3 Ways to Cut Back on Your Food Budget

If you’re spending too much money on food, the easy remedy is to eat out less. If you’ve already done that, then you may be looking for ways to cut back on your grocery bill. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to spend less at the grocery store, here are a few things to think about.

Only buy food: It can really be convenient to get all your shopping done at one place, and if you’re buying groceries at Walmart or Target, you might be on to something. But if you’re using your local grocery store as the place you always buy shampoo or soap, you might be throwing money away. Even though you may have to make an extra trip, you can save money by getting those household items elsewhere.

Don’t shop so often: Every time you go to the grocery store, it can be tempting to grab an extra item or two that isn’t on your shopping list. If you’re shopping once or twice a week, those extra purchases can add up quick. Try to do your grocery shopping no more than once a week, make a list, and stick to it.

Pay attention to unit prices: If you buy a 24 pack of bottled water each week, check out that 36 pack instead. You may not think you have room for it, but buying those extra 12 bottles could save you money when you look at the unit price. However, unlike shopping at bulk stores like Costco, you can’t always count on the higher count items being cheaper at your local grocery store. Pay attention to what’s on sale, check those unit prices, and compare to get the best deal.

Happy shopping (and saving)!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

5 Ways to Save on Your Child’s Back to School Apparel

Although it seems like summer just started, it’s already time for parents to start budgeting and planning their family’s back to school purchases. One big purchase that comes with going back to school is buying new clothes. Here are a few tips to help you save money.

Consignment

Does your city or town hold a big consignment sale in September or October? Get online and do some research to see if there is one near you. If not, search for a local consignment shop. You may be able to find a great back to school wardrobe or backpack at a fraction of the cost.

Don’t Buy Everything New

All of the clothing styles your kids are begging you to buy will probably go on sale by mid-October. If you can, wait for clothing to go on sale or clearance or a good store deal. For example, maybe your clothing budget for back to school is $100 for each child. Instead of spending all of it upfront, try splitting it up over the next few months to keep an eye out for better prices. Don’t forget that the holiday season is also a great time to ask for clothes for your kids too.

Coupons and Clearance

Many stores will also allow you to stack coupons on top of sale or clearance items. Some examples of stores that allow this are JCPenney, Target, Old Navy, and Kohl’s.

Hit Up Garage Sales

This is a great time of year to look for a garage sale in your local area. Try to find a yard sale that sells your child’s size. Search Craigslist the day before to screen which garage sales near you will be worth checking out.

Try Saving Money on Uniforms

If your child wears uniforms for school, then you already know they can be costly. It’s hard to find uniforms on clearance because they are usually made just for one particular school. Try getting in contact with parents of children older than yours, to ask them if you could buy their children’s outgrown uniforms. You can also ask the school if they have any uniforms that were donated and available for purchase. If there is not a system in place, think about starting one. Many parents would be thankful for the savings break.

Want to earn cash back on all your back to school purchases this year? Apply for a Visa Signature Credit Card from First Financial! You’ll earn 1% cash back, no restrictions.*

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa® Signature Credit Card. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. APR varies from 15.15% to 18% for the Visa Signature Card 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 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. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date. 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: Ashley Eneriz for Moneyning.com

5 Tricks to Save Money

Always use cash.

We now live in the days of Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other digital wallets. Holding your phone up to a machine really doesn’t feel like you’re spending money – but if you check your account online, you’ll see that you definitely are. Even if you don’t want to take out an exact amount of cash each week, just spending cash will feel a little more personal each time you complete a transaction. This may be enough to keep you from buying things you don’t really need.

Write down every penny.

Instead of checking your mobile banking and making sure “it looks right,” try keeping a spreadsheet of every receipt you’re spending. This is highly annoying and it just might make you want to accumulate fewer receipts, which means less spending. Just make sure you have fewer receipts because you are not spending as much, and not because you stopped keeping up with them.

Be kept accountable.

Want to spend less? Tell your friends and family. Tell them you want to cut back and you need their help. You might be surprised about how your habits change when others are constantly asking you how you’re doing financially.

Get a blanket and a fan.

If you want to save money the easy way, turn down that thermostat in the winter and turn it up in the summer. You may be hotter/colder than you’d like, but it’s an easy fix and it will definitely save you some money.

Don’t buy name brands.

Sometimes the store brand is just as good (and probably manufactured in the same facility) as that name brand you may be paying double for. Giving up a few of your name brand purchases each month could pay for your Netflix account, gas for the week, and so on.

Article source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

How to Enjoy Summer Without Going Broke

Summer has arrived! Here are some less expensive alternatives to enjoying the season without breaking the bank.

Have a Picnic in the Park

Summer is a great time to be outside enjoying the warm weather. Gather your family, friends, or even just have a quiet day by yourself outdoors. Bring fruit, cheese, crackers, a blanket and a book. This is a great way to soak up the sun and relax. If you’re inviting a larger crowd – make it a potluck picnic, where everyone brings something to eat. Music, board games, and a Frisbee or ball to throw around also make great additions. A simple day at the park can be a lot of fun (and not too expensive either)!

Get Creative in the Kitchen

It’s nice to partake in buying yourself an iced coffee everyday, happy hour after work and trying new restaurants. But doing so several times a week can really add up. If you’re slightly strapped for cash this summer, think about getting creative in your kitchen at home. Make your own iced tea, iced coffee, and infused water. You can even add fruit and herbs to your ice cube tray, and freeze them to add refreshing flavor to your summer beverages. By working in your own kitchen instead of spending money out, you’ll save some cash and feel accomplished at the same time.

Enjoy Free Community Activities

In nearly every community, there are usually lots of activities in the summer ranging from free movies and concerts in the park, bike rides, festivals, craft shows, and more. Check out the various activities by looking at your community calendar, a local newspaper, as well as online. A little bit of research can result in a ton of free or low-cost activities that are fun for the whole family. If you’re in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey – check out our monthly Things to Do on a Budget blog posts!

Go on a Summer Purge

If you didn’t partake in a major spring cleaning, now is a great time to go through all your clothing, paperwork, and items around the house.  If you haven’t used it in six months, it’s probably a good idea to either throw it out, recycle it, donate it, or sell it. Having a purge in the summer is a wonderful time to have a garage sale and declutter. You can make some extra cash and learn to live with only what you need.

Write Letters to Family and Friends

Have you ever noticed that nearly all of your mail is typically either a bill or junk? The only time our mailboxes really get any love is during the holiday season. If you aren’t traveling for the summer to see friends or family, write them a letter and maybe include some photos. It will be an unexpected surprise for the receiver and also boost your mood!

Explore Your Neighborhood

You may think you know your neighborhood inside and out, but there may be certain hidden corners and areas that are undiscovered. Be a tourist in your own city. Go for a walk and get lost. Enjoy a bike ride on a different path. Make a wrong turn. Appreciate the little things and actively look for things you’ve never seen before. Having a new perspective can show you things you may have been missing out on, right in your own backyard.

Host a Themed Party

As fun as traveling is, it can definitely be pricey. If you can’t get away this summer to your desired destination, do the next best thing and host a themed party instead. If you are dreaming of going to Japan, have a sushi night and invite some friends and family over. If you are wishing for island beaches, make some Caribbean food, put on some island music, and print out some tropical photos. Having a themed event can be fun and inspire you to save, so you can make your dream trip happen in the future.

Summer is a great time to explore, get together with friends and family, and enjoy the outdoors. There are plenty of ways you can do it for less, so you can still have some summer fun without breaking the bank.

Article Source:  Melanie Lockert for Moneyning.com

Buying Lunch Too Much? 3 Money Saving Tips

We all know in theory that brown bagging is a great way to save money and eat a bit healthier. However, for a lot of us, it’s hard to find the motivation and energy to pack a lunch, especially if it’s going to be the same old ham and cheese on wheat every day. Before long, we lose momentum and it’s back to eating burgers, pizza, and subs five days a week. If that sounds like you, here are some tips to help you pack an inexpensive lunch that will make you forget all about takeout and draining your bank account.

1. Get your kitchen organized.

The easier it is for you to pack your lunch, the fewer excuses you’ll have for skipping it.

Designate a cabinet or shelf for containers, bags and wraps, etc. Weed out any mismatched or damaged containers and lids. Make a point of keeping this area tidy and organized so that finding what you need is a breeze.

Clean out your fridge to make it easy to find condiments and salad dressings and to have room for leftovers, yogurt, prepared fruits and vegetables, and other easy to grab snacks. You’ll also want to keep a space available to store your lunch overnight if packing it the night before saves you time and forces you to bring your lunch.

Keep a basket on a shelf to store lunchbox snacks like granola bars, chips and crackers. You can portion out a week’s worth at a time in plastic bags – which is cheaper than buying individual servings.

2. Go beyond lunch meat.

Some people are happy eating the same deli meat and cheese sandwich every day, while others need variety. Foods marketed especially for lunch can also be more expensive than starting from whole foods and preparing them yourself.

Instead of deli meat – try slicing up chicken, turkey, beef and pork that you’ve cooked yourself at home and make sandwiches, lettuce wraps, and more. Not only can you save money this way, but you’ll also have more control over the ingredients.

If you like frozen meals for lunch, try making your own by freezing portions of lasagna, enchiladas, stews and other home-cooked foods that freeze well. The food will be tastier, and freezing to eat later is great for those who don’t like eating the same meals two or more days in a row.

Hummus with vegetables and pita bread for dipping can also be a very healthy lunch. Making your own hummus is incredibly cheap and you can even go beyond the normal chickpea version and experiment with black beans, edamame and other variations.

3. Make brown bagging it a fun, social affair.

You can encourage your colleagues to pack a lunch by talking to them about the benefits and encouraging them to give it a shot. Not only can they save money, but it can also help them lose weight and eat healthier.

Suggest fun ways to encourage each other to pack a lunch. Some workplaces have had great luck with a salad bar club (everyone brings different ingredients to keep in the fridge to make salads that week), or bringing dishes to share. For companies where people are interested in getting healthier, a quick brown bag lunch followed by a brisk walk during lunch hour can also be a great motivator.

As you can see – it’s easy to pack a lunch each day, and great for your health and budget!

Article Source: Tracy for Moneyning.com

How to Build Your Savings

Many Americans have little to nothing at all saved up. In the event of any emergency, most people just don’t have any resources to weather the blow. It can be difficult to understand how to build up your savings, but the key is to start little by little. Nothing is impossible once you get started. Here are five tips to help you:

1. Evaluate Your Priorities

To be successful at saving, you have to understand why you need to do it. We all have goals in life. What are yours? When you have a better understanding of what you want to achieve in the short and long term, you can then make plans to save for them. It’s very important to understand what your priorities are, because the reality is that you can’t spend on everything you want to. Be strategic with your budget and only spend where it can help push you further in life.

2. Make Small Changes

Your savings isn’t going to multiply overnight. Results will take time. Many people make the mistake of trying to save too much too soon. When you make too many drastic changes to your life at once, it’s difficult to sustain the effort. You’re likely just to go back to your old, bad spending habits. It’s best to start small and do little things that you barely notice, like making your own coffee in the morning or bringing lunch to work a few days a week. These small efforts sound minuscule, but the savings will start adding up.

3. Make It Automatic

Set it and forget it. That’s the name of the game. The easiest way to save is to make it automatic so that you don’t have the possibility of forgetting to make the deposit. Set automatic payment transfers from your checking to your savings account. You can do this for days you get paid. Start with small transfers and then increase them over time. Eventually, you probably won’t even notice anymore.

4. Get a Side Gig

If you’re just making ends meet and your budget is bare-bones already, it’s probably going to be difficult to start saving no matter how hard you try. In that case, it’s wise to find additional streams of revenue. Many people these days can make extra income right from the comfort of their own home, doing things like freelance writing or graphic design. If you prefer something more hands on, you can moonlight as a handyman, dog walker, or sell crafts on Etsy. There are plenty of options out there for people of any skill set. You just have to find it.

5. Plan Ahead

Lastly, the most important thing to do is to plan ahead. Most of the time, people can’t save because they are caught off guard by their own spending. Be proactive and plan out your weeks and even months ahead. Try your best to stick to a budget and if you find yourself having trouble, adjust the numbers as soon as possible. The more you plan ahead, the easier it will be for you to save any amount of money.

Start small, and work your way towards financial freedom. The effort will be worth it in the end.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com