How to Plan an End of Summer Road Trip or Local Vacation this Year

As summer starts to wind down, are you realizing it’s almost back to school time and while vacationing looks very different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic – you’d still like to plan a road trip or local getaway? Here are a few tips to preparing for an end of summer localized vacation or road trip.

Know Before You Go

If you choose to hit the road and travel out of state, make sure you check current state guidelines first. There is a list of over 30 other states that are under a NJ travel advisory and when you return, you’ll need to do a 14 day self quarantine. This might require you to re-think your travel plans, so be sure to check https://covid19.nj.gov/index.html for the most up to date information before you get on the road. It is also recommended that if you or any members of your travel party are feeling sick, or any of you have been around someone who has tested positive within the last 14 days – that you don’t travel. Keeping all that in mind, if you do still plan to embark on your out of state road trip – remember that NJ rest stops require a face covering, and most likely you will not be able to eat indoors.

RV Getaways

You may opt to take your end of summer road trip by renting an RV (recreational vehicle). Traveling by RV is comfortable, avoids having to sleep outdoors or set up a tent because you’ll be able to sleep inside the RV within an RV park, and makes social distancing overall more convenient for traveling this year. All you have to do is plan your destination by researching national or state parks, and you’ll even stay safer by being able to bring your own food to prepare meals, your own bedding and towels, and the like. Find out more about RV rentals at https://gorving.com/

Hotels and Resorts

Most major resorts in the tri-state area are open. Have you looked into Pocono, PA waterpark resorts like KalahariCamelback Mountain Resort and Great Wolf Lodge to book your stay? Spa resorts like Crystal Springs in Hamburg, NJ and Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY are also open, however you might find that some spa services and steam rooms still remain closed. Mohonk Mountain has 85 miles of hiking trails for all ability levels, which makes it possible to be socially distant while also enjoying the outdoors. Crystal Springs is a popular golf destination, so if you’re a golfer – bring your clubs and prepare for a nice day out on the course.

Private Rentals

Airbnb and VRBO have been popular private rental services as of late, where you’ll get to stay in a private rental house with your group. You’ll get to choose your destination and also bring your own food. You’ll also have control over who comes into your space during your stay. Many private rentals have required vacancies between clients and deep cleaning rules in place, and some are only renting for longer stays – to minimize the number of guests in spaces.

Camping

You might choose to check out a local campground this summer, and sleep outdoors in a tent. Many campgrounds also have RV parking sites, so if you are traveling by RV – you may very well find yourself staying within a campground. Jellystone Park Camp Resorts has multiple locations in Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania – this might be a great place to check out if you are considering going somewhat locally. Many campgrounds also have pools, sporting activities and hiking – so this might be a great way to plan an end of summer family trip that has a little something for everyone.

The moral of the story is that as we all know, it’s been an unprecedented year. Wherever you travel – you’ll need to be patient and expect the unexpected. Keep reading up on state and local guidelines for wherever you are planning to go, and try to always make a reservation whenever possible. Though your family summer vacation probably looks a lot different this year, you can still find ways to have a great time and by traveling locally – save money in the process!

Article Source: njfamily.com

 

How to Create a Space Saving Garden on a Budget

Were you scrolling through Pinterest during quarantine and trying to figure out how to create your own garden, but you don’t have a lawn or much backyard space? Even if you only have a small area for plants or vegetables, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your Pinterest-worthy garden. Here’s how you can make the most your urban, space-saving, garden on a budget.

Seeds vs. Potted Plants

Did you know that buying plants and flowers from seeds is less expensive than buying a full-grown potted plant? When shopping for your urban garden, consider whether you want to splurge on the already grown plant or if you want to save some money and grow your garden and flowers from seeds. Your local garden shop, nursery, or home improvement store should have both seeds and potted plants for you to choose from.

Pro Tip: Save some green by using seeds from the vegetables and fruit you already eat!

Annuals or Perennials

Another thing to consider when choosing what plants to put in your urban garden is longevity. Plants and flowers that are considered annuals bloom once a year, and then their time is done. Perennials are plants that bloom once a year, but do not die. They re-bloom the following season and remain alive. In the long run, it is more cost effective to buy perennials that will last longer, however they may be more expensive than annuals. One way to look at this is to consider your garden as an investment.

Containers

Look around your home. Chances are you have old pots, glass bottles, or unique boxes and containers already there for you to use and plant your garden in. This will help you from having to pay for containers and pots at the store that are costly. Using what you already own is also eco-friendly as well as cost effective. Recyclable glass sauce jars are excellent for propagating plants you already own, or growing a new plant from the trimming of another plant.

Pro Tip: Leftover vegetable cans are great for growing herbs in the kitchen.

Now that you have chosen between seeds and potted plants, annuals or perennials, and found the perfect container – it’s time to talk about the placement and functionality of your urban garden.

Save Space

Save some room in your home and on your patio by planting vertically! Ferns are great for hanging from the ceiling or above, and any vining plant will grow well vertically in a hanging pot. Save room in style!

Pro Tip: Trendy macramé planters are not only beautiful, but extremely functional for a space saving option.

Another option to save room is to use a balcony railing. Use rail planter boxes to save room on the ground. This is also a great way to add additional privacy to your patio.

Lastly, put your potted stationary plants that are on the ground onto some rolling carts. Rolling carts for your plants are a great option to move your plants around for optimal sunlight, but also functionality. If you need to move a potted plant to have room, simply roll it to where it needs to go.

Privacy

If you’re looking for added privacy at your home, plant tall grasses and put them up against railings. This will add an extra level of privacy and create an outdoor oasis!

Pro Tip: Most grasses are perennials! Plus, if you use rail planter boxes – you’ll have more privacy.

You’re now ready to start a space saving garden on a budget! When you go out to shop for your plants and supplies, don’t forget to take your First Financial credit card with you, so you can earn rewards or cash back on all your purchases. Happy gardening.

*APR varies up to 18% 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.

Check Yourself Before You Rec Yourself – Tips for RV Purchases

It is fair to say that summer 2020 is also shaping up to be…unconventional. It may seem as though your summer fun is quickly becoming summer none, but a solution may be in reach. Enter: A recreational vehicle. Whether it be a boat, an RV, or even an ATV – summer excitement may just be on the horizon.

How do you decide which one is right for you and your family?  Do you want to take to the road, the water, or forested trails? Here’s a little insight on this thrilling (but important) decision.

RVs

Picture this: You and your family are on the open road. Your destination is ahead of you. Your children laugh as they play a card game at the table behind you. Best of all, you don’t have to stop for bathroom breaks.

A recent study found that RV vacations cost much less than other travel, even when factoring in fuel prices and RV ownership cost. According to the study, there are cost savings of between 21-64% for a four-person travel party, while a two-person travel party may save 8-53%. That’s some serious savings if you do it right. You can instead spend that money on food, experiences, and souvenirs from your trip.

Before purchasing an RV, be sure to do your research. There are multiple packages and floor plans that may not be right for every family. Be sure to shop around to find the RV that fits your needs the best.

Keep in mind that, like all motor vehicles, an RV will also require maintenance and upkeep. This is an expense that must be factored into RV ownership.

Boats

Did you know, Vitamin D deficiency affects 50% of the population worldwide? What’s an excellent source of Vitamin D? Sunlight.

There are many ways to get under the sun, but one of the most fun is boating. Not only that, but taking to the water can be as relaxing or as exhilarating as you want. Gently float along soaking up that Vitamin D, or test your balance on a wakeboard. The possibilities are endless.

2019 saw a 6% increase in the number of people who purchased personal watercrafts, bringing the U.S. total to approximately 73,000 new boats on the water.

The next logical question, “what type of boat is right for me?” There are so many options you can choose from. Do you want a sailboat or one with a motor? If you opt for a motor, what horsepower should you choose? What size boat is perfect for your needs? Will you take your boat to the lake, river, ocean or all of the above? Consider all of these factors before purchasing a boat.

Four-Wheelers (ATVs)

Gritty. Dirty. Fun. Four-Wheelers can be a major source of excitement, but they can also be dangerous if you are not careful. Before purchasing an ATV, be sure to do your research and brush up on ATV safety. There are also other things to consider – like your four-wheeler brand, size, and tire size. Fun fact: At low speeds, a four-wheeler’s wheels move in opposite directions to make parking and maneuvering easier.

What will you do with your Recreational Vehicle Loan?

There are many things to consider when purchasing a recreational vehicle, and we are here to help with one of the most important – financing. We offer recreational vehicle loans that make funding your summer fun (and beyond) more accessible than ever, no matter which type you choose. We’re your credit union, contact us today if you have questions about RV loans – or you can learn more and apply online 24/7!*

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial RV, ATV, Boat or Motorcycle loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. Federally insured by NCUA.

Reasons Not to File Your Taxes Late

Tax Day was July 15th this year, after a 3 month extension due to COVID-19. If you still haven’t filed your 2019 taxes, you’ll need to contact the IRS for an extension – as soon as possible. You can find out more information and how to file for an extension at IRS.gov

Here are several reasons why it’s important to try to always file your taxes well in advance of the Tax Day deadline:

Possible Penalty Fees – Did you owe the IRS and your payment arrived late or got lost in the mail? You could be charged interest on everything you owe for late payments. Be sure to pay on time if you owe the government money to avoid any and all late fees.

You’ll Be Waiting for Your Refund – If you file late and are getting a tax refund this year, it’s basically withholding your own money from yourself.

You May Have Trouble Paying – If you owe money on your taxes, and it’s in the thousands – you unfortunately still need to pay by Tax Day. Filing late doesn’t give you any extra time to come up with your payment.

Underestimating the Time it Takes – Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to file your taxes, especially if you had a life change (marriage, new baby, changed jobs, bought a home) within the past year. It’s important to give yourself ample time before the filing deadline.

Not All Tax Forms May Be Available – It’s much easier these days with tax forms available online, but which ones do you need and how do you fill them out? Are you really sure you know exactly what’s needed and that it will be available if you need it right away? This requires advanced planning.

You Could Need More Information – You almost never have all the documents ready when you file your taxes. What happens if you need to locate an important form (like your W-2) or speak to your accountant, hours before the filing deadline?

Unexpected Things Happen – You may get sick or an emergency may come up. Also, what if you have a technology failure like your printer stops working or your computer won’t turn on? It’s always best to prepare and file early.

You Might Overpay for Advice – Sometimes, requesting last minute advice and service will cost you more. Plus if you’re in a time crunch, you won’t have extra time to find a discount or deal on tax services.

If you do end up filing late, here are some tips:

File for an Extension – If you can’t get your taxes filed by Tax Day, there’s always the option to file for an extension. The down side is that if you owe the government money, you’re still responsible for paying the estimated taxes when you file for the extension. In other words, it’s an extension on filing your taxes, not on paying what you owe. What happens if you can’t pay now? Failing to file for an extension will result in a penalty on top of the bill you already have. The IRS often offers an option to set up a payment installment plan. You can get started online here.

File Your Taxes Online – Filing online is faster and easier, especially if you’re running late. If you’ve never filed your taxes online before, a quick search will lead you to various tax prep businesses that usually offer free e-file along with paid services (like having your return reviewed by a tax professional). If your gross earnings fall under $69,000, you can also use the IRS Free File Program. E-filing requires an electronic pin you’ll use for e-signing, and also – don’t forget to save digital and print copies of your taxes for your records.

Watch for Mistakes – You’re more likely to make mistakes when you’re in a hurry to meet a deadline. The following mistakes are common and costly: Missed deductions, incorrect account or social security numbers, and forgetting to sign and date your return.

The moral of the story: File early next year!

 

Article Source: David Ning for Moneyning.com

How to Manage Your Credit Card During Difficult Times

Life can get expensive, especially during times like these. While your credit card has likely provided you with some additional freedom and flexibility lately, it’s important to remember that your credit card is not free money. You will have to pay it back eventually (and with interest)!

With U.S. credit card debt hitting an all-time high of $930 billion earlier this year, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, we could all probably use a reminder on how to effectively use and manage our credit cards. Here’s some important advice:

Try to pay your credit card off ahead of time.

There are many reasons you should always try to pay your credit card off ahead of time, but the most important is to avoid paying interest. Accounts that don’t run a continuous balance are given an interest-free grace period, which usually lasts until the next due date. If you can’t pay in full, be sure to pay as much as you can – in order to reduce your interest payments.

In addition to avoiding interest payments, paying your credit card off ahead of time can also help to improve your credit score – since it reduces the amount of your credit limit used. This, along with payment history – can account for the majority of your credit score.

Don’t strain your wallet.

You should avoid maxing out or spending anywhere near your credit limit, as it could cause long-term financial issues – like fees, debt, and damage to your credit score. A good practice is to use less than 40% of your available credit. Treat your credit card similar to a debit card or checkbook. If you don’t have the money currently or can’t save to pay it off later, that should be a sign that you really can’t afford to make a purchase.

Monitor your balance daily.

If you’re using your credit card for everyday purchases, it can be easy to forget how fast those daily transactions can add up. That’s why it’s crucial to regularly monitor your balance. One of the best ways to do this is to download your card’s mobile app. Also, be sure to set up daily or weekly account balance updates/notifications that can be sent directly to your phone or email. You can often do this right from the mobile app, or through your online account. Typically you can also set up monthly payment reminders here too.

Take advantage of your credit card rewards. 

Take full advantage of any rewards or benefits programs offered through your credit card. This can mean anything from retailer gift cards, cash back, electronics and airline miles. These perks can save you money! If you’re contemplating a new credit card, make sure to choose the credit card that best suits your needs and lifestyle – along with a low APR.

First Financial has three great credit card options, lower APRs, no balance transfer fees, and no annual fee.* 

Let us help you find the right card for you! Check out our website or give us a call so we can answer any questions you may have. Or if you like what you see, you can apply online 24/7!

*APR varies up to 18% 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.

Article Source: Jackson Bolstad for CUInsight.com

 

Considering a Pet? Do Your Financial Homework First

While many people have been spending more time at home and working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve decided you’d like to bring home a furry friend also. You’ve done your research, you’ve figured out what type of pet you want, and you’re ready to sign on the dotted line. But, have you thought about the ongoing cost(s) associated with getting a pet?

There are two main areas regarding costs to consider when it comes to owning a pet. First, there are initial costs (adoption fees/breeder fees, first vaccinations, training, etc.) and then general costs over your pet’s lifetime (food, toys, routine vet visits, grooming, etc.). It’s a good idea to prepare for the several different types of costs you might have, before you decide to bring your pet home.

Adoption Fees vs. Breeder Fees

One of the first expenses pet owners experience is an adoption fee or purchase price. Typically, adoption fees are going to be less expensive than breeder fees.

Most shelters and rescue organizations will provide medical care, vaccinations, and possibly even spaying or neutering animals. If you decide to go the shelter route, it’s essential to ask what services your adoption fees include.

It’s also a good idea to find out what the adoption process looks like. It could be different depending on the shelter or rescue organization you choose, but usually the basics are the same. Once you select your fur-ever friend, you’ll have to fill out paperwork to be approved. The shelter or rescue organization will want to know where you live, whether or not you have other pets, if there are kids in your home, and they may even do a house visit before you’re allowed to take your new friend home. Once you pay the adoption fee and your application is approved, then the real fun begins!

If you plan to purchase from a breeder, the type of breed you’re interested in determines the amount you’ll pay in fees. When buying from a reputable breeder, you’ll likely get a fair, competitive price, and most will have official paperwork on the animal you’re purchasing. Do your homework on the breeder and make sure you’re buying from someone who is breeding ethically.

Medical Costs

Vet bills are often the most expensive aspect of owning a pet. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a relatively healthy animal that only needs a vet visit once or twice a year. On the other hand, if your pet does need additional vet care, it can be pretty costly and you’ll want to be prepared.

The average vet visit can cost a pet owner anywhere from $50 to $400, depending on the nature of the visit. If you’re trekking to the vet once a year, it’s not as challenging to work into your budget. However, if it happens every couple of months, you could find yourself in over your head with vet bills.

Eating Right for Less

For every question you have about pet ownership, there are a million different answers – and that includes what to feed them! When you’re picking out what your pet eats, think about their size (are you feeding them once a day or do they require multiple feedings), how much they eat, and what they like. You might find that your cat loves a particular brand (let’s say it costs less than $20 for a 22-pound bag) or that your dog lives for a specific brand (let’s say that a 50-pound bag is less than $25). Don’t automatically buy the most expensive food. See what works for your animal and your budget.

Toys!

You can’t have an animal without toys. Every cat needs a scratching post, and every dog needs a good rope to play tug-of-war. The great thing about toys? You can spend as much or as little as you want. You might have a cat that would rather play with bottle caps than catnip mice. Before you spend your paycheck buying toys, get a few and see which ones your furry companion likes. You might be surprised.

Training & Grooming Costs

Training and grooming are additional costs that you may not have to consider. If you’re getting a cat, you won’t have to worry about training classes or grooming (unless you choose to do so). With a dog, however, training classes might be something you need to consider. Depending on the breed of your dog, grooming might be a necessity too. Do your research. Look around and find the best deals on grooming and training.

Bringing home a furry friend is a huge commitment. It’s essential to evaluate your current financial situation before deciding to purchase a pet. We have affordable personal loans or low-interest credit cards that meet your needs for multiple parts of your life.* We’re your credit union, let us see how we can help! Contact us today.

*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 loan or credit card, 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. Federally insured by NCUA.