How to Save Even If You Live Paycheck to Paycheck

fishing out saving dollars from glass jar isolated on white background

You know you need to save money, but it can be hard if you’re just trying to make ends meet on a small income. After all, you have bills to pay today, so it’s hard to make saving for tomorrow a priority. Even higher-income people can find themselves living paycheck to paycheck without much room in their budget to set aside cash. Despite what you might think, it is possible to save even when you’re strapped for cash. Here’s how to get started.

Figure Out Where Your Money Is Going

You might have more room in your budget to set aside money for savings than you think. But you won’t know until you track your spending for at least one month. Review your bank statement to figure out how much your necessary expenses — rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance, transportation and food are costing you. Account for credit cards, student loans and other debt payments. Then, add up how much you’re spending on things you can live without, such as cable TV or Netflix, restaurant meals, magazine subscriptions and nights out. Knowing how much of your paycheck is going toward needs and wants will help you pinpoint how much you can afford to save each month.

Pay Yourself First

You should think of saving as one of your fixed expenses that you pay at the beginning of the month rather than waiting until the end of the month to see how much you have left over to set aside. Pay yourself first, then learn to live on what’s left.

One of the best ways to pay yourself first is to automate contributions to savings so you don’t even have to think about setting the money aside. If you opted out of your workplace retirement account because you didn’t want to sacrifice your paycheck, you should opt back in and have contributions automatically withdrawn from your paycheck moving forward each month.

You also need to be saving for emergencies so you don’t have to rely on credit cards or even retirement savings to cover unexpected costs. To build an emergency fund, use the same approach as with retirement savings by setting up automatic monthly transfers from your checking account to a savings account so the money comes out before you have a chance to spend it. But, don’t get discouraged if you can’t set aside that much now. Even a small monthly contribution can add up over time.

Get Free Money for Your Retirement Account

If you can’t set aside 10% of your pay each month, contribute enough to your workplace retirement plan to get the full matching contribution from your employer — if it offers one, because this is practically free money. 25% of American employees don’t contribute enough to get the full match from their employer, leaving an estimated $1,366 of free money on the table each year, according to research by Financial Engines, an investment advice company.

Keep More of Your Paycheck

A tax refund can be welcome windfall when you’re living paycheck to paycheck. But a refund means you’re letting the IRS hang onto too much of your paycheck throughout the year. You can keep more of your money each month — and use it to boost savings by adjusting your tax withholding. Ask your human resources department at work for a new W-4 to claim more allowances, which will lower the amount of taxes withheld from your paycheck.

If you received the average refund in 2016 of $2,732, adjusting your withholding could put $227 back into your paycheck each month. If you invested that amount each month at a 7 percent interest rate starting at age 25, you could have nearly $600,000 by age 65.

Reduce Nonessential Expenses

If you discover you’re spending heavily on things you don’t need, those nonessential expenses are the first thing you should cut to make sure your paycheck can cover necessary expenses and savings contributions. If you gave up buying a coffee and bagel twice a week, you could save an estimated $40 per month. If you were to invest that amount each month instead with a 7 percent annual return, you could have $32,402.87 after 25 years.

Raise Your Insurance Deductibles

Another way to find more room in your budget to boost savings is to cut insurance costs. By raising your auto insurance deductible, you can lower your premium by 15 percent to 40 percent, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Raising your homeowner’s insurance deductible from $500 to $1,000 could shave 25 percent off your premium. You also can lower your health insurance premium by opting for a high-deductible plan. With a high-deductible plan, you also get the benefit of being able to set aside money pre-tax through payroll deductions to a health savings account (HSA). Money in an HSA can be used to cover out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

Lower Your Bills

In addition to insurance premiums, there likely are other monthly bills you can cut so you’ll have more cash to stash in savings (for example – Netflix, cable, expensive gym membership, etc.). If you aren’t using these services, why are you paying for them? If you don’t want to get rid of a service completely, you may even be able to opt for a lower data plan to cut the cost of wireless service and so on.

Let Technology Help You Save

If you don’t have the discipline to save on your own, there are several apps that can help. For example, the free Digit app takes automation a step further by linking to your checking account and analyzing your income and spending habits to figure out how much you can set aside in savings. It then automatically puts that money into savings for you.

Article Source: Cameron Huddleston for Go Banking Rates, https://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/save-live-paycheck/  

13 Surprising Ways to Eat Healthy and Save Money in the Process

Woman with a shopping list for groceries at the market

Grocery bills can certainly add up, and it can be hard to prioritize healthy eating when you’re depending on a tight budget. Yet, eating with health in mind can make a huge difference for your mental and physical health, so it’s important to learn these money-saving hacks to make shopping easier and simpler. Eating on a small budget does not necessarily mean that nutrition must fall behind. Here are thirteen ways to save money, while still nourishing your body from the inside and out.

1. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

“In season and local often means better prices and tastier produce! Plus, you will support small businesses, and the goods are delivered right to your door,” says personal trainer and running coach Susie Lemmer.  CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) support terrific causes and are often loaded with fresh, nutrient-dense and seasonal produce that is easy on the wallet and heavy on the health.

2. Choose Your Market Wisely

Not all markets are equal in prices. “Buy food at lower-priced markets such as Trader Joe’s and Costco,” says certified holistic health coach and personal trainer Jen Bruno with J.B. Fitness and Nutrition.  Plus, don’t be afraid to make a few separate trips. While it might be more time consuming, it can help you save tons of money. For instance, you can buy fruit from one store and meats and seasonings from another.

3. Search for Coupons

You can often find coupons over the web, as well as in grocery stores themselves. Compile coupons in order to save well, suggests Bruno, as those extra dollars here and there can definitely add up. Plus, there are often chances to use coupons for healthy items, such as alternative milks, coconut water, legume chips and whole grains.

4. Make Leftovers … Intentionally

Cooking in bulk can not only save time and meal-prep for the week ahead, but it can also save lots of money through recipe makeovers and bulk purchases in store. “Use a slow cooker and double the recipe for leftovers,” advises Bruno. Slow cookers are great for making larger portions of meals, such as stews, soups and chili. Use throughout the week in different ways for diversity in flavor.

5. Buy in Bulk

Bulk sections at grocery stores, such as Whole Foods Market, offers nuts, dried fruits, legumes and beans, and grains, among other staples, that can save serious cash through avoidance of packaged, processed items. “Buy nuts, beans, and spices from bulk bins to save on costs,” says Bruno. Plus, when in bulk, the foods are often free of any additives and salts, which can be a lot healthier, as well!

6. Stock Up on Items with Late Expiration Dates

“Stock up on cooking oils, nuts, canned beans, and stocks/broths when they’re on sale,” says Bruno, as these pantry staples have a long shelf life and are incredibly versatile and practical for hearty, nutritious meals that work throughout the seasons. While they might take up space in your pantry, the cost will be worth it.

7. Be Cautious with Produce

Not all fruit and vegetables need to be fresh, as many studies show that frozen fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh. If produce is in season, it will often be cheaper and on sale; however, out of season produce is less available and pricier. Plus, it won’t taste as good when not in season! Purchase frozen varieties, as it’ll be easier on a budget and won’t make difference nutritionally.

8. Grow Your Own Garden

Whether you have access to growing a full garden within a wide open space, or have a smaller terrace in a cramped urban apartment, the ability to grow some fresh produce, spices and herbs can help cut down on costs and will increase the nutrition and flavor.

9. Make Your Home a “Restaurant”

“America craves the quality food, typically associated with ‘dining out’ experiences, but without the time and money constraints,” says Mike Starks, CEO of Personal Trainer Food. Set the mood to make eating at home enjoyable, so that you feel less inclined to head out to restaurants during the week. Also, you can look for gourmet meal services that are cost efficient and provide restaurant-quality foods.

10. Add Flavor without Expensive Ingredients

“Add a little extra flavor to your veggies that will excite your taste buds with herbs, oils and spices,” says Starks. This will help you make meals different and exciting due to various flavors and textures, without needing to add expensive oils, additives and sauces that can cost a lot at a grocery store. Different flavors and herbs can transform leftovers, as well, making the meals taste delicious and new.

11. Find Recipes with Similar Ingredients

“Look for recipes that have the same ingredients to avoid being wasteful,” says Starks. If most recipes incorporate the same items, shopping in bulk is easier, and if you run out of a certain ingredient, such as a spice, sauce or protein, you can find a quick and efficient substitute that will match the flavor profile well and not require any additional spending.

12. Plan Meals Ahead

“You can save money by avoiding eating out at restaurants and/or the occasional grab-n-go snacks that tend to add up by the end of the week, and having healthy food prepared will keep you on track to achieve your goals without breaking the bank,” says Kevin Curry, a Reebok Expert and founder of FitMenCook.  By figuring out which meals you will eat during the week, you can save money on additional items that are unnecessary purchases.

13. Learn to Buy in Moderation

Sticking with portion sizes and eating expensive items in moderation is a great way to maintain a budget and save. “Practice moderation and only buy what you’re actually going to eat. It’s easy to get distracted by all the fresh, vibrant produce in the grocery store and you begin to buy more than what you need because you ‘hope’ to eat the food,” says Curry.

No matter your exact budget, it’s best to be mindful of your spending and look for deals at the grocery store whenever possible. Buying in bulk, planning meals and ingredients ahead of time, and scouting out the best options at local stores can save money over time and simplify the grocery store process so that you can feel less stressed about the money and healthier with your meal choices.

Article Source: Isadora Baum for Bustle.com, http://www.bustle.com/articles/168016-13-surprising-ways-to-eat-healthy-save-money-in-the-process

 

How to Build Savings From Zero

bigstock-Lost-Funds-Broken-Piggy-Bank-50641262

You’ve seen the numbers. They aren’t pretty.

A recent Bankrate.com survey of 1,000 adults suggests that 66 million American adults have zero dollars saved for an emergency. That dovetails nicely with a report that came out earlier this year from the Federal Reserve, which looked at the economic well-being of American households. And things are not going so well. About one-third of 5,695 respondents to a 2015 survey revealed they would have trouble dealing with a $400 emergency.

Sound familiar? Start building your savings with some of these methods.

Start small. That’s advice from Mackey McNeill, founder and president of Mackey Advisors, a wealth management firm in Bellevue, Kentucky.

“If you have never saved anything in your life, save $5 a week or $10 a week,” McNeill says, adding: “Pick a number that, regardless of disaster, you can achieve.”

After you do that, McNeill advises, “Put the money in a separate account and review it once a month. After three months, consider an increase. After three more months, consider an increase again,” and keep repeating.

“The reason people fail at saving is they start too high. … So they set themselves up for failure,” she says. “Start small. You will be so excited that you met your goal, you will automatically want to do more and achieve more. When you start small, you set yourself up for success. Success begets success. I have never had anyone try this who did not succeed.”

Reward yourself when you save money. This is important, McNeill says, advising that whatever the reward be, make it something free.

For instance: If you save $10 a week, then every time you hit $40 saved, rent a movie at the library or take a walk in the park, she explains.

Whatever you do, “make it something that really nurtures you,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what it is. A hot bath will work. But when you give yourself the reward, you are reinforcing the behavior you want.”

Trim back your expenses. One thing that probably keeps most people from saving more is that there may not be enough money to go around. That’s definitely the case if there are expenses that could be easily cut, or debt that’s weighing you down.

When you’re beginning to put together a plan to save money, or begin your accumulation phase, the first thing to do is pay off any high-interest debt like credit cards. Paying off high-interest debt is the most important first step in beginning any accumulation phase because everything you pay off, you are eventually saving money on high interest.

Make it easy. Assuming you have a financial institution – a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation study suggests that 9 million Americans don’t – the easiest way to save money is to set up a savings account and then direct a specific amount to go regularly from your checking account to your savings account, says Michael Eisenberg, a certified public accountant and personal financial specialist with Innovative Wealth Advisors in Encino, California.

“Every time your paycheck hits your checking account, you should instruct your financial institution to move a set sum directly into your savings account,” he says. “This makes it easy and seamless.”

Eventually, he says, you won’t even miss the money because it’s automatically disappearing, and you’ll get used to working with the money going into your checking account.

Susan Howe, a certified public accountant in Philadelphia, echoes that advice. “Even a modest amount will add up quickly if you set it for a weekly transfer. Just be sure there are no fees,” she says.

Try opening a 401(k) or an IRA. That’s what Leonard Wright, a wealth management advisor in San Diego, suggests. In particular, Wright recommends opening up a Roth 401(k) or a Roth IRA.

“This money grows tax-free for life, is not subject to required minimum distributions when you retire and best of all, is tax-free when you need it – and can help with education expenses for your children,” he says.

But McNeill notes that wherever you put your money, whether in a 401(k) or other savings account, “in the beginning, it’s irrelevant,” – as long as you’re saving money somewhere. “What you are trying to do is create a new habit.”

How will you begin preparing for your retirement today? To set up a complimentary consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your savings goals, contact us at 732.312.1564, email samantha.schertz@cunamutual.com or stop in to see us!*

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

*Original article source courtesy of Geoff Williams of US News.

12 Ways You Can Save Money Without Sacrificing Your Lifestyle

bigstock-people-consumerism-lifestyle-102722153Saving or spending is an eternal economic dilemma. People are constantly torn between the satisfaction of present gratification and the promise of future prosperity. At a first glance, it seems almost impossible to simultaneously achieve both, due to the dynamics of limited income, volatile prices, and personal needs.

There are many instances where people spend their money quickly, for limited gains, and find themselves unable to save for the future. Conversely, other people sacrifice their preferred lifestyle in order to save money for a future goal which they deem important, but miss a lot of opportunities to enjoy the present. Both approaches are prone to bring regret, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness in the long run. So what can we do?

Ideally, there should be a fine balance between saving and spending. This can be easily achieved with some self-discipline and common sense. To help you out, we will list twelve simple ways to save money without sacrificing your lifestyle.

1. Control the Urge for Instant Gratification.

The desire for instant gratification is almost inescapable, as it’s programmed in our natural behavior. We naturally prefer the now rather than the later, especially when it comes to things we need on a regular basis, like clothes, food, and household equipment. This also applies to leisure activities, which we would almost certainly prefer to do now, even if we’re short on cash.

To counter this, we should always consider whether short-term benefits outweigh long-term gains and make sure we can spot which cases of instant gratification endanger our long-term aims. For example, when choosing between going to a job interview or to an anticipated party, you must make sure you understand the consequences of each choice from your particular standing point. Nobody is telling you not to enjoy yourself, but make sure you fully understand the benefits and the costs.

2. Make Smart Shopping Choices.

Before making a purchase, put on your thinking cap first and ask yourself if you’re making a smart move or not. Do not act on appearance, rumors, and product presentations, but on facts and client reviews. In the meantime, always keep your eyes open for a better deal and don’t rush into buying the first appealing item you find, whatever it may be. Inspect the market, compare prices and check for quality reviews. This way, you’re more likely to get a higher price-quality ratio when making a purchase.

Shopping takes time and patience and you must never forget to watch out for deals and discounts. It is much wiser to wait for a product to go on discount than to buy it straight away. If you shop smart, you will keep expenses at bay and still enjoy high-quality products.

3. Buy What You Actually Need.

Before you decide to purchase something, ask yourself whether you really need that particular item. It’s not uncommon for people to go shopping just for the heck of it and serious money can be wasted like this. Remember the fundamental principle of free market economics: supply and demand. Don’t you actually have two full wardrobes anyway? Is your laptop working fine after all? Is a new suit the absolute priority right now?

Only buy things which can play a part in your work or leisure pursuits. If you’re not sure you need it, you don’t need it.

4. Use What You Already Have.

It’s very important to keep track of the things in your house and of how well they can help you achieve your purposes. Many people tend to hoard stuff and then go buy some more stuff, without any though on whether they could get the job done with what they already have. Don’t go shopping if it’s already in the house. It can do its job. Give it a chance.

5. Use the Internet.

The internet is the tool for shopping. If you think you’re using all it can offer, you might be mistaken. From price comparisons, extensive client reviews, and advantageous deals, shopping online is the best way you can save money.

Instant access to prices, reviews and competitors gives you a wider market vantage point and will allow you to make an informed decision with just a few clicks. You can find more helpful tips on using the internet for shopping efficiently here.

6. Take Advantage of Online Deals & Surveys.

Saving money can also be achieved by taking as much advantage as possible from online deals and surveys. Many companies are very keen on getting as much feedback from their customers as possible and prepare questionnaires, feedback forms, and surveys. Participating in these can be very beneficial because companies will sometimes reward you with discounts and vouchers. Converse, for instance, has developed an excellent method of retaining their customers’ loyalty by creating an easy customer feedback survey that allows shoppers to update their wardrobes through a personalized gift card.

7. Plan Your Leisure Time Carefully.

People who can have fun and save money at the same time usually have a very clearly defined work and fun routine. In order to save money, it’s very important to know when to go out and when not to. Self-disciplined people don’t avoid the fun parts but know when to schedule them without disrupting the quality of their work. Work hard, play hard, but not at the same time. It’s as simple as that.

8. Rediscover the Old School Way of Having Fun.

Rediscover the charm and satisfaction that old school fun can bring, especially now when we’re seemingly unable to step away from our laptops of phones for more than five minutes. Instead of spending a ton of money clubbing or pub crawling, go at a friend’s house for a barbecue, a movie or a board game. Skip that expensive concert and go on a camping trip next weekend. Having a great time is about people, not places and things. So try to tone down the spending while doing similarly fun things.

9. Learn When to Stop.

It’s very easy to lose yourself in a shopping spree. Once you get started, you will need all the willpower you can muster to prevent yourself from rampaging through your favorite store. If you want to stay balanced and keep your budget afloat, learn when to say no. Sometimes you simply can’t afford to spend all that money on something non-essential. Less is more.

10. Make Realistic Plans.

Don’t wish for what you know can’t possibly happen. Think smaller and keep your feet on the ground. If you have an average income, but you’re running two bank loans to pay for cedar wood furniture, then you’ve probably lost your bearing at some point. Learn not to live above your means and grow your income organically, not artificially.

 It’s alright to have bright future plans. But make them realistic.

11. Exercise Full Control on Your Finances.

Control your money. Don’t let someone else manage it for you and keep a written account of income and expenses for each month. That way, you’ll be able to see where you’ve overreached and where you need to cut back. Keep a strict security routine for your credit and debit cards. In addition, make sure you always know what the opportunity cost is for every purchase. So, if you buy a laptop, keep in mind you won’t be able to also fix the car this month.

Leave nothing to chance and keep a sharp eye on your balance sheet.

12. Keep a Balanced Mindset.

In the end, however, what really matters is your mindset and attitude. If you have the self-discipline, the patience, and the internal balance to prevent you from making mistakes, there is no reason why you can’t live a good life and still save for the future. Optimism is also helpful, but make sure it’s the realistic, kind.

*Original article source courtesy of Mike Jones at SavingAdvice.com.

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