Tips for Stocking Your Pantry to Help Cut Food Costs

Like most Americans, your dining out and grocery bills are probably really adding up lately – as inflation and higher economic costs continue to sky rocket. The USDA reports that food inflation is at a 14 year high, with grocery store shopping and eating out costing consumers about 6% more this year than last.

However, you can work smarter instead of harder to help curb some of your food expenses. Here are some suggestions on how to keep your home pantry stocked with staple items that will last you awhile, save money by cooking and eating meals at home, and add some variety to your diet as well.

Here are some essential non-perishable ingredients to always have on hand at home:

  • Whole grains – Oats, quinoa, rice, muffin mix, tortillas, cereal. Bread and bagels will also have a longer shelf life if refrigerated or frozen and used one by one as needed.
  • Pasta
  • Beans/legumes – Chickpeas, lentils, all types of beans (black, kidney, lima, etc.)
  • Baking ingredients – Flour, sugars, baking powder and soda, vanilla or other flavored extracts.
  • Nuts – Almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
  • Oil and vinegar
  • Condiments – Mayo, mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, hot sauce, honey, BBQ sauce, jarred olives and pickles.
  • Jarred sauces
  • Dried herbs and spices – Pepper, salt, cumin, Italian seasoning, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, garlic and onion powder.

There are also some pantry staples that would be a good idea to have on hand in addition to what’s listed above, to whip up a quick and inexpensive meal. These items will also last you a decent amount of time unopened in your pantry as well:

  • Canned tomatoes
  • Peanut/almond butters
  • Coconut milk
  • Broths/stocks
  • Canned corn
  • Canned tuna and chicken
  • Jarred salsa
  • Capers
  • Raisins and dried cranberries
  • Maple syrup

You may be asking – what can you make with some of these pantry ingredients? To name a few ideas to start, think quesadillas, homemade hummus, pasta with sauce, granola bars, teriyaki sauce to go over rice or chicken, and pancakes. All of these are simple to make, and will use ingredients you already have at home.

Here are also some food ideas to store in your freezer to have on hand:

  • Frozen vegetables like spinach, peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
  • Frozen berries to make smoothies or smoothie bowls
  • Chicken tenders
  • Ground beef
  • Burgers, hotdogs or veggie patties

Here are some food staples to keep in your refrigerator that will last a little longer than other more perishable foods:

  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Nut milks (Almond milk will last much longer than regular milk).
  • Cheeses (Cream cheese, parmesan cheese, cheddar, shredded mozzarella).
  • Yogurt

Another idea that always goes over well (especially if you have kids) is breakfast for dinner, using many of the ingredients listed in this blog post. This is an easy, inexpensive, and fun way to make an at home meal a special treat!

If you follow the above tips and keep your pantry stocked, you’ll definitely see some savings on your grocery bill over time and not have to go to the store as often. Not to mention, it’s typically healthier to eat at home too. You can even make it a fun household activity and spend quality time together, by giving each person a job in the kitchen to help put together a great family meal.

In the end – you’ll be saving on food costs, spending time together, and eating a delicious meal. You really can’t put a price tag on that!

Article Source: The Penny Hoarder

How to Finance Your Home Improvement Project

Whether you’re preparing to sell or are just due for an upgrade, renovating your home can help increase its value over time and keep it up to date. Financing a home improvement project, however, takes a lot of planning and consideration. Thinking ahead will save you headaches in the future, so make sure to consider these options before you start your next renovation endeavor.

Save, save, save

The safest option for financing your home improvement project is to save as much money as you can. First, determine a ballpark range of how much the project could cost total, and then make a plan to start saving. While it will take time to build up savings, you won’t have to worry about paying back a large sum of money later. So, if you’re not in a rush to get started – building your savings may be the best option.

If you want to open a savings account for your renovation project, we’re here to help!* Contact us or stop by your local branch to speak with a representative.

Consider your loan options

There are a variety of loan options out there to assist in financing your remodeling project. Here are a few to consider, all of which are available here at First Financial!

  • Home improvement loans: This type of loan is an unsecured personal loan that doesn’t need to use your home as collateral to qualify. Lenders will use your credit score to determine your interest rate and qualifications.**
  • Home equity loans: Similar to a home improvement loan, home equity loans are paid out in a lump sum that you can repay overtime in regular fixed monthly payments.***
  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC): A HELOC is a secure loan backed by your home allowing you to qualify for lower interest rates. Our HELOCs have a maximum borrow amount of $75,000 and an LTV of up to 70%, and allow you to advance from your approved credit line as you need it. ++

Use a credit card

For smaller home improvements, credit cards with a lower interest rate may be a good option, especially if you can find a card with added perks. At First Financial, we offer 4 credit card options that each have benefits like a 10-day grace period and no annual fees.+ Our Visa Platinum and Signature Cash Plus cards, for example – offer UChoose Rewards on all purchases that are redeemable for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and cash back.

If you’re still unsure what would be the best route for financing your home improvement project, you can rest assured knowing our financial experts are happy to give you advice based on your situation. Contact us to get started, or stop in to your local branch to speak with a representative today!

 

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership before opening any other account/loan. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Some restrictions apply, contact the Credit Union for more information.

 **Available on primary residence only. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Home Improvement Loan and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth of Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. Rate will vary based off of applicant’s credit rating. Not all applicants who apply will be approved, subject to underwriting guidelines and credit approval. Lien position and appraisal valuation may affect the maximum loan amount. Not all applicants will qualify for maximum Loan to Value (LTV) ratio. It will be based off of creditworthiness, property type, occupancy, lien position, and loan amount. Rates will be affected by LTV or combined LTV if there is another lien on the property. Loan amounts over $7,500.00 will be required to give First Financial FCU a security interest in their property. Rates will vary based off of lien position and whether the loan is mortgage secured or unsecured. For mortgage secured Home Improvement loans First Financial FCU (FFFCU) will waive closing costs at inception of loan. If loan is terminated within the first 2 years of opening, closing cost waiver is revoked and are required to be paid back by member to FFFCU.

 ***First Financial FCU (FFFCU) will waive closing costs at inception of loan. If loan is terminated within the first 2 years of opening, closing cost waiver is revoked and the borrower(s) will be required to pay back closing costs in full to FFFCU. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Home Equity Loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See FFFCU for details or visit firstffcu.com for all current rates. Rates for financing up to 80% of Appraised Value less other Mortgages.

 +APR varies from 11.15% to 18% for the Visa Simply First Platinum Card and from 13.15% to 18% for the Visa Signature Cash Plus, Visa Platinum Cash Plus and Visa First Step Cards when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases 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: Balance Transfer and Cash Advance Fees of 3% or $10, whichever is greater; Late Payment Fee of $29, $10 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of $29. 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.

++ LTV= Loan to Value Ratio. Rates will vary with the market based on Prime Rate and may change quarterly. Subject to credit approval. Available on primary or secondary homes only. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a home equity line of credit, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to underwriting guidelines. See credit union for details. 

Tips for Improving Your Financial Literacy

April is Financial Literacy Month, so we’re sharing our top tips for improving your financial wellness. Whether you’re new to managing a budget or are looking to save for a big future purchase, these tips will help you achieve your goals while maintaining a reasonable financial balance.

What is financial literacy?

Financial literacy refers to the knowledge and use of financial management skills, including budgeting, investing, saving, etc. By having an understanding of finances, you’ll be able to make better financial decisions. Achieving financial literacy is a lifelong process that requires continuous learning and management, and we’re here to help!

Here are our best tips for improving your financial literacy.

Learn how to budget

Don’t let the idea of creating a budget scare you. If anything, successfully building and maintaining a budget can be empowering. Start by creating a list of essential expenses including housing costs, food, transportation, clothing, internet, cell phone, insurance, and more. Then, write down how much you spend on each. From there, you’ll need to add up your monthly income and deduct your expenses. The amount leftover should be used toward building your savings and/or for any less essential purchases.

Improve your credit score

Maintaining a good credit score is an important part of your financial future. Without a good score, you’ll have difficulty securing a loan or mortgage down the line. Here’s what you can do over time to better your credit:

  • Pay your bills on time
  • Pay off or pay down your credit cards
  • Don’t close any open credit cards, but slow down opening new credit card accounts
  • Contact a financial expert – like us!

Open a savings account

Whether you need an emergency fund, money for retirement, or to pay a large expense – having a savings account is essential. You can start by dedicating a certain amount of your paycheck toward your savings. While it’s recommended to keep 20% of your income for savings and debt repayment, you’ll need to evaluate what works within your budget and when you’ll need the funds. Even if you’re starting small, you’ll be surprised how quickly the account can grow!

Want to open a savings account?* We’re here for you! Contact us or stop into your local branch to speak with a representative today.

Subscribe to financial newsletters

Stopping at the library and picking up some financial literature might not be everyone’s cup of tea. So, starting with digestible, yet informative articles is ideal. That’s why we recommend subscribing to newsletters (like ours!) with timely resources that cover a wide range of financial topics. The First Financial monthly e-newsletter delivers helpful tools and financial advice right to your inbox, so you can focus on achieving your monetary goals. You can sign up at the bottom of our website homepage, by entering your name and email address.

Talk to a financial professional

If anything, it’s always helpful to speak directly with a financial expert who can give you advice based on your individual situation. Contact us to get started or stop into your local branch to speak with a representative today!

 

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership before opening any other account/loan. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Some restrictions apply, contact the Credit Union for more information.

Ways to Avoid Spending Temptations

Do you find yourself buying items you don’t really need, or that weren’t on your list before you went into the store? Avoiding the temptation to buy things is not always easy, especially since as consumers we are often surrounded by items to purchase. What’s the best way to stop spending money? Know what triggers your impulse to spend.

Here are also some more ways to avoid the temptation to spend money:

Think about logistics. Before you decide to purchase something, think logistically – how will you use it? If you’re buying something that you’ll probably only use one day a year, is it really worth it to spend the extra money on it? Or if you’re about to purchase something that you have no storage space for, it might be a better idea to walk right by it.

When possible, use cash. Using a credit card to make purchases makes it almost too easy – especially when it’s an impulse buy. When you can, budget ahead for your purchases and only carry the cash you need to purchase the items on your list. If you only have a set amount in your wallet, you’ll be unable to buy any extra temptations. If you want to spend less – be sure to leave the credit card at home.

If you wouldn’t buy it at full price, don’t buy it on sale either. Just because something is on sale or clearance, doesn’t mean it’s a great deal. Do you really need this item? Is it something you’ve wanted for a long time? If the purchase isn’t something you would have used or bought at full price, buying it on sale is still overpaying and spending money you didn’t need to (for an item you’ll probably never use).

Make a list and stick to it. Before you go into the store, make a list. Planning ahead with a shopping list allows you to know exactly what you need and how much to plan to spend. When you don’t make a list and continue to be tempted by items you see in the store and add them to your shopping cart, it can really blow your budget – to the tune of hundreds in some cases.

Put the 24-hour rule in place. If you see an item that you absolutely have to buy, make a mental note to come back to it 24 hours later. This gives you a full day to really think the purchase through and decide if you actually need the item, and if you truly have the money for it. Also, don’t purchase it on impulse and tell yourself you can always return the item. More than likely, you never will.

Think about the long-term. Before you decide to purchase something, think about how long you’ll keep it for and be realistic. How would you feel about spending hard earned money on something, only to throw it away a few weeks or months later because you truly never needed it? Before you go out and buy a new item, take note of what you may already have at home that can be repurposed. Purchasing something new that just sits in a closet, is a waste of both your time and money.

If you need help creating a financial plan to avoid spending temptations, check out our handy budgeting guide or stop into your local First Financial branch!

Article Source: Moneyning.com

Easy Ways to Improve Your Finances this Year

Have you already forgotten about or blown all those new year’s resolutions that you set for yourself last month? If you have, don’t worry – it’s still early enough in the new year to set some additional financial goals and attain them. In the process, you may even save yourself some money! Keep reading to see how you can remain on a great financial path for 2022, even if you already took a small detour.

Refinance your mortgage. Mortgage rates are still low. Do the math, and check out your current mortgage rate. If it’s on the high side, you may want to consider refinancing to a lower rate and lower monthly payments. This will allow you some wiggle room in your budget to put in your savings account, pay toward other bills, or even apply more to your mortgage principal and pay your home loan down sooner.

Did you know First Financial has recently brought back our Dream Decade 10-Year Mortgage? If you’re considering refinancing to a shorter term, this may be the perfect solution for you!*

Pay down debt. If you racked up a lot of credit card debt recently, make this the year you vow to pay it off and finally be financially free. Getting out of debt takes a lot of discipline, but you can do it! An easy way to start is by creating a spreadsheet and listing out all your balances owed, interest rates, and minimum monthly payments. Then you’ll need to create a debt repayment plan for yourself, to decide which to tackle first (usually the one with the highest interest rate and you’ll need to make more than the minimum payment each month to get it under control). If you need some help with a debt repayment plan, check out our credit management and debt reduction guide.

Create a budget and stick to it. No matter how much you bring home, creating a spending budget can still be a challenge. However, sticking to a budget that you set for the new year can really pay off in the end. If you need help getting started, check out our useful budgeting worksheet.

Stop overspending. If you’re using the budget you created and learning to automate savings by having extra funds sent to a special savings account from your paychecks, it should be a little easier to stop overspending. Here’s an eye opening spending challenge to try: don’t spend even one penny on anything you haven’t budgeted for the week (this includes morning coffee stops, lunch out, even a lottery ticket purchase or a pack of gum). At the end of the week, see how much more is left in your bank account by not purchasing all those little extras that can really add up.

Plan ahead, but don’t forget to look back too. Do you have any big life events coming up (weddings, births, vacations, retirement) that could definitely affect your bottom line? If so, start thinking about them now and putting some money away. This is also a good time of year to review all your current accounts and ensure you have up to date beneficiaries listed. Besides planning ahead, it’s also a good idea to look back on the previous year and take note of what might have gone wrong financially. If you didn’t have enough in your emergency savings account (or if you don’t have an emergency savings at all), this should be the year you start one or add some extra funds to it.

As always, if you need help creating and sticking to a financial plan – don’t hesitate to setup an appointment at your local First Financial branch. We’re happy to help!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. 

Article Sources:

https://www.cuinsight.com/4-personal-finance-resolutions-for-2022.html

https://www.cuinsight.com/4-ways-to-improve-your-financial-situation-in-2022.html

Financial Tips for Pet Owners

Welcoming a new pet to the family can be exciting, but also very expensive. While there are so many benefits to adopting a pet, it’s important to consider the financial obligations as well. As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to care for your furry family members in sickness and in health. But with a bit of financial planning, you can care for your dog, cat, or critter more comfortably. Here are our recommended cost-saving tips for pet owners.

Find out if you can afford a pet

If you’re desiring a little company around the house, start by creating a budget of all the expenses to consider throughout your pet’s life. According to the ASPCA, a dog will likely cost between $1,500 and $2,000 for the first year, while you can expect to spend around $1,175 for a cat. And that’s only in the first year. You’ll also need to prepare for more expenses as your pet ages, since more serious health conditions can come with hefty bills.

Adopt, don’t shop

There are so many benefits to adopting a pet through your local shelter, including reduced adoption fees. While many organizations still charge fees, they are usually significantly cheaper than adopting through a breeder. By adopting through a shelter, you’re also saving a pet’s life. It’s estimated that more than one million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized in the United States each year, since shelters can only house so many pets at a time.

Schedule regular check-ups with your vet

It’s much more affordable to prevent an illness than treat one. As a pet owner, it’s crucial to regularly check in on your pet’s health – and that includes scheduling their yearly exams. Don’t skip out on researching local veterinary clinics as well – you might be surprised when you compare fees for preventative care.

Consider pet insurance

While pet insurance might not be right for every dog or cat, it could help you cut costs on emergency vet visits or treating a serious illness. It’s best to start shopping for pet insurance policies while your pet is young and healthy, for the best rates and coverage.

Groom your pet at home

It’s no surprise grooming visits can get pricey over time. That’s why we recommend doing nail trimmings, baths, brushings, and more at home. Your pet’s oral hygiene is important to stay on top of as well, since a lack of dental cleaning can lead to large health concerns and bigger vet bills down the line.

Build a savings account for pet expenses 

Rather than relying on insurance or dealing with expenses as they come, building a savings account dedicated to pet bills can be the best way to fund hefty fees in the future. Start by putting away at least $5 per paycheck into a pet savings account. You’ll be surprised how fast the account grows, and will thank yourself later when the next vet bill comes.

Want to open a new savings account to cover pet expenses? We can help! Visit a First Financial branch or contact us to speak with a representative today.

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Some restrictions apply, contact the Credit Union for more information.