Create a Back to School Shopping Plan That Won’t Break the Bank

It’s that time of year again!

Summertime is winding down. Teachers are prepping to return to their classrooms and start decorating. School supply lists are starting to surface. A new school year is right around the corner.

According to the Huntington Backpack Index, in the 2018-2019 school year, the amount parents paid in back-to-school supplies was estimated as follows:

  • $637 elementary school kids
  • $941 for middle school children
  • $1,355 for high school students

There’s no way around it – school shopping is expensive. But, it doesn’t have to be. Much like financial planning, saving on back-to-school shopping requires a plan as well. With the right planning and preparation, back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to break the bank.

Take inventory

Before you go shopping and buy tons of supplies, take inventory of your house. Check drawers and cabinets to see what supplies you have that can be used again. Look at backpacks, lunchboxes and even school clothes from last year to see what can be kept and what needs to be replaced. From there, make a list and determine what your child needs and what you have.

Get the school’s supply list

Generally, retailers like Target and Walmart usually have copies of local supply lists divided by grade, school, and district. Those lists are usually also available online before they’re in the store. Check the lists, do a little research regarding prices, and make a budget accordingly. You can even check with your child’s teacher to make sure you’re getting the most important items.

Don’t forget about discount stores and couponing

Do you want to save some real money? Purchase things like notebooks, pencils, and paper at discount stores or even your nearby dollar store. If you’re into couponing, you can save some big bucks there as well. Poke around the internet and see where the deals are before you hit the stores.

If you want to see actual savings, don’t go into back-to-school shopping without a plan. Rather than charging up your high interest credit card, talk with us about one of our credit card options or a low interest personal loan that works for you. You might be amazed at the savings you find.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be overwhelming or expensive. For help or questions about savings, check with any of our First Financial staff members. Stop by a branch or 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, 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. 

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

Beat the Back to School Spending Blues

Back to school can be time consuming and expensive. There’s filling out endless online and paper forms, buying school supplies, and shopping for clothes while guessing how much the kids will grow by spring.

National Retail Federation data found that electronics and clothing make up nearly two-thirds of a family’s back to school spending. The biggest break is found in school supplies, where consumers can expect to shell out $122 for basics like pencils, pens, markers and notebooks.

The easiest way to fund school on a budget, is to slowly stockpile throughout the year (hello Target dollar bins). If it’s too late for this year, here are a few ways you can still save.

Pace yourself: According to RetailMeNot.com, 62% of shoppers who do their back to school shopping before August spend about $100 more than those who wait until later. Do your research and find opportunities to put off buying everything at once, especially those high-ticket items like electronics and clothing. Consumer Reports suggests waiting until September or October to replace laptops or tablets, and that waiting until the fall is when these items are often on sale – which could save you big money.

Look for deals: It’s never been easier to find good deals and comparison shop. Check out the Groupon back to school discount tab or sites like RetailMeNot.com for coupons. Other websites like BensBargains.com, or apps like ShopSavvy and CamelCamelCamel can keep you updated on the latest deals on particular items, helping you track when an item is at its lowest price – whether on Amazon or at your local retail store.

Look for delivery options: Your child’s school may partner with an organization that sells school supplies at a flat price. Teachers provide the list, the company packages the supplies, and the best part? Your child’s box is waiting for them in their classroom on the first day of school. Talk about a time saver! Some stores like Target offer School List Assist, where parents can enter their zip code find their school and class supply list, order items and either have them delivered to their door, curbside at a nearby Target location, or for pick-up in the store.

Back to school doesn’t have to break the bank – just remember to try to plan ahead and look for deals (even if it means waiting for some things until September).

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for financialfeed.com

 

Back to School on a Budget

Summer is coming to a close, and back to school season is officially upon us.  Along with all the nostalgia and excitement this time of year brings, it can also get expensive – and fast.

“When did Crayola markers raise their prices? HOW much for a spiral notebook? Why do my kids need 12 of everything?!”

Here are some tips to help you stay in your back to school budget, and enjoy the last few weeks of summer.

1. Use the dollar store.

The dollar store is your friend! From notebooks and folders in every color, to pencils and loose paper – you can find 80% of the items your kids will need for the upcoming school year. Let’s all “just say no” to spending $9.99 on a box of crayons.

2. Budget and save in advance.

It’s easy to forget about the annual expenses associated with the back to school season. If you didn’t budget this year, start saving now for next school year. Put aside a little extra in your savings account on a monthly basis, and then use it next summer instead of relying on your credit card and racking up interest.

3. Have your kids save their own money for back to school clothes shopping.

New clothes and shoes are a very exciting (and very expensive) part of back to school shopping. Summer is the perfect time to teach your kids about the importance of saving, budgeting, and managing money. Whether it’s through extra chores, an after school job, or a lemonade stand, there are plenty of opportunities for your kids to earn money toward new clothes and shoes for the coming school year.

4. Buy in bulk and shop sales.

Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club offer great discounts when buying in bulk, and many other stores now offer lower prices when you buy in large quantities. Also, don’t forget to shop sales! It may be old school, but flipping through newspaper ads and store circulars that have coupons, can save you a ton of money when it comes to back to school shopping. Or sign up for emails for the stores you shop at – then use the e-coupons they send you.

5. Use a prepaid card.

Part of what makes back-to-school shopping so fun for kids is the opportunity to pick out items they love on their own. Give them easy access to back to school shopping money with a prepaid card, and a surefire way to make sure their spending is convenient for you as a parent, secure, and won’t break your budget.

Article Source: Naomi Anderson for CUInsight.com

 

3 Ways to Save on Back-to-School Basics

It’s hard to believe, but it’s time for kids to start heading back to school. Back-to-school season means shopping for new supplies and whether it’s a backpack, a lunch box, or a new wardrobe, it can be a pricey time for parents. Bankrate has reported that on average, parents spend up to $670 for one child on back-to-school gear. Here are 3 ways you can save on your school shopping, while making sure your kids have everything they need.

Clean out the closets.
The key to not overspending is figuring out exactly what your children need, and not just what they want. Take a detailed inventory of what they have, what is in good condition, and what still fits. Then, you will know exactly what you need to purchase when you hit the stores. Although it may be fun for your kids to pick out a new backpack, if last year’s bag works, tell them the money can be used on something else that they actually need.

Buy in bulk.
Do your children have a favorite lunch item or snack? If so, head to the nearest warehouse store and buy these goodies in bulk. Whether it’s goldfish or peanut butter, you’ll be glad to have enough when making their meals this school year. Also, if you have multiple children, these stores are an excellent option for stocking up on supplies for every kid.

Check out consignment stores, clip coupons.
Many local consignment shops have great name-brand items at reasonable prices. Back-to-school season is a popular time for them as well, so hit up the secondhand shop to see what new inventory they’ve gotten in. Additionally, pay attention to sales and coupons in store circulars. Even small savings can help in the long run when you’re trying to stay on budget while buying all your children’s new school gear.

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: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

10 Ways to Save Money Before Labor Day

end of summer savingsLabor Day is only about a month away, which means summer is coming to an end. It also means your bank account might be bracing for a hit as you squeeze in a trip, start stocking up on back-to-school items for your children, or send a child off to college.

To prepare for these and other costs, you can take several steps to lower your expenses and save money on things you need to buy this month. Here are 10 ways you can save money before Labor Day:

1. Lower Your Cooling Costs.

If you’re cranking up your air conditioner to combat a heat wave, be prepared for a hefty electric bill. To keep costs low and stay cool, try the following tips:

  • Fans cost less to operate than air conditioners. You can raise your thermostat by four degrees and feel no reduction in comfort if you turn a fan on also.
  • You can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15% by replacing or cleaning dirty filters.
  • Cook outside using a grill to avoid heating your home with your oven.

2. Freeze Your Gym Membership.

If you’re not using your gym membership because you’re exercising outdoors or taking a summer trip, then freeze your membership. Putting your membership on hold can allow you to avoid any early termination fees if you have a year long contract, and save money on your membership fee during months when you’re not using the gym.

3. Save on School and Office Supplies.

Families are expected to spend an average of $97.94 on supplies such as notebooks, pencils and backpacks for school-age children this year, according to the National Retail Federation. You can keep the cost of school supplies under control by shopping back-to-school sales at retailers such as Target and Walmart, and office supply stores such as Staples.

Even if you don’t have kids, you can benefit from these sales – especially for office supplies.  Plus, you’ll find great deals on laptop computers in August as part of back-to-school sales, according to DealNews.com.

4. Take Advantage of Sales-Tax Holidays.

Seventeen states have back-to-school sales-tax holidays in August, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators. These holidays offer consumers an opportunity to avoid sales tax on clothing, footwear and school supplies. Some states even waive the sales tax on computers.

5. Start Price-Shopping for Holiday Travel.

The winter holidays are months away but now is the time to start comparing airfares “so you can lock in a good price when you find one,” said Holly Johnson, a frugal travel expert who blogs at ClubThrifty.com. To get the best price on airline tickets, you need to book flights at least 27 to 114 days in advance, according to a study by CheapAir.com. Flights for holiday travel fill up quickly, so you’re better off booking sooner rather than later.

6. Sign Up for a Rewards Credit Card.

If you are going to do some back-to-school shopping, book holiday travel or take a trip before Labor Day, take some of the sting out of that extra spending by using a credit card rewards.

Here at First Financial we offer a Visa Platinum Credit Card with no annual fee, no balance transfer fees, a 10 day grace period, and a CURewards program where you can redeem points for gift cards, merchandise items, travel, and so much more!*

7. Get Freebies From the Library.

If you have kids, you’re likely hearing them complain by now that they have nothing to do. To fend off boredom, take them to the local library to pick out books and DVDs for free. Whether or not you have children, you also can take advantage of free programs at your library, such as writing workshops or lecture series, in an air-conditioned environment.

8. Watch Inexpensive or Free Flicks.

Another way to keep the kids entertained in the weeks before school starts — without spending a lot of money — is to take advantage of discounted family movies at theaters. For example, Regal Entertainment Group, which operates 569 theaters in 42 states, charges just $1 for tickets for family movies at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Additionally, plenty of communities offer free movies in parks. Check for listings on community calendars, the parks and recreation department, or local government websites.  Or check out our First Scoop Blog’s monthly things to do on a budget in Monmouth and Ocean Counties series!

9. Cut Food Costs With Seasonal Produce.

A great way to lower your grocery bill is to buy produce that is in season where you live, because the prices will be lower on those fruits and vegetables than ones shipped in from other areas of the country or other parts of the world. You should be able to take advantage of late summer fruit and vegetable harvests to save money this month.

10. Snag Summer Clothing on Clearance.

Retailers are making way for fall clothing in preparation for back-to-school shopping crowds, which means you can score serious savings on summer apparel. Expect discounts of 60% or more on summer staples, which you’ll still be able to wear for a few months and into colder months by layering. If you shop before Labor Day, you’ll have a better and bigger selection.

*APR varies 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. No Annual Fee. 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 Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: Cameron Huddleston, http://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/10-ways-save-money-before-labor-day/