3 Tips to Keep Debt Away

Sometimes we build up debt due to emergencies or situations that are beyond our control. Sometimes we just buy too many things we don’t really need. Here are three things to think about when it comes to your finances and how you can avoid debt as much as possible.

Set financial goals: Goal-setting is very important when it comes to your money. Your budget should be an easily attainable financial goal for you. If you’re having trouble staying within a budget, it’s probably a good idea to take a closer look at it. When it comes to saving money, have a defined purpose. Every time you get paid, set up your direct deposit to put money into retirement and an emergency fund automatically. This way you won’t physically be transferring the money and convincing yourself that you can do without putting anything into savings this month. If there is a large purchase you want to make or a vacation you want to go on, open a savings account for that wish list.

Have more self-control: It’s easy to buy something impulsively (especially when it’s inexpensive), but those small purchases can really add up if you’re making them all the time. You need to start saying no to yourself and be really disciplined if you want to be free of debt. Having new things is great and exciting, but are those items worth going into debt over?

Ignore pay raises: If you budget your paycheck as if you’re making less than you do, it’ll be easier to save for the things you want in the future. Plus, you won’t have to put yourself in debt to get them. It may not always be easy to cut back, especially if you have a big family, but every little bit helps. And when pay raises come, redirect those additional funds to your savings account and forget all about them!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

3 Ways to Consolidate Debt

Debt can be overwhelming, but there are definitely ways you can consolidate. The idea of putting all of your debt in one place, with one simple monthly payment can be a big relief.  So, what are your best options for consolidating your debt? Here are three to consider, that you may not have thought of.

A balance transfer credit card: If you’re looking at this option, you’ll want to first make sure that you find a card that will have a high enough limit to contain all of the debt you want to consolidate. If you can find a card with a zero percent introductory rate, this is ideal for paying off debt. If you have $3,600 in debt, and zero percent interest for 18 months – you can pay $200 a month for 18 months, and be completely debt free without paying a cent of interest. However, be advised that if you continue to use this card and rack up even more debt and you don’t pay it off in time – that interest rate could potentially sky rocket at the end of 18 months, and you could really dig yourself into a hole (which is what you were trying to get out of in the first place). This option only works if you stick to your plan, don’t use this card, and continue to pay off your debt during the introductory period.

You also want to transfer your existing balance(s) to a credit card that doesn’t have a balance transfer fee. First Financial has 3 great Visa Credit Card options that have no balance transfer fees and no annual fee either!* Learn more here.

A home equity loan: After the introductory rate on a balance transfer credit card ends, the interest rate can be pretty high – as mentioned above. A home equity loan uses your home’s appraised value and what is still owed on your mortgage, and will provide you with a lump sum that you will agree to pay back over a set fixed rate term (this type of loan is also called a second mortgage). The main benefit of a home equity loan, is that the interest rate will be much lower. You will want to be careful if you go this route – if you default on the loan, you could put your home at risk.

To learn more about First Financial’s home equity loans and lines of credit options, and apply online 24/7 – click here.**

A personal loan: If you don’t like the idea of risking your home (or any other form of collateral), perhaps a personal loan might be the best option for you. If you have a good credit score, you’ll receive a favorable interest rate that is often lower than a credit card’s. If you think this may be a good option for you, ask your local credit union about any debt consolidation loans they have available.

First Financial’s personal loans have a fixed monthly payment, flexible terms, and are a great way to save money instead of opting for the high cost of retail financing.+ Get started here.

*APR varies up to 18% 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.

**First Financial will waive closing costs at inception of loan. If loan is terminated within the first 2 years of opening, closing cost waiver is revoked and the borrower(s) will be required to pay back closing costs in full to FFFCU. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a home equity loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See FFFCU for details or visit firstffcu.com for all current rates. Nationwide Mortgage licensing System & Registry ID # 685814

+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 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.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Don’t Fall into the Unexpected Expenses Trap

Let’s face it – adulting is hard. How many times have you and your friends sat around talking about the time when you had little to no responsibility? Long before the days of mortgages, kids and car payments. The carefree days when thinking about life insurance, retirement and 401(k)s seemed light years away.

Planning for the future and life’s unexpected events can be overwhelming, but it can also be  extremely beneficial. There’s a sense of financial security that comes with knowing you have a plan in place to handle the curve balls life likes to throw at you.

Create a budget

Having a budget isn’t a bad thing. Consider your budget a reflection of your priorities and values, rather than depriving yourself of the things you enjoy. Creating and keeping a monthly budget is the key to long lasting financial planning. It allows your money to work for you as you’re giving each dollar a purpose. It puts you back in control of your money.

No matter how much your income is, there’s always the potential to spend more than you make. There are several ways to set up a budget, but it ultimately comes down to what works best for you. Check out our budgeting 101 guidebook here.

Build up your emergency fund

There’s a quote that says, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

No matter how good or solid our plans may seem, sometimes life happens and our plans are pushed to the side. What happens if your car breaks down, you have to move, or your water heater has to be replaced? Illness and employment are equally as unpredictable. If you are laid off, how long could you pay your bills without living off credit cards or borrowing money? You’re not alone. Did you know that 40 percent of Americans can’t cover a $400 expense out of pocket?

This is why an emergency fund is paramount. Completely separate from a savings account, your emergency fund is specifically designed to cover your necessary monthly expenses.  Ideally, you should keep three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund at all times. Why? It covers you in the event of a layoff or medical emergency that leaves you unable to work.

Eliminate your debt

Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study showed that the average American has about $38,000 in personal debt, excluding home mortgages. Typically, that debt is a combination of credit cards, student loans, car loans, and personal loans. Credit card debt accounted for 25% of that debt. The study further showed that 2 in 10 Americans spend anywhere from 50% to 100% of their monthly income on debt repayment.

These are staggering facts. But there is hope in those dismal numbers. Getting out of debt takes discipline, and it’s not easy. Start by paying more than the minimum payment. If you’re only making the minimum payment, you’re only paying interest and not attacking the principle. Anything over the minimum payment is applied to the principle and knocks out that balance faster.

There are many helpful methods to reduce debt, and there are several free online and mobile debt repayment tools to help you track your progress as you pay down balances. Check out our credit management and debt reduction guidebook here.

Invest in your future

It’s never too early to invest in your future. If you don’t have a retirement plan such as a 401(k), IRA or stock investments – get one.

If you already have a retirement plan, that’s awesome! Think about increasing the percentage you’re contributing. It helps you save without making an effort, allows you to take advantage of the compound interest, and it reduces your taxable income.

Financial planning is just as personalized as each member we serve at First Financial. Let us help you get your future on track, by making an appointment with our Investment and Retirement Center.* Stop by your local branch or give us a call at 732.312.1500.

 *Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

3 Obstacles You’ll Encounter While Paying Off Debt

Debt can feel like a mountain that can take years to climb. The only thing you can do is take it one day at a time. There are some obstacles you may encounter on your way however, so here are three to keep an eye out for – and to make sure you don’t continue to fall victim to your debt and get yourself offtrack.

The unexpected: When you’re trying to pay down debt, you may be tempted to push your budget to the limit along the way. While it’s great to be more frugal, never forget that unexpected expenses can come out of nowhere. Your car may be great today, but tomorrow your transmission might call it quits. If your emergency fund isn’t in great shape, make sure you’re still setting aside a little extra cash each month for any expenses that might pop up.

The good life: It’s nice to have a budget that allows you to treat yourself every now and again, but if you’re serious about paying down your debt, you may need to take a closer look at your budget and reassess. There may be some areas of your budget that will have to be cut while you’re attacking your debt mountain. Need a budget guide? Check out this one.

The hole in the boat: If you’re not careful, paying down debt can sometimes be a little like bailing water out of a sinking boat. You’re on your way, your debt is decreasing a little each month, and then suddenly you find a reason to justify a purchase that puts you back to where you were a few months ago. If credit cards are the cause of your debt, you need to either cut them up or put them away until you’re ready to begin a new, healthy relationship with them. When you’re making a plan to tackle your debt, make sure that you and your significant other are also communicating so that you’ll be on the same page about spending habits.

Be sure to check out our debt payment financial calculators here. The most important thing to remember is to stay the course and don’t fall into any traps that will set you further back. Be strict with your spending and stick to a budget!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

10 Simple Steps to Get Out of Debt Without Going into Bankruptcy

So you’re up to your neck in a massive pile of debt. There are many circumstances that could have led you here, but responsible financial planning is the one that will get you out. Most debt situations can be corrected with careful planning and intense effort over a period of one to three years.

You’ll need to be honest about the requirement for focused debt reduction efforts. You can do it if you follow these steps to achieve pay off all outstanding debt without filing for bankruptcy protection:

1. Save $500.

Figure out how to save $500 in an emergency fund that will be accessed in the event of an unexpected expense during the debt pay off period. Eliminate every discretionary expense possible and accumulate enough funds to meet the $500 goal.

2. Organize your debt.

Make a chart of every outstanding debt in order from smallest to largest without any concern for interest rates. Immediate feedback will be realized when smaller debt is paid off early in the process.

3. Stop all credit card use.

Cut up the credit cards and spend cash even at the grocery store. Take absolute control of your monthly expenditures by starting and sticking to a budget. Write checks to pay bills (or transfer directly from your checking account in online banking), and allocate cash for all other budget categories.

4. Trim the budget.

Make some difficult decisions and eliminate any expense that is not directly related to necessities for living (rent, mortgage, food, utilities). Consider disconnecting cable service until all your debt is repaid. Reduce the land line phone bill by removing unnecessary features, or do you even need a land line anymore? If not, it’s another unnecessary bill you can get rid of.  See if you can cut back on features or data usage within your cell phone plan to see if that bill can be reduced also.

5. Do not go shopping.

Avoid shopping for anything except for groceries. When shopping for groceries, buy items on sale and learn to cook from what is present in the kitchen. Reduce or eliminate eating at restaurants until all your debt is repaid.

6. Pay the minimum on all but the smallest credit card bill.

Every debt must be maintained in good standing to eliminate unnecessary fees. Pay the minimum payment amounts on all debt with the exception of the smallest on the list. Apply as much money as feasible within the budget to the smallest bill. Be realistic when setting this amount to prevent shortfalls in other budget areas. The idea here is to pay off the smallest bill first by continually hitting it with larger payment amounts, then moving onto the next smallest, and so on until all the credit cards are paid off.

7. Reward yourself.

When a debt is paid off completely, reward yourself. Order a pizza, purchase that Starbucks latte you’ve been missing out on for weeks, or purchase a new game for family game night. Celebrate your success (without going overboard of course).

8. Apply funds to the next debt.

Take the amount that was used to pay off the first debt and add it to the minimum payment that has been paid on the next debt on the list. This method will accelerate the amounts paid on the larger debts. The accumulation effect will cause faster progress in the later months of the process. Every time a debt is paid off all of the money is rolled into paying off the next debt.

9. Delay unnecessary purchases.

Throughout this process, the expense level must be reduced within your household. Spending cannot continue as usual if real progress is to be made on the debt repayment plan. Don’t go booking any vacations, or on any shopping sprees. The idea is to take back control of your debt instead of continually racking up more. And as you pay off debt, don’t tell yourself it’s okay to make additional purchases with what you’ve paid off already. This will just delay the debt repayment process even further (and is probably how you got into this situation in the first place).

10. Celebrate success!

When all of your debt has been repaid, immediately start a savings plan that will prevent the situation from repeating itself. Attempt to save half of the amount that has been applied to the debt from the previous months and years. Decide on a (realistic, financially responsible) reward for your achievement.

Financial spending habits must change to prevent a recurrence of debt overload. Live according to a budget and ensure that all your bills can be paid within the month they are incurred.

Evaluate the period of the debt repayment plan and determine what works for you and your family. Financial discipline is possible and you can do this!

If you need help with a debt repayment plan, make an appointment at your local First Financial branch or check our online event calendar at firstffcu.com for upcoming free seminars. Also, be sure to check out our credit management and debt reduction guide.

Article Source: David Ning for Moneyning.com 

5 Reasons You’re in Debt

Are you in debt and not sure how you got there? Some of these reasons may be the culprit.

1. You justify your purchases

Don’t try to rationalize unnecessary purchases. On some level, we are all guilty of this. Between “I deserve this” and “I need this,” we’re constantly making excuses for spending money. This doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself, but do it affordably and make sure you budget for it.

2. You refuse to address your debt

The first stage of grief is denial, and dealing with debt can look very similar. Do not ignore your debt. As difficult as it is, you need to face your debt head on. Understand what you owe and create a plan of attack.

3. You are an impulse spender

With next day shipping and one-click shopping, this has never been a more prevalent issue for consumers. These purchases are beyond trying to justify, and that impulse is what is hurting your wallet. Try holding off on some purchases unless you’ve given them some thought, or saved up first.

4. You assume you are going to make more later

A great example of this is taking on student loans. Most students don’t have a choice if they want to go to college, and are now graduating with debt upward of $40,000 in hopes that they can land a job that will pay them enough to pay it back. In other cases, people are making purchases because they think they will be up for a promotion or have a raise around the corner. Even if all of these things do come to fruition, you will still be paying more in interest than if you’d waited.

5. You often dip into savings for expenses

J.P. Morgan once said, “if you have to ask how much it is, you can’t afford it.” When you look at a price tag and immediately start thinking about how to move money around, take a step back. Once that money goes into your savings, it should disappear from your thoughts. The only time you should ever spend money from savings is when there’s an emergency and you need to use your emergency fund.

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CUinsight.com