Budget-Friendly Holiday Shopping Tips

The holiday season is one of the most joyful times of the year – and the most expensive. Between parties, travel, and gift giving – November through January can be a big weight on your wallet. While you may want to spend hundreds on gifts to treat your loved ones, your budget could be heavily impacted by doing so. If you play your cards right, you can still get everything you need for the holiday season at a reasonable price. Here’s how.

Take care of your bills and consider loan options

Ahead of shopping, it’s crucial to take care of all your essential bills first – like rent, utilities, and groceries. This way you know what you have left to spend on gifts and can make a realistic budget that fits within your means. If you’re working with debt that needs to be paid off, we recommend considering a consolidation loan to help reduce your monthly expenses by centralizing your high-rate credit card payments and other loans into one simple payment. At First Financial, we also offer a holiday personal loan that’s available through mid-January, to make paying for all the gifts on your list easier than ever.*

Make a holiday shopping list – and stick to it

One of the best ways to avoid overspending and impulse buying is to make a list of every single item you need to purchase. This includes who you’re shopping for, what the gift will be, about how much it will cost, which decorations you need for your home, food items you may need to buy for holiday baking, and more. Are you taking a trip to visit family or friends? You’ll also need to add travel expenses to your list and check it twice!

You don’t only need to shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

There’s so much pressure for consumers to go ham on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but those big deals can cause impulse buys and have you end up spending more than you intended. Retailers can be clever and create deals that make it seem like you’re saving, but really they could be encouraging you to purchase more at once.

Instead, you should be strategic about when you’re buying your gifts. Sales happen over the course of the year, so there’s never a shortage of opportunities to buy. Refer to your shopping list and search when those items typically tend to go on sale. Of course, this method isn’t the easiest if you’re shopping last minute. Experts recommend instead focusing on finding savings on your everyday purchases around the holidays so you have more room in your budget for gifts.

Get decorations and small gifts at discount stores

You don’t need brand name items for your holiday decorations. You can find lights, garland, ornaments, cards, and gift wrap all at your local discount store for the best prices. Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Christmas Tree Shops, Big Lots, and outlet stores all have the tchotchkes and decor you’ll need to get in the holiday spirit without spending a small fortune.

Consider DIY gifts

Do you need to get gifts for your colleagues, extended family, teachers, or neighbors and are you cutting it close to your budget limit? Make something thoughtful or delicious instead. Bake cookies, make festive jams, create an ornament, paint a special wine glass, make homemade soaps or candles, put together a framed photo album or collage, thread up a scarf, or whip up your own bath bombs – the options are endless and thoughtful.

No matter how you’re celebrating this year, we’re wishing you a wonderful and safe holiday season!

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*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. APR as low as 9.99%, terms up to 24 months, minimum loan amount is $500, and maximum loan amount is $2,500. Loan payment example: A $1,000 Personal Loan financed at 9.99% APR for 24 months, would have a monthly payment amount of $46.14. 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 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.

How to Keep Holiday Shopping from Draining Your Finances

If you’re stressed and money is a worry this holiday season, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, 61% of Americans worry about extra spending during the holidays. Last year, 1 in 3 consumers went into debt after the holidays. Half of those consumers took 3 months to pay their holiday spending back, while others needed 5 months to pay it back.

Keep reading to find out a few ways you can financially prepare this year, and soften the blow to your budget.

Be sure to set a strict holiday budget

The first thing you want to do, is see if you can figure out how much you spent last year during the holidays and look at the gifts, food, and decorations you bought. Did your shopping last year leave you financially strapped and did it take multiple months to pay off? If so, you’ll want to rethink this year’s spending.

Create a gift idea list and approximate costs for this year. If you can’t afford the grand total on your monthly income after your necessities are paid (housing, utilities, food, gas, etc.) you will need to reconfigure your list. You also don’t want to stray from your list, once it’s done it needs to be done – don’t keep spending money on extra items.

Think of ways you might be able to cut back this year – do you really need to buy gifts for every person in your family or for all your friends? Perhaps in a larger family or a group of friends you can suggest doing a Secret Santa with an affordable purchase limit. This way you’re only buying one gift instead of multiple. In your group of friends, can you skip giving each other gifts and just go out to dinner or have a potluck meal together at someone’s home instead? These are all ways to keep your holiday spending budget down.

Take a look at your regular spending habits

In November and December you might need to cut back on your regular entertainment or dining out expenses in order to put those funds toward holiday gifts. How often do you go out to eat, stop at the nearest drive thru for a seasonal coffee, or use delivery services like DoorDash? These purchases can really add up. Try to cut back or cut them out altogether during the holiday season, and use that money toward your gift list instead.

The same goes for other entertainment expenses. Take a look at your subscription and streaming services – how many services are you paying for and are you even using them during such a busy time of year? Maybe pausing them for a month or two will pay for another gift on your shopping list.

Add to your monthly income

Do you have any extra availability on nights or weekends to pick up a part-time job for the holidays? Depending upon where you work, you may even gain an employee discount to help you save a little on gifts you can buy. You’d also be able to bring in additional income to help you afford holiday expenses.

Do your research on sales and discounts

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming up, but many retailers will also offer sales and promotions all season long. Be sure to research the retailers you plan to purchase from this year, follow them on social media and sign up for their emails. A lot of times, signing up for emails or texts gets you a first-time enrollment discount too. If you know you’d like to purchase gifts from a particular store, check your email in the morning and see if they have any promotions, coupons, or discounts going on that day.

Don’t forget your rewards credit card

Do you have a rewards credit card that offers cash back for purchases during the year or offers merchandise and gift cards? Login to your account before you start shopping for gifts. If you have money you can redeem for cash back, you can use these funds to buy gifts on your list. If your rewards credit card has a merchandise catalog you can redeem points earned for or merchant gift cards, cash in and you might be able to check some more off your gift list!

Our First Financial Cash Plus Cards offer cash back, merchandise, retailer gift cards, travel experiences and more – through uChoose Rewards. Learn more and apply today!**

Plan ahead for next year

It’s never too early to start saving money. If you don’t want to feel stressed about the holidays again next year, look for ways you can start saving now. For instance, at First Financial we have a Holiday Savings Account which can help you save for all your holiday expenses during the year. This account will allow you to have money deducted from each of your paychecks and sent to your Holiday Savings Account. Come next October, it will have accrued for you all year long and be available for you to use.

Don’t let the holiday season become stressful or a drain on your budget. With careful planning and saving – you’ll find you can afford the extra expenses this time of year often brings, and help spread some holiday cheer at the same time!

Want to see more articles like this? Subscribe to First Financial’s monthly newsletter for financial resources and advice.

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Some restrictions apply, contact the Credit Union for more information.

 **APR varies up to 18% for the Visa® Cash Plus Card when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases 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: Balance Transfer and Cash Advance Fees of 3% or $10, whichever is greater; Late Payment Fee of $29, $10 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of $29. 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. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.


Tips for Holiday Shopping on a Budget

‘Tis the season…to avoid going broke buying presents for your loved ones. It’s easy to do, right? Sometimes we get carried away and spend more money than we intended to. You don’t want to look like a cheap gift giver, but you also don’t want to buy the whole store either. So, how do you buy awesome gifts for everyone on your list without breaking the bank? We have a few tips to help keep your wallet full this holiday season.

Make a List, Check it Twice. Hey, the process works for Santa so it can work for you too! Start with a list of people you plan to buy for, jot down the gifts you think they’ll love and then check it twice. Santa has to buy gifts for the whole world, but you don’t have to. If your shopping list includes more than five people outside of your immediate family, trim your list. Look at alternatives like homemade gifts or baked goods so you can spread holiday cheer without looking like a Scrooge or going broke.

Create a Budget Based on Your Finances. Your best friend started a great job a few years ago and always gets you the most amazing gifts. However, if you’re in a different place in your financial life, don’t overextend yourself to match another’s gifts. Look at your budget and see what you can do. Don’t shop based on what you think you should spend. The saying “it’s the thought that counts” really does ring true here. It’s still possible to give thoughtful gifts to your loved ones without going into debt.

Take Advantage of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Online Deals. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the busiest shopping days of the year. And for good reason – those are the two days you can get the best deals and save the most money. Electronics and toys are usually highly desired items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so if those are on your list, don’t miss the discounts. However if you did miss these two shopping days this year, keep checking your list and retailers’ websites and promotional emails – a lot of the time they end up extending their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales or even offering new discounts in the weeks leading up to December 25th.

Keep It Local. Shopping local is a great way to save a little cash while also supporting local businesses. Because there are fewer hands involved, buying local can often save you some money. You’ll likely save by purchasing green beans from a produce stand because the farmer doesn’t have to divvy up profits the way a chain supermarket does. It’s also a great way to improve your local economy. Plus, shopping at local businesses helps to improve your town’s economy. Follow your local news and check Facebook pages in your area to see what businesses are offering locally made products.

We know that holiday shopping can be stressful. You’re paying your regular bills, taking care of your regular expenses, and planning for holiday shopping on top of that. It can be tempting to open multiple credit cards or store cards, which often come with incredibly high interest rates. Don’t get stuck paying big balances on multiple cards. We have numerous options that can help you fund your holiday shopping without breaking the bank!

Let us help. Stop by, check out our website or give us a call to see what money saving options we have to help you this holiday season.

The Best Things to Buy in November

When it comes to deals, there’s plenty to be thankful for this month. With discount shopping days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Travel Deal Tuesday – November offers a buffet of savings opportunities for shoppers.

Start making your list, and check to see what offers your favorite stores, warehouse outlets and online retailers have planned for Veterans Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Here are just a few of the best buys to jumpstart your holiday shopping savings.

Electronics: Look for deals on everything from televisions, smartwatches, gaming systems, laptops, tablets, desktop computers, and smartphones. It may also be a good time to give a few smart home devices a try.  Experts at DealNews.com and ConsumerReports.org say maximizing savings means waiting until Black Friday, November 23. If the crowds aren’t part of your post-Thanksgiving plans, you can always safely shop online.

Video games: Just in time for the holidays, you’ll find discounted games across all platforms through December.

Vacuums and appliances (both large and small): Time to get that InstantPot or finally replace your dishwasher. There are plenty of opportunities to save throughout the month – especially around Veterans Day, Black Friday, or Cyber Monday. You’ll find the deepest appliance discounts at home improvement stores toward the end of November.

Wedding dresses: According to GoBankingRates.com, with the latest designs hitting the runway, brides-to-be open to considering “older” inventory can score discounts of up to 70% off their dream gown.

Happy Shopping!

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

8 Tips to Keep Your Holiday Shopping Focused on Saving the Most Money

1211-women-holiday-shopping-lgnWe all love and hate shopping during the holidays, and it’s important to shop both safely and affordably during the season. Here are some ways to stay focused to keep you and your budget in-check this holiday season!

The National Retail Foundation’s annual survey shows that holiday spending is at an all-time high.

  • Americans spent 3.8% more last year over the year before (to the tune of $601.8 billion total).
  • November and December spending last year totaled 19.2% of annual sales nationwide.

This is our national spending forecast — what we can expect if we “go with the flow.” The good news is, unlike with our local weather forecast, we can change our personal holiday spending forecast if we resolve to do things differently this year!

While it may seem like an oxymoron to attempt to save on holiday spending, experts say it can be done. Here are tips that will help:

1. Coupon for holiday “varieties” of regular household items.

It’s always nice to have holiday-themed paper goods, towels, candles and other festive items on hand for guests and visiting relatives. The good news with these items is that, unlike strings of lights and mistletoe, if you have extras you still can use them all year long.

Here are some ideas:

  • Paper goods: Paper towels, napkins, party plates of various sizes, wrapping paper
  • Plastic goods: Festive flatware, plastic cups (go for one-size-fits-all to save), gift bags, ribbons and bows
  • Tea lights and candles: So long as you enjoy the scents, you can use these all year.

Note: If you dislike using holiday themed items after the holidays, then opt for holiday solid colors (red, green, blue, white, etc.) so if you have extras to use up, they won’t be so noticeable.

2. Consider hosting an in-home sales event to reduce the cost of gifts for everyone.

If you have a friend who is an independent sales rep for a popular line of jewelry, accessories, kitchenware, skincare or scrapbooking supplies, consider hosting a pre-holiday party in your home. You’ll save on gifts and so will your friends — and your sales rep friend will make their holiday quota!

As a party host or hostess, you can expect to receive:

  • Free hostess gifts
  • One-on-one time with the consultant for personalized gift recommendations
  • Deeper discounts on your purchases (Discounts typically escalate with higher totals on party purchases).

Your attendees can expect to receive:

  • Attendee free samples
  • Discounts on purchases

3. If you can’t find the item at the price you want, go ahead and wait it out.

You just never know what the holiday shopping mania will bring. If there’s an item you want but the price isn’t right, don’t buy it.

  • What to do: Wait…chances are the price will not go up before the holidays arrive in earnest, and it might decrease as merchants become more eager to move their holiday inventory.

4. Don’t fall for “door busters.”

A “door buster” is a marketer’s term for a low-priced item that is so enticing, it can bring customers to the store all by itself. But experts caution against assuming that just because an item is advertised at an “all-time low” for that store, do not assume that is the lowest price you can find!

  • What to do: Use your price comparison tools and coupons to “challenge” that price—see if you can find the item for lower somewhere else. Download the “ShopSavvy” app to scan an item and see other prices at surrounding stores!

5. Wait for holiday clearance sales to start.

Traditionally, many merchants begin their holiday clearance sales right before the holidays actually begin. Once the clearance sales start, prices on those items will continue to decline until the inventory is all gone, or the new sales cycle starts.

  • What to do: Research when your favorite merchants will begin their clearance sales (often you can find this by signing up for their email newsletters or following them on social media). Then plan your shopping accordingly.

6. Watch social media for “flash” coupons, deals and offers.

As we become increasingly social media-driven, merchants are using the power of free social media-based advertising to draw in customers.

  • What to do: For items you really want, be sure to follow those merchants on Facebook and Twitter (you can set up your social media accounts so they deliver alerts as they happen to make sure you don’t miss an offer). Also be sure to sign up for Amazon’s Lightning Deals.

7. When asking for price matching, don’t forget about online store offers.

During the holiday crush, many brick-and-mortar merchants rely on holiday sales to close out the year in the black. (Remember, 19.2% of all annual spending happens in November and December!). So not only will many retailers offer price matching guarantees, but often these apply to competitors’ prices both online and offline.

  • What to do: If you see a low price online offer, bring in the proof and ask the merchant to honor it.

8. Sign up for the holiday store credit card and promotional offers.

Nearly 20% of annual purchases are made during the holidays, so the holidays represent a merchant’s best chance to attract new customers and build long-term customer loyalty. So prepare for retailers to compete by offering mouth-watering incentives to sign up for their in-store promotional offers, including freebies with purchase, discounts when signing up for a new line of store credit and more.

  • What to do: Take the offers, discounts, deals and freebies! Pay for what you owe, then stash those cards away until the holidays arrive again (or even better, cut them up so you won’t be tempted).

The perfect way to save for your holiday expenses is by opening a Holiday Club Account right here at First Financial! No need to put yourself into debt over holiday spending – simply save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!*

  • Open at any time
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
  • Accounts automatically renew each year
  • Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
  • Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

Click here to view the original article source courtesy of thekrazycouponlady.com.

4 Ways to Save on Your Holiday Shopping Now

Art Img 7 TipsIt is hard to believe, but the holiday shopping season is here. If you’re like most families, holiday shopping can be a strain on the budget. Many shoppers also fear looking cheap when passing out gifts, which can lead to over-spending and blowing the budget.

According to the American Research Group, Americans on average spend $801 on Christmas shopping. That kind of number will have a big impact on a budget. If you’re looking for ways to cut down the cost of holiday shopping and still get great gifts, these tips will help.

Start now:

The best way to save money on holiday shopping is to start early. There is a belief that the best deals are available around Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and that is not always the case. Instead of waiting, be on the lookout for even bigger deals that might be hitting stores sooner. The ever expanding influence of online shopping has moved many retailers to begin pushing major holiday campaigns back as early as Halloween, if not earlier. The added benefit is being able to avoid the craziness that Black Friday shopping brings.

Check out the Dollar Stores:

It might not be too common, but shopping at discount or Dollar stores can be a great way to shave some spending off of your gift budget. You might not find your gifts there, but you can probably save on other holiday-related items, such as wrapping paper, gift bags and decorations.

While they might not have good options for a traditional gift, Dollar stores can be a great option for gag gifts, office Christmas parties and white elephant gift exchanges. Beyond that, Dollar stores are a useful alternative for party favors or decorations for parties you may be hosting. Since many of those items will likely be thrown away anyway, there is no point in spending more than you need to.

Shop at stores that match prices:

Price matching has become increasingly expected as many brick and mortar retailers deal with the presence of online shopping. While not every store offers price matching, it can be a great way to save money when added to your shopping strategy. The trick is to know the terms and conditions of the given retailer you’re shopping at. Some will match any retailer while others will not match online-only retailers.

If you have a smartphone, bring it with you when you go shopping. There are many apps available now, from Amazon to others, which allow you to scan the item to see what is charged for it elsewhere. Add that to your arsenal to save money while shopping. Lastly, make sure to check the retailer’s site itself to make sure it’s not offering a cheaper price online than in-store. If you find a discrepancy, you can always ask for a price match, or at least allow a free shipping option.

Watch the daily deal sites:

Like the Dollar store option, daily deal sites may not be commonly thought of as options for gift shopping but they can be a great way to save money. Many daily deal sites regularly sell significantly reduced deals for national retailers that can be great options for presents. They might also give you ideas for items that you can then go track down in local stores.

The problem with daily deal sites is they have a limited window in which you can get the deal. This can definitely pose a problem when shopping for that special someone. However, there are options available if you missed out on the deal you were looking for. CoupRecoup, for example, allows those who have bought deals they’re unable to use to sell them. This can be a great way to potentially score a deal on an item you were looking for.

The holiday shopping season can be a stressful one, especially on a tight budget. By using some simple tips like the ones mentioned above you should be able to shave some money off your holiday shopping budget, and maybe even have some leftover for yourself.

Make gifts merrier with First Financial VISA® Gift Cards! Available in denominations of $20 to $500, a First Financial VISA® Gift Card* is the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday list at a small cost of $3.95 per card. 

Check out First Financial’s Holiday Savings Club Account – don’t put yourself into debt over holiday spending, save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!**

  • Open at any time
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
  • Accounts automatically renew each year
  • Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
  • Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account

*If the gift card is inactive for 360 days, an inactivity fee of $2.50 per month will be charged to the card – starting from the date of activation. If the card is lost or stolen, the replacement fee is $15.00. **A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

Click here to view the original article source written by John Schmoll of U.S.News.