Break the Bank this Holiday Season? Get Back on Track!

Even if you didn’t storm the shelves at 3am on Black Friday, there’s a good chance you may have overspent during the holiday season. If you’re fretting about your finances, there are a few things you can do to remedy your wallet. Follow these tips for reversing the damage and getting back on financial track.

Make some returns.

It may be tough to do but it’s time you take a hard look at the purchases you made. Did you buy gifts for others or splurge on yourself? If you intentionally made purchases for your loved ones you will probably be safe holding on to those items, as chances are you were budgeting for them. But, if you spontaneously spent on things you may not need just because they were on sale, consider returning those extras to put more money back in the bank.

Save what you bought for the future.

Just because you bought your child ten toys doesn’t mean they all have to end up under the tree this Christmas. If you decide to keep them all, hold on to a few for future holidays. That way when it is time to celebrate Timmy’s birthday, you’ll have already spent money on his gifts and won’t be out even more cash down the road.

Cut costs elsewhere.

If you overspent and are feeling stressed, you may have to make some sacrifices until you can get your money back to where it was. That means it’s time to scale back on the extras. Simplify your life and remember what’s of real value during this special season. Instead of eating meals at restaurants, save money and spend quality time together by cooking at home as a family. Forget spending a ton at the movie theater and opt instead to enjoy movies from the comfort of your couch.

Article Source: Wendy Moody for CUInsight.com

3 Easy Ways to Make Some Extra Holiday Cash

Black Friday has come and gone and Cyber Monday is in the past too. Did you take advantage of any big sales? Did you overspend on your holiday shopping budget? Whether or not you spent too much over Thanksgiving weekend, it’s always nice to have a few extra bucks in your pocket over the holidays. Here are three ways you can accumulate some extra money for the holiday season.

Keep the change: A piggy bank is a very simple item, and that’s what makes it so genius. You need $100 in a couple of months? Start putting away your spare change now and by the time that day arrives, you’ll be ready to go. The best part is, you can find the money without having to budget it and then cash in all your coin for dollars.

Answer some questions: Taking surveys online or at the mall may not seem like the best way to spend a couple of hours, but it can put a few extra bucks in your pocket. Check out Make Money Taking Surveys and discover some easy ways to make $25-$50 a day.

Go into sales: People love yard sales. It’s a great way to get something cool at a great price. You probably won’t get rich from having a yard sale, but you can definitely make $50-$100, depending on what you’re willing to sell. Ready to part with that drum set that’s been collecting dust? Put it on Craig’s List or use an app like Let Go, and see what happens.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

6 Scams to Watch Out For this Holiday Season

The holiday season is a joyful time for family, friends, celebrations, and gifts. And unfortunately, it can be a time for scams. Now that the holiday season has officially arrived, authorities are warning local residents to beware of scams and deceptive advertising while shopping at stores or online this year.

Here are some tips on how to protect yourself:

The Bait and Switch: Take retailers’ advertisements to the store with you. Unscrupulous retailers may advertise goods at low prices, but when you get to the store the price may be higher than advertised or the product might not be there at all.

Skimming Devices: Skimming devices are often placed on gas pumps or ATMs to capture data from the magnetic stripe on the back of credit and debit cards. If something looks out of place or easily wiggles, use a different ATM, gas pump, or register.

“Cybersquatting” Sites: Crooks try to impersonate well-known websites by inverting characters or slightly altering the name of a well-known website. The copycat sites may look similar to the real website – and they can steal your credit information. Carefully read website addresses to ensure you are shopping on a legitimate website.

Copycat and Fraudulent Websites: Fake websites set up by scammers target online shoppers during the holiday season. Sometimes appearing as ad results in online searches, these sites may contain malware or steal credit card data. Avoid making purchases from untrustworthy sites.

Security Certificates: To ensure you are shopping on a secure website, make sure the website begins with “https” and has a small padlock icon next to the webpage address. Keep your computer, tablet or smartphone up-to-date and install security software.

Retailers Who Request Payment through Wire Transfer: Legitimate online businesses will not use wire transfer to collect payment for purchases, ever. This is a sure sign of a scam.

Some other important holiday shopping tips:

  • Sign up for transaction alerts on your credit and debit cards, or at least monitor your accounts closely online and report any suspicious activity immediately to your financial institution. Enroll in Visa Purchase Alerts for your First Financial debit card here. Sign up for Visa Credit Card alerts in Online Banking.
  • Think before you click! This doesn’t just pertain to emails, also be leary about clicking on online ads, applications and electronic greeting cards. Cybercriminals often mimic content, so be on the lookout for altered URLs.
  • Don’t trust a site or name you don’t know, and don’t fall for too good to be true prices.
  • Use payment methods that offer tokenization. This includes using a digital wallet to pay for purchases like Apple Pay, Samsung/Android Pay and the like.
  • Have unique, complex passwords for websites that store your information and change your passwords frequently.
  • Be cautious of charities you give to online, in person and over the phone. If you are going to donate, be sure to investigate the charity on the web first and make sure they are legitimate (or a well-known organization like the Salvation Army, St. Jude, etc.).
  • Ensure home computers are protected with antivirus software, anti-spyware, and a firewall.
  • Look for ATM and gas pump tampering, or skimming devices. Do not use the ATM or gas pump if you suspect anything suspicious. Watch our short video on how to spot a skimming device here.

Article Source: Kara Seymour for Patch.com and 11-28-17 CUNA Risk Alert

3 Tricks to Save Money for the Holidays

If the holidays have crept up on you, then you probably haven’t started your decorating or shopping yet. If you’re in need of a few extra bucks for the holidays, here are three easy tricks to cut back for the rest of the year.

Cash only: We’re living in the world of Apple Pay and Venmo, which makes spending money easier than ever. If you’re not the cash type, just remember that it feels a lot more personal (and sad) every time you complete a transaction with paper money. It’s enough to make you second guess handing over your cash.

Bundle up: If you want to save a few bucks the “very easy” way, turn down your thermostat. It’s getting colder, but it’s an easy fix and it will save you money. Grab a blanket and some wool socks. Having a few extra bucks to spend will be satisfying when you get ready to buy your niece that karaoke machine she’s been wanting.

Keep tabs on yourself: Every single time you make a purchase, write it down. By physically jotting down every dollar you spend, you’ll quickly realize just how much money you spend on the “must-haves” in your life. This may be just the wake-up call you need to start cutting back on some of the not-so-necessary things you regularly purchase.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

4 Tips to Plan for Holiday Toy Shopping

Want the holiday season’s hottest toys? Or maybe you want a retro game. Whatever the goal, with some holiday toys already in stores, shoppers may want to start planning their strategy ASAP.

GET THE HOT TOYS EARLY: Try shopping online because in a few clicks you can search sites like Walmart, Target, Toys R Us and Amazon to find out quickly if the item is available. Also, it’s good to follow retailers on Twitter, where some post when they get in their next order of certain hot toys in the final weeks before Christmas.

KNOW WHEN THE SALES ARE: If you can afford to wait, stores offer toy discounts of up to 50 percent and also bundle toy deals during the Black Friday weekend. But the best time to get deals on basic toys is two weeks before Christmas, when toys are discounted up to 70 percent, according to DealNews.com. Take advantage of deal trackers. With CamelCamelCamel.com, shoppers can set up alerts when the price of an item falls to a certain level. It also offers a price history of all products sold on Amazon.

Overall, Amazon.com offers the lowest toy prices, with Walmart a close second, according to Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing for the DealNews site, which combed deals during last year’s holiday season. Target, Kohl’s and Toys R Us were ranked third to fifth.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LAYAWAY:  Walmart kicked off its layaway service in September and customers have until December 11 to pay off their account. As in past years, there’s no opening fee to start a layaway account but customers need to put down 10 percent or $10, whichever is greater. Shoppers can put items as low as $10 on layaway with a $50 minimum basket.

At Sears Holdings Corp.’s Kmart, members of the Shop Your Way loyalty program get special perks for the holiday season. They have a $1 down payment for in-store and online layaway contracts. For non-members, it’s a $10 down payment. For Sears, there’s no difference between members and non-members — they don’t have to put any money down for layaway in the store and can put just one penny down online at all times.

EMBRACE SERVICES: Walmart offers curb pickup for online shoppers at 1,000 stores — mostly for grocery items but also some seasonal general merchandise like toys. Walmart, Target and Sears also have pickup services inside the store for online shoppers. Many are trying to improve the speed of service.

Follow these tips and get a jump start (while saving money) this holiday season on toys!

Article Source: Anne D’Innocenzio for the Associated Press on USAtoday.com

13 Tips for Shopping Smarter During the Holiday Season

Whether it involves camping in a store parking lot for Black Friday deals or racing other parents for that last hot-ticket toy, just about everybody has their own nightmare holiday shopping story.

Let’s be honest, holiday shopping has the potential to be awful. You have to brave crowded malls, overpriced items, and the same Christmas carols playing on repeat. But your shopping experience doesn’t have to be that way.

Try these tips to shop smarter and have a much happier holiday experience this year!

1. Plan ahead.

It would be nice if we were able to shower our friends and family with unlimited expensive gifts, but the truth is that the majority of us have a limited amount of money. Before you even start your holiday shopping, make a gift list and set yourself a budget. That way you won’t fall prey to last minute splurge purchases.

2. Save gas (and time) by shopping online.

Avoid crowded shopping centers altogether by doing the bulk of your shopping online. Just make sure that you keep mailing costs in mind and order your gifts far enough ahead of time so that you don’t have to pay for expensive overnight shipping. During the holiday season, many websites feature free shipping – be sure to be on the lookout for the site’s free shipping codes and deals to save before you checkout online.

3. Focus on Cyber Monday, not Black Friday.

Sure, you may find some pretty crazy deals on Black Friday, but when you factor in the gas you use to drive to the store, the time you spend waiting in the cold out front before they open, and the time spent fighting the crowds and waiting in line to make your purchase, is it really worth it? This year, try shopping on the Monday immediately after Thanksgiving. This is the day when online retailers promote big sales, so you can save while shopping from the comfort of your own home.

4. Track price changes for expensive items.

If you’re shopping with a big online retailer like Amazon, you can set up a tracker through websites like CamelCamelCamel or The Tracktor. You can check out past prices of the items you’re shopping for in order to determine whether now is a good time to buy or if you should wait for the price to drop.

5. Use online coupons.

Avoid the hassle of clipping coupons and shoving them in your wallet until you can get to the right store, by using online coupons. Many sites give you an easy way to quickly search for and redeem deals for your gift items.

6. Avoid credit card debt.

This should go without saying, but one of the best ways to shop smart this season is to avoid charging more than you’ll be able to pay off. Don’t get talked into starting a credit card with a particular department store, either. It’s usually not worth it. Keep close track of the money you spend and know where your limits are.

*If you are going to use a credit card this holiday season – apply for one of First Financial’s great low rate options! Our Visa Platinum Card has one of the lowest APRs around and you’ll earn merchandise rewards on your purchases. Our Visa Signature Card lets you earn cash back on your purchases. Learn more and apply online 24/7.

7. Don’t be afraid to buy the same gift twice.

If you find a gift that you know several people on your list would enjoy, don’t be afraid to buy it in multiples. This cuts down on your shopping time, and if the store is offering any kind of “Buy 1, get the second 1 at a discount” deal, that’s even better!

8. Considering buying experiences, not just stuff.

Instead of buying material goods that your family members aren’t that excited about, consider buying a day or weekend trip that you can share together. It can make more sense to invest money in creating a family memory that will last forever than buying an item that will have a short life span.

9. Group your shopping trips.

If you have to go to brick and mortar stores to do some of your holiday shopping, figure out where all the stores you need to visit are and plan the route that will involve the least driving. Try to get all your shopping done in one fell swoop so that you don’t have to keep driving back out to the stores.

10. Save money by using your smartphone.

The Amazon Price Checker app, which is available for both iPhones and Android devices, lets you scan the barcodes of items in a store and compare to prices of the same item online. Shopkick is another great app that rewards you just for visiting stores by offering you special discounts. Make purchases at the store and you’ll get even more points to put toward a future reward.

11. Never shop on weekends.

Weekends are inevitably the busiest shopping days during the holiday season, so if you want to avoid the crowds, try shopping on weekday evenings.

12. Shop alone.

While shopping alone doesn’t sound as fun as bringing along a friend, it will save you time and potentially prevent you from being influenced to make big spur-of-the-moment purchases.

13. Know when to avoid the express line.

Each person has to do an individual transaction, so a regular checkout line is often better than a long express lane line.

The holidays should be a time to relax and hang out with friends and family, don’t let yourself get stressed out by last-minute shopping expeditions. Just take a deep breath, do some planning in advance, and shop smart this season.

*APR varies from 11.9% to 18% for the Visa Platinum Card and from 13.9% to 18% for the Visa Signature Card when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.Visa Signature Card Cash Back: Your First Financial Visa® Signature Credit Card will earn cash back based on your eligible purchase transactions. The cash back will be applied to your current credit card balance on a quarterly basis and be shown cumulatively on your billing statement. Unless you are participating in a limited time promotional offer, you will earn 1% cash back based upon eligible purchases each quarter.

Article Source: Julianna Weiss-Roessler for Lifehack.org