The Answers to Your Second Stimulus Payment Questions

The second round of stimulus checks are on their way, thanks to the signing of the COVID RELATED TAX RELIEF ACT OF 2020 that was just recently signed on 12/27/2020. Since many different amounts and restrictions were thrown around during the negotiations, most people probably have a lot of questions about these new stimulus checks. At the top of the list: How much will I get? And when will I get it?

Here’s a few answers to the questions you may have:

Question: When will I get my second stimulus check?

Answer: Soon! The IRS has already started sending out $600 payments. If the amount is later raised – anyone who has already received a $600 second stimulus check will be sent another payment as quickly as possible for the additional amount they are owed.

If the IRS already has your bank account information—either from a recent tax payment that you made or from a tax refund sent to you, then expect to get your second stimulus check faster. That’s because the IRS will be able to directly deposit the payment into your bank account. The IRS can also make a second stimulus payment to a Direct Express debit card account, a U.S. Debit Card account, or other Treasury-sponsored account. Otherwise, you’ll get a paper check in the mail.

Question: How much money will I get?

Answer: Right now, you’ll get $600. Those who made more than $75,000 will get less. A married couple making up to $150,000 will receive $1,200. Children under 17 will get $600. Therefore, the most a family of four could get is $2,400. The amount will be based on the income you claimed on your 2019 federal tax return. $300 in additional unemployment benefits will be made to jobless workers, to expire on 3/14/2021.

Question: Will I have to pay taxes on it?

Answer: No. There are no strings attached and you will not have to pay taxes on this second stimulus payment.

If you’re wondering when you can expect your stimulus funds, please click here. This will take you directly to the IRS website where you can check your payment status.

If you know your payment will be directly deposited into your First Financial account, click here for online banking or view your account within our mobile app.

The Latte Factor: One Way to Get Your Finances on Track in 2021

How often do you find yourself saying, “I can’t afford that!” Whether it’s about an unplanned expense or something that you want to buy. David Bach, author of The Latte Factor, says that’s usually just a lie we tell ourselves.

In his book, The Latte Factor, Bach lays out several key points that can be summed up as: Small amounts of money spent on a regular basis costs us far more than we can imagine.

The Latte Factor came about after a class Bach had taught some years ago. One of his students said she couldn’t afford to save, but she was drinking a latte at the time (and almost every day in his class). He ran the numbers and showed her that if she skipped the latte, she would save $5 a day. What does $5 a day mean to you? Let’s do the math. $5 a day is $150 per month. Would you like to save an extra $150 per month? What’s the value of $150 per month saved in 10 years from now? That’s $1,800 a year saved and $18,000 in 10 years from the Latte Factor alone. Over 25 years, five dollars a day will net you almost $50,000. It’s amazing how such a small difference each day can make a huge impact over time.

As you head into the new year, vow to stop saying “I can’t afford that!” and take a second look at your finances. You don’t have to starve yourself of enjoying everything that life has to offer. Instead, pick one thing you know you spend money on that you might be able to do without. Is it your morning latte, eating out for lunch every day, subscription service, etc.?

If you want to get serious about getting your finances in order this year, here are two recommendations:

  1. Buy The Latte Factor and read about how Zoey turned her morning latte into the words “I CAN afford this.” It’s a quick read and it’s really eye opening!
  2. Take a look at your current debt. Instead of making multiple payments on multiple loans, have you thought about consolidating those payments into one lower monthly payment? You may even get a lower interest rate that will minimize the amount of interest you’re paying.

Apply for a First Financial Consolidation Loan online, or contact us to see if we can help you get started in getting your finances in order this year.*

Happy New Year and Keep Thinking First!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Actual rate will vary based on creditworthiness and loan term. Subject to credit approval. A First Financial Federal Credit Union membership is required to obtain a Personal Loan, and is open 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.

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this December 2020

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Enjoy this special time of year by attending one of the events below – either outdoors, virtually, or in your car. Happy Holidays from all of us at First Financial, and wishing you a prosperous 2021!

Monmouth & Ocean’s Best Holiday Lights Displays

  • Six Flags Holiday in the Park (Jackson) – You won’t want to miss this beautiful winter wonderland! On weeknights, drive through the park and see the holiday lights. On weekends, the park features festivities, food, firepits, hot cocoa, and light shows. Holiday in the Park runs through January 3, 2021. Find out more and purchase tickets online here.
  • Magic of Lights (Holmdel) – Ride through PNC Bank Arts Center’s gorgeous 2.5 mile holiday light display from dusk to 10pm Sunday – Thursday, and until 11pm on Friday and Saturday nights. Standard vehicles are $25 each to drive through the display. Learn more and purchase tickets online here.
  • Sisti Family Christmas Lights (Spring Lake) – Each year, this family turns their front yard into a holiday wonderland of lights. Ride by 322 Pitney Avenue in Spring Lake, you won’t want to miss it! Find out more.
  • Gress House Holiday Light Spectacular (Union Beach) – Each year, this home gets involved with Decorations for Donations and donates to the Children’s Miracle Network. You won’t want to miss the massive display of lights, inflatables, sounds of the season and more at 14 Johnson Avenue in Union Beach. Get more information.
  • Ferone Family Christmas Light Spectacular (Toms River) – The goal of this gorgeous light display is to raise money to the Children’s Hospital of Toms River. It can be seen from 5-9:30pm Monday to Thursday and 5-11pm on Friday & Saturday at 184 Yellowbank Road, Toms River through December 26th. Tuesday nights are Disney nights. You definitely won’t want to miss it! Find out the details here.

All December until the 24th: Red Bank Elf Scavenger Hunt. Look for the Red Bank Elf in the windows and in the stores, restaurants, and businesses and enter to win from November 27 to December 24th. Stroll the charming downtown and arts and antiques district to view more than three dozen places where the Red Bank Elf has been spotted. Keep track of the locations by logging information into the official Scavenger Hunt form. Find out more and download the form here.

Saturdays & Sundays in December: Victorian Holiday Tea at the Mathis House (Toms River) at 11am and 3pm. Enjoy a full Victorian Holiday Tea at the Mathis House located in Downtown Toms River. Live music and tours of the historic mansion are available. The afternoon tea includes soup, salad, scones, a variety of tea sandwiches and a plate of desserts with a pot of holiday tea. The cost is $39 per person by reservation only by calling 732-818-7580. For more information, please visit www.mathishouse600main.com

December 13 & 20:

Christmas at Allaire from 11am-4pm (Wall). Warm up on the open hearth, help make holiday treats, listen to the musicians, there will be storytelling, a Gingerbread House Contest, and much more. Also keep your eyes out for Santa, a great photo opportunity! All the village buildings will be spectacularly decorated for the Season. Historic sleds and various outdoor Christmas trees will be on display too. Tickets must be purchased in advance online. Learn more and buy your tickets here.

Shrewsbury Historical Society Wedding Dress Displays from 1-4pm. Don’t miss this historical wedding dress display! Contributions are appreciated. The display is at the Shrewsbury Municipal Center, 419 Sycamore Avenue. Learn more here.

December 18: There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays (Virtual Event) at 8pm. Let the comedy elves from The Second City deliver the virtual holly jollies to wherever you are in this fast, festive, funny improv show that brings you into the action! This event will take place on Zoom. One virtual ticket per viewing device, and you can have as many people view per viewing device as you wish. Cost is $18.50 plus a $1.50 ticket fee. Available through the Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College. Purchase tickets at https://www.grunincenter.org/

*All events are subject to changes or cancellations due to COVID-19. Please be sure to check online or call before you go!

Online Shopping Tips for This Unusual Holiday Season

This year more so than others – given the pandemic, many people have been shopping online for the holidays instead of in the store. If you’re still shopping and getting hit left and right with emails for online sales, coupons, and deals – keep reading to find out how to save money and shop safely without exposing yourself to online fraud.

  • If you’re using a home computer to order gifts online, first be sure you have the latest antivirus software installed prior to placing any orders.
  • Take time to compare products. To get the best deal, always compare products between different stores. Do some research online, check product comparison sites, and read online reviews before you click “add to cart.”
  • Check out the seller. Confirm that the seller you are deciding to purchase from is legitimate. Look for reviews about their reputation and customer service, and be sure you can contact the seller (or that you can pay via PayPal on their site) if you have a dispute.
  • Look for coupon codes. Search for the store’s name with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.” Or you can check for deals on their website or research available offers on a site such as retailmenot.com
  • Pay by credit card. Paying by credit card gives you added protections. Never mail cash or wire money to an online seller. If the seller asks you to pay this way, it is most likely a scam.
  • Use secure checkout. Before you enter your credit card information online, check that the website address starts with “https.” The “s” within any web address stands for secure. If you don’t see the “s,” don’t enter any personal or financial information. You should also see a lock icon where the secure website address is too.
  • Keep records of online transactions until you get your purchase, confirm you got what you ordered, and that you won’t have to return the item.

If you follow the above steps when buying online and purchase smart, this season of cyber holiday shopping is bound to be a breeze!

Should you happen to encounter any scams while shopping online, you can report it to the FTC at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/

Happy Holiday shopping!

 

Article Source: S. Walker for Consumer.FTC.gov

Preparing for the Holidays Doesn’t Have to Be a Hassle

The season of holiday shopping is here, and so is the inevitable financial stress — but you don’t have to panic. We’re here to help you conquer the chaos and take control of your finances, so you can give great gifts and feel great about what you spent too.

Budget the Day Away.

The first step for tackling the holiday shopping season is setting a budget. Your budget sets the tone of your whole shopping game plan — what gifts you can buy, which deals to look for, which payment type to use, and more.

Sure, you’ve probably heard the spiel about the importance of budgeting before. It can sound a bit intimidating or overwhelming at times — but it doesn’t have to be. Check out our budgeting guidebook or ask for budgeting help from one of our representatives to make this daunting task easier. The internet is also laden with websites and programs that can do the budgeting for you. Find what works best for you, then set up a spread sheet, scrawl it out in a notebook, or iron it out online. Find your budgeting flow.

Sit down with a nice hot cup of cocoa, wrap up in a cozy blanket, and budget away. Make a night of it and feel confident in your ability to get your finances together. You’ll thank yourself in the end.

Pick Your Weapons of Choice.

There are many ways to fund your holiday shopping. Figure out how much money you have available to spend immediately and what items you will need to buy through credit cards or fund with a holiday loan.

Our advice? Put down the high-interest rate credit cards and check out ours. Our credit cards* feature interest rates significantly lower than the national average; plus, our special holiday loan** can help you to fund your shopping and pay it off responsibly. We understand that our members have a lot of holiday cheer to spread, and we want to help you make it happen.

Start Your List, Check It Twice.

Santa isn’t the only one who should have a list. Get a pen and some paper (or save a note in your phone) and jot down everyone you want to give gifts to this season. Determine how much you can spend for each person first, then brainstorm gifts for each of your names. This is the fun part! Put on Santa’s hat and think of creative ways to show some love to your favorite people.

If you find yourself spreading your budget too thin, go back and adjust the names on your list and the spending amount. Remember, not every gift needs to cost money — don’t underestimate the joy that a homemade gift or a good deed can bring to the holiday season.

Choose Wisely.

You have your gift list, now you need to perfect it. Browse the internet to get an idea of the deals that will be happening near you, either in a store or online.

Compare deals you see for the same item across stores and websites — one company may be selling the item for significantly less than another. You deserve the best deal. Put in the work to find out which stores are promoting the best sales, and make sure the item is still in budget after you factor in taxes and shipping costs.

Finalize Your Plan of Attack.

While many companies offer deals throughout the months of November and December, some are specific to days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. These two days can easily become chaotic if you don’t have a good game plan.

Research which deals are offered online and which require you to show up in person. Because of health and safety concerns this year, many stores will most likely be shifting to an online Black Friday experience, but you should still double check. Also research store hours for any place you might need to visit in person. Store hours may likely be adjusted for Black Friday and COVID-19 precautions, so keep a close eye on company websites for the latest updates.

Another shopping holiday to look out for is the lesser known but crucially important Small Business Saturday. It falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and it is more important than ever this year. With the pandemic still in effect, many small businesses are struggling. On Small Business Saturday, local businesses usually break out great deals and some even organize seasonal events for their customers. This day is a great way to give back to your community, so look into the local businesses nearest to you and see how you can support them.

Shop Responsibly.

Now that you have a budget, a list, and a plan of attack – you are all set to shop responsibly this holiday season. The holidays are a time for joy, so don’t let your finances stress you out. Instead of panic-spending and budget-breaking, take some time to prepare and research your options, like low-interest credit cards or a holiday personal loan. You’ll be happy you did, especially when those on your gift list and your wallet are thanking you.

*APR varies up to 18% for all Visa Credit Cards 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.

**APR = Annual Percentage Rate. APR as low as 6.99%, terms up to 12 months, minimum loan amount is $500, and maximum loan amount is $2,400. A $2,400 loan at 6.99% APR for 12 months would have a monthly payment amount of $207.65. Actual rate will vary based on creditworthiness and loan term. Subject to credit approval. One holiday loan open per member. Refinance option for prior holiday loan is available, see credit union for details. Maximum dollar amount able to borrow is based on creditworthiness and loan term. A First Financial Federal Credit Union membership is required to obtain a Personal Loan, and is open 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.