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

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

3 Vacation Expenses You’re Forgetting About

Vacation season is in full swing and it’s time to get packing. Your flight and hotel are booked and you’re ready to go. But before you take your trip, take a careful look at your travel budget. Are there certain expenses you may be overlooking? Be sure to take a look at these three commonly forgotten travel costs so you can plan your vacation budget accordingly.

Airport parking

In most cases, airports don’t require payment for parking until travelers return from their trip and head home. Therefore, once you arrive at the airport and head off to your destination, paying for parking may not be on your radar. It’s important to keep parking costs in mind while you’re enjoying your trip so when it’s time to pay, you still have enough set aside. Also, consider parking in economy lots over more expensive options. Even if you have to park farther away and take a shuttle to the terminal, at least you’ll be saving a few bucks after an expensive getaway.

Tipping

We all know to tip at restaurants, but it’s also proper to tip for other services while on vacation. The American Hotel & Lodging Association gives specific details on who should be given gratuity and how much. Examples of such services that are often overlooked by tippers include housekeepers, concierges, room service attendants, and travel guides.

Extra fees

It can often be difficult to find our preferred bank while traveling. Using ATMs at other banks can cost anywhere from $3-5, which can add up if you’re withdrawing cash multiple times. Instead, before your vacation begins, know where your bank’s ATMs are located or prepare to take out enough cash in advance before you travel. Aside from the cost of ATMs, also consider fees for using Wi-Fi (whether on a plane or in your hotel room) and data roaming charges. There’s nothing worse than using your phone for the internet and messaging only to come home to a massive cell phone bill you weren’t anticipating.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

4 Financial Items to Review this Summer

Summer is the perfect time for vacations at the beach and weekends at the pool. It’s also a great time for assessing your financial health. Things are generally a bit slower in summer, so use your time wisely and take a minute to review these four important financial items.

Emergency Fund

Before you fork out significant dough for that condo on the beach, make sure you’re not dipping into your emergency reserves. It’s impossible to know what unexpected things may pop up in life, but having a financial cushion is crucial. A general rule of thumb is to maintain about four months’ living expenses in your emergency fund. If you don’t have that, don’t even think about taking a summer vacation.

Credit

How much do you actually know about your credit? Do you know your credit score? Summer is the perfect time before the holiday spending season to research where you stand financially. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion all offer free credit reports, so do your homework before opening up another credit card.

Retirement Savings

You may not pay much attention throughout the year to contributions to your retirement savings, but summer is a great time for a review. Are you satisfied with how much is being moved from your paychecks to your retirement fund? Is your company matching your contribution? Don’t wait until it’s too late to be in the know. If you are able, contribute as much as you can to your financial future.

General Budget

It can be hard during the busiest times of the year to truly evaluate our spending habits. We move from one workday to the next and do the best we can to budget. During the summer, sit down and give your finances a good look. Are there areas in your life where you can really cut back? If you can make adjustments during the summer months for the rest of the year, you can potentially be putting extra money back in your pocket.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

 

4 Reasons You’re in Debt

Status.

We’ve all heard of “Keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s that desire to have the things others have that may be too extravagant for your budget. If you go around thinking about the things you feel like you’re missing out on, you’re probably going to put yourself in a financial hole. Take a pause when you feel an impulse-buy coming on, and save yourself a headache later.

Credit cards.

Don’t let your credit cards be in charge (no pun intended). Take hold of your finances and don’t spend money you don’t have. Sure, there are benefits to using credit cards, but they can also be your worst enemy if you’re not careful. Use credit cards to build good credit but once you start racking up debt, it can take a long time to get out from underneath it.

Unforeseen expenses.

Sometimes expenses come out of nowhere. You may feel like you’re doing good, but then your engine fails and you need a new car. Be prepared. Make sure you’re building up an emergency fund, because if you don’t have it when you need it, you’ll end up putting yourself in a deep hole in the blink of an eye.

Life is expensive.

You may think your budget is mapped out and solid (and it may be), but then your best friend gets engaged. The next thing you know, you’re hitting up an ATM machine. Sometimes, you need to spend money celebrating, but plan ahead and you’ll be doing yourself a favor down the road.

Get yourself on track financially with our budgeting guidebook! Need help creating a budget you can stick to? Attend one of our free budgeting seminars during the year or make an appointment with a representative at your local First Financial branch.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

3 Tips When You’re Living Paycheck to Paycheck

If you’re currently living paycheck to paycheck, when payday hits you think you have all the money in the world. But then, after bills are paid and groceries are bought, there is probably very little money for anything extra. Keep in mind, that even though it may seem stressful, if you follow these tips and save, you can make it work!

Trim the fat.

Take a closer look at things you pay for that you don’t actually NEED. For example, maybe you have over 200 television channels in addition to Netflix. Why would you pay for an abundance of channels you do not actually ever watch? If you cut your package down to the bare minimum; keeping only the basic channels it may lower your monthly bill by close to $100.

Cut those coupons.

Unfortunately going grocery shopping is not what it used to be. It is next to impossible to leave the store without spending at least $100. Therefore, it is important you do everything you can to cut food costs. One way to do this is to use every coupon you can. You don’t have to be an extreme coupon-cutter to take advantage of the savings because every little bit helps. Think about it- if you find a coupon for 75 cents off a bar of soap and you don’t use it, isn’t that like throwing money away?

Come up with a game plan.

When you get paid, do you sit down and make an actual budget? This is something many people struggle with – but when you actually do it, it does make a difference. Give yourself an allowance for the “extras,” even if it’s $15-$20. It takes willpower, but it’s important to not get ahead of yourself if you’re short on cash. The feeling of having less of a financial burden and therefore less stress will be worth it in the end, even if you have to pass on the occasional happy-hour or dinner out with friends.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com