5 Ways Being Home Can Save You Money

As the public health emergency continues, what are you up to these days – working from home? Taking fewer trips? Eating at home more? Chances are, you’re probably saving money on gas and your usual food tab.

Hopefully, there are other areas where you’ve been able to save money as well. Check out these tips below that can help save you money whether you’re quarantined or not!

Unplug It

How many devices do you leave plugged in during the day? Did you know that even in standby mode, any electronic device that is plugged in will still suck energy?

Energy.gov reports that “an appliance constantly taking in 1 watt of electrical current is equivalent to 9kWh per year, adding up in annual costs (basically $1/watt/annual). Considering how many appliances are used in an average household, costs can quickly add up to $100-200 a year.”

If you’re not using it, unplug it. Or, use a power strip that can be turned off. It’ll save you money in the long run!

Save Water

You might be tempted to throw half a normal load of wash in, but first ask yourself – are there enough dirty clothes to make it worth it or do you have an energy efficient load sensing washing machine? Another tip to conserving energy is washing in cold water when you can, since the majority of your machine’s energy consumption happens when it needs to heat the water.

While you’re home – conserve water by taking shorter showers. If each member of your family reduces their shower time by 3 minutes, you’ll save about $100 a year on your water bill.

Check Your Policies

You’ve probably seen the car insurance commercials advertising a credit to customer accounts. Check into that. Give your insurance company a call or check your account online. Most companies are giving their customers a 15 percent credit because they aren’t driving as much. In some cases, customers are getting a $150 credit added to their policy for the duration.

Don’t sleep on the chance to save some money on your auto insurance. While you’re at it, check on your other policies and accounts. You might find other places offering a similar discount to help out their customers.

Cool It Now

What is your thermostat set on? If you’ve adjusted your thermostat during the day now that you’re working from home more, you might want to tweak that a bit to offset the cost.

Find Your New Normal

We’ve all said it – “when things get back to normal.” But now we’re all in the position to redefine what normal looks like for us. Take a moment to reevaluate your priorities and budget. Are their unnecessary subscriptions you can cut? Is there a magazine, streaming service or even gym membership that is no longer valuable because you’ve found an alternative? If so, cut those from your budget and save some money each month.

Article Source: https://www.schlage.com/blog/categories/2020/05/5-ways-to-save-money-at-home.html

 

Financial and Preparedness Tips for Summer Roadtrips

Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, as bigger trips get cancelled and flights are limited – some may be considering road trips to other states as this year’s family summer vacation. While the CDC still urges limited travel, those who decide to take a roadtrip should consider the following before hitting the road:

  • What’s actually open? Planning is especially important this summer because many state parks and businesses in certain states may still be closed. Do your research ahead of time.
  • Face masks – Bring one for every passenger, and wear them in public. Even places where it looks like social distancing is in force can become crowded in a hurry.
  • Call ahead – Be sure to confirm any potential restrictions for where you are traveling.
  • Call the hotel – If you plan to stay overnight at a hotel, call ahead to make sure it is still open and will have rooms available.
  • Stop early and often for fuel and breaks, just in case. Check online to see which state-run highway rest stops are open and which facilities are operational.

Auto Maintenance Tips for Traveling by Car:

  • Bring your own protective equipment – This includes gloves for pumping your own gas, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. Some gas stations/rest stops may be limited in what they have available, so be sure to bring your own just in case.
  • Prepare in advance – Be sure to stay up to date on oil changes and have your tires checked before you go. Also check your windshield washer fluid level, coolant, light bulbs, battery life and so forth. Book a service appointment for your vehicle prior to leaving.
  • Do you have a roadside assistance plan? If not, you may want to enroll in one before your trip.

Packing and Preparedness Suggestions:

  • Don’t overload your car, and store the heaviest items low (or opt for a rooftop cargo carrier).
  • Be sure to bring a car phone charger, basic tools, road flares, a flashlight, spare tire and changing kit, and jumper cables.

Did you know that First Financial’s mechanical repair coverage can help you limit out-of-pocket costs should you ever have a covered breakdown? Be sure to check it out before you hit the road this summer. To research, compare, and buy Mechanical Repair Coverage, visit creditunion.forevercar.com/firstffcu or call 855.927.0224

*Mechanical Repair Coverage is provided and administered by Consumer Program Administrators, Inc. in all states except CA, where coverage is offered as insurance by Virginia Surety Company, Inc., in WA, where coverage is provided by National Product Care Company and administered by Consumer Program Administrators, Inc., in FL, LA and OK, where coverage is provided and administered by Automotive Warranty Services of Florida, Inc. (Florida License #60023 and Oklahoma License #44198051), all located at 175 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago Illinois 60604, 800.752.6265. This coverage is made available to you by CUNA Mutual Insurance Agency, Inc. In CA, where Mechanical Repair Coverage is offered as insurance (form MBIP 08/16), it is underwritten by Virginia Surety Company, Inc. Coverage varies by state. Be sure to read the Vehicle Service Contract or the Insurance Policy, which will explain the exact terms, conditions, and exclusions of this voluntary product.

Article Source: Patch.com

Beware of Coronavirus Unemployment Scams

Millions of Americans have found themselves out of work as the economy still reels from the impact of COVID-19. A record number of Americans have filed for unemployment insurance in recent weeks. Unfortunately, when there’s bad news – scammers aren’t far behind. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Americans have lost a collective $13.4 million to coronavirus-related fraud, and unemployment scams have contributed their fair share to the loss.

With a high number of individuals filling out claims, along with the overloaded unemployment websites and phone lines – it provides the perfect cover for con artists. In light of the pandemic, the federal government has also waived some regulations of unemployment insurance, including the requirement to actively be seeking work in order to be eligible for benefits. This looser criteria has only made it easier for scammers to pull off their schemes without getting caught.

Here’s what you need to know about circulating unemployment scams:

How the scams play out

An unemployment scam can involve a con artist filing in someone else’s name and then collecting their benefits or claiming to have been employed by a place of business where they have never held a job. The victim will thus be denied their own benefits.

According to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor, these fraudsters can also take the form of a scammer impersonating a government employee and offering to help the victim fill out their application form for unemployment insurance. The victim, seeking assistance with their claim – will willingly comply with the scammer who is only out to get information so they can nab the victim’s benefits. Or worse, the scammer may use this information to steal the victim’s identity.

Other times, while allegedly helping the victim fill out their forms, the scammer will ask the victim to make a payment via credit card to enable them to receive their benefits. Of course, this money will go straight into the scammer’s pocket and the victim’s unemployment claim will never be filed.

In yet another variation of the unemployment scam, fraudsters create bogus websites that look like the federal websites used for claiming benefits. Scammers use sophisticated software to create these sites and lure unsuspecting victims via social media posts or emails. Once the victim is on the site, they willingly share information and assume they are actually filling out their unemployment forms.

Unemployment scams can make a challenging situation all the more difficult by leading to theft, delaying an unemployment claim, or completely disqualifying a victim from receiving unemployment insurance altogether.

How to spot an unemployment scam

As always, arming yourself with knowledge is the best way to protect against an unemployment scam.

  • First, it’s important to note that there is no fee involved in filing or qualifying for unemployment insurance.
  • Second, government officials will never ask you to share personal information over the phone unless a phone appointment was pre-planned and scheduled for a specific date and time. This includes a full Social Security Number, date of birth, employment history and financial information.
  • Finally, sensitive information should never be shared on a site without first verifying its security. Each state will have its own website dedicated to filing and checking unemployment claims, but you should also look for the lock icon next to the site’s URL and for the “s” after the “http” in the web address. It’s also best to visit your state’s unemployment site on your own instead of clicking on an ad or a link that’s embedded in an email.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Society is now looking toward the future while determining the next step in their new reality. Part of the recovery process involves picking up the pieces and putting personal finances in order. Scammers are out to thwart this process, but you can outsmart them. Always stay alert for potential scams, and practice vigilance when sharing sensitive information online or over the phone. Stay safe!

Article Source: CUContent.com

Coronavirus Stimulus Payments Now Arriving on Prepaid Debit Cards

Don’t throw it away by mistake!

Did you recently receive an unmarked envelope in the mail that looked like junk mail or just another credit card offer? Be sure to read and open carefully, because it may actually be your economic impact payment!

The government is now issuing Coronavirus stimulus payments via prepaid debit cards instead of paper checks in the mail, if they were unable to directly deposit the funds into your bank account. These Economic Impact Payment (EIP) Cards are sponsored by the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service, managed by Money Network Financial, LLC and issued by Treasury’s financial agent, MetaBank®, N.A. If you receive an Economic Impact Payment Card, it will arrive in a plain envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services. The VISA name/logo will appear on the front of the card, and the back of the card has the name of the issuing bank, MetaBank®, N.A. These are legitimate prepaid cards and are not a scam, so be careful not to toss them by accident!

I received an EIP Card in the mail – what do I do with it?

  • The first thing you will need to do is activate your card, either on the phone by calling 1-800-240-8100 or online here.
  • Each household will only receive 1 card and it must be activated by the primary cardholder listed on the mailing envelope (and the first name appearing on the actual card).
  • You will need to provide your name, address, and social security number to validate your identity at the time of activation.
  • You will then be asked to create a 4-digit PIN, should you choose to withdrawal cash from the card at a participating ATM.
  • Once this is all set up, you’ll be able to find out how much is on the card and start using it.
  • There is no monthly or inactivity fee associated with the prepaid card. You will not need to pay this money back and will not have to pay taxes on this money.
  • Please note that this is a government issued card, and you will not be able to load money onto the card. Once your balance runs out, the card will not be able to be used further.

How can I check my card balance?

  • Visit https://www.eipcard.com/ and login to your account
  • Call 1-800-240-8100 and use the automated phone system
  • Download the Money Network® Mobile App
  • You may also be able to check the balance by inserting the card at an ATM, but be advised that depending upon the ATM/financial institution – there may be a fee associated with the ATM balance inquiry. The above 3 methods for checking your balance are free.

How can I use my EIP card to get cash without paying any fees?

  • Use one of the in-network Allpoint Surcharge Free ATMs listed on the EIP card website or from within the mobile app ATM locator.
  • Choose the cash back option at participating merchants when used as a debit card.
  • Request a Money Network Check and cash it at select participating check cashing locations listed on the EIP card site locator when you enter your zip code.

Can I transfer the money on my card to my bank account?

Yes. To transfer to a personal bank or credit union account, you will need to provide your routing and account number for your personal account at EIPcard.com.

What should I do if my card gets lost or stolen?

Call 1.800.240.8100 right away to lock your card to prevent anyone else from using it. You can also lock your card online on the EIP card website. If you need a replacement card, there is a $7.50 fee.

For a list of other Frequently Asked Questions associated with EIP prepaid debit cards, click here.

To view the cardholder agreement online, click here.

Article Sources:

https://whnt.com/taking-action/bbb-consumer-alerts/dont-throw-it-away-irs-stimulus-card-payments-arriving-in-unmarked-envelopes/

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/economic-impact-payment-prepaid-card/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=eipcard#balance

Spring 2020 Newsletter

We know it’s been an unusual Spring, but we hope all our members and their families are safe and healthy. Here is a copy of our Spring 2020 Quarterly Member Newsletter!

In a continued effort to go greenwe’re publishing our newsletter electronically – it can also be found on our website and social media sites. Paper copies will be available in our branches.

The Spring Newsletter features the following articles:

 To view a copy of the newsletter, click here.

We hope you enjoy a long Memorial Day Weekend and we remember all those who have served our great nation!

*Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on creditworthiness and term. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial 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. Current First Financial members are eligible to close on a cash out auto loan electronically. New members will need to make an appointment at their nearest branch location to open their membership prior to closing electronically, and should call 732.312.1500. 

Smart Reasons to Live Below Your Means Right Now

Having things and buying items is great, but life can still be amazing even when it’s simple. Cooking meals at home more often will definitely help you save money, and many are probably realizing that due to the recent pandemic. When was the last time you used your credit card just to shop? You are most likely not doing it as often as you used to. Living a modest lifestyle can actually be very satisfying. Even if you haven’t missed a single day of work due to COVID-19, here are a few reasons to live below your means anyway.

You’ll pay off debt faster: Debt is not cheap, which you probably know. If you’ve ever had to swipe your credit card for an unexpected bill you know it can sometimes take years to pay it back. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it’s probably even worse. These days during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re spending has probably slowed down – but if you focus on cutting back even more, it will provide you with an opportunity to pay down your debt even faster.

You can still have amazing experiences: Sometimes we remember the items we spent our money on years ago, and may regret those purchases thinking that we actually wasted our hard earned dollars on them. However if you really think about it, what most individuals remember are the people and experiences in our lives. Once things start to return to normal, most will want to have those experiences with the people that they’re unable to spend time with right now.

You’ll teach your children: Don’t let your kids see you trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” it only teaches them that material things and spending money are important. You want your children to learn to appreciate the little things in life. Recently staying at home and spending time together as a family and playing outside has probably shown them exactly that. Plus, this may also teach them to be a lot more frugal when they’re spending their own money one day.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com