How Much Should You Tip?

Tipping. Conversation about the topic can spark lengthy debates with opinions ranging from staunch support to extreme opposition. Some consumers appreciate the opportunity to reward the service industry for a job well done. Others feel the practice places an unfair expectation on the patron, inflates the overall cost of goods or services, and leads to increased employee turnover.

Historically, the American tipping model allows wait staff at upscale restaurants to earn a comfortable living, but those working at smaller establishments often struggle to make a livable wage. The wide disparity in earning potential stems from a 1966 law that established a federal minimum wage for tipped employees. The current minimum wage for tipped employees? $2.13 an hour. If that figure sounds shocking, consider the fact that it hasn’t changed since 1991.

Should the federal minimum wage for tipped employees be raised? Perhaps. There are advocates on both sides of the issue. Are there alternate ways to create a more equitable earning system? Absolutely. Tipping is standard practice in restaurants across the country, but the service industry extends beyond the dining room walls. And while 15-20% seems to be the going rate for a restaurant tip, you may be wondering how much to tip in other areas.

Here are a few general rules, courtesy of DealNews, to help you tip with confidence:

Waiter/Waitress: 15-20% minimum
Tipping Tip: We’ve already covered this one, but here’s an additional reminder – if you use a coupon or discount promotion, be sure to tip on the original price, not the discounted total.

Food Delivery Driver: 10% (or $2 minimum)

Tipping Tip: If you live far away from the restaurant (20-30 minutes), consider adding a few dollars extra to help the driver cover the additional gas expense.

Hairstylist/Barber: 10-15% for standard service, 15-20% for exceptional service

Tipping Tip: It’s hard enough to find a hairstylist you like. When you finally do, tipping them well can not only show your appreciation –  but help establish a great relationship going forward.

Tattoo Artist: 10-20%

Tipping Tip: Like most purchases, this one can vary based on the size and detail of the tattoo you choose. As for the exact amount, if you’re pleased with the artist’s work and you have any thoughts of becoming a return customer, the goodwill you build with a solid tip is well worth it.

Bartender: $1 per drink or 15% of the bill

Tipping Tip: You can take a wait-and-see approach by tipping when you close out your tab, or you can increase your odds of getting good service by tipping ahead of time.

Car Wash Attendant: $2-3 for a basic wipe down, $5-10 for more extensive washes

Tipping Tip: If you’re going to spend money on a quality car wash, investing a few extra dollars in a tip will help you ensure your attendant pays attention to the little details that make your car shine like it should.

Uber/Lyft Driver: $2-3 for a standard trip, $5-6 for extended trips

Tipping Tip: Along with lowering their fares, most ridesharing apps have added a tip option. This should save you from navigating from the whole “So sorry…I don’t have any cash on me” conversation.

If you find yourself in a situation other than those listed above, and you’re unsure about the standard tipping rate, it’s usually safe to assume that 18% of your total bill is a quality tip. It may not qualify you as a high roller, but you certainly won’t have to deal with dirty looks on your way out either.

How to Bounce Back from a Spending Spree

We’ve all been there. We intend to make a few purchases then suddenly we realize we’ve gone overboard with our spending. You may feel the urge to panic – but before you do, consider these tips for damage control after going on a spending spree.

Prioritize purchases
When the dust has settled and your panic begins to recede, start to look back over what you’ve bought. Are these things vital to your life, or are they all “extras” that you don’t necessarily have a need for? Sure, it’s fun to get new things, but if you’ve spent too much, you may need to think about returning some things to get your money back on track.

Get back on budget
Sure, you’ve gone over the limit, but it’s time to move forward and recover. Remember how you typically spend and if that’s been working for you, go back to your old ways. Don’t beat yourself up over what’s in the past. It’s time to regroup and remember your limits.

Plan to pay back
Stick to your original budget, but also consider ways you’re going to make up for the damage you’ve done to your wallet. If you’ve charged your purchases, now’s the time to dip into that debt repayment fund you’ve hopefully been saving up. If you shopped with cash, plan for ways you can trim your spending until your finances are where they were before your spending spree.

Reflect on patterns
Getting in this position every once in a blue moon is not cause for too much concern. But, if overspending and busting your budget is becoming a pattern, you need to stop and assess the issue. Is there a particular reason why you’re shopping/spending habits are getting out of control? Understanding why you’re behaving the way you are, will help you to make corrections and learn from your mistakes.

Need help with your budget? Check out our budgeting guide!

Article Source: Wendy Moody for CUInsight.com

3 Reasons Not to Pay Off Your Credit Cards Too Fast

When it comes to getting rid of debt, it seems like the best option is to pay it off as quickly as possible. This is especially true of credit card debt. It’s high interest, so you should just pay off what you can, as quickly as you can, right? Not so fast.

It’s actually possible to pay off your credit cards too fast. Wait, what?! Here are three reasons to take a step back and evaluate whether or not you should pay off your credit cards immediately.

1. You Don’t Want to Completely Drain Your Emergency Fund

If you have a chunk of change in your emergency fund, it might be tempting to just take the lump sum and pay off your debt.

The problem with this though, is that you open yourself to financial vulnerability if an emergency crops up. You might have to turn to your newly-paid-off credit card. When that happens, you wind up back in debt, and you’ve got no emergency fund on top of it.

There’s a reason financial experts suggest you keep at least $1,000 in an emergency fund before you start paying off debt. That way, if something happens, you can cover it without going further into debt. Don’t deplete your emergency fund in an effort to get rid of debt right now.

2. Watch Out for Cutting into Your Regular Expenses

You feel rich on payday. You feel like you can put $500 toward debt, and it makes sense. Pay it off faster and win right?

Unfortunately, you might not actually have $500 to put toward that debt. What about your regular expenses, like groceries and insurance premiums? Have you looked ahead to the bills you will need to pay in two or three weeks?

Your debt payment needs to be based on your budget and grounded in the reality of your regular monthly expenses. If you aren’t looking at all your monthly expenses, and just throwing money at your credit cards without a plan, there’s a good chance that you will need to turn to those credit cards in order to get through the rest of the month.

That means you take a step back for every step forward. Instead of getting excited and putting a large amount toward debt when you get paid, make it a point to map out your budget. Look at your income and expenses. Then make a debt payment plan that calls for an extra debt payment based on the money you have available.

3. Don’t Put Your Future at Risk

Finally, it can be tempting to take a loan out from your retirement account in order to pay off your debt more quickly. However, that can be a bad idea as well. Even though you are “paying yourself interest” on the loan, the reality is that you can’t replace the time the money is out of the market.

Another potentially dire consequence is that you could suddenly end up needing to pay the whole retirement account loan back at once. For instance, the entire loan comes due within a few months if you lose your job. The amount becomes an early withdrawal if you can’t pay it back — subjecting it to penalty and taxes. That could put you in an even worse position.

Just because it seems like you should pay off your credit card debt quickly, doesn’t mean that you should be so extreme that you put your overall finances at greater risk. If you are looking to pay off your credit card debt, ensure you have a budget and financial plan in place so that your daily expenses and emergency fund are covered first.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for moneyning.com

3 Bad Money Habits You’re Passing on to Your Children

It can be easy to forget in our busy day-to-day lives, that our children are paying close attention to our words and actions. They emulate what they see around them and grow increasingly impressionable with age. It’s important to positively influence them by demonstrating proper behaviors and habits they can learn from. When it comes to finances, there are a variety of ways you can properly educate your children, including discouraging them from practicing these three bad money habits.

Impulse buying

When you go shopping do you follow a set shopping list? If your answer is “no” and you shop with your children, it’s time to start sticking to your plan. When you’re shopping, and grabbing things without any forethought, you are showing your children that sticking to a budget is not your priority. They may also view your impulse shopping as disorganized and unstructured. Instead, instill in them the importance of writing down a plan and getting only what’s necessary, to stay on the right track with spending.

Not talking about money

As children get older and they begin to understand the value of money, it’s important they are taught to be open about financial issues. Some view money matters as difficult or awkward to talk about. But, when it comes to building confidence in your children, it’s vital they learn the skills necessary to effectively manage their personal finances. Developing healthy financial habits from an early age is extremely important and it begins with everyday conservations.

Living above your means

If your child asks for something at the store, but you don’t have the money to buy it, it’s okay to use that old saying, “money doesn’t grow on trees.” So many Americans live outside of their means in an effort to “keep up with the Joneses.” Instead of raising entitled children that expect everything no matter how tight funds are, teach them the importance of differentiating between “wants” and “needs.” Help them understand that it’s okay to splurge on occasion, but it’s more important to budget and save in order to maintain good financial standing for a happy, stress-free life.

Article Source: Wendy Moody for CUInsight.com

Back to School on a Budget

Summer is coming to a close, and back to school season is officially upon us.  Along with all the nostalgia and excitement this time of year brings, it can also get expensive – and fast.

“When did Crayola markers raise their prices? HOW much for a spiral notebook? Why do my kids need 12 of everything?!”

Here are some tips to help you stay in your back to school budget, and enjoy the last few weeks of summer.

1. Use the dollar store.

The dollar store is your friend! From notebooks and folders in every color, to pencils and loose paper – you can find 80% of the items your kids will need for the upcoming school year. Let’s all “just say no” to spending $9.99 on a box of crayons.

2. Budget and save in advance.

It’s easy to forget about the annual expenses associated with the back to school season. If you didn’t budget this year, start saving now for next school year. Put aside a little extra in your savings account on a monthly basis, and then use it next summer instead of relying on your credit card and racking up interest.

3. Have your kids save their own money for back to school clothes shopping.

New clothes and shoes are a very exciting (and very expensive) part of back to school shopping. Summer is the perfect time to teach your kids about the importance of saving, budgeting, and managing money. Whether it’s through extra chores, an after school job, or a lemonade stand, there are plenty of opportunities for your kids to earn money toward new clothes and shoes for the coming school year.

4. Buy in bulk and shop sales.

Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club offer great discounts when buying in bulk, and many other stores now offer lower prices when you buy in large quantities. Also, don’t forget to shop sales! It may be old school, but flipping through newspaper ads and store circulars that have coupons, can save you a ton of money when it comes to back to school shopping. Or sign up for emails for the stores you shop at – then use the e-coupons they send you.

5. Use a prepaid card.

Part of what makes back-to-school shopping so fun for kids is the opportunity to pick out items they love on their own. Does your high school or college student have a First Family Student Prepaid Reloadable card from First Financial? Give them easy access to back to school shopping money, and a surefire way to make sure their spending is convenient for you as a parent, secure, and won’t break your budget. Learn more here, and you can easily load your prepaid card right online 24/7 or stop into your nearest First Financial branch – just in time for the new school year.*

*3rd party fees may apply for Debit or ATM transactions. Foreign transaction fees may apply for transactions processed outside of US. A First Financial Visa® Prepaid Card can only be reloaded by a First Financial FCU Checking Account, Debit Card, or Credit Card online. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa® Prepaid Card. A First Financial membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties, NJ. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any account/loan. See credit union for details. Other terms/conditions and fees may apply. Federally insured by NCUA.

Article Source: Naomi Anderson for CUInsight.com

 

5 Summer Travel Safety Tips

We’ve got about one month left of summer. Time flies when you’re having fun doesn’t it? If you’ve got an upcoming vacation planned for August, don’t miss these essential summer travel tips.

1. Make copies of important travel documents.
Make copies of your travel itinerary, health insurance cards, credit cards, and passport. Then give the copies to someone you trust in case of an emergency. It’s also smart to email any important information about your trip to yourself before you leave so it’s easily accessible if something gets lost, especially if you’re traveling overseas.

2. Don’t overshare on social media.
Not only do you not want every person with access to your social media accounts to know that you’re away from home (hello, burglars!), you also don’t need your followers (or lurkers) to know where you are in real time. This can invite all kinds of unwanted attention and danger. You should also avoid posting any pictures with personal information, like your boarding pass or passport, to social media. These photos might look fun on Instagram, but they also give cyber predators easy access to your secure data.

3. Don’t use public Wi-Fi to access financial information or make online purchases. It’s very easy for hackers to steal information from public internet servers. Furthermore, you should never leave your laptop or cell phone in a vulnerable position (i.e. at the breakfast table while you run to the bathroom or on your beach chair while you take a dip). This might seem like common sense, but it’s easy to let your guard down when you’re on island time!

4. Use a prepaid debit card specifically designated for traveling. A prepaid travel card will help you stay within your budget while you’re on vacation and keep your personal information safe. Prepaid travel cards, like the First Financial First Choice Prepaid Reloadable Card, is not linked to your checking or savings account, so if your card information is compromised, you’ll have less of a mess to clean up down the road.* Another bonus: you won’t have to worry about foreign ATM skimmers and various other threats to your financial data while trying to relax on vacation. Interested in learning more about getting started with a First Financial Prepaid Card before your trip? Stop into your nearest branch, or click here.

5. Research, research, research. It’s important to learn the ins and outs of your destination and do some digging to find out what areas are safe and what areas should be avoided.  A good place to start? Read hotel reviews online to see what neighborhoods and destinations other travelers recommend. If a location seems unsafe or makes you feel uncomfortable, you should leave right away. Download the State Department’s Smart Traveler app (travel.state.gov) and sign up for the State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which allows U.S. citizens who are traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Above all – enjoy your trip and have fun. Just be prepared before you go and plan ahead!

*3rd party fees may apply for Debit or ATM transactions. Foreign transaction fees may apply for transactions processed outside of US. The Visa® Prepaid Card can only be reloaded by a First Financial FCU Checking Account, Debit Card, or Credit Card online. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa® Prepaid Card. A First Financial membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties, NJ. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any account/loan. See credit union for details. Other terms/conditions and fees may apply. Federally insured by NCUA.

Article Source: Naomi Anderson for CUInsight.com