake could mean a bigger hit to your credit score. Someone with mediocre credit won’t see the same impact as the result of a mistake.

Do you have an excellent credit history and want to keep it that way? Here are some things to avoid if you want to keep that credit score in the good to excellent range:

Missed Payments

The biggest factor in your credit score is your payment history. One missed payment can tank your credit score, if you have excellent credit – by as much as 100 points, according to Equifax.

The longer you wait to pay your bill, the worse the impact. If you are just a couple days late, you might not see a huge change. However, once you reach that 30-day late mark, it’s a big problem.

Do your best to plan your finances so you make your payments on time and in full. Easier said than done, but it’s much easier to stay on track if you have a budget. If you don’t, get working on one. Check out our free budgeting guide.

High Credit Utilization

If you have excellent credit, there’s a good chance you carry small balances on your cards — if you carry them at all. Best results come when you use 30% or less of your available credit each month.

But when you start charging, and that credit utilization number starts to climb, you can see changes to your credit score without realizing it. The closer you are to your limit on the credit cards, the more it impacts your score.

If you end up over the limit on your cards, then your score will suffer. Try to continue keeping balances low. Better yet, pay off your cards each month if you can and avoid paying the interest.

Cosigning on a Loan

One day you may want to help your child or sibling by cosigning on a loan. It might seem like a good idea to cosign on a loan to give them a boost, but think twice before you commit.

Your credit is on the line as soon as you sign on the dotted line, because you accepted responsibility for all payments as a cosigner. Plus, it will look like you have that debt — even if you don’t, and that can affect how much you can borrow if you were to, say apply for a mortgage on a dream home. If the borrower misses a payment, that’s on you as well. You can see your credit score fall.

And if you do cosign, make sure the borrower keeps you up to speed. It may not be ideal to make their loan payments, but at least it can save your credit if you do.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for Moneyning.com

The Pros and Cons of Store Credit Cards

We’ve all approached a register to complete a purchase and were asked if we’d be interested in applying for a store credit card. And with the holiday shopping season about to get in full swing, chances are – you are going to be asked more than usual. There are pros and cons to having a store credit account, so make sure you take a good look before you open one.

Pro: They are easier to get

Application requirements for store credit cards are generally less strict than regular credit cards, so chances are you’re more than likely to get approved. If you’re looking to get a card from a store you often visit, this should make you happy and save you some money (provided you don’t rack up a balance).

Con: They carry higher interest rates

The average store credit card is 8-10 points higher in interest than regular credit cards. This may not be a big deal if you’re only using the card sparingly, but a few big purchases that aren’t paid off completely by month end could come back to haunt you.

Pro: They help you build credit

If you’re young and haven’t had a chance to build any credit, a store credit card could be very helpful. It’s easier to be approved for one so you wouldn’t need much credit history to qualify. A purchase or two a month will put you on the road to good credit too. Just make sure you pay the card off each month.

Con: Their use is limited

Some store credit cards may allow you to use them at sister companies, but for the most part, you’ll only use them in the store that issues them. That might be fine if it’s a store like Target or another retailer that you often visit, but overall it won’t be a very versatile card.

Pro: They provide in-store rewards

A lot of cards will reward the user with discounts and promotions which can provide great value. Free shipping for instance, is a perk that is appreciated. Just be sure these benefits don’t cause you to overspend either!

First Financial’s Visa Credit Cards offer benefits that include higher credit lines, lower APRs, no annual fees, no balance transfer fees, a 10-day grace period, rewards (cash back or on travel & retailer gift cards), an EMV security chip, and more!* And they can be used anywhere Visa is accepted.

 Click here to learn about our credit card options and apply online today.

 *APR varies 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. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight

4 Ways to Quickly Raise Your Credit Score

1. Don’t miss a payment.

This is the number one thing that credit bureaus look at when determining your credit score. Your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO score. If you have trouble remembering to pay your credit card on time, set a reminder on your phone or automatically schedule your payment to be deducted from your account on the same day each month.

2. Pay as often as you can.

Going a step further, pay on your debt as often as you can. Just because your payment isn’t due for 3 weeks, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go ahead and make a payment. You don’t know when your credit card company reports your balance to the credit bureaus, so try to keep your balance as low as possible.

3. Reduce your debt.

Even if you’re making regular payments on your credit card, the goal is to get it paid off. If you’re keeping a balance from month to month, you’re getting charged more interest than you should be. Try and pay off your balance each month, but if that’s not possible, keep your balance as low as you can and your credit utilization under 30%.

4. See if you can increase your credit limit.

This is more of a trick than a solution, but it can work for you. If you’ve used $950 on a $1,000 limit, try calling your credit card company and getting that limit raised to $2,000. Then you’ve got a card that’s only 50% utilized as opposed to one that’s nearly maxed out. It doesn’t hurt to at least ask!

Learn about managing your credit and reducing debt with our guide.

Article source: John Pettit for CUinsight.com

 

9 Things to Remember When Using Your First Credit Card

Getting your first credit card is a significant financial milestone. After sorting through an endless array of program options and promotional offers, you made your choice, filled out the application, and saw those two magic words: You’re approved!

After the initial excitement wears off, it’s important to remember that just like your first car, your first credit card comes with a lot of responsibility. While it may be tempting to grab some friends to take the new plastic for a test drive, it’s a good time to exercise a little restraint. The financial decisions you make now will have long-term effects. It only takes a momentary lapse in judgement, to make a mistake that could follow you for years to come.

Before you start exercising your newfound financial freedom, here are a few tips to make sure your first credit card experience is a positive one:

1. Pay attention to the fine print. Even if you don’t need reading glasses, you may want to have a pair handy. The big credit card companies tend to sneak stuff in the small print. Introductory interest rates can be attractive (like 0% APR for a certain amount of time), but once those offers expire, you could be left paying higher interest on your purchases. Not to mention, if you are carrying a balance when your 0% offer expires – you could be left to pay an extremely high APR on that balance.

2. Don’t be a card counter. If you have multiple cards, it can be tempting to spend more than you intended. Also, it makes your wallet pretty large – which makes for uneven seating or a heavy purse. Simplify your life – stick to a single card, and keep the credit limit sensible.

3. Consistency pays off. This simple step will help you avoid additional interest charges, and it’s an effective way to build an excellent credit rating.

4. Always pay your bill on time. Late payment charges are usually more expensive than your minimum payment, which can make it hard to keep up with your bill. If you’re worried that you’ll forget the due date, most cards offer an automatic payment option. Use it. Or set a recurring reminder for yourself on your phone or a computer calendar.

5. It’s your budget, don’t fudge it. Try to think of your credit card as for emergencies only. Do your best to continue using your checking account or cash to cover everyday expenses. Your credit card is like that friend you call when you need help moving or a ride to the airport. There when you need it, but not to be overused.

6. Steer clear of cash advances. These advances usually charge a higher interest rate than regular credit card purchases. The convenience isn’t worth the cost.

7. Keep your monthly credit card payments to less than 20% of your income. Once your bill exceeds that amount, it becomes exponentially more difficult to stick to a sensible, reasonable budget.

8. Review your credit card statements each month. In addition to being a smart way to track your spending, regular monitoring is the most effective way to combat credit card fraud and identity theft.

9. Be honest with yourself. If you find that your spending gets out of hand, there’s no shame in putting your credit card away (or getting rid of it all together), until you correct your bad financial habits.

Credit cards can be useful tools for emergencies, and when used properly, they can help you maintain a strong credit rating. But with so many card options available today, it is essential to choose the one that’s right for you.

If you haven’t secured your first card yet and are wondering where to find a trustworthy offer, First Financial Federal Credit Union offers a variety of Visa Credit Cards to meet your financial needs. If you’re looking to build, establish, or re-establish credit – our Secured Visa is a great place to start. We also have a low rate Visa Platinum Card, where you’ll earn rewards points on all your purchases, or our cash back Visa Signature Card.* If you live, work, worship, attend school, or volunteer in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in NJ – we’ve got the perfect credit card to fit your lifestyle. Learn more here, and apply online 24/7.

 *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. 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. 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.