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

Hand Drawn Life Hacking Concept on Small Green Chalkboard. Business Background. Top View. 3D Render.

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

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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.

30 Money Mistakes You’re Probably Making This Summer

morning empty beach and footprints on sand

Summer is a time to cut loose and have fun. But, if you’re not careful, that fun can lead to overspending, failing to keep tabs on your finances, and making money mistakes due to distractions. You certainly don’t want to be paying for those mistakes the rest of the year. So, to maintain your financial well-being while enjoying all that summer has to offer, avoid making these money mistakes for the rest of the season.

1. Overspending on Summer Fun Rather than Saving

There are plenty of temptations to spend on in the summer — travel, concerts, cocktails by the pool, and nights on the town. However, you shouldn’t stop contributing to your retirement account to fund summer fun. To avoid the temptation to overspend, contribute to retirement accounts by having payments automatically deducted from your paycheck or bank account. Then you can only spend what’s left after funding your savings.

2. Not Having a Budget for Summer Activities

To avoid overspending in the summer, you should plan activities in advance and create a fund to cover the cost. You can open a separate account or even put cash in an envelope — and stop spending once the money runs out. Without a budget for summer fun, you could end up relying on credit (and paying for your summer fun well into the next few seasons).

3. Missing Payments While Traveling

It’s easy to miss deadlines for bills — or forget to make payments entirely while traveling. “If you forget, expect late fees and a ding to your credit report,” said Jim Wang, creator of the money-saving blog WalletHacks.com. To avoid the cost of fees and a drop in your credit score, set up automatic payments through your service providers or your bank, so your bills are paid while you’re on vacation. If there are bills you can’t pay automatically, and you forget to make a payment, call the billing department to explain why you missed it and ask if you might be able to have the late fee waived.

4. Not Putting Mail Delivery on Hold

Forgetting to contact the U.S. Postal Service to stop mail delivery while you’re on vacation could put your finances at risk. To lower your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft, you can put a hold on your mail by filling out an online form at USPS.com.

5. Failing to Keep an Eye Out for Fraud

Whether you’re traveling this summer or just staying busy by having fun in the sun, it’s easy to forget to keep tabs on your accounts for unusual fees or activity. However, you shouldn’t let your guard down during the summer. Log on to your bank and credit accounts regularly and set up alerts to receive text messages or emails when charges are made to your accounts to spot fraudulent activity quickly. Additionally, you should get a free copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com to make sure unauthorized accounts haven’t been opened in your name.

6. Falling Prey to Summer Scams

Scammers take advantage of a variety of opportunities during the summer months to get people to part with their money. If you’re not careful, you could become their next victim. One of the most common scams involves offering deeply discounted vacation rental properties or vacation packages, according to the New York State Attorney General’s office. Deals that seem too good to be true and require an upfront payment or wire transfer are red flags. In many cases, vacationers arrive at their destinations only to find that the rentals don’t exist.

7. Cooling an Empty House

The air conditioner likely takes the biggest bite out of your home energy bill during the summer by accounting for nearly 50 percent of your energy use. So, if you leave the temperature setting too low while you’re at work or on vacation, your energy bill will likely soar. Try installing a programmable thermostat, so the temperature will automatically adjust while you’re away to keep you from wasting energy cooling an empty home.

8. Keeping the Blinds Open During the Day

When you’re heading to work, close the blinds to keep the sun’s rays from warming your home and making your air conditioner work harder — which means a higher electric bill. Reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by about 45 percent when closed and lowered, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Medium-colored draperies with plastic backings can reduce heat gain by about 33 percent.

9. Leaving Electronics Plugged in While on Vacation

If you leave electronics plugged in when you leave for vacation, you’ll be paying for electricity you’re not using. You can also use a power strip to turn off energy vampires with the flip of a switch. Doing this can shave 5 percent or more off your home energy bill.

10. Setting the Water Heater Too High

Leaving the water heater at its regular setting when you go away on vacation can result in wasted money too. Even when you’re at home, you should turn down the temperature on your water heater during the summer. You can save up to $30 on your energy bill for every 10 degrees you lower you water heater temperature, according to the Department of Energy.

11. Buying a New Air Conditioner Without Research

If you need to replace your air conditioner during the hot summer months, don’t let the heat push you into making rash purchasing decisions. It’s best to consult with a professional or do extensive research on ratings and proper installation techniques to get the most out of a big-ticket investment.

12. Overpaying for Child Care

Paying for child care during the summer when kids are out of school can easily break your budget. You might be able to cut the cost by pooling babysitting resources, according to nonprofit financial counseling agency, Take Charge America. For example, you could hire one babysitter to watch several children in the neighborhood and split the cost among multiple families. Or, you might be able to get several family members or friends to take turns watching the kids.

13. Spending Too Much on Summer Activities for Kids

Parents spend more than $950 per child on average for summer activities, according to a report by American Express. Fortunately, there are several ways to minimize these costs. Try looking into summer camps offered through your city’s recreation department, community center or YMCA. Many churches and religious groups also offer affordable camps and programs for kids.

14. Taking a Vacation Rather than a Staycation

It’s fun to get away, but taking a vacation can put a strain on your budget. Americans who plan to travel this summer expect to spend an average of $941 per person on their trips, according to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. Planning a staycation — rather than a vacation, is a way to cut costs and explore the town in which you live. This option eliminates two of the biggest expenses: lodging and transportation costs.

15. Charging a Vacation to a Credit Card without Plans to Pay it Off

If you charge a $3,000 beach vacation for a family of four to a credit card with a 9.90% APR and pay it off over 18 months, it would cost you an extra $240 in interest. If your APR is 19.90%, it would cost you an extra $494 in interest. If you are going to put a vacation or portion of your vacation on a credit card – be sure to have a plan in place to pay it off immediately.

16. Not Being Flexible With Travel Plans

Flights in the summer tend to be more expensive because there’s an increase in demand, said Kyle Taylor, founder of the money-saving blog, The Penny Hoarder. And you’ll pay even more if you’re not willing to be flexible about the day of week you fly. Try to use an airline or travel site’s “flexible dates” option when searching for flights to find the lowest fares.

17. Waiting Until the Last Minute to Book a Flight

If you plan to fly to your summer vacation destination, don’t wait until the last minute to book your flight. You’ll pay about $200 more per ticket, on average, if you book a flight within seven days of departure than if you book a flight three weeks to three months in advance, according to CheapAir.com. If you book between seven and 13 days from departure, you’ll pay at least $75 more.

18. Overpacking When Flying

Overpacking can be a costly mistake, especially if you’re flying on an airline that charges you to check bags. For example, American Airlines, Delta and United all charge $25 for the first bag you check and $30 to $35 for a second bag. You can avoid fees on most airlines by taking only carry-on bags — which means packing only the essentials. Or, you can stick to Southwest Airlines, which lets passengers check two bags for free.

19. Saying Yes to Car Rental Upgrades

If you rent a car for summer travel, don’t feel pressured to say yes to add-ons or upgrades. “Be polite to car rental agents trying to get you to spend more money, but decline their invitations to upgrade your vehicle, pay for insurance or prepay for gas,” said Kendal Perez, a savings expert with Coupon Sherpa. “Upgrading your car will only result in additional rental fees and gas costs, while insurance coverage is likely redundant with that provided by your personal auto insurance or your credit card.”

20. Using Debit Cards to Reserve Hotel Rooms

If you don’t use credit cards — or use them only sparingly, be careful about using a debit card to reserve a hotel room for your summer vacation. Some hotels charge an “incidental deposit” as a security deposit or for other possible charges to your room, such as room service. Typically, the charge is removed shortly after you check out. However, that money is on hold, meaning you might not be able to access needed funds in the event of an emergency. Save the expense and headache by reserving rooms with a credit card instead.

21. Using the Wrong Credit Card Overseas

A common mistake that novice travelers make when overseas is using their regular credit cards without checking to see if they charge foreign transaction fees. While many card companies charge these fees for currency conversion, some issuers offer no foreign transaction fee cards, which can save you up to 3 percent per charge. Be sure to double check your card before you take it overseas.

22. Not Notifying Your Card Company About Your Trip

If you travel outside of your normal geographic region, let your credit card company know in advance. If you don’t, the company’s fraud department might think your purchases are fraudulent.

23. Using Public WiFi While Traveling

During summer travel, people often log on to unsecure networks during layovers or while visiting local coffee shops in the cities they’re visiting. Travelers should know they’re putting personal information at risk when they log on to accounts using public WiFi networks, as hackers can steal their personal information. To avoid putting your information at risk, you can use a virtual private network (VPN) to send and receive information while using public WiFi.

24. Not Waiting for End-of-Season Sales

You might want to upgrade your grill, patio furniture or warm-weather wardrobe now that summer is here. But you likely won’t get the best prices on seasonal items until the end of summer. Waiting for fall to shop can save you 50 percent to 60 percent in some cases.

25. Not Taking Advantage of Sales Tax Holidays

You can save a lot of money by doing your back-to-school shopping during sales tax holidays, said Howard Dvorkin, founder of Debt.com. Seventeen states —primarily in the South, waive sales tax on items like clothing, school supplies and computer purchases on select days in the summer. You can learn more about sales tax holidays at the Federation of Tax Administrators’ website, Taxadmin.org.

26. Buying Produce That’s Not in Season

With the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available during the summer, it doesn’t make sense to spend more on produce that’s not in season yet. Stick to seasonal produce — such as peaches, watermelons, corn and tomatoes to save money. Another way to save on produce during the summer is by visiting your local farmers market.

27. Paying for the Gym When You’re Exercising Outside

If you’re taking advantage of the nice weather to exercise outside, don’t keep forking over money for a monthly gym fee. Instead of opting to ditch your membership — and pay an early termination fee or initiation fee to rejoin, ask if you can freeze your membership.

28. Failing to Take Advantage of Free Activities

You can avoid spending a lot of money on entertainment in the summer by taking advantage of free activities. For example, your town might offer free concerts or movies in the park. Your public library might offer free events and activities too. Check your city’s community calendar for events. Many recreation centers, museums, zoos and botanical gardens also offer free admission on certain days of the week.

29. Paying Full Price for Entertainment

Whether you’re traveling or looking for something fun to do at home, there’s a good chance that you can avoid paying full price for entertainment. For example, look for discounts on admission to amusement parks, zoos, and museums on daily deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial. Don’t forget to take advantage of discounts you can get through memberships in organizations like AAA or AARP. For example, AAA members get up to 30 percent off tickets to Six Flags amusement park.

30. Not Budgeting for Summer Weddings

Most weddings occur between May and October, making summer an especially pricey season if you’re invited to attend or participate in the celebrations. For example, the cost of being a bridesmaid or groomsman can top $1,000, according to a recent GOBankingRates survey. Wedding guests can spend $600 or more on average, on travel and gift costs. To reduce this cost, think carefully before you accept invitations, and keep travel costs in mind. Bridal party members should carefully consider each event associated with weddings, such as bachelor and bachelorette parties and wedding showers. Make sure what you spend on a gift is an amount you can afford.

Article Source: Cameron Huddleston for Go Banking Rates, https://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/money-mistakes-probably-making-summer/

9 Signs You’re Spending More Money Than You Have to and How to Fix It

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Sometimes it’s tough to find a healthy balance when it comes to your finances. While it’s nice to treat yourself every so often, doing it on the regular can be one of the signs that you may be spending too much money. Even though money is a taboo topic and can be a sensitive issue, it’s important to be honest with yourself. While it would be great to make millions of dollars and spend it frivolously all over town, you also need to keep your financial future in mind.

According to the financial app Mint, you might want to be more careful with your money if you’re not paying your bills on time, you’re paying for your necessities with credit cards, or you’re struggling to meet minimum payments. If you find yourself dealing with these things on the regular, it might be a good idea to create a budget and start using cash so you can keep an eye on your finances and spend less money. Feeling stressed about money is something that no one should have to deal with on a daily basis – that’s why it’s important to be honest with yourself and be aware of the signs that you’re spending too much.

Need some help in that department? Here are nine signs you may be spending more money than you need to.

1. You Carry A Large Balance On Your Credit Card

Having more than 30% of your credit card limit on your credit card is considered to be a big no-no. If you find that your credit card limit is higher than your savings account, you might want to switch things up. Some credit cards do have tools where you can track your expenses online. You can also use money apps such as Mint to figure out exactly where everything is going.

First Financial’s Visa® Platinum Credit Card comes fully loaded with higher credit lines, lower APR, no annual fee, no balance transfer fees, a 10 day grace period, CURewards redeemable for merchandise and travel and so much more!* Click here to apply online today or transfer your higher rate credit card balance. 

2. You’re Easily Swayed By Your Social Activities

It isn’t fun missing out on adventures with your friends. But while happy hour sounds awesome, paying your bills is even better. According to Business Insiderauthor of Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets to the Good Life, Ruth Soukup says, “This can be as innocent as going out to eat when you’ve already exhausted your restaurant fund for the month, or as extreme as paying rent you can’t afford in order to keep up with your friends.”  It really won’t be fun when you can’t afford your rent – stick to your budget and don’t spend outside your means.

3. You Don’t Have An Emergency Fund

Ideally, you want to have 10 percent of your income in your savings, but even five percent is good – as long as you have some type of savings built up. Essentially, you want to make sure that you have enough in your bank account for those rainy days. According to Business Insider, billionaire John Paul DeJoria – it’s important to always have at least three to six months’ worth of savings in your account, depending on how much you make annually.

4. You’re Living Paycheck To Paycheck

You probably need to re-adjust your finances if you find yourself living from paycheck to paycheck and not saving any money at the end of the month. According to U.S. Money, if you have a budget, but still find yourself short at the end of every month, it might be time to cut your expenses and re-evaluate.

Check out our free budgeting and savings calculators at firstffcu.com to get started!

5. You Don’t Have A Budget

Certified money coach Ashley Feinstein, founder of “Knowing Your Worth” says, “I recommend that every client keep a money journal for at least a couple of weeks to get conscious about where their money is going.” If there’s one thing you need to do ASAP on this list, it’s creating a budget to help get your finances on track.

6. Your Fridge Is Empty

You might be thinking that this has no correlation with your spending habits, but it actually does. Think about it: if your fridge is empty and you never have to do the dishes, it probably means you spend a lot of money eating out. According to the website Cheat Sheet, if you’re spending an average of $45 for two people and eating out for dinner once or twice a week, you’ve probably already spent more than you would on a week of groceries.

7. You Borrow From Friends Or Family

While it’s probably okay to borrow every now and then (in addition to paying them back on a timely manner), you don’t want to be borrowing from friends or family every time you need to pay your rent.  According to the Huffington Post, if you’re constantly asking your friends and family for money, then it means you either are spending way too much or you need to look for a new job.  Not to mention, constantly borrowing from a loved one can put strain and tension in your relationship.

8. You Don’t Know Where Your Money Is Going

If you find yourself forgetting where all your money is going to, whether you use cash or credit, then it might be a sign that you need to fix your finances. According to U.S. Money, people who shop a lot tend to ignore exactly how much money they spend. It’s best to figure out a budget with exactly how much spending money you have, so you know your spending limit.

Try our free, anonymous, 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.

9. You Feel Stressed About Money

The American Psychological Association conducted a survey in 2015 and found that 72% of Americans were stressed about money at least once in the month. One of the key signs you need to pay attention to is how money actually makes you feel. Sometimes finances can make you feel edgy or anxious when you don’t have control over them. However, if you keep track of every penny that goes in and out of your account, then that anxious feeling could subside.

While spending money may bring you happiness, it’s important to budget your finances so you can have some in savings. While there are plenty of ways to spend your money, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

*APR varies from 11.15% to 18% 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 Fee. 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. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: Raven Ishak for Bustle.com, http://www.bustle.com/articles/170200-9-signs-you-may-be-spending-more-money-than-you-have-to-how-to-fix