How to Bounce Back from a Spending Spree

We’ve all been there. We intend to make a few purchases then suddenly we realize we’ve gone overboard with our spending. You may feel the urge to panic – but before you do, consider these tips for damage control after going on a spending spree.

Prioritize purchases
When the dust has settled and your panic begins to recede, start to look back over what you’ve bought. Are these things vital to your life, or are they all “extras” that you don’t necessarily have a need for? Sure, it’s fun to get new things, but if you’ve spent too much, you may need to think about returning some things to get your money back on track.

Get back on budget
Sure, you’ve gone over the limit, but it’s time to move forward and recover. Remember how you typically spend and if that’s been working for you, go back to your old ways. Don’t beat yourself up over what’s in the past. It’s time to regroup and remember your limits.

Plan to pay back
Stick to your original budget, but also consider ways you’re going to make up for the damage you’ve done to your wallet. If you’ve charged your purchases, now’s the time to dip into that debt repayment fund you’ve hopefully been saving up. If you shopped with cash, plan for ways you can trim your spending until your finances are where they were before your spending spree.

Reflect on patterns
Getting in this position every once in a blue moon is not cause for too much concern. But, if overspending and busting your budget is becoming a pattern, you need to stop and assess the issue. Is there a particular reason why you’re shopping/spending habits are getting out of control? Understanding why you’re behaving the way you are, will help you to make corrections and learn from your mistakes.

Need help with your budget? Check out our budgeting guide!

Article Source: Wendy Moody for CUInsight.com

Top 5 Budgeting Mistakes — And How To Avoid Them

January is the number one month when people launch new financial regimes, and nearly a third of respondents according to a GoBankingRate survey, said their 2016 goals include “saving more and spending less.”

All sounds great, says Lauren Greutman, a budgeting expert who blogs at IAmThatLady.com, where she walks you through how to up a successful budget, stick to it, and become debt-free. “Many people start off the new year excited about a budget, but quickly fall off the wagon, only to feel defeated,” says Greutman.

Budgeting doesn’t have to be stressful. Know the likely pitfalls, and how to avoid them. 5 budgeting mistakes (and how to avoid them):

1. Fail a set budget.

“Feeling overwhelmed by the time it takes to track expenses and set a budget is one of the main reasons why people don’t do it,” Greutman says. By carving out a chunk of time, you will save yourself money and time throughout the month. “For every 1 hour of planning, you save yourself 4 hours of execution,” Gretuman says.

Do this instead: At the beginning of next month, collect all your expenses and income. Understand exactly where your money comes from, where it goes, and commit to what you will save and cut back on. “Instead of spending your time throughout the month tracking where you spend your money, make a money plan for the upcoming month, and just follow the plan. It saves so much time and energy,” she says.

2. Create the exact same budget every month.

Setting a budget that looks the same every single month is a big budget mistake, since expenses differ depending on holidays, birthdays, vacation time, energy costs during warmer or cooler months, taxes, and home or car repairs.

Do this instead: To avoid breaking your budget, plan each month out one at a time at the start of the month.

3. Don’t allow for wiggle room.

Making your budget too rigid is something most people do, but then something comes up unexpected and the entire budget falls apart.

Do this instead: “Give yourself some play money every month – it can be as little as $10 or as much as you can afford,” Greutman says. ”This helps you keep the budget on task, keeps your budget successful for that month, and helps maintain motivation.”

4. Rely on credit cards.

If you are using a bucket budgeting system — a set sum of money for food, clothing, entertainment, transportation — tracking expenses can make book keeping more complicated, since combing through statements adds another layer of work. Plus, reliance on credit cards means you run the risk of over-spending and racking up debt.

Do this instead: Switch to a cash-only budget for the first month of your new budget, then you can visually see where your money is going.

5. Quit too soon.

Successful budgeting takes a few months of tweaking and practice. In our culture of instant gratification, people want to the budget to be perfect the first time. In reality, it takes a few months of tweaking, messing up, and readjusting for the budget to be right and attainable.

Do this instead: Commit to lifelong budgeting, and understand that each family’s finances are a constant evolution as members needs, incomes and priorities change.

*Original article source courtesy of Emma Johnson of Forbes.com.

5 Budget Killers You Can Avoid

budgeting-money-to-conquer-debtCreating a budget is the first step in taking control of your finances. Sticking to your budget is another challenge altogether.

Even when you believe you have factored in every cost you may encounter by week, by month or by year, somehow you end up needing more money than you allocated – right? If this sounds like you, you are likely encountering a budget killer (or several). Below are some of the most common costs that can cause you to veer off your budgeting course.

1. Account Maintenance Fees: Some big bank accounts and credit cards tack on fees if you don’t maintain your account or meet specific requirements. Some charge you extra if you don’t maintain a certain balance, if you write too many checks, or if you don’t make enough transactions. These can add up quickly. Make sure when choosing an account or credit card, you read the specifics of your account agreement carefully. Look into which checking accounts and credit cards offer services that fit your lifestyle.

Be sure to check out the variety of flexible Checking Account options that we offer here at First Financial including First Protection, High Yield, Free, Go Green Checking and more. Plus, if you’re on the hunt for a great new maintenance-free credit card with rewards, click here to learn more about our low-rate Visa Platinum Credit Card and apply online.

2. Subscriptions: While seemingly low monthly fees can be attractive, subscription magazines and online services (think Netflix, Hulu, etc.) add up. These costs are hurting your budget if you are not using the services or if you could find them elsewhere online for free. Eventually, these just become another add-on to your monthly payments so it’s a good idea every so often to re-evaluate whether yours are worth keeping.

3. Credit Card Interest: Credit cards have several attractive features: allowing you to buy now and pay later, providing cash back, and helping you earn points toward a new car, vacation or night out. Paying installments on your purchases over time may appear to be a great way to buy all your monthly and superfluous purchases. However, high interest rates add up over time if you carry a balance and you can find yourself deep in debt before you know it. You may think you are paying off your purchase when all you are doing is treading water by paying off the interest. To avoid this, it’s important to know the interest rates of your credit cards, pay off your balance in full every month, and save before you purchase. Carrying a lot of debt can have longer-term implications on your credit scores too. If you want to see how your debt is affecting your credit, check out our free and anonymous debt management tool, Debt in Focus and be sure to take advantage of our First Score service to learn ways to improve your score as well.

Did you know that our Visa Platinum Credit Card rate starts as low as 10.9% and offers rewards?* It’s a good idea to check the APR of some of your current credit cards to see if it’s time to switch! Keep in mind, we also don’t have any balance transfer fees – and as an additional BONUS, for a limited time if you are approved for a balance transfer of $5,000 or more to our VISA Platinum Credit Card, you will receive 10,000 bonus CURewards Points! You can apply for the balance transfer by stopping into any branch or calling 866.750.0100 to be sent a balance transfer request form.**

4. Excess Phone, Cable & Utility Bills: Many households are paying hundreds of dollars for TV, Internet, cell phone, and utility expenses each month. No matter how comfortable these tools make us, they are taking up valuable space in our budgets. Look through your bills carefully and try to scale back from services you aren’t using or do not need to use, from running the air-conditioning while you are at work to paying for a DVR on a second TV you never even watch. Also, be sure you are not paying for a level of service you don’t need. If these alterations don’t bring a big enough impact on your budget, consider alternatives like prepaid phone services and switching cable providers.

5. Convenience Fees: Certain businesses tack on “convenience fees” when you utilize their goods or services as a way to make up any added expenses that can incur during your transaction. Be wary of these types of fees before you make various transactions, to see if there is a less expensive way for you to do so.

Having an emergency fund can be a big help when you come in over budget. This money can save you from stress when you have fallen victim to these and other budget killers. It’s a good idea though to deal with the root issue instead of repeatedly ruining your budget and having to dip into your emergency fund. If you do have to use that money, it’s important to replace it and frequently evaluate your budget to match your changing lifestyle.

Article source courtesy of Fox Business.

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% 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 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.

**Additional bonus points will be reflected within 30 days from the balance transfer approval and can be viewed when signed into your VISA Platinum Card Account online through Online Banking. In order to redeem bonus points, an offer reference must be made to a First Financial representative. Bonus points can only be redeemed one time per member, on an approved balance transfer of $5,000 or greater during the promotional period of 4/28/14 – 12/31/14.