3 Weekend Money Traps You Need to Avoid

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After a hectic workweek, it’s natural to want to decompress over the weekend. Watch out though, because these two days can be the most expensive of the entire week! Here are three common weekend money traps, and how to avoid them.


Dinner at a popular eatery on a Friday or Saturday night always sounds enticing after a long week. But before you make those reservations – consider how much you’ll save by cooking at home. You can still enjoy a great meal, and some quality time with friends and family without the expensive bill.

Movie Theaters

It is more expensive than ever to catch the latest movie release in your local theater. Add in some sodas and popcorn on top of it, and you’re looking at a hefty price tag. Instead, do some research on the newest releases on Netflix or Hulu (even your cable provider’s On Demand menu), and grab some snacks from the grocery store.


Who doesn’t love shopping on the weekends?  Special sales at your favorite store may have you spending money you shouldn’t on things you don’t need. Instead, redirect that shopping urge to the grocery store. Not only will you be able to shop – but you’ll be purchasing necessary items that will encourage you to plan your meals, and keep you out of those pricey restaurants at the same time.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight, https://www.cuinsight.com/3-weekend-money-traps-need-avoid.html 

4 Steps to Relieve Money Stress

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There’s a ton of reasons that a person can feel stressed about money – like being behind on bills or living paycheck to paycheck, and even if you are surviving just knowing that you owe money can cause you stress. It’s a situation that many people have found themselves in at one point or another, so even though you may feel alone in the moment – you certainly aren’t.  While you might not be able to make the problem go away immediately, you can at least control your response to it.

1. Change your language

This is more than just a cliché – choosing to speak positively about a situation can improve your outlook and make you feel empowered. Instead of saying “I want to save more” try saying “I will spend less.”

2. Stay in the present

Many people focus on the worst case when it comes to money, particularly if we are feeling overwhelmed or down. Try reminding yourself to take it one step at a time and not get upset over things that may or may not happen.

3. Take a mental break

When you feel yourself starting to feel stress – take a walk, play with your kids or pet, or watch your favorite TV show. A break allows you to regain composure and control.

4. Choose to build wealth

Make your focus on achieving financial freedom, it will give you more joy than any material object ever could. When you feel yourself wanting to make an impulse buy, think of all the choices you will be giving yourself down the road by saving 10% now.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight, https://www.cuinsight.com/4-steps-relieve-money-stress.html

How to Fix Your Bad Money Habits

toolsThey say it takes about 21 days to create a habit, whether good or bad. Once you start feeding into bad money habits, it can be harder to be financially responsible and become increasingly easier to continue splurging. If you feel your bad money habits are getting you down, don’t worry; there is hope for you.

The first step to changing your ways is to acknowledge that there is a problem. If you are blind to the issues your money habits are causing you, it will take you much longer to get out of your situation. By facing them head on, you will be able to turn your bank account around.

Here are some common bad money habits and ways to fix them:

Eating out multiple times a week. By making simple homemade foods at home, you can save quite a few dollars each month. If you figure that the average meal when dining out is roughly $12 compared to about $4 to $6 when cooking at home, you’ll save roughly $6 per person per meal each month.  Even by reducing the amount of times you go out for coffee every month, and making it more at home, you will be able to cut back on frivolous spending. For example, going out for a $2 coffee five times in one month is more than what you could pay for one bag of coffee. $2 may not seem like a lot, but it certainly adds up quickly. Have a hard time giving up your favorite cafe’s cup of Joe? See if you can purchase your own bag of their ground coffee beans to make at home.

Having no financial plans. Not having a plan to save any money is a terrible habit you should break away from immediately. Making changes like paying yourself first, creating an emergency fund, creating a budget, and opening a retirement account are all actions to consider implementing as soon as possible.

Not talking to your significant other. Not discussing the topic of finances with your significant other is a bad idea. Even if you are not married yet, you and your partner should have a general idea of what is going on in your bank accounts, especially if you have plans to move in together. Create a plan and financial goals together and work on being as transparent as possible with one another.

Impulsive buying. It’s hard to not want to dish out money on an item we see and feel we must have right away. But, this kind of impulsive spending on a regular basis is not only harmful to your bank account, but it tends to create negative habits that become harder to avoid even in times of financial struggle. One way to short circuit this process is to only carry cash. People tend be more budget conscious when paying with cash, so you can truly help yourself by paying in cash only.

Carrying a credit card balance. People use credit cards to create a tremendous amount of debt each year. If you have a balance – pay it down to get rid of any looming interest. Train yourself to skip using a credit card for unnecessary purchases or any items you haven’t budgeted for. If you do use your card, make sure to pay off the balance each month.

Don’t forget about First Financial’s free, online debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

Ignoring your savings. Some studies suggest that roughly 1/3 of Americans don’t have any money saved for emergencies. Consider cutting the fat out of your budget and automating contributions to your savings and 401k accounts. Contributing to your 401k will improve your tax situation, and building your savings will reduce any financial stress you might be having.

Neglecting to get the best rate. People often overpay for services they don’t use. A great example of this are huge cable bills for hundreds of channels that never get watched. Consider using a comparison website like lowermybills.com to get a sense of how much you should be paying. Once you have this information, you can call your provider to see if they can lower your rate. Or if it’s not being used, cancel your cable all together.

The above are just a few common bad money spending habits, but we know there are more to avoid. How do you feel about your own spending habits and knowledge of financial literacy? To get an idea, take this quiz and find out.

Article Source: Jennifer Clark for Saving Advice, http://www.savingadvice.com/articles/2016/07/20/1041690_bad-money-habits.html

The 20 Money Hacks Busy People Swear By

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In today’s fast-paced world, time is money — and there never seems to be enough of either one. But with just a few tweaks to your lifestyle, you can easily free up time in your day and money in your budget.

1. Get Free Shipping and Earn Cash Back

Shopping at cash back and rewards websites can help you earn money and points on your everyday purchases. But savings expert Lauren Greutman uses a hack to save even more money, as well as time that you might otherwise spend wandering the aisles.

“Order online at stores like Walmart and Target through Swagbucks, and earn points that you can cash in for free gift cards to other stores like Amazon and PayPal,” she said. “During your order, select ‘ship to store,’ pick it up for free, and you have just earned cash back on your purchase without having to pay for shipping.”

2. Use Apps to Track Your Finances

Angie Nelson from The Work at Home Wife is a huge fan of using technology to save time and money.

“Sign up for a money monitoring service like Mint or Personal Capital,” she said. “Unnecessary expenses and avoidance of saving can add up quickly when your busy mind is on other things. A quick glance or notification will let you know if you are on track or falling behind.”

3. Meal Plan Like a Boss

A little old-fashioned meal planning can help you save hundreds on groceries per month, said Greutman. It can also save you a lot of time by having your meals prepped ahead of time.

“I like to make a month’s worth of meals in one afternoon,” she said. “For only $150, I can make 20 dinners in just under three hours. I use ingredients from Aldi, and this helps me keep my grocery bill low and my stress level down.”

4. Set Calendar Reminders

Reviewing your accounts is crucial to your financial well being. It can help you keep tabs on your spending and make sure you’re on track to meet your goals. Furthermore, keeping a steady date with your finances can help you spot potential problems early on, before they become more challenging and time consuming to resolve down the road.

“Set a recurring event in your calendar to review your financial accounts at the same time and day each week, month, quarter or year,” said Taylor Schulte, a certified financial planner and founder of Define Financial. “Just like everything else in your busy life, if it’s not on the calendar, you probably won’t get to it. This hack will also help develop a healthy habit, and eventually you might not even need to rely on your calendar.”

5. Sell Your Old Stuff Online

You can also save time and money by selling your old items or items you find at thrift stores, on eBay for profit, Greutman said.

“One way that I make extra cash is to buy name-brand clothing at thrift stores and sell them for profit on eBay,” she said. “I find a dress for $4 and sell it for $50. This is a great way to make extra cash from home.”

On the mobile side – download the free Poshmark App, quickly setup an account, and you can take photos of and then sell clothing, accessories, and shoes.  When someone purchases your item, the app sends you a shipping label to print out and attach to your package.  Simply drop the purchased item off at your local post office, and when the buyer accepts it – you can elect to have the funds directly deposited to your bank account.  Cha-ching!

6. Monetize Your Down Time

Another way you can make money during your free time is by watching videos and taking surveys online on a site like Swagbucks, said Greutman.

“I love taking surveys and watching videos in my down time,” she said. “I may as well be making money while relaxing.”

7. Use Your Credit Card

Teresa Mears, CEO of Living on the Cheap, saves time and money by paying for everything with her credit card. Keeping most expenditures on one account can help streamline your budget tracking and bill paying process.

“I charge everything I can to one credit card, and then pay it off manually once a month,” she said. “I get email alerts for the accounts, like electric and water,  that I can’t charge to the card automatically.”

8. Do a 5-Minute Money Checkup

If you can spare just five minutes each day, Greutman has a money hack that can help make managing your finances a breeze.

“Every morning, my husband and I sit down and do a five-minute money checkup,” she said. “That way, we talk about what we have to spend money on that day, review the budget, and we both know what the day’s money movement is.”

9. Digitally Capture Your Receipts

If you find it difficult and time-consuming to track your spending, there’s a hack for that.

“One of the fastest ways for me to track spending is to take pictures of all my receipts,” said Mike Delgado, director of social media at credit reporting agency Experian. “I use a nifty app called Shoeboxed Receipt and share the account with my wife so we can share receipts with each other and categorize spending easily.”

10. Stop Credit Card Fraud in Its Tracks

In addition to using Shoeboxed to capture your receipts, Delgado said it also helps him to spot any suspicious account activity at a glance.

“Shoeboxed also automatically adds your spending data into a downloadable spreadsheet so you can compare receipt data against what’s reported in your credit card transactions,” he said. “This can help you identify fraud faster — and find any discrepancies in what is reported in credit card transactions.”

11. Make Frequent, Small Credit Card Payments

If you’re struggling with managing your credit card bills, this money hack can help make your life easier. By making small but frequent credit card payments, such as 1% to 2% of your balance every other week, you could get out of debt faster and avoid racking up interest.

12. Turn Your Credit Card Into a Debit Card

Using your credit card to earn rewards and cash back takes discipline. However, if you make sure you don’t overspend and you pay your balance in full every month, this strategy can be quite lucrative. Fortunately, there’s a money hack that can help you build credit and earn rewards without going into debt.

One financial tool, Debitize, automatically sets aside money from your checking account after every credit card purchase, then pays the bill in full when it’s due. So, it essentially helps you use your credit card like a debit card, and takes some of the guesswork out of getting rewards.

13. Round Up Your Purchases to Save More

Automation can also help you stash more money in your savings account. One app, Qapital, lets you set up spending rules that trigger an automatic deposit into your savings account. You can set spending challenges, where if you spend less than an amount you set, the remainder is sent into savings. Another feature rounds up the change from each purchase and puts it into your savings account. Qapital said its average user saves $44 per month with this feature.

14. Get Tax Advice

A tax professional can help ensure you’re filing your taxes properly, and can offer the guidance to address problems when they do arise, potentially saving you a bigger, more expensive and time-consuming headache down the road.

15. Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk can save you time and money each month, said Deb Shaw, COO at international money transfer service ForeignExchange.com.

“Examine what you purchase repeatedly every month, and buy those products or services in bulk,” he said. “For me, this means household items and food with a long shelf life.”

16. Save Before You Pay

If one of the first things you do when you get your paycheck is pay your bills, you might want to reconsider that.

“The best money hack I know is to pay yourself first: Put your budgeted savings into your account before you pay your bills or make any other expenditures,” said Mike Catania, co-founder and CTO of PromotionCode.org. Saving becomes a priority rather than an afterthought, and can help ensure that you stash your money away before you can spend it.

“It’s a common trope for investors, but it’s equally applicable to everyone, and it has the added advantage of helping you mentally shift into prioritizing yourself,” he said.

17. Call Your Cable Company

A short, single phone call once a year to your cellphone and internet provider could save you hundreds, said Bruce Harpham of Project Management Hacks. Do your research ahead of time to see what various deal packages your providers offer, which can give you a cost range to aim for.

Harpham offered tips to negotiate your cable bill. “In the call, point out how long you have been a customer, point out your good payment history, if applicable, and ask for any special promotions currently offered,” he said. “Patience and a bit of luck is required, but the payoff can be great.”

18. Take Online Courses

If you want to go back to school, but can’t imagine spending the money or the time, Adrian Ridner, CEO of Study.com, said online courses can help you achieve this goal in less time and with less money.

19. Buy an Affordable Quality Car

Nothing beats that new car smell, but the type of car you choose can have a major impact on how much time and money you spend maintaining your ride.

If you’re in the market for a new or used vehicle, stop by First Financial and apply for an Auto Loan with us! We have the same great low rates whether you plan on purchasing a new or used vehicle.* To apply, click here for our online application or stop into any branch location. 

20. Automate Everything

Automating can also help you stay on track to meet your investing and debt payoff goals. “The answer to saving time and money is very simple: automation,” said John Luskin of financial planning website UncleDMoney. “This way, you’re saving and/or investing automatically. You don’t even have to think about it.”

Automating doesn’t mean hands-off, though. You should still keep a close eye on your statements to track your spending, watch for signs of fraudulent activity and make sure your automated transactions are going through.

*Subject to credit approval. A First Financial membership is required to obtain an auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. 

Article Source: Morgan Quinn for Go Banking Rates, https://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/money-hacks-busy-people-swear/

How to Get Back on Track If You’re Drowning in Debt

bigstock-Businessman-Run-Away-From-Debt-103353212Getting out of debt is much harder than getting into it. But you can do it — and along the way, you’ll rid yourself of a lot of stress.

Countless people find themselves drowning in debt simply because they can’t control their spending. If this sounds familiar, try tracking everything you buy for a month, including all those “little” items that cost just a few dollars. Once you see how those purchases add up, you’ll realize how important it is to lay out a budget and stick to it.

Understanding how much you actually spend is a good first step, but that alone won’t get you out of debt. The following strategies for managing different types of expenses — and bringing in some extra income — can you help you reach a happy, debt-free future.

Control your credit card usage. If credit card debt is the problem, take these steps right away:

  • Cut up your cards: Save one card for use in emergency situations. Cut up all the others, and throw away the pieces.
  • Pay with cash: Only pay cash for purchases such as groceries, clothing, and gas.
  • Attack high-interest debt first: Pay off the credit card with the highest interest rate first. Once this card is paid off, apply what you were paying on it to the card with the next highest rate.
  • Negotiate a lower rate: Negotiate your interest rate with your credit card companies. Your issuer will usually work with you if you say you’re going to transfer the balance to another card with a lower rate.

Cut some recurring expenses. Most people have recurring monthly expenses that can be eliminated, including:

  • Excess phone service: If you have a mobile and a landline, you probably don’t need both. Pick one and stop paying for the other.
  • Satellite/cable television: Consider disconnecting satellite or cable service and replacing it with a streaming service, such as Netflix or Hulu. You can get entertainment at a fraction of the monthly cost.

Keep an eye on your indulgences. We all have little indulgences we like to spend money on here and there, but we often don’t realize how much they add up.

  • Specialty coffee: Stopping by Starbucks on your way to work every morning is certainly a luxury you enjoy, but you could save $25 or more a week by making your own coffee at home.
  • Fast food lunches: If you work outside your home, chances are you buy lunch out at least a couple of days per week. These costs mount quickly. Even if you spend only $40 per month eating lunch out, that’s $40 that could go to your savings account or toward a credit card payment.

Bring in extra income. When you lose control of your finances, getting out of debt requires serious action.

  • Take a second job: No one wants to work 16 hours per day, but if that’s what it takes for your family to thrive financially, then it must be done — at least temporarily. It may be that working an additional, part-time job for just 20 hours or less per week is all that’s necessary to help you out financially.
  • Sell things you don’t use: Many of us keep things we no longer need in the basement or storage shed. Sell any item you haven’t used within the last year online or have a garage sale.
  • Sell your (extra) car: If you’re a two- or three-car household, chances are you could make do with one less car. Consider selling one if it isn’t a necessity.

Reduce debt — and stress.

It requires work and a commitment to doing what it takes to reduce your expenses-to-income ratio. Once you make that commitment, you’ll find that your bank account grows and your stress level decreases.

Take advantage of First Financial’s free, online debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

*Original article source courtesy of Pamela Sams of the LA Times.

The One Way to Never Fall Into Debt Again


Debt is literally a four letter word; it just also happens to mean you owe money.

Many Americans have a dream they’ll never realize: living without debt. Yet, the dream is possible for nearly everyone – just be prepared for the sea change of behavior required to make it happen. If you are unprepared, your ship will never make it to the safe harbor of paradise, and you will crash upon the jagged rocks of financial ruin.

Follow these simple steps to make your dreams of a safe financial future come true, and steer clear of financial ruin.

Make Up Your Mind

Many people fall into debt because they grow complacent, spending above and beyond their means, living from paycheck to paycheck with barely enough to make the bills. They don’t have enough to pay for dinner out on Friday, the new clothes that go with it, or the movie after.

Yet they do it anyway, and on the credit card the spending goes. The honest, painful truth is that if you don’t have the money for those things, you shouldn’t be doing them. Learning to be satisfied with your limitations is difficult. You want to be accepted by your personal crowd, but if your crowd’s habits are decaying your account balance one bad habit at a time, you have to ask yourself if the consequences are really worth it.

Once you decide that the lush greens of financial security offer an abundance that the Jones’ can’t match, then the seas gets glassy and the waters are far easier to ease through.

Say Goodbye

Once you’ve made up your mind to live within your means, it’s time to say goodbye to your plastic.

Either cut them or bury them far, far away. You may even want to freeze your credit cards. You can’t open the dam for the credit flood waters if you don’t have access to it. Don’t panic. It’ll be tough at first to say goodbye because you’ll feel like you’re being left without a life preserver, but the truth is you’ll be gaining a lifeboat in exchange.

Pay Off Your Debt First

Cutting up your card was the first step. Now you must be proactive about slashing it to zero. Snowballing is an extremely effective way to quickly demolish your debt. Establish your payoff plan and stick to it. This debt is now a “need” on your financial map.

You have a plan for paying off your credit cards, now lay out your map to help you get from paycheck A to paycheck B.

Lay Out Your Map

What are your needs? What are your wants?

By organizing your finances by needs and wants on a paycheck to paycheck scale, you can pay off the needs first, then have whatever is left for you. When you draw your financial map, classify bills, debts, and savings as needs, don’t forget to calculate things like clothes and the once in a while purchases too. Otherwise, your budget won’t resemble reality. The only rule is to determine needs from wants when you allot your funds.

Track Your Money

The beauty of online bill pay is that using it for everything keeps you from running blind through your budget, while showing you exactly what’s happening with your balance. Without credit or debit cards sucking the life from your account, it’s one way in and two ways out – cash and bill pay.

Use bill pay for everything and withdraw your cash for the extras bill pay can’t handle such as gas and petty expenses. Once your cash is gone. You’re done. No more spending until the next paycheck is securely in your account.

Remember to withdraw enough cash to get you through. Allot the amount of cash required for groceries, fuel, kid’s needs, and anything else you may need for the period. If you know your child needs new clothes, establish a plan for that spending and only use cash you have readily available.

Some people label envelopes so they can distribute the cash they need to the places they need it, without cutting into funds from another category. Do whatever works for your mind and your system. The only unbreakable rule is that you can’t spend beyond the cash you have, so you must manage it well.

Once you have learned to live within your means, and have your debt under control, life will be sweeter and you’ll never return to the choppy waters of too much debt again.

*Original article courtesy of Vincent King of MoneyNing.