Tips for Creating and Sticking to Your Holiday Budget

It’s that time of year again! Here are some budget conscious shopping tips as we head into the holiday season.

Set a Spending Limit: Before you start to shop, decide on an amount that you are comfortable with and can afford to spend on gifts this year. Be realistic and firm, and stick to this spending limit throughout the holiday season. Don’t forget to also factor in your regular monthly bills that will need to be paid during this time.

Don’t Forget You Might Need to Buy Other Items Besides Gifts: Other factors to include in your holiday spending budget might be travel, gift wrap, decorations, food, and clothing. These items may be outside of the holiday gifts you are purchasing, but can still add up and blow your holiday budget if you forget about them.

Do Your Research: Before you head out to the store or make an online purchase, do your research. How much do the things on your list cost, and are there any promotions or online deals you can take advantage of to save money? If the items on your list are ones you have purchased in the past, see if you have previous receipts or online order emails to remind yourself how much the items cost or where you purchased them.

Make a List: At the beginning of the season, make a gift list with one or two ideas for each person – within your budget of course. Try to create this list as soon as possible, so that if any of the items on it are on sale – you can get them early and at a discount. Be sure to also stick to your list – once it’s made, it’s made. Try not to buy extras or overspend.

Scale Back: If you’re on a tight budget and your gift list includes many people outside of immediate family or kids, you might need to consider cutting your gift list. Instead, you can always try a homemade gift that’s much less expensive for adults outside of immediate family (baking cookies, crafting something personalized) to save your holiday spending budget.

Try Secret Santa: If you have a rather large family or a big friend group – you can always try the Secret Santa gift method. This way you won’t have to buy an individual gift for everyone – you can simply pick one name out of a Santa hat, the group will set the spend limit together as a whole so it’s the same for all, and then you only have to buy one gift.

Compare Prices: Once your list is made, start doing some comparison shopping to see where you can purchase the items that will save you the most money. Check out early Black Friday deals (which many retailers have been participating in for 2021), Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday savings, and online coupons. Be sure to also sign up for emails with the retailers you plan to shop with this year, as well as follow their social media pages to keep an eye out for timely promotions.

Track Your Spending: Once you start purchasing gifts, keep a tally of how much you are spending to make sure you are in line with your original budget. Keep this as up to date as possible so you know how much you’ve spent and what is still left to buy.

Happy Holidays!

Article Source: News 12 New Jersey

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

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

Budget the Day Away.

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

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

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

Pick Your Weapons of Choice.

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

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

Start Your List, Check It Twice.

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

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

Choose Wisely.

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

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

Finalize Your Plan of Attack.

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

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

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

Shop Responsibly.

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

*APR varies up to 18% for all Visa Credit Cards when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**APR = Annual Percentage Rate. APR as low as 6.99%, terms up to 12 months, minimum loan amount is $500, and maximum loan amount is $2,400. A $2,400 loan at 6.99% APR for 12 months would have a monthly payment amount of $207.65. Actual rate will vary based on creditworthiness and loan term. Subject to credit approval. One holiday loan open per member. Refinance option for prior holiday loan is available, see credit union for details. Maximum dollar amount able to borrow is based on creditworthiness and loan term. A First Financial Federal Credit Union membership is required to obtain a Personal Loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.

How to Holiday Shop and Not Regret it in the New Year

It’s the holiday season and we love spending money on those we care about right? It’s very easy to overspend when it comes to holiday shopping.  According to a recent Gallup study, 1/3 of consumers expected to spend over $1,000 on gifts. While that might seem like a great idea in December, there may be some regrets spending that amount come January. If you’d like to avoid demolishing your budget with holiday spending this year, consider these few tips.

Stick to a set budget: It can be really easy to add a few extra items to your shopping cart when you see big sales and savings. It can be even easier if you’re shopping online. What you really need to do is plan ahead, and if you already missed the boat this year – start now for next November. Figure out how much you’ve set aside to spend and don’t allow yourself to make any last minute or impulse purchases. Think about who you’re buying for and pick out something within budget that you know they’ll love. If you’re under budget, choose some smaller items or stocking stuffers until you’ve met your spending goal.

Start early: Are you a last minute shopper who typically hits the mall on December 23 or 24? Unfortunately you won’t find nearly as many deals on December 22 or 23 as you would if you started looking in early November.  Plus, even if you do find exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll probably be in such a hurry to finish your shopping, that you may be forced to pay whatever the price tag says without any sale options since you’ll be out of time.  If you start coming up with ideas in October or November, you’ll have plenty of time to do your research, save up, and find the best deals. Don’t overpay for last minute gifts that you could have gotten on sale weeks ago.

Save your receipts: There’s nothing worse than buying someone a clothing item and then finding out you bought the wrong size. No matter what you’re buying, there’s a chance it’s going to need to be returned. If you don’t have receipts, it’s quite possible the store won’t refund your money in full. If you can remember to get a gift receipt and include it with your gift – even better!

If you would like to get ahead of the game for next year’s holiday shopping – ask us about our Holiday Club Savings Account. You can easily setup payroll deductions from each paycheck to automatically go into the account, and by October you’ll be all set to shop for everyone on your list!*

*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. View full Rewards First program details at firstffcu.com.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

5 Easy Ways to Save for the Holidays in Just 5 Weeks

Facts are facts. When it comes to holiday planning, lists are long and time is short. If you’re one of those mythical people who has already finished your holiday shopping, this article may not pertain to you. But, you can still share it with those in your life who always seem to wait as late as possible to start thinking about holiday gifts. Now, if you’re part of the 53% of people who wait until the last minute to tackle your holiday shopping, you’ll want to keep reading.

Ever Ascending Holiday Spending

Every year, Americans spend more on winter holidays than any other occasion in the calendar. Staying in line with this upward trend, shoppers are expected to spend more during the 2018 holiday season than ever before. According to the National Retail Federation: “Consumers say they will spend an average $1,007.24 during the holiday season this year, up 4.1 percent from the $967.13 last year.” And that figure doesn’t even include travel expenses!

Regardless of whether your seasonal spending will top the national average or you skate by just under the line, we want to help you save money. While there may not be enough time to implement a long-term plan as of now, here are five practical tips to help you stretch your holiday dollars a little further this year:

  • Know your limits. Set your limits. At this point in the game, time is of the essence—and so is your money. Rather than trying to overwhelm people with the quantity of your gifts, focus on the quality. It’s always better to give someone one gift they’ll love than to flood them with a variety of forgettable trinkets. Save your time (and hopefully your cash), with more meaningful gifts.
  • Go with gift cards. Don’t stress an opinionated recipient. Let them do the heavy lifting, you just give them the gift of shopping guidance. Plus, nothing says “treat yourself” like a gift card. Why not get creative and make those very same gift cards work for you? Many retailers offer gift cards at a discount during the holidays. If a store is selling gift cards at a 10% discount, buy a $100 gift card for $90 and use it to pay for your gift purchases. Hidden savings will help you through.
  • Abandon your cart. If you’re planning to do your shopping online this year, slowing down can save you money. Instead of finding the item you want, adding it to your shopping cart, and checking out immediately, try a new approach. The first two steps are the same. But then, instead of completing the purchase, leave the item in your cart and exit the site. When something sits in your cart for an extended period of time, many online retailers will send you a reminder email offering a discount if you’ll come back and complete the transaction.
  • The search for savings is on. Thanks to the Internet, you no longer have to cross your fingers and wonder if the store you’re shopping from will offer a coupon or promo code. Websites like RetailmenotGroupon, and Ebates do the work for you. If you’re a frequent Amazon shopper, the Honey app will automatically search the web for coupons or promotions on the items you’ve added to your cart. The holiday season is the perfect time to let modern technology work for you!
  • Patience pays. Failing to plan ahead is rarely a good strategy. But in the case of holiday travels, it just might work in your favor. If you’re hitting the road this holiday season, websites like HotelTonight  and  LastMinuteTravel have created their entire business around helping travelers score last-minute deals on hotel rooms. Don’t just book the first available hotel room you see in the search results though. Shop around. Outstanding savings are out there — you just have to find them.

While the tips we’ve offered can help you get through this holiday season with your spirit intact, there’s an even better way to prepare for next year.

At First Financial, our Holiday Savings Club makes it simple to set aside a little money each month. Start a new tradition of stress-free shopping. 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

Contact us today to learn more about our Holiday Club

*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, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

5 Unique Ways to Save on Your Holiday Shopping

gifts isolated on white background

Whether we like it or not, the holiday season is here. That means one thing: spending money and potentially a lot of it. In a survey by the American Research Group, Americans plan on spending nearly $900 on their holiday shopping. Such an amount can put a significant stress on a budget, leaving families looking for ways to save money.

We all know about the traditional ways to save money on shopping, from Black Friday to Cyber Monday sales. Those discounts can provide nice savings, but they only scratch the surface. There are many other tools and tricks to help you stretch your holiday budget. Below are some unique ones to help you save this year.

The Four-Gift Rule

The four-gift rule has made its way around the Internet over the past few years. The idea behind it is relatively simple. Instead of overwhelming recipients with a lot of gifts and costing you more, you make your gift-giving more intentional. The rule dictates the following: You buy the person something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

The rule may not work for everyone, as it’s particularly angled toward a younger child or perhaps a spouse. With children, in particular, this approach can help avoid excessive gift giving and thus save you money in the long run. It’s practical and still also allows for fun and creativity.

Use Apps

Smartphone apps can be a great way to save money on holiday shopping. We all know about popular apps like Amazon that allow you to compare prices in real-time. There are many other apps out there that can help save you money on your holiday shopping needs.

Some of these newer apps are Flipp and Slice. “It rounds up all of the shopping ads and circulars in your local area and presents them to you in a format that’s very easy to flip through,” says Jill Cataldo, founder of the Super-Couponing.com. The Flipp app also allows you to collect local coupons so as to maximize your savings.

The Slice app allows you to set a price tracker, which tracks the amount you spent on an item. If the price drops, it notifies you so you can get the difference refunded from participating merchants.

Use Gift Cards

MarketWatch reports that $750 million in gift cards were unused in 2014. If you have an unused gift card lying around, that is free cash not being spent. There may be a number of reasons you didn’t use the card, from not liking the store to forgetting you had the card.

Regardless of the reason, an unused gift card can be a great way to reduce the overall amount you spend out of pocket for holiday gifts. Instead of letting that card continue to collect dust and lose value due to potential inactivity fees, use them to buy gifts. It may feel tacky, but it is a great way to save money.

Buy Discounted Gift Cards

Gift cards play a dual role for potential savings. Many who have unused gift cards sell them for cash. This has opened up a market for sites like Card Cash, Raise, Card Pool and others that sell discounted gift cards. Such sites allow individuals to buy gift cards for up to 35 percent off standard price.

Such a service can be a great way to save a little extra money if a gift card is on your shopping list. Just make sure to read the terms and conditions prior to purchase.

Break It Up

Another overlooked way to save money on holiday items is by purchasing an item in bulk. That may sound counterintuitive, but it works. “The set gives you a lower price per unit and you can toss them into a gift bag helping you save without skimping on the gift,” says money-saving expert Andrea Woroch.

Woroch explains that the item bought at a warehouse club can be broken up and repackaged into smaller gifts while still allowing you to take advantage of the lower per unit cost. If you are giving multiple people the same gift, then this can be a great way to save extra money instead of purchasing higher-priced individual gifts.

The holiday shopping season can be a stressful one financially. It doesn’t have to be. With a little planning and creativity, you can avoid being an “average” shopper and become one who saves money.

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 Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

Article Source: John Schmoll for http://money.usnews.com/money/the-frugal-shopper/2015/11/09/5-unique-ways-to-save-on-your-holiday-shopping

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.