4 Money Skills You Should’ve Had Yesterday

Everyone’s life is different and we all learn life skills in a different order, at a different age, and at a different place. No matter where you’re at, here are 4 money skills you should have.

Negotiating purchases: When you were shopping for your first new car you probably didn’t have a clue about how much you should spend or how much the car was really worth. It’s time to do your homework. Negotiation is a battle and you need to show up to the dealership prepared with knowledge as your ammo. Don’t just accept the price of the first car you like. Make a counter-offer that’s reasonable and don’t be afraid to say no and walk away. Stick to your gameplan and you’ll end up with a good deal.

Here’s how to buy a car in 5 easy steps!

Budgeting your paycheck: Your first job put more money in your pocket than you’d ever made in your life and you probably spent like crazy. Now that you’re older, you need to be seriously thinking about your spending habits and saving for retirement. If you haven’t used a budget before, find one and stick to it. If you’ve been living paycheck to paycheck, it’s time to stop.

Check out our budgeting guide for some helpful hints on creating a budget.

Maximizing your credit score: When you’re young, you don’t care about your credit score. But it’s never too early to start paying attention to it. Anything you purchase that requires making payments will be affected by your credit score. The higher your score, the better your interest rate, which will save you a lot of money over the life of the loan.

Using your credit cards: Credit cards are a valuable tool when used correctly. When used irresponsibly, they can turn on you in a heartbeat. When you get that first credit card, use it periodically to build credit. DON’T overspend. If you want to use your credit card more often, make sure you pay it off every month. EVERY SINGLE MONTH. Don’t miss payments and don’t leave a balance. If you stick to those rules, you’ll be in good shape.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

4 Items You Should Never Carry in Your Wallet

When it comes to your wallet – there are some things you should surely throw away, and there are others you should take out and file away immediately to prevent identity theft.

Social Security Card

It may seem obvious to not carry this with you, but many people have long kept their SS card in their wallet. But think about it, if you have your number memorized, which most of us do, when do you actually need your card? Have you ever had to present your card to someone? Carrying this information around with you is a bad idea. If the wrong person gets ahold of your social security number, you could end up with loans opened up in your name and new credit card accounts.

Passwords

It seems every website we visit now requires a password. How are we ever supposed to keep up with them all? It’s a great idea to have a cheat sheet where all your passwords are kept, but do not be tempted to keep this information in your wallet. Instead, keep your notes at your desk, locked in your phone, or filed away somewhere at home with other sensitive information.

Credit Cards

Many of us are way past the point of having a credit card just for “emergencies.”  It’s hard to check out at any retail store without being asked if we’d like to “save 10% by opening up a store credit card.” No matter how many cards you have, it’s wise not to carry all of them in your wallet at once. Think about it: if your wallet is stolen or lost, would you want someone to have access to every account you have? Instead, keep one card with you for those emergencies and leave the others at home in a safe place – unless you are specifically going to that particular store. This can also keep you from making spur of the moment purchases you’ll likely regret.

Receipts

Once you get home from a store after making a purchase, decide right then if you need to hold on to the receipt. Is there a chance you’re going to return the item? If not, then toss the receipt right away. If it is a larger purchase or some type of home technology, you may want to keep the receipt until after the purchase shows on your next credit card statement, to ensure you were charged the correct amount and that the item functions properly.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa today. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

4 Tips for Planning for Financial Emergencies

We don’t always know when the unexpected will happen. That doesn’t mean we can’t plan for it though. In fact, one of the best things you can do for your finances is to look ahead and prepare for the inevitable emergency.

Here are four tips you can use for your plan:

1. Start with Your Rainy Day Fund

It’s old news, but the reality is that many Americans still don’t have the resources to handle a $500 emergency. That means you probably need to beef up your rainy day fund. Get started even if you feel like you can’t set aside a ton. Every little bit helps. Set aside money each week that can be used for a rainy day.

This also includes paying attention to what’s happening with your expenses. While things do happen unexpectedly, the truth is that we often get clues that something is about to break down. The washing machine behaves erratically, or you notice something about the fridge. Once those signs appear, start setting money aside.

2. Plan for Routine Costs

You know that the oil needs to be changed in your car every so often. There are plenty of other maintenance milestones that come with owning a car too. You need to plan for these items. From home maintenance to the fact that your kids need to get clothes for school every year, there are routine costs in your life.

Make a plan to save a little bit each month for these routine costs. You can use a system that helps you prepare to meet these challenges when they arrive, preferably a system where savings are automated. That way, you won’t have to rely as heavily on your emergency fund or (worse), your credit cards.

3. Perform an Insurance Audit

When was the last time you checked your insurance coverage? Do you have the right amount? Will it cover your situation? Double check your coverage.

Make sure your home is covered. What if you’ve recently bought some expensive items? Are they covered against loss? Look at your health insurance coverage. Will it be enough if you end up in the hospital? Is the deductible affordable? On the other hand, are you paying for too much coverage and not freeing enough money to save?

The right insurance coverage can go a long way toward helping you out when you’re in a pinch. And don’t forget the life insurance to cover your family, just in case.

4. Know What You Can Cut

Finally, make sure you know what you can cut from your budget in an emergency. Which items are the first to go? Which items, when cut, could result in immediate savings? This exercise can help you spring into action once a financial emergency strikes.

Plus, looking at your spending with a critical eye can help you now. If you take the time to review your spending and identify areas of waste, you can plug those leaks now. Divert the money toward other goals, like building a rainy day fund or preparing to buy a new appliance.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for Moneyning.com

3 Ways Money Could Be Hurting Your Relationship

One cause for concern for many is financial issues and how money can put a strain on your bond with your significant other. Here are three ways your finances could be killing your relationship.

Shopping secrets.

Are you spending way more money on yourself than you’re admitting to? It’s good to treat yourself at times (who doesn’t love to splurge?) but hiding it from your partner may cause major tension. If you’re keeping your purchases secret your loved one may think that you’re hiding other things as well. If you feel it’s necessary to keep your shopping habits to yourself, there could be a reason for it. Is your partner worried about your finances while you’re out spending frivolously? Like every relationship issue, communication is key. If there’s something you want to buy, talk about it. If your partner thinks money is too tight for that purchase, respect their feelings and hold back on buying that new handbag until you’re at a place where you both agree your finances are in good shape.

Credit card debt.

Did you enter into your relationship with card debt? If so, make sure your partner knows off the bat how much you’re in the hole. It’s much better to be up front about it than for them to find out later. According to USA Today, the average American consumer has close to $4,000 in credit card debt. Don’t feel bad about what you owe, but be open about your plans for tackling the debt. Talk about the poor decisions you made that put you in debt in the first place and set goals together for setting things right.

Avoiding money discussions.

As mentioned above, communication is incredibly important to a healthy relationship especially when it comes to money matters. Not only is discussing your finances essential but not waiting until you are in a tight spot to hash things out is also key to a solid bond. Maintaining trust and having patience can help your partner feel comfortable being open about their financial habits. How someone spends their money is often a reflection of their priorities in life, therefore it’s always important that you’re both honest so you can make sure you remain on the same page.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

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