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

5 Money Subjects You Need to Talk About Before Tying the Knot

Bursting the love bubble by sitting down and having a serious talk about finances is never fun, but open communication about money is a good idea in any relationship.

Since it’s wedding season, those thinking of tying the knot should have a serious discussion about money at some point, preferably before you move in together or actually get married. Even if there are no plans to combine finances completely, it’s still good to clear the air and see if you and your future spouse are on the same page.

Here are five things to talk about before moving forward:

1. Debt

One of the biggest things you need to talk about is debt. Get it out there. Even if you won’t be sharing finances, one person’s debt can have a profound impact on household finances. If you want to buy a home together or if you want to do other things, someone’s obligations can hold you back as a couple.

Have an honest talk about your debt levels, and see if you can make a plan to pay down the debt. Even if you don’t share finances, the partner without the debt is going to have to be supportive until the debt is paid off.

2. Credit

Credit goes along with debt, but it isn’t exactly the same thing. While it’s not vital that your partner have a perfect credit score, it is a good idea to see where you both stand, and be honest about the situation.

At some point, if you decide to get a joint loan together (for a car, wedding, or a home), both of your credit scores will matter. Talk about it so you know what you need to do together. If one of you has a poor score, you might have to wait a little longer before you accomplish some of your loan goals.

3. Money Philosophy

This is a bigger deal than you might think. It’s a good idea to know whether or not you have the same money values before you take that next step. Spenders and savers need to be able to come up with a plan to compromise. If you like spending your money on lots of books, and your partner prefers movies, you might need to come up with a plan to make sure you both get what you want at least some of the time.

4. How to Handle Kids and Money

If you think you’ll have kids together (and that’s another conversation you need to have before taking things to the next level), you need to talk about how you’ll handle kids and money.

Do you want to save up for college for them? How will you handle allowance? Extracurricular activities?

These are big questions you need to tackle together so you are on the same page. It’s vital to know early on so that you aren’t unpleasantly surprised later.

5. Retirement

Chances are, you both want to save for retirement. But do you have a shared vision for what that looks like? Before you commit to a long-term, life partner relationship, make sure you talk about how you want to handle retirement. It can be tough if one of you expects to sit at home most of the time, and maybe play golf a couple times a week, while the other wants to sell the house and everything in it to travel the world.

In the end, you need to make sure that everyone is on the same page so that all your money goals are being reached together. Take the time to have a discussion now, so there are fewer surprises later.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for moneyning.com

3 Ways to Stay Out of Debt

Your student loans are paid off, and you finally got rid of that credit card debt. It’s a great feeling to be debt free, and it only feels better when you’ve stayed that way for a while. Going forward, here are three things to be mindful of if you don’t want to slip back into debt.

Be ready for the unexpected: A car wreck could happen in an instant and you could be responsible for car repairs or medical bills. If you’re not prepared with an emergency fund, you might have to put those payments on credit, and then you’ll be right back where you started. Make sure you start saving a little bit every month, so when those unexpected bills happen – you’ll be ready.

Stick to your lists: Always make a list before you go shopping. If you like shopping with your credit card (credit rewards or cash back can be great), make sure you buy only what you intended to. A few extra bucks here and there can cause you to go over budget, and even leaving a small balance on your credit card can get you in trouble over time.

Take a long look at your subscriptions: Whether it’s a gym membership, a streaming service, magazines, or whatever else, make sure you’re really getting value out of any recurring purchase that you’re subscribed to. If you haven’t been to the gym in the last couple years, it’s probably time to stop giving them your money – even if it’s only twenty dollars a month.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Do Your 2018 Resolutions Need a Do Over?

Believe it or not, it’s May already. You’ve flipped the calendar page four times, and if you’re like more than 80% of the general public, it’s been a few months since your New Years’ resolutions crashed and burned. Have you taken the time to analyze why your good intentions didn’t pan out? Maybe they were too ambitious. Maybe they weren’t challenging enough. Whatever the reason (or excuse), your resolutions are over. Done. Finished. Or are they?

Failed goals aren’t ashes. They’re embers.

Is it possible to revive resolutions that haven’t shown signs of life in months? Absolutely. To stoke your motivational fire, you’ll need to revisit the reasons you set those goals in the first place. Take a close look at the things you want to accomplish, and then determine whether they’re still a realistic possibility. If so, recommit yourself. If not, adjust your expectations. But once you decide to have another go at it, work smarter not harder.

Find your momentum with micro-goals.

While it can be discouraging to examine missed goals or failure in general, author Erin Lowry addresses the topic of failed resolutions with refreshing candor on her Broke Millennial blog. Lowry shared, “Like most of us, I fail each year at my New Year’s resolutions. Then I realized I should apply one of my favorite money tactics to my resolutions. Micro-goals. I’m a big believer in setting a lofty goal and then working backward to chunk that goal down into manageable pieces.”

The beauty of micro-goals lies in their universal application. Financial Goals. Fitness ambitions. Relational hopes and dreams. Whatever the category, micro-goals can help you get back on track. The key to starting over is finding a way to gain momentum, and breaking your big goals into smaller goals can set yourself up for easy wins. Then, as you experience the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing each little task, you’ll find the inspiration to carry on toward your ultimate destination. Like the peaceful painter, Bob Ross, once said, “There’s nothing in the world that breeds success like success.”

Take another run at those financial goals.

Are you doubling back to pursue a financial resolution like paying off debt, building an emergency fund, or saving for retirement? Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Your credit union can be an incredible partner in your pursuit of financial stability. From low-interest loans and high-interest savings accounts, to financial counseling and investment advice – credit unions provide a wide array of solutions designed to help their members win with money.

Not a credit union member? Your first micro-goal is an easy one: become a credit union member as soon as possible! If you live, work, worship, volunteer, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey – you are eligible to become a member of First Financial. It’s easy, get started now!

Can You Afford a Pet?

Before envisioning long walks and fur-baby snuggles, make sure you are financially prepared for what’s ahead. The ASPCA estimates the first year costs of owning a pet is at least $1,000 – and that’s not factoring in unexpected emergencies.

Here is the breakdown of the average annual costs for a medium dog (not including the adoption fee which can range from $45-$300).

One-time costs

Spaying/Neuter: $200
Initial Medical Exam: $70
Collar and leash: $30-$45
Crate: $95+
Travel Crate: $60+
Training: $110

Recurring costs

Food: $319
Annual Exams: $235
Toys/Treats: $55+
License: $15
Grooming: $264+
Pet Insurance: $225

First Year Average TOTAL: $1,723

If you have a large dog, that average total jumps to $2,008. Cats are a bit friendlier on your wallet at $1,174.

Here are a few tips to help keep costs down:

Schedule regular check-ups.
Don’t be afraid to shop around for the right vet and compare preventative care fees. Ask family or friends who have pets who they go to and if they are happy with the veterinary services.

Brush your pet’s teeth.
Just don’t use toothpaste made for people, since the fluoride may irritate your pet’s stomach. But good dental health is important for pets – believe it or not, dental disease can lead to heart and kidney problems.

Groom your pet at home.
Some grooming salons offer a fully stocked self-service room complete with a tub, blow dryer, apron, and gloves at a fraction of the cost. Bonus? You take your fresh smelling dog home without doing any post-bath clean-up. Also invest in a good brush. Setting aside daily brushing time is good for your pet and will reduce the amount of hair floating around your home.

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com